Monday, April 14, 2014

Three Counters to the Extreme Conservative Mindset

There are three major elements to be aware of in debating the conservative mindset:
  • The "Closed Minded" concept
  • Specificity vs Generalities
  • Jumping Forms of Logic
Now to be fair it's not just conservatives who can have this mindset but also extreme liberals or religious mindsets, too.

If you keep getting into debates (or worse, bickering types of arguments), with people who maintain the extreme conservative mindset, you may find you are getting nowhere with either them. Or their argument is against what seems to be perfectly rational and something settled long ago. Or something that has been proven by perhaps even the majority of scientists in the entire world but is for no apparent reason currently controversial.

What's going on there? Are you feeling frustrated? Part of the problem is, people's tactics have changed therefore, we need to update the meanings of some of the trap words they are using. Words that once meant one thing to all of us, but now are being used against us, in a very different way; thus at times, trapping us in our own arguments.

One tactic they like is to say that it is you how has a closed mind, which let's face it, is pretty irritating. But, just laugh about it when you noticed it. As long as you have made the due diligence to have an informed opinion, that is. And to have an opinion on something means that you have closed your mind (for now) on that topic, by definition. So just tell them that a closed mind means that it can be opened, not that it is locked closed as usually, that would be them, not you. Right?

Don't let people try to mistake confidence for arrogance. Sometimes they will say that you are being arrogant in your solidarity on your opinion, cuz after all, gravity exists, and the Earth has been around longer than 6,0000 years. Look, it's okay to seem a bit arrogant at times when you are either that good, or that correct. It is never okay to be arrogant however, or to seem so when you simply don't deserve that arrogance. See, people who are very good, can seem arrogant to others who are not. It'st that feeling that "you are so much better than me, that you have to be extremely humble around me so I don't feel bad." Hogwash. That's your issue. They are that good, so you be a little humble around them as you're in the presence of  greatness; again, if they truly are that great.

There's an awful lot of people around now a days projecting that kind of arrogance when they have absolutely no right to do so. Like a lot of Americans, when they visit other countries. Okay, maybe America is that great of a country, but it's very likely that you had nothing whatsoever to do with that. I mean, died in any wars lately? Cured cancer? Won in the Olympics?

Anyway, when you know or you are really that good at something, it can seem like you arrogance to others. Or you can feel irritated or annoyed by those others for wasting your time on things, especially as an a priori consideration; where they do not, or can not see that it is due to something they are lacking; like skill, or knowledge.

You mind should only be closed for the time being on any topic, but not entirely closed overall. A permanently closed mind which never updates with new information can actually be quite deadly and the Darwin Awards are full of those types; just as Darwinian selection eliminates those from the gene pools. As long as you have sought the necessary knowledge and found a conclusion, at that point you close your mind on that topic so that you can now progress and take a stand and get things done. The thing about a closed mind is, it can be opened again when new information arrives.

Many forms of belief do not have closed minds, a good thing up to a point but not necessarily. Frequently they require (or desire) a sealed mind. A very different critter from a merely closed mind.

Science requires one to find the best information and synthesize it appropriately along with verification and a conclusion and thus consider for now, that it is a closed topic; so you can do work and progress to a yet newer truth.

Religion generally wants a sealed mind once the basics are put into place. Makes sense as once God gave His word, well, that should be it, right? Except that hasn't panned out very well over time. If it truly is God's word, well, he's been wrong a lot. Another considering is humankind progresses and so God's word needs to be updated from time to time. But he doesn't update it and yet if he tries, religions around the world will fight against it, because after all, the religion is right and unchangeable. Because, it's God's word.

And yeah, I know....

Though some are more reasonable than others, all really seem to want a mind sealed to anything to detract from their teachings and thereby, "shake the faith". Though I would argue that if you can shake faith, it's a defective form of faith and should be updated, which is not readily acceptable for obvious reasons.

Some people will say that science is faulty because it does change and what was once true, is no longer considered valid when replaced by updated information. But our best efforts are always to find a truth and update it with new information as it becomes available; thereby keeping us updated with the best available information.

So when someone tries to shoot down your beliefs that religion leaves much to be desired, relax. A lot of the issue that traps you, are just the traps that have been developed against scientific thinking for thousands of years.

For example, if someone tries to convince me that there is a vacuum in the room we are in and yet I'm breathing air quite easily, I may disagree with them and tell them that, as I know they are incorrect. If they persist I will not go against them on it at that point, as it is obviously not true and if they can't see that, there is really little I can do about it. I'm not going to perpetuate an argument or make up names for my position as I have no position, it is just something that... is. That is the trap they pull you into and then you find you are in a never ending cycle of argumentation with them. They are now wasting your time, and money, and in some cases our nation's money; our money.

There are a growing number of people who take up incorrect positions on things that are obvious, and in many cases obvious to most people as well as experts; and yet they persist on their disagreement and delusions out of mere ego, philosophy, or more frequently, theology.

