Monday, September 15, 2014

Tipping madness: Marriott

Marriott Hotels are now demanding that I pay them for a clean room, and then pay their employees for cleaning it.

Jessica Lynn Strosky of DuBois, Pennsylvania, who earns $7.75 an hour cleaning rooms at a hotel that's not a Marriott, says only 1 in 15 or 20 guests leaves a tip. When they do, it's a dollar or two; she's lucky to get $20 a week in tips. "I've talked to lots of people who say they don't know they are supposed to tip," she said.
Unlike waitresses who earn less than minimum wage because tips are expected to raise their earnings, hotel housekeepers are paid minimum wage, and in expensive markets, substantially more. In Washington D.C., Sorenson said, Marriott housekeepers start in the mid-teens per hour.
Most hotel maids clean 14-16 rooms in an 8 hour shift. If Marriott's formula of $1-5 per guest is followed, then their maids will be making anywhere between $9.50 and $17.75 an hour. For making a bed? No way is unskilled labor worth that kind of cash.

I have had some rather strong opinions about tipping for years. Many servers at restaurants complain that they do not receive enough in tips, even when they are making $100-200 during an 8 hour night. This is far more money that other, more skilled positions are paid.

Servers making $400-800 a week in tips, or maids making $400 a week is more than enough for the skill that they bring to the table. My sister and daughter are both working in tipped jobs. They each bring home $300 a week in tips. That is $300 in TAKE HOME tips, plus the $5 an hour they get from their employer. That is the equivalent of $12 an hour.

I tip 10-20% of my check at restaurants, with a maximum tip of $10. Any more than $10 for a fraction of the server's time for the hour that I am there is more than I am willing to pay.

I am not tipping maids.

If you want to make $50,000 a year or more and can't get that off of tips, here is my tip to you: Get an education and get a better job, but stop whining about the pay you make for unskilled labor.If Marriott feels that strongly that their employees should be paid more, then they should raise the price of a room and give the maids a raise. The market will then decide if the extra cost is worth it.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Are my standards too high?

This week, my students turned in a scientific research paper. They have been working on it for the past 4 weeks. To begin, the due date was discussed every class period for the past two weeks. The paper was supposed to be research on the topic that they chose to do experiments on, so that they would know the background science.

I have 75 students. I received 24 papers today. Meaning that 67% of my papers are either going to be late, or not coming at all.

For the ones that were turned in, there were a number of rules that I had for the paper:
-Must be typed. Times New Roman font, 12 point, double spaced, 1 inch margins
- Reference page, with at least 5 references, and these references had to be from scientific, peer reviewed publications. Not popular press, and no Wikipedia. I even had the learning resource department come in and give a lecture on proper references and how to cite them.
- must look professional and neat
- do not mention your experiment, this is a review of the relevant science, not a proposal about your experiment.
- No first or second person pronouns: Me, my, you, yours, and the like are not to be used.
- Spelling, punctuation, and grammar count

Only four of the papers had a title page. Three were script fonts, and one of those used a different color for the text of each paragraph. One had what appears to be pizza sauce on it, another was water stained.

Not one of them had 5 valid sources. Some sources included: an FAQ page from the Mayo clinic, an article in people magazine, and links to the web page for a television show. My personal favorite was the student who stated on his resources page: "Google the underlined text in each paragraph for relevant sources and further reading."

There were frequent errors in spelling, punctuation, and grammar.

Then there were the factual errors:
- "Dolphins make squeaking noises with their mouths."
- "when dolphins are at high speeds, they leap to save energy, so that explains why dolphins attend to leap out of the water so that they can get more air to restore more energy just like humans."
- "The largest dolphin are the Amazon Dolphins & they can reach 2.7m in feet"
- Listening to the wrong type of music can cause a heart attack, or lower your heart rate and cause death.

Are my standards too high? I don't see a single paper worthy of an A. There may be 2-3 B grades, and maybe 5 or 6 C's. The majority of them have not even attempted to turn in a paper, and the rest appear to have phoned it in.

This is why we are getting our butts kicked as an economy. The kids just don't care, and then they grow into adults that just don't care.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Obama doctrine

During the Bush administration, there was a big deal made about the so-called "Bush Doctrine." With that in mind, I want to take a look that the "Obama Doctrine" with regard to Russian relations.

On June 24, the White House released a fact sheet on US-Russian relations, and the "Reset." It read like this:

In one of his earliest new foreign policy initiatives, President Obama sought to reset relations with Russia and reverse what he called a “dangerous drift” in this important bilateral relationship.  President Obama and his administration have sought to engage the Russian government to pursue foreign policy goals of common interest – win-win outcomes
President Obama outlined the steps that he would  take to reset US-Russia relations. These steps included:

-  A New START Treaty that reduces limits on U.S. and Russian deployed strategic warheads by approximately one third. Now we have Russian bombers practicing nuclear missile runs on the US.

- Russia confirmed that it will not deliver S-300 missiles to Iran, in accordance with a UN resolution.
Iran now has the missiles, claiming that they made them locally, but rumor has it that they were sold to Iran by Croatia.

- The United States and Russia were to have collaborated closely within the framework of the G20 on measures to address the global economic crisis, and on the coordination of the reform of financial regulation.

