Things!

October 17th, 2015 | Posted by Mush in Life - (0 Comments)

In which there’s a post about some things.

I’m employed! I have a job. It starts on the 2nd of November. I’ll be doing call center work from home, probably for Comcast, dressed in my drawstring pants and t-shirts and not wearing a bra. I’m excited to have money coming my way again, so I can buy silly things and also save up for vacations, and about not having a commute during blizzard season, which will be here any day now.

It’s tech support for a well-known and much-hated behemoth, and I will probably start raging almost immediately. I expect I’ll revive my old dead fuckingsupport Tumblr as a way to channel the call center rage into internet hilarity.

I got an email yesterday with my new work email login, VPN info, chat client login, and general instructions for setting up my machine for work. Uninstalling Norton was as stupid as it ever was, and setting up a user profile in Windows 8.1 takes for-fucking-ever, but the machine’s pretty much ready to go. Now I need to figure out where I’m going to work and get a desk or something set up.

Toshiba Satellite S55T-B5335

The last time I worked from home, I just built a desk in G’ma’s basement of old wooden crates and a slab door. Sure wish we had the materials and the space to do that here! The problem is that my shifts will most likely be at odd hours for the next 6 months, so I may be working at any time. Should I set up in the living room or the bedroom? Hard to know.

I made sourdough bread! From my homemade sourdough starter! And it’s sour!

It’s also really dry and heavy and chewy, with very little loft, even though I let it rise for three times longer than the recipe called for. Kneaded bread is stupid; give me the no-knead recipe any day!

Sourdough baguettes

We’ve now used Instacart twice and Prime Now once! People just bring shit to your house and you literally don’t even have to go anywhere, ever! I am somewhat ashamed about having people bring me groceries but they keep doing it for free!

Amazon Prime Now

I really need to do my dishes.

There is a zombie bar crawl going on downtown, and we keep seeing drunk zombies out our living room window.

In which I talk about shit that happens on social networking! And about PEOPLE WHO ARE MAD ON THE INTERNET! And other meaningless irrelevant crap! In fact, don’t even read this. You should go giggle or meditate or get wine drunk or something.

xkcd: Duty Calls

I make people mad on Facebook all the time. I frequently type “LOL” beneath political videos posted in earnest. I often find Snopes rebuttals to absurd infographics and post them right on people’s walls. When I see rants against aspartame, I type paragraphs about stupidity, gullibility, laziness, and that Egyptian river we’ve all heard about.

This behavior, of course, gets me ignored or attacked, but I’m too old to feel bad when someone wrong tells me I’m unfeminine.

Our culture-wide belief that experts, due to the existence of corruption, are irrelevant, and that the common man, sans education but with an internet connection and his feelings, is equal to any and everyone who’s spent decades in study… it’s complete fucking lunacy.

At this point, it’s all idiots versus experts. See: the anti-vax movement. See: chiropractic patients buying absurd supplements that don’t do anything. See: young women trying to abort early pregnancies with non-regulated herbs they bought at a Whole Foods. See: numerous articles claiming exposure to protective doses of fluoride is an “endocrine disruptor” (no evidence, unless heavily over-exposed). See: billions of words on the internet that are lies. Lies about medicine, lies about our food supply, lies about government and moon landings and modern pterodactyls.

Worst of all is the fact that most of the time the people producing this untrue content don’t even know they’re lying. They really believe what they’re saying is true. They think feelings are facts, and that feelings qualify them to disagree with reality.

I call it hysteria and ignorance. Rich (compared to global standards of living), mostly-white, mostly-educated people absolutely railing against century-old breakthroughs that have saved millions of lives, because they don’t remember what it was like before these breakthroughs were in place… and because they’re prone to the same ignorant, superstitious nonsense our ancestors were prone to (but without even the excuse of the church to blame for it).

It’s an extension of those who rejected electricity because they decided it was deviltry, or those who laughed at hand-washing for surgeries or births because germs hadn’t yet been discovered. You may think it’s hilarious that someone somewhere once thought a photograph could steal his soul, but in the same moment you might also believe in ridiculous crap like chelation therapy or an alkaline diet or detoxing.

In my own personal belief system, conquering self-delusion is the whole purpose of existence. Observing the process of clinging to ego (beliefs, identity, thoughts, feelings) is the entire point of the game. Learning you’re wrong is an experience to be embraced, not avoided. I mean, of course it totally fucking sucks at first, but eventually you get used to it and can see the progress that being wrong affords you.

You are not what you think about. Having your thoughts challenged is good. Being disagreed with is good. Having your feelings hurt is good. Change is not only the primary quality of the entire fucking universe, but it’s good.

And yet every single person I disagree with online responds immediately with an ad hominem attack against my intellect or my femininity, and demands haughtily that I should attempt to contribute something useful to the alleged discussion.

(Please note I only disagree with shit I can back up with facts! I never disagree with people’s feelings, even when they’re maudlin as fuck — “repost this if you have a brother you REALLY love!”, as if by not re-posting it I’m announcing to the universe that I don’t love my brother — or seriously ignorant, like the man-hating or childishly romantic relationship memes single women often post. Because you can’t disagree with people’s feelings. They’re feelings. Duh.)

Well, I did contribute something useful: I pointed out to you that you’re wrong, thereby gifting you an opportunity to learn, which is an opportunity to grow. Whatever dumb shit you just posted about aspartame/vaccines/fluoride/politics is demonstrably untrue, and here are the links to experts who can prove it! You’re welcome!

But people do not want discussions. They want validation, permission to keep believing whatever wrong stuff they believe because it somehow shores up their worldview. They want Likes on their Mercola link about THE DANGERS OF ASPERTAME even though there is, in actual fact, zero evidence that aspertame is harmful.

When I laugh at posts or link to experts, it’s instant rage and/or condescending replies about how my tone isn’t translating through text and how it’s my responsibility not to hurt people’s feelings on the internet, but zero actual interest in pondering the foundations of the whole thing, in unpacking the actual ideas behind the post in the first place.

