Category Archives: Science & Society

Happy Labor Day, Everyone!

Labor Day 2

ILGWU Local 62 marches in a Labor Day parade.

Photo courtesy of The Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives

Licensed under Creative Commons 2.0

How New Year’s Resolutions Weaken Our Resolve

It’s the first of January again, and all over the world, people are making personal resolutions for 2018. Amazing what a date can do, isn’t it? Millions of humans scattered around the globe, all simultaneously attempting to better their lives by altering their own behavior in positive ways. For many, a new year offers an incentive, a reason to push towards self-improvement or greater satisfaction with one’s life and one’s being. And what better day to feel as if you’re starting over than New Year’s Day? It’s a day of reflection on the year gone by and on the year yet to come. It’s a day in which to consider whether we’re moving towards the goals we’ve set for ourselves, or whether we need to change the paths we’re on in order to come closer to achieving them. And the making of resolutions is perhaps the vital final step of this process, because there’s little point in evaluating the state of our lives if we don’t then utilize our conclusions to bring us one step closer to happiness.

The trouble with the New Year’s resolution is that, by its very nature, it doesn’t take effect until after the end of the current year. And in a backhanded way, this encourages us to wait to act upon our resolve. We don’t exercise in December because we’ve decided to get in shape after the holidays. We don’t quit smoking in October because, without the motivation of the New Year’s resolution, we’re afraid we’ll fail. We don’t start tucking money away in August for that dream vacation we’ve always wanted to take, because there’s school clothes shopping to do, and then the holidays are coming up, and once again, we’ve postponed that project to another year. And then what happens when we, as we inevitably must, fail to keep some of those resolutions we made in so much earnest? We wait again. We try again – the following year. How much of our lives are wasted waiting for this imaginary turning point to roll around so that we can make those changes we believe are so vital to our well-being and sense of fulfillment?

This is the core of the problem with marking time in our lives by special occasions – it causes us to neglect all of the everyday occasions that would have served us equally as well in helping us to attain our goals. Maybe your sweetheart expects you to present her with flowers on Valentine’s Day, but she’ll be much more impressed by the bouquet you bring in November. Chocolate cake is sweeter when it’s not baked on your birthday. Why wait until New Year’s Eve to have a beer and hang out with your friends? Won’t your mom be more pleased if you call her in March just to chat, then if you wait until May to wish her a Happy Mother’s Day?

I don’t ever want to wait until January 1st to change my life. I might want to quit my job on July the 15th, or start writing a book on September the 24th. It doesn’t need to be the first of the year or the first of the month before I decide to move forward with my resolutions; any given Monday will do. I’ll derive just as much joy from turning my life around at 3 o’clock on a Tuesday afternoon in June, as at midnight on a Sunday in January.

So that is my New Year’s resolution. Never again to wait for a new year to arrive before I make my resolve. Never again to pretend that January will be soon enough for me or my life to change. It isn’t.


A Quick Thank You!

Many thanks to Pat Hensley of for her post regarding the Story Shares teen & young adult literacy project! It’s especially heartening to me to find teachers who want to get involved :)




Teens Struggling with Reading? Story Shares Can Help!

Hello everyone!

As some of you already know, I am a volunteer author for the Story Shares teen and young adult literacy project. Story Shares ( is a charitable nonprofit organization that is building a library of “Relevant Reads” designed specifically for young adults and teens who struggle with reading – books on more mature themes that are “hard to put down but easy to read.” I am proud to say that my own book, Brother No More, is included in the inaugural paperback collection and is available for purchase at 15% off the regular price specially for Cyber Monday on

I’ve recently added a page to my website regarding the program; I’m including the text below for those of you who would like more information. Thank you in advance for your support!

Story Shares – Bringing “Relevant Reads” to Teens and Young Adults Who Struggle with Reading

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, as many as ninety million American adults read at a basic or below basic level. Unacceptable numbers of high school students do not read proficiently, with seventy percent of high school students needing some form of reading remediation, and, even worse, several studies have shown that rates of reading proficiency among young people have been declining.

Addressing the problem of literacy in the teen and young adult demographic poses unique challenges for educators, parents, and young adult readers, because books that are written for children who are learning to read hold little interest for teens and young adults. The themes, subjects, and stories that appeal to young children are inappropriate for more mature readers, who share the same tastes and interests as their more literate peers, but lack the skills to enjoy the reading materials that are available to a typical young adult audience. This inevitably leads to boredom and even more frustration with reading, problems which are further compounded as teens grow older.

Story Shares ( seeks to address these issues through its growing library of “Relevant Reads” – titles that are “hard to put down but easy to read.” These books – contributed entirely by volunteer authors – explore characters and conflicts that are compelling to teens and young adults, but at a difficulty level that is more appropriate to these developing readers.

For example, writers are encouraged to craft short sentences, chapters and paragraphs, making the reading experience less overwhelming. They are instructed to utilize more common words and repetitive vocabulary to promote comprehension, and to provide context clues to help readers deduce the meaning of unfamiliar words. Above all, they are asked to create stories that are relatable and culturally relevant for teens and young adults.

Volunteer author Lori Schafer’s Brother No More offers a good example. “An inner-city girl dies… and her big brother is reborn,” reads the blurb. Here is the first chapter:

Brother No More Chapter 1

Teen readers respond well to these kinds of stories. As one reviewer writes in regards to Brother No More, “Damn…that was….there are literally no words to describe it but wow.”

