Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Rah, rah, rah…As if the NFL doesn’t have enough of a problem with women

Well, yesterday I quit the NFL. I hope for good.

But I will nonetheless continue to follow the Billionaire Boys Club and their efforts to convince advertisers and fans that football really is superior to, say, cage boxing and ultimate fighting.

One of those elements of superiority that the NFL will be able to point to, of course, is the existence of cheerleaders to root their heroes on. I’m actually guessing here, but my guess is that cage boxing and ultimate fighting don’t have young women on the sidelines working the pompoms.

But most teams in the NFL do.

It should come as no surprise to careful Pink Slippers that being a cheerleader was never high on my list o’ things to do.

My one foray into this activity occurred in 4th or 5th grade when, with my pals Susan and Bernadette, we decided that we were going to cheer on one of the local Little League teams – lucky them – the one, of course, that had the boys we had crushes on. Or was it a collective crush on one boy? I’ve forgotten the full details, but I believe the team was Abdow Scrap Iron, and the colors of the crepe paper swishies we made were navy and white. Other girls in our class were going to do the honors for National Standard. (Red and white crepe paper swishies.)

We practiced a few times, and showed up for a game and cheered for an inning or so.

I’m sure we were dreadful; I know I was embarrassed.

I was probably out a quarter for the crepe paper for the swishies, but lesson learned: I was not cut out to be a cheerleader.

When I was in college, I girl in my class was a cheerleader for the Patriots. This was before cheerleaders were required to be leggy, toothy, and big-hair-y. My classmate was a perfectly pleasant looking girl, but most of what she had going for her was her pep and enthusiasm.

At our all-women’s college, there was little outlet for either, so she went off to cheer for the Pats.

We weren’t friends, and I have no idea how long she kept it up for.

Perky, peppy Peggy would probably not make any of the professional football cheerleading squads these days. Just not the type. And I like to think that she’d be too smart to put  in a 20+ hour workweek, for which she got paid little or nothing, for a professional sports team raking in millions of dollars a year.

I’ll have to guess what would motivate someone to become a cheerleader for a professional football team.

I’m guessing that they’re dancers and/or fitness instructors and, even if they get paid zilch or near-zilch to shake boobs and booty, they do it for the exercise or the fun or the camaraderie. Or to use in promotional materials for their dance studios or fitness centers.

I’m guessing that some dream of meeting the man of their dreams. First choice, a high-paid glamor boy like Tom Brady. Second choice, a billionaire owner seeking a trophy wife. Third choice, someone on the practice squad. Fourth choice, a creepy old season’s ticket holder.

Maybe they just like football.

Or, maybe, in the words of Buffalo restaurateur Russell Salvatore, who at one point sponsored the Buffalo Bills cheering squad, the Buffalo Jills:

“They did it from the good of their heart.” (Source: Businsessweek.com)

While Salvatore (of Russell’s Steak, Chops & More fame) backed the Jills, the cheerleaders didn’t get paid.  (“They never asked me for pay.”) There were, however, some side benefits. Sort of.

He did write them a song, set to the tune of Volare, to use when they took the field. (“Go Jills, go Buffalo, go Jills, we love you so / You make the game day so bright / Your cheers are sure dynamite.”) The cheerleaders opted not to use it.

While sometimes they’ve earned a little coin, for the most part, Jills just don’t get paid. They sign a contract stating that they’ll show up for practices, games, and mandatory appearances at charity events and the like. And, when there was no sponsor around to back them, they had to pay for their own uniforms. (Other sponsors over the years include the Mighty Taco, which paid the cheerleaders nothing for practice of games, but did fork over “$25 an hour for off-field appearances—only after a cheerleader made 16 unpaid appearances each year.”)

After a year as a volunteer, one Jill, Caitlin Ferrari, decided she’d had enough. Then, after a couple of years of thinking about it, she:

…filed a class action against the Bills for wage theft.

She has company. Other Jills are also heading to court.  As are cheerleaders from the Oakland Raiders, Cincinnati Bengals New York Jets, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

In all, 13 current and former NFL cheerleaders in five cities have filed pay cases. In every one, the cheerleaders are claiming that teams violated minimum wage laws.

As the plaintiffs pile on, fans are learning that the most powerful sports league in the U.S., with $9.7 billion in annual revenue, pays its sideline performers worse than the average birthday clown or barista.