I mean, listen, this shit is super cool to think about! On the topic of aspertame alone: WHY do we feel like lab-made stuff is bad? WHY do we think we’re getting away with something when our treats have no calories? (Do we even know yet that calorie theory, just like lipid theory, has turned out to be wrong? If we do, does that relieve our guilt? If so, WHY? Why do we feel guilty enjoying a no-calorie treat? Do we have a belief that indulgences should be costly? Why? How far back can we trace this belief? Can we link it to our Puritan forefathers? Do other countries have these feelings too?)

How do we feel when we learn that aspartame is actually nothing but two amino acids, the sweetness of the combination of which was discovered entirely by accident? What parts of patent law and marketing, as brought to bear on the artificial sweetener market, are upsetting to us and why? Why do we think people are so willing to believe anecdotal stories about artificial sweeteners even though 25 years of epidemiology have failed to find any credible links between artificial sweeteners and hyperactivity or cancer or seizures or migraines or pseudo-science’s not-medically-defined so-called neurotoxicity?

Nope. It’s really more like Fuck that, fuck you, and fuck your complicated and complex questions, you’re an elitist, you’re attacking me, you’re wrong, aspartame IS toxic poison! I just know it! As are vaccines! And GMOs! And cancer can totally be cured with herbs! I DON’T HAVE TO BE AN EXPERT, OR EVEN BE ABLE TO HOLD A COMPLEX IDEA IN MY HEAD, TO KNOW MY OWN FEELINGS ABOUT ASPARTAME!

True. You don’t need to be an expert on anything to know your own feelings. Your own feelings which are not the topic of discussion and which are quite literally irrelevant. But, hey, whatever.

(I think people think that the love they read about in scripture is a feeling, and that all feelings are therefore spiritually important. They’re wrong on both points. Most feelings are egocentric nonsense, really.)

And no amount of truth can be presented, because every single time, the person you’re engaging with will: demand that you prove your assertion even though you already have; reject every item of legitimate proof you offer (usually as ‘tainted by corporate greed’ or ‘manufactured by enemies of the true cause’), offer loooooooong and irrelevant anecdotal stories with frequent appeals to emotion but zero data as “proof,” and finally hurl boringly similar ad hominem attacks in which I’m told I’m stupid (which almost makes sense as an online insult) and unfemininely abrasive (which is hilarious to me, this apparent belief that pointing out my success or failure at feminine modesty will somehow make the truth less true).

I seriously have to limit my exposure to my Facebook feed, because it is almost entirely full of untruths that people are violently determined to believe. I read it for the posts about new babies, new jobs, new marriages, and other interesting life experiences, the very funny group chats around my online friend John’s Question of the Day, and the rare grown-up conversation about, say, the political situation in Syria. Usually when I take a moment to point out that someone’s crazy article about Chinese imports was disproved by Snopes three years ago, there’s resounding silence or I get unfriended. When I reply to an over-simplistic meme about Social Security’s insolvency with evidence that whatever being implied’s not actually true, there’s an occasional “oh thanks I didn’t have time to look it up,” but more often than not a reply accusing me of being delusional because I don’t agree with the poster’s feelings about the government’s previous fiscal behaviors.

What I don’t get is why you’d rather be wrong than suffer the brief and completely transient feeling of having been wrong and learned something. What you’ve learned about is irrelevant; it’s the process that matters. Maybe you, like me, once thought chiropractic was a respectable treatment modality, but learned later that of the 45 minutes you spent with your chiropractor she was only practicing chiropractic for about five minutes and the rest of the session was woo. Maybe you further learned that chiropractic’s fundamental tenant is woo, too, in light of advancements after it was invented, but that certain manipulations performed for certain conditions are measurably and repeatably effective. Maybe you went through a whole journey of discovery and release and change and understanding and nuance that introduced you to a more refined inner state, one you are encouraging because it is the path to equilibrium and non-attachment. Chiropractic, and our belief about it, in and of itself is irrelevant. So is fluoride. So are your feelings about vaccines. But don’t you see that letting yourself evolve is imperative? Even when it’s really uncomfortable?

Especially when it’s uncomfortable?

Maybe not. Maybe you’d rather publicly post untrue things and get angry and aggressive when I laugh at them. Which is cool too, I guess. But it’s public, and I can laugh at you if I want. But yes, all of you who get so very angry about being disagreed with online, I am laughing at you, at your little grumpy egos, and I am poking you deliberately even though I know exactly how you’ll react.

It’s both baffling and funny to me. Baffling because all you have to do is decide: it takes a split second and suddenly you’re free of being angry and ashamed and embarrassed and uncomfortable when someone disagrees with you and OH MY GOD WHY WON’T YOU DO IT, JUST DO IT, JUST DO IT RIGHT THIS SECOND? You should totally do it!

And funny because, well, it’s funny. People getting so upset about words on the internet. People choosing to feel attacked and victimized because you posted a link to the Snopes page and typed “LOL” a couple times under their idiotic little rants and memes and conspiracy theories and thoroughly debunked causes! What’s not to laugh at, really? You’re a rich Westerner on the internet, with access to damn near the whole of human knowledge almost instantaneously, and yet you still choose to believe in ridiculous shit!

Well, kiddo, I know it hurts your feelings, but you’re just plain wrong. Vaccines don’t cause autism, you’re not even remotely qualified to lobby for vaccine reform regardless of the exquisite depth of your feels, motherhood does not confer scientific ability, fluoride is safe, aspartame is safe, correlation does not imply causation, social security was partially de-funded by a Republican congress, detoxification as used by woo practitioners is a nonsense concept, cleanses are useless at best and dangerous at worst, chiropractic is good for a very narrow set of manipulations but is mostly gibberish, homeopathy has no measurable effect, “rape culture” is a (fairly skewed and crazy) worldview and not an actual fact, NASA did land on the moon, medical cancer treatments do work, naturopaths are not real doctors, Obama’s a citizen, and welfare fraud is neither common nor rampant.

