Thursday, October 11, 2012


Friday Fragments

- With much of selective higher ed focused on the Supreme Court and its impending declaration on affirmative action in admissions, I’m grateful again to be at a community college.  Here, affirmative action in admissions is a non-issue; we take all comers.  We have our own legal and political challenges, heaven knows, but not that one.  

- The Girl: “Why do some people “reckon” when they believe?”  I didn’t have an answer for that.

- The company that owns Red Lobster and the Olive Garden is reducing the hours of its part-time employees to avoid responsibility for health insurance under Obamacare.  Some folks on the interwebs are pronouncing themselves shocked, and others are declaring a failure of Obamacare.  It’s neither shocking nor a sign of failure; it’s perfectly predictable self-interest.  

As long as health care is tied to employment, and the employment in question has a clear cutoff in terms of hours, employers will skirt that line to avoid paying.  Those who don’t will fall behind those who do.  In higher ed, the explosion of adjunct faculty positions was based on the same idea.  But it isn’t confined to adjuncts; the same principle applies to part-time staff below a certain threshold of hours.  In the corporate world, the explosion of “temps” and unpaid interns reflects the same premise.

Go ahead and vilify the Olive Garden if it makes you feel better.  But it’s only playing by the rules.  If you want real change, change the rules.  Decouple health care from employment.  Make it a basic citizenship right, paid for collectively and controlled democratically.  And let people who would really prefer part-time work take it, without having to worry about what happens when they get sick.

- This week, we had the third catastrophic hard drive failure in a year.  (It’s the fourth laptop disaster; the other one was a cracked screen.)  The pattern seems to be that once the kids get access to a laptop, the hard drive’s days are numbered.  

The Wife has pronounced herself sick of technology, but she still needs access to email and Facebook, and I’ve still got obligations of my own.  I’m considering something with a solid state drive, on the theory that it would be sturdier, but I’m having a hard time finding anything other than tablets -- which I’m not sure would work well for our purposes -- or chromebooks, which I think of as tablets with keyboards.  

Is there a hard drive gremlin on the loose?  Is there a kid-proof laptop out there?  Are solid state drives actually sturdier?  Would a tablet actually work for, say, uploading photos to Picasa?  I’m stumped.  All I know for certain is that I’m done with Toshiba.

- I haven’t been able to shake this story all week.  Apparently, the number of words to which children are exposed before age six is the single strongest predictor of later academic success.  Kids with educated parents who spend time with them accrue such a powerful advantage over other kids that the deck is stacked by the time they get to first grade.

(As parents, we stacked the deck early; we have a picture of me reading The Runaway Bunny to The Boy in the hospital, the day after he was born.  By age two, he was such a fan of books that we had to hide them under the sofa just to get him to do anything else.)

It seems like the painfully obvious solution to the class gap is to pay preschool and early childhood teachers well enough to attract professionals to the job.  As long as daycare workers are paid something close to the minimum wage, kids who don’t get exposure to educated language at home won’t get it in class, either.  

Working in higher ed, though, the implications seem defeatist.  We get students long beyond the early childhood years.  I have to believe that 18 year olds -- and 38 year olds, for that matter -- are still reachable.  If I didn’t, I’d have to find another line of work.

Many modern laptops (other than Macs, which increasingly limit what you can do) support solid state drives. I just got a 256 GB solid state drive from Crucial for $202. It is so tiny, yet so big!

You can do it - unscrew your laptop cover and insert the SSD.

Of course, this doesn't necessarily mean your data will be safe. Back. up. regularly. Every day. It's worth it.

(first time commenting, long-time supporter)
If the best staff go to other restaurants, it could be penny wise and pound foolish. There might be a risk, however. If the reality is that "Darden Restaurants Inc" makes the hiring decisions rather than the small restaurant, they can't pretend that they have fewer than 50 employees per building means they have fewer than 50 employees.

Your story about words is scary, beyond the fact that many kids are not read to because their parents can't read. My dad read me the evening paper every night, which has a lot more words than the story books we also had. I'd suggest making newspapers more widely available, except that newspapers are fading away.
Linguistics reckons that some say "reckon" because languages change. (And change isn't bad, it just is. Else thou wouldst berate thyself for saying "you do" as ere thou didst when speaking to one, in place of "thou dost.") Some of that change is lexical. Overlap in words can happen. Semantic drift can happen. Individuals and groups, over time, can prefer one choice over another. Bucket vs. pail. Soda vs. pop. Things can change again and again. Linguistics joke: What's the definition of a language? A: the dialect with the best army.

