Friday, January 31, 2014

Happy Year of the Horse

Happy Chinese New Year!

It's the year of the horse, a year characterized by stubbornness and disputes according to an article from the British Independent. Here's an excerpt:

It will be a fast year full of conflicts according to some astrologers, who see wood as providing fuel for the energetic horse sign. The later part of the year is “yin fire”, increasing the potential for heated clashes even more. Feng shui practitioner Raymond Lo told Reuters: “The upcoming Horse year is also a 'yang wood' year, when people will stick more to their principles and stand firm. So it is hard to negotiate or compromise as there are more tendencies for people to fight for their ideals.”

Of course, toward the bottom of the article, where there is a slideshow for predictions based on the year one was born in, there is a wider range of possibility.

My earliest memory of a Chinese New Year is walking through New York City's Chinatown in the mid to late 1970s and being terrified of the firecracker noises and the smoke that was visible all around. I'm pretty sure we were trying to get to our car to go home. If I'm not mistaken I was with my father and sister, and I can't remember much of what we did that day in the big city.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Playing for Change

On his open facebook wall, the prolific Richard Bausch shared this global cover of "Stand By Me," and I enjoyed it so much that I thought I'd share it with you. Bausch is most highly acclaimed as an expert short-story writer, and he is great to "friend" or "follow" on facebook for inspiration, encouragement, and advice on craft. (I quoted from his brother Robert's website in an earlier blog.)

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

State of the Union?

According to this look at long-term unemployment, "there are still three times as many children living with parents who've been out of work more than six months as there were in 2007, before the recession hit."

Within higher education, many sole breadwinners count themselves among the working people qualifying for food stamps, subsisting, and generally struggling to feed children or survive at all.

Overall, according to the National Center for Children in Poverty, "More than 16 million children in the United States – 22% of all children – live in families with incomes below the federal poverty level – $23,550 a year for a family of four."

And previous articles suggest, "All told, that places 100 million people — one in three Americans — either in poverty or in the fretful zone just above it."

As always then, if you want to hear about our "state of the union," you'll need to ask a lot of different people to even come close to get a full representation of how things are. Tonight we'll see how well the President expresses understanding of all this.

The Economic Policy Institute says that President Obama may take executive action, thus bypassing Congress, to update overtime rules and raise the threshold on those eligible for overtime pay, and that this would be positive for both wages and workers.

Friday, January 24, 2014

D. C. Jones

As in, Dow "Carnage" Jones, an old friend who made a glorious cameo today.

When I heard "irrationally exuberant" Nobel Prize winner Robert Shiller confess, "I'm still investing in the stock market," I knew something like this was coming although the healthy 300-point drop was still a bit of a surprise. Indeed, Shiller is a leader of indexes, if not men precisely, and when the leader roars, we mice press an ear to the cheese.

Earlier today, I kept squinting at the public screen to see if I was reading the lower right corner correctly, but, of course, that was mainly because my eyes are so poor from reading, writing, and grading papers. Anyway, I suspect we will see some more wacky new highs this year, but that's based on no concrete evidence I have access to as of this writing. And, it's not investment advice either. Haha. But it's not.

Maybe in closing I should note that at a 16K+ opening bell, today's 318-point drop was of less than 2 percent. That's bound to make everyone feel better about their lavish weekend plans.

food shortage in America?

According to a Slate article, New York City food banks are even turning people away due to shortages this winter. Here's an excerpt:

Well, the results are in: Turns out that people actually do need the food that they aren't getting and no, charity is not making up for the shortfall. Bryce Covert at ThinkProgress reports on how the cuts to SNAP have created a surge in demand on food banks, causing the food banks to run short on food and even turn people away. Food Bank NYC surveyed the food charities of New York City and found that 85 percent of food pantries and soup kitchens are reporting a surge in visitors asking for food. In fact, the number of people turning to food banks is higher now than it was in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Nearly half of food pantries and soup kitchens don't have enough food to assemble proper meals. More than a quarter have run so low on food that they've had to turn people away.

But on another side of the internet, Professor Barry Eichengreen of U.C. Berkeley, an economist interviewed at Davos, predicts 300,000 new American jobs per month in 2014 and 3% economic growth. He does express caution and note that the headline unemployment rate is deceptively low (the interviewer clarifies that this is due to the low worker-participation rate).

Monday, January 20, 2014

giving people homes

"Utah is Ending Homelessness by Giving People Homes" according to an aptly titled article which I found posted by a friend on facebook. It reminds me of "Million Dollar Murray," a longer piece from The New Yorker and one I'd occasionally assign while teaching freshman English in Philadelphia.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

income-based repayment for student loans

At the SEIU conference in Washington D.C. last November, one student group reported that they are fighting to make income-based repayment the default setting for government student loans. That would certainly help millions of students, and potential students, who are probably unaware that such a program exists. For more information and to see if you are eligible, follow this link.

Friday, January 17, 2014

213 times, i said "um"

At the MLA subconference, my live reading from Fight for Your Long Day begins around minute 60 of the segment under Thursday that has a length of 72:50, but you can catch me awake but appearing asleep for almost all of the panel (middle pale mass, blue sweater, no corduroy).

In this sorry age of terse 140-characters-or-less snark-'n-click, in my only online recorded self, I appear tired, sick, fat, old, and unable to control my "um"s.

(For the life of me, when I returned to this entry, I found the transitions in my writing so bizarre to nonexistent that I couldn't figure out my original intentions. Anyway, have a good weekend, and don't forget to take your literature at least twice daily with ample drinking water.)

Saturday, January 11, 2014

glass half full?

The contrarian indicator of all contrarian indicators is out. More economists see a "glass half full," so I guess they didn't get the memo that less than 43 percent of working-age Americans report a true full-time job, continuing a downward trend of recent years. Only 63 percent of us have work of any kind, the lowest percentage ever recorded, and this number has shrunk rather steadily the past twelve years. So either a huge portion of working-age Americans have happily removed themselves from the world of employment, or these optimistic economists are looking at their own stock portfolios much more closely than the lives of their fellow Americans.

Friday, January 10, 2014

next year in Vancouver

In seven hours in Chicago on Thursday, January 9, I listened to intelligent, gentle educators who want to improve the world. I feel sick and tired, but so glad I came. Start planning now to attend the MLA subconference 2015 in Vancouver, Canada.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

MLA subconference

Late Wednesday, I'm due to arrive in Chicago for the MLA subconference on "Resisting Vulnerable Times," where I'll be reading from Fight for Your Long Day as part of a panel on adjunct labor and pedagogy.

Our discussion is scheduled for Thursday, January 9, from 4 to 5:30 p.m., and you should be able to watch it live here. The entire two-day program looks fantastic, and the presenters' bios are impressive. I'm excited. Nervous, too.

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