Late-Night Baking with Jules Skloot

“There is, like, a moment, there is a shift, and it occurs to me, and I’m like, ‘Yes!’’

That’s Jules Skloot talking about the moment when inspiration strikes for late-night baking.

The Brooklyn dancer, performer, and sometimes banjo player is known to make cookies, pies, and other treats past well past midnight, when the kitchen in his communal home is quiet and the demands of the day are through.

It’s a meditation, and an act of love. “I don’t bake for people I don’t like,” Skloot says. Luckily, he likes the five roommates with whom he shares a rental brownstone in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.

Pies demand recipe books and several hours of work. But chocolate-chip cookies take just half an hour, and they can be made whenever the mood strikes. Skloot has the recipe memorized, and the work becomes a meditation. “I enjoy the unknown moments, you know, and the messiness,” he says. “I like to take my time.”

Skloot says the ideal cookie — and the ones in the accompanying video, above, come pretty close — should have plenty of what he calls “loft”:

So they’re not like super-thin, like crackery? And they’re not, like, super tall and fluffy, like cakey? I don’t really like that either. They’re like a really good mix… around the edges they’re gonna be really crisp, but in the middle they’ll still be really pliant.

Late-night baking comes and goes. It’s dependent on busyness, work schedules, other demands — but more importantly, on Skloot’s mood, on the emotional temperature of the house, and the unpredictable strike of whimsy. Sometimes Skloot’s roommates are lucky enough to wake up twice in a week to a pile of chocolate-chip cookies or a pecan pie set on a glass plate. Other times life flows by, weeks pass, and they wait and hope.


Less work for less pay? Survey results say “No way”

The results are in!

In late September I surveyed readers about my possible solution to the jobs crisis. Here’s a quick recap: lots of Americans are out of work — 15% are unemployed or underemployed, according to the BLS’s most important statistic — but at the same time, many people with solid jobs are overemployed. As analyst Juliet Schor noted in her book The Overworked American, Americans have come to work more hours per week and get far less vacation time than workers in most other industrialized countries.

I wondered: would people like to work less each week, for less pay? Or get more vacation in exchange for less pay? If so, could this help solve the jobs crisis?

Among our 28 respondents, the answer was a resounding, “No way.”

When asked whether they would like to work reduced hours for reduced pay, almost three times as many respondents said “No” than “Yes.” And while more than half of respondents said they don’t get enough vacation time, only a third said they’d be willing to trade less pay for more vacation.

You might expect that people working more hours would have greater interested in the kind of tradeoff I proposed. But surprisingly, at least among our unscientific sample, there’s a strong effect in the opposite direction. Those who work 40 hours or more are far less likely to be interested in taking a pay cut in exchange for working fewer hours:

And the same trend holds when I asked about vacation time:

Overall, respondents were pretty clear that the “less work for less pay” model was not a viable option for them. The issue may boil down to this, as one respondent commented:

Even though the tradeoff I proposed doesn’t seem to be a popular idea here, other comments made clear that not everyone is happy with their work-life-income balance.

 I may run a second survey that specifically targets folks who have jobs that both require many hours each week and pay enough that they could realistically consider a pay cut. This version might also try to segment the results by profession or job type. In the meantime, who’s got a different bright idea about how to fix the economy?

In Times Square, the center of the comic-book universe

“We’re too modest to say so,” says Gerry Gladston, co-owner of Midtown Comics, “but people tell us we’re the largest comic-book retailer in the United States.”

Below, Gladston gives us a tour of their Times Square store, where two floors are filled with everything from rare, vintage collectibles to the latest editions, which arrive fresh off the press each Wednesday.

Of Surveys and Social Media

Full disclosure: I squirmed; I evaded; I didn’t enjoy this assignment. Here’s why: I don’t take surveys on the web. While they’re not quite as bad as spam, they fall into the same general category of internet annoyance, about on par with rollover ads.

I wouldn’t mind posting a survey if I was working on a substantive research project. But as it was, posting my experimental survey to real people’s Facebook groups and email list-servs felt a little yucky.

That said, CUNY J-Schoolers were fair game, so we spammed each other ad nauseum and collected results from our facebook group, from emails, and from a google doc which someone created for the purpose.

Then, with John’s advice, I homed in on young lawyers as a group of particular interest. So I posted a discussion on the Facebook page of the New York State Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Section. Posting a “discussion” was less visible than posting to their wall, but only members can post to the wall.

I wanted to track the effectiveness of this particular posting and be able to tell how many responses were generated from it. But a limitation of Google Forms is that it doesn’t track the referring page when it records survey results. I considered writing some JavaScript code to inject the referrer URL into the form, but then decided on a quicker workaround. What I did was create a separate shortcut link for each place I posted the survey. The link for the young lawyer’s site was This allowed me to see that that particular posting resulted in two clicks.

