For Thanksgiving – Heirloom Dishes

(This essay was originally written more than ten years ago, and is included in the ebook Happy Families; a reminiscence  of what Thanksgiving was before I left home to join the Air Force. I think I was home with my family for that holiday perhaps four or five years since then. Dad passed away in 2010, Mom is a semi-invalid living with my sister and her family. I don’t know if my sister ever fixes the onions in cheese sauce – I certainly don’t.)

Fairly early on, Mom and Dad reached a compromise on the question of where the holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas would be celebrated: Christmas at our house, and Thanksgiving alternating between the grandparents’ houses: One year at Grannie Jessie and Grandpa Jim’s little white house on South Lotus, the next at Grannie Dodie and Grandpa Al’s in Camarillo. Since Dad was an only child, and Mom an only surviving child, all the hopes of constellation of childless or unmarried great-aunts and uncles were centered on JP, Pippy, Sander and I. We rather basked in the undivided attention, even as we regretted the lack of first cousins; there was Great-Aunt Nan, who was Grandpa Al’s younger sister, and Grannie Dodie’s two brothers, Fred and Bob. Fred had been a sailor on a real sailing ship in his youth and had lady in a frilly skirt tattooed on each forearm, who did the shimmy when he flexed his muscles: he also had children, so he was not invariably with us every Thanksgiving. Great-Uncle Bob was married to Great-Aunt Rose, and her sister Nita lived with them. Rose was frail and genteel, and her sister Nita plump and bossy, but they both had neatly marcelled short hair, in the fashion of the 1920ies, and both smelt deliciously of flower-scented dusting powder when hugged.

Read more

Jobs Without Workers

It’s well-known that there are currently a lot of jobs going begging, even as employers offer higher pay;  see for example this article.  Bernie Sanders offers his explanation: he suggests that the problem lies in the ratio of CEO pay growth to worker pay growth since 1978, and “Maybe the problem isn’t a so-called ‘worker shortage.’ Maybe — just maybe — the working class of this country has finally had enough.”

I don’t think Bernie Sanders has a whole lot of experience with this whole ‘working’ thing, so it seems unlikely that he really understands what is going on.

Not very common, I think, for someone to turn down a job because someone at a level stratospherically above him makes a whole lot more money than what he is being offered.  Do people really decide against a job at Wal-Mart because Doug McMillon got paid $20.9 million in 2020?  Or decide not to go workin’ on the CSX railroad because of James Foote’s compensation package of $15.3 million? While people are very concerned with comparative pay levels, they are usually most concerned about the pay of people doing comparable work or those one or two levels above them (or below them) organizationally.

So what are the factors that are actually keeping so many jobs from attracting workers?

One factor, I think, is simple inertia: people who have been out of the workforce for several months during Covid lockdowns may be delaying going back to work, even though they know they will need to eventually.  Another factor is the difficulties with child care / education…even when school are physically open, it’s hard to know how long it will be until they are locked down again, so you can’t count on them for a predictable schedule…and also, there are probably a fair number of people not very enthused about sending their kids back to public school at all, given what they’ve learned about them over the past year.

There are also people who are doing work off-books, and may find that by avoiding FICA and taxes…and any reduction in means-tested benefits…they can do better than they’d do at a full-time job.

Certainly one factor in reluctance to go back to work lies in the unnecessarily unpleasant nature of too many jobs…I’m not talking about jobs that, say, involve working in foundries in high temperatures or working outdoors on commercial fishing boats in winter, but rather retail and customer service jobs that feature extreme micromanagement plus schedules that change from week to week.  See Zeynep Ton’s book The Good Jobs Strategy for more on this point. (my review here)  And the enforcement of political correctness, also, makes quite a few workplaces unpleasant places to be.

And there is a feeling on the part of many people that they can’t get ahead, because of the importance of credentialism and contacts.  I’m sure there are a lot of people in low-level positions in banks who would make excellent branch managers, but are not considered for these jobs because they don’t have college degrees…also, branch managers who are not considered for region executive jobs because they don’t have MBAs, and people who do have MBAs who can’t break into investment banking because their MBA is not from a ‘top’ school.  The importance of credentialism varies widely by industry and by specific company within an industry, of course, I suspect many people think it’s more all-encompassing than it actually is, and this is demoralizing to them and creates a ‘why bother?’ mentality.

Finally, there is the problem of skill mismatch: the jobs that are open will often require skills that the potential applicants don’t have, even when unnecessary credential requirements are eliminated.  (Although one would think that the trend toward jobs that can be done remotely would mitigate this problem to a considerable extent, by broadening the geography from which people can be drawn)

What else?

At The Zoo

When we visited the San Antonio Zoo this weekend (because military  and veterans get in free, all during November) we discovered that the zoo has a pair of bald eagles, which they are rehabilitating. They have a nice little enclosure with an American-looking shed with a flag out in front. One of the eagles struck a heroic pose on the perch in front of the hut; we suspect the bird is a complete and total ham for attention.

 

(More pictures of critters taken yesterday on my cellphone here)

Rittenhouse Found (Appropriately) Not Guilty but Who Was?

I have not followed the Rittenhouse case as closely as many, but I’m old – we’ve been there before. Remember the 70’s, the 80’s?  Last year a hundred thousand Americans died of overdoses; theft is not prosecuted in some cities.  Did we think our lives would be peaceful?  Did we then, as we pulled out some of the pillars that held the roof over our society, protecting and ordering it?  Some of those pillars were being reconstructed, but the last few years have seen their destruction, again and more thoroughly.

Rittenhouse, certainly out of self-defense, killed, but these deaths are not just the result of the actions of the men, apparently unhinged and certainly violent and predatory from long before Blake was shot, that attacked him.  The fault also lies in those in charge, who have little humility in taking over our lives from cradle to grave, but shrug off their first responsibility – to nurture an ordered society, where the rights of citizens are protected and civility reigns.  They seem to want to take our guns but they certainly don’t want to protect us.  Our leaders have lost a sense of the priorities outlined in our unique, beautiful, and profound Constitution.  However, it codifies and organizes responsibilities long seen as a government’s duty:  to protect citizens from threats external (the federal) and internal (the state and city). They found a sensible format for fulfilling those duties – one with checks and balances.  Our tradition, of course, has always included a healthy bit of personal responsibility, of self-protection.  Rittenhouse is in that tradition.  Those who did not do their duty are in no position to scoff at someone who tries to protect the home town of his father and grandmother.

Read more