Monday, December 30, 2013
So, I am getting ready to go to work on a Monday morning. I have just gotten out of the shower and I am sipping my morning coffee while I read the news on my iPad next to the warming fire in our gas fireplace.
There is a 'local' news story (Phoenix, AZ) about a mother that murdered her oldest child on Christmas Day, and then tried to poison her other three children and stab her ex-husband. Yup, meth and hormones are a nasty combination.
Now I am not really into these types of stories, but my old professional curiosity tugged at me, since I used to work in the Child Welfare Arena back in Phoenix, I wanted to see if I recognized any of the names. I didn't.
But then the attached 'side bar' on the story caught my eye. These are the Editor's Picks for stories that you should really know about.
Encapsulated here are all the reasons that this country and our culture is going to hell in a hand-basket. Here are all the super-market tabloid headlines packaged into one neat scrolling strip presented as 'news', which is to say, things that you need to know to be informed.
Just to look at this 'outside' the box. What would you assume about American Culture if you were a young freedom fighter in Syria, or a poor hungry African youth in Soweto.....or even a hard working North Korean in Pyongyang? According to the subliminal messages presented here, this is what most of the rest of world thinks about us based on this type of crap:
Pregnant ten killed by boyfriend.....If you are young and pregnant, beware of your boyfriend, he might want to kill you to maintain his 'Gangsta' lifestyle. (Message, if you are young and pregnant you might be murdered.)
Kimora Lee Simmons plays with her son in Saint Barts.....(who is this person?). You should be an attractive single mother with perfect children frolicking on the beach somewhere. If you are not, then you are a loser. There are no stories about Kimora slaving all day long in a cubicle in order to afford daycare for her father-less children. (Message, you are a bad mother.)
"BEYOND SCARY": High Priced Hooker recounts to the Daily News in Exclusive Interview....Making lots of money by having sex with anonymous men is exciting and very profitable, I Love It! (Message, if you are going to have sex, get paid for it, the kinkier, the more money you make....no mention that it might be illegal.)
Did a Great White Shark Photo-Bomb These Kids Surfing At A California Beach?... Probably not, but the fact that you go into a vast uncontrolled place like the ocean means that any sort of creepy crawly creature (with teeth) in it means you might die a violent death. (Message, if you swim you die....best to just frolic in the sand like Kimora, she has never lost a child to shark attack!)
Top 30 Hottest Beach Bodies of 2013....Again with the beach lifestyle? Especially if you have an anorexic figure with implants. It appears that there is a whole army of well off thin people that do nothing with their lives except frolic on beaches. (Message: You are fat, poor and a loser.)
SEE: Loyal Dog Stands By Dead Pal in Amazing....I am not quite sure what to make of this. What is sadder, the fact that a creature has lost a friend and playmate or the fact that some sicko, takes a picture of it instead of removing the dead dog and caring for the puppy. (Message, you are going to die (again) and hopefully someone will miss you when you are gone)
Luxurious Holiday Getaways of the Stars.....(again with the frickin beaches) You want to be like us, you want to look like us, you want to go where we go and not have to work, but you can't....because you are loser (Message, You are a loser (again)...enjoy your holiday)
EXCLUSIVE: NAZI CRY BABY: NJ Hitler Obsessed Dad Begs for Child Welfare to Return His Little Girl......Now remember, this is 'News' that 'should' me national, so that other oppressed minorities such as the KKK and the Right Wing of the Black Panther Party can realize that just because they are different (and bad-ass) they still have the right to take their kids to McDonald's and see the next "My Little Pony" movie at the metro-plex. (Message, you are a bad parent, a freak and everyone is laughing at you. Don't be a bad parent or a freak)
Great Granddaughter of Heiress found stabbed to death!......Again, if you are special in any way, pregnant, living the beach lifestyle, playing with your best friend, you are likely to be KILLED. Especially if there is sex, a lot of money or something cute involved. It is probably best to be poor and just hide in a closet somewhere. (Message, you are going to die....again).
Georgia Couple Allegedly beat there two year old son to death.....(Allegedly? Did he have a lot of money or was he doing any kinky sex...cause those will get you killed for sure). So we can add living in Georgia as another potential reason for dying! I have to assume that this winning father figure should have killed his girl friend WHILE she was still pregnant (see story #1) and gotten a two-for-one deal. Loser. (Message, Death, Death, Death......you get the picture.)
So basically, the 'Editor's Picks' focus is as follows. You should be living on a beach and be very thin, but if you do, you can expect to die of a shark attack or be stabbed by someone for having to much sex, to much money or for being pregnant.
Seriously, isn't that what is being said here? Not a whole lot of news about any major political conflicts, treaties, ecological updates, economic or environmental issues.
