Random Thoughts Because I Miss Writing But Can’t Manage a Full Post

I miss writing on this blog, but I find every time I start to read about topics I’d like to post on I get angry. And then I quit. Who likes to be angry? Not me, I assure you. Instead of a full length post, I’m just going to throw a few things out there:

1. Not wanting to be pregnant is not a reason to not have sex. That’s ridiculous. Sex can be wonderful, and can generally be considered a healthy part of life including when there are no procreative intentions. This goes doubly for straight cis men who say women shouldn’t have sex if they don’t want to get pregnant. I don’t like to be all, “you don’t get an opinion,” but you cannot possibly understand what it means when you say that.

2. A human growing inside a uterus is not a baby. It isn’t. It’s an embryo and then a fetus (at one point it’s a zygote, but we’re not usually aware of it at that time). 

3. Try to become more aware of your own privileges. I’m not saying put yourself on a scale of privilege, but when you start to respond to someone’s story with, “Well I…” stop. Think. Are you trying to negate their experiences with your own? What might differ between you two? Are you adding to the discussion or are you simply trying to overwrite it? 

4. Today I volunteered at a women and children’s shelter for people in abusive relationships. The women I met there are amazingly strong. I feel lucky to have been able to spend 2 hours with them, and I hope my time there did something positive, even if it was just to give someone a chance to talk about whatever they wanted.

5. I am damn lucky that if I ever need to, I can stay with my mom. And if I ever need it, I have many people I can borrow $ from.

Apparently breaking a bone has something to do with preventive or primary care… or not.

However you feel about the ACA, arguments like this are not doing supporters any favors:

healthcare

You cannot ask a 20-something, “What happens if you break your leg?” Hear her response of, “I intend to take personal responsibility for that.” Start in on the emergency-rooms-must-treat laws, then throw out, “The. . . ACA is designed to reduce that most expensive kind of treatment by incentivizing primary and preventive care, because emergency room bills add up fast, and certainly not all of those charges incurred . . . would or could be paid.”

True: ERs cannot refuse you because you are uninsured or cannot pay.

True: The young person that breaks their leg may not be able to pay their bills out of pocket.

False: Primary and/or preventive care has something to do with this example.

False: The ACA will somehow reduce “that most expensive kind of treatment” when someone suddenly breaks a bone.

The emergency room thing is true, and had the journalist presented the idea that paying for insurance will prevent unpaid bills from effectively being foisted on taxpayers outright, that’d be fine. Instead, we are introduced with, “ERs cannot refuse care” and led into incentivizing primary and preventive care… Sorry, is there a vaccine to prevent us from breaking bones? Because if so, I’d like that, please.

The only way this works is if we’re not talking about “young invincibles” and are instead talking about the elderly population prone to osteoporosis.

Receipt

JCP Customers Choose to Pay More Money for the Same Products

I am not much of a shopper, but when JC Penney announced a one low price model I was intrigued. I started to enjoy shopping at JCP because I knew that, unlike at the majority of other similar stores, I would get the best price (not including clearance pricing) on that item possible no matter when I made my purchase.

Never would I make a purchase and then discover the next day that it went on sale for 40% off *cough*Kohl’s*cough*. Never would I feel pressured to make a purchase because there is a chance it’s at its lowest-ever price. Never would I have to feel annoyed at the mind games they play with shoppers with coupons, sales, doorbusters, and the like.

Unfortunately, it would seem that most American consumers like to have the wool pulled over their eyes. They prefer to feel like they are getting a good deal over actually getting a good deal. The most recent evidence of this is JCP’s rational pricing disaster. Long time customers expressed anger that they no longer got special slips of paper to carry in to the store to get “low” prices. Scandal!

JCP fired Ron Johnson, the person behind the one low price model, and has returned to inflating prices so they can make it look as if they’re charging you less (when really they are charging more – got that?).

Maybe the advertising strategy failed to reach the right people, or maybe too many American consumers like being tricked into paying more while feeling like they’re paying less. Regardless of the why, I’d like to show you the what. You may not realize this, but by demanding the situation of price discrimination and fluctuation that comes with sales and coupons, JCP shoppers effectively raised the price they will pay.

Case in point: American Living dress.