Not only do Story Shares stories fill a gaping hole in the market of educational materials available to emerging young adult readers, but they work with print and digital technology in a way that makes them easily accessible to teens. Books are available both as paperbacks and as free eBooks that take advantage of modern interactive website design. Stories come in a variety of genres, including horror/mystery, romance, fantasy & scifi, historical fiction, and nonfiction, and there’s even a collection of books “For Teens, By Teens” contributed by those who want to hone their skills at writing!

Story Shares always welcomes new writers as well as new readers; writers interested in contributing their own Story Shares stories are encouraged to consult the writer’s guidelines. Anyone can help to promote the program by sharing this post on social media and by following Story Shares on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and Linked In.

Story Shares is a qualified 501(c)(3) nonprofit charitable organization and welcomes tax-deductible contributions to support its efforts. All proceeds from its paperback book sales go directly towards crowd-sourcing new content for the Story Shares library and identifying readers in need of new tools for improving their literacy. Books in the paperback collection are being offered at the discounted price of $9.99 through the end of 2017 and may be purchased online through Bulk discounts are also available with purchases of 15 books or more; parents, readers and educators interested in bulk paperback purchases may contact for more information.

Books that are compelling, approachable, and relatable… these are the qualities that promote a love of reading in readers of all ages. Story Shares seeks to ensure that the next generation of young adult readers learns to read proficiently for the best reason of all – because there is no better way to spend an afternoon or an evening than with a good story.

Story Shares Logo

Author Bio:

Lori Schafer is the author of the award-winning memoir On Hearing of My Mother’s Death Six Years after It Happened and a volunteer author for Story Shares. Her young adult book Brother No More is available in both eBook and paperback; you can discover other titles on her website at

Brother No More Story Shares


How the Federal Cost-Sharing Reduction Decision for Health Care Affects You

I don’t know how you all reacted to news of President Trump’s executive order eliminating cost-sharing reduction payments, but I know what I did: went on to to re-up my insurance for next year before all hell breaks loose.
I was therefore reassured to receive this email from Covered California yesterday afternoon. It explains what the actual effects of the order will be on consumers in California, and probably in some other states as well. All of which makes what Trump did – in the short term, anyway – seem a bit pointless.


Covered California
Dear Lori,
We know there is confusion about last night’s decision by the federal government to stop select reimbursements to insurance companies. These reimbursements support subsidies for lower-income consumers known as Cost Sharing Reduction (CSR) payments.
Despite this action, Covered California members will not see any change in their health costs for the remainder of 2017 and the rates and out-of-pocket costs published by Covered California for 2018 will not be affected.
How can stopping the funding for CSR payments not affect insurance prices? It’s because this cut to one subsidy will trigger an automatic increase in other kinds of financial support.
The CSR payments to health insurance companies the federal government is eliminating are designed to help with out-of-pockets costs, like deductibles and co-pays.
These CSR payments don’t go directly to eligible Covered California members, instead health insurance companies lower the costs of some out-of-pocket expenses for eligible Californians, and then the insurers get reimbursed for that expense.
Even without CSR reimbursements, insurance companies are still required to help eligible Covered California members with their out-of-pocket costs. That’s a requirement of the Affordable Care Act and this requirement has not been halted.
The Affordable Care Act also includes another, larger type of subsidy that is specifically designed to reduce the cost of premiums, ensuring that family budgets are largely unaffected. That subsidy or premium assistance is called the Advance Premium Tax Credit (APTC).

The CSR payments that the federal government is eliminating only apply to certain silver plans. Covered California has already taken steps to minimize the impact of the loss of CSR funding and worked with insurers to price plans accordingly to ensure stability in 2018, adding a premium surcharge only to silver plans.  Silver plans are the basis for the amount of premium assistance, APTC, consumers receive, so an increase in silver premium will be offset by an increase in APTC for most consumers.

Because the surcharge will only be applied to Silver-tier plans, nearly four out of five consumers will see their actual monthly premiums stay the same or decrease, since the amount of premium assistance they receive will also rise.

The effect of the federal government’s decision is something like this: Insurers get less money for helping low-income people with out-of-pocket costs on silver plans; premiums on silver plans increase more to compensate; and that forces the federal government to increase all APTC based subsidies to make sure people can still afford insurance.

So, the bottom line to get the best plan at the best price: SHOP and compare all plans offered by Covered California!!

Thank you,

Even in areas scorched by California wildfires, mail delivery continues

One of the eeriest images of the recent fires in Northern California is this drone footage of a USPS mail truck making deliveries to a series of burned-out houses:

Creepy? You said it. But apparently the postal service was honoring requests from customers who would be returning to their former residences to claim their mail.

Personally, I’m impressed that in spite of everything, mail delivery continues. It seems rather in keeping with the unofficial post office motto:

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.

Happy Labor Day, Everyone!

Labor Day 2

ILGWU Local 62 marches in a Labor Day parade.

Photo courtesy of The Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives

Licensed under Creative Commons 2.0

San Francisco Shatters All-Time Heat Record at 106 Degrees

In a city where residential air conditioning is all but unheard of, San Franciscans spent Friday, September 1st sweltering in 106-degree heat, shattering the city’s all-time heat record. The Death Valley-like triple-digit temperatures have been recorded in many locales around the state, leading to excessive heat warnings and the opening of potentially life-saving “cooling centers” for those without air conditioning.

“It’s very hot,” one profound observer noted: