Just to put some perspective on the bonuses for bank execs

Investment bankers at Bank of America will receive a total of $4.4 billion in bonuses for 2009 performance, averaging $400,000 each.

The large non-profit healthcare/social services agency where I work also just paid out bonuses. The company has a very strong belief in making sure that their funds are managed in a financially responsible way. Aside from things like mortgages on properties, the agency avoids going into debt. When funds are tight, as they have been for the past couple of years, the agency forgoes giving salary raises and instead pays out periodic bonuses once they're certain they have extra money left.

Last week, the agency paid out bonuses. I got $50. So did the top executives, if they even paid themselves bonuses, which I doubt they did. So did each of the several-hundred people who make $20,000 per year handing out medication and wiping asses and making sure everyone eats dinner. People who are directly responsible for the safety and well-being of other human beings. People who, if they do their job incorrectly, are usually immediately fired for putting human life in danger. There's no waiting around to see if people are a little safer and better cared for next quarter -- they're required to do their job correctly and successfully 100% of the time. For many of them, the $50 bonus is likely to have tipped the scales toward choosing not to leave and find a better-paying and much easier job, at least not this month.

Why is there not more outrage that people are getting paid an extra $400,000 (roughly the amount of money I've made in my life) for barely keeping their industry from totally failing?


How to make coffee

This is a video I made in about two hours last night. The purpose of it, explaining task analysis and why one might choose to use forward chaining or backward chaining, was pretty boring, even for someone like me who loves cognitive science, but I managed to have a lot of fun with the process.

I hadn't played with iMovie before, but found it suprisingly easy and self-explanatory. I might have also gone a bit overboard with the sound effects, but hey, they were there, begging to be used.



That dude at Blue Hill Ave and Morton Street who's always in the road

For this continuing ed class I'm taking, I had to do a functional behavioral assessment on any person of my choosing. I imagine a lot of my readers will be familiar with my, uh, subject.

Assessment subject
The guy who is nearly always standing in the middle of the road at the corner of Blue Hill Avenue and Morton Street in Mattapan.

Behaviors observed

  1. panhandling, at times with an open hand and at times with a cup
  2. waving at nearly every car and pedestrian when not panhandling or walking

Assessing the seriousness of the behaviors

The subject’s behavior differs significantly from that of most people at this intersection, in that all of the other individuals observed during the same time were observed to only briefly walk spend time in the intersection, seeming to proceed directly to their destination. One other person was observed waving; the antecedent to this behavior appeared to be seeing someone who he knew, as evidenced by him using the other individual’s name, and the consequent to this behavior was the other individual responding by waving as well and nodding his head toward the initiator of the interaction. No other individuals were observed panhandling at the location during the period of observation. It bears mentioning that while no others were seen exhibiting panhandling behaviors during this period and at this location, it is common that this assessor sees one to four panhandlers during an average day of living and working in Boston. This assessor has not previously observed others in Boston who have been this engrossed in such waving behavior.

The behaviors seems like they pose somewhat of a safety risk to the individual, as he engages in these activities in the middle of a busy intersection, often wandering in the lanes of travel. He also has worn dark-colored clothing at all times while he has been engaged in these activities, which increases the possibility of a motorist failing to see him. The behaviors appear to be persistent, as they are observed on a near-daily basis at all different times of day.

It seems that there is a reasonable possibility that the behaviors could interfere with the success and goal-directed activity of others, given that the individual spends so much time walking in the lanes of travel, particularly at night and in inclement weather. It seems likely that if he were to be struck by a car, the situation would mainly result in harm to him, but would also result in considerable delay, inconvenience, and feelings of guilt and sadness in the motorist.

It is for the most part unknown whether there have been past behavioral interventions attempted to change the waving behavior of this individual. It is known that a coworker of this assessor has purchased coffee and breakfast for this individual, feeling that this might give him some time to sit down and relax rather than feeling he needed to spend all his time in the road, but this did not seem to cause a noticeable decrease in panhandling activity, as he consumed it while walking in the road and panhandling.

The behavior is unlikely to result in any type of disciplinary action, as the fine for jaywalking is one dollar, according to Massachusetts General Law Chapter 90, Section 18A, and costs $75 to $80 to prosecute, according to Lieutenant Jack Albert of the Cambridge Police Department, quoted in The Boston Globe on August 6, 2006. Panhandling and waving are not illegal in Massachusetts.

