Sunny came home

16 09 2019

Hi! Hi! Hi!

Sorry I’ve been away for so long, but I was:

*Away, for a bit, in Chicago. I really like Chicago—it’s the place I’ll move to if I ever get chased out of New York—and every time I visit I think “Ohhh, maybe I should just move now.” But that’s just because NYC can suck hard, and when you’re in a likeable city for a few days it’s easy to think that that city won’t also have its sucky moments. Anyway, I was there with friends from Sheb Falls, and it was fun.

*Trying to cram in all of my hours on my second job. Whenever I work at my long-standing second job, I feel the need to work every last hour they give me, not least because these gigs are only temporary. I try to bulk up my bank account, because I just don’t trust the work, be it teaching or freelancing or this job, will keep coming.

*Prepping for classes. I’m using a new textbook for my American govt and politics course, so I have to take all new notes. It’s my contention that all American govt textbooks are mediocre, and that new editions are a scam—usually the only thing that gets changed (besides the price) are the 1- or 2-page intros to each chapter—but the text I was using was 5, 6 years old. I have tended to use the second-most-recent version, in order to keep the costs down for the students, but as American politics in the Trump era are occurring at hyper-speed, I thought I’d best go with the newest version of whatever text I chose. I looked first at the new version of my old text, but, jeez, that cheapest version of that one was 75 bucks; other books were even worse. So I said to hell with it, and went with a (legit) free online textbook, and, y’know, it’s fine.

*Writing an ‘intro to politics’ essay for those same govt-and-politics students. I’d long led discussions of ‘what is politics’ for relevant courses, and this essay pulled together a number of those ideas into a less-fractured format. In fact, this was an excerpt of an incomplete draft of what I plan to develop into a short-ish manuscript I’m calling “A Partial Politics” (have I mentioned this before? I think I’ve mentioned this before). Once I get a bit of breathing room, I want to get back to the manuscript; I may try to pitch it to the same online publishers as that textbook.

*I have a new great-niece! My second niece gave birth to Lyana Rosa two weeks ago. She is a wee angry potato, and it is all I can do not to pester her mum for more pics. No, I wasn’t there so I can’t really excuse her birth for my absence; it’s just good news.

So now that we’re all caught up, I’ll try not to fall behind (again). . . .

 





I keep finding hate mail in the pockets of my coat

7 09 2015

Long ago I promised a follow-up to my various religious exemptions/one law/pluralism posts about how to preserve that pluralism.

This is not that post.

Instead, it’s a quickie follow-up to yesterday’s post about doing one’s job.

As I have mentioned ad nauseam, I am a hardliner when it comes to one’s work duties, namely, that if you’re unwilling, for whatever reason, to perform a job, then you should quit.

Yes, you can try to negotiate these duties, try to convince your bosses that their policies are wrong, but, in the end, if you can’t do the job, then you shouldn’t do the job.

The flip side of this, which I have only occasionally mentioned, is that what you do off the job should have no bearing on the job.

There might be some reasonable exceptions to this, but I’m pretty comfortable stating that those exceptions should be few and far between. You might be a racist piece of shit on your own time, but if you can keep it together while you’re on the clock, then that’s all that should matter.

Now, some might argue that someone who’s a racist piece of shit off the job is highly unlikely to keep it together on the job, but unless and until that person loses it, she should keep her job. Judge someone’s work performance by her work performance, and that’s it.

Furthermore, this oughtta be a law—and not just as a protection for the worker (who most needs it), but as a defense for the employer: I can’t fire someone you don’t like just because you don’t like ’em.

This, to me, is an obvious corollary to telling the Kim Davises of the world to suck it up: if there are limits to how far you may take your personal life into a job, then there are also limits as to how far a job may enter into your personal life.

This is not a position I would have taken when I was younger. Back then, I had notions of throwing my whole self into a job, of defining myself almost completely by the work I do. Now, however, while I do gain a sense of self from my work, I’m also aware of the necessity of boundaries—both as a practical matter and for my own mental health.