I needed a dress for a wedding. I saw an American Living dress that I liked, and purchased two in two colors. One is the clearance version – from last season and in blue. The other is the full priced version – this season and eggplant/purple although a blue was available. The dresses are nearly identical.

I’m showing you the blue dress for contrast, but the eggplant dress illustrates the pay-more-while-pretending-we-pay-less phenomenon all on its own thanks to a handy little thing called a sticker.

Blue Dress:

Original Price: $55  Clearance Price: $26.99

Eggplant Dress:

Original Price: See photos below. Bought on sale at price: $59.99

This is a photo of the eggplant dress price tag.

Eggplant Price tag - at first glance

If you look closely, though, that $80 is a sticker. So what’s underneath?

Eggplant price tag MSRP

Cross out with black marker all you want, JCP, we can see what’s going on with a little brightness and contrast adjustment on the photo. That’s an $80 price sticker on top of a $55 MSRP.

Want to see the blue dress sticker? No tricks and games here:

blue price tag

Okay, so what did I pay for that eggplant dress?

Receipt

I paid $59.99 during a 25% off sale. I paid more for that eggplant dress than the $55 MSRP. That’s what coupons and sales do. Stores can’t count on a set amount of revenue from the items they sell, so they end up charging you more. By refusing to bask in the luxury of knowing the price of an item, JCP shoppers complained their way into higher prices.

Yes, this is one example, and yes, I haven’t proven statistically that this is what happens. I admit those weaknesses, but do you really doubt the truth of what I’m saying? The only way a place like Kohl’s can offer the same shirt for a range of prices between $6 and $12 is if their “sale” price is actually close to where they want their profit margin to sit.

If you’re wondering, I plan on returning the eggplant dress (keeping the blue) and closing my JCP account.

In case you want to see the dresses:

Eggplant American Living DressBlue American Living Dress

How Many Times has the World Ended?

I have a pretty cool graphic to share with you from OnlinePsychologyDegree.net. I know that URL might make you a bit skeptical, but it’s worth seeing. It’s pretty cool.

As you know I scoff at all the end-times predictions out there, mostly because they are always based on very silly ideas. This graphic makes it abundantly clear I’m right to feel that way. Fool me once and all that. I do have to say I’d be interested to hear just how many times in Western history the end of the world has been widely predicted and believed.

Please Include Attribution to OnlinePsychologyDegree.net With This GraphicEnd of the World Infographic

“Religion Hurts Humanity” Video Series

Just want to recommend you check out this YouTube channel, recommended to me by a reader that is also the creator of the series.

The videos probably deserve a trigger warning if you’re anything like me – they are video collages of current events showing religion gone wrong. From physical attacks to vitriolic slurs, the videos are a prime and hard-hitting expose of the many different ways religion is perverted and twisted by humans to hurt other humans every day in every corner of the world.

It’s almost like religion is all right until it enters the minds of the masses.

Er, is it appropriate to say, “Enjoy!”?

Oberlin: How Can People Be Threatened By Words? Easy.

People amaze me, sometimes in the worst of ways. Again it’s the comments. Always the comments.

Oberlin is having some issues with racism, homophobia, anti-semitism and possibly other things. The popular conclusion seems to be that it’s a very small group of people spreading hate. It probably is a small group; a small group of people can be scary. A small group of people can do a lot of damage psychologically and physically. Take a moment to consider what a group of 5 people* can accomplish in a community of around 3000.

One commenter on this article took it upon himself to talk about how not scary words are.

ronnie lane comment ronnie lane comment 2

Ronnie Lane if you do not understand how words can frighten and hurt people, then I can only presume you are entirely insensitive to what people who are noticeably different from those around them often go through.

You quote Novack as saying he doesn’t believe there is any word that needs to be suppressed. That, I believe, is true. However, there are words that need to be used constructively, not destructively. There are words of which, as a society, we need to work to eliminate the destructive usage. I don’t mean laws, I mean societal values.