The NFL says its up to the teams, and earlier this month, the Raiders tentatively settled, agreeing “to pay $1.25 million in lost wages to cheerleaders who worked for the team over the last four seasons.”

Historically, the Jills seem to have had the least to cheer about when it came to how they were treated.

Among other things, they had to buy 50 team swimsuit calendars. Plus:

Jills also bought and sold tickets—four per cheerleader at $125 each—to an annual golf fundraiser for the squad where, according to the group suit, they sat in dunk tanks, auctioned themselves off to ride on men’s laps in golf carts, and did gymnastic “flips for tips” that were kept by their employers [whatever group was sponsoring them].

The Bills, having outsourced their cheerleading services to team sponsors, knows nothing, etc..

“The Bills organization retains a number of third party vendors to provide ancillary services on game days. These services include, among others, parking services, concessionaire services and cheerleading services.… We are aware of public statements and allegations that have surfaced since the start of the recent litigation which attempt to give the impression that our organization employs cheerleaders. Such statements are inaccurate and misleading.”

While all this is being resolved, the Bills are Jill-less.

The NFL teams can, of course, well afford to pay their cheerleaders at least minimum wage for their services. (Which, in Atlanta this year include visits to the boxes of well-healed season’s ticket holders. Old goat duty must be really fun!) But once you’ve done something for free, it’s kind of hard to go back and cry foul. These weren’t kids or illegal immigrants being exploited. They’re grown women who, if they didn’t know what they were getting into Season One, sure had an inkling by Season Two.

So why go back for more?

Personally, I believe that cheerleaders should get paid. Just like hot dog vendors, parking lot attendants, and ticket-takers do. It’s completely disgusting that, given the wealth of the league and its constituent teams, that they are paid nothing, or a pittance, especially when you add up all those extra-added requirements (e.g., sitting in the lap of the creep in the golf cart).

But if someone’s willing to do this for little or nothing, well…

Is the word “ninny” still in use?

Anyway, the bottom line with the NFL is always the bottom line. But you’d think given all the bad news about treatment of women that has been showing up of late, exploiting the women who dance around and prance around for the fans wouldn’t be an issue they’d want to add into the mix.

 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Hub fan bids NFL adieu

The fall Sunday afternoons of my childhood were spent watching NFL games with my father.

While baseball was his (and, thus, my) first sports love, my dad also enjoyed football  - a sport which, like baseball, he had played.

We watched the NY Giants – then still called the New York Football Giants, although the baseball version had already fled to the West Coast – playing in Yankee Stadium, and wearing uniforms that were always described as “Honolulu Blue.”

The AFL was just getting started, and the league – and their local entry, the Patriots – was considered something of a joke. Even the TV station that broadcast them was a wannabe: Channel 6 from New Bedford, a low-wattage outfit that showed mostly a snowy, jittery screen.

So we were Giants fans: Frank Gifford, Andy Robustelli, Dick Lynch, Y.A. Tittle, Rosie Grier, Rosie Brown, Phil “Chief” King, Kyle Rote, Charlie Conerly…

By watching football at my father’s side  - he watched and appreciated sports with an athlete’s eye – I learned about the game, and learned to enjoy it.

But somewhere along the way, I lost interest.

I might have watched a few games during high school, but don’t recall watching many games beyond that.

Super Bowl?

Never heard of it.

And the more I thought about professional football, the less I liked it.

Too violence-glorifying, too flag-waving, too militaristic.

No thanks.

While I remained a sports fan – Red Sox, Bruins, Celtics - I went decades without paying much attention to professional football.

And then the Patriots got good.

And my husband and I found ourselves turning on the games on Sunday afternoons.

I watched my first Super Bowl in 2002, the year the Patriots, led by Tom Brady, won.

Our collective  -  Jim’s plus mine - interest in football waxed and waned with the fortunes of the Pats. Jim loved basketball, so I watched a lot of Celtics; I’m a Red Sox lifer, so he watched a lot of baseball.

But in the last couple of year’s of Jim’s life, when getting out and about got a a bit more difficult, we started watching a lot of NFL games.

Sunday afternoon. Sunday night. Monday night. Thursday night.

Half the time, there was a game on. And we watched it.

Still, there was always something unsettling about it.

All that violence, the martial music, the pumped up testosterone, the conflating of sports with patriotism, the grotesque adulation of athletes, the grotesque amounts of money floating around, the grotesque tobacco-industry-like posture towards brain injuries, the grotesque exploitation of college athletes in the NFL’s plantation-style minor league. All that violence.

