Fake Merit?

This week, I’ve been reading Twilight of the Elites: America after Meritocracy, by Christopher Hayes.  He asserts that meritocracy–the belief that the best and brightest among us deserve outsized rewards, because they’ve earned them–is the root of our problems, and that a program of government equalization is necessary to restore balance.

I read on, even though I didn’t agree with his premise.  I believe in the concept of the meritocracy: I like to believe that I’ve gotten where I am in the world through my wits and my skills.  My mother always used to say, “You’re only as good as the good you do.”  And I believed her.  But Hayes is right: something has gone seriously wrong.  Our best and our brightest seem to be the root of our problems.  Instead of actually improving things, they bring chaos and dysfunction.

A local news item provided an insight.  A group of students at Stuyvesant High School (where I went years ago) were found to be cheating on their state Regents exams by photographing the test papers with their phones, and sharing the tests (which are supposed to be kept secret) and the answers.

It isn’t that merit, and meritocracy, are bad.  It’s that merit has become debased.  Fake merit has overtaken and displaced real merit.

Real merit is hard.  When I was in Stuyvesant, the Regents exams were understood to be a challenge to us as individuals.  We studied; we followed the rules (most of us, anyway); we earned our scores.  More generally, achievement in the real world is hard.  The laws of physics are ruthless.  The court of physics admits no pre-trial motions and no continuances.  Verdicts are instantaneous and final.  And if you don’t like the result, the only alternative is to try, try again.  And in every field of productive endeavor, it’s true.  Engineering is hard, but so are railroading, running a factory, baseball, ballet and rock music.

But fake merit is easy.  Sharing pictures of the test papers is easier than actually studying math and physics and chemistry and French.  (And after all, the idea of taking an exam as an individual is kind of archaic: doesn’t everybody understand that collectively we all know more than any of us knows as an individual?)  Investment is hard; running a Ponzi scheme is easy.  Making real music is hard; making noise, then hiring a press agent to make people believe that it’s music, is easy.

Through fake merit, it’s easier to claim greater achievements than if you actually went and did the work.  And people will hold you in higher esteem, as if your fake achievements were  real… at least until the roof falls in.

It isn’t the meritocracy that has let us down, it’s the concept of merit itself.

The Death Of A Large Company’s Presence….the aftermath

To continue the discussion about 2 million sqare feet of a plant being vacated — and the end of 14M worth of tax ratables being paid into the coffers of 2 very middle class towns…and 2 towns that are not huge and not rich, by any means.

I have said it before and said it again: when a big company moves out of a town, it kills the town’s spirit.

And as I also said, “what type of employment culture exists?” That is something you ask when you plan on moving — in addition to knowing about the school system, the crime rate, what ammenities are available to residents, etc — you also want to know Where Is There To Work Around Here?

This is all a sign of the times: Phamcos have been moving out of the area, or closing down, or growing much smaller — and the jobs in general are moving out of the area.

We have too many commercial office buildings that are empty — now plants that once employed 5000 people or more can  sit, vacant and fallow.

Shulton and ITT, 2 more blockbuster companies located in Clifton, ceased business years ago. In place of the buildings, there are now townhouses, shopping centers and stores.

There was also Givudan — that building was razed and in its place, a commercial office building was built. Nowhere near the ratables that Givudan’s campus generated.

14M gone from a tax role?

That could break the back of a town like Nutley. Population perhaps 25K and mostly middle class and upper middle class.

And we all know it’s a trickle down effect — there are dozens of restaurants and stores nearby that are vastly popular with the employees and lunch and dinner crews of the facility. And most of them are mom and pop businesses.

14M of taxes?

Even if they build homes there, you’d have to build about 3,000 homes to break even — and even then, it’s a sucky solution. YOu will “profit” from that not — this will now mean a boom in the school population! You’ll need more school spalce, more teachers, possibly another grammar school to hold the new student influx.

And you’ll have to add to the sewer system and other utilities to handle what — a potential TEN THOUSAND new residents? And that 10,000 person figure is only a mild estimation.

And if these are upscale townhomes — and they probably will be — don’t count on these people to send their kids to the public schools. You’ll see them send their kids to the private schools that are up the road. NO benefit to the public school system at all.

And the chances of getting another pharmco to move into that campus?

Anybody here hear squealing and see something porcine soar through the air on wings? Let me know if you DO.

Pearl River NY will be getting the same “deal”: The Pfizer plant is ceasing operations, also.

This is no win situation for everyone involved.

Another job fair with hundreds of attendees


 And most of them with advanced degrees.

Young people are now competing with people 45, 50 and 60 years old who will take a job just to survive, to paraphrase a line from the article.

One gent ran his own tax buisness but ended operation due to a severe slowdown. Now he’s looking to get back into the corporate world.

His comment about being out of work:

“I worked in the industry for 25 years. I’m not discouraged. I’m not complaining. At my age, it’s not that bad for the time being,” said Merritt.

