Monday, April 29, 2013

Raise the medicare age? No.

This talk about raising the age limit on medicare from sixty-five to sixty-seven really pisses me off. I've talked about this before here. I've mentioned it to people I know personally and whenever I bring it up, people look at me like it's a new idea, or like I'm nuts. Why is that? Why isn't it even in the realm of their considerations? And more, why don't they even consider that we are working far too much, for far too long?

It's a fiscally bad idea to raise the Medicare age. It doubles the amount it will cost us, although it won't really adversely affect the individuals involved. It's just a bone for the Administration to throw to the GOP to make the move on other topics they should want to move on, anyway.

Our priorities as always, are all screwed up. We need ideals, we need higher ideals... to shoot for.

Since the 1940s we should have been shooting for these ideals, certainly since the 1950s and 60s. But we have gone the other direction. We have let corporations take over our ideals and our ethics. We have allowed moral-less institutions to run our ideals and priorities.

Ask yourself, why are we working longer hours? Why are we working further into our old age. Yes, we are living longer now. So perhaps we should be staying the same in things, retiring at the same age, medicare at the same age and so on.

But in all these years, as science fiction professed in the early years of the last century, we read that robots would be taking over for the difficult, dangerous and redundant tasks. And indeed, they are beginning to. We read that we would be having more leisure times in our daily lives and old age to study the arts, to add to the quality of our lives, to travel, to have the difficulties of daily life to be made less and less important. And some of those have.

But ask yourself why aren't we holding up ideals of working fewer days per week, fewer hours per day, and retiring earlier to enjoy our elder days in immersing ourselves in the arts and higher considerations of Human capabilities? Why aren't we respecting our elders more because they have become more educated, more knowledgeable and therefore more able to give us guidance? Why are things going the other way?

We should be shooting for working four day workweeks, just as one day long ago we started working six day and then five day workweeks. We should be working shorter days, going down to six and four hour workdays. We should be retiring at sixty-three not sixty-five, or sixty, or going back to the old days of being fifty-five and starting to enjoy the fruits of our labors. We should be working toward increasing life's quality.

But we're not, are we?

We're working longer hours, some of us are working two and three jobs to make ends meet. We're working later into our retirement years, not because it is required by law but because we cannot afford to retire and begin to enjoy our "retirement" years. Some are dying in their jobs rather than being able to afford to quit work and have the money to enjoy life, rather than quit and sit around because we can't afford to do things, to travel, to take up a hobby that will enhance our culture and society. We should more and more be dying in our old age on vacations, not at work.

Why is that? Why don't we have those ideals as... well, our Ideals?

Isn't our goal, shouldn't our goal be... to enhance our lives, not enhance the bottom line for government and corporations? Yes, on the surface, especially considering how things have been economically lately, this all sounds just, what? Stupid? Ludicrous? But back up a minute and ask yourself WHY does this sound ludicrous? Because, it shouldn't. Think about that for a minute longer. And let it alter your view on how we are moving forward and consider that one thing.

Are we really moving forward?

And if your decision is no, then ask yourself, and ask others as well:


Monday, April 22, 2013

Is it ethical to find a job using company resources?

Is it Ethical to use other's resources to further your own agenda?

Ethical? Perhaps not.
Realistic and reasonable? Most likely, yes

This is a difficult subject to explain. But I'll give it a shot. Just understand that in what I am saying, I am not advocating theft or being truly, unethical. I'm also trying to say that in the end, your actions should benefit all involved. The less selfish you are in these situations, the better it is for all.

When you consider how abused we can be as individuals by the machinations of the corporations, government and society at large, we need to use whatever we have at our disposal to better our positions. If you won't do this for yourself, certainly your family deserves it.

In the end now, this actually is good for the company, as well as the individual and society at large, really. But you have to play that with appropriate consideration and in the end you have to live with yourself  And not get caught. In the end, we need to do and to use whatever is at our disposal to better our positions. But how far should we go?

Outright stealing is simply wrong and I believe it should always be avoided. But skirting whatever grey areas you can find, is perfectly reasonable.

Companies after all, do this to us all the time. They lay people off, they have no loyalty to individuals, they will drop you sometimes like a hot rock if need be and with little consideration for your situation, your family or your needs... or ethics.

Some companies are better than others surely and they deserve some extra degree of your loyalty as you see it, to be reasonable and rational. But you should be as loyal as a company will be to you and you always have to have that consideration in mind. And you should have loyalty to yourself in your need to advance, and your need to remain true to your own self and ethics. But does that mean you should never make use of any resources, not entirely and specifically your own?

