Category Archives: Power

Of Beds and Bugs

Well, just one bed, actually.

And not even a full bed, just a mattress. We had a full bed in Colorado but left it behind when we moved here, along with many other items. And not even a real mattress, but a frameless futon sprawled on the floor in permanent unfold.

But our unwanted bug company is markedly plural.

I had never encountered bedbugs before outside my Charles Bukowski reading. And after encountering them, I have to say I would have preferred to have kept them academic. But we don’t always have control over such things; or at least not the amount of control we would like to have.

Gary and I tried to assume some control by buying one of those bedbug-proof mattress covers. It has helped only marginally, as they are probably in the walls and, as it seems by their sudden appearance on sheet or shirt or skin, also in thin air.

Gary in particular has been going bonkers with helplessness; their not there state spontaneously changing into thereness makes him afraid to go to sleep. Understandably so, as they seem to seek him out more than me and his body is allergic to them.

While awake, he remains on edge, sensitive to their contact. While awake, I remain on edge, sensitive to his call of “Get it, get it”.

And I get it; kill it. I kill a lot. But the problem with a lot is it is relative and of little good when it is being measured against an army of a lot more.

I checked on professional exterminators and quickly discovered our impoverished financial means has added another notch to our general helplessness in this matter, as they are quite costly.

Quite costly here is synonymous with can’t afford ’em.

A significant part of control is having resources, the lack of which quickly becomes the catch-22 of poverty. It is difficult to swim the channel when you are trying not to drown. Thankfully our landlord said he knows an exterminator that he will get out next week.

But that will be next week and be dependent on him.

While appreciative, I nevertheless hate both of the above with every fiber of my being.

First, I hate that I can’t immediately give Gary the bug-free environment he needs. And secondly, I hate that the resolution depends on someone other than me.

There is an implicit third hate there, too, as environment and dependence isn’t limited to bugs and landlords. Until we get out of this hellish life-cycle of just getting by, our history of helplessness repeats. I know I must change things well beyond this current difficulty.

And I hate not knowing how to do so.

More Time Here than at Home

I often here this phrase — more time here than at home — at work. Usually it is nested in some variant form of an extended Joe Workforce maxim:

Best to keep a good attitude at work and do what you can to make things pleasant. After all, we spend more time here than at home.

I’ve even said it myself.

And I usually nod if someone else says it, offer verbal consent, or in some other way affirm the validity of it. But of late I have started thinking about it and have come to realize it is not only wrong-minded but perverse.

Oh, not the making things pleasant part. Such an attempt should be made in any situation, work or otherwise, as life on its own can already be quite difficult for all concerned without heaping unnecessary conflict upon it.

I mean the more time here than at home part.

People recite this disturbing line in a matter-of-fact fashion, take it as a given, and otherwise accept it as being the way of the world. But if it is the way of the world, it seems to be a strange one indeed if family is as important a value as people often claim it is.

I mean it is strange one where we are not horrified at such a thought.

Think of it another way. Say 100,000 heartbeats were left In your life. That’s about a day, maybe less. Would that last beat sound out joy at having spent 90,000 of them filing documents in the right place or making sure all phone calls were returned in a “timely” manner?

And yeah, I know about having a strong work ethic. I have a strong one myself, so don’t even go there. For If you go there, you’re totally missing the point. And yeah, yeah, I know work has to be done for a society to function, so don’t go there either as that’s missing the point too.

We have this false, somewhat iconic image of the hard-working “high-level” executive who is so swamped with work that they miss Bobby’s little league game or Susie’s dance recital. Such an image stays in our subconscious so we dogmatically accept faulty notions of “job-creators” and how the wealthy deserve what they have because of all their industrious sacrifice to society.

But the truth is, if you really are powerful and wealthy, you have the ability to flex your schedule so you can attend whatever function you choose. You have the resources to base your decisions on personal values rather than need. You have the luxury of spending — or not spending — more of your time with family.

Do you think people like Mitt Romney fret about whether they can get time off for a PTA meeting or worry about not being able to get it up for their spouses because work has left them so exhausted?

