30.3.12

Links Galore

  • Hate make-up?  Read about the Naked Face Project.  At the very least you'll declutter your make-up "collection"
  • And while we're on the minimalist theme, try Project 333 for your clothes.
  • Wondering what to do with all those old electronic devices? Wonder no longer.
  • Looking for YourNextRead? I actually found some interesting suggestions here!

22.3.12

Gulp

Writing what is quite possibly the most important letter of my life...

19.3.12

Review Review

I haven't read this book, but Alice sent me the review with the query "What's your take on her comments about "Living Alone"?" So, herewith my take:

I agree with PB's concerns about how the book's author portrays living alone: as a sign of failure in relationships, as somehow unsatisfying and unmooring because our friends are all living in relationships and with children.  Here's one of PB's thoughts:
Klinenberg’s research is good but I am disappointed by his insistence on framing the decision to live alone as super courageous or in some way almost radical. Maybe it’s because living alone is so overwhelmingly my own natural preference that I just don’t related to what he describes.Demographically, yes. Emotionally, not really. I think if he was giving a talk on the subject, his “Wow, singletons are such PIONEERS, here’s what we’ve learned about these fascinating creatures” lens would probably cause me to get up and leave. Not because he’s offensive, but because I just can’t relate to that attitude. It actually makes me feel like a weirdo for living alone, when I never feel like a weirdo for living alone.
Now, PB is a minister, so her experience of her days and life is very different from mine working in a school.  When people ask me why I haven't had children (recognizing that I'm a little too old to actually have children at some point in my life), my response is usually "I work with [insert number of enrolled students] on a daily basis, I don't need to come home to more!".  NOTE: that is in no way a condemnation of those who both work in a school and have children!  I am awed by their decision.  But it's not for me.

Like my decision to not have children, my desire to live alone isn't because of some failure.  It's because  at heart, deep down, I'm selfish.  Really.  Living with someone means that you can't do what you want, eat what you want, sleep when you want, that you have to take them and their needs into consideration.  I've lived with someone (Thing One, for 12 years) and lived on my own (15 years bracketing that time) and living alone is better.  Except when I'm sick, when I absolutely want someone there to bring me tea and orange juice and toast and an extra blanket.  Other than that, I'd prefer to be alone.  Actually, the perfect set-up, the one I dream about, is connecting homes (eg, apartments side-by-side, a house with a granny flat) so I can have the best of both worlds.

When I speak with others my age who choose to live alone, mostly they're in agreement: living alone is essentially a selfish act, but also a brave one.  Some people need to be with others all the time, uncomfortable in silence and being alone (aka "left to their own devices"), and it appears that those are the people the author interviewed.

Back to PB:
Every day that I unlock the parsonage door and let myself in to the blessed silence, beauty and order of my home, I say a prayer for all those who have to open the door in fear or anxiety, rather than in joyful anticipation. Every day that I lived with boyfriends — no matter how much I adored them — was awkward and self-conscious for me, as I did not know how to find peace with another person in such close quarters.
So true.

Reading the comments, I learned that the author, Eric Klinenberg, is a sociology professor at NYU.  So no surprise that he takes a very negative view of living alone, that he sees negative social consequences and that his analysis is facile.  To give him a fair chance, I watched his AfterWords appearance.  He tended to praise with faint damns those of us who choose to live alone, particularly those of us who had previously lived with someone (apparently we'd prefer to live with someone, but life hasn't led us to the right person and after having failed once we're afraid to fail again... or something like that).

And now I've spent too much time and effort dealing with this book, the review, his interview and the whole concept, none of which actually deserved the time I've spent.  Back to my books and my solitude.

17.3.12

And more on "resigned"

Uncle Anchises left me the following e-mail:
I was unable to leave a comment on your page - either there's some fluke in the program or in my computer - but no matter, I'll tell you here.  That investment houses don't think of their clients' welfare I'm sure is true, especially after the houses changed from partnerships to corporations.  But there is an exception to the rule in their wealth management departments because the results can easily be seen and compared to those of other houses and they are in competition with one another for those accounts.  The aim of course is the same, to make money, but here the client benefits because the aim of the house and that of the client are in sync
True, the wealth management departments do need to compete.  That doesn't mean they like, or respect, their clients.  And the way they treat the people who don't bring in clients, the ones actually doing the work?  Shameful.

Unsurprisingly, Goldman's CEO defends the company.  I'm wondering when the last time he actually knew what was going on in his company's trenches was - at Thing One's company, people are even afraid to fill out those "anonymous" employee questionnaires honestly.  These people should really do the Undercover Boss routine.

Finally, a gentleman in Toronto shares why he left Bay Street (which is Canadian for "Wall Street').

16.3.12

Resigned

Have you read that resignation Op-Ed?  The one about leaving Goldman Sachs?  Go on. I'll wait here while you do.  I'll even wait while you read about Darth Vader's resignation... and the Slate versions.

Here's my problem with the parodies: they detract from the very real message in the original.  I've been around people who work in the financial industry for 25 years now (Thing One has worked in investment banks since the early 80s, and we met at one in 1987; we have friends who work at other houses than the one he works at, the one that went from Blech to Mediocre).  If you listened to them at any point during the past 20+ years you'd have heard the same complaints.

The thing is, the people I know aren't Big Important Executives.  They're the people who keep things ticking, ensuring that the Big Important Executives get their Big Huge Bonuses while hearing that they'll get no raise, profit sharing and that their bonus will be 50-70% of total (in other words, if you were supposed to get a $1,000 bonus, you'd actually be getting $500-750).  They've known that their employers - at some of the most important, oldest and well-known financial institutions in this country - care nothing for their clients, let alone the vast majority of their ground-level employees.

Truly, you'd be appalled at the way these Big Important Executives treat the people who work for them, and at how messed up things are (Senior Vice Presidents in charge of projects about which they know nothing, promise unrealistic deadlines and send all consequences from that ignorance down to the lowest possible level while avoiding them themselves).  And that money you've worked so hard for? That you're entrusting to them to help grow?  Good luck with that.  It's safer sewn into your mattress.

I'm not saying that this is the only industry that's got problems, or that has unhappy employees.  Far from it.  What I'm saying is, this guy has spoken truth to power and I worry that message is being lost in the parodies and in the idea that it's just Goldman.  It's not "just Goldman", it's an industry-wide mindset and it's time something was done about it.

9.3.12

Links Galore

Today — do not be angry.
Today — do not worry.
Today — be kind to yourself and others.
Today — be honest to yourself and others.
Today — work diligently. 
– Usui Sensei, 1865-1926 (via)

7.3.12

These people are nuts

At the risk of opening an old wound, this is why I think people who believe that shopping at Trader Joe's somehow makes them better people are nuts: Insane Lines Just To Get In: Sunday Afternoon At Trader Joe's On Court - look at the photos and read the comments (this is the TJ's around the corner from Thing One).  The photos don't show the frequently double parked cars blocking one of the busiest intersections in Brownstone Brooklyn.

Now, within a few blocks of this store there is:
And if New York grocery stores were allowed to sell alcohol, there is a beverage distributor and wine store nearby.

All of these offer more choices, more personalized service, cheaper prices and (the A&P excepted) you're supporting a local business rather than a national chain.  I'm still completely baffled as to why anyone would stand in lines for that long just to go into a rather mediocre grocery store with inflated prices and extreme snob appeal.