Send Reminder to Cancel Auto-Payments

Dearest Facebook: Thank you for reminding me to delete Messenger and WhatsApp by sending me an unauthorized notification. Best Regards,

It may not be as well known as it should be that when you remind someone of your existence, particularly in an annoying fashion, such as by forcing a decision, they are likely to evaluate their relationship with you and find it wanting. For example, several thousand businesses happily let their credit cards automatically pay $50 per month for an over-priced Internet hosting service–until they were offered the opportunity to migrate to the “new, improved” version, which promptly resulted in mass cancellations.

Wrong Problem. Wrong Solution.

I intermittently listen to the news while driving, and heard several stories on NPR’s All Things Considered, regarding a raid by Immigration and Customs Enforcement on poultry processing plants in Mississippi. This caught my ear:

“The industry is totally dependent on finding workers who will not raise issues and who, to a degree, live in fear of the company and they’ll just keep their head down and do the work,” [Debbie] Berkowitz says. “For the last 30 years that’s been immigrant labor.”

Chicken Plants See Little Fallout From Immigration Raids

Next, in A Look At The E-Verify Program And Its Blind Spots, economist Madeline Zavodny suggested the addition of biometric data to E-Verify as a means of increasing its effectiveness.

Adding biometrics to our identification papers won’t fix the working conditions in slaughterhouses–decriminalizing immigration might help–though it might possibly improve the accuracy of E-Verify, if we ignore the significant problems with biometric identification. It seems foolish to trust that the industry would prefer the plausible deniability that E-Verify gives them, and some people in power really like the illusion of control, so I expect we’ll soon leave our spit on the I-9 form.

Yet for some reason the problem under discussion seems to be that jobs are being filled by immigrants rather than that this work is hard, dangerous, and poorly compensated. So instead of asking why immigrants do this work, or being willing to pay more for our food, or buying whole chicken instead of individually wrapped thinly sliced chicken breast tenders, we focus on trying to control who can be hired, then punish the employee instead of the, ostensibly ignorant, employer.

America has had a labor problem since Europeans first looked on this continent as a resource to be exploited. Without people to do the work, how can we exploit it? If no one wants to do the work, for the wages paid, then make them. Seems straightforward, right?

A comparative study of the frequency and kind of typographical errors before and after the advent of computer-aided publishing would be interesting. Though, of course, copy editors weren’t eliminated because they were unnecessary.

Amusingly, got my ID checked at the Over40 soccer ⚽️ match tonight, to see if I was old enough to play: I must not look a day over 39.

Am I My Brother’s Keeper?

Sad morning here today. The youngest wondered if the Bigger Sister’s bunny was hungry and went to feed her, then came back to ask if she was dead.

Yes, Bunny is.

Now the house is full of tears.

Whatever the cause, I can’t help but think it was general neglect and diffuse responsibility, in which I also played a part. Bunny stayed in her hutch in the Bigger Sister’s room, alone, and didn’t come out to play often. She was easily ignored: that’s an excuse.

Confronted after the murder of his brother, Cain asked a rhetorical question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?

The answer is yes.


No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

John Donne, “Meditation XVII,” Devotions upon Emergent Occasions (1623)

We, all of us, are responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of this, our only world, and all creatures on it, particularly those in our immediate care; each supports the other.

Sometimes when economists mention that something is inefficient or costs a lot, and frown upon something for those reasons, I think they forget that inefficiency and those costs are oftentimes the reason those things are done: someone profits.

“It may take some time for children to learn to play without supervision.” — Ian Barker on pick-up soccer in Howler Magazine, Spring 2019

Yet again annoyed by computer programs that don’t do what I want. This time, and since it was created, Apple Podcasts.

It might be amusing how many sites stop working when cookies are denied if they didn’t stop working. (Also, noticed some sites are polite enough to offer the option to decline cookies, while others, like the WordPress default GDPR banner, simply announce cookies exist.)

Hard to say if I’m more annoyed that some drivers seem to be unaware that they cause gridlock when they enter an intersection they can’t leave, or that GMail intentionally ignores dots in e-mail addresses.

No Phones on the Field

I have been using my iPhone as a stopwatch, and sometimes for background music, during soccer practice for a while now. Not anymore. Last Thursday one of my players brought his phone on to the field as well and it rapidly became a distraction. I’ll be switching to the more analog way of keeping time.

Soccer requires intense concentration for at least two 45-minute periods. These kids already have trouble concentrating for more than 10 seconds on anything. Let’s not make it worse.

Skipping the Skip-nows

My children and I have been indulging in Screen-Free Week. We have read books, played games, and talked together. A week earlier they were binge-watching something or other in separate rooms on separate devices.

Screen-Free Week

Some days I regret being in this field–my life is defined by screens–but it has given me what one friend calls an Advanced Lifestyle. It helps to remember that there were reasons I chose a field where I could work from anywhere. Being a parent was one of them.

More important than being screen-free is spending time connecting with other people and in being, in some small way, the master of your fate. Taste life rather than submit to gavage. You are more than a consumer.

My Platform, were I a candidate for the School Board

Once again, it is that time of year here in New York where residents of the school districts vote for board candidates and approve the budget. Most of the time the school board appears powerless, confined to implementing decisions made in Albany and Washington, D. C. But let’s assume for a minute that it isn’t, which is possible, and that I’m a candidate, which is not.

  • A late start, an early end. The school does not need to be a factory.
  • Stand up and move. 15 minute breaks in each hour of instruction. Provide the option to stand, and to move about the room, in the remaining 45 minutes: replace the desks-with-fixed-seats with adjustable desks, or remove desks entirely.
  • Play.
  • A good lunch. See the examples of France and Japan.
  • Turn off the background music on the buses.
  • Buses, not Busses.

Isolation, anxiety, addiction, and escapism. Oh my!

It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.

Upton Sinclair (1934)

After Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez announced she was quitting Facebook, Cal Newport noticed that the news media seem to think that she did so in protest against Facebook’s advertising-based shenanigans with Cambridge Analytica, Donald Trump, and their ilk—despite her explicitly emphasizing the health risks:

I think we’ll all be better served once the national press recognizes this reality, and turns more of its attention from the spectacle of Mark Zuckerberg testifying about data privacy and AI-driven content review, and toward the more nuanced and more human issues encapsulated by the surprising story of a 29-year-old social media rockstar who finds it necessary to escape the very techno-world that made her.

I agree entirely. But the media are a bit narcissistic, and tend not to care about much other than themselves—besides, they depend on advertising. I expect they’re too busy reinforcing our intentional mass attention deficit disorder to spend any time thinking meaningfully about ethical behavior.

That is, violations of privacy are a safe topic, unlike aggregating eyeballs to drive traffic and create sticky revenue streams.