Thursday, July 17, 2014

Three Interesting Things

1. As someone who has worked in a call center, and as someone who has been frustrated trying to get an resolution, I was fascinated by the recording of the call with the couple trying to cancel their cable.  However, as the customer himself says, this is unlikely to be a rogue employee problem, and likely a result of rewards and incentives provided to reps for retaining customers, making it not in their interest to, well, help the customer.  Most call centers spend a lot of time both reviewing recordings and looking at things like call time.  A twenty minute call would be frown upon if the goal was swift address of the customer's request. 
2. I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the live taping of the Pop Culture Happy Hour.  Part one is here.  Part Two should drop tomorrow.
3. I have very little to add to this wonderful post reviewing the sad loss of this man's home when an attempt to set a spider on fire got out of control.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Three Interesting Things

1. I have no current needs for wedding planning, but find the idea of a flash wedding planning service quite intriguing.
2. A building at the Glasgow School of Art caught on fire in the spring which was sad and not just because a number of seniors had just installed their senior portfolios for exhibition.  The students were given a chance to participate in an exhibition recently and one of them made use of the ashes from the fire to create her work.
3. I adore this story for a number of reasons.  First of all a knit in protest sounds wonderfully appealing.  (I mean, if one must hang out in an office awaiting an audience, knitting is totally the way to go.)  Plus, the writer has carefully mentioned what project one of the arrested protesters was knitting. 

Monday, July 07, 2014

About Fictional Lunch Tables

I once had someone tell me that if they read another YA that started with the explanation of where all the stereotypes sat in the lunchroom, they would scream.  I run into less of them these days, but they were thick on the ground for a while, and while certainly everyone has memories that involve staring at a roomful of people trying to figure out where you should sit, there are things about fictional lunch tables that annoy me.  So, here we go.
I recognize that in fiction there are often economies.  Even in contemporary there's so much world building that throwing in new people every chapter is too much, so while the character may be at a school with hundreds of students, there will likely be 10 or less that get names and character traits.  That's fine.  But, everyone always has the same lunch period.  And that, never happened to me.  There were usually people I liked or was happy to hang out with my lunch period, but all of my friends, all getting the same lunch period, every day? Nope.  Never happened to me. 
Now, I've asked around, and apparently there are some schools that establish one lunch period for everyone.  But, they seem rare.  Mostly because students have different schedules each day.  My high school had a pretty stable schedule, but there would be lab periods, or assemblies that would change things.  My junior year, I had one day that didn't even have a lunch period.  I just kept illegal snacks in my locker to tide me over.  But plenty of schools have A, B, C, etc schedules where it rotates through a period of days so that all the stuff they need to do can be crammed into the short school day. 
And yes, I can see how, in fiction, the lunch period gives these characters a chance to talk, or not talk, when they are not in class.  (Also, these kids who eat in the library when they are feeling sad, uh, there was no eating in my school library.)  But, I actually think the different folks having different schedules could increase the tension.  I think it's a reality that could be used to help. But yeah, try not to have a geography of stereotypes there.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Three Interesting Things

1. I have been trying to build up support for a two day work week, but this doctor in the UK is proposing a 4 day work week.  I assume he means a rolling flex schedule of some sort, particularly since he suggests one advantage might be picking kids up from school suggesting there are still five working days, just maybe we all don't need to work all of them.  (Assuming you are on a five day a week schedule)
2. It's been an unsettling week on a number of fronts, and discovery that Facebook was using the platform to conduct a giant social experiment on it's users does nothing to alleviate that.
3. As a person of faith I found this week's Supreme Court decision unsettling.  I keep writing and discarding posts in part due to extreme sadness that I even have to justify why religion should not exempt you from the law, and why my employer's faith, if I work in a non-religious institution should not be able to dictate access to things my faith does not prohibit.  But equally as worrying is the slippery slope, today it's some forms of birth control, but there are already cases in the pipeline asking for even broader exceptions, and, as this post points out, it also could be used as an excuse for problematic hiring and firing procedures. I can only hope that humans and corporations won't try to take advantage. 
4. And because that's depressing, and it's a holiday week, here - balsamic strawberry brownies

Monday, June 30, 2014

Friend of the Court - Studying Abroad

So, from the people at the Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast, I learned of the Judge John Hodgeman podcast, in which people present their arguments to, well, John Hodgeman for resolution.  I found one episode about a guy who wanted to go abroad for university and ultimately, he thought, to live, but his brother thought that was a lot of distance and money to put toward something that may not be to his liking after all.  Ultimately the brothers were both happy with the outcome, so while I am not really quibbling with the decision, I wanted to present some points on behalf of folks who have dreams of going away to school. 
In the interest of disclosure, I went to the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, sight pretty much unseen.  It was not the only university I applied to, and it was not the only one I applied to I hadn't visited.  I was a DC resident, and, at the time, had no real state options (DC residents now have some refund options that return the difference between in and out of state tuition).  It was not the cheapest place I applied (there was Air Force Academy), but it was well in the middle.  I had watched video footage of the place, talked to recruiters (who, yes, have a bias), and I had traveled to other countries before.
Here are things that I can tell you.  College is a big deal.  It's a big change.  The bureaucracy always functions a little differently than you expect, the people are different, and to me it seemed immediately clear that I was expected to be quite a bit more in charge of myself.  This is going to be true no matter where you go. 
As I didn't end up attending anywhere I had visited, I can't speak to how much that would have helped.  St. Andrews provided an orientation for overseas students, there was also a week of intro to things like clubs and classes and such, so I felt pretty eased into the process.  I was in a small dorm where by the end of a few weeks I knew everyone's name, and I think that helped.  Another US student from near me, had taken his brother's advice to pick the dorm nearest his classes, which had a different vibe and he found his experience ultimately unsatisfying and transferred to a US college at the end of the year. 
But, I think that's pretty true of a lot of students.  It's hard to pick based on visits, or websites, or glossy brochures.  Sometimes you will pick well.  Sometimes you will decide to adapt or make it work.  And sometimes, you will find a better fit elsewhere. 
The podcast folks seemed particularly amazed at the idea that anyone would go so far to a place they'd never been for university.  And, I see what they were saying.  And the guy is a junior in high school so had time to possibly make some money to put towards a visit.  I don't mean to suggest that visiting is a bad idea.  But if he wanted to go to Florida for university I feel like no one would worry so much that he had no idea what he was getting into.  And yes, a different country is different.  More distance is different.  I had another classmate who ultimately took St. Andrews off her list, because she wanted to be able to get home in less than a day.
But, one friend of mine spent a lot of time being asked to provide cultural education to her classmate who was from a town about an our away from the university she attended, and so, he had never talked to a person of color before.  So, it isn't just distance that provides different experiences.  It isn't just the size of the town you are from or go to. 
Now sure, some people go to the same college that half their high school class goes to, and room with people they already know, and take classes with people they already know. So, the different-ness of college is muted a bit for them.  But college still is different.  I had the realization that none of these people knew who I had been in college and found that amazing.  It was true of teachers and professors as well as fellow students.  Had I gone somewhere I knew more people, that still would have held some truth. Teachers and professors don't get copies of the yearbook so they can figure out who their students used to be.  And even if half your high school class is there, there will still be new people and new experiences.  After all, that's the point.