I really do love teaching, but I do it because I get paid. It’s a job which I need in order to pay the rent, and I don’t care for my employer to take into account anything about my ability to do the job except for my performance on the job.

And not that I have much going on, but I most definitely to do not want them poking around in my private life.

~~~

There’s a thing about living in a city in which you can see into your neighbor’s apartment or hear your neighbor’s conversations/sex/fights: You pretend that you don’t. Your (and your neighbor’s) privacy might be a kind of fiction, but it’s the kind of fiction that works in real life.

I think we should take the same approach to social media and on- and off-the-job behavior as well: If the person sitting next to you is fine at work, but after work engages in behavior you find repugnant or ludicrous, pretend that you don’t know. Just let it be.

A little bit of breathing room is good for all of us.





Everybody knows the deal is rotten, 19

16 08 2015

When I was younger—much younger—I thought I’d get the kind of job I could really throw myself into, an all-encompassing career that would provide me with all of the pleasure and meaning I could want from life.

Touching, isn’t it, how little I knew.

Now, it could be said—has been said, by the likes of me—that my current inability truly to commit to my work (paid and unpaid) takes things in rather too far the opposite direction, but I do think that my unwillingness to commit to a Stakhanovite* work-ethic is generally more healthy than not.

Consider Amazon:

Every aspect of the Amazon system amplifies the others to motivate and discipline the company’s marketers, engineers and finance specialists: the leadership principles; rigorous, continuing feedback on performance; and the competition among peers who fear missing a potential problem or improvement and race to answer an email before anyone else.

Some veterans interviewed said they were protected from pressures by nurturing bosses or worked in relatively slow divisions. But many others said the culture stoked their willingness to erode work-life boundaries, castigate themselves for shortcomings (being “vocally self-critical” is included in the description of the leadership principles) and try to impress a company that can often feel like an insatiable taskmaster. Even many Amazonians who have worked on Wall Street and at start-ups say the workloads at the new South Lake Union campus can be extreme: marathon conference calls on Easter Sunday and Thanksgiving, criticism from bosses for spotty Internet access on vacation, and hours spent working at home most nights or weekends.

It must be admitted, of course, that Amazon would never hire, much less interview, me: I lack tech skills and corporate experience, so I am most definitely not the Amabot they’re looking for.

Some employees do relish the competitive atmosphere at Amazon, thinking that it makes them better, sharper, more able employees; that this kind of bionic work ethos won’t do much for the person they are outside of being an employee is, of course, irrelevant.

(As an aside: I used to that going to grad school was like sticking your head in a pencil sharpener: you do come out a lot sharper, but you also lose a lot in those shavings.)

And as loathsome as I find Amazon’s “purposeful Darwinism” practices—their treatment of employees who do exhibit human frailties is appalling—they seem to me more different in degree than in kind to many other workplaces. Google and Apple and Facebook might provide all kinds of goodies for their employees, but these aren’t these goodies simply the happy-clappy way to get those workers to spend more time at work?

Now, as an employee I’d rather work for someone who wants happy rather than frazzled workers, but really, I want to work at a place that knows its place in my life: important, but not everything.

I may not have much in my life (this is one of those above-mentioned issues), but I do at least have the possibility of having something more.

And that ain’t nothing.

~~~

*h/t to Chatham Harrison for this reference. My first thought on reading of the need for self-criticism was that that sounded Cultural Revolution-ist, but hey, given the contradictions of a company ethos that demands both that workers be self-critical and that they not admit of any doubts or lack of knowledge, why couldn’t it embody both Stalinism and Maoism?

And no, for the record, I don’t think Jeff Bezos is the bald offspring of Uncle Joe and Mao; I mean, there’s no record of him being a genocidal maniac, is there?





Money’s too tight to mention

2 07 2015

So, the second summer session course was cancelled, and work at the second job seems to have dried up.

Which means that, for the first time in my life, I’ve applied for unemployment.

Actually, when I went to the unemployment claims page, I discovered I could have applied for unemployment when the first summer session was cancelled: that I had part-time work in addition would not necessarily have torpedoed the claim. (There’s process for applying for retroactive UI, which I may try.)

