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Photo: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian.
Paul White: ‘After one 21-hour work day, I told my mum I planned to quit. As soon as I uttered the words, I felt the weight lift.’

Have you ever had a really bad boss? I have. I was afraid to quit without another paycheck in hand. It took five years to find one, but it was worth it. It turned out to be my best job.

One thing about the pause from normal life that we can chalk up to Covid is the reassessment of how we’ve been spending our time. The media is full of stories about people who thought deeply about their jobs and ended up quitting.

Today’s article is about a guy who felt a wave of relief when he turned his back on the stress of work and found a new line.

Deborah Linton at the Guardian gets the story from 35-year-old Paul White of Lancashire, UK.

“In May 2018, I became leader of my local council, Pendle, in Lancashire. A year later, after nearly a decade in local politics, I quit. Alongside my council duties, I had been growing a business: milk and grocery delivery to 100,000 customers, locally and elsewhere in the country. I had a 3 a.m. milk round, so I’d be up before dawn delivering bottles, jumping on a train to Westminster after lunch to meet government ministers, and heading back to chair a council meeting that evening.

“My heart was constantly racing. Shortly before my election as leader, I’d been diagnosed with cardiomyopathy – heart failure. I’d been fitted with a pacemaker and defibrillator, and put on medication, but I’d torn up the doctor’s note, convinced I was too busy to take time off. …

“After one 21-hour work day, towards the end of 2018, I told my mum I planned to quit; as soon as I uttered the words, I felt the weight lift. …

“For a while, I did nothing, which was an enormous and uncomfortable culture shift. Then I remembered dreams I’d harbored as a kid, when I’d draw maps of farms I wanted to own. I had studied rural enterprise at university, but the idea of working in agriculture got lost in business and politics. I’d kept an eye on the farming press and, in early 2021, still reeling from the pandemic, I spotted warnings of a turkey shortage at Christmas – a result of supply chain and labor issues stemming from Brexit.

“I rented an acre of woodland in[Laneshawbridge], bought 200 turkey chicks for £2,000 [~$2,500] , and read up on how to rear them. I set up the business in three weeks, figuring I’d see a return in 20 weeks, when the local pubs and butchers were ready for their birds.

“Each day, I get up with my turkeys at dawn and close them in at dusk. I work alone, but I’ve learned a lot, educating myself on the job – the weird ways the turkeys react to noise, how much they eat, and how loud they are. … I’ve rented 11 more acres and, this year, I’ll start a commercial flock of egg-laying chickens, then move on to sheep. …

“I was named Young Lancastrian of the Year in 2018, but, when I look back at photos, I seem grey, thin, ill. Now, I spend hours outdoors. I lead a walking group, and clock up even more miles with my dog. I tend to my turkeys by the river, and potter around the village talking to people. …

“There are downsides to life on the farm: rain, animals die, and you have to be very smart to make a living from it. … Emotionally, it’s been hard to come to terms with the change. Handing over the keys to the town hall was a huge relief, yet I toy daily with going back – it feels like unfinished business. People who wanted my attention for years, whom I considered friends, disappeared. I’ve also found it hard to reconcile myself with the idea that I’m not contributing to the world. … Now I question if it’s OK for life to feel this simple.”

More at the Guardian, here.

Just for fun, here’s a wild turkey in Providence, RI. Turkeys have to be the world’s most self-important birds. They never worry if they’re contributing to a better world.

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Pretty much every job I’ve had since the early 1990s came with a free mug. One day I decided to line up my job mugs and take a picture.

The one on the far left is from a Yankee Swap at either Harte-Hanks or Charlesbridge. I can’t remember which. The second is a stand-in for Harvard Business Review. I broke my HBR mug and didn’t love the job enough to replace the free one with a paid one.

The next two are from jobs I had in Minnesota. My husband was running a company in Maple Grove, so I moved to Minneapolis for a few years.

The two mugs after Minnesota represent 15 years of my life and two small pensions. My final paid job (the cute mug with attached spoon) lasted eight months before I decided all I wanted to do now was volunteer in ESL classes for immigrants.

If you have photos of your own job mugs, I’d love to share them.

I’m laughing at myself here.