When someone calls a black person the “n” word in a derogatory manner – that is something we as a society need to suppress by making it clear that that attitude or belief is unacceptable. As a society, as a culture we need to develop values that ostracize – yes, ostracize – those members of our society that can’t learn to get along. I’d like to eliminate racism even in the privacy of the home, but I’d be okay with eliminating the (now-)acceptable public/semi-public demonstration of it. That means I’d be okay if children of all colors and creeds could be friends  with one another, no questions asked. I’d like if our socio-economic classes were impossible to judge by our skin – that is I’d like statistical equality, so being white or Asian or black or Hispanic could never be a predictor of socio-economic class. Wouldn’t it be great if our chances at a job or a spot in a school could not be predicted by anything other than our merit, if everyone truly had an equal potential to get to a point in life where applying for a career track job or university was a possibility?

When someone calls a woman a bitch derogatorily, when a person treats a Hispanic person as if they are automatically stupid, when someone calls an Asian an “Oriental” as an insult – these are the things that society should react to. We should react, not with government censorship, but with societal censure. To the racist, the sexist, the homophobic, the anti-Semites we should react with harsh criticism. Harsh societal criticism. The local newspapers should refuse to publish letters to the editor that are openly or overtly hostile to a race or religion or sex or sexual orientation or gender or what have you. Friends should confront, family should confront, strangers should confront. It’s not that I think we need hostility in these situations, but we need, “How can you think that way? what could make you think that way?”

At the same time that we need more tough questions, we need more open discussion. We need less accusations of racism when people are simply struggling for words. I certainly find it difficult, coming from a position of relative privilege, to try to discuss race without sounding racist. (Homophobia, religious bigotry, and sexism I have a much easier time discussing.) We need to establish ways to have tough discussions, and we need to come together. There are the straw-men – those that aren’t racist or bigoted or anti-Semite – and there are the real ones. How we identify these mystifies me, but we need to work harder to do so. We need to find a way to talk about our societal problems without attacking each other, without condemning one another so quickly. We need to mingle more in society, rather than segregating ourselves by political party, religion, lack of religion, race, sex, gender identity, etc.

We need a lot of things. I’m sure most of what I’ve written sounds lofty and idealistic. I know it’s a slow process, but doesn’t anyone else feel like we’ve lost the key parts of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s “I have a dream” speech? What is wrong with our society that on a college campus, arguably one of the most liberal places you can find on the planet, people are running around like it’s the 1950s trying to intimidate and scare people based on some arbitrary status? And can we please have a discussion about race where all the races involved are actually present and represented?

How can people be threatened by words? Easy. People act on words. They may only write the words down, but they may also write racial slurs and follow up with an attack. What can 5 people do? To one, they could kidnap, beat, potentially rape, murder, steal from, cause PTSD. 5 kids can hurt one lonely child easily. 5 adults or teens have been known to do horrible things. Even one single adult can single-handedly wreak havoc on a community with words and actions.

Words are powerful. They can be scary, in much more than just a figurative way. There’s a reason yelling “fire” in a crowded theatre is illegal. There’s a reason there is a charge called “making terroristic threats” and a reason you can be charged for that without threatening en masse. Words terrorize. Symbols terrorize. Marking a community with the wrong words in the wrong way shuts people off from one another, it segments our population, it makes us suspicious and hateful of one another. Encouraging free speech is not the same as allowing racist remarks to go unchecked or un-censured.

*5 is an arbitrary number

**Truth: I really wanted to rant about the commenter above appearing to be white and male, but he may be of a low class, he could be gay, he could be a she – “Ronnie” is ambiguous – or trans, he could be very oddly strong-minded, he could even be delusional. I made assumptions about him at first (white and male, how much more privileged could you get in the US?), but I guess it’s better not to rant about something when I don’t know the facts.

 

Facebook Memes, formerly chain letters aka Use a Little Critical Thinking

Okay, I know how old this poem is. I don’t think it will be new to most of you. The only reason I’m posting on it is because I’m sick of the misinformation. Don’t bother to criticize or praise the poem, please.

(If you’d like to donate to MADD, go here. I’d also encourage you to seek out other possible places to donate – be skeptical and critical!)

“Somebody Should Have Taught Him” is a poem “reprinted with permission” of Jane Watkins that was published in the first volume of Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul. Seems to me that means she owns the copyright, which may mean she created it or perhaps just wrote it down. The poem is from 1996, but resurfaces every few years with a bogus story attached – or at the very least an unverifiable story. These stories range from it being an e-mail chain letter “petition” by MADD to (see below) a Facebook post with a claim that a reporter listened to a dying girl speak the words and then wrote them down.