Sanctions put in place because of the Ukraine crisis have forced Russia to deepen ties with China and other states that have grown tired of the US using its economic influence as a club.

The Obama doctrine is an abject failure.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Ignorance of the law is no excuse

Ignorance of the law is no excuse. That is what the powers that be in this country keep telling us, anyway. The law in Florida the prohibits carrying a concealed weapon say that:

(1) Except as provided in subsection (4), a person who carries a concealed weapon or electric weapon or device on or about his or her person commits a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.
(2) A person who carries a concealed firearm on or about his or her person commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.

Then it goes on to say, in 790.25:
(3) LAWFUL USES.The provisions of ss. 790.053 and 790.06 do not apply in the following instances, and, despite such sections, it is lawful for the following persons to own, possess, and lawfully use firearms and other weapons, ammunition, and supplies for lawful purposes:

(n) A person possessing arms at his or her home or place of business;
A trial judge got it wrong, and was overturned. There is something wrong with a justice system where citizens are required to know the law, and those charged with enforcing it are not.

Monday, September 8, 2014

View of a teacher with a month on the job

I have been teaching at the college level for over 8 years. I just started teaching high school this year. A month into my job as a high school science teacher, and I have a few observations:

This job requires far more hours of my time than I am paid for. I work at home for about 3 hours per night, planning lessons, designing lab activities, and grading papers. I'm hoping that next year it will be easier, because the lessons will all be planned out.

The kids, for the most part do good work. Very few of them do great work. Currently, only 3% of my students have an A. The majority of the class are average students, with about 30% of them earning a B, and about 35% of them have a C. There are about 20% that have earned a D, and if it were up to me, a D would not be a passing grade. Finally, 12% or so are failing my class.

The students that are failing my class are also failing others. I have one student that is failing my class along with 3 others. He is failing Geometry, Biology, English, and History. He has a D in an elective, and an A in art. I would not take bets on his ever making it through high school.

The number one reason why kids are failing? They don't turn in any assignments.

Number two? Cheating.
I caught three kids so far cheating by cutting and pasting WikiPedia pages into their report. One of them actually turned in a wiki page that I had written. Plagiarism is cheating, and anyone caught cheating in my class gets a discipline referral and an automatic zero for the assignment.

Number three? Just not studying. I can see who logs into the class website to retrieve class notes and power points. There are quite a few that never log in, have never checked out a textbook, and cannot understand why they get a 40% on the test.

I email weekly progress notes that include a copy of their grade book marks to every parent. If your child has a D or an F, I email you personally and notify you that your child is doing poorly. In many cases, it helps. In some, it does not. On average, I schedule 3-4 face to face parent/teacher conferences a week.

Still, there are students who have a 45% average in my class.

That is American Education. Don't blame the teachers. There are teachers that phone it in, but there are many parents that just don't care how their kids do.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

IRS struggles

I got a letter in May from the IRS. Yeah, one of THOSE letters. It was a letter telling me that the IRS didn't agree with my tax filing for 2012, and explaining that they took the liberty of doing my taxes for me. Then it said that, by their calculations, I owed them another $8,400 and change in taxes. I had two options: I could either send a check, or I could send a letter as to why I didn't agree.

They disagreed with my income, because they claim that I didn't report income from a 1099 that I had received from a customer that I had done some consulting for. I checked, and the income HAD been reported, but on the form for reporting business income, and not personal income. I sent proof.

They disagreed with my reporting of income from investments. I under reported my investment income by $4. I couldn't argue there. I forgot to include the $4 in interest that I had earned on a small savings account.
They disagreed with my deductions, claiming that I had taken a lifetime learning credit for a school that is not confirming that I was a student there. I have receipts and a 1098-T. I sent them in.

I just got a follow up letter. They agreed with me on the reporting of my income. Now, according to the IRS, I "only" owe them $1,200. They still say that they school is refusing to verify that I was a student there. I have a 1098-T. I have bank records, a $12,000 student loan, my student ID card, and receipts to prove that I was. If I have to pay taxes on this because I can't prove I attended this school, then why should I have to repay the $12,000 student loan. After all, if I wasn't a student of their school, then how did they give me a $12,000 student loan?

So I will be sending the next letter out this weekend.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014


The Mayor of Winter Garden ordered a man to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance which ended with a prayer, and when the man refused, the Mayor ordered the Chief of Police to escort him from the city council meeting. [Mayor] Rees said he considered the man's refusal to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance to be disrespectful to American military troops who are serving overseas and others who have given their lives in defense of freedom.

Well, Mr. Mayor. I don't see how you honor men who have died for freedom by ordering the man to leave a government meeting AT GUNPOINT  because he refuses to pledge his allegiance and pray to your version of god.

The article then says:
Though Rees said he did not know Richardson by name, he recognized him from previous meetings as the man who sits in the front row and then leaves after the invocation and pledge. "He doesn't come to the meetings because he cares about the city," Rees said.
So the Mayor gets to decide who cares and does not care about the city?

I fought in a war so that people would be free from petty tyrants, not to empower those same tyrants. Don't you DARE invoke my name to enforce your power on others.