The panhandling behavior could be viewed as a cultural difference, as this individual might be someone who is unemployed yet wishes not to rely on government aid, as is common among many individuals with mental illness, and he may well be part of this subculture, particularly as evidenced by his friendly interactions with others who appear to belong to this demographic. The waving behavior might also be viewed as something that is culturally acceptable among this subculture, though it does not seem to be widely practiced.

Observations on the behavior

  • Location of the behavior: Both behaviors appear to occur exclusively at the intersection of Morton Street and Blue Hill Avenue.
  • Conditions when the behavior does not occur: During inclement weather and when it is dark outside, the individual seems to engage in panhandling behavior but not waving behavior. At times when there is heavy traffic and there is a large vehicle trying to pull out from one of the side streets, the individual has been observed to stop either panhandling or waving and go direct traffic to help the vehicle enter the roadway. It should be noted that he seems quite skilled at directing traffic and the related skills of ensuring he has everyone’s attention, properly thanking them with an appropriate gesture, and so forth.
  • Individuals present when the behavior is most likely to occur: The individual seems to wave to and panhandle from any motorists and pedestrians. There seems to be no link between these behaviors and the presence or absence of specific people or types of people.
  • Events or conditions that typically occur before the behavior: The individual will sometimes walk to the gas station on this corner and stand in the parking lot and at times will buy things from the gas station mini mart, then will return to the street and resume panhandling and/or waving.
  • Events or conditions that typically occur after the behavior: The individual will leave the road and walk to the gas station.

Direct assessment data collection

ANTECEDENT

BEHAVIOR

CONSEQUENCE

car approaches

waves

car continues on its way

car approaches

waves

car continues on its way

person approaches

waves

person seems to ignore him

car approaches

waves

car continues on its way

car approaches

doesn’t wave, walks a bit

location of individual changes by a few feet

car approaches

continues walking

location changes further

none observed

goes to gas station, walks around parking lot a bit

doesn’t seem to see anyone or have anything interesting happen

nothing happens at gas station

goes back into street

none observed

car approaches

watches it

car continues on its way

car approaches, honks

nods politely toward car

car continues on its way

car honking?

obtains cup seemingly out of nowhere

none observed

car approaches

holds cup out

car continues on its way

car approaches

holds cup out

car continues on its way

car approaches, honks

waves, nods

car continues on its way

car approaches

holds cup out

car continues on its way

Hypothesis as to the function of the behaviors

The function of waving seems to be attract positive attention from other individuals. The purpose might also be to avoid the negative interactions that are often aimed toward people who are perceived as not having a job; it does seem that everyone in the area knows of this person and many seem to find him charming – while at the same time feeling a bit exasperated that he is behaving unsafely. This latter perception might in fact be a product of his waving, and the fact that people find him friendly might mean that they are more likely to avoid him and wish him well rather than finding him annoying and trying to run him off the road. It seems to be an adaptive response that he responds in a friendly/apologetic manner to cars honking at him, rather than a reactive manner that is more likely to start an altercation.

The function of panhandling seems to be primarily to make a living. There are likely other factors at play here, since he could presumably get government benefits, which would require a lot less physical labor and wouldn’t involve being out in the street. He might prefer the social aspect of being outside and being known in the community, or there might be other unobservable reasons that he prefers to make a living by panhandling. It should be noted that he was not observed to obtain any money during the observation period (though has previously been observed by this assessor to obtain money, and has been given money by this assessor).



Morbid heathen FAIL

I guess I'm still not entirely adjusted after a decade of living in
Massachusetts, because I just went to a group home where I see a
client on Wednesday nights, case manager opened the door and said, "Oh
crap...he's not here. He went with his dad to get ashes." I was about
to reply, "What?...Whose?" when I fortunately realized what day it is.


In rain or snow, sleet or hail...

The dyke working at the Fort Point post office asked me "can I
interest you in opening a postal box?" then looked at me suggestively.


How the hell do I pay my Express Scripts bill?

