Archive for the 'Employment' Category


But it’s not just that one thing

“I wish my moderate Republican friends would simply be honest. They all say they’re voting for Romney because of his economic policies (tenuous and ill-formed as they are), and that they disagree with him on gay rights. Fine. Then look me in the eye, speak with a level clear voice, and say, ‘My taxes and take-home pay mean more than your fundamental civil rights, the sanctity of your marriage, your right to visit an ailing spouse in the hospital, your dignity as a citizen of this country, your healthcare, your right to inherit, the mental welfare and emotional well-being of your youth, and your very personhood.’”

It’s like voting for George Wallace during the Civil Rights movements, and apologizing for his racism. You’re still complicit. You’re still perpetuating anti-gay legislation and cultural homophobia. You don’t get to walk away clean, because you say you “disagree” with your candidate on these issues.”

from Dough Wright, found on “Raising My Rainbow


the view from the 99

Maybe we’re all tiring of hearing about the 99, percent that is, but I hope not. I hope this is not one of those cases where our pathologically short attention spans do us in (what’s going on with the Fukushima Daiichi power plant? is there still oil in the gulf? who killed Jon Benet?).

P.J. O’Rourke was on NPR the other night, being his usual pithy and witty self, and, shockingly, I found myself agreeing with him; mainly, that life isn’t fair, and that our children need to learn this in order not to make themselves absolutely crazy. But one of my children asked me once, after I reminded them that life wasn’t fair, whether maybe we shouldn’t at least try to make it so, at least in our little corner of the world?

Good point.

And then there was O’Rourke’s basic premise: that wealth isn’t a pie, that there is always more money to be made if we just figure out what to make/do/sell and then convince everyone else they can’t do without (a Thneed comes to mind, but I think Dr. Seuss already covered that one). And that taking away some of the money that the 1% is making wouldn’t necessarily mean that the 99% would make more.

He seems, to me, to be missing the point. Now I haven’t had a math class since the early 80s, so there might be some kind of flaw in my thinking, but let me just run this theory by you all for your consideration:  If, as postulated by the AFL-CIO, the average CEO is being paid 343 times the salary of the average worker, and someone decided something radical, oh, I don’t know, maybe let’s just pay him 50 times the salary of the average worker, does it not compute that some of that surplus could be well, maybe, oh, I don’t know, paid to the average worker?

So here’s my attempt at math:

Average worker making $45,000/year.

At 343 times the salary, CEO making $15,435,000/year.

Let’s assume the company has 1,000 employees.

At 50 times the average salary, the CEO would make $2,250,000 — still seems like an awful lot of money.

We redistribute the remaining $13,185,000 dollars among the other 1000 employees, and we now have the “average” worker earning $58,185.

Would you look at that.

It IS a pie!!! More for you means less for me.

Is that really that hard to figure out?


In a related story, the faculty at my college are “forbidden” from taking a personal day on the day before or after a school holiday, so I am sitting right now in an empty classroom because no one has come except me.

But the president of the college left over the previous weekend to spend a week traveling hither and yon visiting family and friends; a fact we have been informed of through his “Have a Wonderful Thanksgiving with Friends and Family” email, where he reminds us of how important this time is and hopes that we enjoy and treasure it.  Just not too soon.


comfort food

I think I’m having a midlife crisis.

Okay, I won’t soft-pedal it; I’m having a midlife crisis.

I can’t alleviate this crisis by leaving my husband and taking up with someone younger/richer/more handsome because I love him dearly and right now he seems like maybe one of the few things I’ve “done” right in my life, and I can’t imagine a day without him.

Besides, the crisis is mostly professional. For the first 10 years after my masters degree I mostly raised children. I couldn’t figure out how to practice 4+ hours a day, teach enough students to help make our budget more-or-less balance-able, and take care of busy toddler boys, so I just did the latter 2 out of 3. I played when I could, a little collaborative work here and there for area graduate students and miscellaneous faculty, accompanying my bff Jackie’s violin studio when she took them to contests or played recitals, that kind of stuff.

I’ve since spent the last 14 years as an adjunct at various colleges, while adopting my daughter from Korea and completing my DMA (Doctor of Musical Arts) degree in 2005. This was prompted by the realization, as I worked as an adjunct in various college/university music departments, that I was as good a performer and probably a better teacher than a lot of the people I was working with, who had full-time, tenure-track jobs, so why shouldn’t I go for it? But you won’t even be considered for such a position without a Doctorate these days, so, after 5 years of 100-mile-each-way commutes, reading and writing and practicing and studying and performing while still being the primary parent (oldest son was 10 when I started), I had a DMA. And now I’m a fully-credentialed musician in a world with way more fully-credentialed musicians than there are jobs, and in an academic climate which favors piece-work-paid adjuncts over full-time professorships.