Hell, Don Marsh had so much of all three — ability, resources and luxury — he had enough to squander it on whores he had strewn across the country.

The people who truly miss out on spending time with family are the time-clock punchers funding the Don Marshes and the Mitt Romneys of the world.

They are the 99% who have such little ability to make their own family-prioritizing schedules that they have to make due with an obscene work model dressed up as a work ethic. I know this because I am one of those 99% and I am currently making due.

But as I grow older and ever closer to that last heartbeat, the absurdity of this twisted way of life gets to me.

Especially as I can hear the 1% laughing.

Can’t you?

Not Enough Compasses

We have too many laws and not enough compasses.

I was going to write about Mr. Marsh of Marsh Supermarkets and his curious claim that he was unaware of being under a code of conduct during his employment.  I have strong opinions about morality versus law (or code or policy or commandment).

Obeying or not obeying some edict or other has little to do with being moral. Many religions drive me crazy with their specious claims to morality. If you are only doing or not doing something for fear of punishment by the Big G in the sky, the policeman down the street, or your mum and dad, you may be curbing behavior but you are certainly not automatically being moral.

Instead, you are just a dog not pissing on the carpet for fear of the master’s lash.

I thought I would write on this and segue into Boy Scouts territory with a deconstruction of “morally straight” in their oath. I would talk about the shallow absurdity of believing that straight refers to “put your penis there but not there.”

But I think I might write about a dead raccoon instead.

Living in the city, I do not see a decent variety of wildlife. But my husband and I have started feeding the stray cats that come by and that has attracted other creatures, like birds and dogs and squirrels. And, until now, the raccoon.

He loved our house. After eating, he would shimmy up the wooden beams on our porch and hang out on our roof.

Last night I came home from the SGI Buddhist Center. As I parked in the street I saw him about fifteen feet in front of me. Dead.

Ran-over. Killed. Murdered.

He was so beautiful up there on our roof; a beautiful that will be no more.

Today I sent a service request to the Mayor’s Action Center. It’s an efficient site. I just picked the correct options from drop down boxes: dead animal — raccoon — location.  There are laws governing such things and I did my part, my civic duty, by reporting it.

But such action on my part wasn’t moral. It was functional,  behavioral, and responsible, but not moral. Morality can certainly include those three things, but those things can also be separate.

Instead, morality is the feeling I get when I contribute to the beautiful, whether on the rooftop or elsewhere in the world. It is the pit I feel in my stomach, like it’s been hollowed out, when I see the once beautiful now just so much discarded meat in the road.

Morality requires action, but it also requires a feeling; an emotional pull on the needle of your personal moral compass that keeps you heading in the right direction.

Passing laws or policies has little to do with instilling people with their own moral compasses. But the good news is that compasses come pre-installed. There just aren’t enough compasses being used as we too often settle on the ease — and empty morality — of simply obeying the rules.

It is time for us to move beyond canine obedience into human compassion.

Think Progress.

Learning at the Cost of Understanding

I drove Gary to the FSSA office today out on Crawfordsville Road. He recently got approved for disability and there was some additional bureaucratic stuff we needed to do via appointment.

This blog isn’t about that bureaucratic stuff.

Instead it is about the skills involved in the modern world to make the bureaucratic stuff happen. More broadly, it is about skills of that nature in general.

Sitting next to Gary in the cubicle in a maze of cubicles, I noticed how the worker had two computer screens at her desk, both with information up. On the primary screen she worked off of, she entered data, switched screens, then more data, and so on. At one point she got assistance from a supervisor on how a particular entry had to entered and was advised to enter such and such here, then here, then click here, switch screen here, enter such and such here, and so on. Then she was back on her own entering and clicking and screen-to-screening and turning the great bureaucracy forward for our benefit.

No doubt the program used is a very specific program and the person who knows how to use it — has such skill — is valued by the administration for possessing them … valued that is until the program becomes outdated, is abandoned, or otherwise no longer around.