Roche facility closing in Nutley NJ, 1000 more jobs lost


1000 people work there.

The facility is closing….BUT, at an “undisclosed location” somewhere in the same state, there will be another facility opening, employing 240 people. The employees at the plant that is closing are being offered those jobs.

What’s going on here?

They close ONE plant and boot all 1000 people and open another with 240 people? Is this another incentive, or what?

I can imagine the pissing match over who gets one of the240 jobs that are being made available

Very very sad that the Roche facility is closing. Over 5000 people once worked here; in 1985, over 1500 people were let go. They called it “Black Friday.”

This was a company that treated their employees like family. The company even employed its own employee theatre group! This is how large the company was and how active their people were.

“Black Friday” in 1985 was the beginning of the end. And there were so many great places to work in that area: Shulton, Givudan, ADP (2 facilities in Clifton, about a 1 minute drive from Roche) — all of them now are gone.

There were 3 hospitals in the immediate location, all of them doing relatively well. Only one is left. Got a money bailout from the state about 3 years ago; they were bankrupt and emerged 2 years ago.

And up the river, another pharmco biggie is closing a plant. A guy I know who works there is 55; he has no idea what he’s going to do once the place closes.

Will the last one employed in NJ please shut the lights out…thank you…

You are one paycheck away from unemployment (and more)….

From our local daily today:


The comments in the section for “Your comment here” kill me.

Everybody is missing the entire point of what the problem is:

Unemployment can happen TO YOU. Nobody is exempt.

And it can happen to you at any time any place anywhere. There are no promises, no guarantees, no long term solutions.

We have a very large group of storefronts in our downtown area that are vacant. The buildings are owned by one person and the rent is off the charts. This is primarily the reason why the storefronts have been vacant for so long; out of the reach of the middle class — and the middle class is usually who rents Main Street storefronts and the people who operate businesses in them.

There are now businesses moving into those formerly vacant spaces. Great news, eh?

Not surprising that the people who rent them are prior business owners: the only businesses moving in are restaurants and other eateries.

I don’t think this is the greatest. Who wants a whole downtown filled with restaurants, delis, pizzerias and franchised yogurt shops?

They already own a bar, own another deli and own another type of eatery; one of these owners has now gotten ahold of a yogurt franchise…how convenient it is 2 doors down from his deli, eh?

Out of the reach of the “little people.” And out of the reach of somebody out of work who wants to open a real business — the rents are unaffordable.

Everybody in this dumb little town are in awe over these restaurants/eateries that are opening. Meanwhile, businesses are moving OUT of this town and jobs are moving out of this town.

I’ve said it before: the “perks” that are included in living in a town are IMPORTANT when it comes to the fact that you’re looking for a great town to live in: in other words, Are jobs included?

Who gives a shit that there’s  a new restaurant opening???

Whom Do I Vote For?

For a while now, I’ve refused to vote in elections for the New York State Assembly or Senate.  I’ll go to the polls and vote for President or Governor or US Representative or Senator, and simply skip voting for Assemblyman or State Senator.  I’ve realized that whomever I vote for, the New York State Legislature will do whatever it pleases.  At best, they do nothing; at worst, they make my life miserable.

A few years ago, I made an exception and voted for an earnest young man who was running for state Senator.  He won the election, and is now in his second term.  He proposed a law requiring motor vehicle dealers in New York State to disclose mileage in terms of gallons per mile, as well as miles per gallon.  The measure died in committee in his first term, and I doubt it will go any further this time.

This year, I am seriously considering not voting for either of the candidates for President.

I voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and am now thoroughly disgusted with him.  He hasn’t done anything useful to help the economy, not even to admit that, perhaps, ‘fixing the economy’ is something beyond the power of our government, and We the People need to do something ourselves.  His signature achievement, health care reform, is an abomination that may be thrown out by the Supreme Court.  And for the last three years, the government has had to borrow one out of three dollars that it spends.

But the Republican presumptive candidate, Mitt Romney, isn’t any better.   He talks a great game, but except for health care reform, I can’t see any real policy differences between him and Obama.  OK, maybe Romney wants tax cuts.  But what good does it do for me to get a few dollars more a week if everything else is still going to hell?  And maybe a Romney administration will have a slightly less inept foreign policy.  But we’ll still continue with the charade of the War on Terror.  (How can you go to war against an emotion anyway?)

Maybe something will come out to push me one way or the other during the conventions and the debates.  But if I had to go to the polls next Tuesday, I wouldn’t bother voting for either of them.

Is there a job attached to the ad…or is it a ruse?

I am now starting to wonder if the job advertisement I am replying to is a bona fide ad with a real job attached to it.

You simply cannot tell anymore. The only way you could tell for certain is if you know somebody directly employed in that department at that company; they’d vouch for the ad whether it is real or not.