Wheeling groceries home from the Park Slope Food Coop

The Park Slope Food Coop was doing a brisk business on Saturday night.

Outside the front door, shoppers secured their carts and paired off with “walkers,” whose job is to escort shoppers home and then wheel the Coop-owned carts back to the store.

It’s become a distinctive Park Slope sight: the heavy-duty cart jangles along the sidewalk, accompanied by a shopper in civilian clothes and a Coop escort wearing an orange mesh work vest with reflective trimming.

Here’s what the experience sounds like on an uneven patch of sidewalk on Union Street:

Jangling all the way home


On Saturday evening, we tagged along for the walk home and asked shoppers what they were most excited about in their carts. Here’s what a few of them said:

Dr. Cow Cashew Nut Cheese: “It’s creamy; it’s heavenly”


Robert’s Crunchy Corn Sticks: “They just taste good”


Vitamix: “Ride that baby” for health

The General Assembly


Each night at 7pm, the Occupy Wall Street protesters gather at the north end of the park for what they call the General Assembly.

This is the protester’s decisionmaking body. It is a highly-structured affair, where careful attention to process wards off the sense of chaos that is never too far away.

The first half-hour is devoted to meeting mechanics. There are hand signals to signify assent, dissent, points of process, and more. There are times to debate issues, and other times reserved only for clarification of proposals.

Because amplified sound is not permitted by park rules, the protesters use an ingenious system of repetition they call the “human mic.” Each meeting, it is tested and tuned.

Last Thursday, a proposal from the Arts and Culture held the floor for a solid half hour. They needed $600 to hire security to move forward with a planned art show.

“What percentage of our total budget is this?” someone asked.

“I don’t know,” said the representative of Arts and Culture. “I’m not from Finance.”

Photo Essay Pitch: General Assembly

I’d like to do a photo essay (8-10 images) which zooms in on one aspect of #OccupyWallStreet: the decision-making forum that guides the protest’s course, the nightly 7pm General Assembly.

Images of all kinds, of course, are pouring out of Zuccotti Square, but none I’ve seen give an artful treatment of the General Assembly. My approach would be a process piece, so viewers could get a sense of the meeting’s planning, logistical setup, the speakers, and the audience. The middle of the essay would likely include portraits of 3-4 speakers. The lighting, as dusk falls over the encampment, should be helpful in producing visual interest.

The news interest is clear, as interest and participation in the protest has continued to grow over the past days. Access is straightforward, as the Assembly is public and media are welcomed.

Spreading the work around

A million years ago, analysts like Juliet Schor were talking about how Americans are overworked. Over a 20 year period, Schor demonstrated, Americans’ working hours had increased by what amounted to an entire month per year, far outpacing any other industrialized country.

Nowadays it’s crass to discuss overwork when so many Americans are out of work. But what if we could solve both problems at once? Rather than sitting around hoping the economy creates more jobs, why not redistribute the work we already have?

Please take the unscientific poll below, and we’ll see if this idea has legs. (If you don’t currently have a job, take the survey as it applied during your last job.)

Time for an honest unemployment rate

Bob was laid off last year. For six months he sent off resumes, scoured the want ads, and sought job leads from friends and family. But he couldn’t find anything — not an uncommon story, given the economy. Discouraged, he took a break from active job hunting and went to spend six weeks with his aging mother in Montreal, where there’s Obamacare, and poutine.

Bob is unemployed, right?


According to the federal government’s employment statistics, which are released each month and picked apart ad nauseum by the media, Bob is no longer unemployed.

Because he has not actively sought work within the past four weeks, he is now considered “out of the labor force” — a separate category which is not counted in the official unemployment rate.

Four weeks. Forget to send out a batch of resumes, and — although you are clearly suffering the effects of the Great Recession — you are no longer counted in the number that counts.

Why four weeks? Perhaps there’s some behavorial, economic, or other logic to this rule? Nope. Turns out it’s just an artifact of history — and politics — that has gone unchanged since 1878, when the guy who became the inaugural director of the Bureau of Labor Statistics cooked it up, as recounted in a 2008 column by David Leonhardt.

It took nearly a hundred years, until the 1970s, for the Bureau to acknowledge that this measure wasn’t capturing the full picture. But rather than change it, they took the less controversial step of introducing five “alternative measures of labor underutilization.”

Here are the most recent stats for each of these measures. The most comprehensive measure, dubbed U6, includes workers like Bob, and pegs the unemployment rate for August at 16.2%.

Why not make U6 the official rate? It would be a dose of truth for the political-media world that most of America is already too well aware of. Join my Twitter campaign: Up with U6!

The #U6 unemployment rate includes “discouraged” workers. Dear BLS, please make this the official rate. #NoSpinZone


Jacob Hodes

Q: why does unemployment rate only include people who have sought work w/in 4 weeks? A: some guy in *1878* said so. #U6


Jacob Hodes