I had never thought to apply for unemployment insurance in previous summers (or during the hell year of 2011) until a colleague (also an adjunct) mentioned that she was on UI: I had thought that, as an adjunct, I wasn’t eligible. I almost certainly left some money on the table as a result.

That’s fine, though. Yes, I could have used the money back then, but I somehow figured it out. I’m pretty clearly motivated less by maximizing my gains than minimizing my losses.

(That lack of motivation is an issue, actually, in terms of career advancement, and is something on which I need to do some serious thinking. But. . . , well, yeah, I might need an motivation adjustment.)

I don’t know how long this process takes, or what, exactly is involved in terms of my obligations. If my claim is accepted, I’ll have to do 3 job-related tasks on 3 different days each week, which seems reasonable. I’ve been meaning to update my c.v. and send it to a coupla’ other colleges, so this would be a good time to do it. And I think there are opportunities for some training courses; if there are computer/software courses, yeah, I’d sign up for those. Never know when those skills could come in handy.

I’ll be grateful is this does come through. I’ve put up a freelance ad on Craigslist (where I’ve had decent luck in the past) and there may be more work at the second job eventually, but it’d certainly relieve some anxiety to know I’d have at least some money coming in.

Which I guess is one of the virtues of insurance.





Wait wait wait

20 05 2015

Two things:

1. The reasons I want to be on Twitter are the reasons I shouldn’t be on Twitter.

2. Want to make something relatively small relatively big, and then small again?

Easy: Don’t do that small thing, day after day after day, until it looms so large that you can’t not do it, after which it shrinks back to smallness.

Bonus thing! Delay checking enrollment on your summer session-I course, and then, upon finding out it’s so low it likely will be cancelled, think, Huh, guess I should put up a freelancing ad, and then not do it.

You know, on the off chance that in the next 10 days enough students will sign up and everything will be all right.

Because nothing like doing nothing to make sure everything will be all right.





Marchons, marchons

16 02 2015

FINALLY.

I’d collated all (+/-) of TNC’s posts on the Civil War, then at some point began annotating the list. There were two large chunks (120+ posts total) which remained naked.

Until today.

Since I didn’t have work for my second job—office was closed for President’s Day—I thought I might as well start backfilling those annotations. I didn’t think I’d finish them, but at some point thought, Ah, what the hell.