I originally was going to call this entry high-level skills versus low-level skills. But I thought “low” in low-level sounded disparaging of possessing such skills, which is neither my intent nor focus. Also the word “skill” itself is a misleading term what with how much can be lumped under it. A significant amount can be lumped under “learning” and “understanding”, too, but I will cash them out in a way that will distinguish them and perhaps limit such lumping.

Companies like to trumpet that they encourage learning. Other companies promise to help you “learn new skills” to make employers snatch you up. However, often the learning and skills that fall out of that educational endeavor are short-term helpful at best to the ‘student’ but long-term harmful.

For knowing a skill doesn’t guarantee you understanding of something. Yet understanding is what’s most valuable because it is transferable and transcends the particularities of a situation.

Learning to me is gaining knowledge of “how” to do something. Understanding also involves a how, but that how encompasses the environment outside its current situation. Understanding embraces other one-word questions like “Why?” and “How?” while furthermore encouraging the world-changing “What now?”.

For example, we learn to avoid fire early in our human evolving because it tends to cause bodily harm to us. But understanding how fire is created, what it burns, and a host of other things about fire and its relationship to the world means we can cook with it, warm with it, and largely control it for purposes far beyond that initial “fire bad and scary” exposure.

Another, more modern example: knowing how to enter HR data into, say, Peoplesoft is a skill. But better is knowing how that data relates to the people it describes. Even better still, as an HR professional, is knowing how to most effectively put a decent workforce together. The latter knowledge requires understanding of such things as work needs, labor pools, and recruitment strategies, all of which can be used and leveraged regardless of the workplace specifics.

Yet we see a large chunk of the jobs in the marketplace where the person is expected — required even — to have experience with a “learned” skill instead of possession of an understanding. More and more you see this in job ads, which rencourages a rush to learn rather than to understand. This is very helpful to the company of course, as they can plug the person in the like a cog in a machine.

But for the employee? I say it is short-term helpful for the obvious: a “learned” skill gets you that niche job, you get paid, and you can buy stuff so you can enjoy little luxuries like food and shelter. The long-term harm here isn’t as directly visible as the short-term company paycheck, so I’ll try to cast light on it this way:

Imagine your life as a finite series of moments. Which it is, so that should be easy to imagine. Each moment can be used for either action x or action y, any combination you wish. But since there are only so many moments to go around, action x is always “Life – action y”, and vice versa. So more time spent on learning skill x is less time spent on understanding y.

Now granted x and y can — and should — work in tandem. Y may even require x. But…

Imagine having a car. You learn how to turn it on. You learn how to change its tires, check its oil, put gas in it. All of this is good stuff — good skills — and helpful to have learned. But what if you were never allowed to take it out of the garage, let alone out on the road? This is exactly the kind of environment the modern workforce seems like it is promoting with its emphasis on narrowly defined “experience”.

Which is all good and well for the gas company, the tire company, the garage company… for the whatever company that reaps huge benefit from the continuously exploited skill. But the benefit for the worker of such in-demand ability is drowned by the obvious:

Under such vehicular conditions, just how far down the road of a well-lived life will they have gotten?

Trying to Claw Out of Poverty

Being poor sucks.

But, for myself, maybe not for, or not just for, the reasons other people might think. For there are very few material things that I would like to have. Oh, sure, shelter, food, and health are of big concern, and the constant worry over all three does indeed suck. But when I think of it truly sucking, I think more in terms of how lack of funds limit me in making societal contributions, whether it is providing cat food for the strays, making a donation to Plan USA, or — if our circumstances become stable enough for us to do so — becoming a foster parent.

Money by itself is valueless, just so much shreds of paper or changing numbers in a ledger. It is what can be done with it that gives it value.

But I’ve never been good at figuring out how to adequately obtain funds so that I can adequately give it the value I think it should it have; the value of it most effectively being used.

Oh, sure, I know the hard-work mantra, and I do work hard at everything I do. I do not see how one cannot work hard. Striving towards accomplishment is a natural human tendency as far as I can tell, if my own human-ness is any kind of marker for such things. But hard work and funds, at least in the states, or in the state of Fox, don’t seem to always align.

