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      When you’re on your way up, everyone wants to join or be your friend.  When you’re on your way down, well, it’s the opposite. Scotland, with free education and a belief in social welfare that England has lost, is on the edge of voting to leave in a referendum vote. It probably doesn’t hurt that [...]
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The Instapaper Queue: September Edition

Straw goes here: Drinking Canadian milkshake

It’s time to see review what was interesting to me in the past several weeks.  Sometimes, these selections surprise even me.  Let’s take a look, shall we?

But before that, I’m still in awe of Ken Burns and his documentary on The Roosevelts.  I don’t know how he did it but he managed to get George Will to champion the New Deal.  Will even admits that FDR stopped stimulating the economy too soon in 1937.  It’s hilarious how Will becomes the voice of reasonable liberalism in this documentary.  I can just imagine what he’s thinking now that it’s being broadcast.  But it’s political genius.  Take one of the most visible conservative twits in America, who has never met a government program he didn’t despise or poor person he wasn’t able to be indifferent to, and make him say laudatory things about Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his policies.  It wouldn’t have quite the same impact with Paul Krugman providing the commentary. It’s too easy to pass Krugman off as a shrill socialist.  But making Will explain how the New Deal saved the country from Depression is demonically brilliant.

Now, onto our regularly scheduled instapaper queue review:

First up, here’s a post from Digby about the lack of foreign policy credentials among the potential Republican candidates for president in 2014.  It’s not what Digby says that annoys me, it’s the quote she includes from Chuck Todd.  Here’s the money quote:

Now here’s why I think Mitt Romney, it’s funny you bring this up, because I think the reason why Romney 3.0 has gotten traction is less about Romney, and more about the current issues of the day. I think the Republican 2016 field as we thought we knew it, think Scott Walker, think Chris Christie, think Marco Rubio, think Bobby Jindal, you know, throw those names in. I think if you have issues like national security front and center, that’s an incredibly shrinking, I feel like all of those guys are suddenly shrinking in stature. None of them, if the chief criticism of Barack Obama by a lot of people is you know what, he just wasn’t experienced enough, he just didn’t have a grasp of everything you needed to know to be able to be commander-in-chief, right?

HH: Yeah.

CT: That’s among, particularly among the conservative criticisms. Well then, how does Scott Walker fit into that? How does Chris Christie? How does Bobby Jindal? How does Marco Rubio? You know, they don’t, and so suddenly, Mitt Romney, while not having a lot of experience on foreign policy, certainly running for president and certainly now he can go back and say hey, I made these points against the President, and I look a little more prescient today than maybe some people thought three years ago.

Once we were racists because we didn’t think Obama was ready to be president.  Now, we are conservatives.  The insults just keep on coming.  On the other hand, the rest of the left seems to be particularly slow.  They apparently can not be taught.

Sidenote: I’m constantly surprised that regular Americans would find any Republican candidate fit to be president, regardless of foreign policy credentials.  Teddy Roosevelt, Lincoln and Eisenhower wouldn’t recognize that mob masquerading as a political party.

********************************

Here’s a funny short post by Andy Borowitz in The New Yorker explaining why Bernie Sanders can’t get elected president.  The System is set up to spit out people with integrity.  Says Borowitz:

“Bernie Sanders’s failure to become a member of either major political party excludes him from the network of cronyism and backroom deals required under our system to be elected,” said Davis Logsdon, a political scientist at the University of Minnesota. “Though that failure alone would disqualify Sanders, the fact that he is not beholden to a major corporate interest or investment bank would also make him ineligible.”

Because of his ineligibility, Logsdon said, the Vermont Senator would be unable to fund-raise the one billion dollars required under the current system to run for President. “The best source of a billion dollars is billionaires, and Sanders has alienated them,” he said. “Clearly he didn’t think this through.”

********************************

Olive Garden isn’t doing so well these days.  Maybe it’s because there has been a shocking deterioration in the quality of the food in the past 10 years?  (Just going by personal experience) No, says hedge funds invested in the Darden Group.  It’s the unlimited salads and breadsticks.  Ok, they have other suggestions too but most of them involve further cost cutting, which I suspect is behind the less than stellar cuisine lately.  Maybe hedge funds should stay out of the kitchen.

