Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year: It Could Have Been Worse

Time to say goodbye to the year.
It wasn't as bad as it could have been...it could have been worse.
We were going to really write in more detail, but it's all in the blog already.
2013 was fairly decent to us...
We moved out of mother's house after a year in her basement and bought a house. James got a job, and then a better job. Went to Tweetups (in Minneapolis and London, Ontario, Canada) and met amazing people. Planted and grew our first garden. Got a great (seasonal) job that we're welcome back to in the New Year. Went to the Iowa State Fair. Had some amazing house guests. Returned to University to work on finishing a degree we started 10 years ago. Wrote some great things. Painted some cool paintings. Got wonderful grades.

For the rest of the world...well...it could have been worse (it can always be worse)...but there was a lot of bad shit in 2013. And stupid shit.
And some weird shit...

and finally...we made a little New Year's playlist, just for you...

Monday, December 30, 2013

It's Lost, So You Get This

Truth is we haven't written in so long because we felt the last thing we posted (the essay on Fair Minimum Wage) was important to keep at the top of the page.

This post is largely rambling (we're prone to it); skip past it and read something good that we've written.

We've been struggling with so much down time, feeling inactive is never a healthy thing for us. Sure, we have been working out on the elliptical, but the motor broke the first day of Holiday break and so there's no resistance setting, which makes for a poor workout. Sure, we could clean the house...but who the hell really wants to do that.

It's been hard to muster feelings of excitement for next semester. We've started reading one of the books, but can't find the usual joy in it. We have a lot of reading for next semester too.
It sounds like a stupid thing, but we can't imagine doing too much better than we did last term (4 'A's & 1 'B')...so it feels like there is such a small margin for growth. We did too well too fast. We'll never be able to maintain such a high level of grades. It's all downhill from here.

Stupid defeatist.

We're stuck between wanting to leave the house and go out and do something, and the fact that living in such a remote area means even before we get to said activity we will have already spent $10+ on gas (round trip)...and then once we're out it's just costs more money we don't have. So, instead, the gas money is saved for necessary travel "into the city" (going to the dentist, again. going to an eye doctor. getting a haircut before classed start again).
Not to mention it's so fucking cold. It's so cold in the house...can't imagine what it's like outside (but we have to go to the dentist [again] today, so guess we'll find out).
Plus. There's so many people out there...ick.

Social media distractions have been...mostly ineffective.
We've tried to paint to pass the time, we're probably a couple hours away from finishing one that we've been working on since 2011, and we started another one...but it's just not...as joyful to paint in the winter as it is to paint in the summer with the window open and fresh air and birds...

Image Source
We've been fighting depression for days. It's exhausting. We should have been writing about it. Writing makes things better.
We'd love to just lay in bed all day and indulge in the darkness, but more often than not anything over 6 hours in bed makes our hips hurt, our neck ache, our back throb...

The last thing can remember from last night is laying in bed quietly crying. Why? Don't know. We wanted to get out of bed and write, but it was too cold to crawl from beneath the warm blankets. So instead we just lay there, curled into a ball, writing a blog post in our head that would have been ten times better than this, but now it's all lost...and you get this.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

In Defense of a Fair Living Wage - A University Essay

There's no real intro for this like usual when posting our university essays, this was the final paper for Composition II. It's a research/argument paper on a topic inspired by the semester reading of James Loewen's book Lies My Teacher Told Me (as per the assignment).

Got the grade this evening. The paper received a grade of 99%. Sadly there was no rubric or comments like the last time...

It's a paper on minimum wage, obviously siding for a more fair one...but with good research and thorough analysis from a historical perspective juxtaposed with perspectives on modern argumentation...give it a read...if you dare. As always, comments welcome.

Download .pdf via Google Drive :
or read it here...

In Defense of a Fair Living Wage

In one hundred years’ time, from the first state minimum wage regulations of 1913, to The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 under Franklin D. Roosevelt, to The Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2012, the scope of the moral and economic debates surrounding minimum wage have barely evolved inside of a bubble of eroding ethics and stagnant wage growth. From the end of the Industrial Revolution to the Progressive Era to the Information Age, not only has the breadth of the economic debates by critics remained relatively unchanged, so have the cores of the ethical arguments in support of minimum wage. As in the past, modern day critics of increasing minimum wage seem to present arguments embedded in an ethical quagmire of increasingly corrupt ideals and self-interest, displaying less concern for individuals and the society as a whole. Arguments for maintaining a wage system below ethical criteria for maintenance of life, and belief that low-skilled workers are responsible for their economic stature, and therefore deserving of it, are now rooted in some flawed ideal within the boundaries of a country no longer flourishing, deplete of employment prospects, short on individual opportunities for strong economic advancement. This new landscape creates concerns about who is meant to benefit from minimum wage and what qualifies as a fair minimum wage, rising ethical considerations for increasing the minimum wage, creating query into who is affected and even whether or not there is a need for wage regulation.