In fact, exactly that happened when I was working at this one particular job.  I opened up the Help Wanted ads one Sunday and lo and behold, there is an ad — and a sizable one — for the supervisor of our department.

To my knowledge, the boss was not leaving.

I had a part time job at another lab at the time; one of the guys who was my sometime supervisor there applied for the job at our lab.  He wanted to know what was going on, since about 3 weeks had elapsed and he hadn’t gotten a reply from the HR department.

I told him what I told all of you: No, she isn’t leaving and that’s as far as we know — and nobody at all has been in for an interview.

Nobody ever came in for an interview at all. Very very odd.

Who knows why they ran that ad? The boss’ situation was a unique one: she wasn’t going to be replaced by management; she was more or less there to stay and she was brought in with the intent of acting as “The Terminator”: straigtening out the department…and the people.

Years later, she was farmed out and her “job” was replaced with another one, quite different, NOT related to our department at all whatsoever. She was more or less fired as head of our department. (I was long gone by that time; I heard about her “new job” in the business section of our local paper)

This incident happened eons ago. To see a phoney ad was rare. The kooks, weirdoes, scammers and walkers that preyed on job hunters were few and far in between.

I have just replied to 3 ads in a row where I know for certain one job did not exist — that was the guy who asked me to do a presentation — and as for the other 2, I’m sure that something was odd there, too.

Company B, I am convinced, ran the ad to collect names and addresses under the guise of “we need your 3 refrences; bring them to the interview” and Company C interviewed me for only a reason they know of. When I arrived at that interview, i was told “Jack isn’t in; he was called away. I will do the interview.” At 10:30 in the morning? Yes, something is funny here; I have seen this same “he’s not here” at least a dozen times over the years I have been employed and looking for a job.

So who do you trust?

It’s like you simply cannot tell anymore. Too many enocounters with the “boy who cried wolf.” And when there’s a real job attached to the ad, who knows?

If you are lucky enough to have a gut feeling about the ad and/or company, I say trust it. If something seems too good to be true, skip the ad or run like hades if you are at the interview. If you are not comfortable with a company’s request or you think the request is more than just a bit too much to ask of a job candidate, refuse to do what they ask: do you want a job THAT BADLY? I think not.

Why should you waste your time?

That’s the bottom line.

That’s what it boils down to.

YOU are the one IN CHARGE. Don’t let these bastards have you bend over and grab your ankles, so to speak.

Bridal and Baby Showers and why they suck

This is June which means weddings, which often means bridal showers. Then there are baby showers, which happen all year round but seem more often to happen in the summer. Let me tell you the traditional women only ones are the worst things imaginable. There are many things I would prefer to do over these, such as a root canal with no novacaine, run naked through the street or let’s be honest I would do pretty much anything short of murder instead of going to one of these (though if forced to attend murder might come into play).

Showers were started or at least became well known in the 1950s. They were started really to give presents for the woman to fulfill her job as a wife and mother fulltime. While women started getting equality showers at this point were still women only. Even now, while more and more women have coed showers, way too many are still women only. For those who aren’t familiar with these traditional ones the formula is this: women of all ages get together to play insane immature juvenile games like sniff a diaper to see what candy is in the diaper or create a wedding gown out of toilet paper. The games are so demeaning that I would rather play duck, duck goose or hide and seek or any game I played as a child. Then the unwrapping of the gifts and the oohing and aahing “hey there’s a pan so the bride can make the groom his favorite dish” or whatever the gift is, or asking everyone to bring their favorite dish so the bride can make it for the groom, because don’t you know the bride is doing all the cooking. I wonder if my famous mudpie cake (meaning mud I find outside when it rains)would be acceptable.

I shudder just thinking of the ones I was forced to attend because they were close family or friends, like my sister in law’s because my brother told me “women like that thing, men don’t”.  I only attended that one because I was a bridesmaid and I spent all the time with her sister who I knew since high school and like me is a single woman (and like me was only there being a bridesmaid). Well, I despise these things. In between all this fun of playing these games or unwrapping the gifts come the conversations about kids, or diapers, pots and pans and things that bore me. I was once asked at one of these things if I planned to get married and I told them “not until I slept with 20 men” which led to some shocked expressions. Or the time a woman asked me if I planned to have kids because my clock was running out (keep in mind I was 25 or so)and I replied that maybe I’d ask her husband if he was interested. Needless to say I rarely attend showers unless forced.

The only ones that never bothered me were either the ones that were coed (usually barbeque)because the games were usually not involved or it was optional (and women only you pretty much have to participate), or one I attended that was a bride and her friends and we sat around and ate and talked (and not about women things, just general). This situation was interesting because she married a clown (no really)from Ringling at a show and came home to see everyone. Otherwise I avoid them, and yes I did avoid my sister in law’s baby shower along with my cousin’s baby shower (I sent them both gifts).

