Is California becoming the movie Brazil?

I was laid off from my job as a family therapist in a company-wide lay off when Morongo Basin Mental Health closed their doors on June 30 and now am actively seeking work. I have all the documentation to prove that and to show my income for any number of past quarters. It seems I am the ideal candidate for unemployment insurance.

Except that I have worked at a summer camp in Oregon for a few weeks in the last 18 months. (Each summer for the last 13 years, actually, but the Employment Development Office only wants 18-24 months of information.) That means I have to file for UI by telephone. The EDD website says you can apply online, by mail, or fax but eventually says it’s got to be by phone if there’s any out-of-state income.

The problem is, because of the sequester, you cannot get through by phone. Hours of operation are 8-noon, Monday through Thursday, and with limited staff. Last week, the outgoing message implied that if I called early enough I might be able to talk to someone, but I was not able to get through. This week, the message says they just don’t have the staff to answer my call.

Both weeks, the message kindly encourages me to apply online.

As far as I can tell my only options are to lie about my out-of-state income or to give up. Or maybe drive eight hours to Sacramento to make a stink at the Employment Development Office. (No, they do not process claims in person.)


In my time working on construction crews in Oregon, one persistent joke was, upon reading the ubiquitous warning “known to cause cancer in the state of California” on a material we were about to use, was announcing, “good thing we’re not in California!” Everyone would laugh and then go ahead using the pressure-treated lumber, or whatever it was, as usual. I was generally alone in taking precautions in these situations, and actually caught significant flack for being paranoid and/or anal retentive. This was not improved by my careful explanation that California was where the lawsuits and legal actions happened which resulted in these warnings, not where the cancer cases were confined!

The bottom line was that precautions (not to mention using less toxic materials) slow down the process for bosses and often seem unnecessary to the crew, so they were not taken. Many of the crew reasoned that since they already smoked and drank, how much could inhaling some fume or touching some chemical really increase their chances of getting cancer?

This was frustrating to hear but is actually an excellent point. Without information about base rates, how can we make good decisions about toxicity exposure? We need specificity and statistics to make good decisions.

For example, Reanna pointed this sign out to me last night:

It is posted on the side of the RV we have been living in during our renovation project. Of what use is this supposed to be? If I was on the fence about whether or not to buy an RV this might be somewhat helpful, but only by increasing a vague sense of fear, possibly to the point that I wouldn’t make the purchase. I want to know by doing what (driving it? sitting in it? licking the walls?) for how long (minutes? years?) and in what circumstances (engine running? after the RV’s a certain age? at certain temperatures?) will increase my chance of developing what cancer by what statistical rate? With that information, I could make a decent decision about how to interact with this RV. Or construction material.

It’s unfortunately true that construction worker and RV buyers (as well as doctors, lawyers, and Americans in general) do not understand statistics, and so for many this information might not be helpful. But it could hardly be less helpful than it is now.

Here are some photos from my move with Reanna to California:

Joe, Nathen, and Layer 1 in U-Haul

Layer 2 in U-Haul

Layer 3 in U-Haul

Layer 5 in U-Haul

Reanna on U-Haul at Rest Stop

Just Another Trailer

Lauri & Ev's Apple Cider

Reanna Makes Lunch

Reanna (Tiny), Sign (Huge)

Caswell State Recreation Area

Nathen, Stanislaus River

Nathen, Bedhead, $6 Sunglasses

U-Haul Trailer Tire, Blown Out (Rim Behind Tire is Cracked)

Reanna, Tumbleweed Pom-Poms

Welcome Display by Mom

Reanna Meets Oliver

Reanna Plays With Oliver