I don’t know the numbers on how many pianists graduated with DMAs in the past year, but there is currently ONE tenure-track position in piano posted at the College Music Society. One. In the whole country. One.

So, I’m having a crisis, and as far as I can tell, there are two things I can do about it:

1.) I can suck it up, be grateful I have any work at all, and continue to work at ~ 25% pay for the rest of my life (when compared to what full-time, tenure-track faculty are paid) or

2.) I can find something else to do, and by this I mean something for which I will be paid, which does not include such activities as writing a blog that 135 people read every day or eating my weight in potato chips. Fun as these activities may be, they do not contribute to paying the mortgage.

So. What are my options?

1.) Areas I am interested in and could maybe make a living at:

a) Nursing. Would have to start from scratch, reconcile myself to being a complete “newb” at the age of 50, and probably do things like hold bedpans and inject people with needles.

b) English/Language Arts for secondary school instruction. Would have to  start from scratch, reconcile myself to probably 4 years of school while still paying off loans from my DMA pursuit, still teaching, which can be rewarding, but is also frustrating as there seems to be a general dearth of curiosity/interest in learning amongst “students” today. And are there any teaching jobs anymore?

c) Writing for Pay. Have written two children’s books that start “Nicholas Picholas Tickle-Me . . .” and based on the mischievous antics of my now 18-year old. Also started one called “Hannah’s Hungry,” but haven’t finished it. Don’t know how to get them published, can’t seem to find anyone else who knows. Presumably this is done, routinely, given the number of books out there. And some of them are really dreadful. Have also considered trying to write articles and submit them to magazines, but have not done so, partially in interests of time. Also have a few short story ideas and a family history/memoir/birth-order-memory-what-makes-us-who-we-are book idea but not enough time to really pursue them. Would have to take some time off from earning actual money to see if these lead anywhere, and no windfall/lottery wins/inheritances in sight. Also feel like it’s an act of supreme arrogance to think that I have anything to say that that many people would want to read, and yet here I am. . .

d) Opening some kind of bed-and-breakfast. What I would really like is to move to Italy and buy a few acres and a little villa somewhere and grow my own grapes and host and cook for tourists. I could even teach piano lessons to all the little Italian children in the area, but would have to improve my Italian first. Or offer it as piano -and-English-lessons or something. Although sometimes I don’t even want to teach any more.


Lots of ideas, lots of ways to talk myself out of them.

I joke sometimes that my life’s goal is

2) to be a kept woman.

I don’t think I would be very good at it, though. This is the first semester in a few years I haven’t taught a Music Appreciation class, and, despite still having a pretty full teaching schedule, the lack of this prep has made my days seem rather long.

I’m trying to talk Husband into a dog. A little white Havanese, named Zuzu.

What do you think?

Meanwhile, I can always cook. Am making gumbo today. Have thought about starting a second blog called “Soupy Sundays,” and making a different soup every Sunday and writing about my life, my week, what’s going on with my “crisis” although it seems a little too Julie Powell.

Maybe just a new category then.

Today’s soup:


Heat 1/2 c. canola oil in a large cast-iron soup pot, then whisk in 1/2 c. whole wheat flour and lower the heat to low/low-medium. Allow to brown for 5-10 minutes, whisking occasionally.

Meanwhile, chop:

1/2 large onion

3 stalks celery

1 large red pepper

1/2 lb. okra (slices)

2 cloves garlic (slice, then mince)

Add the vegetables to the roux, stirring to coat, and allow the vegetables to begin to soften.

Add 8 c. chicken stock (recipe below), 1/2 tsp. cayenne or 1 or 2 dried red chilies, snipped into flakes, or 1/2 tsp. dried red pepper flakes (use both cayenne and pepper flakes/chilies if you like it really spicy), 1 tsp. kosher salt, 1/2 tsp coarse black pepper.

Bring to a boil, then add

12-16 ozs. andouille sausage (the nitrite-free kind if you can find it)

and allow the soup to simmer for as long as you’d like — 1 – 3 hours.

A few minutes before being ready to eat, add 1 lb. of peeled shrimp (the big ones are great, but cut in half so you have bite-size portions in your soup spoon), bring soup to boil and boil just long enough to cook the shrimp.

Serve with a crusty bread, and over cooked rice if desired.

I’d include a picture, but the shrimp aren’t in the pot yet, and I’m drying 7 bags of leftover bread bits on my stove, so I’m a little embarrassed. Maybe next time.