These issues of contention reverberate from the past, despite widespread wage erosion amid high productivity, and continue to persist in vastly similar contexts amid developments in the globalization of employment structures and labor trade, advancements in technology, and increased corporatocracy, which have negatively impacted the United States low-wage and mid-wage labor force. As the United States comes out of one of the worst economic climates since the Great Depression, into an age of staggering income inequality due to stagnant wage growth, faced with high education costs and growing poverty levels, after decades of international outsourcing of manufacturing and service jobs, a requirement for fairer living wages is just as legitimate today as it was when the need for wage regulation ascended.

The circumstances under which the need for an establishment of state level minimum wage regulation, in 1913, arose out of an ethical need to protect women and children in the workforce. The lack of regulation on wages had led businesses towards a propensity to extort labor from women and children who, according to Chief Justice William Howard Taft, experienced less equality in their relationships with their employers, making them unable to argue for a fair wage, and causing them to become targets of “harsh and greedy employer[s]” [qtd. by Thies]. Supporting this opinion, American philanthropist, and businessman, Edward A. Filene, in his 1923 The Minimum Wage and Efficiency, expounded the ethics of paying a fair wage as a good business practice that works towards building a quality company full of productive and satisfied employees who are treated fairly. From Filene’s perspective, paying employees too low of a wage proved inefficient and wasteful, and in paying a fair wage ethical businesses can advance. Filene stated that if a company cannot continue business inside of responsible social and ethical standards, then they have no place in the business world.

According to the economists McKenna and Zannoni, in Economics and the Supreme Court, it was, and is, inefficiencies in free market models of business, such as low wages, that lead to oppressed and exploited labor forces, and the growth of monopolies. In addition, basic arguments against the laissex-faire business model of free market, which excludes or restricts government intervention in its policies, demonstrated that is was becoming unsuccessful in maintaining the health and welfare of society, and led to the growth of ineffective and unfair market situations. Eventually this belief led the public to recognize the role big business played in The Great Depression, and to hold them partially responsible, fostering the growth of anti-free-market “movements” whose desire was to dismantle big business in order to return to what they viewed as more perfect market competition and a fairer wage system [McKenna & Zannoni]. It seemed to proponents that establishing minimum wage regulation was the responsible step to take in repairing the broken structure.

On the other hand, opponents felt that an established minimum wage was an oppressive restriction to an employee’s freedom to negotiate a wage of their own, and that “[…]set[ting] legal minimum wages contradicts, and cannot coexist with, the right to liberty” [Thies]. These beliefs, that minimum wage regulation was unconstitutional, and an agent in the suppression of liberty, was also held by the Supreme Court for a period. Enforcing early minimum wage laws proved ineffectual, and in instances where a business tried to get out of paying minimum wage, led to the repeal and overturning of the laws by the Supreme Court in many of the fifteen states that had enacted wage regulations prior to 1938 [Thies].

Furthering the scope of the arguments by critics, prominent anti-transformative economists believed that a natural law of business, wealth, and market existed in society and promoted income equality. A neoclassical economist of the time, John Bates Clark, held the view that an employee, under wage regulation, would not receive fair pay for thier contribution, but free of regulation the employer would naturally be inclined to pay the employee fairly. The error of this view holds the assumption that employers, businesses owners, and corporations will be driven by an ethical responsibility to their employees and community. In addition, the premise ignores that minimum wage regulation was not meant to, and does not, cap potential wages, but simply establishes a base pay, a means for creating a situation where low-skilled employees can maintain the ability to pay for the basic costs of living and maintenance of health, and be a productive asset to society.

However, according to McKenna and Zannoni, opponents of wage regulation began to acknowledge that businesses were becoming too large, and increasingly unconcerned with the ethics of paying fair wages, which employees were entitled to in exchange for service, thereby contradicting the idealistic “natural law” of market philosophy set forth by Clark. The growing popular dissent was that big business did not have public interest in mind and in fact, by forcing low-wage workers to seek assistance from the community, the businesses themselves were unethically receiving entitlements on the backs of low-wage earners and the members of those communities. [McKenna and Zannoni]