********************************

There were THREE articles in The Atlantic about the plight of sleeplessness on the workforce:

Americans won’t relax, Even late at night or on the Weekend

Thomas Edison and the Cult of Sleep Deprivation

When you can’t afford to sleep.

The last one is about low wage workers holding down 2 or 3 jobs to make a pitiful living get no sleep but the other two suggest that someone(s) at The Atlantic needs a break.

********************************

Robert Kuttner at the American Prospect speculates what Scottish independence might mean globally in Could Scottish Independence Set off a Cascade of Secession?  And if Texas and other southern states decides to secede, is it wrong to be giddy about it?

********************************

Vox is trying to figure out which party will win the Senate and can’t figure it out in Why Election Forecasters Disagree about Who Will Win the Senate.

I blame the Democrats for failing to provide the electorate with a compelling reason to vote for them.  Really, people, we’re talking about that crazy mob on the other side.  It shouldn’t be this hard.

********************************

This one is for RSB: How to get over your Ex.  The experts agree, trying to get back with your ex usually doesn’t work.  Get some psychological scar gel and move on.  There’s a reason why you broke up in the first place.

********************************

From Reuters, Pennsylvania Mother who gave daughter abortion pill gets 18 months in prison.  I’ve suggested in the past that women might have to take an RV into the desert and manufacture their own RU-486 but it was mostly tongue in cheek.  (or was it?)  It will be harder to shut down than meth labs.  When all is said and done, that’s they way abortions are going to go in the future.  You don’t want to be pregnant?  Take the cure.  There’s no stopping it.  It will be the quickest way to shut down abortion clinics than any crazy Right to Lifer has imagined.  No more screaming at shocked young girls, no more political football.  That being said, for this medication to be safe, it has to be given before 12 weeks.  The sooner the better.  It’s really important to know the gestational age of the fetus to avoid complications.  I’m not sure what went wrong with this mother daughter partners-in-crime pair but I hope this is a lesson on how NOT to do it.

I feel very sorry for this family.  It’s an all around bad situation.

********************************

Vox has 8 Facts That Explain What’s Wrong With American Health Care.  Number one reason: it costs too damn much.  Note that Obamacare didn’t do anything to curb health care costs like most nations with successful health care policies have done.  No, it simply straitjacketed the country into paying for it- with public money, and without a public option.  It ain’t no New Deal, let’s not kid ourselves.

********************************

From Vickie Garrison’s blog No Longer Qivering on Patheos, another entry in the Quoting Quiverful series, Birth Control Pills are for Selfish Women?  Yes, women who take birth control want to have fun without consequences.  We’ve heard that before.  But what’s the buried message?  Men can selfishly have fun without consequences and have an actual life with independence and that’s Ok.

Why do women actually get taken in by this stuff?

*********************************

From the Boston Globe, What’s Fueling Wage Inequality in the US?  From the article:

You might think of low- and middle-wage workers as falling behind in not one but two different races. First, their wages aren’t growing as fast as the wages of higher-income workers. Second, even when the economy does grow, that growth is increasingly flowing to wealthier households that have capital to invest.

Why, you ask?  I think we could go back to Karen Ho’s anthropological study of Wall Street in Liquidated to find the roots of the growing wage gap in the past 60 years.  Another factor is the Culture of Smartness.  Part of it has to do with the idea that people who work, particularly people who work with their hands, are the equivalent to people engaged in “trade” in a Jane Austen novel.  Those 18th and 19th century notions are making a comeback.  It makes it very hard for scientists to get ahead.  For one thing, the best ones are introverted and don’t sell themselves well.  For another thing, they use their hands to explore what is in their heads.  It’s kind of hard to do science any other way.  We used to do research the opposite way before the Black Death and the Enlightenment.  And what was the world like before then?  “poor, nasty, brutish and short”.

Don’t expect the Investment Class to develop a heart.  History shows that they don’t without some stiff persuasion.  But basically, the reasons why wages are falling for most people in the country is because we let it happen.

*********************************

Grain Piles Up, Waiting for a Ride as Trains move North Dakota Oil.  Who needs bread?