Thursday, December 19, 2013
Thursday, November 21, 2013
Monday, November 4, 2013
Thursday, October 24, 2013
The Voices Inside My Head
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Thursday, July 25, 2013
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
In my last job I worked as a property inspector that verified the replacement cost of homes for insurance companies. We did not work for a single company, we contracted with many of them nationwide.
In order for me to get this job, I had to take an online training course that was rigorous and timed. I had two weeks to pass 15 tests in order to be accepted. This was a contract job that was supposed to be part-time, where I worked out of my home.
During this training course, they taught us about the corporate culture and how we were supposed to represent the various companies that we worked for. We were also told about the various criteria by which our work would be judged and graded.
The job was to inspect the inside and outside of the insured residence and complete a report online and e-mail it back to the company. We were not to discuss policy or what the company may or may not do with the reports that were filed. We had to wear a tie, be courteous, not swear, etc, etc….
However, when I started actually doing the work, a few things became very clear. We were expected to have a 75% completion rate on cases within 10 working days. We were required to make three phone calls to the insured and attempt to see the house (risk) within 3 days of assignment.
The only problems were these. Most homeowners do not use their phones as a primary form of communications. They no longer have land lines, and they use their cell phones only for family communication and texting. If they see a strange number come up on their cell phone, they don’t answer.
The other problem is that most homes are not owner occupied. While home sales are going up, they are not being purchased by homeowners; they are being purchased by speculator and landlords as rentals, and thereby are managed by property managers. Getting hold of the insured, then finding out their property managers, getting hold of them, who then have to contact the tenants to schedule an appointment sort of blew the whole 75% completion rate in 10 days out of the water.
While this was a nice job, it was supposed to be a part time, work from home deal, and with the various problems I was running into, it was evident that it was a 40+ hour a week job that I was netting less than minimum wage for, so I eventually found something better.
I ran into one of my counterparts as I was starting my new job and discussed how difficult it was to meet the expectations of the company based on the phone / landlord issues. He sort of laughed at me and told me that he usually inspected 8 to 10 hours a DAY with no problem. Stunned I asked him how the hell he was able to schedule so many appointments.
He said it was simple; you call up the insured and leave them a voice mail that states if I can’t see you house in 48 hours your insurance policy will be canceled. Stunned, I reminded him that was against company policy. He laughed and replied, “That is window dressing for the clients, if you want to make money and meet quota you have to knock some heads. Policyholders and Property Managers are idiots.”
I just can’t work this way. I guess I just don’t have what it takes to screw people. But it appears that is what is necessary if you want to work in today’s modern world.
Monday, April 15, 2013
Friday, April 12, 2013
Monday, February 18, 2013
The news of the last few days is getting me more and more upset. Either the public's fascination with anxiety and stress is becoming overwhelming, or the media is playing to your fears more and more to sell you toothpaste and pharmaceuticals. Just this past week:
The Carnival Triumph Cruise Ship. Ow the humanity! All these whiny little middle class working stiffs are crying and moaning because their floating Motel 6 ran out of air conditioning and free lobster. What they are really whining about is that they paid for something and didn't get their monies worth. This is headline news? We're they ever in danger of drowning?, starving?, immanent death?....No. Even on a stranded cruise ship they were living lives better than the average African or South American. Jeez, grow up people...shit happens. But the media makes one huge deal out of it because of the "human" drama.
The Russian Meteor Disaster. Ow, the sky is falling! Granted this was valid news, and great video to watch, thanks for the update. But the next day...same story, same video...but with experts from community colleges and cults telling us just how bad this could have been and that we might all be killed by space debris at any second! Ow My...Lions & Tigers & Bears!!! Wake up folks, this could have happened at any time in the last 2 million years and there is nothing we can do about it in the future! Why don't you just carry on, you can't prevent hurricanes, earthquakes or volcanoes either. The universe is a dangerous place, if you want to save your children, invest in the space program, don't watch the damn anxiety news shows!
The Illegal Aliens Are Coming, Run For Your Lives! We live 5 miles from the Mexico border. Contrary to what you might hear and read, there isn't a problem with illegal immigrants filing through our front yard or sleeping in our garage. Far from it. Yet every month we see a news story on the national media about columns of drug smugglers filing across ranches in Southern Arizona and how Americans are in fear of their lives. Bullshit. I am sure it exists to a degree, but not to the extent that the media plays it up. Border Patrol agents and law enforcement are thick as thieves where we live. If their are illegals here they sure don't want to stick around. I would be more concerned about the thousands of meth-labs in major metropolitan areas that are cranking out drugs right next door to you, than a few Mexicans sneaking marijuana across the border. The media is whipping up fear to make you vote a specific way and trying to bias your opinion.
Remember, for every news story you see or read in the media, there is an alternate view, but that view isn't backed by folks who want to sell you things you don't need.
