Archive for the 'That’s So Class-y' category

Remembrance of Pies Past

Last year for the first time I made a shepherd's pie, in time for Pi Day, but inexplicably did not blog it. Onion, carrots, chunks of lamb meat in a savory filling, topped with mashed potatoes and sprinkled with cheese, then run under the broiler.  We dined with pleasure, and were sated.

Shepherd's Pie, One Year Ago

I love good pie, but alas, must purchase it or start with frozen crust. I cannot make a crust.

I love also the oblong pie that sits on a shelf in a wrapper,  Hostess Fruit Pies. Last week I searched but could not find them in my local supermarket - most likely because they are low class and my aspirational supermarket won't go slumming.  Years ago, when we were too stupid to know how low class we were, my mother packed these in my father's dinner bucket.  Something sweet at the end of a meal taken in the dark of a coal seam.  Sometimes he didn't eat everything in his bucket, or drink all the water in the bottom.  When the dinner pail came home, the leftovers that had journeyed to the underworld and back seemed especially desirable to we children - the water, more tasty, more thirst-quenching than nectar; the bit of sandwich or fruit pie, more savory than a feast. An unwrapped fruit pie was often saved for the next day's bucket; but once in awhile, we were permitted to devour it.

After I wrote that last sentence, I searched on google for "coal miner's bucket" and found this, where you can see great pictures and learn a little about a coal miner's life.  And there, I also read this:

I used to love to get anything my dad brought home in his bucket. It always seemed to taste better after it had been in there.

This gave me an odd and comforting happiness.

Hostess may have served my father's  dark world pie needs, but in the land of sunlight, it was my mother's coconut cream pie he loved.  We talked of pie today, and she told me how she made her own crust, and her own meringue, but used boxed vanilla pudding for the filling, adding a handful of coconut to it before putting it in the shell.  Back then, this was not instant pudding; it required some cooking.   I can remember my mother's meringues, picture them in my mind's eye; they were wonderful.  She made them from scratch, from egg whites; I cannot make crust, let alone meringue.

How did Daddy come to love coconut cream pie, I asked, did he always like it, or did you make it and he came to like yours?  Oh, I guess I just made it, and he started eating it, and that was the one he liked best.  I always made it for him on his birthday, he never had a cake, just the coconut cream pie.  My mother, when she made it, she made it all - the crust, the meringue, the filling.  I don't know how she did, cooked that pudding, how she made that.  I never was great with crust, mine came out okay.  Betty was the one who could make crust, so light and flaky!  Now, I heard somewhere where you could make crust with lard instead of Crisco, but where are you going to get lard today? I'd like to make one of those pies again.  Maybe when you are here and we are at the house.

If that could be, that would be the best pie day ever.

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Where We're All Heading in Scott Walker's Handbasket

Now indeed is the winter of our labor discontent.

Scott Walker, you'll recall, is the Rethuglican who has creatively called his union-busting scheme a "budget repair" bill.  Once we've finished stripping workers of all their rights - collective bargaining is just the first step! there's so much more that can be taken away once the collective bargaining is gone! - we can bring back many useful practices from the good ol' days.  The history of Blair Mountain is instructive in this regard.  Maybe you'll want to go visit Blair Mountain, and see the historical marker, but I'd do it now if I were you, before Mr. Peabody rips it off the face of the earth to get at the coal underneath.

Two years ago, Blair Mountain was entered into the National Register of Historic Places. And then, just a few months later, it was taken off by state officials.

Lawyers hired by West Virginia's largest coal companies came up with a list of landowners who, they said, objected to the designation.

"There's apparently a lot of money to be made by blowing this mountain up and taking all the coal out from it," labor historian Gordon Simmons says, referring to mountaintop removal.

Fuck you, coal companies. Isn't it enough that your predecessors had a hired army of goons and federal troops dispatched by the president to keep coal miners from forming a union?  Now you want to literally erase the history from the face of the earth? Fuck. You.

Well, Scott Walker's not calling in the troops yet on the citizens of Wisconsin. I'm sure that's just crazy to even imagine.  Why, people have the right to collective bargaining!  Oh wait, he's taking that away.  Well, they have the right to be in a union!  Oh wait, he's trying to make it really, really, really hard for there to be a union at all, what with the yearly votes for the union to exist, and the optional dues, and the fact that once your union can't bargain, and pay raises are strictly limited, you're going to wonder why you should pay dues or be in the union at all. You might as well join the Elks and spent your union dues on beer; at least you'll get drunk for your money.