All I'm saying is, you need to stop going about arguing as you would have done, historically. Things are changing, they have changed. We all have to be aware of this and stop handling it as we have always done. We need to break the cycle of finding new ways to continue believing in things that we have long since proven incorrect. We need to leave those people behind who can't keep up and after a while they will simply disappear through attrition and evolution.

Another issue in arguing with these types of people is the disparity in specificity within the argument. Frequently in arguments (debates that is and hopefully you see the difference) the two or more parties debating are on different planes of the same argument. One may be arguing a broader point and the other may be arguing a more specific, narrow point. When that happens you will seldom resolve the issue and more likely both walk away frustrated.

Finally, this is also true when someone skips logic from one form to another; sometimes within the same sentence. This is an issue either with people who are ignorant about forms of logic (which happens all the time), or those who are more highly skilled in logic, know exactly what they are doing and use it as a tool of obfuscation.

Please understand, this isn't meant to fix all this, but to make it obvious because I suspect once you know about this it will all become much easier and that was really my only content in saying all this. If not to help get around some of the blatant obfuscations on the part of those who are trying to spew nonsense into the mainstream.

So you see, you don't have to walk away frustrated with these kinds of arguments. Merely see what is going on. To just be aware of things kinds of things is a huge benefit and a useful tool to use in order to further spread genuine knowledge and start on the road where this form of behavior goes into the useless bin where all useless forms of thought need to go, along with all those winners of the Darwin Awards.

Of course you can always use something like too and for those who claim that to be a conspiracy you can use A Guide to Arguing With a Snopes-Denier on them....


Monday, April 7, 2014

Conspiracy Theories - Incompetence More Than Insight?

There are a few laws or theorems if you prefer,  that need to be applied to Conspiracies before one shouts them to the world. One thing Conspiracy Theorists seldom do is apply the right rules to vetting the subject of their typically ridiculous theories. The conspiracies they hammer us with in the media and online, which are usually more wishful thinking than fact, simply because of the nature of things that fit the theorist's conspiracy mold, typically are not reviewed well.

Or if they are well reviewed with the right filtering factors applied (like Occam's Razor), they simply ignore their findings and continue on; because at some level it makes them feel better because action, even incorrect action, feels better than non-action. Which oddly enough is typically what lead to the situation of a subject of a conspiracy theory in the first place, and not conscious thought, or conspiratorial collusion.

One of the obvious things about conspiracy theories are that they tend to be things that weren't conspiracies to begin with, but after the fact, because of a lack of information or transparency, they appear as there having been a conspiracy. Usually however, there wasn't. It was just how things played out over time. It's similar with recorded history wherein by simply writing out history, changes history, changes what actually happened, and in that small (sometimes large) variation is where conspiracy theories are born.

Occam's Razor is one of the best:

"Occam's razor (also written as Ockham's razor from William of Ockham (c. 1287 – 1347), and in Latin lex parsimoniae) is a principle of parsimony, economy, or succinctness used in problem-solving. It states that among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected. Other, more complicated solutions may ultimately prove correct, but—in the absence of certainty—the fewer assumptions that are made, the better." - Wikipedia

Hanlon's Law is a Conspiracy Theorist's bane: "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity."

There are methods to apply to conspiracy to prove or disprove is to a reasonable degree, something theorists tend to avoid doing as it kills their theories. Theories which are fun for them, cathartic, and spire their inner fears which supports the theory in a never ending cycle.

For those addicted to conspiracies, a form of belief system that is fueled by lack of information and distrust of authority, and underlain by a sense of having little control in life, it is much the same mind type as are those addicted to religious beliefs, what is referred to as a "monological belief system".

My desire (and more importantly, pleasure) to believe in aliens and UFOs as a child in the 60s, became initially inflamed with I started to hear of other conspiracies. I thought those once in charge, in their sharing hidden knowledge, with information once allegedly disallowed to the masses, was a great and exciting thing. My first conspiracy was one by General William Westmoreland who ran the Viet Nam war. After Viet Nam he wrote a book which I read, which spawned many other conspiracies.

It was an interesting theory I cannot now remember and I cannot find that book any longer, which says something in itself. But my first thought after reading his book was not to merely believe or disbelieve, but to study just what conspiracy theories are, how they work, who were attracted to them, and why they happened. This is an important and key point in those who grab on to conspiracy theories and those who don't. Many of those who simply do not pay any attention to conspiracy theories, are not relevant in this consideration, as to ignore them from the start with little or no thought, indicates another type of individual altogether.

What is important is, for all of those who do pay attention at least initially and do look into them, what is the key deciding factor between those who keep going and those who see a conspiracy theory as simply white noise that appears to be something, but in the end logically just isn't. For me, when I read the General's book, I fell into a part mid book that just seemed questionable to me. So I researched it and his theory, for me, began to fall apart. I was stunned. How could such a high level official seriously believe in such nonsense? Was he just trying to make a buck on a book he saw was fictional, but sell-able? Or did he really believe what he was trying go convince others about.