Saturday, February 9, 2013
|From 30 Days|
To Carla Keith,
Of all the folks that were lost in the river of my life, I would like to find out where you landed the most.
I have found most of the rest, scattered by time and tide all over the globe. But I don’t know what happened to you.
That is a shame, since you were the first 'woman' I ever knew. You taught me more standing at the school bus stop every morning than any other girl before you. You were mature, and I was fascinated.
I don’t know if I would call it first love, but it certainly was the beginning where I realized there was a lot more to women that I had realized.
The last time I saw you was 1975. I fellow classmate recently e-mailed me a picture of you. It was the first time I had seen you in 35 years. It really made me wonder where you ended up.
Hope all is well and you survived like the rest of us.
So if you ever google you name on the Internet, hopefully might find this. From way back in the day, in South Dakota, near Rapid City, on Ellsworth Air Force Base. It seems like such a long time.
Friday, February 8, 2013
|From 30 Days|
You probably don’t remember me. I used to work for you. Back in the early 1990, when you were director of the Agency I worked in.
I never really got a chance to have a sit down talk with you before you were flushed out the door by the new incoming governor‘s administration and went to work as a corporate lobbyist.
So I hope this finds you well and things are going your way these days. Your tenure at the Agency was, shall we say, difficult.
You really weren’t a people person during your time at the agency, and some would say you were a bit of a micro-manager. Spending all your weekends in your office reading every bit of correspondence that was sent out by your employees was a bit much. Showing that you had to proof everything everyone did was a little over the top and didn’t really promote that ‘team spirit’ concept that directors are so fond of using.
You taught me a lot about how government and bureaucracy work, and I have to say that none of it was very good. The impression I was left with was that government is full of a lot of power-players that trade favors and delve into a lot of graft.
Your insistence that the Agency aid all consumers regardless of the nature of their complaint was a bit of an abuse of power in my opinion. But such is the nature of those that serve the electorate I suppose. Making the higher-ups look good is more important than serving the consumers.
Back then, you were a pretty ‘driven’ individual, and I don’t know if that served you well in the long run. For some of us that trait is genetic. I know that during my lifetime, it hasn't always driven us in the right direction. Hope ya found some happiness at the end of your road.
A Past Employee
Thursday, February 7, 2013
|From 30 Days|
I need to remind you of something.
You have taught me a lot over the years, least of which is how much of a jerk I can be at times and how you don’t let it affect you so much. You tolerate a lot....and in the process, have have taught me a lot of tolerance. But more than anything else, you reminded me about the value of child-like dreaming.
You want to do new things and get all excited about the possibility of doing them. Most folks lose that when they get older, you don’t.
Sometimes you nurture too much. The three dogs and six cats that we have in our house are a testament to that. You have a hard time saying no or turning someone away that needs a favor. But these are really things that I can fault you for. You can’t fault Mother Teresa for being too kind.
You are a pretty messy person, although you hate clutter. You are disorganized in the extreme, never knowing where anything is placed, but you make up for it by making the best diners out of virtually nothing in the kitchen.
You complain about how difficult the audio-video system is to operate in the house, but for some reason, when push comes to shove, you were always able to figure out how to pull up ‘As The World Turns’ when you wanted to watch it.
But mostly, I have come to realize that you are the only person that is willing to put up with me and for that I am pretty blessed. Truly blessed. So while I might be a moody, brooding, S.O.B. sometimes, don’t ever think for a moment that you are the gosh-darn best thing that will ever happen to me in my lifetime.
Wednesday, February 6, 2013
|From 30 Days|
Sit! ... Stay!......I said “SIT!”.......now stay......no, no, no...don’t lick my hand......stupid dog.
Listen Max, I realize that you aren’t the sharpest tool in the shed. I mean ever since we rescued you as a puppy found abandoned in the park, we knew this wasn’t going to be easy. As I am sure you are aware by now, it has been much harder than we thought.
Much like when Forrest Gump uttered, ‘Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.”. It appears that we got you.
After numerous gnawed on pieces of furniture, countless shoes destroyed and enough holes in the back yard to make it look like a used minefield, we still have you. Damnit, you do tend to grow on people.
Which is why I have a favor to ask of you buddy. Don’t make me have to put you down. When your time comes, just pass away in your sleep. Don’t get hit by a car, or ingest rat poison or break your back by jumping out of a moving vehicle.
I couldn’t do that. After spending every morning over the past year, playing fetch with you, it is something that I just can’t contemplate. It is evident that you literally ‘live’ for those 20 minutes each morning where you get to run as fast as you can across an open field in order to catch up to that tennis ball. Then, without hesitation, you bring it back to me. The look in your face is absolute and utter joy every time you do it. For those that say dogs can’t smile, they obviously have never seen you play fetch. It is just you and me and that tennis ball, nothing else matters.