I’m sure I’ve missed posts I should have included and included posts I should have missed, and some of my annotations are. . . odd, but the mess is now more or less complete as of today.

~~~

Another reason for doing this might have a little something to do with another bout of self-pique: yesterday I turned a bunch of my dissertation research into printer paper—did I really need to keep a copy of a DOE ELSI Contractor-Grantee Workshop from 1997?—and proceeded to have a mini-meltdown.

Nothing serious, and nothing I haven’t had experienced before.

It happens whenever I confront all of the work I have done and how little I have done with that work. If the paper of all of that research wasn’t wasted, it seems like the research itself was. Yes, I created a dissertation out of all of it, but beyond that, nothing.

Nothing.

The dissertation matters unto itself, but it’s also supposed to serve as the cliff from which one is to dive ever further into the work. And for me, it didn’t: I peered down from different overlooks (my bioethics fellowships), but ultimately backed away.

Reasons, reasons: I had my reasons, but those reasons were no good.

And so, periodically, I am reminded of what I tossed away when I walked away, and not having any good way to deal with that deliberate waste, I stew.

Today, at least, I did something productive—if not with my own work, at least with someone else’s.





Everybody knows the deal is rotten, 11

21 10 2014

Work don’t get no respect.

That sounds wrong, doesn’t it? Don’t we goodstrongproud Americans value hard work and honest living? An honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work and all that?

Yeah, no.

Work, like every other goddamned thing in this country, has become tribalized: tell me how you vote and I’ll tell you what you think about what counts as work and how much it’s worth.

It’s not quite that simple, of course, not least because this late tribalization a) has a long history; and b) is laid over all other kinds of fights, presuppositions, prejudices, and disorientations. And, to be fair, there are folks on all sides of the political spectrum who are uneasy with the disappearance of decent working-class jobs.

Still, there used to be at least a veneer of agreement that wage-work, at least, should be respected, and that a person was performing something of value even in low-wage work. The problem that Ronald Reagan had with so-called welfare queens, for example, wasn’t that they worked at McDonald’s, but that they didn’t work at all. Only when they (and it was always “they”, never “we”) worked, it was argued, would they learn the habits required for achieving a decent life.

Yes, there was a lot of bullshit packed into this argument, but I mention it to highlight how the long push for welfare reform hinged on the presumption that all (paid) work, even low-wage work, was worthwhile both to the worker and to society at large.

Now, however, low-wage work is a problem, and not in the way that you’d think, i.e., the “low-wage” part. No, to a dismaying number of political and economic elites, the problem is with the work itself, and thus also with the worker.

Exhibit A: Brad Schimel, the Republican candidate for Wisconsin’s Attorney General:

“I want every one of our neighbors to have a job again, a well-paid job, so we don’t have to argue about minimum wage for someone working at Burger King,” he said. “Let’s get them a real job.”

Precisely so, because busting your ass to get cheap food fast to hungry people is fake-work.

Exhibit B: That lovable lug, Governor Chris Christie!

I gotta tell you the truth, I’m tired of hearing about the minimum wage, I really am,” Christie said during an event at the Chamber of Commerce in Washington, according to a recording of his remarks by the liberal opposition research group American Bridge.

“I don’t think there’s a mother or father sitting around a kitchen table tonight in America who are saying, ‘You know honey, if my son or daughter could just make a higher minimum wage, my God, all our dreams would be realized,” he added. “Is that what parents aspire to for their children?”

The governor went on to say that parents aspire to an America where their children can make more money and achieve greater success, according to The Hill. He said those aspirations weren’t about a “higher minimum wage.”

It’s true, I wouldn’t want my imaginary children to work for minimal wages, but I damned sure would want the work they do perform pay them well enough to live a decent life.  And if my kid were only capable of flipping burgers, that s/he were not able to perform more highly-skilled labor wouldn’t make flipping burgers somehow not-labor.

Work is work, and deserves compensation.

Exhibit C: My favorite governor, the union-buster Scott Walker, who doesn’t see the point of the minimum wage nor, apparently, of the jobs which pay minimum wage:

“Well I’m not going to repeal it but I don’t think it serves a purpose because we’re debating then about what the lowest levels are at,” Walker said during a televised interview with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. “I want people to make — like I said the other night — two or three times that.”

Walker went on to say that the policies his administration has been pushing are meant to raise Wisconsinites above the minimum wage level.

“The jobs I have focused on, the training we’ve put in place, the programs we’ve put in place is not for people to get minimum wage jobs,” Walker continued. “It’s the training whether it’s in apprenticeships, whether it’s in our tech colleges, or our UW system —it’s to try and apply the training, the skills, the talents, the expertise people need to create careers that pay many many times over.”

Again, the idea of increasing education and training is a fine one, and I think both the federal and state governments should do more to provide free life-long training opportunities to all workers.

But, again, the idea that because some work doesn’t pay well that work isn’t worthy, may not be real work (as per Christie) at all, attacks the notion that work qua work has any value at all—and thus not even deserving a mandated minimum wage.

It’s a nice tautology: Real work pays real (i.e., high) wages, so any work performed for a low wage isn’t work at all.

And you can add another loop to this vicious, vicious circle when those low-wage workers require food stamps or other forms of public assistance to make it through the month: they’re moochers who, because they need assistance, clearly don’t deserve to make more money for the not-work they do.

As a Marxisch, I should perhaps welcome this open hostility to work as capitalism finally showing its true face, such that what matters is not the work, but the wage, always the wage—and the higher the wage, and the greater the accumulation of wealth, the more the person matters.

But I am not orthodox, and while a part of me is glad that some elites are abandoning useless paeans to the “inherent dignity of work”, a part of me knows this abandonment will only increase the burden on those who do labor for little, and further degrade what dignity they deserve to have as human beings.

After all, if you don’t respect the work, you ain’t gonna respect the worker.