I think he really believed it, at least at the time. But in my finding it was very likely his theory was not true, it brought up the question of how was that possible? That was my break, with conspiracy theories. Rather than try to swallow what he was selling, I instead looked into how it was possible he could believe what he was saying, and how others could believe something that to me appeared to be easily debunked. As it turned out, there was a certain type of personality (which I learned more about a few years later when I got my university degree in psychology) and certain elements needed that support a conspiracy theory as rational to that group of individuals. There are also those who know absolutely that it is an incorrect theory and yet, continue to push that theory for political and financial ends to better their position in some way.

It is important however, to consider the difference between my path and that of those who believe in these conspiracies, the point at which I branched off to learn about the theory of "conspiracy theory", and those who simply eat up the perceived conspiracy and ran with  it. They like to use various techniques to quelch dissent in their beliefs, such as by being demeaning, calling those who don't believe in what they believe in as "sheeple" (for people who are sheep following the flock of the ignorant masses), something which elevates them in their beliefs and objectifies those who disagree with them. Objectifies others as is done by soldiers in war so they can more easily kill the perceived enemy. Except that in this case, the "enemies" are fellow citizens.

What I found in researching what a conspiracy theory is, rather than simply focusing on a specific theory in particular, saved me a lot of time over my lifetime in realizing that the majority of popular conspiracies are simply bunk, and those attracted to them have a certain type of personalty and view of the world, based in a general distrust and perceived lack of control in their lives which affects them deeply and personally. The belief  that our government is a super secret, super capable institution, says more about conspiracy theorists than it does about our government, or their abilities or desires.

I find there seem to be far more people believing in conspiracies in the extreme movements, in the "right" or "left" political arenas, but more so for some reason on the right, in the conservative and Republican movements.

We should indeed pay attention to our world, to find out what's going on out of our view, but we should also realize when it's time to move on, to take other action then complaining and making noise, like removing people from office in a general sense, or protecting ourselves in a more personal sense. It is just important to be on guard that you are not simply of a certain mindset that makes you susceptible to silly conspiracies and focus on what is provable and reasonable and not something that will inevitably turn out to be simply a mass delusion, of which now a days there are so many.

If you are going to shout about conspiracies to the world, before you add to the dissonance in the mainstream, study what conspiracies are, and apply that judiciously to your beliefs. You may think that simply by making noise right OR wrong, it will help regardless as others will also look into it and eventually the truth will come out. Many times, there simply is no "truth" to be found out, just more incompetence and stupidity.

Don't attribute more capability of secrecy and institutional skill where there is none and therefore become one of those on the stupidity side of the argument. Because then you are just doing yourself and the rest of us a disservice, adding to the groundswell of chatter and nonsense, and that helps no one.

For more on this, I highly suggest you research more about conspiracies themselves rather than any one conspiracy. Then apply what you have learned to a particular conspiracy, pick your favorite conspiracy and see if it doesn't begin to fall apart on you. Here are three articles from Scientific American to begin with, but don't stop there, until you have as solid a handle on what conspiracies are as you do believing in them. These are three interesting and useful articles.

From Nov 17, 2010 |by Michael Shermer - The Conspiracy Theory Detector:

The more that it manifests the following characteristics, the less probable that the theory is grounded in reality:
  1. Proof of the conspiracy supposedly emerges from a pattern of “connecting the dots” between events that need not be causally connected. When no evidence supports these connections except the allegation of the conspiracy or when the evidence fits equally well to other causal connections—or to randomness—the conspiracy theory is likely to be false.
  2. The agents behind the pattern of the conspiracy would need nearly superhuman power to pull it off. People are usually not nearly so powerful as we think they are.
  3. The conspiracy is complex, and its successful completion demands a large number of elements.
  4. Similarly, the conspiracy involves large numbers of people who would all need to keep silent about their secrets. The more people involved, the less realistic it becomes.
  5. The conspiracy encompasses a grand ambition for control over a nation, economy or political system. If it suggests world domination, the theory is even less likely to be true.
  6. The conspiracy theory ratchets up from small events that might be true to much larger, much less probable events.
  7. The conspiracy theory assigns portentous, sinister meanings to what are most likely innocuous, insignificant events.
  8. The theory tends to commingle facts and speculations without distinguishing between the two and without assigning degrees of probability or of factuality.
  9. The theorist is indiscriminately suspicious of all government agencies or private groups, which suggests an inability to nuance differences between true and false conspiracies.
  10. The conspiracy theorist refuses to consider alternative explanations, rejecting all disconfirming evidence and blatantly seeking only confirmatory evidence to support what he or she has a priori determined to be the truth.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Karma for one? Maybe not you though....