Oddly this issue is one of the reasons I generally don’t date divorced men. Sounds weird but if I meet a guy and he or worse his bride had a bridal shower it would bother me. It would tell me he was somewhat traditional and things wouldn’t last. Yes, I would walk out of these showers if one was sprung on me too.

No Room for Rookies

Most of what I know as an engineer, I did not learn from a book.

Yes, I went to college, and studied the math and physics and stuff, and that’s a necessary starting point.  But when I started working as an engineer, I was initially given the simplest tasks.  Then relatively simple projects.  And as time went along, I learned my craft from more experienced staffers, and moved on to bigger and better things.

Now I have broader responsibilities on my projects.  In another time, I would have expected to have two or three junior engineers as part of the team.  They could do simpler tasks under my direction, and learn, and move on to bigger and better things themselves.  As far as I can tell, that’s the way things have been in my craft since the beginning.

But business doesn’t work that way anymore.  Carrying rookies and training them on the job is an extraneous cost that can be squeezed.  The work that used to be done by drafters and junior engineers is reflected back upward.  And in the short term, it makes sense: very often, it is quicker for me to simply do something than to explain it to a subordinate, wait for him to do it, and then inspect the results (and possibly have him do parts of it over) before sending it onward.

But in the long term, where does the next generation of engineers come from?

Was this interview even a genuine one??

Did I have a genuine and honest shot at this one?

You be the judge:

Company X ran an ad on May 23. I got a call last Wednesday requesting me to come in for an interiview. The interview was with the department manager.

I showed up at the interview. The woman who called me to set up the interview told me that the department manager was not in. She was called away. At 10:30?

This meant I would not be meeting with her that day at all.

(I am leery when I hear that a hiring manager is not available)

Turns out that the department had 4 other people doing the same work; I strongly suspect that this was a $15 an hour job. The person who interviewed me told me there were benefits but she did not mention what the salary was, nor did she ask me what range I was looking at.

Second interviews were to be this week with the hiring manager who was not there. “We will be in touch.”

I never heard from the hiring manager. It is now technically Thursday, imo.

Maybe I’m nuts or maybe paranoid or just wrong, but i get the feeling that it may indeed be the case that Hiring Manager has already got somebody in mind and I was just one of the people called in to make it look good — her boss probably told her “interview a few more people.”

This is gone with the wind and the sad part is this: how can I consider a job if I have no idea what the salary is? Maybe I cannot work for $15 an hour. Maybe I’m gainfully employed and looking for a bigger and better deal…you think I’m going to take a cut in pay at their company if the salary is indeed $15/hr??? You’ve just wasted my time! Tell me up front during the phone call how much the job pays and let me decide whether or not that range is worth my while.

Something tells me that this wasn’t the “real” interview I thought it was. Anyway, I have heard nothing…. and I guess that’s that.

Superficiality aka sometimes we need to grow up

While writing the last post I briefly touched on this guy I am strangely attracted to. He’s not someone I would have dated years ago but he is striking interest in me. I realize now that sometimes being judgemental of one’s appearance says a lot about us.

Years ago I was heavily involved in the fan circuit of a well known band. Yes, they are a New Wave band, one of the biggest in fact. So big that they were compared to the Beatles and a well known media figure from the 80s (and the 90s)proclaimed them her favorite band. This band managed to survive the 80s when so many other bands didn’t and had a huge comeback in the early 90s courtesy of alternative rock radio. Talking about their career highs and lows could be (and has been)the subject of countless documentaries but that isn’t the point here.

Anyway, in being in this fan clique so to speak I got to meet some people who became friends. Some are still fairly close but others I’ve drifted away from. In the process of meeting people I was able to meet members of this group. One member was a jerk but the others were really cool. However, the closer I got to people I started to see a disturbing trend: the cutest fans get closer to the group. In fact the lead singer is downright rude to people he considers “ugly”. He wasn’t rude really to me but wasn’t nice either. To other friends he has been mean calling them ugly and fat. Later on I had heard stories of other band members making fun of their “fat and ugly” fans. Yes really class there and to be honest it turned me off. I haven’t seen them in a few years but would they be mean to me because I’ve gained weight? How about as I age?

The fact is I too used to be as mean as that. I used to make fun of people. I used to turn down men who weren’t handsome and wealthy. I just thought I was the hottest thing ever. Then several years ago I fell and injured myself and no longer to workout as heavily as I did. I don’t have the stamina I once did either. I also realize I can’t rely on my looks. I am glad I found this out before it was too late. Looks are fleeting, personality lasts forever.

Btw, I still like this group and their music. It was a welcome sort of music at a time when top 40 was dominated by adult contemporary, R&B, crossover country and just plain pop music. It opened the doors to more music like it and bands like them. Their latest CD is really good and there had been speculation it might get a Grammy nod for best alternative album but no awards.