Putting these historical arguments of failed business models and corrupt ethics into a modern context, we need only to look to corporations such as WalMart, notorious for low wages and opposing recent proposed increases in minimum wage. It is reported that WalMart costs tax payers nearly $1.6 billion in public assistance [Walmart: High Cost of Low Prices, 2005]. Additionally, the fast food industry, costs tax payers $7 billion a year [Allegretto] in public assistance programs serves as typical example of inefficiency. Today, just as they had one hundred years ago, big businesses fight to keep wages low and/or below a realistic living wage, all the while growing themselves on the backs of taxpayers. In keeping wages artificially low these businesses resign their employees to a life of poverty; stripping them of the freedom to be productive members of society, often stifling their liberty to collectively bargain for a fairer wage through union affiliation [Walmart: High Cost of Low Prices]. These un-ethical business practices echo the concerns that led to the growing realizations by economic leaders and lawmakers, which accounted for the shift in the Supreme Court’s opinion of wage regulation, and the understanding of the fundamental need for it. This further illustrates the need for continued wage regulation and a more ethical and fair living wage.

While the Supreme Court has found minimum wage regulation completely constitutional since The Fair Labor Act of 1938, which mandated a Federal minimum wage, modern day opponents work hard to remove and suppress state and federal minimum wages, despite support for a Federal wage increase of $1.75 by nearly three-quarters of Americans, as reported by Danielle Gewurz of The Pew Institute. Organizations such as the ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council), a conservative group that pushes for laws benefiting corporations in attempt to advance free-market philosophies, have, according to a report by the National Employment Law Project, introduced and co-sponsored 67 wage repeal and suppression legislation bills since 2011. Organizations such as these do not appear to be concerned about the unethical practices of those corporations preying on low-skilled workers and those caught in the downturn of the labor market over the last 10 years or more.

Based on their resolutions for opposing increases in minimum wage, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), along with others, claim that “few” workers earning minimum wage indicates labor market supply and demand is working very well, therefore there is no need for an increased minimum wage, and in many cases there is actually no need for minimum wage. Not surprisingly, however, is that the five States who currently have no State minimum wage regulations, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and South Carolina, also experience some of the highest poverty levels compared to those with a State minimum wage at, or higher than, the Federal mandated wage [Luhby]. In addition, these claims do not
taken into account the high number of people making above minimum wage but below an adequate living wage, who must turn to tax-funded social programs to subsidize basic costs of living. High poverty rates persisting among the working class (1) [Yen] actually indicate a system that is not working effectively. Once again, this demonstrates the failure of the laissex-faire model of free market, where wages are kept artificially low, as ineffective in maintaining the health and welfare of society while unethically putting the financial responsibility on the shoulders of society itself.

Returning once again to the historical debates, we look to some moral and social arguments under which the first state minimum wage act for women and children became needed. According to The First Minimum Wage Laws, written in 1991 by Thies, some clergy along with other members of society, opposed minimum wages on grounds of morality. Moral critics believed that a woman with funds to live a comfortable life free of “cooperative economics” (shared housing), and with money to spend on simple pleasures, would be moved to derive those pleasures from locations outside of her home, and find her moral compass askew. This concept held that through low wages, a system of social control could be established. Conversely, proponents of the act theorized that this lack of fair wages that was forcing many women to remain living with their parents, or seek out dependency through “cooperative economics” while taking part in “economizing” efforts such as making their own clothes, created situations where women had no time to enjoy life [Thies]. Further, a person making such a pittance has no real chance to improve their social standing and is limited in contributing to the economic system.

Through the philosophies of the advocates, and certainly paralleled with the idea that maintaining low wages was a good control system, wage regulation then became a means to privacy, freedom, and personal independence that leads to further satisfaction with life. This supported theories that former “sustenance wages” could be more “decent” through regulation so that a person could uphold a healthy prosperous life [Thies]. These assertions called for a person’s right to earn a living wage at a level permitting them to provide themselves basic necessities; a safe and clean place to live, basic privacy, adequate sustenance – opportunity to sustain and maintain health and happiness; illuminating the essential role of wage regulation in a democratic society that included American philosophies of freedom and independence for all.

However, identifying the “beneficiaries” of minimum wage regulation proved, to some, a good method to separate “parasites from the mass of workers” [qtd by Thies], indicating a poor opinion of low-wage workers that continues to persist. Today, the reasoning that minimum wage separates the “wheat from the chaff” holds in opinions that only teenagers, the under-educated and low-skilled workers are truly effected by a wage regulation set below living standards, and are undeserving of an increase. This somewhat erroneous belief is refuted by the statistical analysis of minimum wage and employment structures by Heidi Shierholz, as well as study and analyses by economists Cooper and Hall. In Shierholz analysis for the Economic Policy Institute, she suggests that 28% of those who would be positively affected by an increase in minimum wage will be women over the age of 20, focused in industries such as education and health services, hospitality, leisure, and retail trade. In an analysis by Cooper and Hall, it is further revealed that 88% of minimum wage earners affected by an increase will be over 20 years old.