*********************************

Hillary beats everyone in 2016.  Water is wet.  Everyone has been waiting 8 years for her to be president.  It’s 8 years too long and probably too late but she’s the favorite.  Woebetide the party activists and party that tries to stand in the way of the American people this time.  Not saying she is going to usher in a liberal paradise or anything.  I’m just saying American are fed up.  They want the change they were promised but didn’t get in 2008.

*********************************

Ebola patient, Kent Brantley says “God Saved My Life”.  Well, he would say that, given that he’s a Christian missionary. He also received the serum from Mapp that we have discussed previously.  He’s an N of 1 and no one’s sure that the monoclonal antibody treatment actually worked. More data required.  I’d like to see clinical trials of God vs Serum.  Could be instructive.

*********************************

I think I’ll stop there for now.  There are a few more items in the queue. One probably deserves a post all to itself.

Gotta go.  Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Damn you, Ken Burns

You’ve created another maddeningly addicting documentary, this one on The Roosevelts.  I’m going to be tied to this computer for every spare moment until the final minutes of the whole fourteen hours.  I have rooms to paint and lawns to mow.

How did you get George Will to talk in favor of government regulation?  Did you torture him first?  Was it a trick of clever editing?

Highly recommended.  Check your local PBS station for scheduling or watch it online at pbs.org.

Employment Index: Week Three

I shall not type for less than $100K/year

This is part 3 of an ongoing series about my job search.  You can catch up on this series by reading Part one and Week 2.

This was an interesting week.  Following the successful score of “awesome!” on my assessment test for one potential employer, I waited patiently for a phone interview.  It came on Wednesday.  It was more nerve-wracking than I thought and I didn’t think it went that well from my perspective.  I think it had to do with what I’m going to call Fear of Prima Donna syndrome, for lack of a better word.

I have a lot of experience from my years in the drug industry and I even managed to get promotions(!).  Imagine that.  I think that had to do with the fact that despite my lack of a PhD, which seems to be maniacally important to the drug industry these days, I managed to overcome the fear of learning new things.  This is something I frequently saw did not happen with some PhDs I worked with who seemed to want to hide the fact that they didn’t know absolutely everything when they sprang fully formed from the head of Zeus.  Not all of them were like this but a fair number appeared to be hiding behind their comp exams and not engaging with the new stuff in front of them.  I had no such qualms.  I fully admitted up front that I didn’t know everything and the more I knew, the less certain I was that I knew everything.  So, when someone threw me a new application or problem to solve, I figured I might as well try it as not.  What’s the worst that could happen?  Ok, I almost lost a protein we worked 6 months to grow and harvest but I pulled out a miraculous save in the lab that day and all’s well that ends well. We got a paper out of it.

Anyway, I digress.

My point is that when a prospective employer sees that level of experience and the salary that went with it, they start to assume that you’re 1.) going to be an ego driven prima donna and 2.) you will think the compensation they’re offering is going to be too low so that 3.) you will leave for greener pastures at the first opportunity.

The phone interview was an exercise in trying to dispel those notions.  But the reason I am HERE in Pittsburgh and not chasing research positions in Cambridge or San Francisco is because I did a cost benefit analysis of running from start-up to start-up in the current drug industry environment without a PhD and thought it was a losing proposition. By moving here, I structured my lifestyle in such a way so that I would have the freedom to learn new things in a new industry and not feel like my livelihood (or my house) was always one paycheck away from ruin.  That is not to say I am not going to be extremely cautious from now on.  For example, if I get the job, the first thing I’m going to do is start saving my six months salary in case of a future layoff.  I have learned my lesson and the economy will feel the impact of the thousands of us who have been burned- repeatedly.

The Fear of Prima Donna syndrome hypothesis got another data point when another prospective employer sent me an email that said, in effect, “Um, we can’t possibly pay you what you were making previously.  You do realize this is an entry level position, don’t you?”.  I had a good laugh over that one.  Yes, I am working part time and without health benefits but if you offer me a full time  job with insurance, I am going to refuse it because you are unable to pay me my customary $92,000/year + 15% bonus.