Somewhere along the line, it occurred to me that football was the veal of sports.

If you thought about where veal came from, you wouldn’t eat it.

And if you thought about what professional football was all about, you wouldn’t watch it.

At least I wouldn’t.

So I didn’t think about it.

And Jim and I watched a lot of football last season, right on up to the Super Bowl.

Well, my father, who was my first football watching buddy, died in 1971. And my husband, who was my second football watching buddy, died last winter.

Meanwhile, the NFL just keeps going from bad boy to worse boy.

Nonetheless, as we neared opening day, I was thinking about getting back into the football-watching swing, if only to remind me of something that my husband and I enjoyed doing together.

But with so much free time these days to think about the NFL, I’ve decided to quit.

I’m quitting because, in the world the NFL operates in, smoking a doobie is a worse offense than cold-cocking your girlfriend – that is until the video’s released.

I’m quitting because, if someone’s a talented athlete, teams turn a blind eye toward whatever they do in the outside world – until they get caught, at which point there’s a wrist slap. That is, until the media starts to howl.

I’m quitting because NFL star Ray Rice decked his fiancée, and NFL star Ben Roethlisberger sexually assaulted a young woman, and NFL star Aaron Hernandez likely killed three men because he felt disrespected.

I’m quitting because:

The National Football League, which for years disputed evidence that its players had a high rate of severe brain damage, has stated in federal court documents that it expects nearly a third of retired players to develop long-term cognitive problems and that the conditions are likely to emerge at “notably younger ages” than in the general population. (Source: NY Times)

I’m writing this on a Sunday.

The Patriots are playing the Vikings,whose star running back was just arrested for over-zealously disciplining  (translation: beating) his 4-year old son.

And I’m not watching the Pats vs. the Vikes.

Because I quit.

Not that the Krafts, who own the Pats, or Roger Goodell, who runs the NFL, could give a crap.

I don’t own any player shirts. I don’t wear a cap. I don’t go to any games in person. I don’t “play” fantasy football. I don’t drink beer.

They won’t miss me at all.

When I was a kid, my father listened to the Friday Night Fights on the radio. I sometimes listened with him.

Boxing used to be a big deal sport in this country.

Now, not so much.

Maybe the NFL will go the same way. Hard to imagine that parents are going to encourage their kids to play a sport that will give them a well-above average chance of becoming brain damaged.

But there’s an awful lot of money at stake here – billions and billions – so I’m sure the brain trusts at the NFL are figuring out how to “manage” their violence problem, while juggling it all against the trade-offs around the game’s visceral appeal as a macho, gladiator, violence-glorifying blood sport.

Whatever they end up doing, they’ll be doing it without me.

Maybe I’ll be tempted back in if the Pats end up in the Super Bowl. But for now, I’m off the game and, as far as I’m concerned, the game’s off.

Nice Sunday afternoon out there, by the way.

I’m going for a walk.

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Friday, September 12, 2014

Who Do You Think You Are?

I am a complete sucker for the TV show Who Do You Think You Are, in which ancestry.com pulls out all the genealogical stops to find something interesting in the ancestry of some celeb.

I mean, who doesn’t want to learn that Valerie Bertinelli is descended from British royalty? That Sarah Jessica Parker stems from a Salem witch? And that some celeb I’ve never heard of had a philandering murderer for his great-great-grandfather?

When it comes to my ancestry, I suspect that even ancestry.com wouldn’t find anything very interesting in the archives: farmer, farmer, peasant farmer…

Supposedly, my great-grandfather, Matthew Trainor, was a hedge-row teacher in County Louth, in Ireland, before he hopped on the boat for Amerikay.

Other than that, it’s pretty much farmer, farmer, peasant farmer…

But you never know what you might find when you start looking under the ancestry.rug.

So a few weeks ago, I spit in the cup and sent my DNA packing off to ancestry.com for DNA analysis.

As I am about as white-bread as you can get – half German, half-Irish, fair skin, blue eyes, light brown hair that started out blond – I wasn’t expecting anything very exotic. Still, I always wondered just whether my father – with his jet black hair, olive skin, and fabulous ability to tan-don’t-burn – had a wee drop of color in there somewhere. So I was kind of hoping to find out that I have some African ancestry.

But, no.