Online dating

Just when I thought nothing was worse than job hunting I was proven wrong by online dating. Like job hunting, I thought I would have an advantage because I have a lot to offer, namely I am attractive and not as much baggage as most my age. My only baggage is I am unemployed (which bothers me) but I figure if we dated we could go cheap, or hopefully eventually I will find a job or work for myself. I do not tell men online my job situation because I don’t want them to think I am looking for a man to support me. However my job situation is the least of my problems.

Years ago I did the phone dating, which is a forerunner to online. This was late 80s-early 90s. During this time I was generally in college but for some reason couldn’t find boyfriends there. I think I was looking for older men so this is why I tried these sites. However most of the guys lied about their looks, income etc. I met a guy who claimed to be a millionaire and obese men who claimed to be in shape. Phone dating was for the most part trash though I did find two boyfriends from it.

Years later when online dating started I did it because at the time it was free for women. I created a profile at Match and actually met a couple of good guys. However I didn’t feel a click so I never pursued it further. During this time I became work obsessed and while I dated guys I met, no one really struck my fancy offline. So I decided to try Match again and once again met some great guys, but most of the guys would send me messages like “you’re hot”. That is a turn off. Other guys would either be too old or dads and neither idea appealed to me. One guy turned out to be married and this was a let down. I had a membership for 2 years, didn’t find a soulmate (or even a guy who was a boyfriend)so I cancelled it. I found a lot of men more into casual sex than relationships. This was when I still had a job. In the meantime I reconnected with a former friend who I always thought was the one but he ended up breaking my heart. I will always have scars by the way he broke my heart and now I am more careful about getting too serious too soon.

Flash forward to now. Last Christmas my mom gave me a membership to a religious dating site. Her idea was even though I am unemployed now if nothing else I could find a good guy. I also created profiles on free dating sites. While I am finding lots of men fitting what I require (namely no kids, not obese, and preferably never married)many of them don’t like me. The reason? according to them I am “too old”. Apparently they want kids and want younger to assure this. However there is never a guarantee they can have kids, that a younger woman can or that I can’t. I am not in menopause, not even periomenopause and this was backed by my doctor. My family has a history of late menopause and late pregnancy. Even so, I shouldn’t be judged by this, because older men run a risk of defects too! Besides there is adoption, and other options. If they blame me for waiting, then they have to blame themselves too. To be honest I don’t think all of these men are looking for babies, they just want younger. The men responding on these sites are much older, including my dad’s age, and undesirable to me. On the free sites I am finding men mostly wanting sex, though have met a few who didn’t click with me. In general the men I’ve met or talked to were extremely delusional what they could get. I would get all these 60 year old men who wanted to date me or these obese men stating “no fatties”.

I should mention offline I never have trouble finding men, including younger, hotter, men. I look much younger and men have fallen over me. I’ve had random men come up to me to talk. In my 20s I was a model and would literally turn heads when I walked in a room. I remember years ago walking into a record store with a guyfriend and men turning around and whistling. Yes I was that hot. I still look pretty much the same, though a bit heavier. Not that I am especially large now, but back then I was in excellent shape, usually a size 6-8.

There is a guy near me who seems like he would be a good potential but if he’s not then I am throwing the towel in regards to online dating and stick to offline. People online are just too weird for me.


Recently people have been asking me about my political views and I tell them depending on the issue I lean either right or left. Generally speaking on fiscal matter I lean right and social I lean left. Years ago I told a few people I am pretty much a Libertarian and as time goes by I believe so myself. However I do not agree with all of their views, but on their website they have a “are you a Libertarian and it said I was a left leaning one”.

Here’s their official views. http://www.lp.org/platform

Their statement: ”

“We hold that all individuals have the right to exercise sole dominion over their own lives, and have the right to live in whatever manner they choose, so long as they do not forcibly interfere with the equal right of others to live in whatever manner they choose.”


I agree and feel we should have free right.


Their platform issues are a mixed bag for me because I do for the most part agree with personal freedom and almost everything they say except am a little mixed on guns. Oh I support gun rights, but do not feel everyone should be allowed a gun, like criminals. The economic ones I am mixed on because I do not support free trade aka outsourcing. I think outsourcing has destroyed this country. I do feel though that we need to make it easier to start a business in this country. I would cut taxes on companies that keep jobs here and charge higher taxes to outsource. I feel taxes need to be cut and services as well because we are paying so many taxes for things I oppose, like lifetime welfare.


Here’s the fact though and that is I despise Romney with a passion. On the other hand Obama has let me down, and I suspect he will raise taxes to pay for programs I oppose like welfare for illegals. If we could find a candidate who will cut taxes without having to depend on the religious right, or the unions I would support that person wholeheartedly. If we could find a candidate who would make it easier to start a business in this country without all the restrictions we have (and trust me there are a lot, because I am doing this)they would get my vote. If they would keep abortion legal but not require people to pay I would support that (I support abortion but do not feel taxpayers should pay only because some oppose it). If they would cut services to wasteful programs, and in effect lower taxes I’d vote for them. If they would get the military out of other countries, stop forcing the US to be gatekeepers for the world and stop giving financial assistance to all these countries I’d support that person wholeheartedly.