Adding to modern debates regarding raising minimum wage, many argue that minimum wage is entry-level, never meant for the long-term maintenance of life. This contradicts the historical implications surrounding its creation, as “minimum wage was specifically intended to play a crucial role in a strategy to reward work and reduce poverty in America and to ensure that growth in the economy is broadly shared across the workforce” [Shierholz]. In addition to being felonious, the argument by critics assumes that every citizen has the means and ability to advance their skill level beyond an entry or low-level status. It further maintains the suggestion that those employed in low-wage industries should simply get a degree, as if all it takes is a college education to “escape” low paying jobs, reiterating commonly held views that lack of education is a large factor in becoming a low wage earner.

Challenging this is Shierholz’s analysis in Fix It and Forget It: Index the Minimum Wage to Growth in Average Wage finding that 43.8% of minimum wage earners actually have a college education of some level. This discovery should not be overly shocking in reflection of recession job loss and the impact of outsourcing employment on labor forces, which has led to job losses in low-skill mid-wage earning positions (such as manufacturing), forcing workers to take jobs in low-skilled low-wage industries. Following the loss of low-skill manufacturing jobs over the decades, even high-skilled mid-wage jobs have been prone to outsourcing.

Overall, mid-wage employment opportunities on U.S. soil have been on the decline as jobs in data entry/payroll, auditors/tax preparers, computer programming/software engineering, medical transcriptionists/paralegals, and technical writers within the IT, finance, insurance, and professional and business service sectors [U.S. Congressional Research Service]. Coupled with recession job losses from 2001 onward, this accounts for the 7.3% decrease of growth in mid-wage occupation employment, which experienced a 60% job loss, while low-wage occupations have seen an 8.7% growth in employment, as reported by National Employment Law Project. This supports my theories that there are those in the low-wage industry that has been forced there, not out of some lack of skill, but because of economic conditions beyond their control.

Finally, arguing that increasing minimum wage is damaging to economic systems such as employment, have been part of the platform for opponents of minimum wage increases consistently over the years. Economic research on the negative impact on productivity and employment levels due to increases in minimum wage have shown an inability to strongly tie them together due to flawed methodology. However, modern research using better data shows negligible negative influence on teen employment, while other studies find positive impacts, such as increased employment and employee morale [Shierholz]. While the potential impact on small business cannot be ignored, there is little evidence to suggest that a raise in minimum wage negatively impacts small business [Fiscal Policy Institute]. To further reiterate the minimal affected by a raise in minimum wage (2), it should also be noted that over 78.5% (3) of small business owners are non-employers. Overall, research shows small and irregular negative impacts on job growth and employment which does not justify continuing to maintain minimum wage at its low level.

Analysis finds that a meaningful minimum wage increase would not only positively impact those in low-wage industries, but would produce increases in low-skilled employment, boost consumer spending and “substantially raise pay scales across the entire lower end of the economy” [Shierholz]. Similarly, analysis done by Cooper & Hall indicates similar finding that increases in minimum wage does not negatively impact job growth, but may significantly increases job growth while boosting the economy vis-a-vis increased consumer demand and spending, lending to healthy economic stimulation.

The requirement to raise minimum wage owes to the roles of minimum wage in reducing poverty levels and income equality. According to Shierholz, the relationship between minimum wage and disproportionate wage distribution has led to increased income inequality and decreased living standards across the United States over the past 35 years. The dire need to raise minimum wage comes from the erosion of wages and the real value of wages over the years, which is due to long periods of minimum wage neglect by Congress, and rapidly increasing inflation, as illustrated by Figure 1, as well as the influx of workers into low-wage employment. Keeping minimum wage at levels that have led to overall decline in the economy and decreased wage growth negatively impacts citizens, small business, and corporations by continuing to increase income inequality and decreased spending, and encouraging poor labor conditions by oppressing and exploiting labor forces, creating high turnover while sustaining poverty levels [McKenna and Zannoni].
Figure 1

A potential solution then, is to perhaps adjusting minimum wage with the CPI, which tracks inflation, while bringing minimum wage closer to the estimated average wage of workers (those estimates not including high-level positions), thereby promoting real wage gain that would generally not be seen by simply adjusting minimum wage with inflation figures [Shierholz]. Narrowing the gap between the low-wage and mid-wage tiers would afford low-income families the opportunity to have a real stake in economic growth. Raising minimum wage and moving it towards a true living wage, would decrease poverty levels and positively benefit society as whole.