What I did find was that I’m 99% European stock, 1% Asian. And not just any old Asian: Mongol horde, all those “stan” country Asian. (Would I top Valerie Bertinelli if I found that my 20 times great grandfather was Genghis Khan?)

Where’s the rest of me from?

Ancestry

If you can’t quite read this screen shot, I’m 42% Western European, 38% Irish, 12% British, 4% Italian-Greek, 1% Iberian, 1% Scandinavian, and less than 1% Finnish/Russian.

The easiest way to interpret this is that my Irish father is responsible for the 38% Irish and 12% British, and my German mother the Western Europe, Asian, and mutt-mix.

With the last name of Rogers, I have always wondered whether one of Cromwell’s soldiers met a nice Irish girl in County Roscommon and decided that settling down with a colleen was a better idea than rampaging through the countryside killing Catholics. On the other hand, family lore has it that Rogers was an Anglicized version of McCrory/McGrory/McSomething.

At some point, I’ll have to hit the wayback machine and figure this one out.

And speaking of out, a probability range is attached to each ethnic bite, and the one attached to my being 12% Great Britain is 0 –33%.

So, with apologies to the wonderful folks from England, I’m going to cry Brits out, and get rid of that British heritage until I get proof positive that I actually am a proper Englishwoman. To the hounds! (I can just hear Nanny, my Irish grandmother, if someone suggested that her family was part-British. She would completely have fobbed it off on the Rogers, not the Trainors. And while the name Rogers, with its whiff of Brit, might suggest that she’d be right, her family was from the East Coast of Ireland, just across the pond from Great Britain. What’s to say that some English lad, out for a sail, didn’t run into a storm and get washed up on the shore near Dundalk…)

Anyway, the British blood doesn’t explain my father’s man-tan. That has to come from the 4% Italian-Greek connection, or the 1% Iberian peninsula route.

Of course, those numbers also have the same probability of zero at the lower end of the range. The only ethnic groups that I have a non-zero probability of being part of are Western Europe (which includes my ancestral home turf of Germany), where the probability range is 16 – 66%, and Ireland, where it’s 22-55%.

Thus, I can say with pretty much 100% confidence that I am Irish and Western European.

Which is not exactly the shock of the century.

Still, I was hoping for something a bit less Aryan Nation. That African I thought might show up. Some Polynesian. A bit of  European Jewish. American Indian. (Well, since I’m from relatively recent immigrant stock, having some native American blood would really have surprised me.)

Anyway, I’m hoping that in a few years, all this ethnic estimation is more refined, and can ferret even more info out.

Meine mutter, the German, had reddish-brown hair, green eyes, and exceedingly pale frecklish skin. Somewhere along the line, she’d heard that the neck of the woods where her ancestors hailed from (near Stuttgart) was populated by Celts.

Who knows?

Meanwhile, I will have to start brushing up on my Italian and my Greek.

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

An almost perfect little urban experience…

One of the things that I cherish most about being a city-dweller, and a city-dweller in this particular city, at my particular address, is being able to walk to the ballpark. So, for the half dozen or so games I see during any given season, I take shanks mare.

The walk to Fenway from my home is an especially pleasant one.

I generally cut through the Public Garden, beautiful any time of year, but especially when the Swan Boats are in the lagoon, and the flowers are at their resplendent best. From there, I walk up The Mall, the tree-canopied allée that runs down the middle of Comn Ave (Commonwealth Avenue to outsiders) from the Public Garden on out to the Fens. Lovely, lovely, lovely. Cool (or at least a bit cooler than pounding the pavement) – via natural air conditioning – when it’s sweltering, and dry when there’s a light rain.

The allée ends, and your back to city streets, but, as you near the ballpark, a bit before Kenmore Square, things really start livening up. The baseball crowd becomes evident, and even when the Olde Towne Team is wretched, as happens to be the case this year, there’s always a bit of pre-game excitement, aided an abetted by those hawking programs (Two dollahs  hee-ah, five bucks inside; a bah-gin!) or scalping tickets.

The walk takes about a half-hour and then at the end you are, quite wonderfully, at Fenway Park and ready to watch a game.

Play ball!

Late Tuesday afternoon, even though I had just attended a game on Sunday with my sister Trish, niece Molly, and friend Michele – and, yes, we walked both ways – I felt the urge to once again take me out to the ball game.

