Monday, April 19, 2010

My day

Today I:

Went for a hike.

Cleaned the house.

Fixed my bike.

Rode my bike.


Ate three balanced meals.


Sat down to dinner with my kids.

Watched half of a movie.

Got my daughter to bed.

Actually learned about what my son is doing in school.

Watched my daughter rehearse for a ballet recital.

Found out there was a ballet recital.

Brought cupcakes to class.

Ate on the patio.

Today I did NOT:


Saturday, April 03, 2010

Thanks for Noticing. FINALLY.

The most e-mailed story on the Times Web site today is about the possible illegality of unpaid "internships." The story posits that more and more companies are using unpaid internships to squeeze free labor out of college students and recent college grads.

To which I have two things to say. First: Doyyyyyyyyyy. And second: What the hell has taken people so long to voice the opinion that this practice is fucked up? I have been saying it for years, 20 in fact, since I graduated from school well prepared for an entry-level job in journalism and had to spend years working for free to prove that I was work risking a $18,000 per year salary on.

People are outraged. There's the whole idea that it's a classist and racist system where the poor and underprivileged don't have the means or the time to fritter away working for free to gain "exposure" at these gigs. (To quote a friend of a friend when he was told such work is good exposure: "You can die from exposure, you know.") Well you know what? That ain't a new development and it has nothing to do with working for free. You think all those publishing houses and magazines that have long paid $14K a year for an edit assistant job are hiring Horatio Alger to work for them? They are self-selecting. Same old same old.

And the more outrageous outrage is this. The article itself goes on to say that well, the journalism field and film have always been known for this kind of exploitation, and it's expected. But now--gasp--REAL industries are doing it, and it's JUST WRONG. Trudy Steinfeld, director of N.Y.U.'s office of career services, says, “A few famous banks have called and said, ‘We’d like to do this.’ ”

“I said, ‘No way. You will not list on this campus.’ ”

Hey Trudy! So it's okay for people to bust their asses preparing themselves for writing or film careers and work for free, but for aspiring BANKERS, that's just wrong? Sorry, but fuck that. Work is work. Whether it's crunching numbers in a quant job or writing captions or sharpening pencils. And if work is being done, fork it over. And college counselors and placement officers, if you're going to protect one group, protect them all. Remember when you worked for free? Oh, that's right, you probably DIDN'T.

I did. This whole story takes me back to the good old days right after college, when I myself had the pleasure of feeling fucked-over and exploited by not one, but TWO different magazines. I'll say this--no, it's not okay to hire someone for an internship and make them clean the bathroom. But it's equally not cool to hire someone for an "internship" when they're actually doing the work equivalent to that of a full-time staffed fact-checker, or a salaried assistant editor. And that's what I did.

At my first "job" out of college, for a small, independent city magazine, I wrote stories, copy-edited pieces, did research for the on-staff editors, delivered magazines, and put up with mistreatment from a bat-shit crazy publisher and a narcissistic senior editor who mistakenly thought she had more talent than anyone else who worked there. I delivered an ultimatum that I wanted to get paid, and when that didn't pan out, I went to my second job, at a national magazine owned by a huge, huge media conglomerate (whose name rhymes with "rhyme") who gave me a fact-checking job and a raise to a whopping $25 a week. That was an interesting job, but I was not learning, I was "doing"--the same thing as the two staff fact-checkers.

I did my job so well that I was fact-checking complicated political stories and stories on the L.A. riots, and I actually caught a plagiarist among the writers (for those keeping score, Plagiarist: $1 a word, several hundred words a month. Me: $25 a week.) For my hard work, I was given a second three-month tour of duty and a raise to $75 a week--and an opportunity to apply for a staff position when one came open. Did I get it? No. It went to another deserving candidate who had been working as an intern for a paltry sum...for at least nine months. What I did get was a thank you and an invitation to keep working for another couple of cycles until another staff job came up. What I gave was a hearty "Up Yours" as I made other--paying--arrangements, aka working at the mall. Go, me.

You might say, well, I had free will. Why did I take these jobs? Eleven percent unemployment, that's why. And a desire to work in publishing. I did get a paying editorial job, by the way--after I took a few years off to walk the earth and waited for the economy to improve. (Another option not really available to the truly poor and struggling of the world).

I'll leave you with one more sad cautionary tale, one brought about by my own desire to stop getting butt-fucked by the magazine industry. As I was leaving the second magazine, one of the senior editors took pity on me and said he knew of another magazine starting up in the city--one run by smart people, that sounded really interesting, and they were looking for people. He gave me the name of the magazine and the phone number of his friend, who I called the next day. He called me back and we chatted about the job--an internship that would possibly turn into a full-time position as the magazine grew. The work was exciting, great exposure and they could afford to pay $100 a month. I had heard that song before, I was tired of it, so I said no.

The magazine? Wired. The journalism equivalent of saying, "Hey Larry and Sergey, this Google idea sounds great, but don't we already have ENOUGH search engines out there?"

Would I have become employee number [single digit] at one of the most influential magazines of the past 30 years? Or would I have cycled through and OD'ed on top ramen and gotten a job at the mall anyway? I dunno. But it sure would be nice, now that the Times has NOTICED and all, if companies would put an end to short-changing young aspiring whatevers--and keep them from short-changing themselves by thinking that that next Wired job or Google job is not just yet another opportunity for someone with more power than them to get something for nothing.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Not-so-good Friday

The best of all possible dogs. 1998-2010.

I hope your Friday was good. Because mine sucked. I lost my best friend. And I mean that seriously, not in the Precious Moments bullshit sense of the word. I had to make the call to end the life of my beloved dog. But it was the right thing to do. It was time.

I meant to update here this past week, but things happened faster than my fingers could type. First the hospitalization. Then the surgery. Then the survival. Then the complications. Then more survival. Then the downslide. Then the decision. It happened during a week. But it was a helluva week. And it was just me and him.

Bottom line? Pancreatitis. It's a horrible, horrible disease. Don't ever get it. Don't let your pets get it, if you can help it. Vito fought and fought to get past the pancreatic inflammation, the shutdown of the intestines, the bacteria that wanted to creep into his liver. And for a while it looked like he was winning. But it was too much. He held on for Rick and the kids to get back into town, so they could have a few great, love-filled visits. And that was all he had.

Today, the doctor called me with news that his body was fighting new infection. And that his pancreas was rearing its nasty self again. And that his gallbladder was not picking up the slack from the biliary drainage tube they pulled. We could have done surgery to put in a feeding tube that bypassed the pancreas. We could have seen how that would have done. We could have kept him alive. But I have been with him every day for the past two weeks. I have seen him suffer, and I have made decisions that I thought were positive and that would prolong his life. This was not one of those decisions. So we decided to let him go. It was time. He was ready.

So we went up today and said our goodbyes. I told him what a special dog he was and what a privilege it was to know him. And how I wanted only what was best for him and that I thought it was time he was at peace. Everything in his body language and his eyes agreed with me.

I could not be with him for the final moments. I could not watch him die. He died in Rick's arms, outside, under a nice big tree. He felt no pain. He had no agitated moments. He just went. I had one more moment with him after he was gone, to say goodbye. To say, I love you little one. You were my firstborn. Go in peace. I closed his eyes. And it was over.

Vito was a superlative dog. He has received love, and is receiving it now, from around the world, from the hospital, from Boulder, from his family in San Francisco, from everyone who ever touched him. And that is what life is about. The people you touch and the joy that you spread. And Vito gets an A plus for that.

Godspeed, little puppyhead. I love you. Forever.