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Photo: Jessica Hinchliffe/ABC Brisbane
The women of Queensland’s Spice Exchange create different spice blends to sell. 

This happy refugee story is from Australia, another country where refugees make valuable contributions, in this case sharing their beautiful foods and recipes with the broader population.

Jessica Hinchliffe writes at ABC Brisbane, “A social enterprise in Queensland is helping refugee and migrant women gain employment and foster community spirit through cooking.

“The Spice Exchange sees these enterprising women come together to create spice blends, condiments and gingerbread. They use recipes and spices well known in their home countries.

“Backed by Access Community Services, the social enterprise in Logan, south of Brisbane, also helps the women practise their English-speaking skills.

“Many of those involved are single women with dependent children, with limited education and literacy skills.

“Organiser Tianna Dencher said the Spice Exchange was helping these women, who sometimes felt isolated, find their voice. …

” ‘We saw that these women were comfortable with food and we decided to create something that would engage women around food.

” ‘Many of the women had such great cultural diversity, had beautiful cuisines that had spices … that’s how we started.’

“The program also teaches the women about workplace culture, marketing and how to price products. …

“Adhel Mawien Ukong began with the Spice Exchange in September and said the program provided her with opportunities for her and her children.

” ‘I’ve learnt so much,’ she said. ‘I start at 9:00 am and finish at 2.30 pm, and it’s given me a job four days a week and it’s helped us.

I love it so much so I come here every day of the week sometimes, and I’ve invited other women to join me.’ “

More here.

Hat Tip to @VictoriaLynden on twitter.

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Photo: STR/Reuters /Landov
Prisoners at Halden in Norway have private rooms, which all have a fridge, desk and flat-screen TV. Inmates who don’t follow the rules and attend classes and counseling are sent to conventional prisons. NPR story here.

A perhaps surprising finding: In Norway, spending time in prison, where there are intensive job-training opportunities, results in 27 percent less recidivism than being sentenced to something lighter, like community service or probation.

As reported last summer in Science Newsline, “The research project ‘The Social Costs of Incarceration’ is the largest study of imprisonment and return to a normal life that has ever been conducted in Europe.

“In the study, researchers looked at prison sentences linked to recidivism. In addition, the researchers looked at the extent to which former inmates have returned to work. What makes the project unique is linking large administrative data sets to data sets from the courts.

“They have done this to measure the effect of what happens when the criminals have received different penalties for the same offense because they randomly met different judges in court with different leniency towards incarcerating. In other words: if a judge incarcerates differently for the same offense, what will be the consequences for the offender in the long term?

” ‘The results show that the Norwegian prison model with extensive use of labour training while serving time, gives surprisingly good results,’ says Professor Katrine Løken at the Department of Economics, University of Bergen (UiB), who led the research project.

“The study shows: Five years after conviction, there is a 27 per cent lower risk that convicts who have been in prison have committed new crimes, compared to those who were given more lenient penalties, like probation and community service. For the 60 per cent of inmates who had not been employed for the last five years preceding the conviction, the decline in criminal activity is even bigger. … The study is published as a Working Paper in Economics at the University of Bergen.”

Løken doesn’t necessarily think the answer is sending more people to prison; providing more job training outside of prison might be.

” ‘A relevant question is whether we should aim for full package of job-training outside prison. But research shows that work training outside of prison is more difficult to enforce. It appears that a certain element of coercion is needed to get offenders on a new track.’

“Katrine Løken stresses that the research does not take a stand on the principle of imprisonment, but simply says something about how prison is perceived for the individual, and shows the effects of different sentencing.”

Many studies show that incarceration in the United States leads to more crime, not less. Different kinds of prisons, for sure.

More here.

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I Hear America Singing

By Walt Whitman

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,
The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.

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Photo: David Wells

A wonderful organization, the Providence Granola Project, has just received some well-deserved attention in the food magazine Edible Rhody. In fact the magazine has prepared a short video that says it all, here.

Nancy Kirsch writes, “Established in 2008, Providence Granola, now part of Beautiful Day (a nonprofit organization founded in 2012), has a three-fold mission, says Providence Granola co-founder Keith Cooper: Provide job training for immigrants in Rhode Island who are unlikely to otherwise find gainful employment, and educate community members about refugees and refugee resettlement, all by making and selling delicious artisanal granola.