In your persistent, stubborn, duface sort of way, you have made me appreciate that time as well. It is during those ball throwing sessions that you have taught me that there are more important things in life than the chaos that constantly surrounds the human world.
As long as you want to keep bringing that ball back to me, I’ll keep throwing it.
However, I can’t snuff out that sort of joy. I just don’t have it in my. So do me this favor good buddy. Either outlive me, or pass away in your sleep while you dream of chasing a rabbit through a thicket.
See ya tomorrow at 6:30am, with the tennis ball, in the park. Bring your game face.
Tuesday, February 5, 2013
|From 30 Days|
I know you are going to all be grown up by the time you read this, but I will still be older than you, so I can still call you kids.
I wanted to pass this little note on to you after I am gone to give you a little heads up about some stuff.
Since I never had children of my own, you are going to be the closest thing I have to family when I leave this earth, so I wanted to pass something on to you now that I am gone. Now, don’t get your hopes up. It isn’t a wade of cash, or a yacht or a fancy sports car. Its knowledge. Something that I have learned is really hard to come by in this day and age.
The one thing I have learned in this lifetime, is that no one under that age of 30 wants to hear their elders tell them how things are, or what to do, or how to live their lives. I was young once too, and I remember those days when I was 20 and thought I knew everything. It is genetic, trust me on this, you will outgrow it.
Eventually, you will come to the realization that you DON’T know everything, but by then, your elders will probably be gone, or won’t care to explain it to you anymore. Hence, I am jotting down this letter.
During my time on this rock I learned a lot of things. No one can know everything, but I learned my fair share. So much so, that there is no way that I can write it all down in a meaningful way for you to understand. Somethings have to be learned first hand. That is life.
But I did manage to document a majority of what I learned in two different ways. I blogged a lot and I am going to make efforts to make sure it is all preserved for you. You might find it interesting and you might find it boring, and dare I say stupid and funny, but it was all me. All the important stuff that I could remember. The funny, creepy, sad, frustrating and enlightening stuff. If you take the time to rummage through it, you might find a few things that will either strike a cord in you, or at least give you a heads up regarding what to expect in your future.
The other thing I left you was a bunch of photographs. Thousands of them to be exact. Because I have often sermized that if we forget the past, it disappears. And to lose who and what we are is the greatest loss of all. So hopefully, you will cast an eye over the images from time to time on your screen saver or your digital picture frame and pause once in a while.
Because, now that I am gone, this is all that is left of me, and I don’t think that it should be forgotten. I had some pretty good times, and learned some interesting shit. This is my legacy, hope you enjoy it.
P.S. if you scan the text and images closely, you might be able to tell where I buried all my money.
Sunday, February 3, 2013
|From 30 Days|
How is it going? Despite what you might think, it is probably going better than you realize. I know that on a daily basis you and I struggle with our inability to make a difference in the world that surrounds us. I remember when Mom and Dad challenged us to be the ‘movers and shakers’ in the world. Encouraged us to make it a better place. Prodded us to become leaders and managers of the golden American future.
But don’t beat yourself up because you haven’t climbed that corporate ladder. Enron and GM would have still gone belly up even if you had gotten the corner office. We really can’t change the world. We can only nudge it a bit in one direction or another. And even if we do, we sometimes nudge it in the wrong direction.
It isn’t all about success or being in command. Remember, while the quarterback gets all the glory, he also takes the most hits. Our life wasn’t supposed to be a game that we had to struggle to win. It is a journey that we have to struggle to understand.
What was that old saying we read in college? There are those that follow the lead of others, and then there of those of us that blaze our own trail. We should be happy we turned out to be blazers and not followers.
The more we look back at our failures, the more we realize that they weren’t failures at all. They were just a different path. As it turns out, they all seemed to be the right path.
Keep on blazing those trails.
Saturday, February 2, 2013
While trails and tribulations are a constant fact of daily life, at least you are blessed with the ability to see through it all. I am always amazed at my fellow humans when they can’t see the forest for the trees. At least you don’t have that problem any more. I always assumed that other people sat in a park and petted their dog and watched the clouds slowly roll by. Experience has taught me that most don’t. They are too busy and too distracted.
So I am glad you eventually realized that most of the stuff you have been told to want and desire in your life is really crap. The best things in life are free and there are lots of them. A walk in the woods, a good library book, warm blankets on a rainy fall evening, now that's the stuff dreams are made of. They aren't made of HDTVs and New Chevrolets.
Good for you, for finally figuring that out. I know that living in modern society can often be like a recovering substance abuser that is constantly tempted to relapse, but I have faith that you will stay the course. I believe you know where your final destination finally lies.
Now it is just a matter of staying the course. First star to the left and straight on till morning...... Good Luck Lotus07
Friday, February 1, 2013
I wanted to jot down a little note to remind you to lighten up once in a while. It isn’t your fault that the world you grew up in gave you unrealistic expectations.
