Jay was leaning against the fence in front of the church on Broadway, holding out a plastic coffee cup, asking for change. He was in socked feet and blue booties, the kind that would wrap around a cast or a sprained ankle. He was standing on a thin piece of styrofoam, and had a shopping bag and a backpack on the ground text to him. I stopped and said, hello, and he smiled a huge smile that I wasn’t expecting.
Logan: How are you doing today?
Jay: I’m doing okay, it’s not too cold out, the sun is shining. My hands are a little cold, but that’s it. I’m good.
What are you doing out here today?
Getting money. I don’t like doing it, but I have to do it, so I do it. But it’s not so bad. People know me. People are mostly nice.
What are you going to do with the money you earn?
I’m hoping to get $20 so I can go sleep in a friend’s basement. He’s the super of a building, and if I bring him $20, he’ll let me sleep in the basement. It’s not the best situation, I’m not going to lie, but it’s something. READ MORE
With their unparalleled eye and broad-reaching sense of fashion, what they offer isn’t just technical skill, but a certain transformative promise; a clear vision of the way you want to look right now and the ability to make it happen. The Duchess of Cambridge’s newly darkened hair and side-swept layer of fringe may not involve such a radical change—but after seeing it crowned by a diamond tiara en route to a diplomatic reception last night, it’s hard to argue with the politics of her unfailing royal polish.
The cost of Kate Middleton’s haircut + coloring: $984. Vogue comes to the Duchess’s defense by arguing that Middleton is a high-profile person who is in front of a lot of cameras and since she visits a high-profile hair professional, the costs are just what they are.
I am no stranger to expensive haircuts—my own costs $50—but besides the professional cutting your hair with the clear vision and all that, what else goes into a $984 haircut? The serum made from a flower that grows in a single place in the Amazon rainforest? Shampoo made from kitten tears? I’d like to know.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Fast food workers around the country are striking today, calling for the federal minimum wage to be increased to $15.
Over at the Guardian, Laurentina, who is a mother of four and has been a McDonald’s employee for five years, is answering questions from readers today. She talks about her typical day, her managers, her struggle for work-life balance, and getting by on part-time work:
They are always checking that you never make 40 hours. I typically make between 25 and 30 hours a week. They often stop you at 38 hours a week. It’s really hard with my kids. I know I could get two jobs, but then would I be able to raise my kids? Would I be able to give them enough attention? By the time I’m out of work, they are out of school, but I still try to spend time with them. it’s hard.
We don’t get healthcare benefits. We are now thrown into the healthcare market. McDonald’s just gave us a litle card – “how to navigate the health market”. I am hoping to find time to look it up. Mcdonald’s has been providing info where we eat on posters and stuff.
For our break, we get one free meal from McDonald’s. We do get discounts on McDonald’s meals on our days off. They provide uniforms for us, and every 6 months we get shoes from them to work there.
Photo: Annette Bernhardt
This August, a garage in Old Monroe, Missouri burst into flames. There had been more than a dozen similar fires over the past year, a suspiciously high number for a town with a population of 265. When police reviewed security footage, they spotted a white Chevrolet Lumina parked outside the building minutes before it caught fire. They traced the car back to local volunteer firefighter Dustin Grigsby, the 19-year-old son of a fire district captain. Grigsby told police that he set the fires because he “needed a release.”
Every year, something like 100 firefighters are arrested for arson-related crimes. In one year, 1994, South Carolina alone charged 47 firefighter-arsonists, besting their 1993 record of 33 arrests. “It happens more than you think,” former federal agent Daniel Hebert told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Really, it goes on way more than anyone knows. We don’t know about most of them.”
One of the earliest recorded cases of firefighter arson took place in Shelford, an English village a few miles south of Cambridge. In 1828, a Shelford farmer’s haystack caught fire; then, six months later, Mr. Stacey’s haulm-stack burst into flames. Spectators lined up along Trumpington Road to watch local laborers work the hand-operated pump; water was brought in buckets from a nearby pond. In those days, fire trucks were owned and operated by insurance companies, which had a strong incentive to put the fire out and thus minimize insurance payouts. The fires were “the diabolical act of an incendiary,” the local paper guessed.
Over the next several years, barns, straw stacks, gig-houses, cart sheds, stables, and storerooms in Shelford caught on fire. In 1833, police finally arrested 33-year-old John Stallan, a part-time firefighter, who immediately tried to pin the fires on his wife. (According to a local historian, Mrs. Stallan was four feet tall and “rather deformed.”) During his trial, Stallan at first claimed that he was no more guilty of the crimes than “our blessed Saviour who perished for the wickedness of man” but later confessed to setting 11 fires. He was hanged for his crimes. READ MORE
This Pricenomics feature about the mysterious business side of ghostwriting is fascinating:
Jerrold Jenkins, president of a publishing services firm that has ghostwriters on staff, describes ghostwriters as falling along four tiers. The lowest tier, which his company rarely hires, are found on massive freelancing websites like Elance and earn $5,000 to $15,000 for a book. Writers at the next level have some book experience that earns them $15,000 to $30,000. These ghostwriters sign nondisclosure agreements promising to never reveal that they worked on a book. Only scrupulously honest clients thank the ghostwriter for his or her “valuable contribution” in the acknowledgements.
