The Weekender: November 25, 2015

1) “My Family Came to This Country Legally, But We Were Almost Deported” (Medium, 8 minutes, November 2015). I’ve met the author a few times — he’s a really good guy and even bought me lunch once. But that’s not why I’m sharing it. This is a great personal account of how things can go wrong when no one seems to care to make sure they go right.

Even though we were in the U.S. legally and all three of us had been ruled eligible for our green cards, the INS began the process to deport us. The INS demanded we show proof that we were innocent. But [our indicted Naturalization officer] had burned our documents, leaving us with little to no evidence to help our case. We were presumed guilty until we could beat the agency that screwed up in the first place. Justice isn’t blind; she has a twisted sense of humor.

2) My other site: AwesomeClaus, my collection of great gift ideas under $20. Perfect for the office Secret Santa thing you really aren’t looking forward to participating in, because you know you’re going to get scented candles again. On the other hand, where else are you going to find Unicorn Meat?


3) “Danny Meyer is eliminating all tipping at his restaurants and significantly raising prices to make up the difference, a move that will raise wages, save the hospitality industry, and forever change how diners dine.” (Eater, 22 minutes, October 2015). That’s a long title. Danny Meyer is a big-time restaurateur and a trend-setter in cuisine. He may become one in the realm of wages as well.

Under the current gratuity system, not everyone at a restaurant is getting a fair shake. Waiters at full-service New York restaurants can expect a full 20 percent tip on most checks, for a yearly income of $40,000 or more on average — some of the city’s top servers easily clear $100,000 annually. But the problem isn’t what waiters make, it’s what cooks make. A mid-level line cook, even in a high-end kitchen, doesn’t have generous patrons padding her paycheck, and as such is, on average, unlikely to make much more than $35,000 a year.

The fact that the people cooking your food often earn less than the people who serve it is a troublesome issue not just for the cooks themselves, but also for their employers — especially in a high cost-of-living city. “We’ve never faced a shortage of talented cooks like we have this year,” Meyer told me. “We’re in a day and age where there are more talented cooks than there ever have been, but fewer of them who want to live in New York to start a fine dining career.”

[ . . . ]

So just redistribute the tips, right? No luck. Gratuities are the legal property of a restaurant’s waitstaff, and while tip pools are a legal way to divvy up the night’s proceeds among captains, bussers, and bartenders, owners can’t use so much as a cent of those funds to better compensate cooks and back of house staffers.

4) “Four Columbia House insiders explain the shady math behind ‘8 CDs for a penny’” (AV Club, 35 minutes June 2015). If you know what the title is talking about, it’s a must-read. If you don’t and are into music, it’s a great look at how that industry used to work.


5) “The Hateful Life And Spiteful Death Of The Man Who Was Vigo The Carpathian” (Deadspin, 25 minutes, November 2015). The bad guy in Ghostbusters II was Vigo the Carpathian, who was represented by a somewhat alive, somewhat possessed piece of art. In real life, the man depicted as Vigo was a German boxer and actor known as Norbert Grupe. Grupe had a fascinating life in his own right. The article defies excerpting, though.

6) “Shaka, When the Walls Fell” (The Atlantic, 20 minutes, June 2014). The subhead: “In one fascinating episode, Star Trek: The Next Generation traced the limits of human communication as we know it—and suggested a new, truer way of talking about the universe.” If you know the episode, read the article. If you don’t, watch the episode first. (It’s called “Darmok,” and it’s the second episode of season 5. The episode should be available on Netflix and Amazon Prime. If you really don’t want to watch it, it’s recapped in the article.) The article is a really interesting way to look at language and communication.
Have a great weekend!