Important in the consideration of argument for, or against, a fair living wage, is that socially responsible communities benefit from supporting fairness in economic matters aimed towards their fellow citizens. As Filene eloquently argued in his 1923 The Minimum Wage and Efficiency, fair wage is an important cornerstone to a free society and is essential in the cultivation of happy productive populations. What held true then holds just as true, if not more so, today. There is a need for a wage regulation and an increased minimum wage in the work force structure. Wildly disproportionate and unfair wage distribution, which led to initial wage regulations, is dangerous to the ideals that the United States was founded upon. Economic structures of society are not independent, rather a symbiotic relationship of ethics and responsibility between employees, employers, and consumers that, when executed efficiently and effectively, benefits all. Therefore, the production of a fair living wage to reflect economic inflation and the evolution of labor forces in a globalized society, that prevent businesses from advancing at the expense of their employees and communities, plays an essential role in maintaining a healthy democratic society where productive members have the ability to flourish and fairly contribute to the economic structures.

1 In 2011, 12.6% of adults ages 25-60 lived in poverty
2 Except in cases where suppliers may increase the cost of raw materials to reflect their wage increases
3 According to the U.S. Small Business Authority, 2012

Allegretto, Sylvia, Marc Doussard, Dave Graham-Squire, Ken Jacobs, Dan Thompson, and Jeremy Thompson. Fast Food, Poverty Wages: The Public Cost of Low-wage Jobs in the Fast-food Industry. Berkeley, CA: University of California, Berkeley, 15 Oct. 2013. Berkeley Labor Center. Web. 5 Dec. 2013. <http://laborcenter.berkeley.edu/publiccosts/fast_food_poverty_wages.pdf>.

Cooper, David, and Doug Hall. Raising the Federal Minimum Wage to $10.10 Would Give Working Families, and the Overall Economy, a Much-Needed Boost. Rep. no. 357. Washington, DC: Economic Policy Institute 13 March 2013. Economic Policy Institute. Web. 24 Nov. 2013 <http://www.epi.org/publication/bp357-federal-minimum-wage-increase/>.

McKenna, Edward J., and Diane C. Zannoni. "Economics and the Supreme Court: The Case of the Minimum Wage." Review of Social Economy 69.2 (2011): 189-210. Taylor Francis Online. Web. 23 Nov. 2013.

Filene, Edward A. "The Minimum Wage and Efficiency." The American Economic Review 13.3 (1923): 411-15. JSTOR. Web. 23 Nov. 2013. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/1804545>.

Fiscal Policy Institute. State Minimum Wages and Employment in Small Businesses. New York: Fiscal Policy Institute, 20 April 2004. Fiscal Policy Institute. 10 December 2013. <http://www.fiscalpolicy.org/minimumwageandsmallbusiness.pdf>.

Gewurz, Danielle. Sharp Divisions in GOP Base on Raising the Minimum Wage. Washington, DC: Pew Research Center, 20 August 2013. Pew Research Center. Web. 07 Dec. 2013. <http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2013/08/20/sharp-divisions-in-gop-base-on-raising-the-minimum-wage/>.

Luhby, Tami. "Mississippi Is State with Highest Poverty and Lowest Income". CNNMoney. Cable News Network. 20 Sept. 2012. Web. 07 Dec. 2013. <http://money.cnn.com/2012/09/20/news/economy/income-states-poverty>.

National Employment Law Project. The Politics of Wage Suppression: Inside ALEC’s Legislative Campaign Against Low-Paid Workers (Issue Brief). New York, NY: National Employment Law Project, February 2013. National Employment Law Project. Web. 5 December 2013. <http://nelp.3cdn.net/4fad2aaa1917c35b4b_iom6i63pq.pdf>.

National Employment Law Project. The Low-Wage Recovery and Growing Inequality (Data Brief). New York, NY: National Employment Law Project, August 2012. National Employment Law Project. Web. 5 December 2013. <http://www.nelp.org/page/-/Job_Creation/LowWageRecovery2012.pdf?nocdn=1>.

"Resolution Opposing Increases in Minimum Wage Linked to the CPI." ALEC American Legislative Exchange Council. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2013. <http://www.alec.org/model-legislation/resolution-opposing-increases-in-minimum-wage-linked-to-the-cpi/>.

Saxton, Madeleine. Minimum Wage Trends. 22 Nov. 2013. Raw data. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Washington, DC. Graph created by data received via e-mail as per date of publish.

Shierholz, Heidi. Fix It and Forget It: Index the Minimum Wage to Growth in Average Wage. Issue brief no. 251. Washington, DC: Economic Policy Institute, 2009. Economic Policy Institute. Web. 24 Nov. 2013. <http://www.epi.org/publication/bp251/>.

Thies, Clifford F. "The First Minimum Wage Laws." Cato Journal 10.3 (1991): 715-46. CATO Institute. Web. 18 Nov. 2013. <http://object.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/serials/files/cato-journal/1991/1/cj10n3-7.pdf>.