But you’re a self-proclaimed expert, qualified in the secret method of knowing real reality from GIGANTIC CORPORATE AND GOVERNMENTAL COVER-UPS, and I’m just some dumb bitch on the internet! So you just keep on believin’ your silly stuff and I’ll try not to laugh at you*.


*lol no i wont that’s an internet lie ill totally never not laugh at you 😉

Hard-core Housewifery

October 6th, 2015 | Posted by Mush in Domestic Goddess - (0 Comments)

In which I cooked and cleaned all day yesterday!

Over the weekend we visited Microcenter, where we purchased a monitor, a Toshiba Satellite, and a USB headset.

Toshiba Satellite S55T-B5335

The latter two items were for me, with the sincere hope that I’ll get a support job I’d applied and interviewed for, and for which my Asus wasn’t up to spec. The monitor was for Scott, who worked from home yesterday
primarily, I think, in order to use his shiny new toy. He totally deserved a new monitor.

I cooked a pot of beans, made vegetable broth, made chowder, and baked a few loaves of bread.

Vegetable broth

Whole wheat no-knead bread

Today's cooking accomplishments

I also swept the kitchen, living room, and hall. I mopped — until the mop came apart, and then I hand-scrubbed — the kitchen floor. I took the rugs outside and shook them and let them get some afternoon sunlight. I did two sinks full of dishes. I made the bed. I folded and put away a load of laundry.

And then I drank a bottle of wine and read half a sci-fi novel!

Last but not least, right before bed I packed Scott a lunch. I made him a salami, pepperoni, and white cheddar sandwich on homemade baguette (!!!), and packed leftover cabbage & noodles, plus added some cubed cheese with olives and pickles. Should get him through the day intact.

Today I may clean the bathroom, may do a load of laundry, may cook dinner. Or not. I might just watch random YouTube videos and blow off the cleaning and serve leftovers for dinner!

Words

September 28th, 2015 | Posted by Mush in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

In which there are verses.

O foremost of men, listen to the merits and demerits, as we indicate,
that respectively arise from associating with what is good and what is bad.
As cloth, water, sesame-seeds and ground are perfumed by their association with flowers,
so qualities are derived from association.

Association with the fools produces delusion,
as daily association with the honest and good produces virtue.
Therefore those who are virtuously inclined should associate with men
who are wise, old, honest, and pure in conduct and who are ascetics.

We get sin by serving the sinful,
conversation and association with them, cause diminution of virtue.

Association with the mean and the low,
makes one’s understanding mean and low;
Association with the indifferent makes it indifferent, and
association with the good makes it good.

— Aranyaka Parva, Vana Parva, Mahabharata Book iii.1

Thousand causes of grief and hundred causes of fear overwhelm the ignorant day after day, but not the learned.
Intelligent men never allow themselves to be deluded by acts which are opposed to true knowledge, which is fraught with every kind of evil, and which is destructive of salvation.

This world is afflicted with both bodily and mental sufferings,
Disease, contact with painful things, toil and want of objects desired — these are the four causes ef the sufferings of the body,
Disease may be allayed by the application of medicine, but mental ailments are cured by Yoga meditation.

As a hot iron ball makes the water of a jar hot, so mental grief brings bodily pains,
As water quenches fire, so knowledge allays mental ailments,
When mind enjoys peace, body also enjoys peace.

Attachment is the root of all misery and of all fear. Attachment produces joy and grief of every kind,
From attachment spring all worldly desires, and it is from attachment that springs the love of worldly goods,
The man that is influenced by attachment is tortured by desire, and from the desire that springs up in his heart, his thirst for worldly possessions increases.

This thirst is sinful, and is regarded as the source of all anxieties.
To many men, the wealth they possess is their bane. The man, who sees happiness in wealth and becomes attached to it, knows not what true happiness is.

— Aranyaka Parva, Vana Parva, Mahabharata Book iii.2

Forgiveness is virtue; forgiveness is sacrifice, forgiveness is the Vedas, forgiveness is the Shruti. He that knoweth this is capable of forgiving everything. Forgiveness is Brahma; forgiveness is truth; forgiveness is stored ascetic merit; forgiveness protecteth the ascetic merit of the future; forgiveness is asceticism; forgiveness is holiness; and by forgiveness is it that the universe is held together.

— Kashyapa quoted in Arjunabhigamana Parva, Vana Parva, Mahabharata Book iii.29

Righteousness and unrighteousness, pleasure and pain are purely of the mind and are no concern of yours. You are neither the doer nor the reaper of the consequences, so you are always free.

You are the one witness of everything and are always completely free. The cause of your bondage is that you see the witness as something other than this.

— Ashtavakra Gita 1.6-1.7

The contract is broken

September 24th, 2015 | Posted by Mush in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

In which job hunting is pissing me off, or maybe bumming me out, or both.

I get these emails with exclamation points in them from various temp agencies — well, there don’t really seem to be any temp agencies anymore as much as recruiters — telling me about jobs I may be suitable for! When I reply or go to the listing, it invariably turns out to be temporary full-time work outside of the city doing something mindless and repetitive, like scanning documents eight hours a day for three months.

Not that I wouldn’t scan documents eight hours a day for three months — now that I’ve done warehouse retail, I’d do anything, no matter how soul-killingly dull, in an office setting and be grateful — but business seems to have left the city center, where I now live, and is now located in a giant ring outside the metro. You basically can’t get to Plymouth by bus, and the places you can get to are an hour away even though it’s only a few miles.

Eight hour day plus lunch plus two hour commute; pay is eleven bucks an hour because the agency gets its money off the top. So nearly 12-hour days, 5 days a week, for a quarter of a year: less than five grand, after taxes. AND the work sucks, too!

I applied for a tech job at a downtown bank. HR replied, we chatted on the phone, it sounded like a good fit… then I found out they were moving in January, leaving their iconic tower downtown for some cheaper, newer, roomier digs in a suburb I can’t reasonably commute to.

