Buy Nothing Day

I am not a huge fan of Buy Nothing Day.  Not because I feel it’s important to shop today.  But because the campaign presupposes that everyone in the US who doesn’t subscribe to the “Buy Nothing Day” ideal WILL be buying things on Friday.

Um…no.

Some of us don’t have Friday off work.

Some of us don’t celebrate a gift-giving holiday soon.

Some of us have already finished our holiday shopping.

Some of us don’t give a lot of a gifts.

Some of us don’t have the money.

Some of us don’t like crowds.

Some of us … shock, gasp … just don’t really care.  

I’ve also seen tweets pointing out that not buying things on Friday will harm retail workers.  Maybe it will, maybe it won’t.  Still, I’m (probably) going to work a 10-hour day instead of buying things I don’t want or need.

Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding can  help others improve their lives, like:

It also creates neat things – some I’ve contributed to have created things like recording “Release The Cello” or


(….and pretty much The Doublclicks’ next year.…)

Another interesting campaign right now is Fattitude: A Body Positive Documentary.

Are there other campaigns you’re supporting now?

I wrote more about crowdfunding – with references on how to make it work – here.

I Read This And It Changed My Life

Readers like to talk about books they’ve read.  And one thing you’ll hear about sometimes is “this book changed my life.”   Maybe it was a book that made you feel less alone, or changed how you see the world, or inspired you.

But sometimes they’re more mundane than that.

Dealing with my father’s finances reinforced for me how differently I deal with finances than my parents did.  And a big reason why is that I read Personal Finance For Dummies by Eric Tyson shortly after I graduated college.   There are probably other books that could’ve done the job, but this was the one I found and that worked for me.  It was accessible, practical, and yes, inspiring.  This book encouraged me to reduce and track my spending, to pay off my college loans early, and to live differently than my parents had shown me.

It may not be what most people mean by “this book changed my life.” But I no longer get daily phone calls from creditors. That’s a big enough thing to me.

Necessary, but not sufficient

Money is not sufficient for happiness. Money is necessary to avoid certain forms of unhappiness.

It’s really not that complicated. It only appears complicated to those who: A) have enough money; and B) don’t have enough happiness.

The word they don’t understand there is “enough.” This is not entirely their fault, because much of our culture is based on preventing any of us from understanding that word. But it’s a really important word — particularly when the subject is happiness.

— Fred Clark at Slacktivist

US: Where Your Taxes Go

It’s tax season in the US.  It feels like it’s always tax season, since we’re always debating taxes, but now’s when we’re actually doing our own personal returns.

Last year the White House put up a calculator to show the breakdown of where taxes go in the system.  It’s still up, even if it’s a bit out of date, and I plugged in some numbers.

Tax breakdown from WhiteHouse.gov

Screenshot from WhiteHouse.gov

Tax policy can be boring and complicated. It also affects society. The US has varied tax rates (and it’s certainly not alone in that) for the federal income tax. It also has a flat payroll tax on wages for Medicare and on the first $110,100 earned for Social Security.

What does this mean in practice?

I have a higher-than-average income from my job and no investment income, so I pay the payroll and income taxes.  OTOH, I live in Washington State, so I don’t have a state income tax.

Kickstarter, Storytelling, and A Kitten

People are talking about Kickstarter a lot.  Indie musician Marian Call, who organizes some of the most organized shows I’ve helped with,  organized a very successful Kickstarter for her first-ever tour of Europe.  And did the tour, and has released the live album that the Kickstarter promised.  Oh…and blogged about it.

A lot of it comes down to making sure you will have supporters, and not expecting them to sent by central casting.  Pre-Kickstarter, Marian had done other fundraisers, both quiet ones and auctions. She knew who would want to contribute and what they’d want.  Marian also has 3 bullet points that are variations on “know your audience”, “respect them too” and “like your audience”. But she also points out the financial side:

[Once] you deduct 10% for Kickstarter/Amazon and then 15% for taxes, and then you really add up the cost of fulfillment, you might be earning only $2-3 at your reward level that seems to profitable. [On the NUMBER SMASH page of my public budget] I calculated what each reward level would cost me, and then I wondered how many people would go for higher-return vs. lower-return rewards. What would people buy the most of?  If everyone went for necklaces & USB drives, could I still actually afford to do my trip?  I worked through a couple different scenarios to get a good estimate of what rewards would cost me — and how much I would need to ask for to wind up with $7,000 to make it to Europe & back (the answer is about $11,000, so $4000 would go into fees & fulfillment).