Ever have that feeling that the universe offered you a pass, or a gift, and you blew it? Take a walk with me along the path of imagination, of fantasy, of what could have been, of what if, of possibility....

I just had that experience. Actually, I had the experience when I was seventeen, I just had the realization of how I could have altered another's life for the better so long ago. But because I was weak, immature and inured with Catholic superstitions back then, I had relented, I had run away.

It wasn't about me, though. Not at all. Of course, at the time I had thought it was. It was something I could have done and didn't and, had I done it, there is the possibility that it would have changed someone's life, entirely. As it was they had a rough life, a really rough PTSD kind of rough life. Broken bones kind of rough.

Maybe, just maybe, had I done the "right" thing that day so long ago, I might have altered someone's entire life from that point on. In some cases it's not so much what you do but that you show someone how things can be better for them. Give them something good to compare their life to. But I didn't and because I didn't, did I screw up my Karma? Or, did it have no effect on it at all?

Eventually I realized that it wasn't all about me and, at least some of it was about my friend. So when I had the opportunity to track this friend down, I tried, I sent a message. It took months but we eventually got to corresponding and through those communications I discovered all of what I mentioned above. I discovered that what I could have done, what seemed to me at the time to be the "wrong" thing to do, and had I instead done what was probably the "right" (but Catholically speaking, the "immoral" thing to do), perhaps I cold have made someone's life all the better for it.

Now, I can only try to make amends, which I have done now. I can only now try to sooth psychic knots that are at this point unknown and possibly perceived not even to exist. But I'm sure they do, buried deep in the mind somewhere.

My point here is this, when this kind of thing happens, all you can do is to help the person for who they are now, to help them be even a touch closer to the person they could have been now. And although that may not now be possible, still maybe in the end with all being said, Karma will just get that little bit better for them, and for you.

Now about Karma. People have weird ways of what they think Karma is all about. I don't see it as something you can save up, or something that you barter off. It's not a reward from God or the Universe. I see it as cause and effect. If you live a good life, that is bound to come back to you. Unless, you make choices that guide bad things toward you. Which happens. I'm sure we've all seen people who are the nicest people in the world, but always there seems to be a darkness lurking just around the corner for them. Their life is in a shambles. Why? Shouldn't karma pay them back?

Not necessarily. Not if you understand Karma. And let's contain it within one lifetime and not go into the other life consideration for our purposes here. The concept of Karma is a good short hand for how to look at life, at the dynamics of exchange in good and bad behaviors.

Karma is like, well, let's take fishing as example. If you cast the right lure or fly in the right location at the right time, you'll probably get a fish; but you'll also have to be able to land it properly so it doesn't get away. It really doesn't matter how nice you are. Now in a social context, if you are in a river with a lot of other fishermen and you treat them well, they may even let you have, or tell you where the best spot to fish, is. But if you are one mean son of a bitch, they will very possibly not want you around, block you, or simply be nice and tell you the best spot is... anywhere but where they are.

In a way you can look at "building good Karma" as Karma in the bank; but in reality, that's simply the wrong view to take. You can't just be nice to everyone because, some not only don't deserve it, some will go out and create bad Karma for others. You have to be somewhat judicious in who you help and how.

Even if you do spread good Karma everywhere, it's still possible you will generate bad Karma for yourself, or others. There's simply more to it than blindly going about trying to do good to everyone, everywhere. In general yes, doing good is better than going around trying to do bad. But blindly going around doing anything, is usually a foolish thing to do, also.

If you go around doing good, you also have to see your actions and reactions that they will cause. You have to pay attention and the further ahead you can see what each action of yours will cause, the better off you will be. It's not so much about being savvy about your actions so as to reclaim bounty from them, but to see when you are doing good and when it will return only bad.

You also have to realize that many times what you see as something affecting only you, is really more about how it will affect someone else. Karma is all about that, too. I never said that there is anything easy about any of this. Just that it's possible to make it work for you more often than against you if you're open to the situation in its entirety.

If you always try to fit in helping others even when you think you can only help yourself, things will get better. Having people out in the world predisposed to viewing you in a good light, is always better than having them view you in a negative light, or even no light at all. Though perhaps I should have said when you are building good Karma for yourself, be sure that really it isn't more about someone else. You will very likely one day look back on it and realize your regret, a regret you should have had for a long time and now, only have a short time or no time at all, in which to change things. Just consider how, had you seen this and done this all back when whatever it was first happened, how you could have had that much more good Karma seeking you out over all that time.