Silly, silly, people.

There is one employer in the area that I have decided not to pursue any further and that is UPMC, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.  They post a TON of administrative assistance positions on their sites and I have applied to almost every one of them.  But I never hear back from any of them.  I don’t even get rejection letters, which is what I have received from other institutions.  This is not the University of Pittsburgh, by the way.  It’s the hospital system.  It’s a shame because I had heard from the career counselor that it was a reasonable target employer.  However, I have met some recent employees of UPMC, both former and current, who say that they tend to discriminate and layoff based on age.

And, this is interesting, these employees also say that the age discrimination is related to UPMC’s desire to save money by not employing anyone in their 50’s due to the cost of a healthcare insurance policy.  This is a strange thing to say since UPMC *is* an insurance company.  You’d think they’d discount their employees. If it is true, then Obamacare didn’t take care of this problem, apparently.  I don’t have any proof that this is the case but when I first started to apply to UPMC, it was the only employer that specifically asked for a birthdate on their online application form.  Someone must have complained because they have dropped that.  But it is the employer that now asks if the applicant has been unemployed for more than 30 days and in this modern employment environment, I think that bar is set too high for most people looking for work.

I’m pretty sure my rejection is not due to my qualifications.  I have applied to senior admin positions as well as those that require a year or less experience.  With my proficiency with Microsoft Office, coupled with my experience running the administrative tasks for the hardware team at my previous job for many years, I should have more than enough in the way of qualifications.  But I hear nary a peep from UPMC.  I have no idea why they have excluded me from even a phone interview.  It could be that I don’t know any insiders at UPMC or that they’re just posting pro-forma jobs while they plan to hire internally anyway.  I have no clue or data to help me retool my strategy.  So, I am dropping them from my list of potential employers.

Next week, there is a career fair featuring some local employers.  I plan to go.  I think it helps if they see you in person to get rid of some of the silly notions they have in their heads about your temperament (much better), sense of humor  (I’m going to write a satire someday), team player quality (I swear, I don’t want to direct), physical fitness (superb!), etc.  At least I hope this is the case. However, if there is real discrimination going on based on employment status or age, it’s probably beyond the scope of an applicant to address.  It will take investigation and legislation for that.  Given the number of us who are underemployed and have many years to go before we get to social security age, I wouldn’t put it off if I were congress.  Sooner or later, something will need to be done.  Either we get a champion now so we can support ourselves or we will end up costing society more as we age when it will be forced to support us.

And the employer who called me for the phone interview is not out of the picture, but I’m not buying champagne yet.  There is still at least one more trial to overcome before I get the grail in that quest.

Total applications this week (end 09/13/2014): 7 (cutting out UPMC dropped this number considerably)

Total applications since the beginning of this project: 42

Total number of phone interviews: 1

Total number of calls for on-site interviews: 1

  • Temp agency: 1
  • Direct position: 1

Total number of assessments taken: 1; Number passed: 1

Total number networking contacts: 3

 

 

The Book Book

So, apple has a new watch and Kansas City has a new Ikea.  The new Ikea opened on Wednesday.  I think it’s just a stone’s throw away from Katiebird’s house.  Some of my favorite Ikea products in no particular order are:

1.) Lack tables

2.) Kallax shelving unit (you can’t have too many)

3.) Chocolate

4.) Cinnamon buns

5.) Curtains (they’re all pretty good and affordable)

But did you know they also came out with a new product with the latest technology?  Check it out below.

 

That video reminded me of the Medieval Helpdesk (video from Norway):

Go Scotland!

The Picts are back. Get your woad on.

In case you haven’t been following this issue, Scotland is having a vote on September 18 on whether to separate from Britain.  When I think back on how many centuries and lives it took to bring Scotland into the fold, it’s astonishing that the whole thing could be undone by the relentless pursuit of conservative policies over the last 30 years.  It’s almost like the Thatcherites and sons of Thatcher have been for years yukking it up in Westminster over Scotland, saying, “Riiiight, where are they going to go?”.  I’m not sure I would have been so confident, given that the Romans had to build a wall to keep the Picts from marauding and that William Wallace trounced Edward I’s forces at Sterling Bridge. Earlier this month, I had found a long post written by a pro-independence Scottish journalist but I’ve misplaced the link (neglected to save to instapaper. Grrr).  His argument was convincing but here is a list of pro-independence arguments from the Independent Scotland movement that are very similar.

