One size fits all

What does the author of this sentence think “one-size-fits-all” means?

Our economy is too diverse for a one-size-fits-all sick and safe leave policy to work, particularly if enacted differently in each local community.

The associated good news is that Minneapolis is getting paid sick leave, with some neighboring cities hopefully following soon.

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Marijuana and driving

I have no idea how one is supposed to parse this lead sentence:

WASHINGTON — Six states that allow marijuana use have legal tests to determine driving while impaired by the drug that have no scientific basis, according to a study by the nation’s largest automobile club that calls for scrapping those laws.

The rest of the article is interesting, though.  Short version: blood testing for THC doesn’t have anything to do with driving under the influence.

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“The Family Markowitz” by Allegra Goodman

This  story of several generations of the Markowitz family was a very good read — touching and funny, and more “real” than some of the David Lodge novels I was reading earlier.  (I do not think that this is because the Jewishness of the story rings truer to me than the Englishness of Lodge’s characters.)  The whole think hung together beautifully, and I don’t think I can really do it justice by pulling out any single part for comment.

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Callery pear

An article in the Times entirely about street trees?  Be still my heart!  Anyhow, it’s the usual story: once upon a time someone thought that it would be a good idea to widely spread an Asian ornamental in America, and then it turns out that there are reasons not to do this:

Its wood splits easily, making extra work for utility and public works crews. Its offspring pop up unbidden in forests and parks. Its blossoms are fragrant — but not in a good way. … The Bradford pear has been called a “scourge,” a “weed” and a “monster.”

In the end, the author considers the questions of (1) whether cities should stop planting them, and (2) whether they should actually tear up the ones that are already there.  I think he comes to the right conclusions, namely (1) obviously and (2) meh.

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How to caucus

You show up at 6:45 for an event that is scheduled to begin at 7. The line is already 2 blocks long. In the time it takes you to lock up your bicycle, another 30 people have joined the line. You make awkward conversation with the old-time resident and undergrads (so very, very undergrad-y) in line with you. After 10 minutes of slow progress, someone comes with little slips of paper to fill out if you didn’t caucus two years earlier. Luckily, you are a mathematician, so you are carrying your backpack with a pen and notepad, so you can fill out the little slip; except that it is dark out, so it takes you another 5 minutes. Then you try to skip the line, and eventually make it in the front door at 7:05. There are 100 or so chairs set up in the room. All of them are full, and people are crammed in against the walls. At the front of the room, someone is making a speech you can’t hear. You push your way to one side of the room, where you can fill out another slip of paper for your presidential preference, which you then place in a paper bag.

If all you are interested in is making a vote for president, you now push through the crowd to get out the way you came in, and the whole thing leaves you with the impression of a less-well-organized version of the time you voted in a presidential election as a nursery school student. If, however, you want to vote in local elections (or to be a delegate to the state convention), you push your way further into the room. There is a contested race for state legislature, and at 7:15 you break into “sub-caucuses” for the two candidates: supporters of one candidate at one end of the room and supporters of the other candidate at the other. Of course, new people are still pouring in the door to vote for president. The room is not large enough (even when people fold up some of the chairs), so eventually they send the supporters of one candidate upstairs. Undecided people are supposed to sit in the middle and be talked to by members of both sides, but it’s hard to believe that anyone knows what’s going on. At some point attempts are made to take roll of the two groups; this goes on for ages. Around 7:45, you notice your colleague from the math department enter the back of the room to vote for president; he had walked past you on the sidewalk just as you were entering the building 40 minutes earlier. Around 8, they take an official count of supporters of the downstairs candidate (actually this is not true, instead they just collect a list that has been circulated and signed, and count the names on the list). Since you are a mathematician, you total the numbers on the different pages for them. Presumably, the judge then goes upstairs to take a count there. At this point, since you don’t want to be a delegate and do want to eat dinner, you leave. However, if you want to be a delegate (or to vote on party resolutions), you have to stay for an indefinite period of time.

The next day, you can find no information anywhere about how many delegates upstairs candidate and downstairs candidate received.


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Some more links on UMN faculty organizing

From the Minnesota Daily, Faculty files to unionize.

From MPR, U faculty file petition toward union vote.

From City Pages, Faculty file for union to bring the U’s focus back to the classroom.

From Workday Minnesota, University of Minnesota faculty file for union election.

From the Pioneer Press, U faculty expected to vote on union.

Update: the Daily editorial board is in favor of unionization.

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UMN faculty union drive

Faculty at the University of Minnesota are filing to form a union!  It’s a group consisting of tenured, tenure-track, and contingent (adjunct) faculty, looking to join the SEIU education local.  This is the same union that organized Hamline adjuncts in 2014; their new contract (just signed recently) gives them their first raise in a decade, as well as numerous other protections.  The U union will be fighting for similar gains for contingent faculty, as well as a stronger voice for tenured faculty in the governance of the university.  Let’s do this!


Edit to add: the WSJ has a piece on us (paywalled):

If faculty vote to join the Service Employees International Union, they would potentially establish the largest bargaining unit of any school in the nation since at least January 2013 when new organizing activity in higher education began to rise, said William A. Herbert, executive director of the National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions at Hunter College in New York.

In the past three years, faculty and graduate students at about 65 schools have voted to join a union–a clip of nearly one school every two weeks.

University of Minnesota Professor Mark Borrello, who teaches the history of biology and evolutionary theory, said he was motivated to organize faculty to join a union because he believes the working conditions of part-time contingent faculty are bad and getting worse. The result: a transient workforce that was leading to a decrease in the quality of education.

“These are national trends, but they’re particularly upsetting [in Minnesota] because we’ve historically been a progressive state that prides itself on being hyper-educated and hyper-literate and when you feel like that’s not happening there’s this immense sense of frustration,” he said.


Further edit: the official announcement video is here, press release is here, and coverage from KSTP is here.

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