“Kelly Services is currently hiring for 40+ Call Center Customer Service Reps in Plymouth!” Ah, Plymouth, the bus-less suburb I spent an hour in, in a pantsuit, getting rained on; the suburb I took a cab home from, a cab that cost nearly fifty bucks.

Downtown jobs are mainly food service. Selling lunches and after-work cocktails to the recruiters and retail workers who haven’t yet been relocated to Eden Prairie.

My rants about entry-level part-time work, with shitty hours and pay so low workers have to be subsidized by someone or something in order to survive aside, it’s just bafflingly difficult to find work even in a city said to have a healthy job market. And then yesterday I rediscovered Amazon Mechanical Turk, a site where you can get work crowdsourced for really cheap.

The people doing the work are making five bucks an hour or less. They do it, a lot of them, according to news articles, as a time-killer, something to do in lieu of video games or television. The demographics show that most Turks are educated Americans, and yet they’re willing to do low-quality work for almost no pay.

Some of the jobs pay a penny each and take several minutes to complete, jobs like typing up grocery receipts (which makes no sense at all, when you could scan and OCR that shit instantly, but maybe at these artificially low rates it’s cheaper to have people do it than it is to buy software).

Estimates of what workers can earn on these crowdsourced tasks range from about $1.20 to $5 an hour without any benefits. Employers treat them as independent contractors not covered by federal minimum-wage legislation. A standard terms-of-use agreement gives employers the freedom to reject an employee’s work on any grounds; workers (oops, I mean contractors) have no easy recourse.

Amazon’s built this entire reality in which work that only humans can do is distributed and done by a massive hoard of university-educated, computer-owning Americans… for a non-living wage. I couldn’t figure it out until I signed up myself, figuring if I can’t get a real job and I’m online all day anyway, might as well make twenty bucks a day rather than none.

It’s there and it’s robust because it’s better than nothing. Same with Leapforce and oDesk and so many other so-called crowdsourced marketplaces. More workers than work, all the workers are “contractors” and so receive zero benefits or rights, the employers can take finished work and reject it but keep it anyway without paying for it… and the pay. Oh my God, the pay is less than half minimum wage. It’s between $1.20 and $5.00 an hour. I’ve been scouring blogs and forums and nobody claims to be making more than $500 a month, and those people are working all the time.

And yet millions of people are doing it. And idiots like this retard think it’s because they love it?

His entire premise is that because people can be seen to be doing a thing, in this case taking slave wages, that they love it, they enjoy it, they’re “perfectly happy” about it.

It takes only a few minutes of searching and reading blogs and forums to find out that nobody who has ever worked for Mechanical Turk or Leapforce or similar have loved it, nor were they ever “perfectly happy.” There is zero evidence that anybody “loves” these jobs; only evidence that people have been grateful for them because that extra $14 was the difference between life and homelessness.

Seriously: how fucking precarious is your life when FOURTEEN DOLLARS makes a difference?!

They do it because they’re un- or underemployed and desperate, or because they’re disabled and need money and have literally no other way to get any, or because they’re the sorts of personalities who would rather earn change while fucking around online than not. Nobody LIKES being underpaid, nobody LIKES having no worker protections and no recourse, nobody LIKES being exploited.

And yet there appear to be no jobs of the sort I stupidly thought I could find: jobs like my last one at the newspaper. Part-time, reasonable hours, reasonable commute, reasonable pay. A decent balance. I gave my employer something it needed, it gave me something I needed. Win/win.

Not any more. I can go out, take a job at a grocery store or a restaurant and make nine or ten bucks an hour, deal with shitty and random schedules and working every holiday and commuting on buses during blizzards. Or I can stay home and do intellectually complex work and earn even less?!?! As a “contractor” who is not a contractor and whose employer — excuse me, “client” — is breaking the law because it just doesn’t give a fuck?

Companies have become immoral. There’s no social contract. Most workers are being subsidized by entities that are not their employers: families, friends, EBT, Medicaid. No one can earn such wages and survive without additional money from the government or other people, and so many people work these jobs.

So you’re either the car-driving, full-time job with benefits-having worker, or you’re everybody else. And if you’re the former, YOU’RE subsidizing the rest of us, and by extension the shitheads we work for. Those of you with holidays off, paid vacation and sick time, regular hours, HVAC and indoor plumbing: your “cushy” jobs are literally and directly making money for Walmart and Amazon Mechanical Turk, because your taxes are going toward our EBT cards.

Last year, my partner subsidized The Home Depot for 14 months. I worked my ass off in there; it was probably one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever had. They paid me a non-living wage and gave me shitty schedules; my partner drove me to work at 5:45 in the morning and bought me groceries so that Craig Menear could take home three hundred times my income every month. That asshole’s bonuses were paid for by my boyfriend.

This is untenable. This is why the middle class is disappearing: directly and literally because of corporate greed and lack of responsibility. Yes, market factors are there, sure, inflation plays a part, whatever, but the bottom line is that corporations and businesses have abdicated their responsibility.

FUCK Citizens United.

Whatever happened to shift-based scheduling?

September 17th, 2015 | Posted by Mush in Work - (0 Comments)

In which full availability is stupid and bad for everybody.

When I worked at a 7-Eleven in my 20’s, there were shifts. There were day people, swing people, and graveyard people. Everybody had a regular schedule — you didn’t work the same days every week, but you worked the same shift every day, the shift you were hired to do. Sure, I worked the occasional day or graveyard shift, but they were rare.

Last night I checked the internets for more info about today’s interview and found their unclaimed Facebook page, on which I learned that some poor chick last year worked Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year, and that her ‘occasional overnights’ were weekly.

When you’re open 24 hours a day, 365 days per year, WHY WOULDN’T YOU SCHEDULE SHIFTS?