So once the union is gone, and the plutocrats can pay us whatever they deem we are worth, and fire us whenever they feel like it, and take away our benefits on a whim - oh wait, you're saying, that's my life now?  Because you're not in a union.  Have you grumbled about unions in the past?  A union exists to protect you from all that.  But they talked you into thinking that the union was making your life hell, not the top 400 of them who hold more cash, stocks, and land than  the bottom 155 million of us combinedCrabs in a barrel, they wanted to make us, and it mostly worked.

Anyway, as I was saying, once they've taken us back to the point where we have as many rights as those coal miners at Blair Mountain (maybe they'll start paying us in scrip again!), they can imprison us even faster than they do now.    Pennsylvania's prison population has grown 500% in the last 30 years - that's a promising industry!  A caller to Marty Moss-Coane's radio show this morning suggested that prisoners be placed 3 to a cell, but only two of them in the cell at any given time; one would always be out working an eight hour shift.  Put the prisoners to work!  Well, at least they'd have an eight hour day, if not a five-day work week.  But why be limited by the arbitrary eight-hour day? We could pack them four to a cell and take out two at a time for 12-hour shifts.  It's not like they have a union or anything.

Yeah, where did you think your eight-hour day and five-day work week came from?  Oh, you say, not me, I'm a professional, I'm a scientist, I'm a grad student/postdoc/professor, and I work long hours.  I'm k3rntastic!  Science demands no less, I work for the love of it, I work long hours because if I don't someone else will step right into my place and work just as hard and take my job. Oh crap, that last one sounds just exactly like what the coal miners used to say before they got themselves organized and formed a union.  You know what?  Coal miners are professionals too, and take pride in their work, and love what they do, too.  They like having a union that regulates working conditions, and says if you work overtime you get time and a half.  What do policies like that do?  They create more jobs, and make employers think twice about overworking the employees they do have, because it costs more.  Oh, unions won't work for science. Science is so different!  Believe me, baby, if you wanted a union bad enough, you'd find a way to make it work.

Listen up:  Philip Dray, author of There Is Power In A Union: The Epic Story Of Labor In America, will be on Fresh Air this afternoon, to put the Wisconsin union battle in a historical context. Listen live at 3 pm or audio available online after 5 pm.  Read the little blurb about the show - it's fascinating.  Here's the piece that was a real shocker even for me.

[quoting Dray]: Every city in America has these large brick armories in the city. I used to think they were there for soldiers to gather to go abroad but those were built in an era when authorities wanted a place where soldiers could gather to bring down local labor unrest.

Yeah, they didn't teach me any of this history in school.  Certainly not in the coal patch public schools. They did not tell me how the tax dollars of our forebears went to constructing buildings for the express purpose of gathering troops to suppress the formation of unions by those same forebears.  Well, not the tax dollars of the Blair Mountain coal miners, per se.  They were paid in scrip, which could only be spent at the company store.

If you have a few extra dollars in your pocket this month, consider donating to a union to help fund organizing struggles, general strike funds, etc.  You can become an associate member of the United Mine Workers of America for $5 a month.  Write to your congressperson and insist that Blair Mountain be placed on National Register of Historic Places, not ripped apart by coal companies.  Speak up when someone is union bashing and say you wish everyone had the kinds of benefits and job security that a union can negotiate for its members.  Don't be a crab in the barrel that the plutocrats and Rethuglicans are constructing for us all.

My grandparents lived through the union-organizing hell of the past.  Let's not go back there in Governor Walker's handbasket.

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Park Granny In The Backyard - In A Granny Pod!

When your parents or another beloved relative starts getting to that point where they really shouldn't be all alone at home away from family, but they aren't quite ready for a nursing home or even assisted living, what do you do?  Many people choose to have elderly family members move in with them but this is not always a good or even workable option.  Maybe you don't have the space.  Maybe you do, but you and the elderly relatives really value your privacy and sense of independent living space. You'd like to be close-er, just not on top of each other. Z-Mom has said to me a zillion times, "I don't want to live with one of my children.  That's not good for the marriage."

What to do?  Well, we already make use of U-Store-It places for all our extra stuff that just doesn't fit in the house.  Take that concept, bring it into the back yard, add some electricity, running water, and monitoring systems, and you've got Granny Pods!