Basically, the sentiment is that the Scotland that most people grew up in post WWII is rapidly disappearing under the policies of the conservative movement and the concessions that the Labour party has made to it in order to keep the peace.  There is a deterioration of public services and an alarming increase in the rate of privatization.  Along with that, the government in Westminster is becoming increasingly stingy, sending less and less money back to Scotland over the last decade.  The result is that Scotland is becoming a bit like, well, us.  There is more inequality, more mean spiritedness and less willingness to help others pull themselves up.

Scotland keeps sending Labour party representatives to Westminster but nothing ever comes of it.  The voice of the people is continually muffled.  Scotland also has it’s own parliament, by the way.  Think of it like a state legislature.  Anyway, they haven’t gotten anywhere in quite some time.  It would be like having the state of Massachusetts run by Rick Perry and his Texas Republican legislature, or the entire east and west coast and urban areas of the US politically at the mercy of a bunch of plantation owner wannabees from the South.  They’ve had enough.  They want to be more like Sweden or Iceland.

Since the latest polls have come out showing the pro-independence forces having a snowball’s chance in Hell, there have been boogie man “Oooo, don’t go down to the cellar!” posts in the last couple of days to try to keep Scotland in the fold.  Scotland says it wants to keep the British pound as its currency and still join the EU.  Krugman predicts disaster, the pound took a hit yesterday but Scotland carries on. Sometimes you have to accept a loss in order to have more control over your life.  It looks like England has pushed its harsh form of conservatism over the Scottish border one time too often and Scotland is now determined to reassert its boundary.

Meanwhile, Bank of England governor Mark Carney tells UK workers that may deserve a raise but first they have to earn it.  They’re not productive enough, to which I ask, productive enough compared to whom?  Scottish voters may be asking themselves the same thing.

Anyway, I find the whole thing fascinating.  It’s like watching the western world’s version of the Arab Spring.  Call it the Caledonian Autumn, or some such thing.

Maybe it will spread.

Be Brave.

 

It all came out right in the end.

By the way, Brook does the best Merida impression.  It cracks me up every time  she says “I want to change my feet!”

Can I just say one thing?: Podcasts

This is a new series about things that are immensely irritating for no good reason.  

I am a podcast fan.  Mostly, I like podcasts on history, language, history of science and cultural trendiology stuff.  When I got my first iPhone, I was ecstatic because I could download podcasts through iTunes and every time I synched my phone, the podcast would magically refresh and I would get a brand new set of stuff to listen to.  

Then, someone at apple had the bright idea to disconnect podcasts from iTunes.  Why this decision was made is beyond me.  Usually, I’m pretty tolerant of interface and design changes.  Sure, many people bitch about how things used to be better and make themselves a pain in the ass but most users adapt within a few days to a week.  That’s how it should be.  We need to be able to adapt.  

So, I didn’t particularly like the new setup where the podcasts were separate but I was determined to adapt.  Give it a couple of weeks and I would never know the difference.

But along with separating the podcasts from iTunes, apple forced users to download a new podcast app.  It was a baaaaad app, oh best beloveds.  It really was.  Steve Jobs is going to haunt that developer for eternity.  For one thing, it didn’t sync well with the podcast downloads.  I had to go back into iTunes on multiple occasions to try to troubleshoot why a particular podcast didn’t download to the iPhone.  And then there was the weird skipping bug.  Right in the middle of the podcasts, the feed would start to skip every 10 words or so.  It was maddening.  So, I looked for a different podcast app and found one but it came with a whole new set of problems, specifically, it downloaded every episode and was difficult to maintain.  