Pay attention, see what is all around you, act with consideration and, you may just find Karma building up all around you. At some point most likely, it will eventually come back to let you know just how well you did.

kar·ma  [kahr-muh]
Hinduism, Buddhism. action, seen as bringing upon oneself inevitable results, good or bad, either in this life or in a reincarnation: in Hinduism one of the means of reaching Brahman. Compare bhakti (  def 1 ) , jnana.
Theosophy. the cosmic principle according to which each person is rewarded or punished in one incarnation according to that person's deeds in the previous incarnation.
fate; destiny. Synonyms: predestination, predetermination, lot, kismet.
the good or bad emanations felt to be generated by someone or something: Lets get out of here. This place has bad karma.
1820–30;  < Sanskrit:  nominative, accusative singular of karman  act, deed

Monday, March 24, 2014

Colleges or Prisons, Education or Punishment - It's Our Choice

Where would you rather spend your late teens and twenties? College? Or, prison? Where should we prefer our youth, in colleges or prisons? Should we even care, if they aren't our very own young adults?

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” 
― Nelson Mandela

It is our choice if we want more colleges or prisons in this country. We are ultimately responsible. It's no secret that we need to better educate our country. It is an established fact that those with higher educational levels have less violent crime and produce fewer children. That means, to spell it out, that more of those with a poorer education produce most of the violent crime and children. We don't need more ignorant children raised to be more ignorant adults.

We need fewer children being not just better, but well educated. In prisons, we literally have a captive audience of potential students. Of course we can't force feed education in prisons. But there is something we can do. We can inspire through education, and we can educate through inspiration.

“The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.” 
― Plutarch

I wanted to compare the numbers of colleges against the numbers of prisons and I couldn't find how many prisons there are in the US. That is mostly talked in numbers of prisoners in the US, not in how many prisons there actually are. But finally, I did find it.

I found on Salon that there are 4,575 prisons in the US. I also found that the number of inmates in state and federal prisons decreased by 1.7 percent, to an estimated 1,571,013 in 2012 from 1,598,783 in 2011 (NY Times).

There are 21 million college students as of 2010 (enrollment increased 37% from 2000 to 2010, according to the National Center for Education Statistics). Well, that's good news anyway. But not good enough. There are 2,774 four year colleges, nearly half of the numbers of prisons.

Why? Why should that be?

Why should it apparently be easier to get into jail than into college? This may at first sound stupid, but what if many of those jailed, were instead in college?

Why don't we have more colleges than prisons? Are we just a criminally based culture or, can we admit we are letting down our children in educating and taking care of them as they grow into productive adults?

“Intelligence plus character-that is the goal of true education.” 
― Martin Luther King Jr.

There are also many more students in those colleges than prisoners in those prisons, but what if we had that number more evened out for students? Have you attended a university? Have you been in, seen, or heard of the 1,000 student GUR (General University Requirements) classes in colleges, classes that you are obligated to take in order to graduate? Classes like for instance, "Intro to Psychology". What if those were instead like my own Intro to Psych class, which had less than thirty students?

I started my college career at a very well ranked Community College in Washington state which eventually got accreditation as a full College. I then had my two year AA degree transferred to a four year University where I received my Bachelor of Arts and Letters degree. I feel I got a very good education starting at the Community College level because I had easy access to my teachers. The Community College had Master's graduates teaching where the University has only PhDs teaching. Yes the work may be harder at a University but some of that is because you have to do so much more on your own which leads to some degree of guessing. Which can be good, but wouldn't it be better to have those questions filled in and then some by Professors? Allow me to explain.

I admit, it was a shock to go from Community College level to a University, but so is the divide between sophomore and junior years of college.

My girlfriend at the time had her first year at a University in one of those 1,000 student classes. She had a scholarship, I just had my V.A. benefits after getting out of the Air Force. After that first year, she decided to come home to finish school and so we moved in together. We had a lot of time to discuss this topic until we both later graduated at the same University. It was her belief that I had gotten a much better education because of the smaller classes I had, than she did starting at a prestigious four year University, because I could have more in depth discussions with my teachers. Which I did many times, where she could barely get to see hers and many times, simply didn't. Of course, much of this is about how much the student pushes to learn. But a student shouldn't be put up against other students to steal their time with a Professor. They should all have equal time, as needed or desired.

My Psych teacher didn't have "office hours". Her's did. Hers had to. My teacher didn't need office hours because I could talk to him anytime between classes, before or after school. He was very available to us, as were most of our teachers there. But my girlfriend had to jockey for time with her Professors among the long lines of other students trying to see their Prof. for what could only be a few minutes and during too few "office hours" times. She said sometimes she'd stand in line outside a Professor's office, wasting time, trying to study in line, and not infrequently, simply not get to see him at all. Of course not all classes are like that, but many are. Certainly the more popular classes were.

So what if  we had enough University level schools so that all students could have a Prof. and a class with only thirty students in it? What if we had as many higher education schools, that supported the levels needed by the available students, to the students' needs and not societies lack of money to pay for what is needed? What kind of education would they get then? What kind of graduates would we end up with compared to now, when many of those students are simply sitting in jail learning to be better criminals, rather than better students and citizens? What kind of advancements would our country see, then? What would life in America be like then? What would our world be like if America produced so many fewer ex prisoners and so many more University, College, or even Community College students?