Levine, Linda. Offshoring (or Offshore Outsourcing) and Job Loss Among U.S. Workers. Rep. no. RL32292. Washington, DC: Library of Congress Congressional Research Service, 2012. Federation of American Scientists. Web. 7 Dec. 2013. <http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RL32292.pdf>.

Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price. Dir. Robert Greenwald. Brave New Films, 2005. Streaming Netflix. Neflix. Web. 1 Dec. 2013.

Yen, Hope "4 in 5 in USA Face Near-poverty, No Work." USA Today. USA Today/Associated Press, 17 Sept. 2013. Web. 06 Dec. 2013. <http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2013/07/28/americans-poverty-no-work/2594203/>
If you enjoyed this, maybe you'd enjoy our other essays from this class:
- Patriotism and Religion in Persisting Social Stratification: The Evolution of Knowledge (November 27, 2013
- Rhetorical Moves and Devices In Writing: A University Essay (October 24, 2013)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

It's All Over Now...

Fall Semester, done. DONE!
We eagerly await our "report card" that will be posted Christmas Eve (Merry Fucking Christmas, right?)
We're pretty sure we know our grades...worst case scenario is a 3.76 GPA out of a possible 4.0. Not too shabby, but we could have done better if we'd have applied ourselves a little harder. What can we say, working took up a lot of time in the first two months, Twitter is distracting (but/and our only social outlet), and drinking...well...who knows...we drink too much.

Today our major dental work was completed and so now, with roughly 4 weeks off until Spring Semester we'll have time for reading, writing and finishing some paintings, and starting some new ones...if we muster the drive to get off of the sofa and away from Netflix.

However, we've already started reading the material for next semester...the book list is...long (seventeen books for five classes) ...and it doesn't hurt to get a head start.
We imagine based on the reading list, dear blog readers, that you will be "treated" to some interesting essays next semester...

The reading list:
- A philosophy class on truth, knowing and reality -
1. True to Life: Why Truth Matters - Michael P. Lynch
2. When Science Meets Religion: Enemies, Strangers, or Partners? - Ian G Barbour
3. Free Will - Sam Harris
4. On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You're Not - Robert Burton

- American Political Thought -
5. Selected Federalist Papers - Alexander Hamilton
6. Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin - Benjamin Franklin
7. The Autobiography of Malcolm X - Malcolm X
8. Walden: (Or Life in the Woods) - Henry David Thoreau
9. Common Sense - Thomas Paine
10. Civil Disobedience and Other Essays - Henry David Thoreau
11. Great Speeches - Abraham Lincoln
12. Up From Slavery - Booker T. Washington
13. Democracy in America - Alexis de Tocqueville

- Interpersonal Communication -
14. Looking Out, Looking In - Adler/Proctor II

- Intro to Media Writing -
15. The Associated Press Stylebook & Briefing on Media Law
16. Telling the Story: The Convergence of Print, Broadcast and Online Media

- Business and Technical Writing - dropped before Semester started - found out it wasn't required after all
17. Writing That Works: Communicating Effectively on the Job

So, the semester is all over now; the year, nearly. It's been pretty good, all things considered.
And now for something completely different...because we adore Glove and Boots...and Christmas is only one week away...

Saturday, December 14, 2013

A Deeper Respect For Meteorology

This semester we've hear all the jokes, all the jesting, the "So, you're learning to walk out the front door and look at the sky"...yes, you're all very funny. We used to make the same jokes.
Image Source
Then we took Intro to Meteorology to satisfy a final science w/lab GER (General Education Requirement)...and spent much of the time drowning in what felt like a foreign language. Not a single one of us is good at science...(or so we've always thought).
Maybe it's not that we're not good at, maybe it's that we just don't doing like it. (but find it fascinating)
Now, math...math we're not good at and we don't like it.

Anyway. We had to take a science to finish fulfill science and math requirements...so figured, why not learn about the scientific processes that make these rare breathtaking and freaky things like these form...
Mammatus Clouds

...which we did.

So, what does meteorology at the entry level even teach?
To help explain it we thought we'd share the highlights of the study guide for the final (that we're taking Monday).
But first...
Taking this class was a good experience, it provided a new found respect for meteorologists, who aren't just the talking heads on the nightly weather report, rather those who work in climatology, forensics, research, farming...and so much more.

It also provided a deeper respect for the environment and how volatile (which what makes them hard to predict with pin-point accuracy) and complex the systems are...so that when we walk out the front door and we look at the sky and say, "yes, it's probably going to rain..." (har har)...we'll know why, or why not, and maybe when and for how long, based on an understanding of what deeply complex processes happened to make that observation its most accurate.