Excellent ghostwriters who may have even written a bestseller earn $30,000 to $50,000 per project while a small elite with a track record of handling multi-million dollar memoirs command from $50,000 to more than a million. They may also receive a share of the royalties and writing credit.
It’s also a nice complement to yesterday’s NY Mag profile of Lean In ghostwriter Nell Scovell. Read them both! Contemplate a career change!
The only thing I’ve ever ghost-written is an article about candy in Iceland, and it was a nightmare, so I think you’d have to pay be a lot more than $50,000 to write your memoir (in case anyone is offering).
Thursday is a great day to do that 1 thing you don’t want to do but also don’t want to continue thinking about doing.
Yesterday I had to stay late at work and I had a headache and all I wanted to do was fall into bed when I got home and I opened the door and my roommate was scrubbing the bathtub. Shit. It was my turn to scrub the bathtub, and I even bought new bathtub scrubber stuff earlier in the week, but you know, that was one task and actually scrubbing the bathtub was another and why do today what you can do tomorrow, is my motto. Also I’m a terrible roommate, never live with me. Anyway at first I was like, “Ahhh please stop! Put all the grime back! It’s my turn,” and then she was like, “That’s impossible I’m just going to finish cleaning,” and then I was like, “… I’ll help?” And then I went into my room and had a quiet moment and realized the last thing I wanted to do at that moment was clean anything and also, logistically, how do you help someone clean a very small bathroom, you don’t, so then I came back out and said, “Actually, I am very tired but I will clean the kitchen and vacuum the house tomorrow. Thank you for cleaning the bathroom. Namaste.”
So that’s what I’m doing today.
For decades, political and business leaders failed to set aside the right amount of money each payday to cover the pensions workers earned and, in some cases, covered up the mismanagement of pension fund investments. This is nothing short of theft, as pensions are simply deferred wages, that is, money that workers could have taken as cash in their regular paychecks had they not opted to set it aside…
Norman Stein, a Drexel University law professor who is an expert on pensions, said that if the Detroit order stands it will become standard practice to slash benefits.
“It would be a human catastrophe of the first order if pensions of vulnerable older workers can be cut whenever a local government goes to bankruptcy court,” Stein said. “We will be consigning firemen and policemen, who did nothing wrong other than protecting the city and depending on the city’s promise, into old-age poverty.”
At Newsweek, David Cay Johnson takes a closer look at the Detroit ruling lifting protections on state pensions, and explains some of the history that has led to the shortfalls all across the country. This, of course, is a huge deal for retirees who’ve worked for the city and who are now bracing for pension cuts.
Photo: Patricia Drury
Where’d your last hundo go, Briana Wucinski?
$4.93: Starbucks large venti soy latte. It worries me that almost every one of these begins or contains an unnecessary coffee purchase. Then I realize how essential caffeine is to the world and I once again understand.
$15: Gas, because you can’t get anywhere in Texas without a car. Thank you wide open spaces.
$4: I chipped in for tacos with a friend. You also can’t go a week in Texas without tacos. READ MORE
At Deadspin, Drew Magary talks about the items on his daughter’s Christmas wish list and it’s very, very funny, mostly because his daughter asks for things like, an American Girl Doll that won’t be on the market until next year:
“New American Girl Doll of the Year 2014.” The heartless corporate executives at American Girl roll out a new “doll of the year” doll every year, complete with its own book and shitty DVD movie (the last one starred Nia Vardalos and Ian Ziering) and a meticulously crafted backstory that reads like an account planner’s wet dream (“She’s a spirited girl who draws on her passions to inspire action!”). And the kicker is that these dolls are always sold for a limited time (the 2013 doll of the year, Saige, is also on my kid’s wish list and costs $110 if you can find her), so that mothers around the world step on each other’s gullets just to secure one for their brainwashed offspring. Anyway, American Girl has not named its stupid doll of the year for NEXT year yet, but my kid wants it anyway. I assume the doll’s name will be Kayden. Here is my kid asking for a present from the future, and that represents one of the more reasonable items. I love you, but you cannot have this, sweetheart.
She also asks for “A little thing that can turn into anything at anytime” which, wow, kid’s got quite the imagination!
At Thanksgiving dinner, all the ladies bonded over having American Girl dolls, which made it seem like American Girl dolls are as prevalent as Barbie dolls, except maybe not because they cost more than $100. Sounds like a pricey Christmas gift!