“Cooper and his lean professional staff, including Anne Dombrofski, director of strategic partnerships, work out of the Social Enterprise Greenhouse, a co-working space in Davol Square in Providence. …

“Hand labor is done by a small team at Amos House, a soup kitchen and comprehensive social service agency in Providence. …

“The trainees are immigrants—often, but not always, refugees—who have come recently to the United States. They attend classes at the Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island (Dorcas) and, through its assessment process, have been identified as less likely to find employment within the next year, given their lack of first-language literacy and absence of English skills.

“ ‘If we can speed up someone’s entry into the job market from a year or more to between three and six months … there’s a huge benefit,’ says Cooper.”

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The Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence is an outstanding Providence nonprofit that takes a holistic approach to ending violence in poor communities.

On Thursday, I went to an open house and barbecue organized by the students in the Institute’s work program, and was mightily impressed. I shook hands with Mayor Jorge Elorza and chatted at some length with Chief of Police Hugh Clements and the Institute’s executive director, Teny Gross. Not to mention the retired priest who was a founding member, the youth themselves, and the dedicated staff. I heard some pretty inspiring stories!

The young organizers provided a tour of their headquarters, a lovely converted convent on Oxford St.

It was a great event. But here is something sad. In the five years since I visited the Institute’s old quarters, the vagaries of funding sources have forced cutbacks. They no longer have 17 streetworkers turning youth from violence toward work and better lives. They can afford only four. It seems a shame when the need is still significant.

The Institute is advertising for a development director, and they sure need a way to get more support. A big endowment to protect the work from shifts in the winds would be ideal. Read more here.

By the way, Teny Gross has been called to teach nonviolence techniques around the nation and world. He has received many acknowledgments for his success. An unusual honor this month gave him one of his proudest moments. It relates to a George Washington letter about religious tolerance.

“225 years ago, George Washington wrote a letter ‘To the Hebrew Congregation in Newport,’ which is now known as the Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island. To mark the historic importance of the letter, the congregation and the Touro Synagogue Foundation conduct an annual ‘Letter Reading,’ around the time that the letter was sent. The setting is the beautifully restored Touro Synagogue, built in 1763.

“The letter was only four paragraphs long, but they were four powerful and significant paragraphs and they are regarded as critical in the history of the Jewish people in the Colonial United States.  The letter reading evolved into today’s two hour event filled with greetings from dignitaries, announcements of scholarships and an award to Teny Gross, leader in the Institute for the Study of the Practice of Nonviolence.”

Goes to show that teaching nonviolence can spread out in many unexpected ripples.

Read the details here.

Photo: Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence

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Miller-McCune.com tweeted today that the National Endowment for the Arts has new data on where artists are finding work.

Four of the six New England states are among the states with the most arts jobs: Vermont, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut.

“The report on artists in the workforce supplements and expands upon a 2008 paper, which found about two million Americans list a job in the arts as their primary source of employment. That comes out to 1.4 percent of American workers.

“New York heads the newly released state-by-state list, with artists making up 2.3 percent of its labor force. California, home to the film and television industry, places second with 2.0 percent.

“Not far behind are Oregon and Vermont, each of which has a workforce in which 1.7 percent of workers are artists. That means they exceed the national average by a substantial 20 percent.

“ ‘Writers and authors are especially prominent [in Oregon and Vermont],’ the NEA report notes.

“Also exceeding the national average: Colorado and Connecticut (where artists make up 1.6 of the labor force), and Hawaii, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maryland, Washington, Nevada, and Minnesota (at 1.5 percent).”

Although there likely to be different perceptions of what kind of work constitutes arts employment, I find the report interesting. And since I know anecdotally that there are arts jobs in Maine and New Hampshire (the two New England states not among the top few), I can’t help hoping that some organization will do an in-depth study of the region. Unfortunately, ornery New Englanders don’t often think regionally.

And more generally, what are the reasons some states have more arts jobs? Public policies? Landscape? Accident?

Read more here.

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