What the fuck is the point, I wonder, of having an entire workforce with random eating times, random sleeping times, and no scheduling security? What the fuck is the point, I ask you, of having an entire workforce with permanent jetlag?

How is this good for workforce or employer?

It’s not. It’s stupid.

One can guess how it got this way. Maybe managers, who weren’t getting raises fast enough to keep up with the cost of living, got tired of having to cover shifts left uncovered due to emergency, illness, or quits. They weren’t getting paid enough for that shit, so they started letting new hires know that they’d need to be available to come in at any time. As the economy worsened, this full-availability bullshit became the norm because people accepted these horrific terms in order to get jobs. After all, how many off-shifts would you really end up working in a year?

Or maybe it happened some other way. Maybe workers in the 80’s bargained away schedule stability in order to have the opportunity to earn, earn, earn. I have no idea. All I know is that during my decades in the workforce, non-office employers’ expectations have changed drastically and to the detriment of the workforce.

By income level, the lowest income workers face the most irregular work schedules.

My last employer told me that chaotic, shift-free scheduling was “fair,” meaning that everybody had equally shitty schedules, but this approach to scheduling human resources guarantees late arrivals and no-shows from your workforce. Because people do not do well in a state of perpetual jetlag, at some point they’re going to sleep in—or sleep through a shift, or just call in sick—because their bodies will have had it.

People, as a rule, perform better when on a routine. Back when there was still a graveyard shift, people I knew who worked it claimed they were night people and that grave suited them perfectly. Not everybody wants to work day shift. Swing and grave were how students managed to work full- or nearly-full-time to pay for college. It was how the enterprising could have two jobs and some small quality of life.

When you google ‘shift work’ now, it no longer means people who work regular but non-standard hours; it means people who work utterly random schedules. A week of days followed by a week of nights, or a schedule that includes both in the same week. Crazy, awful shit. Those people (nurses, television producers) probably do it because it pays. That’s their choice.

It shouldn’t be the norm for entry-level jobs, and yet it is. Spend an hour digging through job listings and you’ll find that random scheduling is the norm for nearly all non-office positions.

There are your employed elite, with their chairs and climate control and regular 8-5 schedules and holidays off, and then there’s damn near everybody else, who have none of those perqs and earn half as much to boot.

Among service workers, production workers, and skilled trades, most employees know their schedule only one week or less in advance.

Say you run a Starbucks or a Home Depot. You’re open the same hours every day, 363 days a year. Why on earth would you change the schedule, randomly, every week? There’s no way all your employees need special schedule changes every single day of the year; you’re using Kronos or some other horrific software to generate random scheduling for no reason.

This is damaging your workforce and therefore your ability to perform well as a business.

Plus it’s just a dick move. Your people can’t schedule family or social events; are constantly struggling with childcare and transportation; are constantly suffering fatigue.

Plus, really, you greedy fucks, is your fear of having to pay a little bit of overtime every once in awhile really balanced against institutional “no full-time employee” mandates? Is the pittance (compared to corporate profits) you’d have to spend on health insurance for full-time employees really worth handicapping nearly your entire workforce with income insecurity, schedule insecurity, fatigue, and more?

Probit analysis suggests that the likelihood of being usually part-time but actually working 35 or more hours is enhanced by being white, female, not married, enrolled as a college student, not in a union, having a four-year college degree, and being employed in one of the following occupations: handlers/laborers, machine operators, private household work, sales, services and protective services, and not self-employed.

That is to say, all the women (many grandmothers) working the front end at my last job. Endless overtime due to quits due to over- or under-scheduling and low pay, issues the employer could choose to mitigate but didn’t, because it had grandmothers in its workforce to exploit. Oh, damn, the new girl quit without notice because the job sucks and so-and-so is out on maternity leave and we really need you to stay a few extra hours, just so everyone can get a lunch break is not something women find it easy to say no to.

Retail sucks so much, in fact, that there’s this. And no, they’re not asking for handouts; they’re just hoping to be less exploited. Exploitation sounds like such a strong word, but what else is it when corporations do literally everything in their power to withhold even the most basic courtesies to the employees with whom they’re in symbiotic relationship?

So much of what sucks about working retail and similar jobs is needless, and some of what sucks about working retail is due to corporations deliberately exploiting the workforce because nobody’s telling them they can’t. Paid sick days should just be a thing because it’s moral and correct. As should regular scheduling. A living wage. A moderate expectation of the number of hours you want and job security.

For the poor, work is broken.

The argument over the minimum wage

September 11th, 2015 | Posted by Mush in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

In which I complain for a long time about not being able to find a job I want (i.e. that doesn’t suck in pay or hours or location). Also, the right still believes in (the thoroughly debunked) trickle-down theory and it utterly baffles my mind.

The decent little part-time office job continues to just not exist anywhere at all ever.

The ethnic restaurant in Midtown Global Market didn’t hire me. I know the exact point in the interview in which the owner decided against me, but I don’t know why he decided that way. Anybody who can shower without drowning can work in a restaurant, so they hire on personality fit more than skill. I must have said something he didn’t like, but I’m not sure how answering “Do you have kids?” with “No, we have an avocado plant. It’s exactly the same thing as raising a child” ruined his interest in me as a team member. It was funny and self-deprecating. Maybe everybody else he employs has toddlers; who knows.

Hardly matters. It was a part-time, low-paying job that would have promised plenty of hard work for low reward. (I’ve worked for charismatic entrepreneur-run very small businesses before, and typically, employees are supposed to be totally gung ho about growing the entrepreneur’s businesses without much more in return than token thanks — usually in the form of an annual holiday party and a few cheap gifts. You enthusiastically protect and increase their net worth; they give you a fifty dollar Christmas bonus… and lay you off four months later when the economy gets tough because you’re just an employee. The loyalty of businesses toward their employees is dead, and has been for most of my working years.)

I don’t really want to work a minimum wage food service job in the first place, really, but since there’s no such thing as a part-time office gig anymore I thought at least it would be nice to work somewhere that looked cool and where I could dress comfortably. Those sorts of intangibles can make taking a low wage a lot easier.

So the job search continues. I’ll apply for anything I can get to in less than an hour, at this point, because I’d like to get employed and settled into the new job before blizzard season arrives. To this end I have an interview at a BP tomorrow, so as soon as I hung up the phone with the guy who scheduled the meeting I checked glassceiling.com:

salaries

Aw shit. They pay minimum wage. Great. Now I don’t want to go to the interview, even though the following are true:

  1. I need to find a job before I run out of pin money
  2. I’ve been a convenience store clerk in the past and enjoyed it
  3. I’m not too proud to be a convenience store clerk, even at my age
  4. The guy on the phone sounded like he’d be pleasant to work for

And yet, weirdly enough, in spite of all that, I find I have no desire to go bust my ass for a multi-national corporation for nine bucks an hour. (Minnesota raised its minimum wage in July.) Nine bucks an hour at full time is a yearly income of $18,720 before taxes and social security and insurance.

Or $15,646.94 take-home, after Federal taxes. Even less after sales and state tax. Nobody could possibly find this to be adequate compensation for full-time work.

Especially when, for eighteen grand a year, the typical gas station convenience store clerk is supposed to, typically, spend 40 hours each week on her feet cleaning, stocking, lifting up to fifty pounds, and accepting and internalizing bullshit company standards about service and enthusiasm and the company’s culture. She’s supposed to love her employer, she’s supposed to go the extra mile at any and every opportunity, she’s supposed to take pride in her work.

She’s supposed to do this even though her employer blatantly and institutionally does not give a flying fuck about her, refusing her every benefit that could possibly earn her loyalty, from decent scheduling to maternity leave to a reasonable expectation of job security.

Meanwhile, even though she has a full-time job, she can’t afford housing, food, or clothing, let alone vacation travel. She can’t afford routine dental care or glasses. She has little or no control over her work schedule, so her life is never her own and getting a second job is unreasonably difficult. (You try scheduling anything for next month when your schedule is only posted two weeks in advance.) She gets scheduled to work every major and minor holiday. She may be routinely expected to work unscheduled overtime to ‘help out’ an employer who is understaffed due to turnover, the very same employer who can’t be arsed to provide a job decent enough to reduce turnover so she doesn’t have to.

For eighteen fucking thousand dollars a year.

Oh, wait, that was my last job I just described. I’ve never actually worked for BP. They paid a dollar over minimum wage, so that’s actually twenty grand a year before taxes.

The 2015 poverty level, by the way, is $11,770, which is the level at which you’re homeless and starving and aren’t going to stay employed anyway because people who can’t shower can’t keep their jobs.

Why would anyone want to do that? Why would a kid right out of college, with sixty grand in student loan debts, ever take such a job? Why would a middle aged and experienced worker ever take such a job?

In a sane world, they wouldn’t. And it’s not because they’re lazy or because they’re too proud, it’s because this sort of job is entry level and shitty. Like working at McDonald’s below the management level, it’s a job that’s “supposed” to be for kids.

We’re a nation of low-paying kids’ jobs. Middle class jobs for college educated non-specialists are becoming fewer and farther between. And industry, bizarrely, is blaming its thousands of unfilled jobs on the workers, saying they’re unskilled or lazy, rather than on the fact that its jobs are shitty and don’t pay a living wage.

Because wanting a living wage, wanting to get some benefit from dedicating yourself to a company, is the same as being unskilled or lazy?

And yet you’ll notice that when you go to BP, or The Home Depot or Target or the grocery store, that a lot of these shitty, low-paying, entry-level jobs with long hours are filled by middle aged people. Because they’re not too proud to work shitty jobs. They’re not on SNAP because they’re lazy, they’re on SNAP because industry doesn’t fucking pay employees appropriately for their work. Period.

I’ve been looking for a part-time office gig for five years now and I’ve had exactly one, and even that I got by accident. Nobody can afford part-time office help to come in and do the filing (or the social networking, because there’s not as much filing these days). The rare part-time office job is temporary and handled by agencies, who skim three bucks off the top for their overhead and make a $12 per hour gig into a $9 one.

(I’m registered with at least four agencies and get a lot of emails. The pay rates are shocking. They want people to go work three twelve-hour days an hour’s drive away to inventory a warehouse, but the pay is minimum wage. They want temp skilled office work for a lawyer’s office, but the pay is two bucks an hour over minimum wage. If you’re required to possess a skill and wear a suit to work, you should be earning enough money to be able to afford to buy yourself lunch, shouldn’t you? I mean, is that somehow an unreasonable expectation?)

No. And yet every time a state increases minimum wage, there are Chicken Little articles about how restaurants are struggling because they can’t afford to pay crap wages and stay in business! We can’t make these honorable, entrepreneurial Americans pay more than they can afford!

Crickets from Walmart, BP, The Home Depot, McDonald’s. It’s always a few small restaurants and some version of “The sky is falling!” in these articles, even though it’s obvious this legislation is not about small restaurants, it’s about massive corporations who prey on the working class through wage theft… not because they have to, but merely because they can.

“The left claims they’re for American workers, and they’ve got lame ideas, things like minimum wage,” Walker said during an interview with Fox News. “We need to talk about how we get people skills and qualifications they need to get jobs that go beyond minimum wage.”

Minnesota’s minimum wage rises to $9 per hour

But people do have skills. I have the skills and the qualifications. So does my cousin Paul, who spent several years out of work. So do millions of Americans. It’s not that the workforce is wholly underqualified, it’s that the jobs suck so much and pay so little and are so demeaning that you avoid them if you possibly can, because you’re not a kid looking for a summer job, you’re an adult with a family to provide for.

Not to mention that if you’re an older, skilled worker post-layoff, accepting a minimum wage Amazon warehouse job ruins your unemployment eligibility and your résumé. You literally can’t afford to take such a job.

A friend of mine told me today she’d heard that warehouse jobs were going unfilled because, according to industry, ‘Millennials lack a decent work ethic.’ But I think the truth is that kids don’t work those jobs anymore. People like me work those jobs, and we’re not applying for them because they suck. The conditions are crap, the security is crap, the hours are crap, the endless corporate rhetoric is embarrassing, and to add insult to injury, the pay is crap.

It’s not that people are too lazy or too proud to work these jobs, it’s that the jobs aren’t jobs anymore. A job is a contract between an individual and a company in which the individual earns money for work. The majority of current jobs, though, are relationships in which the individual agrees to act as slave labor, giving up time, comfort, pride, and the ability to support herself, in order to make rich people richer. The contract between the worker and the company is broken.

At THD, there was an emergency fund for employees. Heart attack and under-insured? The fund will help you out. House burned to the ground? The fund will help you out. Super awesome idea, really humane. The kicker, though: the fund itself was filled by employees, not the company. People making ten bucks an hour — myself included — donating a few bucks per paycheck to help each other out in times of need, not the billions-of-dollars-per-year corporation they were working for. Because the contract between the worker and the company is broken.

Companies exist to make money. Employees are replaceable machine cogs. That’s the bottom line.

Do I want to work in food service for minimum wage? No. Do I want to work at a gas station for minimum wage? No. I don’t want to work anywhere for minimum wage, and I especially don’t want to do it AND suffer random scheduling and sore feet while having to spew bullshit from training videos (that nobody could possibly ever truly mean) to actual human being customers.

But I will, because as far as I can tell unless I’m willing to saddle myself with a full-time career-oriented job and a car, there’s no other option. And I’ll rage against it every single day, because the inhumanity and greed of it all disgusts me.

Seriously, all I want is a decent little part-time job. Decent hours, decent pay, decent commute. When did this become too much to ask?

Old Fashioned Frosting

August 29th, 2015 | Posted by Mush in Family | Food | Recipes - (0 Comments)

In which there’s a recipe from my grandma.

I came across the image below from a few years ago, remembered how really delicious that frosting was, and realized that I have no idea how to make old fashioned frosting.

So I googled it. Weird results.

(I mean, I’m off carbs right now, but it’s unlikely that I’ll never eat another cupcake. A girl never knows when she might be called upon to produce, you know, delicious treats for some event or another. Best remedy this lack of knowledge!)

Low tea

So I emailed my G’ma and asked her for the recipe. This is what she said:

Somewhere out there there is probably a recipe for that frosting with accurate measurments but this is my way.

You will need powdered sugar, butter, or if you want white frosting use shortening, and some liquid.

I melt about two tablespoons of butter, add about equal amount of cream, and slowly add powdered sugar. A little liquid absorbs a lot of sugar, so add slowly mix until spreadable.

Then the fun begins, add any flavoring you like or spice, food coloring for fun. Powdered cocoa if you want chocolate. A tiny touch of mint is good in choc. Orange juice or lemon juice can be used instead of cream. Top with whatever.

I have used molasses in place of cream when frosting a spice cake. The more sugar used and liquid the more frosting you get till finally you can frost dozens, so that is why you add sugar slowly. After a few times you will have it perfect for your project.

Basically a procedure for making delicious frosting in any flavor in any quantity! And much better than that crap in a tub from the grocery store, in my opinion, although I have been known to eat that stuff by the spoonful on occasion.

Here in the future, job hunting sucks! Ha-HA!

August 26th, 2015 | Posted by Mush in Work - (0 Comments)

In which OMFG WHO EVEN ARE THESE PEOPLE.

With the very, very few exceptions of one or two small businesses looking for help, the job market is now a shitshow of fake work-at-home pyramid schemes, horrible poverty-level drone jobs, and weird demands to “call in for application instructions” or “apply in person, but not during peak hours.”

All the so-called part-time positions are around 33 hours a week — just under the threshold that requires employers to provide benefits — or nine hours a week. WHY IS THERE A NINE-HOUR-A-WEEK JOB. Just get someone already there to do it, whatever it is.

The pay for nearly everything is horrific. Like, ten bucks an hour. Or less, in many cases. Typical office work gets about $12. That’s barely twenty grand a year!

Most listings don’t disclose their address, so you can’t see if a bus goes there before you apply.

A disturbing number of listings expect full availability even though they’re for low-paying part-time entry-level jobs. Like, for less than three hundred dollars a week take-home pay, they think they own you.

Tons of listings blithely “require” a car, driver license, and proof of insurance. For deliveries or occasional errands. Like, you can’t get this shitty job without a car you can’t afford to maintain on this shitty pay.

They’re not even trying with these job listings; I saw a posting that was actually titled “Repetitive entry-level job.” It paid nine bucks an hour and was listed as part-time even though it’s about 34 hours a week based on the description. No benefits, of course.

Even lousy entry-level jobs are specialized. The dishwashing jobs say things like “this is a great opportunity for someone in culinary school!” and the shitty overnight hotel jobs say “this is a great opportunity for someone in hospitality!” A lot of listings even advise you not to apply if you’re not basically already a member of the industry (because obviously, any entity paying shit wages and scheduling inhumane hours deserves experts in its any-idiot-could-do-this positions, right?).

I found a listing for greeter (basically a doorman or lobby attendant?) in a super upscale apartment building. YOU’LL BE THE FACE OF THE FRONT OFFICE AND THE FIRST POINT OF CONTACT FOR THE MAJORITY OF OUR RESIDENTS! Pay rate conspicuously absent. They want enthusiasm and “great energy!” and they probably want it for nine bucks an hour, and you probably have to buy your own uniform.

A few low-paying, part-time office admin jobs require the applicant to have up-to-date technical or professional licenses.

All that said, though, I’ve sent off a few resumes with snappy, well-written cover letters today anyway. One was even for a semi-technical telecommute gig, which would be ideal! (I googled the shit out of the company to make sure it was real and not just a honeytrap for resumes/identities first, of course.)