My job now makes us use Express Scripts instead of going to pharmacies, because the HR department hates us and wants to make us suffer it saves the agency money that they can then spend on the people we serve. OK, so having my drugs mailed to my office in a Tyvek™ bag is annoying, but not annoying enough to be worth a blog post. However, not being able to figure out how to freakin' pay the people is annoying enough to warrant one.

The bills show up at my home address, saying I can pay online or send them a check. I don't use checks (other than the ING orange virtual check thingies), because it's not 1940, but I'm happy to pay them online. Only I can't figure out how. When I log into my account, there's an option for setting up my debit card to automagically pay my bills. Which, uh, no. I'm fine having autopay on stuff like Netflix and Speakeasy where I know it's going to be the same amount around the same time each month, but not cool with the fake internet pharmacy billing my card for whatever amount they choose whenever they decide to send me a med. Which, let me tell you, doesn't necessarily correlate with when said med would run out based on taking it according to the schedule on the label. Also, they seem to enjoy contacting my doctors and refilling my PRN drugs when I have plenty left and haven't asked them to do so. So no, not about to let them charge my card whenever they feel like it.

But I can't figure out how to pay the amount that I already owe online. They don't respond to e-mails, and they don't have a phone number. Well, they do have a well-hidden one that can be obtained by googling "Express Scripts phone number," but it's answered by a robot with no options other than pressing buttons to make the robot self-destruct attempt to pronounce the names of some of these drugs refill prescriptions.

Oh, while I'm bitching about Express Scripts, they don't have a means of using the service entirely by mail and/or phone, which means that employees without internet access at home have to type their drug labels into the puter at work or at a library or whatnot. (Remember that most of the employees of human services agencies aren't people like me, but rather are doing the really important work like giving people showers and cooking dinner -- very common especially for older staff to not be computer users.) I personally wouldn't give a rat's ass if anyone saw me ordering meds, but I think it's disrespectful for that to be people's only option, especially for people from cultures where they aren't as down with letting random people know what meds they take.


Who needs a pickup truck to haul 2x4s?



Dear manufacturers of diners

Please stop attaching the backs of the booths to one another. Or if
you must, attach them REALLY REALLY SECURELY. Like with steel-
reinforced concrete, maybe. I don't like having some dumbass with ants
in his pants repeatedly crashing into my spine.

No love,
eeka



City of Boston to send you text alerts when they tow your car. Seriously.

I got this e-mail from the towing people (I'm signed up for the city's thing that e-mails me each week and tells me the street sweeper is coming):

We would like to inform you of five new features recently added to the City of Boston's street-sweeping reminder system:

  1. Earlier reminder options. No-Tow reminders have always been sent at 5pm, which is later than several of you said you leave from work. Now you can get your No-Tow reminders at 7am or 2pm or the default 5pm, whichever you prefer.
  2. Street-occupancy alerts. You know those temporary "no parking" signs that appear in your neighborhood? You can now get alerts for those signs as they go up on your street. Alerts are sent the day before street occupancy permits go into effect, and are conveniently included in the same email as your street sweeping reminders. To register, visit the street occupancy lookup and enter your street-name to get started.
  3. Towing alerts. For when your car actually does get towed, you can now search for the car's location online, or be notified of the tow by registering for Towing Alerts from cityofboston.gov with your email address and license plates.
  4. Year-round reminders. While morning and afternoon sweeping won't get you a parking ticket in the wintertime, nighttime sweeping will. No-tow reminders are now sent year-round to keep you alerted of overnight parking restrictions whenever they are in effect.
  5. Improved lookup. The street-sweeping lookup at cityofboston.gov now lists upcoming-dates when streets are next scheduled for sweeping, to help with the mental feat of predicting when exactly is the 3rd Wednesday or 4th Tuesday when you'll next have to move your car.
Awesome! Now the city will text TXT you when they tow your car. Nice of them.

Hmm, and it seems the e-mail reminders will serve as handy evidence next time someone slaps up street closure signs on the same day the closure is effective. I'm talking about you, National Goddamed Grid!


Delores Handy word of the day

Wenston. Wait, no, Winston. Wait, I mean, Wenston. Wenston. Winston?