I can dream, can’t I?

The rise in religious fundamentalism

I consider myself to be a pretty devout Catholic. While I do not agree with all of the tenets personally, I can see why they believe them. Certain issues I am conflicted about for personal reasons but it is what it is. However, one thing I have always liked about the church is how they help the poor. Catholic Charities does a lot and so does the various other charities.

Since I am somewhat devout I decided to try a Catholic dating site. To my dismay I found many guys who are what is called Traditional or Fundamentalist Catholic. What they feel is that many of the changes since Vatican 2 in the 60s was a bad idea. They believe that women have been given too many leadership roles in the church, that women should have to wear a veil, and that feminism, gay rights, abortion, etc are worse than people starving. In fact, many of them have posted that they see nothing wrong with people starving because “they need to work hard”. They also think Romney is a great candidate because he is a self made man (forget that he was born wealthy). However they think Santorum (who is Catholic)was the greatest politician the world has ever known.

The posts I see on there attacking people on welfare (and let’s be honest I have done this myself but I know some truly fall on hard times)as lazy while putting rich people on a pedestal is NOT what the Catholic Church stands for. Let us remember that we had one Catholic president, John F Kennedy and we all know he was not a rightwing wacko. Whether one likes them or not, the Kennedys were known for their charitable efforts, such as Eunice Kennedy starting Special Olympics. Some of the Kennedys were pro life but were pro life across the board, including against the death penalty. The last Pope, John Paul 2 was opposed to the Iraq War and the death penalty. I believe the current pope has spoken out against one or both of these two. The last Cardinal of Chicago Bernardin was was I consider a good example of what I believe a good Catholic should be. He was pro life, whether it meant abortion, or the death penalty, or war. The current one, Cardinal George just seems spiteful and he is more obsessed with gay marriage than the death penalty. In fact he wrote the pope telling him not to give the current governor (a Catholic)an award for being against the death penalty because Governor Quinn is pro gay rights. I am not a fan of the governor either as I feel he wastes tax money but I do feel abolishing the death penalty was a good thing in Illinois because of the innocent people freed (though ask me how I feel when a convicted children killer/rapist just get life).

To be fair, it’s not just Catholics, but I know the most about being Catholic so I speak from that experience. I am seeing this attitude from so called religious people online from various religions. The rise in this anti woman, anti minority, and anti gay ideas really saddens me. I get being against abortion, or gay marriage, or the various other social issues and I have a few I am very conservative about myself (I am opposed to out of wedlock parenthood and the sexuality prevalent in society). However this attitude goes beyond that but to this idea that we all need to be the same. I’ve spoken to other religious people and all of them have told me they think the extremes in every religion make it rough for others.

I feel part of being a Christian is helping the poor and believing in God to help you make the right choices. Also, I believe that God forgives our sins. I’m sure he doesn’t want anyone to go hungry, or lack medical care. As for the social ills, I don’t know how he feels about abortion, gay rights, or out of wedlock babies. I’m guessing he probably isn’t happy about all of that, but then again in terms of gay people he created them so maybe he accepts. Maybe though he is far more tolerant and realizes sometimes people have no choice but to do what they feel is best. I’m sure though he doesn’t accept the idea that people with money worked harder, or that they are his chosen people, or that being rich is the most important thing.

Worse Than a Student Loan?

I went to college at Cooper Union in New York City.  One of the long-standing policies of the school is that everyone who is admitted for a bachelor’s or master’s degree has a full-tuition scholarship.  I paid $300/year as a ‘student fee,’ bought my books, and that was it.  As an alumnus, I’m encouraged to (and do) contribute to the school, but there is no requirement to do so.

But in recent years, expenses have gone up while revenues (Cooper owns the land the Chrysler Building sits on, as well as other properties and investments) have not, and they’re having problems.  That’s understandable: times are tough for everyone.

But one of the solutions they’re contemplating leaves me cold:

The social responsibility of students, alumni, and parents who have benefited from the full-tuition scholarship policy needs to be addressed.

  • For current students, a modified version of the plan being explored by the University of California, Riverside, should be considered.  For example, graduates would agree to a lifetime pledge of 2% of after tax adjusted gross income.
  • For alumni, a reciprocal pledge should be requested, as well as a catch-up and bequest program to include Cooper in their estate planning.
  • For parents of current students and of alumni, the same reciprocal pledge should be requested, as well as a catch-up and bequest program to include Cooper in their estate planning.

Until now, the theory was that, in contributing to Cooper, one was not paying for one’s own education, but for making that education available for future students.  There was never a sense of having to donate as much as one’s tuition might have been.  It was not a ‘social responsibility,’ it was a free decision to ‘pay it forward’ for future generations.