And:

Does anyone want you to make the thing you want to make? Are people clamoring for it? Because — this is an important distinction — there is art you make because other people want you to make it, and there is art you make because you must make it. [….Y]ou only want to crowdfund something people want and need and get super excited about.  [If they don’t]  I’m not saying don’t make it. I’m saying fund that thing in another way.

Not everything has an audience.  Or has found their audience, at least.   If you’re interested in Kickstarter, either as a funder or a fundraiser, you may find Marian’s writeup useful. (Also longish and conversational.)

On a more dour note, discussing rape in fiction in her brilliant essay titled “The Rape of James Bond”, Sophia McDougall asks writers to ask themselves:

“Would I ever write a story in which the male hero is raped as part of his origin story, or as the nadir he had to fight back from, or to inspire someone else to take revenge?”

And if you would, yes, I think perhaps you should go ahead and do it. If done very well, and respectfully, it could even help to destigmatise the experience of male survivors. It could help to diminish that sense that rape somehow defines female experience.

And if you would not, ask yourself why not. And if there’s any part of you that answers, that you wouldn’t find a male survivor of rape heroic, that it’s too humiliating to even think about – then, for everyone’s sakes, until you can honestly find a different answer within yourself, you need to not be writing about rape at all.

(links added)

And here’s a video of a kitten playing with a Roomba.  Happy Friday!

International Women’s Day

Happy International Women’s Day.  You might want to check out the free album Talis Kimberley created for International Women’s Day:

On Thursday I saw someone tweet that she’d like to celebrate International Women’s Day but she’ll be busy with “precarious part-time work”, housework, and child care.

This started me thinking.  International Women’s Day isn’t all that big a deal in the US, so I will celebrate by working my salaried professional job at a large company that provides me with vacation, sick leave, and medical insurance.  I have been acting as the technical lead on my team; recently I was promoted to team manager.  Some coworkers have said, “Congratulations on getting the job I thought you already had!”   The primary difference is that I’m officially managing people now.  As this is a big company, this responsibility comes with training videos & documents on management duties and expectations.  I am pleased to have these resources available.

Image courtesy of the Rudd Center Image Gallery

Image courtesy of the Rudd Center Image Gallery

I began working at this company as a temp.  The offer to convert to employee included the largest salary I’ve ever had, a signing bonus, and a stock grant.

What does this have to do with International Women’s Day? Besides that at one point it was International Women Workers Day?

For one thing, women—at least in many countries— have more opportunities now, and I benefit from that.

For another, it shows how far we have to go.  I know that women are more likely to be underrated technically and underpaid compared to male peers in my field. That’s an industry problem.  On a broader scale,  the US is one of the richest (if not the richest) country in the world to not have universal medical care.  How many people in the US die from lack of health insurance?  How many are tied to employers for the benefits?  I grew up with good healthcare (thanks to the Teamsters negotiating my father’s contract) and I had a good public education, but not everyone does. I lived at home, worked part-time, got loans, and completed a computer science degree before starting full-time work.

My parents were working class. Mom completed 8th grade before getting her first full-time job as a maid.  Dad graduated high school and worked in a warehouse; Mom ran a home-based child care business for most of my life. Working in software meant I was making more money than both my parents combined in my early thirties.  I’m a professional who’s brushing against upper middle class, despite being fat and dressing casually.  In some ways I have a charmed life, even though polls show some would rather “give up life or limb” to avoid my life.

I’m not sure I’d have the life I have if I’d been born earlier.   Yes, women have always worked.  Some inspiring women, for me, are  Dorothy Sayers, Dorothy Stimson BullittGrace Hopper, Anita Borg, Mary Gates, and The Rt Rev Barbara Harris.  I’m not sure I would have had the moxie to do what they did.  Then again, I don’t have to.

 


Updated to remove screencap and twitter name of locked tweet that I did not realize was locked.