Oddly, someone has taken the rhyming out of the poem this time, perhaps to pretend it’s not plagiarism? Granted, it seems the author either never wanted to stop plagiarism or gave up on trying a long time ago.

Poem by Jane Watkins, available in Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul, here altered to be prose-like rather than a rhyming poem.

Poem by Jane Watkins, available in Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul, here altered to be prose-like rather than a rhyming poem.

Okay, let’s face it: No person short of maybe Shakespeare lying on pavement, in shock, and dying of blood loss and serious trauma could get those words out of their mouth. If you read the original, this becomes even less believable. Why do people make up stories like this? Isn’t the poem enough?

It’s not exactly high poetry, but the original has a pretty strong rhythm and a powerful message for the intended audience – young teens. It’s poignant, even if we don’t like to admit it. Lying about the thing and altering it to contain fewer rhymes doesn’t contribute in any way to, well, any part of the situation.

Then, there’s this photo accompanying it on Facebook:

driving reenactment

I think the audience is supposed to believe the photo accompanies the reporter/dying girl situation. Yet I’m pretty sure this is a reenactment. Not positive, but think about a few things:

  • It’s broad daylight and the pictured are wearing formal dance clothing
  • The windshield is peeled back and the girl is lying in the nice, cleanly open space.
  • The car in the background is crunched all to hell, but the white car does not appear to be crunched on the corresponding side. In other words, these appear to be two car that were in accidents, but not with each other.
  • There’s a man standing calmly to the right of the photo holding a pole of sorts. A sign for the audience, perhaps?
  • Where are the emergency workers? The blanket to cover what we can assume is supposed to be a deceased victim? They never leave victims of accidents like this uncovered for long.
  • Again, it’s broad freaking daylight. That looks like red corn syrup to me.

A little skepticism, please? Maybe, if you must, share the facebook post with a caveat? “Poem taken from Jane Watkins, there’s no actual petition/movement/etc – mostly I just want you to not drink and drive.”

If you’d like to donate to MADD, go here.

The Gilded Age II

Sometimes people actually write decent comments on articles. The New York Times just published “The No-Limits Job” about, essentially, people in my generation working ridiculous hours for ridiculously low pay or no pay at all. While most commenters seemed busy defending their choice to work too much for too little, “Change for the Better” brought up something that I, at least, worry about. How are the changes in the landscape of entry-level positions changing the outlook for equality, social justice, and socio-economic mobility?

Change for the Better   West Coast

NYT Pick

With high unemployment of college graduates, MBA’s and graduate students, this is unfair labor practice. Many organizations– libraries, clinics, animal shelters, hospitals, businesses– use free labor, consequently the pool of unemployed people who can’t work for free increases.

Meanwhile, graduates without “experience” are passed over, keeping this type of almost slave labor supplied with a steady pool of highly educated, motivated labor. However, those in the lower socio-economic echelons don’t have parents who can subsidize this, which leads to greater inequality.

Most often this is called ‘efficient” or clever, but it is costly in the overall health of our society. Thank you for writing this article.

March 2, 2013 at 1:21 p.m.

I’m not looking for sympathy for my generation or the socio-economic class I grew up in. It’s just that I worry about the cultural values taking root right now.

I’m fine with a full 40 hours worth of a work week. That amount of time offers a fair balance to work and life. What does it say if we are not only willing, but expected to put in far more than that? 50, 60, 70 hours a week?

Not only are those types of work weeks mentally and physically exhausting, they cannot be good for productivity. I know that for me just knowing I’ll be working more than 8 hours slows my productivity, no matter what I try to prevent it. Add the mental and physical exhaustion that accompanies working that much and what do you get? Quite honestly, shoddy work. It is not possible to churn out the best products, analyses, etc. if you are running on exhaustion-levels of sleep.

So what do we value exactly? Not good work, not work-life balance, not making sure workers are at the very least healthy and sane. Apparently we value big time-spenders.

If you can spend your time without much return, you get to be slightly promoted to get slightly closer, but not much, to what your time is worth.

Welcome to the Second American Gilded Age, friends, but this time without the economic growth.

Have I mentioned how negative I’ve been feeling lately?