You have to remember that those halcyon days of the 1950s, when Ike was president, Elvis was king and Wally and the Beaver got warm cookies after school are gone. I know they imprinted in your mind that the future would bountiful, non-gay, Anglo-Saxon controlled and orderly, but that was a lie. Get over it.
Things change, and often times we can’t do anything about it. The expectations that you had of competency in government, your co-workers, your neighbors and society in general were unrealistic. Things got muddled, compromised, liberalized and averaged.
Our parents taught us to have high expectations. Growing up taught us to expect competency. Reality has made us realize that we are luck to find plumber or electrician that can read and write.
Deal with it. The world isn’t what we were told to expect. You can’t do anything about it and it isn’t going to change. So it isn’t worth getting all upset and pissed off about on a daily basis.
Thursday, January 31, 2013
This is a heads up for something that is coming down the pike. This is going to be a reposting of blog project I did about two years ago. It was pretty sobering in retrospect. So I am tossing it out there again. It is harder than you might think.
I see a lot of folks online that do 30 days photo projects or 365 day photo projects, but trust me....this is much harder.
I am going to be experimenting with a writing exercise during the month of February. I am going to be writing 30 letters, which will be posted on this blog. One letter a day for the month of February.
They won’t be terribly lengthy and their recipients will vary. Some will be to myself and others will be to people I know or have known in the past. Each letter will have a theme, but I won’t be posting what all the themes are until the exercise is over.
This will be a lot of writing and some of the letters will be written in advance and set to post on specific days due to holidays and weekends.
It is bound to be interesting, if not somewhat entertaining.
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
The more I write on here, the more it becomes apparent that there are two things that we all share.
a) The long term experiences that tend to get pounded into your brains day after day and only sink in over time.
b) The unexpected revelations that come out of no-where and are burned into our minds that force us to pause and question everything we have learned.
Most societies tend to apply repetitive education to their citizens. We are trained to repeat things over and over until we have them memorized and they become part of our daily routine. We recite multiplication tables, memorize the alphabet and read about the noble deeds of our forefathers. Some of it is propaganda while some is just standardized social skills. It makes us more homogeneous, more of a collective instead of a bunch of individuals. Collectives are more likely to pay taxes and not question things.
But there are times when we stop and start asking questions. When we say to ourselves, "Wait a minute, is everything I've been told really true?". These questions aren't necessarily about science or skills. They are about the way we have been trained to perceive our world. Questions about religion, reality, our souls and our purpose.
It is these experiences that keep coming back to me in these blogs. The recollection of questioning what infinite really is on a dark forest path and wondering, if just for moment, if there were unseen doors that no one every told us about.
As a small child I took a train trip from the west coast to Iowa with my mother. We had a sleeper car and the clickity-click of the rails lulled me to sleep at night. I had a small bunk that folded down by the window. In the middle of the night I felt the train come to a stop. I rolled over and parted the curtains to look out. There was a snow covered station platform illuminated by a single overhead light. Someone from the train walked down the platform, hugged a waiting relative and they both exited into the darkness. As the snow continued to whirl in the night breeze, the train slowly pulled away into the inky blackness. I went back to sleep and the next day I wondered if it was all a dream. I still do. How much of what we perceive is real or just imagined?
As a young man attending Oregon State University, I was able to take a single skull out on the Willamette river. A skull is one man oared boat that can do 14 mph in calm water. They are barely a foot wide and sit only inches above the water. One cold spring morning I checked out a skull and launched into the fog shrouded Willamette for an early morning workout. About a mile downstream, I stopped rowing and just listened to the world around me. Because of the fog I couldn't see more than 20 feet in any direction and the only sound was the water rushing beneath the hull. My mind told me I was about a hundred feet from shore. But my thoughts said I could be in the middle of a vast ocean. I was alone and surrounded by water. As I pondered the silence a shape appeared out of the fog. A Great Blue Heron, with a five foot wingspan, flew out of the mist and floated directly toward me. He swooped over my head and disappeared into the fog from which he came. He was visible for about 5 seconds. If I hadn't stopped to ponder and listen, I would never have seen him.
Just like nature shows us glimpses of the world before we arrived on the planet, our fellow man can sometimes shows us the darker side of the human experience. This is something that isn't usually pounded into our brains. Text books and teachers don't usually emphasize what the ramifications of fear and failure are and how it is perceived by others. The emphasis these days is to focus on the 'positive'.
I spent the summers of my youth in Fort Dodge, Iowa with my paternal grandmother. There was a park at the end of the street that had a miniature steam train. You could ride it for 10 cents and to a small boy it was the coolest toy in the world. One summer, when I returned to the park, the train was gone. For the next 10 years, I would return to that park in hopes that the train would have returned, but it never did. The path in the ground where the rails used to be was still there as a reminder. The last time I visited the park as a young man, a building had been erected on the site. I wondered if I am the only one that remembers it even existed. If no one else remembers it, was it really there? Are we just ghosts in the machine?
