Wednesday, February 24, 2010

"Mary's like we're in elementary school again!"

I've noticed lately that a lot of big businesses are failing or are having problems with recalls. This is rather interesting to me mostly because instead of seeing the recession as one of the worst obstacles to my generation (which it rightfully is, since it's affecting my generation and those younger than me more than anyone else, at least in the job market) I'm viewing it as a giant restructuring. And really, isn't that what this country needs? Obviously, the system we had in place failed or we wouldn't be in this mess. So, in the short term the loss of jobs is rather catastrophic. But in the long run, if we manage to pull out of this in such a way that we actually learn something (not that people, as a group, are good at that) and we take this opportunity to fix what's wrong or even just not good enough, then in the long run we'll be much better off. I hope that people are seeing what's happening with the big businesses and are doing more local shopping. Small, local businesses have always been the backbone of this country and they are, unfortunately, the ones that get hurt the worst in times like these. But they also give back more to the communities they're in than any showy big business charity ever could, whether it's through buying other local products and industries or through little things, like supporting a little league team. I thought about it, and other than the grocery stores and fast food chains, it's kind of hard in Fairbanks to avoid shopping local. Almost all of the restaurants in town are locally owned and run, as are the bars, craft stores, salons, etc. My favorite bookstore is no longer Barnes and Noble, it's Gulliver's. B&N may be larger and glossier, but I find I actually love the cramped, small feel in Gulliver's. Not only that, but many of the people working there are college students and I know them. They bend over backwards to get the items that people want and even accept B&N gift cards, at a loss to them. I'm very impressed.
Speaking of restructuring, there's been a lot of stuff lately about the UA staff organizing and unionizing. There are two unions that are vying for this coveted spot: one is the Alaska state employees' union, and the other is the UA faculty union. Two union organizers came in today to speak with Katherine and me about what it would mean for us. Which, as far as we can see, is not much. They spoke about re-establishing the cost of living upgrade every year that the legislature got rid of a couple of years ago, which would be great except that pretty much whatever we made out of that would go straight to union dues. We already get plenty of leave time (15 vacation and 15 sick days per year), and it's hard to argue with the benefits. (Free tuition for both me and Shane? Yup, gotta love it.) Even my health care is way less expensive than it would be just about anywhere else, although apparently just a few years ago staff didn't have to pay anything for health care.
The other thing that I didn't like about the pitch was who they sent: Outsiders whose only job is to be union organizers. They couldn't even get people from within Alaska to pitch this to us! I would have felt much better if they'd sent actual union members, who would then have to be living in Alaska. Instead of just giving a glowing report about all these great theoretical benefits they say we'll get, I'd rather have heard from someone who knows both the upside and the downside of the union, or is at least part of it rather than working for it. That irritated me.
So I'm not sure how I'm going to vote. Katherine says no, in part because she's only planning to be in this job until she finishes her degree. But I'm not sure. When I talked to Brad he brought up the point that UA HR isn't the most trustworthy entity, and it might be worthwhile to have a group fighting for jobs rather than just individuals. (He brought up a specific case of someone who worked in the Wood Center--the campus organizing place/student hangout/info center--who interviewed for a job that he'd been working in as a student, then as a temp, and when the first picked candidate declined the position, instead of hiring him [the second choice] they declared it a failed first search and started looking for someone else, despite his excellent record and for no apparent reason. And according to the University rules, this was legitimate. He resigned pretty soon thereafter.) On the other hand, it's already tough to fire someone, and I know quite a few people who have their jobs only because it's already so hard to fire them, when based on performance they should have been fired long ago.
So really, I just don't know how I'm going to vote.
We went to a superheroes vs. supervillains costume party on Saturday, and I dyed my hair red. It's pretty fun and I've gotten lots of compliments on it.
Tied our soccer game on Sunday, 1-1.
Woke up Monday morning with a really bad sore throat and called in sick to work both Monday and Tuesday. Shane wasn't feeling well either, but escaped the sore throat and still went to classes, but not to work.
Last night, after having spent the better part of two days in the house, we decided to go to Pub Trivia. Our team wiped the floor with everyone else, getting the top place by about 20 points. I got four Capri Suns and Shane got Rice-a-Roni. : )
It's Fiona's birthday today, and since her family's out of town I'm making her dinner and a birthday apple pie. I'm not sure what I'm going to make, though, because we don't have much left in the house and Shane's taking the truck (D&D night). The apple pie will be great because we've had some apples for a while now that wouldn't be so great to eat straight, but they're just fine for cooking. But for dinner? I'm thinking spaghetti and veggie-meatballs. (Turkey meatballs with grated carrots and zucchini in them.) Makes me wonder, though, how do we run out of food so fast?
Oh! And I found out today that my grandfather will be honored in a ceremony celebrating some of Maine's elderly, for their life contributions. It will be April 16th, and I'm kind of wondering if I could go. I doubt it, but it would be wonderful. And really, how many opportunities do I have left to see Poppa? He'll be 89 in August. We'll see. I'm just excited for him, though. He deserves it.

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