Alas, the tickets that I’d seen on Stub Hub for $7.50 the day before – talk about a bah-gin – had been scooped up.

There were plenty of tickets available on the Red Sox site, but even this late in the pre-game – it was now about 6 p.m., and the game would be starting a bit after 7 p.m. – they were going to lard $7.50 in convenience fees or handling or whatever they call the surcharge for ordering on line onto a $20 ticket (lower bleachers) for the night’s game.

It being a pleasant enough evening for a walk, I decided to do something I haven’t done in years – maybe decades, even – and that is walk up to the ticket window on game day and buy my ticket in the here and now.

What with the Red Sox already E-for-Eliminated from contention, and fielding as they are a bunch of prospects, has-beens, and wannabes, I figured my chances were pretty good that I would score a ticket, even if the Red Sox are barely able to score a run.

(As we used to say in Worcester back in the day, this team stinks out loud.)

Anyway, there was line of twenty or so folks ahead of me in the ticket line, and I was easily able to get my singleton for the lower bleachers.

For a team that stinks out loud, the Red Sox are still drawing a pretty good crowd, and there weren’t a ton of empty seats. (I just checked, and the attendance is given as 37,008 out of a capacity of 37,400. I have my doubts, but it was a good crowd.)

I’m sure that some folks wanted to see a good team play – that would be the Baltimore Orioles, who should be clinching the Eastern Division title any day now. Maybe some just like baseball. And maybe some just like having the experience, absent in Boston for much of the past decade-plus, or just deciding spur of the moment to take in a game.IMG-20140909-00280

Anyway, because the Red Sox are such a sorry-arsed bunch, the team is apparently resorting to the sorts of gimmicks that I associate with the minor leagues and/or with franchises that can’t manage to draw good attendance.

So Tuesday night was bobble-head night, with each lucky attendee handed a Pedro Martinez bobble-head.

Now I completely adore Petey – all if forgiven for the ‘the Yankees are my daddy’ statement - and if I were a Hall of Fame voter, he’d get my vote.

But Martinez hasn’t played with the Sox since 2004 – yes, that 2004 – and, while he does have some post or other with the team, I’ve got to believe that we got the bobble-heads because some marketing assistant was rummaging around in what must be a massive swag closet and discovered 37,008 Pedro bobble-heads covered in dust.

Well, I’ve got mine.

The Red Sox being the Red Sox, and 2014 being 2014 (and decidedly not 2004 or 20013), the game was pretty much a bust.

But the seat I had was fine, the sausage sandwich tasty, and the organist even played a riff from Thunder Road.

Plus, former Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk was there  – who, let’s face it, is practically my boyfriend – so, as they always do when #27 is in the house, they showed his highlight reel and played Like a Rock, followed by a shot of Fisk waving to the crowd  - he was actually waving to me – from the swank seats.

The young couple sitting next to me – twenty-something nouveau fans – barely knew who he was. Probably not surprising, since Fisk’s heyday was 40 years ago, well before they were born. I suppose it would be like someone sitting next to me as a game when I was a kid and asking what I knew about Smokey Joe Wood or Tris Speaker. The young guy in the couple did know enough to associate Fisk with the scene in which Our Hero waves a ball fair, hitting a crucial home run in the 1975 World Series. (Not crucial enough that the Red Sox won that Series, of course. They didn’t.)

I stayed through to the bottom of the 8th, long enough to sing Sweet Caroline and watch Big Papi whiff for the second (or was it the third) time.

It was getting late, and I wanted to enjoy that walk home.

As it was getting late, I took Newbury Street (lit and commercial) vs. Comm Ave (dark, residential and arboreal) back home.

Not very crowded – 11-ish on a Tuesday in September – but lively enough.

Fortunately, Emack and Bolio’s was still open, so I was able to get me some ice cream. (Caramel with peanut butter cup: yummy.)

Other than the Red Sox losing – that and coming back to an empty house – it was as near a perfect little urban experience as I’ve had in a long while.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

And today’s orange jump suit goes to Mathew Martoma.

Yet another Wall Street fraudster will soon to be kitted out with a decidedly non-bespoke orange jump suit.

The felon of the week this time around is Mathew Martoma, who was a portfolio manager at SAC Capital Advisors, and will be doing nine years for, depending on the way you interpret things:

a) insider trading
b) refusing to roll on Steve Cohen, who the Feds are really after
c) cheating his way out of Harvard Law and into Stanford Business
d) a and b, but not c
e) a and c, but not b
f) b and c, but not a
g) all of the above

This is, admittedly, an awfully multiple multiple choice, but I’m going to go with “all of the above.”