My paternal grandmother used to save stale bread so we could take it to the park and feed the tame deer that were in a large enclosure there. It was a traditional thing. The deer would come up to the fence and eat the bread out of our hand. As an 8 year old boy we thought of them as huge pets. I would rather go back and feed those deer for 10 minutes than spend hours playing video games. In my mid-thirties, I learned that some drunken teenagers had jumped the fence and killed most of the deer. They probably never knew how many memories they erased that day or how much innocences was lost.
During Christmas as a little kid, my parents always made me leave a glass of milk, some cookies and some carrots out for Santa and his reindeer before I went to bed. When I awoke the next day, I always noticed the glass was empty, the cookies where gone and only the stub of the carrots remained. I suppose the key to making a child believe in the impossible is to not leave out the details. Back then I believed that a man could actually fit down a chimney and deliver gifts (and we didn't even have a chimney).
During my honeymoon, my wife and I were visiting all the places in the Midwest where we had grown up as children and visiting all the cemeteries where our ancestors lay. While walking through a cemetery with my video camera I spied my new wife lost in thought and focused the camera on her. As she stood in the setting Midwestern sun, bathed in light and surrounded by trees, the breeze blew through her hair and made it appear to float around her face and shoulders. I thought to myself, "Damn, what a beautiful woman." Almost anyone can be more beautiful than we ever imagined, if we just take the time to see them in a certain light.
The older I get, the more these memories and questions haunt me. Most of the things I was taught growing up have been slowly chipped away by experience. We weren't put here to be trained to do repetitive tasks and be homogeneous. We are supposed to wonder about and question everything. It is our gift. We need to unwrap it more often.
(this is a re-write / expansion of a previous blog that I wrote over 2 years ago entitled Home....) It is also a prelude to an upcoming blog...stay tuned.
Friday, January 4, 2013
"I'm Sorry Dave, I'm Afraid I Can't Do That..."
Change is a slow thing....it has to be managed and planned, but it is going to happens sooner or later. Change is inevitable. Some folks didn't get this memo.
Way back in my career path, I had a job. It was with a Government Agency. The work was regulatory law enforcement. Citizens would complain about a specific individual or institution that the State licensed and we would investigate to see of there were any statutes that had been violated. If there were, we would forward the case on to the State Attorney Generals office for possible prosecution. (I say possible, because the Attorney Generals office rarely prosecutes anyone in this State, unless you are willing to plead guilty.)
This job entailed a lot of paperwork. I mean tons of paperwork. A single investigation file could take up a whole filing cabinet and we had thousands of ongoing investigations. Since the State does not pay very well, we usually didn't get the cream of the crop when it came to job applicants. Most of our investigators were either retired police officers or folks looking to change their career from bartender to something better.
When I entered this land of regulatory hell, I quickly realized that a majority of my time was spent answering the phones and trying to find the file that the caller was asking about. It usually took about 5 minutes to search through all the files in my office and then read it to figure out what the status of the case was.
When I started the job there were computer terminals sitting on everyone's desk. I inquired about them and no one seemed to know what they were for. They had just appeared one evening and there was no training on how to use them. Seems there was a tax imposed on licensees that paid for this automation, but there wasn't any real thought about how it was going to be used or how we could be trained to use it.
Thinking that there had to be a better way to do the job, I started investigating the automation setup on my own in hopes of finding a better way to catalog and track all my investigation files. I quickly learned that the automation setup was a mid-size IBM AS/400 office server running IBM Office-Vision. This was a fairly standard office operating system before Microsoft took over the world and converted everyone to Windows. Office-Vision is basically a document creation and cataloging system that also has limited calendaring, database and e-mail functionality. It didn't take me long to work up a framework for inputting all of my files in the system and instead of shuffling around thousands of files and pieces of paper, I was doing most of my work on the terminal. This gave me instant access to all the information in my files. It was pretty sweet. With about 3 months worth of work, I had cut the time it took to do my job in half. I was pretty proud of myself.
After fine-tuning the whole setup, I thought it best to go to the boss, the Division Director, and show him what I had done. If I could do this, it would take about 6 months to train everyone else how to do it.
I scheduled a meeting with Mr. Rubin, the Director, to show off what I had done. In his corner office, I explained the problems I had run up against, what I had come up with as a solution and showed him on his terminal all the things I could do.
There on his desktop monitor, I was able to show him the total number of investigations I had open. The average time each investigation had been ongoing. All of the calendared dates that I had subpoenaed documents set to arrive. All of the case notes on my files were at his fingertips. All the addresses for the interested parties, complainants, licensees and companies involved in each case were indexed. There were summary reports on all my files showing any number of statistics and totals. This was all ground breaking. This information wasn't available on anyone else's investigations.
