Tuesday, December 27, 2011

When will The Enquirer start reporting the online activities of public figures?

On December 23, The New York Times reported that the Tea Party mayor of Troy, MI rejected federal stimulus funds for a transit center in her city. Included in the article was a sophomoric anti-gay marriage remark that the mayor posted on a social media website:
[Click Here for a large version of this file -- quote is highlighted in the third column below graphic]

In 2006, CityBeat reported SORTA board member Stephan Louis's racist online remarks. Unfortunately, despite this and his 2002 reprimand from the Ohio Elections Commission, other news outlets have continued to contact Louis for his (predictable) comments on transit-related matters. This past fall, during the Issue 48 debate, Louis was a guest on various radio shows and on Channel 12 Newsmakers. He continues to announce himself as a "medical devices salesman" when in fact he does bathroom remodeling and other odd jobs.

In recent weeks, Mark Miller of COAST has been sending outrageous tweets:

This tweet was in reference to his December 21 claim that fire station brownouts were responsible for the death of a child in Westwood -- except there weren't any fire station brownouts that day in that area. What's more, planning for the streetcar has in no way affected the fire department's budget -- in fact state law prohibits it. Miller knows this but keeps doing it, because that's the only thing he and his group do.

Mark Miller on streetcar:

Meanwhile, Cincinnatians have died thanks to the likes of Mark Miller. They're among the 4,000+ who were killed in Iraq during the 2003 invasion and ensuing eight-year occupation. Miller, St. Xavier Class of '83, never mentions the two St. Xavier High School graduates who died on August 3, 2005 in a roadside bombing so that he can afford to drive his cowardly self from con-job to con-job.

We could go on all day long about pathetic activities of Miller, Louis, and the rest. Instead, let's get straight to the point: if The New York Times finds the online comments of public figures with Tea Party affiliations fit to print, why doesn't The Cincinnati Enquirer? Oh yeah -- because doing so would bite the hand that feeds.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

You've got to pay your dues...to write for Yahoo News!

Today, this appeared on Yahoo News. At first I thought it was a link from The Onion:

Only one manager called me back: the one from Brooklyn, just a few blocks from my apartment — and the last store I visited. She offered me the job at $10/hour; and if I worked part-time for three months, I'd be eligible for health insurance.

I'd later find out that the store is located next to the busiest transit hub in Brooklyn, which makes itthe busiest Starbucks outside of Manhattan. My initial idea of working a leisurely part-time job was completely false. This was going to be hard work. And a lot of it.

My first day was deceptively easy – watching videos of Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz on the store’s laptop with my fellow three trainees, and taste-testing coffee and tea. We had some pamphlets that explained the drinks, and our task was to memorize all of them — including some several dozen variations of shots, sizes and flavors.

We tried making a few of these with our trainers at the bar, but it wasn’t easy. There was usually a steady stream of 20-some people waiting in line, and there simply wasn’t the space or environment to train properly. It was always chaotic, with several people on the floor, calling orders, shifting from station to station, and asking you to get out of the way. Not to mention 10 customers waiting at the end of the bar for their drinks.

Photo: Daniel Goodman, Business Insider

My first real 7:30 a.m. shift was jarring. The intensity of what goes on behind the counter is simply not visible from the customer’s point of view. During the peak morning hours, we’d work through around 110 people every half hour with seven employees on the floor.

Since there was no chance my new colleagues — or “partners,” as Starbucks calls its employees — and I would ever memorize all the drinks, we handled everything else: brewing and changing coffees (staying on top of which ones are decaf, light and bold roasts, while rotating them via Starbucks’ “coffee cadence” using 2-minute timers and grinding the beans, having them all prepared to brew — and never leaving one pot sitting longer than 30 minutes without dumping, since it’s no longer “fresh”), marking drinks (there’s a complicated shorthand that you’ve got to memorize, while translating what a customer is saying into “Starbucks speak” and calling it properly), rotating pastries, the food case, and tossing hot items into the oven — all while managing the register.

Just as I was tempted to remind my coworkers that they were new once, too, I wanted to tell customers that I was way over-qualified for this job, and hoped they’d see me on the street in normal clothes, not in khakis, a black T-shirt, bright-green apron and baseball cap.

On my third day, my boss handed my fellow trainee — who would later disappear after a 10-minute break never to return — and me a mop and supplies to clean the bathroom, because the toilet was broken. It turned out not to be so horrible, but again, I quickly learned to swallow my pride.

We got two 10-minute breaks and one unpaid 30-minute break for every 8 hours on the floor, where we’d have to decide between running next door to use the restroom (because ours was always had a line of customers in front of it), quickly eating a bag lunch (there was never time to stand in line and buy something from the store), or making a cell phone call. If you’re lucky, you got to sit down on the one chair in the break room, or on the ladder, because there were never any open seats in the store.

Some of my coworkers were more demanding than others. Most were nice and welcoming. And there were office politics. On more than one occasion I walked into the break room to see someone crying, or talking about other coworkers. I mostly avoided this, until what would be my last week on the job.

I told my boss that I got a new, full-time job, and could work until I started at Business Insider. Butthe next day my name disappeared from the schedule.

For many people, service industry jobs are not a supplementary income or short-term solution. And hats off to them — especially those who do it without even complaining.


The author on Twitter: http://twitter.com/aimeegroth

Again, at first I thought this was a piece of satire, but no -- this girl apparently had never had a retail or restaurant job of any kind until, it appears, age 22 or 23. What's so astonishing is the writer's presumption that she will never return to menial work...because she's such a goddamn good writer (did Yahoo News pay her more for this piece than she made during her three week Starbuck's tenure?).