Seriously.  Developed by Rev. Kenneth Dupin in Virginia and more properly called the MEDcottage, it fits in your backyard, assuming your backyard is big enough.  And that you've got one.  And can afford it. Tiny House Blog has a nice cutaway schematic of the layout, and a link to a longer WaPo article.  Interesting comment thread on the THB post.  Apparently these would rent for $2k per month which is less than many assisted living homes.  The design presented here may not be the optimal one (see the comment thread at THB for criticisms) but this does present an alternative for our aging population.  Not everyone who owns a house can or would want to redo it for elderly living, or buy a house with an in-law suite.  The pod solution is temporary, available for the time needed, and then removed when the elderly person passes on or moves to nursing care.  Clearly this is a solution for suburban/rural lifestyles, and will not help people in the cities with aging relatives.  Or anybody whose problem is fundamentally one of scarce resources to begin with.

You know, looking at the Granny Pod, I'm thinking, why not just get a nice piece of land suitable for gardening and plunk down a Granny Pod on it.  Then I can age in place quite nicely. I don't know where all the books and Mr. Z's music and taper gear would go.  Maybe we could get an Arts & Humanities Pod Annex next door.

I'm filing this one under both Geekalicious AND Technology Gone Bad because I'm just not sure yet...it's still an individualized solution to a societal issue.

UPDATE:  Ha.  Now that I've had a chance to read the WaPo article I see that snooty-ass Fairfax County (VA) Supervisor Jeff C. McKay (D-Lee) feels the MEDcottages are okay for them rural folk who don't have any standards, but not for us fine city folk with all our zoning and whatnot.  Appearances must be kept up.  Off to the nursing home, Granny!!!!

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What's So Great About Your STEMmy Lifestyle Anyway? Inquiring Minds Want To Know!

Why should any woman get any degree in a STEM discipline? Especially if she has to wade through tons of bullshit courses to get there, and part of the learning, it appears, has to do with learning how to be someone you aren't? Some other gender, some other race - or some other social class?
skeptifem challenges the female STEM universe thus:

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54 responses so far

Why Are You So Angry?

Thegoodman really, really wants to know.

If you do not consider yourself a failure, that is great. Why then are you so angry about this situation? If it has worked out well for you, what is driving your passionate hatred for our patriarch society?
Like many gender discussions/arguments, your approach has made me feel guilty for being a man. This doesn't accomplish anything positive since I soon get defensive because I cannot help it that I am a man and I shouldn't feel guilty about just as you shouldn't feel guilty for being a woman.

This is hilarious in so many ways. Let's recap. I explained how petulant whiny white d00ds make the same boring complaint over and over and over and over and over and over and over again, believing themselves to be the first clever souls ever to have come up with it, and then listed several calm responses I often used, each of which, even the pissy one, were intended to engage the petulant whiners in some reflective thinking. Then I described what was going on in my mind while I was spoon-feeding Diversity 101 to the petulant whiners, even though we all know I never allowed myself to say any of those angry thoughts out loud. Because part of my job was, in fact, the spoon-feeding. We may debate whether the spoon-feeding does much good at all, but in any case, I was paid to spoon-feed.
So, my dear Zuskateers. While I've been away, occupied with allergies, migraines, and the Morris Arboretum plant sale, you have apparently taken on Zuska's Outreach Project for D00dly D00ds. I stand in amazement at your handiwork. Through over 250 comments now you have explained, reasoned, provided links, illustrated points, discussed. And Thegoodman, who has trotted out every tired douchey trope we've all encountered eighty bazillion times before he showed his sorry self on this blog, is puzzled by the presence of anger. Oh, he occasionally will acknowledge that you are passionate about this subject, in a most condescending fashion - it's a sweet way of saying "I see you are all emotional about this, and so I can't expect you to be rational, or draw upon facts, the way I do, but that's okay, I excuse you, and admire your feminine passion." Calling what he's seeing "passion" has two effects: it dismisses the arguments being made as non-logical, non-intellectual, and it downgrades the seething anger many of us are carrying around from dealing with douchey d00ds all our lives to just a quaint little "passion", something sweetly feminine.
I have news for you, Thegoodman. I am not passionate about discrimination and inequity. I am fucking angry.
So many things in that epic thread caught my attention but I'll just focus on a few things here.