Simply put, we need to turn this thing with our prisons, around. We need to stop using 18th century paradigms of jurisprudence and start using what we have learned works, replacing what we know perpetuates generational criminals.

I would like to end this with a caveat. That being that how we educate is as important as what and who we educate. We need to teach how to think, critically. We need to teach accurate information and the best knowledge we have at the time. We need to separate out theology from science as theology can be it's own educational direction, but has little to do with a fact based education other than in historical perspectives. Much of our education system lacks progression within itself and inspiration. And to that I will end with this....

“Ideally, what should be said to every child, repeatedly, throughout his or her school life is something like this: 'You are in the process of being indoctrinated. We have not yet evolved a system of education that is not a system of indoctrination. We are sorry, but it is the best we can do. What you are being taught here is an amalgam of current prejudice and the choices of this particular culture. The slightest look at history will show how impermanent these must be. You are being taught by people who have been able to accommodate themselves to a regime of thought laid down by their predecessors. It is a self-perpetuating system. Those of you who are more robust and individual than others will be encouraged to leave and find ways of educating yourself — educating your own judgements. Those that stay must remember, always, and all the time, that they are being moulded and patterned to fit into the narrow and particular needs of this particular society.” 
― Doris LessingThe Golden Notebook

Just know that we can do better. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Don't play the victim role in American economics - they want that

First off, have a happy and safe St. Patrick's Day! Observed on 17 March and the date of his death, it is celebrated inside and outside Ireland as a religious and cultural holiday. So for me, I claim it as a religious holiday as I'm half Irish and raised Catholic (and even if I do consider myself Buddhist now, well, never mind, I still take a day or two off work for it when I can). I'll be in Seattle for part of the day enjoying the festivities and since I have to take the ferry over the 9.5 miles from Bainbridge Island, I'll probably just hit: the Fado on 1st Avenue (there is a walkway from the ferry direct to 1st Avenue), the Owl and Thistle on the street below them, with much of the time first up north a few blocks at Pike Place Market on Post Alley at Kells Irish Restaurant and Pub. Which is north a couple of blocks from the notorious Gum Wall. Kells will open today at 9 AM & Music starts at 11 AM. So, I'll be there about 11 AM. Proceeds from this year's event will go towards benefiting the Pike Market Clinic!


This is exactly how I deal with any long term, entrenched mind sets. Don't play their game, you'll lose. Step back, really look at the whole picture, then think about it and see what is really happening. That's when you speak up and complain... about THAT.

I agree that the words in this graphic are inflammatory and are meant to be, to shock you into sensibility. So, don't use their words, come up with you own.

What is being said here, the supporting concept, is extremely valid.

Maybe "they" aren't "stealing" our homes. But calling it "foreclosing", is still using their words and yes you can argue that is the definition. These may not even be good examples. But it should start you thinking in the right direction.

Why are these things happening? Now there's a question.

It is something that is being done to us? It's not just how things happened to go, trust me. Someone, some group, has done things that led to how things are now. Once you start to realize that, you start to see things that don't make sense, start to make sense. There are a lot of things going on outside of our view, things that are NOT conspiracy theory rants and hysteria, but concrete, CPA type working, money making concepts that were put to play years ago and need to be broken, reworked and taken back.

And it won't happen easily.

It may not in many cases even be something that is being DONE to us. Just a way to make more money for the rich. We're what people like to call, who don't like to talk about bad things, as "collateral damage". Even if, like with the military, they are the ones doing those things, which is in their case, is blowing people up, and you could argue that necessity but we're talking about money here. Even those people though, will tell you that if what they are legally doing to increase wealth is hurting most of the other people, then it's up to us to do something to limit them, because even they know they don't need that much money. And after all, there is literally only so much money to go around.

I like how "they" say "we" should fix it so "they" can't do bad things legally to "us", even though what they are doing is immoral, legal and fattening (or not). Whatever happened to ethical and moral considerations? Kind of like the antithesis of capitalism, I guess.

This is not "redistributing the wealth" as they like to say, nor is it communism or socialism. It's setting limits so the system cannot be abused, harming those who have no control because wealth is power and power is control. Same reason we had Sheriffs and Marshalls in the Old West, to protect people.

By the way, if you don't feel controlled, you need to realize that you are then even more powerless than you are if you do feel controlled. So, don't be controlled. Or at least, try not to be. It would appear that something this big and entrenched can only be changed through revolution, or through grass roots democracy, though I don't give us good odds on that one. I mean, just look around. The "Occupy Movement" did some good, but not enough, they were just too unfocused on what they wanted, because what they wanted was so vast. It was a mindset, it was a desire to change the American entrenched way of doing business.