People, including my husband, think I should be able todosomething with my degree, with my intelligence, etc. Thesomethingbeing accompanied by both personal and financial benefit. And they are probably right of course. After all, with my 4.0 GPA, I…

But that gets to the crux of it all. School is easy. Really. There is never a tighter correlation between hard work and success than when in school. Expectations are laid out at the start with clearly visible stones to get across the river.

I try to find such stones in the different jobs I have had. I keep my eye on expectations and work hard at keeping my steps steady and balanced. When I stumble, I redouble my efforts and try to ensure I look to see if the stated expectations have changed.

Yet I somehow keep falling off, or keep getting pushed off, or, even more common, find that successfully crossing to those expectations are of insufficient funding and all too soon I am drowning again with just the barest inhalation of air.

So what to do? I really don’t know.

What I do know is that I was thinking of going to Book Mama’s today. They are having a release party for a brand new literary publication and I would have liked to joined in; to show my support for journals in which I am trying to get published. But there are more pressing things on my mind right now than the pipe dream of personal achievement. Things like our vacuum cleaner now dead, so we need a new one. And we currently do have the credit to get one, but it will be just that: on credit. Which is a whole other form of drowning.

Drowning to pay for a vacuum cleaner is one thing, drowning to buy a magazine is quite another.

So instead I’m working on my resume again. I’m planning on going to Work One on Monday to get further help on making it the most beautiful it can be to employers. I will also call Office Team to see if they have anything. Both are closed today, so today I have updated my Career Builder with this newly tweaked resume…

A stone, a stone, my kingdom for a stone…

Cliff Dweller

Debt ceiling showed up a lot in recent political discourse, and now fiscal cliff is rearing its head. All serious matters of course. But I have to wonder how serious the members of the House take it, really, when it gets down to it. What does over the cliff mean to our esteemed congress persons personally? That their investments grow a little slower? That they need to fire a maid or two?

Or will they make even more money by buying foreclosed homes or by liquidating failed businesses?

If America goes bankrupt, there is always China or the Cayman Islands… for them.

I’m on my own personal fiscal cliff and it is scary as hell. It’s a matter of stretching a tissue-thin dollar enough to feed us for the month. It is a matter of trying to figure out how to not only pay the debt of interest each month which knows no holiday, but also attack the principle. It is trying to figure out not just how to get a job, but how to get a job that will actually let us climb the cliff instead of making just enough to let us fall a little slower.

Santa Claus swooped in and gave me food stamps, which helped out tremendously. But I just got a recent letter saying my $10 dollar an hour job was way too much for me getting what I was getting in food stamps, so I now owed him, and he would take it out of future presents or, if I chose to do so, I could simply set up a convenient repayment plan…

My insurance works the same way, making employment tricky. The medicine I have to take in order to live costs about twenty thousand a year or so. Right now Santa Claus pays for it. If I work for an employer who offers me insurance, I’d have to take that insurance instead, regardless of whether I can afford the copays, as Santa Claus only helps when no other way is present. It should be emphasized here that it is not no other self-sustaining way, but the unqualified no other way…

The bottom line is I’m in that precarious state of, while being appreciative of it, not wanting to depend on Santa Claus visits; yet wondering how I can jump over the banker elves when and if some year he bypasses my house altogether.

A person making over $250,000 a year can afford not to believe in Santa Claus or Elves. When he gets hit in the pocketbook he goes to the ATM. When I get hit, I do without. Even if I can’t, or shouldn’t do without.

And I know this all sounds like grumbling. And it is grumbling for sure. But I bet there’s a lot of people like me out there wondering how to get ahead when trying to compensate for the recurring two steps back stranglehold of poverty.

“You load sixteen tons, what do you get

Another day older and deeper in debt

Saint Peter don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go

I owe my soul to the company store”

Volunteering at Indy Pride

Gary and I volunteered at Indy Pride today, doing a shift at the SGI-USA (a gay-friendly Buddhist organization) booth and also a shift at the Indiana Youth Group (the only state-wide organization focused on supporting LGBTQ youth) booth. We did the last shift there at IYG, so we helped tear down afterwards.