If I had had to pay tuition, I’m sure I would have paid it off by now.  At that point, any ‘social responsibility’ I might have had would be over.

For my part, now, I resent having a social responsibility dropped on me, 29 years after graduation.  And if I were going to school now, I would resent the idea of the school holding a mortgage on my achievements for the rest of my life.  It’s worse than a student loan: the loan is finite, and when it’s paid off, that’s the end.

At least my parents are dead, so the school can’t hit them up for money.

The Famous Fit

Once upon a time, I managed a group of about 15 people.  When I was interviewing candidates, my only real concern was if they would be able to do the work.  Once they were on board, if they did the work, were reasonably civil to their colleagues, and didn’t smell like donkeys on arriving for work in the morning, they were good.  I never even gave a thought about how a candidate’s personality would ‘fit’ into the organization, beyond looking for an appropriate attitude toward the tasks at hand.

Today, it seems, ‘fit’ is everything, perhaps even more than the actual ability to do the work.  One of my old bosses sent me a psychological test the other day, and suggested that I might use it when hiring people for my business.  I’m not interested.

Once, years ago, a ‘partnering facilitator’ had everyone working on one of the company’s major projects (a total of about 100, including my entire staff) do Myers-Briggs Type Indicator tests.  We were given lapel pins with our type (mine is ISTJ: I’m Still a Total Jerk), talked about the results for a couple of days, then forgot about it.  It was an interesting curiosity.

Would I give a Myers-Briggs test to prospective employees?  No: I don’t think it would tell me anything I need to know.

But why are managers now obsessing about how people ‘fit’ into the organization?  Well, when I was growing up, somehow I learned what appeared to be universal truths about working:

  • Work is serious.  You show up with your game face on, focused, rested, and ready to face whatever it is.
  • Your boss knows what he’s doing.  If he tells you you’re doing something wrong, listen.  He may not always be right, but he’s trying to do what’s best, which could include concerns that you are unaware of.  And if he really is mistaken, and he’s a reasonable boss, he’ll respond far better to a rational discussion than yelling or pouting.

But perhaps we can’t presume those things anymore.  Hence the need to test, and the obsession with ‘fit.’

Death of the shopping mall

This was discussed in another thread but it is something that has been on my mind a lot lately. That is to say how shopping malls are not where people shop anymore and how our societal changes are affecting this.

I used to shop at a shopping mall that is now the most famous dead mall in the country, probably the world. They are finally tearing it down after standing over 30 years vacant. This mall stands as a symbol of everything that has happened in the last 30 years or so, from societal changes, to the economy, to demographic changes, to even pop culture. Going by this mall reminds me quite clearly of my childhood.

This mall started with good intentions. It was constructed in the mid 60’s after having been the land of a golf course. My parents grew up down the street from there. My dad being the troublemaker he was then rode all through the golf course with his friends trying to destroy it. However it didn’t work and the construction started, and ended with a nice opening. For a few years it did quite well and was always busy. I would shop there often with my parents and many of my childhood memories were of shopping there and buying toys and clothes. However a few years later it was forced to close because the area changed from a working and middle class area to low income. The crime too expanded and the mall had its share of murders, rapes, and most especially burglaries. Around the time of its closing Hollywood came a calling. They were filming a now classic movie and wanted a mall to have a chase through. The mall scene is now one of the most famous car chases in movie history. My parents were asked to be extras in the movie and regret they turned this down. It was supposed to reopen but never did and housed a variety of things, from schools to offices.

Around the time of this iconic mall’s closing my parents, brother and I moved to a better area and we started shopping at another mall. For those who haven’t experienced this, being a middle class suburban girl during the 1980s meant mall shopping. I would spend hours with my friends buying, going to the movies (oddly the first mall never had a movie theatre)and eating at the McDonalds at the mall. This mall had two record stores and one was an independent record store where I found a lot of obscure New Wave/Punk records. A few years later this record store would become part of a chain, records would be replaced by CDs and New Wave/Punk would be collectively known as Alternative. In the 90s when I started making money as a model and in radio (though being honest being a model paid a lot more than radio)I would buy lots of CDs then. I also bought concert tickets at the local Carsons. Several years later I would get into the Beanie Baby craze and buy at the one store that sold them. I stopped shopping here when I noticed the demographics changing from a mixed crowd to a much younger troublemaker one. This mall is now listed as a dead mall because the anchors have moved out and the few stores left are now hip hop clothing or record stores. I now shop at a mall not far from where I live currently but I wonder how long before that too will close. The area is nice, but everyone shops elsewhere.

Why did malls change? Many reasons. In the 80s there was a mall culture because there wasn’t as much to do. Now there are more options. Also, in these two malls and their situation is both went from higher income to lower income and quite frankly lower income just doesn’t have money to spend on useless items. Now, even the middle and upper middle class shops at Wal-Mart and Target. With this economy even formerly well off are doing poorly. Others are just practical about what they buy.