Still, grass roots are so much more gentle and rewarding, for everyone. Only if we can find a way for "them" to save face, will we be able to evoke change. Of course they will also want to save money, but good luck on that one. Let's face it, for the kind of change we need to happen, someone is going to lose money. Sometimes those in control will bring military action in play to make or keep money, so be aware of that one.

The first thing to do, though, is just to... think about it. The second thing is to... realize what is happening. The last thing to do is to, do something. Anything. Talk about it, be open about it, get angry sometimes, show your passion. Who knows, you may be the one who comes up with a way to make change happen. Be creative. Evoke change.

And, best of luck with that.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Advancing in your career?

Monthly job progression reminder. Every day, week, month, quarter and year, remind yourself to review your situation in your career position, or at your job, if that's how you see it. I've spoken on this before, but I thought it might be time to bring it up again, being it is a new year and all.

And it's been a while not but, the Seahawks won the Super Bowl! Or, the Superb Owl, as Stephen Colbert calls it on his show.

How is your job going?

How have you progressed toward something better? Try to find one thing per day that helps to move you even one inch closer to advancement in whatever way you define that. Your current job helps you advance through networking, showing you are creative, productive, personable. Your boss always should know your being around is helping him to advance in some way. Your coworkers should know by your being their it somehow enhances their work careers.

But you also need to progress outside your company. Is anyone talking about you career wise to others? How can you get them to? Have you contacted others outside your company in a professional capacity? Have you volunteered somewhere to pick up skills you need to perfect or acquire, or that will give you an in road at some point in the future should you leave your job? Are you acquiring references? Have you built your resume, reviewed it quarterly and sent it out to jobs you might, but probably can't get?

Realize too that in your off hours, they are not just there for you to rest up to go back and do your job, or just for entertainment and leisure purposes, or to simply be with family or friends. Off hours are your money in the bank to learn new things, do activities to advance your life and career and educate yourself, too.

To get new jobs you try for a job you are qualified for but maybe just a little shy of in skills or resources so that once you gain the position, you can grow quickly into it. Don't lie on your resume or interviews, but enhance and be prepared to be taken at your word, and expand to justify their confidence in you, once hired.

One thing to remember in working for a company, especially a corporation. They won't hesitate to lay you off for a second. Unless possibly, if you are very, very good or have a job no one else wants or will be hard for them to replace so that your responsibilities simply stop  once you're gone, otherwise, anyone is a possibility to be laid off.

So don't hesitate to use them for your advancement, in any ethical way you can possibly think of.

That isn't to say, steal from them. But to make the best use of your time there. For instance, if you use your work time to seek other jobs, be sure you are working harder to get your work done sooner than normal so you are making up for your extracurricular activities.

Some companies don't mine and are more lax about this kind of thing. Some want you to advance and in some cases it is expected. When I worked at the University of Washington in their Personnel office, they actually expected you to apply for jobs above your position so you will move into a new job within a year or two. At eighteen months, they started talking to you about why you are still there, even before that, but in a good way.

They were more like family who cared about you, then an employer who wanted you out as soon as possible. You could certainly stay at your current position but it was a wonderful environment to know that they wanted to see you succeed and progress in life and career. Don't get me wrong, it was a tough job in some ways, too. Although if you wanted to stay in your current job, they would then talk to you about what you could do to enhance your education or skill sets. Really, it was a pretty wonderful environment to be in, in many ways. And at the time, it was run mostly by women, which is interesting to note.

Some companies don't mind if you use their copy machines/printers for printing out new resumes. Some, will fire you if they find out you do. The idea isn't to rip off your company, but to make the most use of the resources you have available to you, through your being there. Yes, you should work on this at home, on your own time, before or after work, or at lunchtime. But if your current job can propel you into a higher position or even a better one elsewhere, you are wasting your time and money, and possibly your company's, if you don't make use of what resources are available to you.

Ask around, you might find out you have resources you knew nothing about. But don't be foolish as some companies would move you out of the company if they find out. I might argue in that case however, that you should probably find another company to work for anyway.

I'd also like to say, and maybe this is just me, but I've heard others mention it, that every time I've had a bad situation, get laid off, or whatever, I've eventually ended up in a better situation anyway. Even though it can be tough at times.

You don't just have to look toward your career, or your job, either. You can have hobbies that turn into careers. You can work on a second or replacement career at home. I've been working on replacing my IT job with a writing career for several years now and have made very good progress. Not enough yet to actually switch careers, but it takes time, and a lot of effort to switch careers, as well as not giving up, and knowing when to give up, or change tactics.

I was a Tech Writer back in the 90s but got tired of it and moved more into the technical side of production web / internet support. Now I'm ready to just write fiction and screenplays which I find more challenging and rewarding. My orientation has changed and so I'm pursuing it. I don't commute anymore which saves me four hours a day there, but even when I did, I would write on the bus, on the ferry and at lunch times; then on the way home in reverse fashion. I admit sometimes I'd just talk with friends on the commute, as we need sometimes need to decompress, and take time for fun and friends. But that too is a useful networking opportunity. And I always knew that options and extra time were available to me and I made use of it. After a while it wasn't even a conscious thing, but always there in the back of my mind. And in reverse, I am always looking for how to help someone out in this area if I had any knowledge or leverage that might be helpful for a deserving friend or even, an acquaintance.