Large events like this pose some challenges for me:

I have some mild face-blindness (Thank you Oliver Sacks for my now having a name for what I thought was just me — Prosopagnosia)  so people often will recognize me but I will have to embarrassingly ask “Who are you?”

My spatial-directional sense is frequently crappy, so I often get disoriented, having to repeatedly hunt for the same booth.

I dislike crowds and the nature of this event means a large crowd is a good thing.

And lastly I’m not a very social person (which shouldn’t be taken for anti-social, which is a completely different thing (I hope)).

But nevertheless, I feel compelled to attend the event, work the event, and otherwise show my pride through action. For pride is not something static, but a way of conduct as a whole. As Aristotle put it, it is the “crown of the virtues” and rightly so. The Christian idea of it being a sin wrongly conflates it with arrogance, when really it is better understood as sister to worth.

For we should all feel a value in ourselves that allows us to be ourselves. As one of the T-shirts at the event proclaimed: Be Who You Are.

A high school boy came over to the IYG booth. He said he was so glad there was an organization like IYG and he’s trying to get the word out to his friends about it. For a lot of them are gay, but the school they attend is private and the kids are forced to be closeted. He is trying to start a related group at his school, but he has to be discreet and call it something else, for in the administration’s eyes the kids have no fundamental right to be who they are.

Pride is wanting to reclaim ourselves from those who would try to tell us we must be molded into their image. Pride is developing the ability to correctly point out to any number of arrogant fucks that it is they who have no fundamental right to tell us who we are.

Pride in the current age has to be more than: I’m here, I’m queer, get used  to it.

It needs to be: You see, I’m me, and frankly I don’t have time for you to get used to it, so you better get out of my way. I am here, I am queer and I am here to stay.

A (possible) Gay Future

I was on You Tube just poking around and trying to find old sitcoms such as What A Dummy (no luck). I ended up watching a funny scene from War at Home (Kenny is Gay clip), which led me to a clip from the show where their son, played by Dean Collins, has taken up being nude around the house.

Also a very funny clip and I wasn’t expecting to go all serious and tender and romantic, but, lo and behold, to my right a clip from El cor of the ciutat, a Catalan television series.

I’ve been impressed with the way Days of Our Lives has been handling their gay story line, as it’s very believable and is played well… but wow, it is so empowering to see this much more progressive gay portrayal of love in these scenes from a televsion show across the pond.

When you live in a country like the USA where it seems like many people want to yank us back to slavery and closets, it is such a breath of fresh air to realize there are some countries actually moving forward as if this were the 21st century.

Props to you, TVC!

Chanting and Cursing

Yesterday I smashed our car.

Oh, it could have been when I was having one my bottled-up, rage-filled moments, which seem to be occurring more frequently of late as I try to cope with all the crap happening to us right now. I’m in the red of stress a lot of the time with my jumble of nerves pulled tight.

Despite the above, I generally do try to be a “defensive” driver; however, I do have my episodes where the other drivers are like vermin and I wish I had a box of D-Con with a car-to-car delivery mechanism.

So the accident could easily have been because of maybe a little too much aggressive driving or driving a little too fast or taking a curve a little too sharp. Or it could have been because of righteously zipping through that just-turned-red-but-should-have-been-yellow-longer light. Or it could have been because of my using our car to show a stupid asshole driver the error of his ways.

But no, it was none of those things.

It was just plain old fashioned stupidity involving myself and a stationary object.

I was maneuvering around the parking lot at Healthnet Southwest Health and Dental Center looking for a space. I parked in what looked like a space, but after getting out I decided it wasn’t suitable because of the way my Mazda 5 stuck out. I decided I should go back to the edge of the far lot where it turns gravel and then into grass and some people were making their own spaces as they may in that limbo area.