Having said that...we're pretty damn excited to never have to take a science class again.
The lab grade for the semester was calculated (which is graded separately from the lecture portion) and we pulled an 'A' (we're just as shocked as you) - and if we can manage at least a 91% on Monday's lecture final, we'll pull an 'A' in that portion too (miracles happen right?). But first we have to review...

A Meteorology Final Study Guide:
(for those of you who may be interested in some of what a good meteorologist knows and remembers)

Be able to identify the:

  • various atmospheric gasses
  • layers of the atmosphere
  • various types of fog by their method of formation
  • four processes that cause cloud development
  • daily wind changes caused by thermal circulations (Sea and Land Breeze)

Three-Cell Model
  • seasonal wind changes caused by thermal lows and highs (Monsoon)
  • winds caused by topographic effects like katabatic, Chinook and Santa Ana winds
  • global circulation features on the “Three-Cell Model”
  • locations of, and know how the semi-permanent high and low pressure systems change from the winter to summer in the northern hemisphere
  • identify the Subtropical and Polar jet stream by location and altitude
  • air masses by their temperature and moisture characteristics
  • weather fronts by their color coding and/or symbols
  • identify the various stages of the ‘Polar Front Theory’
  • identify the two surface low pressure systems that affect the weather across the northern plains by their region of development, movement and associated weather (Colorado Low, Alberta Clipper)
  • regions of divergence and convergence on an upper-level chart
  • characteristics of the three different stages of development for the life cycle of a thunderstorm
  • criteria used to determine if a thunderstorm is severe
  • individual components of a thunderstorm by description and/or visual observation
  • various stages of lightning development

  • Know the average height above sea level of the standard pressure levels 850, 700, etc.
  • Know the definition of potential and kinetic energy
  • Know the three different processes for transferring heat and how each process works
  • Know the definition of ‘Albedo”
  • Know significant lines of latitude and the proper names used to identify these lines of latitude
  • Know the difference between the dew point temperature and relative humidity values
  • Know the difference in density between a warm, moist air mass and a warm, dry air mass
  • Know the processes that cause fog to form
  • Know the difference between the two processes that produce precipitation
  • Know the relationship between the vertical temperature profile between cloud base and the surface and the associated precipitation type
  • Know the difference between the various Lapse Rates and when to apply them in a rising or descending parcel of air
  • Know the difference between a constant height and constant pressure chart
  • Know the correlation between upper-air temperatures and the associated upper-level ridges and troughs
  • Know the four forces responsible for the horizontal movement of air
  • Know how wind flows around surface high and low pressure systems in the northern hemisphere
  • Know how wind flows around upper-level troughs and ridges in the northern hemisphere
  • Know the difference between Meridional an Zonal flow on an upper-level chart
  • Know how jet streams form, and how they change in location and strength from winter to summer
  • Know what type of weather and cloud formations are associated with the various weather fronts
  • Know the definition of a dry-line
  • Know the difference between a barotropic and baroclinic low pressure system
  • Know the different types of lightning
  • Know the process to create thunder
  • Know the formula to calculate the distance between a lightning strike and the observer
  • Know the relationship between the formation of a Squall Line and the associated Cold Front location
  • Know the difference between a bow and hook echo

  • Understand how shortwave and longwave radiation interacts with the surface of the earth and the atmosphere
  • Understanding how the ‘Greenhouse Effect’ works
  • Understand the main reasons for the changing seasons throughout the year
  • Understand the Earth - Sun relationship, and all the implications of the equinox and solstices 
  • Understand conditions responsible for daily temperature variations, both day and night
  • Understand solar heating, Radiational cooling and the effects of cloud cover
  • Understand how relativity humidity values change with an increase or decrease in temperature and/or water vapor content
  • Understand the relationship between air temperature and the amount of water vapor the air can hold
  • Understand the various characteristics of clouds and identify the cloud types based on these characteristics.
  • Understand the difference between a stable and unstable atmosphere
  • Understand the processes and/or conditions that can cause a change in atmospheric stability (What mechanisms will cause the Environmental Lapse Rate to change)
  • Understand the relationship between the strength of upper-level divergence with surface based convergence on the development of, or dissipation of, a surface low pressure system
  • Understand the affects of warm and cold air advection aloft on the development of, or dissipation of, a surface low pressure system
  • Understand the relationship between the jet stream and movement of surface pressure systems
  • Understand the mechanisms responsible for the dissipation of a mid-latitude cyclone

  • Define wind shear
  • Have knowledge of weather satellites and the images produced by these satellites
  • What are the most favorable conditions for aircraft icing?
  • Be able to describe the two different types of aircraft icing and how each type forms
  • Be familiar with all aspects of a low pressure systems
  • Be familiar with the Fujita scale used to classify tornado strength
  • Be familiar with the processes necessary for tornado development
  • Be able to identify features of a thunderstorm by pattern recognition

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Sometimes Teeth Are All About The Shoes

A little tale, to bring you up to speed...and maybe you'll learn from our stupidity. An oral history, if you will. (ha, so punny)

Twenty years ago last month we were walking home from school, which was at the top of a hill. Despite it being October, there was already snow; this was 20 years ago, it used to snow earlier way back then.