Martoma, 40, convicted of making $275 million for SAC by using illegal tips to trade in Elan Corp. and Wyeth LLC, had rejected government offers of leniency in exchange for his cooperation in the probe of Cohen and his Stamford, Connecticut-based hedge fund. (Source: Bloomberg.)

Ah, Elan.

Many years ago, my husband made some money on this stock.

I don’t remember how he dug them up, but I do remember that they were headquartered in Ireland, and that on a couple of trips to the Old Sod we passed by and Elan building.

Of course, Jim didn’t make any $275 million on his trades.

Then again, Jim wasn’t trading on insider info that revealed that the clinical trials on a promising Alzheimer drug were showing disappointing results, insider info that let SAC drop its Elan holdings before the trial results went public and the stock price dogged. (SAC had revved up its holdings to begin with on the basis of leaked info that Martoma was getting that the trials were going well.)

Martoma is the seventh SAC-er to be convicted of insider trading.

This is a Magnificent Seven, but I’m sure the Feds would just as soon have nabbed SAC founder Steve Cohen, the big kahuna they were really after.

Martoma, who is married with three young children, asked for less prison time, arguing that he isn’t as blameworthy as other recent insider-trading defendants, including Raj Rajaratnam, who’s serving an 11-year sentence in a medical prison in Massachusetts.

Love that “other guy” excuse. And, it looks like it worked, as Martoma got “only” nine years, vs. Rajaratnam’s eleven.

Richard Strassberg, Martoma’s lawyer, told Gardephe that a prison term of two to three years would be appropriate. Martoma submitted 140 letters from supporters urging the judge to be lenient.

Martoma has already been substantially punished, Strassberg said. He lost his career and has been financially ruined, the lawyer said.

God, I hate to quote bad 1970’s TV shows like Baretta, but “don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.”

Not that figuring out what’s insider trading vs. what’s doing your homework isn’t a tricky and ill-defined business, but this Martoma seems like bad news.

In fact, in setting the length of the prison sentence, the judge was asked to take Martoma’s earlier dishonesty into consideration:

They told the judge that Martoma’s 1999 expulsion from Harvard Law School for creating a forged transcript “speaks volumes” about his character. Martoma sent the forgery to 23 federal appeals court judges with his application for clerkships.

In general, getting expelled by Harvard does not increase the likelihood of being accepted by Stanford. But a couple of years after Martoma got the hook from Harvard Law, he managed to weasel his way into Stanford Business School.

This was, of course, back in the day before admissions folks did a lot of background checking on candidates, but accepted it on face value if you failed to disclose, say, that you’d ever been at Harvard Law, let alone that they’d booted you out for changing all those “B’s” to “A’s”.

There’s more (of course):

After Harvard kicked him out, Martoma, who at the time was known as Ajai Mathew Thomas, legally changed his name to Mathew Martoma in 2001, the same year he arrived on Stanford's campus. (Sourc: John Byrne on Linkedin Pulse.)

Interesting about the name change.

Martoma’s apparently not the only one.

Sure, Steven Cohen is still Steven Cohen, but good old SAC Capital is now calling itself Point72 Asset Management.

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Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Sue the faulty software-producing bastards!

A few weeks ago, I saw an article on boston.com on a group of recent law school grads who are using their new skills to sue ExamSoft Worldwide. Among ExamSoft’s products is bar exam software that students in 43 states must use if they want to take the exam using their personal computer, rather than doing things the stodgy, old-fashioned, but slightly more technology-proof method: paper and a mitt-ful of freshly sharpened, bright yellow Dixon Ticonderoga Number 2’s.

It seems that the majority of those taking the bar exam prefer to use their PC, even though it costs $125-150 vs. Dixon Ticonderoga Number 2, which is free.

I really have no idea what the setting for the bar exam is, but I gather from what I’ve read that students go to a center in their state where the exam is administered, and, if they have ExamSoft installed, they can download the exam questions and fill in the answers digitally.

Apparently, they put there answers in, but don’t do the uploading at the center where they take the test. They have until midnight of test day to get home and upload in the privacy and technical splendor of their own home.