Homemade chicken stock

Every self-respecting cook should make this themselves. Way too much sodium in even the low-sodium kinds, and it’s easy. I like to roast a chicken for an easy meal, and then make the stock overnight.

In a large soup pot, put one chicken carcass, and add water to cover by several inches. Add coarsely chopped onions and celery (the top part with the leaves is the best), a handful of whole peppercorns, a couple bay leaves. You can leave the skin on the onion if you want a golden broth, and add garlic or carrots if you want it more flavorful, but this will make it a little less adaptable for certain recipes because the garlic especially adds a very distinctive flavor. I don’t use any salt, so I am free to salt the final dish.

Cover and bring to a boil, and then allow to simmer for HOURS. We often leave this overnight and put it in a bowl to chill the next morning.

This part is important: Pour the stock through a strainer into a large bowl, and chill the broth thoroughly; then skim the fat off the top before putting into 4-cup containers to put in the freezer.


Meanwhile, if anyone has any life- or career advice: Please share!








employment and disadvantaged teens

In “The Ethicist” column of the November 5 New York Times, a woman living in Mumbai, India asks Randy Cohen if it is ethical to employ a 14-year old girl as household help. The prospective employer recognizes that most children of this age, in this country, will seek such employment, and admits that she would be extremely considerate of the girl’s age in the tasks which she would require the girl to complete. Her concern is twofold: 1) should she “encourage” what she considers to be exploitation by employing the girl? and 2), how she would feel about this girl working while her son is “studying and playing”?

Cohen advises the writer that such employment could only be seen as an advantage, especially if she, the employer, demonstrated fairness in encouraging the girl to go to school and complete her homework, and if she stuck to her commitment to only asking her to complete age-appropriate tasks.

According to the article:

Jacqueline Novogratz, C.E.O. of the Acumen Fund, a nonprofit that takes an entrepreneurial approach to combating global poverty, suggests: “The employer could help the girl pay for school fees so that she can attend school and then have her come afterward to help clean the house. The combination of part-time work with full-time schooling provides the girl’s family with a sense of dignity, and it gives the girl greater choice in her life.”

Despite this, the woman later writes to Cohen confessing that she did not hire the girl, despite the likelihood that the girl would work elsewhere, and potentially not be treated as well as the woman would have treated her, out of concern for the guilt she would feel watching the girl work while her son was not.

I have a lot of trouble with this decision, for two main reasons.

First of all, what’s wrong with the idea of a 14-year old working? I had part-time jobs at 14; had actually grown up working on my father’s farm from a VERY young age, but worked at an ice-cream shop in the summers so I could have some spending money. The motivation for this young girl to work so she can help her impoverished family is much more noble than my desire for a pair of Adidas sneakers (white, with green stripes), a new pair of Levi’s, and Heart (the one with Crazy on You on it) and REO Speedwagon (You Can Tune a Piano but You Can’t Tuna Fish) albums.

Secondly, what does this have to do with the woman’s guilt? Can she really be so selfish that she can allow this to be a bigger concern than the well-being and potential opportunities available to this girl through such employment, especially if she followed Novogratz’s advice as quoted above?

And isn’t it possible that this could have been a GOOD example to her son, on all accounts?

I wish this woman could have looked a little bit further outside herself and her own superficial feelings. Much good could have been done, for many.


The Human Cost of Coal

According to, we consume 3.5843 billion short tons of coal per person per year in the United States.

This coal is extracted by men working in conditions such as this:

(Think about that next time you’re complaining about how claustrophobic your “cubicle” is.)

Granted, there are more dangerous occupations, namely logging, and fishing/hunting/trapping. And while I think we would all benefit from a little less logging in the world, I guess I would be reluctant to give up seafood Mondays.

It does give me pause, though. As the NY Times article points out, we have robotically-assembled automobiles and pilotless drones, but we still send human beings down into the depths of the planet to work in incredibly dark, cramped places, breathe noxious fumes and coal particulates, and risk death by explosion or tragic equipment accident, all in order to keep our refrigerators and factories humming. I wonder how many trees I’d have to cut down to get sufficient solar power to run my house (and then I have to ask myself, would anyone be injured in the process?)

(Of course, this doesn’t even get in to what the use of coal is doing to the planet, or what the cost will be to us and our children and our children’s children if we don’t find some alternatives and fast.)

I don’t suppose it would help if, for every 1,000 KW of power or every pound of fish consumed, or every time we bought lumber at our neighborhood home-improvement store to add on to our house or build a deck, we sent each of these workers a thank you note and a voucher they could apply towards their life insurance premiums.

Maybe we each ought to be willing to work in each of these fields for a day. Like many vegetarians say — if you’re not willing to strangle the chicken, you shouldn’t be willing to eat it.

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