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262 responses so far

Let Them Eat...Whatever's In These Dented Cans From The Back Of My Pantry

Feb 15 2010 Published by under Outrage of the Week, That's So Class-y

Don't you just love food palaces? Round these parts in Philly, we have several new Wegmans stores to choose from, and of course Whole Foods. A new Whole Foods opened not far from where I live that includes a little bar - you can have a beer or glass of wine and a little something to eat if you find the experience of shopping for your whole foods wholly exhausting and need to partake of serious refreshment. The big chain grocery stores have even stepped up their games to stay in competition. In downtown Philly, there is Di Bruno Brothers, a gourmand's shopping paradise, not to mention Reading Terminal Market, the Italian Market, and who knows how many other little gourmet shops throughout Philadelphia and the surrounding environs.
When you're pushing a cart around at, say, Wegmans - or any other food palace - loading up the goodies, and finally wheeling your way to the checkout, you probably aren't thinking to yourself, "where do those employees shop for their food?" At least one Wegmans employee in this area, it turns out, shops at a local food bank.
The food bank in question, The Lord's Pantry in Downingtown, has won honors and praise for its operation. Unlike many pantries that just hand people a bag of food, people who come to the Lord's Pantry can come in, look around, shop and choose what they need and want. It is a place with dignity. And they help people figure out what other benefits and assistance they might be eligible for, and how to apply for it. Here's some frightening data from the article:

In 2006, the Lord's Pantry served just 1,200 people; in 2009, 15,336. Last month, an all-time high of 60 families showed up on a single day. To be eligible, a family of four can earn up to $33,075 a year, individuals $16,245.

It should be noted that the food pantry is located in a upscale community where the median income is $82,979.
The day after this article appeared in my paper, another ran explaining how anger against the poor was on the rise, and how the percentage of people who think the poor have become "too dependent" on government assistance has increased from 69% to 72% in the last few years. This has happened, mind you, at the same time that my state legislature is cutting aid to the poorest elderly and disabled.

A previously undisclosed detail of Pennsylvania's brutal budget deal calls for slashing the state's already modest $27 to $42 monthly SSI supplement by 20 percent to 25 percent. Individuals will lose $5 a month, couples $10.

How much does it cost to take paratransit to a grocery store, to buy the groceries you can't afford? Why, $10. Please remember these cuts are being proposed for people who are getting about $600 a month. I invite you to make out your monthly budget with that figure. No, wait, make that $590. Because we do not want you becoming too dependent upon government assistance.
I know in these past few weeks that everyone has been emptying their pocketbooks for the disaster in Haiti and surely the need is great there. It is great to see the outpouring of support and sympathy. Hopefully we can channel a little of that love and sympathy for the needy right next door - sometimes literally - too, and stop blaming them for their need. A lot of those people using The Lord's Pantry in Downingtown used to donate to it not so long ago.
I like to give to Philabundance. I like that their vision of hunger relief includes fresh produce and dignity, not dented expired mystery cans from the back of someone's pantry. I am grateful I have some extra to share.

And yet even the have-nots recognize that others may be worse off.
"If we're having a good month, I don't come," Borden says. "I leave it for someone else who needs it."

If only the "haves" in the state legislature had half as much empathy and sense.

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Eat Your Soup! If You Can...

Jan 24 2010 Published by under Tales From The Coal Patch, That's So Class-y

This is a story about making chicken soup completely from scratch, with local, organic ingredients, and starting with the carcass of a roasted chicken. The soup was very, very good, and looked like this:
soup.jpg
The chicken in question came from Pikeland Pastured Poultry. All the vegetables in the soup came from Landisdale Farm.
But the chicken had to do a little traveling before its bones came to rest in my soup pot.

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20 responses so far

Latino Scholars in Higher Ed: Musings On Listening to Marketplace Report

This evening Marketplace Report had a segment on " A push for Latinos to pursue education". It's a great segment, based on a report from the Southern Education Foundation. (Possibly this one; four page summary of the report, A New Diverse Majority: Students of Color in the South's Public Schools is here.)

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The Hispanic College Fund started out funding college scholarships, but found that wasn't sufficient; now they are reaching out to the high school level, as early as ninth grade, to encourage young Latino kids to pursue a college education. Many of these kids are from low-income families with parents who do not know how to navigate the college application and financial aid application processes.
This especially caught my attention: an early marketing strategy was to pitch the kids on how getting a college degree would vastly increase their earning potential. But this didn't have much impact. Apparently the kids listened to that pitch, looked at their parents working their asses off at two or more jobs to make ends meet, and experienced the "college will let you make more money" pitch almost as an insult to their parents' lives - as if the college recruitment crew were saying "strive for more and better because your parents aren't good enough." So they changed the pitch to "college will enable you to give back to and improve your community" and that met with greater success.
This is very interesting to me in several regards.