There is a lot you can do, now. If you watch TV all the time for instance, watch less, or none and work on something that can change your life for the better for you. Especially if you live alone, or are a bit of an introvert, use your time for something that can change your life. If you have a family, that can take up a lot of time, so get up early (if you even can) or carve out just thirty to sixty minutes a day for this. It's amazing what even thirty minutes a day can achieve.

Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain worked a merciless and thankless job for decades in hot kitchens In Europe and America until one day while working in a Manhattan restaurant, he decided he had a story he wanted to tell and started getting up an hour or half hour early to write. He'd force himself to get up as early as he could force himself that day after working late and maybe drinking after. He wrote a really great little book that changed his life, Kitchen Confidential, which also changed how the world looks at commercial kitchens. He didn't even think he could write or that anyone outside of the city of New York would care to buy it, yet it make him world famous.

Another example was just the other day on a cable show, "House of Lies". The character, Jeannie Van Der Hooven, played by the very fun, Kristen Bell, gives a freshman employee advice from her veteran point of view. Having found the employee reading a novel at lunch time for fun, when the employee asked for advice in how to be like her, she advised her that if the younger employee wanted to gain the status she has now, the way that she got that status was in not reading for fun, in making all of her spare time instead devoted to furthering her work goals, to learn all she can in every second of the day. Focusing. Learning. Making every breathe oriented toward her goals.

I did the same thing in getting my university degree. When I graduated High School I never wanted to go to school again, I hated school. After I got out of the military, they made me realize that I was better than that and that I could achieve anything I put my mind to. And so I did. I found ways around things that hampered me in my focus and direction, I made my failings into successes, or found ways around impediments caused by those things.

So just don't feel like you are stuck in the same, low paying (or even high paying if you're dissatisfied) position forever. Go out (and also don't go out, stay in if that's what  you need to do) and make use of your spare time and resources to find that perfect position out in the world; or perhaps even at your own company.

And all the best to you! Carpe Diem! That literally that means "pluck the day", but it's generally accepted as meaning, seize the day. It also refers to, however, "the enjoyment of the pleasures of the moment without concern for the future", and that's another way to look at it. Make making your life better an enjoyment, and a thrill. Hey, whatever it takes to--

Seize the day!

Monday, March 3, 2014

On Book Trailer Videos

I was on LinkedIn recently and someone was posting about book trailer videos. I built my own book trailers on Not Oscar level work, but certainly workable. I could tell when I finished one and in watching it, it made me want to read my own book.

You do of course have to divorce yourself, your evaluation and consideration of the final product from the effort you put into it. You can't take the tact that you worked hard on it and so it should just be good. Obviously. Either it is good or not. Don't hesitate to ask for someone else's consideration before making it public. The book trailers I made are now on my TheJZMurdock account on YouTube. Check them out if you want to see what I'm talking about.

I learned how to do it, I did it and then I moved on. I also learned how to do audiobooks on ACX  and have three out now.

It's worth trying these things as it saves you money, you learn more, and you may like it. I liked all over it, just discovered that it was very time intensive.

My comments on videos:

We should consider that there are a variety of things a book trailer video should do. It's not just there to sell one book. The priority of what you want it to do is important. Not necessarily prioritized:

  • Make people want to read that book.
  • Make people want to read another book of yours, or check out another project you are invested in.
  • Make people want to talk about that book, or that trailer, or you, so others might want to read that book (or others of yours).
  • Make people want to know more about who you are as an individual, a writer, expert, or what have you.
  • Make people want to look up your other pages, your web site, your blog, your Facebook page or whatever.
  • Make specific industry professionals want to look you up or contact you.

The main thing is to get people to know you brand, your name, your works. So if it is a bad video and it has people talking about it, it may be doing it's job. If however it gives the impression that you are a bad writer, then it certainly failed.

The point is, in marketing, things are not always as they appear.

I have been contacted by professionals in the past through things totally unrelated to what I was trying to do in my brand marketing. Things that have led to other projects and other connections. Networking is good. Trying to open as many options as possible is good and now a days, quite necessary.

You can spend a lot of money that you will never see come back to you. In branding and marketing, you do not always get what you pay for. Sometimes you do. I would suggest however that before you get into spending a lot of money to promote your works, try doing it yourself, try doing it for as cheaply as possible.

Try to turn out a quality product, not a cheap product, because "cheap" can mean several things and not all of them need to be bad. In trying to do it yourself, you will not only learn about something, maybe pick up or better a skillset, but you will have a better idea of what you are paying for, if you decide to pay others to do it for you.