There’s a position I’m considering applying to, just because I think I’d enjoy it, but it’s full-time. I’m not sure I want to work at all, but I’m pretty sure I don’t want to work full-time. On the other hand, it’s not like I’m doing anything; I’m not even volunteering. (Although now that fall’s here and it’s not NINETY DEGREES AND SIXTY PERCENT HUMIDITY AT ELEVEN O’CLOCK AT NIGHT, I want to. I wanna go volunteer at the soup kitchen I donate to sometimes.)

It’s been hours since I last had a taco. I’d better go eat more tacos.

Living in Uptown

August 4th, 2015 | Posted by Mush in Admissions | Life | Moving | Weather | Whining - (0 Comments)

In which I’m all about the neighborhood.

I’m an Uptown girl!

Uptown!

After a full month, I think I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not that I’m stupid and missing something, it’s that there really is nowhere to put our remaining stuff. It has to go away somehow, or get packed into the basement storage closet, because there’s just no way to organize it. And I’m sick of having bags and boxes in my living room! Ugh!

For people who don’t have much shit, we have too much shit. Hell, we have an entire drawerful of single-function kitchen gadgets. I mean, I’m sure I really did feel like I needed a garlic press, tongs, corkscrew, can opener, and thermometer at one time or another, but all that crap in one drawer and it’s basically a bunch of shit that wants to gnaw your arm off at the wrist. Dude, seriously, that drawer is dangerous and pointy. Stay out of it.

I’ve also got a bit of buyer’s remorse, on the level of the apartment’s issues. The window and air conditioner leak when it rains. None of the outlets will hold a plug, so everything’s always falling out, which is frustrating as hell — I can’t even count how many times we’ve had to reset the digital alarm clock on the nightstand, or how often the internet’s gone out because the router plug (which we have taped to the wall) just fell out.

Laundry list of first world problems. I know. I know. There’s more, of course:

The A/C basically only half-works. It comes on, but even if you have it on full blast, it cycles off every few minutes and just blows recycled air. (Even if you run it for hours it never gets cold in the apartment, and merely cooking a meal makes the place unbearable even with the door freshly weather sealed and two fans circulating the air). Half the lights in the kitchen overheat after ten minutes and turn themselves off, so cooking and dishes and cleaning is done mostly in a sort of dim gloom. And it’s smaller. And there’s no cross breeze. Plus it costs more than the other place!

But the location is great. I love the location. Bars, stores, tacos, falafel, liquor, parks, lakes, libraries, coffee, nail salons. Pretty much anything you could ever want is within walking distance.

Well, except for a job. I still don’t have one of those, but I’m not out of money yet so I’m trying not to freak out about it. I basically don’t let myself go out and spend money more than once a week, and usually that’s either a trip to The Egg & I for breakfast, or down to CC Club for a drink. Just to get out while it’s not blizzard season and enjoy the fact that I can. But basically I’m afraid to spend, because part of me is convinced I’ll never get another job again. Too many online friends out of work for two or more years, all those ladies at Home Depot with two or three jobs, my age, plus getting turned down by that little CU for both of their P/T teller gigs…

Oh, and this: I applied at the wrong grocery store. My Saturday interview last weekend wasn’t over here at the neighborhood store, it was 4 miles and a half hour bus ride away, on the other side of what Scott described as “pretty sketchy areas.” Never occurred to me that the Cub on Lake street would actually be on Lagoon, and that the one on 26th is actually called the Lake Street one. Because how would anyone who doesn’t work there even know that?!

Anyway, we moved here so I could make friends and have a life without needing to buy a car or drag my beloved everywhere all the time. To make friends, you go out. Frequently. And people get used to seeing you and start talking to you, and the next thing you know you’ve been off on adventures and you have a back story and now you’re friends. The last time I went through this process in a new town I was spending the last of my money like a dumb kid (which obviously worked out okay or I wouldn’t be here, but still isn’t very responsible) or I was on unemployment. It takes a lot of money, actually, to just hang out in a bar or a bookstore or a coffee shop enough to belong there. Well, “a lot” if you have no income, I mean.

So I now live somewhere cool! Yay! And I’m not doing shit. Boo. Right now I have time and no money; by the time I’m working again I’ll have money and no time (and it’ll be too cold to go anywhere anyway). I’m basically screwed either way.

I should really be looking for a band, but it’s too hot. I just can’t even. Actually I found a couple of musicians via Craigslist last spring and then blew off following up with them because of work and moving and travel and blah blah blah I suck.

The old place was closer to Scott’s work, had a park next door, no traffic, everything worked, was bigger, was cheaper. He didn’t want to move; I did. I just didn’t like the neighborhood, because everything was a mile or more away over an overpass. Now I like the neighborhood but I’m too old and too conservative to spend money without a job and I basically just look at it out the window and feel like an asshole because I know any second now there will be three feet of snow out there and it’ll be twenty below and it won’t matter that there’s a corner store because I’ll just wait ’til the weekend so I can get a ride in the car to the grocery, like I did at the old place, and we’ll have moved for nothing.

Because that’s how the Midwest works. You’re frantic in the spring and fall to Go Out And Do Things, and the lakeshores and streets are absolutely stuffed with humanity. During summer there’s still a lot of bodies (because these people don’t seem to understand that HUMIDITY IS AWFUL) but less than spring and fall, I think, and in the winter you hardly ever see anybody outside besides in grocery store parking lots, at all, ever, because the weather will legit kill you. They don’t even plow most of the sidewalks, because people aren’t walking.

Lots of traffic at our intersection. Really a strong noise comparison with the old place. Cars here 24 hours a day, lots of emergency vehicles, foot traffic pretty much all the time. Lots of activity and vibrancy. It’d probably feel amazing if I knew anybody, but mostly I still feel like a tourist. Or a tourist’s mother.

Seriously. I unconsciously classify the vast majority of people who walk by as “kids.” How did I get this old? (more…)