Quotes: Rich

“The rich are always advising the poor, but the poor seldom return the compliment.”
—Lord Chesterfield

“The poor have sometimes objected to being governed badly; the rich have always objected to being governed at all.”
—Gilbert K. Chesterton

“When a man tells you that he got rich through hard work, ask him: ‘Whose?'”
—Don Marquis

“Americans have so far put up with inequality because they felt they could change their status. They didn’t mind others being rich, as long as they had a path to move up as well. The American Dream is all about social mobility in a sense — the idea that anyone can make it.”
—Fareed Zakaria

“A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone.”
—Henry David Thoreau

Wealth Inequality

You may have seen this chart on the actual, perceived, and ideal distributions of wealth in the US.

Graph showing actual, perceived, and ideal distributions of wealth in the US.

Graph showing actual, perceived, and ideal distributions of wealth in the US.

Wealth inequality refers to this unequal distribution of financial assets among US residents.  It’s related to income inequality, but refers to what you keep as opposed to what you get.  Income inequality has also been increasing in the US.  If you’re wondering where the numbers come from or why this is a problem, check out this video:

And, of course, poor people are less likely to be healthy and more likely to be fat.

More:

NY Times Topics: Income Inequality

NY Times: Inequality is Most Extreme in Wealth, not Income

Washington Post: How fighting income inequality became Obama’s driving force

Wikipedia: Economic Inequality

Thompson and Smeeding, Inequality in the Great Recession – The Case of the United States (PDF)

Oxfam: The cost of inequality: how wealth and income extremes hurt us all

Australian income & wealth inequality

BBC: The Wealth Gap – Inequality in Numbers (UK)

Feel free to include more links in the comments.

Series of quotes: Poor

“Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.”
– Herman Melville

“The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.”
– Anatole France

“When the rich wage war it’s the poor who die.”
– Jean-Paul Sartre

“The trouble with being poor is that it takes up all of your time.”
– Willem de Kooning

“When I feed the poor, they call me a saint, but when I ask why the poor are hungry, they call me a communist.”
– Dom Helder Camara

“If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.”
– John F. Kennedy

Feel free to add more or discuss in the comments ;)

Things to Read

The first thing that makes me wonder about the supposed “skill gap” is that, when pressed for more evidence, roughly 10% of employers admit that the problem is really that the candidates they want won’t accept the positions at the wage level being offered. That’s not a skill shortage, it’s simply being unwilling to pay the going price.
Peter Cappelli

I’ve noticed a tendency to want 10 years of experience but to pay for 1.

Overweight people face bias in many areas of the working world, from job interviews to performance evaluations. For example, studies have found that if two job applicants have identical qualifications, the one who is overweight is more likely to be rated negatively and less likely to be hired.
Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity

Yes, there is research supporting this.  Since most people cannot permanently lose significant amounts of weight, this puts fat people at a disadvantage.

[T]here’s a century of research establishing the undeniable fact that working more than 40 hours per week actually decreases productivity.

— Geoffrey James writing in Inc

I work in software, which likes to pretend this research doesn’t exist.  I’ve been known to take longer lunches to maintain sanity.

Five Things Makes a Post

  1. New job! I have a new job.  The place I was temping hired me in late December.  I’m not doing exactly the same job, which is both “new and scary” and “cool and interesting”.   It’s also been interesting to note that the things I was looking forward to ending with the contract (the commute, say) are now things I’m stuck with, and the things I was thinking I’d miss (the walkability of the neighborhood) are now things I get to enjoy longer.
  2. According to the New York Times, my household is in the top 48% for the Seattle-Everett area this year (based on my unemployment for the first 3 months + contract for 8.5 months + signing bonus + hubby’s temp gig.)
  3. Asthma has been kicking my butt lately.  My nurse practitioner upped my dose of Advair and OMG I had so! much! energy!  this! week!   I have been enjoying it but also crashing harder at the end of the day.
  4. A coworker was floored that I am able to pick up my father’s wheelchair and load it into my car.  I pointed out that once I remove the back and seat, it collapses into a big flatish bundle.  “But isn’t it heavy?”  About 40lbs, really … which doesn’t seem all that much to me.  So I guess the weightlifting is doing me good.
  5. I have been reading more about caregiver stress and considering support groups.  I feel a bit strange about doing it, since I’m not doing the daily hands-on care.  But I am taking him to doctor visits, making medical decisions, getting his mail, managing his money, and being a supportive daughter.

