On The Lawyer-to-Be (A Poem)

@aetataureate Anybody know of good pieces on what being a lawyer actually is? A serious question. I'm looking for an ethnographic or insider piece, as I'm on the brink myself,..

Posted on July 28, 2014 at 6:55 pm 0

On Think Of The Money I Could Make By Simply Ruining My Life With Airbnb

Airbnb's comments section also strikes me as increasingly odd. I hardly ever read less-than-stellar comments, and it makes me wary. I recently stayed at an airbnb room in a farm near Ottawa. The room and the farm were lovely, but the water wasn't potable. It was cloudy and tasted strongly of mud or something even less pleasant. And the shower and whole bathroom smelled strongly of sewage while the water was running. The owner, who lived on the premises himself, made no mention of this or his site or in our multiple correspondences beforehand, and I found this out the hard way after gulping a mouthful of mud-tasting water before spitting it out. We then panicked, since we were incredibly thirsty after a long day, our water bottles were empty, it was 2am, and we were far from any place that might be open and selling beverages. We should have mentioned this to the owner the following day, but the moment never arose, and when it did, my partner and I chickened out since my partner said that the owner might be insulted, given that he lived there himself and didn't mention it. Maybe he drank it. Maybe he had a Brita filter. So we never said anything about it, but I suppose the six pack of large mineral water bottles we snuck in the following night, unsuccessfully trying to be discreet, conveyed in other ways our silent disapproval. Long story short: it clouded our stay (especially the poop-smelling shower), but I never mentioned this in my airbnb review. The owner left his own review of us before I did, and his was positive, so I felt doubly-bad leaving a mixed review, especially since we hadn't mentioned it to him to begin with. My review ended up being purely positive, maybe undeservedly so. There's something a bit sticky about airbnb that way. It muddles the boundary between the commercial and the personal. It's got the vibes of a true sharing economy like couch surfing is - but it's not. You're paying 120$ a night for a room in a farm, and if you feel shortchanged about the mud-water, you should be able to complain about it. But at the same time, you're sharing an intimate space, filled with personal belongings, with those belongings' owner. It feels almost like betrayal to leave a personal and public complaint, even if it's an important one. I just could not bring myself to complain about the water, either in person or online. In the same way that I could not complain about the rock-hard bed in another airbnb room in Maine. My reviews were purely positive, as are 99% of the reviews I read on airbnb. Which makes me wonder whether other people feel the same kind of pressure to be positive since there's sometimes that sticky personal connection you make with your host...

Posted on July 17, 2014 at 8:09 pm 0

On A Nanny (BA, MSW) Chats about Psych Grad Programs, Zigzagging Through Life

So many feels on this piece. I am curious why Brittany didn't like social work's approach to broken systems, and why psychology seemed better to her, or more to the point, why "more formulaic" (is that even a better thing?) seemed better than "just what feels right" (from her SW program)? I am in a similar place in life. I've considered both clinical psychology and social work, and don't know which to try for despite roughly two years of meeting with practitioners in both fields and doing some volunteer work that could count as relevant in both. Since I'm currently completing another PhD in a totally unrelated field, which I don't want to pursue further after I graduate, doing another 5-6 years of a clinical psych PhD seems just too exhausting, since I'm also 30. A 2-year social work master's seems a lot more feasible. Plus, life has shown me that you can't get around dealing with broken social systems if you really want to genuinely, genuinely help people. I'd rather be screaming at health insurance company reps to get my cancer patient the health coverage she deserves as an underpaid, overworked social worker than diagnosing her with complicated grief as a much better paid psychologist. I'm not saying psychologists don't help people. I know they do. I admit, though, that the older I get, the more I think that fighting corrupt or deaf social systems is where it's at, and that's what I respect about social work's systems approach. I also have reservations about the way the DSM is used in clinical psychological practice, and about the categorization-heavy way clinical psych is taught in the US and Canada, and don't know if I'd survive 5 years of studying it, if I even got in. Although I guess even psychologists themselves often do "just what feels right" in their own clinical practice! On the other hand, maybe I'd burn out fast as a social worker, since fighting cold bureaucracies can be so brutal, and I know several people who's left the profession because they couldn't handle the stress. I've never heard of a psychologist leaving the profession due to stress. I guess it's true that it's hard to know what profession suits you. You can read all you want about it, and even volunteer in it or with people who do it, but ultimately nothing substitute for cold hard experience, and by that point, you may already be halfway through a grad program with many thousands of dollars in debt under your belt. Finding something you love, are good at, AND can feasibly find work in is the perfect trifecta that I worry I'll never achieve.

