Monthly Archives: June 2008

A wasted life

After a career in public service, I regretfully say, I would not do it again. Philosophy and point of view led me to doing good instead of doing well, so I never expected to become rich. But now that I’m in my 10th year of a frozen judicial salary — less than summer students are being paid at law firms — I have concluded that whatever I may have accomplished for the public, I have wasted 25 years of my life by serving on the bench.

The writer of these words, Emily Jane Goodman, is a New York Supreme Court justice. Her letter appeared in a collection of letters to the editor in response to a New York Times article about college graduates and public service. Does she have a point, or should we call the waaaambulance here?

Some background at New York Law Journal.

Women and population decline

This lengthy New York Times article, looking at why many European nations (Italy, Germany to name a couple) have alarmingly low birthrates, might shed a little more light on population loss in Upstate New York. The factor that is most examined is why young people are leaving the area (and presumably having babies elsewhere, since America’s overall birth rate is not really in trouble). Less examined is the birthrate in Upstate communities. Are women who stay here having more, less, or the same number of babies? And does it really matter?

Researchers find that European women who join the work force — and have husbands who participate more in child-rearing — are more likely to have more kids. Women who don’t have economic control over their situation (i.e., stay at home and don’t work) and who get less help with the kids from their husbands (or from the community) will be less inclined to have more than one. It’s not surprising that when faced with a combination of economic and social conditions that are less favorable for raising children, women (under various personal rationales) will choose not to reproduce.

It may seem strange, then, that women from some poorer communities would have more than one child; but this possibly has something to do with community differences. It could be about access to birth control, obviously, but also whether the woman feels there is enough of a safety net – in the context of their own immediate community standards for the work of raising children. Ironically, some women from more affluent backgrounds may be less likely to feel there is that safety net.

(The article has other relevant points for Upstate – about urban planning and economic adaptation – so check it out.)

An open letter

Dear IT Staff:

Why do you come around every summer and pull the rug out from under me? Suddenly, without warning, you appear and tell me my perfectly good computer has to be replaced, or that everyone’s got to “migrate” somewhere else. Last year, you took away the e-mail program I liked, and replaced it with lousy Microsoft Outlook, which has an unfriendly interface and less useful features. This year, you’re taking away my hard drive, plus a lot of the programs I need to do my work quickly and efficiently. I confess I have lost faith in the technology you bestow upon me, and then take away. (With all this endless migrating, you would think the digital wagon train might have reached the promised land by now!)

I know it’s not really your fault. You’re just carrying out your orders. Some master IT V.P. has decided this is all for the best. But I will have to figure out new workarounds so I can continue to do my job. And I’ll have to figure it out on my own. Just like the American people will have to figure out workarounds for the decisions inflicted on them from the guys up at Corporate. Like cockroaches after a nuclear war, we will survive. It’s all about the workarounds. So BRING IT ON!

Waterfalls

New York City is all abuzz with the latest giant public art installation, “The New York City Waterfalls.” These cost a whopping $15 million to create. From what I can tell in the comments at the NYT, the local peanut gallery is not very impressed. Having just spent a few weekends exploring some of New York State’s more beautiful and ridiculously abundant real waterfalls, I have to admit I’m scratching my head too. It looks like a water main break, if you ask me.