Bonus: The new blog banner is a chocolate doughnut with chocolate frosting and Sounders green and blue sprinkles.  These are sold by http://www.toppotdoughnuts.com/ at Seattle Sounders games.

Thankful Thursday

I think it’s time to do this again.  See, my job was eliminated.  Not fun, but I’m at the stage now where I’m thankful it happened, because:

1) Much less stress.  The old job was changing and had become a bad fit, and now it’s OVER.

2) I qualify for unemployment.

3) …also, we have money saved.  I’m touching wood as I type this, but we’re okay for a while.

4) …and, really? I didn’t want that job anymore anyway.  I started looking for a new job, sporadically—like once a month—in June.    Maybe if I’d rolled faster with the changes I’d still be there, but the “not wanting the job anymore” was a big part of why I didn’t roll with the changes well.  I didn’t mean to be obstructionist, but I became obstructionist because I didn’t want to do heavy lifting to change a job I didn’t want.   It became a negative spiral that I’m glad I’m not in anymore.

5)  Finally, I’ve been able to enjoy the time I spend with the man of the house more.  His support has really helped.

I’m also thankful that my blue blazer I got 5 or 6 years ago still fits and looks great with various tops.  ;)    I’ve had a few interviews, but no offers yet.

Working Wardrobes

During a phone interview today I ended up saying “No, this wouldn’t work” because their corporate dress code is Business Professional, defined as suits or suit-like combinations; ties for men; no athletic shoes allowed.   Refusing to dress up every day for work isn’t all that uncommon a stance for a software person to take in Seattle, but my reasons are a bit different.

You see, in the past 10 years I have found ONE standard Business Professional suit jacket that fits me.   It’s a medium “business” blue, which I pair with black slacks for interviews.  Size? 34W.

Do you know how common suits are in size 34W?  Heck, in anything bigger than size 28?  (Hint:  They’re not.)  I could get away some coordinating jackets and slacks.   Even if I’m just focusing on blazers, though, they’re hard to find.  Oh, and I usually need to go up a size in pants/skirt size than top/jacket, and 34W is really a ballpark; sometimes I can wear a 32W, sometimes I need a 36W.

So, it’s not just that I would have to buy a totally new wardrobe for this job. I have the money in savings, if I felt the job was worth the cost.  It’s that I would have to FIND the appropriate clothing IN MY SIZE for this job.

Yes, some catalogs carry suits in size 34W or 36W.  Making It Big has some suit-like separates, and Plus Woman will make a custom blazer (and skirt and pants to match).  That’s assuming the time lag of ordering, delivery, trying on, arranging alterations, and/or returning clothes that don’t fit doesn’t cause problems.

But what I’d actually want, for that sort of job would be this suit, or possibly this jacket or this one.  None of which are made in my size.  Possibly Rochester Big & Tall could make some serious alterations to a man’s suit … or I’d have to have suits made for me, either by Plus Woman or someone local.

Then there’s shoes.  I wear “walking shoes” because they’re comfortable and supportive.   I only own a couple pairs of dress shoes, and I don’t want to wear them daily.

Fortunately?  Most software jobs in Seattle are strongly influenced by Microsoft.  “Business casual” is often regarded as dressing up.   But if I weren’t in software? This could be a serious drawback to getting work.

Update: I had previously posted about what I usually wear to work here.

Poverty’s Link to Diabetes

[C]onventional wisdom about Type 2 diabetes would suggest that once obesity, lack of physical activity and other lifestyle risk factors were taken into account, diabetes incidence rates would even out between lower- and higher-income groups….

[A recent study found that] for men, being in the lowest-income category (earning less than $15,000 per year), doubles the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes compared to being in one of the highest-income brackets (earning more than $80,000 per year). The risk remains the same when other risk factors are taken into account, such as education, body mass index and physical activity levels.