Anyway, apparently we weren't as smart as we are now (ha!), something about fashion over comfort (as if we were at all fashionable in high school). We had worn dress shoes to school that day, despite the obvious choice when having to walk home from school in snow, which is boots...or at least some heavy shoe with treads.

The path home was downhill the whole way, the first portion being fairly steep, which then leveled off a bit and passed by a chained-in junkyard with big steel posts on the corners of the seven to eight foot high fence surrounding it, and then the terrain continued to descend the rest of the way.

As we were working our way down the steepest portion we lost footing and began to slide, arms flailing, panicking. Instead of just falling on the ground and being done with it, we tried to gain balance, all the while speeding down the hill on those flat dress shoes with no traction.

Before we could think to aim for the chain fencing around the junkyard to stop our uncontrollable flailing down the hill, our face beat us to it and smacked right into the round steel post on the corner of the junkyard, teeth first.

Laying on the ground spitting blood and broken teeth onto the white snow, the two boys who were walking us home laughed and laughed. Boys are obviously great friends.

Unfortunately, dad didn't find it funny, nor the dental bill that followed. That year we had a chipped tooth fixed and a post, which is a tooth basically attached to a screw, implanted into the top row of teeth.
Dental Post
The work that was done was terrible, and soon after high school it go impacted (infected) and had to be removed, at which time it was replaced by a Dental Flipper. Which is fun and disgusting all at the same time. Fun because you can really freak people out by removing it while talking to them using only your tongue. Disgusting because food gets beneath it, and it's basically covering up a gaping hole in your gums. But it was an inexpensive solution.

Dental Flipper
A few years after that we opted for a more permanent but temporary solution, after the tooth broke off of the flipper, and got what is known as a Marilyn Bridge.

Marilyn Bridge
It only came off a couple of times, but we were really self conscious about it, it didn't look too natural, and it caused us to hide our natural smile when in public (yeah, we actually smile, get over it), and so in 2004 at the encouragement of Talented Boyfriend (now an ex) we bit the big one and went for the (expensive) Permanent Dental Bridge.

Dental Bridge
It was great, we could bite into apples again, we felt more secure, had less nightmares about out teeth falling out...it only bothered us once and awhile because it's hard to clean around.

Then the beginning of this October the chipped portion of the front tooth that had been fixed 20 years ago fell off while we were eating a homemade egg-roll, of all things. Work and classes had us busy so we planned on getting the chip fixed this month...

And then this past Sunday night happened...we hate to admit we know how it happened...we were chewing on a turkey leg. We had decided to wait until Sunday to make Thanksgiving Dinner, and while biting off one of those final bits of gristle (mmm, gristle!) from the leg joint...we bit down wrong and felt something. It wasn't obvious what it was at first. Later, running our tongue along the backside of the Bridge, which we do often, we felt a rough spot. Continuing with the tongue play we told James that we though we'd maybe cracked one of the supports on the bridge.

Next morning looking in the mirror, after brushing our teeth, the whole time thinking something felt weird, like a strange pressure, we pressed our tongue on the back of the bridge and sure enough, a little air bubble on the front of one of the support teeth formed. We ran our fingernail over the outside and yep, there was the crack on the front. 

The porcelain crack on the front and the back, so obviously we couldn't eat breakfast. We promptly went to the dentist, the one who had installed the bridge ten years ago, to try to get an emergency visit, but he wasn't available until today. Distracted by day two of severe back pain, the faulty teeth, and a very hungry belly, we went to take our meteorology lab final and wait until after another class today to find out the big fun news.

Long story short, not only will he have to replace the bridge, but we also need a root canal on one of the teeth - and one of the roots of the support teeth is infected. VoilĂ , a penicillin prescription and a $4000 dollar estimate later, and here we are...thinking...if we'd only worn different shoes 20 years ago, shoes that would have been more practical...we'd have saved at least $10,000...and wouldn't have busted up what was a very very nice set of natural teeth.

Meanwhile, for the next three weeks it's soft foods and liquid meals only, and then we get another Marilyn Bridge while a new Permanent Bridge measured for our mouth is cast in porcelain, or whatever the cool synthetic teeth are crafted from these days.
Thankfully we have "some" Gin.