Archive for the ‘Work’ Category


My Grandfather, the Engineer

12 December 2013

He’s 87 years old and going strong. This month Progressive Engineer features John Ebbinghaus as the inventor of a line of electrically conductive pastes that could affect a number of industries. See more about my impressive grandfather here.


Blackboard saviors

26 July 2013

It’s not every day that I read something that inspires me. I’m inspiration-resistant, you might say. But Matthew Pratt Guterl’s argument for funding the humanities at colleges got me with this paragraph:

My saviors weren’t clerics or wardens or coaches. They were teachers. They wore mismatched socks, drank coffee by the gallon, and loved ideas, evidence, and debate. They weren’t generalists but specialists, with hard-earned knowledge about medical science in Scotland, or library readership in the early Republic. I couldn’t tell you anything about their politics, but I could paint you a richly detailed portrait of their presence at the head of the classroom. From what I could see, they lived cheaply, responsibly, and haphazardly, drawing sustenance from the material of their research, which they shared, twice or three times a week, with a group of 35 or so history majors, mouth-breathers all. These strange masters of the blackboard, drove cars just like mine, except that theirs were filled with random slips of paper and wildly strewn books and file folders. They gave extraordinary, dazzling lectures, even though much of the time, I could not understand anything they were saying. They were a live cliché.

For the whole deal, visit Inside Higher Ed.


Capitalism and the Exploitation of Women: Wal-Mart’s Bangladesh Factory Fire as a Test Case

5 December 2012

Wal-Mart currently resources one billion dollars worth of inexpensive clothing from Bangladesh each year.  So it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that when 112 workers died in a factory fire last month, cloths labeled for Wal-Mart were found in the ashes.  The mega-retailer distanced itself from the disaster, saying that Tazreen Fashions was no longer authorized as a producer for the chain.  They offered no explanation for how the giant company with its giant factory somehow continued to produce massive quantities for Wal-Mart undetected.

Over 70 percent of garment workers in Bangladesh are women.  Their reported wages are low, usually around $50 a month.  Managers make more, but such positions are usually filled by men.  The 112 workers dead in the November blaze continue to go unnamed by the American media.  The vast majority, I assure you, will turn out to be women.

Bangladeshi men are starting to feel the heat in the disaster.  The factory, identified as “high risk” in 2011, had violated building codes from day one, being built three times larger than was initially authorized.  Male government officials pushed it through.  Likewise, it was male managers who failed to install proper fire exits.  It was a male manager who trapped the women inside even after the fire alarms went off.  Such men are facing public ire now.

Who isn’t being forced to own up to such exploitation of women?  Wal-Mart executives, over 80% of whom are male.

Wal-Mart’s PR fire could get bigger before it gets smaller.  In April 2011 over a dozen representative from major retailers met in Dhaka to discuss safety issues.  Wal-Mart, the lead retailer among them, explicitly opted not to invest in electric and gas system upgrades in their factories.  The other retailers followed suit.  In the document from the meeting, Wal-Mart and the others expressed that “It is not financially feasible for the brands to make such investments” in factories.

Is advanced global capitalism, spearheaded by bottom-line giants like Wal-Mart, going out of its way to empower women?  Look inside the body bags.  The charred corpses will tell you in no uncertain terms.


Manly Art of Knitting

7 November 2012

Benjamin and Christopher Levisay are every bit a part of the knitting industry as the women-folk of the family.  XRX Inc., the family business, produces knitting literature and hosts shows.  Christopher isn’t at all bashful about “the manly art of knitting.”  He’s pretty good at it, it seems, judging by the $300 he fetched for a stocking cap.  For more on the Levisay’s craft, see this article from the Argus Leader.


God and Man in Business, ca. 1930s

14 December 2011

Historical studies about American evangelicals in business can feel a little few and far between.  Outside of biographies of tycoons like Andrew Carnegie, few important works arise.  So I was happy to see that Church History published an article on R.G. LeTourneau, a New Deal era evangelical who tried to hold onto long-held ideals capitalistic Christianity during the expansion of the federal government.  Here’s the punchline:

Just as it would be a mistake to ignore LeTourneau’s conventionality within right-wing Depression and World War II-era business and politics, it would be misguided to minimize his distinctiveness as an evangelical.  He was God’s business man, not just any business man.  His answer to the New Deal was not simply a shrinking state, but a revival that would put a fallen nation back on good terms with its creator. . . . In this light, revivalism was not apolitical.  Revivalism was politics (Sarah R. Hammond, “‘God Is My Partner’: An Evangelical Business Man Confronts Depression and War, Church History 80:3 [Sept 2011]: 519).



Vietnamese Men Have to Get Their “Second Visa”

10 November 2011

A Newsweek survey earlier this year found that a mere 8% of men had cheated on their significant other on a business trip.  That debunked a long-standing myth about men on the road.  But when it comes to international travel, particularly travel to Vietnam, wives aren’t resting assured.  Vietnamese men traveling back to their economically-depressed country of origen find a highly flirtatious group of women looking for romantic, wealthy boyfriends.  The reputation is bad enough that Vietnamese businessmen speak of having to get a “second visa” – this one from their wives – in order to travel back to Vietnam.  A California newspaper reports.


Are Women a Class?: Wal-Mart at the Supreme Court

6 December 2010

While this blog is devoted to men’s issues, this bit of news about women is too important to pass up.

Today the United States Supreme Court agreed to take on a court case in which female employees of Wal-Mart have filed a class action law suit, claiming payscale discrimination.  The nature of court case, however, is not whether Wal-Mart has paid many of their women less than men (this fact is largely obvious).  The Supreme Court is to decide whether women in the organization can sue as a class action suit.  In other words: Does “woman” classify as a category of discrimination on this enormous scale?  Sure, a hundred female employees working in a single factory might sue for the sexual bias – but what about hundreds of thousands of women, working in thousands of different locations under different conditions and management?

While the monetary consequence of this suit might amount to billions of dollars going to Wal-Mart’s female employees, the greater significance is what this case means as a litmus test for the nation.  Is America sympathetic to the feminist concern that women are chronically underpaid?  And the significance for governmental oversight: Will sex-based discrimination be regulated much more on a federal level?