The findings are even more striking for women in the lowest-income category. For them, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes is more than triple the risk of women in the highest-income category. When education, body mass index and physical activity levels are taken into account, the risk is still well more than double. — CTV

Like other discussion of diabetes risk factors, this is looking at correlation. In looking at other risk factors, a family history of the disease doubles the risk as well.  Other diabetes risk factors that dovetail in with “not enough money” include: stress/cortisol; depression; inadequate sleep; lack of exercise (and while some living in poverty have very physical jobs, they may not get the relaxation and stress-relief benefits that tend to go with leisure-time exercise) and while it’s probably not an official risk factor I doubt that food insecurity would help prevent diabetes.

As if the Biggest Loser wasn’t bad enough…

Now VH1 is doing a version where you not only have to take off work during filming (if your employer allows it) and follow questionable weight-loss procedures but you also have to pay to $10,000 participate!

Most people who have trouble losing weight suffer from a lack of motivation. Now twelve overweight teams enter a weight loss competition like no other. Their motivation is money, their OWN money. Each team must pay an entrance fee of $10,000! If they lose they leave with nothing, but if they win by losing the greatest combined percentage of weight loss, they will walk away with $100,000!

Of course, it may be the $10,000 comes out of each participant’s stipend, but, y’know, suppose it doesn’t.

What else could you do for $10,000?

For $10,000 (plus whatever it costs to take off work) why not just follow a favorite band on tour?   If you can find a room with gym access, you can lift weights in the morning, sightsee (aka walk) each afternoon, dance (aka exercise) during the show, and actually HAVE FUN.

Or you could spend a couple weeks touring Europe or New York or DC or Boston, walking through museums and galleries and shops.   Or a week or two at Disney, or Hawaii.  Lots of walking, and you can probably fit in some weight-lifting.

Or you could put the money into a nice safe money market fund for the next time your dryer or fridge or car dies.

Of course, I don’t know if you’d lose weight doing these other activities.  If you increase your activity level you might get into better shape.   Oh, and you’ll HAVE FUN with the other vacations, and get some piece of mind if you save the money.   And you don’t have producers editing the footage to make a better story.

What would you do if you had $10,000 in savings?

On Acceptance

Fat acceptance is about accepting my body, even though it’s fat.  It doesn’t mean that everyone else is automatically OK with my body.

me, stretching

I know a lot of people don’t accept my fat. Some of them are quite comfortable telling me that it’s not OK for me to be fat.   Sometimes that bothers me.  But more often it doesn’t.

See, I learned something about myself when I majored in computer science in college.

  • I had women outside my major telling it was a mistake, because computers are “icky” and “a guy thing”.
  • I had people at church telling me that it was a mistake, because “that’s a demanding career and when you get married your husband is going to want you to focus on him”.
  • I was urged to get a degree in early childhood education and work with children as preparation for marriage.

I wasn’t married at the time, mind; I wasn’t even dating.  But I was being told to abandon a field I found fascinating and fun to pursue a field I was already tired of, and, oh yes, urged to ensure I would make a lot less money. Why?

So I would do what was expected of me as a woman.
So I would be feminine.

This stressed me out at the time.  I wasn’t happy about it.  But part of what gave me the strength to be a “bad”, “unfeminine” woman was that I already was one.  I was fat. I had broad shoulders and at 5’8″ I hulked over a lot of guys.   I already wasn’t going to fit into the usual feminine mold.   So why shouldn’t I pursue a field I thought was fun and exciting?

Because I was fat, I learned I could survive being different.
Because I was fat, I put less value on being “normal”.
Because I was fat, I became less afraid.

I was also lucky that it was the late 1980s; legally I had doors open to me that might have been closed before.  I did find friends.  My parents did let me live at home and helped me to borrow money for tuition.  I was lucky to get a job right out of school, to do well, and to make friends there.  My career opened more doors to me: within 5 years I was making more than my parents combined.

I also met my first lovers through my work.  Some relationships were what people consider “normal”, some weren’t, but again, I learned from them.   And, again, I didn’t feel I had to constrain myself to fit into the mold marked “normal”, much less “feminine”.

Accepting myself taught me to look beyond what was expected of me as a woman and find what I wanted.  Accepting myself let me get on with my life — and to live my life.

Yes, I would like for the broader culture to be more accepting of fat people — for one thing, it would reduce the negative affects of weight bias and weight-related stress.  But that pales, to me, beside fat people accepting themselves.