Then the podcast app/iTunes interface was “improved!”.  Over several upgrades, it has gotten marginally better but it has never gotten back to the state of utility that it had when it was fully integrated in iTunes.  In fact, it’s weird that on the laptop, podcasts are still integrated into iTunes but on the iPhone they’re not.  They still don’t sync flawlessly like they did before and I frequently have to go into the app or iTunes and tweak the settings.  Sometimes, I will get three episodes to load, listen to them and then find that neither the app or iTunes will update the subscription any further.  I have to do manual refresh.  This happens a lot. And for some subscriptions, Fresh Air, for example, the podcast episodes never delete themselves as they’re supposed to, requiring me to manually delete many of the same podcasts over and over again.

The latest “feature” is that the podcasts update themselves on iTunes but not on the iPhone.  There’s no option to refresh the podcast on the iPhone so I have to manually delete the podcast and resubscribe to get the newest episode.  

Was this necessary?  Whose bright idea was this?  Could someone fix this please?  

Next week: Siri needs an attitude adjustment.

Add your more notable non-improvement upgrade story below.

Hubris and Stampede

Making this short because I’m going to archery practice.  

So, there is a great gnashing of teeth beginning over The Upshot post this morning on Why Democrats Can’t Win the House, blah, blah, blah, woe is us, how dare they point this out for the world to see.  

Yes, the Republicans did blithely gerrymander through the gently (steeply) rolling hills of Pennsylvania, fa-la-la! And they didst separate the wheat from the chaff and packed the Democrats into vanishingly small districts (I’m District 14! Go, Doyle!

BUT, and this is a big but that the progressivey types ignore because, frankly, it’s embarrassing, the Republicans didn’t do that until they had won back the House in 2010.  That was a full two years after Obama and the Democrats had a clear, unobstructed path to do whatever their hearts desired.  And what they desired the most, apparently, was fluffing up the guy who campaigned in Pennsylvania and Appalachia as if the voters there didn’t matter a whit!  Nay, he even called them gun toting, churchie types who knit bitterly, or something to that effect.  That’s probably why Pennsylvania and Appalachia did not vote for him during the primaries.  

Yes, I was there.  I was at the Hillary campaign office in Harrisburg on three occasions during primary season and did much phone banking.  Most of the Democrats I spoke to had nothing against Obama.  They just didn’t think he was ready to be president.  Which just goes to show you how intelligent the commonwealth of Pennsylvania is.  But that didn’t stop Obama from treating this section of the country as if it was his enemy.  So, now, they hate his guts with a white hot passion.  And they’re none too trusting of the morons who forced him upon them.  If I were a Democrat in Pennsylvania, I wouldn’t be calling Obama my best buddy and pal and talking up all of his “accomplishments”.  

It was the hubris of the Netroots Nation type activists, skillfully played by the Wall Street backers of Obama that got us all into this mess.  I can remember the first YearlyKos where some nerdy Nate Cohn type stood up and declared writing off the south and the Clinton coalition as a pretty snazzy idea.  Who needs the south? It’s full of idiots and knuckle draggers and they all have déclassé gun racks on the back of their trucks.  {{sniff}}  No, they did not see that population as one that was the most likely to fall into a black pit of poverty once the Great Recession hit.  

Who were the stupid ones?  

So the country put its trust in Obama in 2008, hoping desperately for a true Democrat to set things right and arrest the bankers and save their jobs and houses and children’s future, all the while not knowing that he was the bankers’ secret weapon.  When he failed to make any progress and the economy fell into an abyss, the Democrats stayed home in 2010 and the Republicans were motivated to go to the polls, taking with them the population that Democrats had abandoned in 2008.  If Democrats had been smart and were really concerned about gerrymandering after the 2010 census, you’d think they would have been more careful about guarding their legacy.  

But not to fear.  There is a lot of pent up frustration about the state of the country.  I predict that there will be a stampede for Hillary Clinton in 2016, whether the progressive male contingent likes it or not and whether or not Hillary has been forced to sell her soul to the guys in the smoke filled rooms.  

If I were the progressive male contingent (and you know who you are, screaming “neoliberal”, whatever that actually means to you, at everything you don’t like), I would stand back.  Because the less resistance you offer, the less money she will have to get from the people you SHOULD have been watching out for back in 2008 when you got us into this mess.  

Your turn has come and gone.  You had your chance.  You blew it.  Shut up and sit down and, for god’s sakes, quit whining.  

 

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