Tracy's blog

I’m Tracy Au and I have graduated from the Professional Writing program from university. I am an aspiring screenwriter, so this blog is used to promote my writing and attract people who will hire me to write for your TV show or movie. I write a lot about writing, TV, movies, jokes, and my daily life and opinions. I have another blog promoting my TV project at

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

“Intellectually disabled struggle to find work”/ Machines and work

Mar. 17, 2015 “Intellectually disabled struggle to find work”: I cut out this article by Sam Hananel in the Edmonton Journal on Feb. 22, 2014.  This is kind of a sad article.  It talks about the challenges of the intellectually disabled and how hard it is to get work.  However, there is some good news thrown in like once the disabled people get the job, they stay there for a long time. 
By reading this article, it did make me appreciate that I'm not mentally disabled.  I always kind of feel sorry when I see somebody with mental disabilities.  I hope this article makes people more compassionate and hire these people with mental disabilities.
Here’s the article: 

Most Americans with intellectual or developmental disabilities remain shut out of the workforce, despite changing attitudes and billions spent on government programs to help them. Even when they find work, it's often part time, in a dead-end job or for pay well below the minimum wage.

Employment is seen as crucial for improving the quality of life for people with these disabilities and considered a benchmark for measuring the success of special education programs. Yet the jobs picture is as bleak now it was more than a decade ago.

Only 44 percent of intellectually disabled adults are currently in the labor force, either employed or looking for work, while just 34 percent are actually working, according to a survey by Special Olympics and conducted by Gallup and the University of Massachusetts at Boston. That compares with 83 percent of nondisabled, working-age adults who are in the workforce.

"The needle has not changed in more than four decades," said Gary Siperstein, professor at the University of Massachusetts and one of the authors of the study. "We just can't move the barometer. And we've invested a lot of resources with lots of good programs around the country."

Intellectual disability can include conditions such as autism or Down syndrome. But the vast majority of cases are those with limited intellectual capacity — generally an IQ of about 75 or less — and limitations in handling basic life skills, such as counting money or taking public transportation.

About 28 percent of working-age adults with intellectual disabilities have never held a job. Even those who do manage to find jobs often end up working only part time and get lower pay than workers without disabilities, the study found. On the positive side, 62 percent of disabled people who work in a competitive setting have been there three years or more, showing they can work and stay with it.

"A lot of the problem has to do with low expectations," said Lynnae Ruttledge, a member of the National Council on Disability, an independent federal agency that advises the government on disability policy. "Schoolteachers don't have high expectations, and parents tend to be very protective of their children."

But attitudes are changing, she said. There are now more programs to help disabled children to gain work experience while still in school, making it easier to find a job. Many intellectually disabled people work in fast food, and retail chains such as Walgreens, Best Buy and Safeway that have stepped up to hire them.

Another hurdle is that about 30 percent of intellectually disabled people who work do so in sheltered workshops, where they perform basic tasks but are segregated from nondisabled workers. They can legally be paid less than the minimum wage under a 1938 federal law that allows wages to be based on comparing their productivity level with that of a nondisabled worker.

Disability rights advocates call these workshops an outdated relic and say it's discriminatory to pay them less than other workers. Critics say they don't do enough to build skills or help transition intellectually disabled workers into a mainstream work setting.

Defenders argue that thousands of severely disabled people would be left sitting at home without the carefully structured environments. Of the 420,000 disabled people who work at sheltered workshops, only 5 percent ever leave for other jobs alongside nondisabled workers.

Matthew McMeekin, 35, of Bethesda, Md., has spent 14 years working at Rehabilitation Opportunities Inc., a nonprofit sheltered workshop where he and other disabled workers are bused each workday to stuff envelopes, collate files or shrink-wrap products — all for far less than the state minimum wage of $8.25 an hour.

"He's not working there for the money," says his mother, Bebe McMeekin. "He has a job to go to every day for eight hours a day, five days a week. On Fridays he brings home a paycheck. He has a work environment with his friends that he's gotten to know there."

Asked whether he would ever consider working anywhere else, McMeekin says an emphatic "No!" and rattles off the names of all his work friends. His mother says it would be hard for him to get another job considering his limitations and vision problems.

The National Council on Disability has called on the federal government to phase out sheltered workshops, a move some states are already making. Vermont became the first state to end the use of sheltered workshops and subminimum wage employment in 2003.

"Sheltered workshops at least give them some social context and self-esteem, but it is still segregating, not really mainstreaming them," said Stephen Corbin, senior vice president of community impact at Special Olympics. "We prefer a competitive employment situation."

Disability rights groups won a victory on Wednesday when President Barack Obama signed an executive order raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour for federal contract workers. The order includes several thousand disabled workers at sheltered workshops run by federal contractors.