I shot a presentation into the air…

And where it landed, I know not where.

Here we go again… another tall order from an interviewer. This one wanted a powerpoint presentation, since that’s a great part of the job.

It took me a few hours to put it together and then I hit send…

And got no reply.

Did you get it?did you see it? did you even look at it at all?

I am waiting until about 3 pm and then I am giving this guy a call. (at the interview, he did not seem to be in any particular hurry to do the hiring) I want to see what the deal is and I’m flat out asking him when he plans on hiring.

Nanny State (2 of 2)

Yesterday, I woke up cranky, and I had to show up early at a job site.  So I did what I usually do in such circumstances:  I left the house on an empty stomach, stopped at a Dunkin’ Donuts near the job site, and purchased my favorite breakfast for such occasions: a large iced coffee with milk and sugar, and two coffee rolls (Dunkin’s name for cinnamon rolls).  It’s just the right combination of caffeine, sugar, and cold water for me to face a morning of icky technical problems and pompous troublemakers.

Our Fearless City Leader, Mayor Bloomberg, is proposing to outlaw sales of sugary beverages larger than 16 ounces.   So my large iced coffee would become illegal.  Delis and fast-food places would not even be able to sell bottled non-diet beverages larger than 16 ounces.  And while one could buy a 20-ounce bottle of diet soda, you couldn’t get it as a fountain drink, because drink cups larger than 16 ounces would be outlawed.

The rules apply to locations where food is prepared for consumption on the spot: restaurants, delis, fast-food places, movie theaters, stadiums, even pushcarts.  Supermarkets, drugstores, and other places where beverages are sold for consumption elsewhere are not subject to the law.

Since the rules would represent a change to existing regulations, no actual legislation is required: the Mayor can simply direct the Health Department to make it so.

C’mon, guys: I get THIRSTY!  And while I usually drink diet soda, sometimes, when I’ve had a long night, I need the energy.

OK, I know, I know: I’ll have to get two drinks.  Or maybe three.

Nanny State (1 of 2)

The New York State Senate (S.6779) and Assembly (A.8688) are contemplating a bill that would require the following:


In the definitions, an ‘anonymous poster’ is in fact anyone who posts on a blog (like this one) or any Web site that solicits comments.  If you identify yourself in your posts, you’re still anonymous.   Although I don’t use my real name in my posts, it’s easy enough to find it.  So for the purposes of the bill, this is an anonymous post.  And the bill does not distinguish between posts (which appear on the home page and have titles) and comments (written in response to posts or other comments).

I try to be a good citizen, even when I think the law is stupid.  So what would I have to do?

  • Set up an e-mail address for removals (trivial).
  • Place the address so that it appears on every page with posts or comments (probably not too difficult).
  • Monitor the address for removal requests (taking a small amount of time, but probably not a major problem).
  • On receipt of a request for removal, do one of the following:
    • Contact the original poster or commenter, and ask for his legal name, home address, and IP address.  (I don’t like doing this, but I don’t like the alternative either.  So I’ll ask.  I believe that anyone capable of writing a post knows his or her name and home address, but the IP address is trickier.  The system records IP addresses for comments, but not for posts.  Some of the more tech-savvy readers can find out their Internet IP address easily enough, while I can write instructions for others.  But the address you find through this procedure may not be the IP address that you used when you wrote your post or comment.)  If the poster/commenter supplies this information, then either he or I must append his name to the post/comment.Otherwise, we fall through to the second alternative, which is:
    • Delete the post/comment in question.

By the way, I learned English grammar from the old Warriner book, which indicated that one uses the masculine form of the pronoun when referring to a person whose gender is unknown.  I know that many of the followers of this site are women, and I don’t mean for anyone to feel slighted, or believe that they might be exempt from the requirement to identify themselves.

Now there some obvious holes:

  • How do I know that the request to remove something represents a valid complaint against specific posts or comments?  I don’t: the bill admits no effort on the part of Web site administrators to verify the authenticity of a removal request.  I cannot contact the party requesting a removal and ask him to confirm his legal name, home address, or IP address.  If someone told me to remove everything, as they feel insulted by all of the content on this site, according to the bill, I would have to comply.  (OK, maybe the category headings could stay, as they’re not actually ‘comments.’)
  • How do I know that the poster/commenter will give me correct information?  In fact, I don’t.  But there is no requirement that I verify further.
  • When I do remove content as required by this bill, can I include a note, ‘Removed per direction of Joe Blow’?  The bill is silent on this point.  (Of course, Joe Blow could write back and ask me to remove the note, as well.)

I would write to my state legislators, but I know they’re useless.  And even if the measure got defeated this year, I’m sure it will return in the next session.

Perhaps it’s time to move to New Jersey.