Posted on June 12, 2014 at 8:03 pm 2

On The Privileged Question of Whether Money Buys Happiness

I remember an undergraduate psychology class that cited research showing that money only helps with happiness if it pulls you out of poverty. After you're no longer fretting over bills, any additional money doesn't increase your happiness. Of course, someone could be making a six figure salary and still be fretting over bills...

Posted on June 12, 2014 at 10:26 am 0

On I've Fallen Into the 'Lifestyle Inflation' Trap

But what drives lifestyle inflation? Is it only that you are living in a wealthier or more exciting area with more to do after work, and feel the pressure to pay to partake of it? Or is it more just seeing people around you spending more?

Posted on June 4, 2014 at 12:45 pm 0

On The Cost of Being Robbed While Traveling Abroad

Great piece, and very sorry to hear about your robbery, Lisa. But since you mention this was your first robbery in many months of traveling, could you perhaps share with us how you successfully avoided/prevented robbery before this incident? There's lots of advice online, but to the uninitiated it is tough to tell what's actually necessary and useful and what is less so. E.g. did you always sleep with your money belt on? What backups did you carry? And how and where did you carry sensitive documents? I think this might be useful to many of us.

Posted on May 16, 2014 at 3:01 pm 1

On The Cost of Being Robbed While Traveling Abroad

Posted on May 16, 2014 at 3:01 pm 0

On Dear Bank: I'm Breaking Up With You

Josh, this is fantastic. General Mills was by far the best part. By the way, pardon the novice question, but doesn't your credit score suffer if debts are referred to a collection agency? Or does it take more than that?

Posted on May 2, 2014 at 1:38 pm 0

On Majoring in Economics and Making Money

@DebtOrAlive You say Econ can be a great background no matter what you want to do, but I am genuinely curious what kind of "non-math" oriented job people typically DO do with an Economics degree. Everyone I know with a strong economics background deals with numbers all day long for either research or profit. I know an agricultural economist who's critical of market-based approaches to environmental preservation (e.g. eco-certification etc), but he has had to move away from pure economics to get to that point. I don't doubt that majoring in Econ can give you an interesting "framework for analysis of institutions and people", but in my experience, that framework is often (not always) a very particular one, which assumes by and large rational, self-interested actors and universal subjects. Frameworks that posit these universal subjects are rarely useful for understanding why people sometimes operate very differently, or in groups, or how to understand the complex structural determinants of poverty, migration, global political, diverse cultures, humanitarian giving, and so on. As a graduate student who started off in undergrad doing statistics and psychology, and then migrated to anthropology, and hopefully soon to social work, I found the humanities much more theoretically fulfilling than economics and statistics, personally. That was just me, I know. But I do find troubling the suggestion that Econ is superior than some humanities disciplines in providing "frameworks of analysis". This kind of view is already prevalent among academic Deans and provosts who've been catastrophically and disproportionately cutting funding to the humanities since the 2008 crash. But maybe people's enthusiasm here is more about what jobs they've gotten than the knowledge they've gained per se. I'd be happy to know what people are actually doing with an Econ degree. I also don't dispute that Econ provides more lucrative entry-level job prospects for undergrads than history, political theory, sociology, or anthropology. It's been very sad to me, though, that almost every single one of my Econ major undergrad students has gone on to finance or consulting jobs in Wall Street.

Posted on April 16, 2014 at 3:23 pm 0

On When One Person Earns More Than the Other in a Relationship

Also agree with the Mole. But what struck me most about the article was that the author doesn't seem to think his partner appreciates his taking care of the house and the dog, or his building a lock or a fruit basket. Do those things really carry no value to his partner? We know that monetary input is only one of many contributions that matter in a relationship. Whenever I feel bad for contributing less money to our joint account than my partner does, or for having much less monetary potential than he does, he gets mad and tells me how I've enriched his life since we met, how much he appreciates the things I've taught him, and the ways I inspire him and keep him grounded. Those things cannot be expressed in monetary terms, and if your partner appreciates them and sees them as vital, then income inequality becomes no object. It's only when there's a perceived disruption to this balance, e.g. where the monetary inequality takes on a huge importance that other contributions cannot compensate for - that you're in trouble. Maybe you'll want to have kids one day and one income won't be enough. Maybe the non-monetary contributions of one partner begin to lose value in the other's eyes. But if this does happen, then I doubt it would be because of the income disparity per se. It would probably have to do with deeper emotional crevices in the relationship.

Posted on March 31, 2014 at 2:57 pm 0