At the other end of the spectrum is Ken Melvin, of Crawfordsville, Ind., a truck driver who is among the few intellectually disabled people living independently and working full time at a regular job. Melvin, 45, earns about $50,000 a year making deliveries and pickups. He's married with four children, has been a member of the National Guard and even served in Afghanistan.

"My biggest disability is reading," Melvin says. "I can read something and not understand it until I've read it 18 or 19 times."

Even simple tasks can be hard, such as putting his shoes on. He was 11 years old before he learned to put his clothes on correctly.

But at school, one of his teachers who had a farm helped him learn to drive a tractor, then a truck. He got his commercial driver's license at 19 and has been driving for a living ever since.

"Anyone looking to hire someone with a disability, they are going to get someone that's more determined and more focused because they've got to be," Melvin said.

Apr. 29, 2015 Machines and work:

I cut out this article "Machines put half of US jobs at risk: study" by Aki Ito in the Edmonton Journal on Mar. 15, 2014.  Here's another sad job article.  I might as well pair them together.  However, in the Journal, they condensed the version so it's shorter.  If you click on the link below, it will show way more to read.  I put up some excerpts here:
March 12 (Bloomberg) -- Who needs an army of lawyers when you have a computer?
When Minneapolis attorney William Greene faced the task of combing through 1.3 million electronic documents in a recent case, he turned to a so-called smart computer program. Three associates selected relevant documents from a smaller sample, “teaching” their reasoning to the computer. The software’s algorithms then sorted the remaining material by importance.

“We were able to get the information we needed after reviewing only 2.3 percent of the documents,” said Greene, a Minneapolis-based partner at law firm Stinson Leonard Street LLP.

Artificial intelligence has arrived in the American workplace, spawning tools that replicate human judgments that were too complicated and subtle to distill into instructions for a computer. Algorithms that “learn” from past examples relieve engineers of the need to write out every command.

The advances, coupled with mobile robots wired with this intelligence, make it likely that occupations employing almost half of today’s U.S. workers, ranging from loan officers to cab drivers and real estate agents, become possible to automate in the next decade or two, according to a study done at the University of Oxford in the U.K.

“These transitions have happened before,” said Carl Benedikt Frey, co-author of the study and a research fellow at the Oxford Martin Programme on the Impacts of Future Technology. “What’s different this time is that technological change is happening even faster, and it may affect a greater variety of jobs.”

Profound Imprint

It’s a transition on the heels of an information-technology revolution that’s already left a profound imprint on employment across the globe. For both physical and mental labor, computers and robots replaced tasks that could be specified in step-by-step instructions -- jobs that involved routine responsibilities that were fully understood.

That eliminated work for typists, travel agents and a whole array of middle-class earners over a single generation.

Yet even increasingly powerful computers faced a mammoth obstacle: they could execute only what they’re explicitly told. It was a nightmare for engineers trying to anticipate every command necessary to get software to operate vehicles or accurately recognize speech. That kept many jobs in the exclusive province of human labor -- until recently.

Oxford’s Frey is convinced of the broader reach of technology now because of advances in machine learning, a branch of artificial intelligence that has software “learn” how to make decisions by detecting patterns in those humans have made.

702 Occupations

The approach has powered leapfrog improvements in making self-driving cars and voice search a reality in the past few years. To estimate the impact that will have on 702 U.S. occupations, Frey and colleague Michael Osborne applied some of their own machine learning.

They first looked at detailed descriptions for 70 of those jobs and classified them as either possible or impossible to computerize. Frey and Osborne then fed that data to an algorithm that analyzed what kind of jobs make themselves to automation and predicted probabilities for the remaining 632 professions.

The higher that percentage, the sooner computers and robots will be capable of stepping in for human workers. Occupations that employed about 47 percent of Americans in 2010 scored high enough to rank in the risky category, meaning they could be possible to automate “perhaps over the next decade or two,” their analysis, released in September, showed.

Safe Havens

“My initial reaction was, wow, can this really be accurate?” said Frey, who’s a Ph.D. economist. “Some of these occupations that used to be safe havens for human labor are disappearing one by one.”

Loan officers are among the most susceptible professions, at a 98 percent probability, according to Frey’s estimates. Inroads are already being made by Daric Inc., an online peer-to-peer lender partially funded by former Wells Fargo & Co. Chairman Richard Kovacevich. Begun in November, it doesn’t employ a single loan officer. It probably never will.

The startup’s weapon: an algorithm that not only learned what kind of person made for a safe borrower in the past, but is also constantly updating its understanding of who is creditworthy as more customers repay or default on their debt.