TG's interest is cool. Don't let her fall into the trap of thinking that different is bad. Language is the one realm where people (yes even the highly educated, perhaps especially them, with their rightful pride in their education) often maintain prejudices which they would not even think they held. "I just lament their bad grammar." Preferring one system/genre over another in certain contexts, say, educational discourse, is socially determined, by those in power. Perhaps we need a standard: I certainly think we do. But a standard is just that, and it is not better than the systems "those people" grew up with. I happened to grow up with a dialect on which the standard is based: I therefore find using the standard easy. Others don't find it quite so easy, but that's normal, not lamentable, or worthy of disdain. See the joke above.

Sorry for the rant. Teachable moment.
Laptop suggestion: if the kids accessing the computer seems correlated with death of the hard drive, then how about buying a new drive for the current laptop, declaring it the TB/TG laptop, and getting another laptop for TW and DD?

I can imagine that certain kid apps spawn CPU and disk hungry jobs that consume resources. I think it was in the mid-1990s when I heard a joke about java providing jumping jelly beans on the screen in exchange for rich access to your personal information stored on the computer.

At least a separate laptop would enable testing out the kids-using-it hypothesis. You could even buy two disks now, and clone the first onto the second. When the first crashes, in goes the second, and then you clone a new backup. It's a little odd (okay, maybe a bit odd) but it could work.
"As long as health care is tied to employment, and the employment in question has a clear cutoff in terms of hours, employers will skirt that line to avoid paying. Those who don’t will fall behind those who do."

So why didn't you run in the primaries, like you said you would a while back?

I'm hard on my laptops, as is my kid. I haven't had a hard drive failure yet, so my solution thus far has been to buy from a company that offers a good multi year comprehensive warranty (I usually go with Dell). The warranty doesn't make sense for most people, but they have more than paid for themselves in my household.
TG is probably a little young for it but Melvyn Bragg's "The Adventure of English" is a fascinating read on the evolution of the English language but told in a relatable sense.

My mom was a HS english teacher before becoming a principal then registrar so reading was a huge part of my life growing up. I noticed that early reading and how we learned to read (phonics vs whole language) made a huge difference among my friends that enjoyed and excelled at it.

My husband, who is just brillant, does not enjoy reading. I think it's because, in part, his parents didn't have reading as a household activity. He's got a double master's from Hopkins in engineering but there are times when I have to explain words to him or how to sound them out and to extrapolate meaning.

Solid state hard drives are more durable against physical damage (dropping, shaking). You won't find many computers that come with a SSD standard, so you probably shouldn't be looking at pre-configured computers like those sold at most physical stores. Online retailers where you customize the specs are better bets. For example, Dell lets you choose a SSD for many (all?) of its computers.
Olive Garden may claim that its decision is prompted by Obamacare, but P/T employees have been cut back to 29 hours for years to prevent health insurance eligibility.
Apple's MackBook Air comes standard with a flash drive and there are options for that in the MacBook Pro.

It might provoke some howls from the younger generation but I think I'd hold out for a desktop computer for their use. Keep it out in public view so you can monitor its use and the desktop is much more durable.
My husband's company (restaurant business) had a meeting in which several area managers were told that they'll be reducing hours for staff as well, because of Obama Care. My husband was frustrated because he doesn't know how he's supposed to built a strong staff when the staff will have to work 2 jobs just to make ends meet because they'll not have FT work. Additionally, the people at the meeting laid into how this is a failure on the president's part. There will not be many other places for staff to go for reasonable options.

Our kids have a Nabi -- it's a tablet designed for kids 4 - 10, and costs $200. It does everything small kids want a computer to do (doesn't have a keyboard, though). It has helped save our better computers from them.
Cutting back employees' hours to skirt the insurance requirement isn't the only problem at Darden. Restaurant workers have also launched a Dignity at Darden campaign over wage theft and a lack of paid sick days.
It was clear if there was a cause and effect relationship, or if hearing more words was just another byproduct of having affluent parents.
Children born in the winter have better life prospects than those born in the summer. This correlates directly to affluence. I'd bet the word thing does too.
Children born in the winter have better life prospects than those born in the summer. This correlates directly to affluence. I'd bet the word thing does too.
For all the warts of the Canadian system, I'd still take it over an HMO any day of the year.
Kids born in the winter are also 10% older than the other kindergardeners. Makes a big difference, and it's why IQ tests are normed to the child's age in months. It's also why professional soccer players are almost all born in January (or so I'm told - I've never met one)
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