"Think of it, Mr. Rubin. If we implemented this, you could know exactly what every investigator in the Division was doing right from your desk! The Agency Director will think you are a genius once you start providing these types of numbers and statistics. We won't have anymore lost files or irate consumers."
Mr. Rubin paused for a moment and sort of squinted at the terminal screen. What he said next will remain with me for the rest of my life. "Why?" he responded.
"Why do this?, he said. "The current system works fine. This would be too much work."
I must have sat there for a few seconds in stunned silence. The awful feeling that I was sitting in front of a mental pygmy that was in charge of a State Division painfully sunk in. I realized that everything that I had told him had shot way over his head and landed somewhere four blocks away. I thought that it wasn't a matter of convincing him, it was just a matter of showing him the obvious. I was very, very wrong.
He didn't like the idea of change, especially if it meant that he was going to have to learn something new. He was on the downhill slide toward retirement and he didn't want to start re-learning his job at that point. He also made the decision that no one else wanted to learn how to be more efficient either. The status-quo was just fine for the time being.
If the rest of the office wants to work in the stone age, let them. I am going to continue to find a better way to do this job. (I was still idealistic back then). Unfortunately, I had let the cat out of the bag.
Since others knew that I had automated my files and could work them more efficiently, the "Law of Jungle" took over. Or maybe that should be the "Law of the Office". It states: "If you can do twice as much work, they will give you twice as much work." I quickly found out that my average case load was almost 400 investigations, which stayed open an average of 45 days. The other investigators in the office had an average of 150 open cases that stayed open for 6 months to a year. It didn't take me long to realize that I wasn't in Kansas anymore. The land of Oz can be a frightening place when you work there from 8am to 5pm every day. Efficiency and production are not the watch words of civil service. Perpetuating the norm is the way you do business.
After five years of carrying about 1/4 of the office work load, I chose to seek greener pastures and left. But those jobs didn't pan out to well either. Just because folks make a lot of money and own a big company, doesn't mean that they are intelligent or smart. They are just dumb-lucky. But that is another story.
While I was away from the State Agency, Mr. Rubin decided to seek greener pastures as well. The person that they hired to replace him started going through the files and asking questions about the employee that had all the typed file notes and indexes in his files. Then he asked the worst question...why aren't all the files being done this way?
Three weeks later, I was having lunch with him and he asked me to come back to the Agency and help automate the rest of the staff in electronic file management. I hated my current job, so I went back. It was a rocky road, but it showed results in the end.
Change comes, but not as fast as we would like it to sometimes. Violent change is always feared and resisted. The concept of 'packaging' change and knowing when the right time to implement it is key. Something I didn't know when I talked to Mr. Rubin. What seems so clear and obvious to some, is as dense as a fog bank to others. Patience and change are linked. For some of us, that is a hard lesson to learn.
Wednesday, January 2, 2013
One thing I love about American culture, is that we really don't pay attention to problems until they are considered BIG by the media. If one person gets bubonic plague, meeh....who cares? If a whole town comes down with it....OH MY GOSH, we are all going to die!
That is my take on the whole Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. I started to right a blog three months ago about the Aurora-Batman Rises shooting. I did some research on it and started to write an outline for it then came to the conclusion, why bother, there will be another mass killing in a month or two, I will just wait until then. (while writing this, there was another mass killing, when the New England resident set fire to his home and the started shooting the first responders)
Well, that time has arrived, so I might as well dust it off.
Guns don't kill people, people kill people....and people with semi- automatic rifles kill a lot MORE people.
Guns are everywhere, banning them now is like shooting the horse after the battle is over. It is better to have avoided the battle and use the horse to plow fields. Why not tighten up on ammunition sales? Or better yet, make it a requirement that anyone that buys ammunition be required to go through a mental health check every 6 months? They can be issued a little ammunition card that has to be renewed like a debit card to buy bullets. Just a thought, never going to happen.
But then again, If I want to kill a bunch of people, I have the option of fertilizer bombs, gasoline incineration, mowing pedestrians down with a car, the list is endless. If you are deranged enough to do the deed, you will probably find a way. The guns just make it easier.
The attached graph shows major mass killings over the past 40 years. They are increasing, but then again, so is the population. Interestingly enough, they are getting more deadly. Less wounded and more deaths. I suppose that means that the killers are just getting more efficient.
But this graph shows the spikes. The high body counts. I am certain that the number of 'individuals' that are murdered on a daily basis due to gun violence is probably much higher than the numbers on this graph. Again, it is our obsession with the big numbers that moves us toward discussing change.
Which is what really gets me upset. The problem is long standing and ongoing. Proper supervision and mental health screening is going to stop most of these murders, not gun control.