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28 responses so far

The Question of Who "Chooses" To Participate In Clinical Trials

Is the current economy making more people want to participate in human research studies, asks Isis?

In this new study here at MRU, we began advertising online last Wednesday. By Friday, my study coordinator had received 300 responses...I can't help but wonder if the current poor economy is driving more people to consider human research.

Probably - I wouldn't be at all surprised. It seems possible to me, though, that is just an exacerbation of the situation that obtained previously - which is that poorer people have always been attracted to participation in clinical research trials either as a means of making money, or as a means of obtaining at least some sort of health care, even though clinical studies are most definitely not about providing health care to the participants. That may be the other motivator for Isis's applicants. Many people don't really understand that clinical trials are not really places to receive health care.
When I worked in the pharmaceutical industry, a few of my coworkers seemed to have fuzzy ethics around this point, too. At least one of my coworkers was explicit in his belief that it was an ancillary "benefit" for clinical trial participants to obtain the attentions of medical professionals during a clinical trial. He insisted on referring to participants as "patients" rather than "subjects" (which I think is the preferred and correct term).
If you are wealthy, or even reasonable well-off, you have access to the best already-tested and approved health care and treatments on offer. Or you can figure out how to work the system and get yourself into Phase III clinical trials if your medical situation is such that there are no good tested options available out there. What you most likely aren't doing is saying to yourself, "Hey! I could make fifty bucks if I sign up for this Phase I clinical trial, AND I'll be helping out science, AND maybe I'll finally get my blood pressure checked by a real doctor, too!"
I appreciate Dr. Isis's sense of unease over the recent recruitment phenomenon. But I think it is just foregrounding an issue that has been there all along.
Thought experiment: Sometimes I have imagined a society where everyone is eligible for, and required to, participate in clinical research, akin to jury duty, or maybe like military service in Israel. Only when you were called up, you'd be assigned to a research study that was a good "match" - if you are healthy, you go into a Phase I or II; if you have a medical problem, you go into some relevant Phase III. Spread the risks and responsibilities out across the society regardless of social glass, gender, race. Of course its unworkable, but what would be the pros and cons of such a system? What things would need to change radically to make it work? Would drug development research need to move largely out of the hands of private industry or could it stay pretty much as it is?
Note I am not advocating for such a system, just floating it as a thought experiment to examine how we do things now and how we might do them differently. I have participated in clinical trials - as a student, just to get the money; as a researcher, with the goal of bringing a new therapy for a disease to market; and as a patient, in the hopes of helping doctors come to a better understanding of my particular illness. I've helped someone else gain entry to a clinical research study because no other available therapies were helping this person and we hoped the study therapy (it was open label) would work (it did provide partial relief that has persisted over time). So I've seen them from a variety of perspectives. The best-planned study in the world can be left with misleading results if participants are overly motivated by money, or by the hope of obtaining medical treatment for illness.

12 responses so far

How Many U.S. Counties Today Provide Abortion Services?

I'm visiting with mom this week, taking her to a number of doctor appointments and dealing with some minor medical issues. No time for stuff I promised you like the second post on Chapter 1 of The Gender Knot.
So what I want you to do, to pass the time while you wait for me to show up again, especially those of you who consider yourselves to be white, is go and read this: Shinin' the Lite on White Privilege. I promise it will shake up your thinking. It sure made me look differently on my experience as a beneficiary of the land-grant university system. See if you can figure out why, also if you can pick out the answer to the blog post question.
If you are too frickin' lazy to click and read, here's a take home message:

...when oppressed whites protest against their own oppression, while refusing to simultaneously challenge racial oppression and white privilege, they can win short term victories (a union, legislative reform, a constitutional amendment, etc.) But when they organize in this way, they themselves become oppressors of people of color. Their silence is consent to racial oppression and white privilege.
And they sacrifice the possibilities for building coalitions with activists of color which could challenge the power of the descendants of the slave owners -- the capitalist power which oppresses all of us today.

But you cannot possibly understand the real meaning and import of that quote without reading the full text of the link I provide above. So I urge you to click and read. Then come back here and discuss if you like.

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