I don’t really get the taking it home part, but I guess I’ll just have to assume that you can’t alter your answers once the time is up and you’re asked to put your Dixon Ticonderoga Number 2 down. Which would be metaphorically speaking, for today’s tech savvy students. Maybe they’re asked to raise their hands, step away from the keyboard, unplug and remove the battery, shut their lid…

Maybe the reason that they have to go home and do their uploading on their own bandwidth is that the system just can’t handle 50,000 would-be barristers simultaneously uploading their answers. Or the individual test centers just don’t have the bandwidth.

But this July, a lot of those who’d elected to take the exam electronically found that they couldn’t get their answers to upload. And as the midnight deadline approached, these would-be barristers had visions of failing the bar – no upload = zero on that portion of the test – and ending up as baristas instead.

All this stress after three years of being pounded in class by Professor Kingsfield knock-offs, spending a few months beating your head against a bar review course, and borrowing $200k to finance law school in hopes that you’ll at least be able to pull off a couple of gigs as an hourly wage court appointed attorney.

Oh, the humanity.

ExamSoft has said that the problem wasn’t one of scale. Their product could, in fact, handle all the potential lawyers. It was a matter of some changes they’d made to the product. Their VP of marketing, Ken Knotts, sounded downright insouciant when addressing the issue:

….‘‘Unfortunately, (recent) upgrades, made in an attempt to improve the exam taker experience, played a role in the post-exam processing delay that some bar exam takers experienced on July 29, despite system field performance review and ongoing monitoring.’’ (Source: boston.com)

Ah, the old blame-it-on-the-customer routine. After all, if those exam takers hadn’t been looking for an improved experience, none of this bad stuff would have happened.

Knotts said in a statement that the company is not aware of any student who missed his or her deadline. ‘‘We absolutely sympathize with the bar applicants who experienced a delay, and we again offer our sincere apologies.’’

Well, hell hath no fury like a law school grad whose electronic answer sheet has been scorned.

Catherine Boohoo Booher is one such law school grad:

‘‘They knew that this was happening and we’re already so unbelievably stressed out as it is,’’ Booher said. ‘‘They’re not getting punished, they’re not apologizing for adding to our mental anguish.

‘‘Had they just come out and said, ‘Oh, my God, we are so sorry’ and refunded my money, maybe it would have been different.’’

ExamSoft is pretty much taking a “no harm/no foul” stance, so let the mental anguish class action suits begin!

I see this as just another one of those glitches - some large, some small – that we can expect to find more and more of as we become more and more dependent on living by, with, for, and on technology.

A few years ago, I was in a store and there was a systems failure of some source. The clerks were freaking out because they had to compute the sales tax by hand. You’d have thought that they were being asked to figure out how to get an out-of-orbit spacecraft back to earth with a slide rule.

What’s going to happen if there’s some sort of crise de GPS, and we have to read a map? Will there be anyone left on earth who remembers how they work?

And god help me if I actually need to remember anyone’s phone number. I think the only ones I still know by heart are my dead mother’s, my dead aunt’s, and my dead grandmother’s.

Perhaps because my career has been in technology, I have quite a refined understanding on how it can fail us. All the testing in the world, and something that you didn’t anticipate can still happen.

Way too many folks, however, have such blind faith in technology that they expect it will all work “six nines”, i.e., that everything will work 99.9999% of the time. And when it doesn’t, they can’t handle it.

I’m sure it was the no fun zone for those taking the bar who had problems uploading their exams. Nerve wracking, for sure.

But see you in court?

Shouldn’t they at least wait and see if there were actually any damages?

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Monday, September 08, 2014

Dedicated follower of fashion. (I’m feelin’ so groovy now.)

“Sixties Fashion Returns”.

What Boomer could ignore that headline.

Of course, I knew right off the Birkin bag that they weren’t talking about what I was wearing in the sixties.

No, we’re talking about the other sixties entirely:

Its icons, from Jane Birkin to Catherine Deneuve, Ms. [Edie] Sedgwick to post-Camelot Jacqueline Onassis, are near-constant references for women who love fashion. Type "Jane Birkin" into Pinterest and marvel at the treasure trove of worshipful pins that unfurls on your screen. (Source: WSJ Online.)

Me, I didn’t have to type “Jane Birkin” into Pinterest, but I did need to Google her.