It’s this computerized “experience,” not a loan officer or a committee, that calls the shots, dictating which small businesses and individuals get financing and at what interest rate. It doesn’t need teams of analysts devising hypotheses and running calculations because the software does that on massive streams of data on its own.

Lower Rates

The result: An interest rate that’s typically 8.8 percentage points lower than from a credit card, according to Daric. “The algorithm is the loan officer,” said Greg Ryan, the 29-year-old chief executive officer of the Redwood City, California, company that consists of him and five programmers. “We don’t have overhead, and that means we can pass the savings on to our customers.”

Similar technology is transforming what is often the most expensive part of litigation, during which attorneys pore over e-mails, spreadsheets, social media posts and other records to build their arguments.

Each lawsuit was too nuanced for a standard set of sorting rules, and the string of keywords lawyers suggested before every case still missed too many smoking guns. The reading got so costly that many law firms farmed out the initial sorting to lower-paid contractors.
Workers will likely need to find vocations involving more cognitively complex tasks that machines can’t touch. Those positions also typically require more schooling, said Frey. “It’s a race between technology and education.”

Jun. 15, 2016 "The jobs 'at risk'": I read this article by Janet McFarland in the Globe and Mail today.  I found the pressreader edition.  I will have to type it up:

Jobs most vulnerable to new technology:

Retail sales people
Administrative assistants
Food counter attendants, kitchen helpers, related
Administrative officers
General office support workers
Financial auditors and accountants
Food and beverage servers

Jobs least vulnerable to new technology:

Elementary school and kindergarten teachers
Early childhood educators and assistants
Secondary school teachers
Social and community service workers
Restaurant and food service managers
College and other vocational instructors
Computer programmers/ interactive media developers
Program leaders/ instructors in recreation, sport, fitness
Police officers
Lawyers and Quebec notaries

Aug. 16, 2016: I was at C's house with the To Be Discussed meetings where we have deep and meaningful conversations.  A couple of the people there were teachers.  They did say: "No matter what the economy is, there is job security in being a teacher."

My week:

Aug. 15, 2016 Comics: I was reading the Globe and Mail today and I see they removed their Pooch Café and Betty comics.  Now there are only 4 comics, Cornered, Bliss, Speed Bump, and Bizarro.

I can still read Pooch Café and Betty comics in the Edmonton Journal

Thomas Gibson fired from Criminal Minds: I found this article a couple of days ago on Facebook.  I was surprised.  Gibson plays the boss Hotchner on the show for the past 11 seasons.  He had gotten into a physical fight with a writer on the show. 

Aug. 16, 2016: On the news page there are other articles about drama on set with Gibson.  That sounds interesting, but I'm going to stop reading after this one article.

Game of Thrones: A lot of people are watching this show.  Last week I finally saw an episode to see what the hubbub was about.  CTV was airing the first season so I decided to see the pilot.  I didn't like it.  The first scene was intriguing with soldiers in the forest.  I like the opening credits.

However, after that I didn't like the violence, nudity, and course language.  I don't like stories set in the past before TV and internet.  I wanted to see it also for Nikolaj Coster- Waldau.  He was in the Apple commercial and I thought he was good looking in the handsome way. 

Jul. 15, 2016 Playlist:

Apple commercial:

I was watching the Apple commercial "The Kiss" and it's funny.  The actors Nikolaj Coster- Waldau and Alison Brie are rehearsing a kiss for a romantic movie.  Coster Waldau starts playing the song "Oui" by Jeremiah.  It's a sexy R&B song.  I looked up that song and I really like it.

My opinion: It was a funny commercial.  I thought they should be playing songs like ballads.

"I Will Always Love You" by Whitney Houston for The Bodyguard.

"Cry" by Mandy Moore in A Walk to Remember.

"I Need Love" by Robin Thicke

Aug. 17, 2016 Taylor Swift donates $1 million to Louisiana's flood relief: I thought that was nice of her.  Also Jamie Lynn Spears, Ian Somerhalder (Vampire Diaries) and rapper Lil Wayne have tweeted about it with help.

Ellen DeGeneres's "racist" tweet:

"DeGeneres’ popular Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts often feature funny images that have been altered to include her. On Monday, her accounts sent out a picture of her riding on Bolt’s back during Sunday’s 100 meter semifinal with the suggestion she’d like to use the Jamaican sprinter’s word-class speed to get her errands done faster."

My opinion: I see it could be racist, but it seems to be a light and fun joke.  Ellen did interview Bolt on her show, and Ellen is nice and funny.

Fyvush Finkel: He is an actor who was on the TV show Boston Public as a history teacher.  I totally remember him.  He has passed away at 93.


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