Also, I never wrote Christmas lists as a kid—my parents just bought me whatever they felt was affordable and appropriate, and I just sort of went with it (but was still terribly excited about opening gifts).
A private equity firm named Blackstone bought credit default swaps against a Spanish gaming company called Codere, betting that Codere would fail to make its debt payments on time, and then paid Codere to purposely miss a debt payment so that it would receive a payout triggered by the swaps. Blackstone made at least $15.4 million through the scheme, which was all legal. On The Daily Show, Jon Stewart compared the scheme to buying insurance on a restaurant, and then burning down the restaurant to collect the insurance money (i.e. Goodfellas).
None of the major television news networks covered the story, and neither did The New York Times. The one major news outlet that did cover the story was Bloomberg, which had the dry headline: “Blackstone Unit Wins in No-Lose Codere Trade.” The Daily Show’s Samantha Bee asked the Times why they didn’t cover the story, and the reporter shrugged saying that they were busy covering other stories, and that this was just “another day on Wall Street.”
Writer and internet person Austin Kleon holds regular office hours over on his blog, and today someone wrote in to ask him for advice about balancing paying the bills and doing creative work. You should read the whole thing, but:
Every artist without a sugar mama or a trust fund or extreme luck has had to deal with this.
Just hang in there.
This is what I recommend: get up early. Get up early and work for two hours on the thing you really care about. Then, when you’re done, go to your job. When you get there, your boss can’t take the thing you really care about away from you, because you already did it. And you know you’ll get to do it tomorrow morning, as long as you make it through today.
The “meaning” in your job is: it pays the bills. Get as good at it as you can, because it’ll make the job more interesting to you, and it will provide you exits to another one. Then find the rest of your meaning elsewhere.
Austin has followed this idea for awhile, and always has good things to share.
As for me, I spent an hour with a health insurance broker yesterday afternoon and am suddenly feeling very wistful about my day job.
I have six months left on my lease (I live in D.C.), and I just have to move for personal reasons. I notified the landlord (an individual, not a corporation) two weeks ahead of time (not far enough, I know, but I was only sure about the move then). My rent covers until the end of November, and I moved out one week ahead of time. The apartment was professionally cleaned (I paid by check), and ready for someone to move in. There is no early-release clause in my lease. We have had an excellent relationship with the landlord. Even when we were arguing about breaking the lease, he said that he would have loved for us to rent here “forever.”
The landlord’s side: He was upset about it since he just bought a house and he can’t pay two mortgages. I offered to pay December’s rent, and also let him keep the deposit, which is worth one month’s rent. That is one-third of the remaining lease. And he refuses. He keeps saying he had to hire his people to make the place brand new, and that eats into the deposit. But I know that by law, you can’t deduct wear-and-tear fixes (such as cleaning the oven, replacing stove top metal thing-y, steaming the carpet) from the deposit.
The apartment is right in front of the metro and in a very safe, walkable area. During the one week that we listed the apartment on Craigslist, we’ve had three people come to see the apartment, so I think the buy-out offer I gave him is a fair one.
What can I do here? Of course, I understand this is not legal advice, I just think that this must happen to people, and someone might have good tips to share. — T. READ MORE
A Detroit bankruptcy judge made a precedent-setting argument on Tuesday that public pensions are contractual under Michigan State law, according to news reports. Though pension plan cuts are not allowed under the Michigan constitution, Judge Steven Rhodes said that they can nonetheless be cut in bankruptcy, resolving a lingering issue over which set of laws take precedent.
A judge ruled yesterday that Detroit is eligible for bankruptcy and lifted protections on state pensions, which are guaranteed by the state constitution and previously widely regarded as safe and risk free. The ruling says that public employee pensions are not protected in a federal Chapter 9 bankruptcy (even though the state’s constitution explicitly protects them), and this could have wider implications on the pensions of public employees in other states.
Quartz’s Allison Schrager tries to find an upside:
The silver lining is that states and municipalities might start to account for the true cost of what they have promised. If they can’t afford to make those promises, with today’s ruling, there’s now scope to lower accrued and future benefits to something more realistic. But it may be pensioners in depressed areas who pay the price.
So maybe not that much of an upside. [Thanks to Christian for the link!]
Photo: Patricia Drury
My brother is getting his master’s degree in Belgium. His bank account was overdrawn, and here’s how my Dad hilariously responded:
T’was three weeks before Christmas
We heard from your bank
They seemed quite distressed
Your account in the tank
Mom went online to see what’s the matter
$300 overdrawn caused all the clatter
When I found out I wanted to shout
But just like GM you needed a bailout
I drove to the bank as quick as a flash
Filled out a form and took out some cash
I went to your bank with an amount
And deposited $1,500 in your account
In the spirit of good old St. Nick
Don’t spend it too fast
Don’t be a dick
We’ll miss you at Christmas
And try not to sob
In the meantime………..
Get off your ass
And go get a job!!!!
Photo: Wikimedia Commons