Sure, I figured that she had something to do with the Birkin bag, which I would definitely have one of if I were the type who had $40K to spend on a pocketbook. I was right about the bag – Jane Birkin inspired it - but, according to Wikipedia:

She is perhaps best known for her relationship with Serge Gainsbourg in the 1970s.

The Serge Gainsbourg. Well, that explains it.

Anyway, I guess we’re mostly talking being tall and slender, having great hair, never being  seen without sunglasses, and sporting about in expensive casual pants with an expensive casual shirt tied at the waist.

Hey, take away the tall, the slender, the great hair, the expensive pants and shirt, and I could icon it up with the best of them.

I will admit that some of the retro-look clothing coming back looked familiar, even if the price tags weren’t.

Who didn’t have an A-line coat? A pea jacket?

Okay, my A-line coats were a Kelly green boucle wool with frog buttons, and my pea-coat was from Mickey Finn’s Surplus – or was it Spag’s?

Still, I was younger, taller, thinner, and blonder then, and I suppose from some angles I looked like Catherine Deneuve on an off-day. BN-EK598_sixtie_G_20140905130221

While I was never into leather, I had plenty of friends with leather skirts, pants, and jackets. And that striped sweate? True confession: I still have shirts that look like that. (Thank you, Leon Leonwood Bean!)

As for the pocketbook. That looks kind of like a powder-smelling, snap-tight Mom purse to me. But I am delighted to think that sensible shoes are making a comeback, just in time to save those nit-wit twenty- and thirty-somethings who’ve been bringing on the bunions with their Manolo’s for the last decade or two.

Mostly, however, my sixties looked a bit different.

Admittedly, this was because from 1960-1967, I was mostly wearing a hunter green serge jumper and white blouse.

But on my off days, let’s see.

Much of my “civilian” clothing was made by my mother. It always looked stylin’ in the pattern catalog, but by the time I selected the hideous fabric I was typically drawn to, and my mother sewed it up so that it would be modest (i.e., at least two sizes too large), it looked really crappy.

Overall, here’s my sixties fashion run-down:

Shirtwaist or A-line dresses.

Madras shorts, skirts, and shirts.

Khaki A-line skirts, worn with pinstripe shirts.

Ski pants – very popular in early high school, an a pre-cursor of the black leggings movement of the eighties.

Sweaters. Sweaters. And more sweaters. (Some things don’t change. I remain a sweater girl.)

Denim shorts. Wheat jeans.

Anything with a Villager, Lady Bug, or John Meyer label that I could find for next to nothing – and stamped IRREGULAR – in Filene’s Basement.

The hideous knock-off Villager suit from Anderson-Little that I wore when I needed to play grown-up while in high school. Light green, worn with a white poor-boy sweater. And sensible shoes. Probably Weejuns.

Mini-skirts and min-dresses, for sure, barely covering my butt once I got to college and they had no control over what I was wearing.

Of course, by the time I got to college, most of what I was wearing was bell-bottom jeans, turtle-necks, work-boots, Army shirts, and that Mickey Finn’s (or Spag’s) pea coat.

I did get a navy blue dress (A-line, of course) – and sensible shoes – for my father’s funeral.

But, alas, I was never a style icon.

The style icons in my high school were the rich girls – you know, the ones whose fathers owned funeral parlors - not the scholarship girls. They drove Mustangs, wore Papagallo shoes – in lots of different colors, carried Bermuda bags.

In college, my roommate and best friend actually was a style icon. She still is, and next time we talk, I’ll be asking her about the sixties fashions she would have seen at Fashion Week – NYC, Paris, Milan, she hits them all, as her highly successful career has been in the fashion biz.

What a pair we must have made…

Anyway, I suspect that what’s coming up will not be for me:

This fall, Gucci designer Frida Giannini recast the British dolly-bird look with an Italian eye for luxury and a refreshed millennial color palette. Think a double-breasted mint-green angora martingale coat over sky-blue leather pegged pants and matching python Chelsea boots.

For one thing, I have never favored mint green, and had not realized that it was part of the refreshed millennial color palette. And I am sorrowfully – or mercifully – too long in the tooth and thick in the waist to don sky-blue leather pegged pants.

Ah, the sixties.

"It's the best fashion decade," said Barbara Atkin, fashion director at Canadian department store Holt Renfrew. "When we head into the '60s, everyone gets excited because there's a huge ROI [return on investment]. The trendy pieces become blue-chip investments in a way."

If only I’d hung on to that A-line coat…

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