As a culture, we have been trained to have a threshold of acceptance. A degree to which we will accept things that should not happen.
Traffic - Our acceptance of risk of accident or injury and our willingness to spend three hours a day commuting when there is obviously a better way to get to work and go shopping, but it requires change to our routine and a loss of our personal freedom, which we just can't let go of, even if it is for our own good.
Burglary - We no longer consider the concept of no crime and that our homes are safe and secure. We now accept the reality that we are going to be burglarized or vandalized at some point. It is just a matter of how often and at what cost. Instead of increased law enforcement, we have home security and higher insurance premiums.
Truancy - Back in my day (yes I am old) any teenager walking the streets during the week would be picked up and hauled into the police station. School was a requirement or it was off to reform school for you kiddo. Go to any mall in a large city today and count the number of slackers that hang out at the food court smoking cigarettes.
Check Cashing Stores - If you don't have a social security number or want to lay low so that the cops or your ex-wife can't find you, where do you cash your check? There is a whole industry that has sprung up that will take care of that for you, for a fee. Now, someone with wage garnishment or who owes alimony can cash their check and not get caught, thank goodness.
As a society, we have come to accept this loss of structure, because we are not willing to devote the resources (taxes) to maintan it and instead have left it up to the individual to deal with on their own. Better buy a gun to protect your property, send you children to private school, buy a really 'safe' car and keep a minimum balance of $10,000 in your checking account.
With increased condensed populations comes increased mental health issues. The key to combating this is to promote more social interaction (in person) and get people out of their homes and into a community situation. Folks that fester in front of their Xbox or Playstation for years on end are not going to be well adjusted citizens.
We have been killing ourselves, in slow mass suicide, over the past decades with our lifestyles. With the processed foods that we eat, the pollution that we have created and the greenhouse gases that we have unleashed. But since the effects are only noticed in small numbers, we don't really see the danger.
If we advertised eating apples instead of 'Thick and Chuncky Spaghetti Sauce' from a can, if we promoted riding a bike or walking to work instead of commuting on freeways, if we encouraged everyone to learn to play a musical instrument or a speak a second language (so we would learn to interact with others), there just might be fewer mass shootings in the world.
However, this isn't what the media and its advertiser backers want us to believe. They want us to eat more snack cakes, buy more cars and sit at home and watch more television.
Hence, expect a lot more mass killings in the future. This isn't a gun problem, this is a societal problem. Think outside the box people. Stop trying to treat the symptoms. Cure the social disease!
This isn't an issue of numbers, it is an issue of behavior. In the two weeks after the Sandy Hook massacre, over 200 people were killed in the United States due to gun related deaths. This figure may be low, since it does not take into account suicides by gun, only homicides. This is not an issue of how we kill, but why we kill. Why anyone would take the life of another human being relates to frustration, mental illness, hatred, bigotry, envy, etc. All things that have to due with someones mental state.
If we take away ALL the guns, these individuals will still commit crime and murder, but on a less massive scale. So, are we going to draw the line and say that 200 murders a week is acceptable, or are we going to say that murder is unacceptable?
Timothy McVay killed 44 people in Oklahoma City because he was upset with the government. We haven't banned fertilizer yet to make bombs with. Any jealous lover can take an SUV and plow down their estranged spouse at a bus stop, killing all the bystanders as well. Are we going to make bus stops more secure or outlaw SUVs?
We need a system that will identify and aide the people who are going to commit these act before they do them. However, no one wants to discuss this because it takes a lot of resources and raises the specter of 'Big Brother' keeping tabs on us and infringes on our personal freedoms. No one is going to submit to a monthly mental health check to make sure that they have not gone nuts in the last 30 days and be required to turn in their knives, guns and car keys.
What we need to do is commit to creating a culture where it is more acceptable to discuss our problems, instead of solving them with violence. I find it hypocritical, that tasteful sexual content is outlawed on public media in the United States, but that the drawing of a weapon to solve a problem on television happens dozens of times each evening during primetime.
The mental state of this country is one of 'reaction' and is not 'pro-active'. Our mindset is to treat the symptom in hopes of cost savings and that hopefully the illness will eventually just go away.
Until we start to really address these issues, and stop talking about 'banning' things that cause violence and putting 'armed' police in schools, nothing is going to change. It will require a long term social change over a generation. Not a one time fix with the passage of a 'Gun Law'.
Segregation was wrong back in the 1950s. We could have said, give those uppity African Americans more money and hopefully they will settle down. But that would not have addressed the issue. We passed laws to make them all equal. Just passing the law didn't make them equal. We had to institute social change over generations to undo the hatred and bigotry that Jim Crow had fostered.
We will need to do something similar to address the epidemic of violence in this society. My fear is, that we will need to go through a lot more killing before people finally start to wake up and stop listening to what the media tells us to do, and we start telling the media what to do.