Out there in folksy middle class land, there exists the belief that a brief visit to the blue collar world as a teenager "builds character", or something. After a summer or two mowing the cemetery's grass, it's off to college and its fabulous internships, then dinner parties with similar people in a condo your parents helped you buy (I know you can't wait for just the right time to tell everyone that you bought that Chinese-made imitation Sri Lankan vase in Pago Pago).

I haven't paused in the last few years to think about "what I've learned" from my various restaurant, warehouse, office temp, and manual labor jobs. Putting myself on the spot, I suppose the main things are:

  • Most people are quitters
  • Few people recognize that "common sense" is a trick laid out by people much smarter and wealthier than themselves.

That's about it. Oh, and most white people who are "doing well" (those condo people I just mentioned, as well as most young white adults who moved to New York City after college, and of course most white people who started "their own" business) benefited from money given to them by their parents and/or deceased relatives. Such people on one hand think poor people (you know, real poor people) are cute, but on the other hold people from their native culture who still operate in that world in high contempt.

Is this post really just about me? It certainly is with respect to my deep suspicion of anyone who I spot "Playing Magazine". That phrase popped into my head one day at age 21 or 22 to describe under-30 college graduates who aren't yet "Playing House". Instead they've moved to New York City, or pretend that they have, and consume the specific elements of yuppie culture that magazine articles and advertisements promise will trick similarly insecure members of the opposite sex.

Just one final word to Ms. Groth (who is, like seemingly all who write for magazines, certainly playing magazine) -- I never took a writing class in college, but I hear they say something like "write about what you know". Reading this piece, we all know Starbuck's was in fact your "toughest" job because it was the closest you'll ever be to having a real one.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Gov. Kasich: Tin Soldiers and Nixon's Coming

14 months ago, Kasich promised to kill the 3c's plan if elected:

He was elected and he did kill the project. I have plenty to say myself, and probably will return to this subject at some point, but here I'm simply reposting recent remarks by All Aboard Ohio's Ken Prendergast from page 179 of UrbanOhio's discussion of Ohio's defunct 3C's rail plan.

The 3C Corridor is one of the top-10 most heavily traveled intercity routes in the United States, according to the US Dept of Transportation. And the 3C project would have given Columbus Amtrak service to the east via Cleveland then through New York state -- the flattest and fastest route to the east. The link wasn't touted as much as it probably should have, but such travel would been possible had the guv kept the money to upgrade the rail lines to the same quality as the direct Chicago-East Coast lines through Toledo and Cleveland. Instead, Columbus remains the largest metropolitan area in North America and possibly the Western Hemisphere without any regularly scheduled passenger rail services, and few local officials seem interested in doing anything about changing that dubious honor. Consider this recent, sad example.... US Railcar Corp. had to ask the Toledo Lucas County Port Authority to sponsor a grant to develop a manufacturing facility in the Columbus suburb of Gahanna! Why? Because local officials wouldn't support it. If Central Ohio won't financially support passenger rail while other states/regions do, then why should passenger rail come there?

But why does Northern Ohio have Amtrak service? Because congressional leaders along that route, especially in Cleveland, fought for it in 1975 as Amtrak's first experimental route. Today, the Lake Shore Limited is one of Amtrak's most heavily used trains. The Capitol Limited was rerouted through Toledo and Cleveland in 1990 after track was downgraded through Canton, Mansfield and Lima.

Then why does Cincinnati have Amtrak service? Because Congressman Harley Staggers Sr. and Senator Robert Byrd both of West Virginia fought to include the Cardinal route in Amtrak's initial system in 1971 to link their state with the East Coast and Chicago. And they fought to keep it, albeit with service reduced to thrice-weekly operations, in the face of repeated Amtrak budget cuts in the 1980s and early 1990s. Cincinnati got and kept its trains because there was no higher quality rail route between West Virginia and Chicago.

No Senator or Congressional leader in Columbus has fought to keep passenger rail since Amtrak's creation 40 years ago. It's why Columbus lost the New York City-Kansas City National Limited in 1979. If a Congressman didn't fight to put or keep your city on the Amtrak route map, then Amtrak isn't going to do it for you. Same deal happened with mapping out federal highway routes. Ohio had won $400 million in no-match federal funds -- as good as it gets -- to put Columbus back on Amtrak's map. Never before has no-match federal dollars been provided for passenger rail, let alone in such large amounts. And Ohio threw it away. Why? In the hopes of getting a better deal?

If you want rail infrastructure that enables fast, drive-time competitive Amtrak service between Columbus and Pittsburgh to the East Coast, as well as to Columbus to Chicago, be prepared for a price tag in excess of $400 million. The highest quality, least expensive route with the greatest ridership potential for Columbus is the 3C Corridor. But if Central Ohio wants something else, then it should seek funding leveraged by some of its own because the no-match rail grants were a one-shot stimulus deal and they're all gone. Local officials should be prepared for a higher start-up cost, leveraged by a 20% non-federal funding match such as from the state or local governments (meaning if Ohio wants to reapply for a $400 million grant, it will now have to pony up $100 million of its own funding to get it). The per passenger-mile operating subsidy would be higher too, based on the Ohio Hub studies, since no Ohio-involved passenger rail route was as promising as 3C when it came to ridership, revenue or operating subsidy per passenger-mile.

But we keep hoping and fighting for change. And I hope you will too, including sharing some ideas on how to get train service back to Ohio's third-largest metropolitan area.

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