As I backed out of that non-space, I started to turn my car so I could go in that proposed direction. But there were three cars in line already coming towards me from there. This is significant, because anyone who knows the lot I’m talking about knows the path to it is a two-way but one lane stretch. So I’d have to at the very least wait until the three cars cleared out before I could progress.

So I got the bright idea, and it actually would have been a bright idea if I hadn’t also gotten a bout of stupid, to just park in the street. The street’s not that far away.

And besides, I’d have to move anyway so those other three cars could clear out.

So I switched my reverse turn so I could be poised to head out into the street instead. I was watching the end car, a pickup, in a nearby row of parked cars, worried I was going to hit it as I backed up due to the tight confines of the lot.

I didn’t hit it.

No, instead I hit a great big pole that was also planted at the end of the row. Or rather, not the pole, but the wide cement encasement around the pole, no doubt placed there to protect it from stupid people like me. And when I say hit, I mean HIT with sound effects.

I smashed in the driver’s side rear corner of our beautiful car.

Fortunately it is still drivable and the hatch still opens and closes. It still should probably be fixed, but with money being the none that it is right now, drivable means it will have to wait.

Poor car.

So what’s that have to do with Chanting and Cursing? I appreciate the indulgence of you reading this far, as I am getting to that. And if you aren’t reading this far, to hell with you.

Anyway, so today I went to the Post Office and then to the store. And of course it was raining, which didn’t put me in the best of moods to tackle those chores. Usually I deal with my less than best of moods by yelling at the vermin drivers, cursing at them, gesturing at them, and asking rhetorical questions to them, like:

Are you waiting for permission, or what?

You know it’s not going to get any greener, don’t you?

What the fuck are you waiting for?

I could go on here with commands to the other drivers as well, as I have a whole barrage of on the fly driving chatter, largely peppered with expletives. I sometimes include the weather, the road, and the world in such invectives, being the equal opportunity curser that I am.

But today, starting with my initial getting into the car and starting to curse the weather, I chanted instead: Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.

Literally in a forced change of wordage: Goddam fucking wea-Nam-myoho-renge-kyo (NMRK).

I chanted NMRK all the way to the post office. I treated the clerk with respect and she treated me likewise. I chanted to the store as well. Oh, I had my moments along the way where I started to let a Fuck or Asshole out, but I caught myself and said NMRK even louder, trying to keep my mind from falling into the negative space that draws me.

I should say right now, I’m not much of a religious person.

There’s just too much evil in the world that’s been committed in the dogmatic name of God, Ideology or Faith for me to generally have a high opinion of such things. I also can’t just believe something as my naturally philosophically critical circuits aren’t wired that way. Some religions I can appreciate more than others, but belief itself is more my husband’s bailiwick.

Rituals in general seem more geared towards promoting the self-proclaimed elite rather than promoting the humanity of humanity.

I’m Buddhist more by marriage than by firm conviction, though Buddhism is one of the appreciated religions I mentioned above. A lot of the basic ideas and values of it make sense to me; more so than, say, a cross, seventy-two virgins, or circumcision. But the chanting — praying — of it is difficult for me take with the seriousness that the truly devout — like my husband — do.

Still, I’m of a somewhat pragmatic bent. So chanting in the car is one of the ways I’m trying to improve the way I handle stress, anger, frustration, and life sucking more than I would prefer. For we all know that familiar Einstein quote that is easy to remember but difficult to put into practice:

Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is insanity.

Cursing sure as shit hasn’t done me much good. I’m generally as angry after the curse as before it. So why the hell do I do it? Damned if I know.  But I’m trying like a motherfucker to change that god-awful habit of mine.


Connie Lawson, Secretary of Hate

My e-mail to former Senator new Secretary of State Connie Lawson:

Dear Secretary of State Connie Lawson,

Your signature on the letter to the BMV asking for the removal of their specialty plate shows severe deficiencies in your ability to serve all Hoosiers. You should resign your new appointment as Secretary of State.

As a citizen, you are free to hate gay youth the way you evidently do. But the state shouldn’t give you a paycheck for it.

John D Fox
[tweeting this blog page under #ProfessionalBigot]