Recent reviews of Foodler places that deliver to Roxbury

El Triunfo

Last weekend we ordered from El Triunfo, that little Salvadorian place in the South End that also does Tex-Mex (with a fantastic Salvadorian twist to it). The order came quickly (about 30 minutes) and everything was hot and the order was accurate. I like that their page even says that they're a small family-owned place, so to please bear with them in terms of orders taking a bit of time. Nevertheless, it got here faster than pretty much anywhere we've ordered from, with the exception of AK's, which is only a few blocks away.

The enchiladas aren't what one would expect; they're a crispy corn tortilla with toppings on top, garnished with lettuce and such. Very tasty, but more what one would think of as a tostada or similar. Also, absolutely huge and bursting with a variety of ingredients for $2.75; I was expecting that for this price, I would get one rolled-up corn tortilla with beans and veggies in it and covered in enchilada sauce. (I never expect enchiladas to be actually slow-baked except in my own kitchen and at a few of the Mexican family restaurant sort of places). I was pleasantly surprised to find basically a whole meal on top of a tortilla.

The nachos are amazing. Perfect topping-to-chip ratio, and fabulous sauces and seasonings. This was true of everything actually -- as soon as we opened up the bag, we were greeted by that lovely smoky and slightly spicy Central American food aroma.

Molly got a bean taco and a grilled veggie quesadilla, both of which I tried. Again, everything had that distinctive homemade Central American flavor, yet managed to not all taste the same. Everything had plenty of fresh veggies, smoky peppers, slightly oily peppers, and various spices. The grilled veggie quesadilla and grilled veggie enchilada were made with peppers, onions, and summer squash, all of which are fabulous when grilled with Salvadorian seasonings. People who've read my previous restaurant posts know how much it pisses me off when "vegetable" things at Latin American places have stuff like cauliflower and carrots in them -- these things just do not belong in fajitas or quesadillas. I mean, I'm all about the fusion, and enjoy things like portabellos or butternut squash in cuisine where one might not ordinarily find them, but fajitaed cauliflower is just wrong.

Lilly's Gourmet Pasta

Lilly's is in Allston and recently started delivering to Roxbury -- possibly because another Lilly's is under construction in the Bury and they're trying to get us hooked before it opens? I'm ordinarily not big on ordering pasta from restaurants (actual authentic Italian places excluded, of course), because this usually amounts to paying $15 for penne and red sauce, which I could make at home for about a dollar. If I'm at a place with a large typical American food menu, I'm more likely to order a salad or pizza or something that involves way more fresh ingredients than anything I'd likely make at home for two people.

That being said, Lilly's is all handmade pasta and sauces, and it tastes like it. Last night we each got a ravioli dish, because OMG ravioli, but the sauces and pasta were so awesome that I'm sure their plain pasta with red sauce would also be amazing and unlike anything I could make at home. My favorite thing about the menu is that everything is customizable; you pick a pasta, then pick a sauce, then choose from several dozen items you want to add to it (various cheeses, veggies, sundried tomatoes, etc.)

I got spinach ravioli with vodka sauce and Molly got butternut squash ravioli with alfredo sauce. Both were amazing. They were good-sized portions too. The salad was cheap and huge and awesome. The pesto bread must have had crack in it or something, because OMG. Right now I'm tempted to order up some of it just for snacking purposes. The minimum order for delivery is $15, but I don't think I'd have any problem eating four or five orders of the stuff, because as I said, it's got crack in it.

Also, on the subject of getting salads from restaurants, Molly mentioned that menus no longer call it "tossed salad," but rather "green salad" or "house salad." (If you're not sure why the older term might have gone out of vogue for referring to actual salad, consult urbandictionary.com or your friendly local teenage boy of any age and gender). I said I wondered if teabags are soon going to be called "tea infusement satchels" or something, but she told me not to hold my breath. And if I did, not to forget the safeword. OK, she didn't say that last part.


Our very own Morrissey Blvd Stop and Shop is immortalized on Cake Wrecks

Molly and I are big fans of Cake Wrecks. Every time we look at it though, we wonder where people find messed-up cakes at bakeries, because we never see anything like this anywhere around here. A couple weeks ago though, we went into the Stop and Shop and were greeted by a series of "Patroits" cakes, big giant cakes, and cupcakes. Also giant disturbing balloons, but we didn't photograph and/or submit those, since they aren't messed-up cakes. Cake Wrecks included her photo today in this post. Yay!