There may be a fine line between stealing and utilizing available resources. Typically you might think this is all referring to supplies, stealing paper, pencils, what have you. But there are other considerations, one should consider. Should you use personal relationships you have developed through the company to better your position? Yes, why not? Some companies however would find that to be disloyal or even illegal. And in some cases they may be right and you should exercise due caution and reason. Should you use off time to find another job while at work. Sure, why not? Could you get fired if caught? Very possibly for some companies.

Would that be illegal? Possibly. I would suggest considering the caveat that you should also try to do this kind of thing as little as possible. Your work, the work that you are paid to do, certainly should not suffer. At that point, you would lose all justification and

Would that matter and could you win a court case over it? Maybe, maybe not, but consider what it would cost you in time, money, energy and emotions? It's always best to err on the side of caution. Because even if what you are doing is perfectly legal, it can be taken in completely the wrong way. And I guarantee in that situation, you would be the one to suffer in the end.

So do your best not to waste the company's money. Use your lunch time when possible. Do not steal office supplies, but if you need to make copies of your resume, if you can't afford to pay for them yourself, within reason, do it. It's a personal thing and you should know if you are being reasonable or not.

If you are not happy at your job, the best thing for the company is for you to move out as soon as possible and if it costs the company a little to get rid of you, don't you both benefit? And yes, this is a slippery slope.

But good people will keep it in check, while questionable types will rip people and companies off.

It will fall on the side of the company if you are doing ANY thing that doesn't benefit the company at all.

When you look the other way around and see the things that companies do to people, to their employees, it simply will not play out as counting the same. You will end up on the bottom. Almost every time.

Why is that? Because there is an imbalance before you even start that sides on the side of the company. We have laws to protect people from companies, but there are always grey areas that companies will use, and sometimes over utilize. But that's, okay. Right? Unethical, but legal?

If you steal from the company you are a criminal. If the company steals from you, many times it is perfectly legal and done under the guise of enhancing the need of the company in some way and they will use many legal rationalizations for this. Remember that the US Government has indicated corporations as individuals. A radical and unethical thing for them to have done that has done nothing but help to break down the protections of the US Citizen-worker.

Corporations have stolen people's retirement funds, laid workers off at the worst possible times, not infrequently at times like Christmas time, during the so called "suicide season", and even at times when they didn't need to; and so on.

You have to take this all into consideration in these ethical arguments, even though it may not directly really come into play in your situation. And remember  just because they are unethical, doesn't necessarily mean that you should be.

Or does it, in reality?

So, ethical? No, not usually. But realistically you have to ask yourself sometimes, how much does that really mean? Or, matter? In the end, just as with the corporations and company, YOU need to take care of yourself... and your family. Don't wait for a company or especially a corporation to do it for you. Because you'll be waiting a long time.

The argument that making use of resources will turn you into a criminal, is pretty much the same logic in saying gay marriage leads to pedophilia or bestiality It's just insane. Or, whether pot is a gateway drug. Mother's milk is too, nearly every pot smoker started on mother's milk. It's a non sequitur, right? More so is alcohol being a gateway drug, but no one ever notices that one. Still, I think you get the idea from what I'm saying in that, and if you can pick it apart you are totally miss what I'm saying.

In the end it's a personal decision. Be careful but be aware of what is around you to help you.

It's reminiscent of how I've raised my kids. No, not to be criminals, or unethical. But to be ethical. And to know that sometimes ethics and laws dictate one do unethical or unlawful things to maintain the status quo. The world simply isn't fair, I've told them. Sometimes, you have to do what you know to be right and suffer the consequences. Sometimes, you will do what is right and go to jail, maybe even for saving someone's life. Because to do what is right, might even be generally considered unethical, or in some cases illegal.

So should you not do what is in the end, the right thing to do for you, and your family, and the company? Remember that just because it seems at first to be wrong, or your company might superficially view it is a firing offense, or worse, doesn't mean you shouldn't do it.

Sometimes, you have to gauge your behavior and do what is right for all involved, regardless of how they would at first judge it. Sometimes, it's just the way it is. But keep your eyes open. Consider the options.

Make the world work for you. But remember that in the end you will need to live with yourself.

I'm sure that in the end, you'll make the right decision.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Single Most Important Rule of Improv... and in Life

I just had an epiphany. I was watching Julia Louis-Dreyfus on Craig Fergurson (Julia's show "Veep" has it's season premiere this Sunday night).

They were going back and forth and Craig through something funny out there and I was curious how she would repond and she responded positively and they went back and forth and it worked and had no need to be planned because of the rules of improv. It's like a common language all comedians and really, actors should know about. Now I'm not an actor, or a comedian but I am a writer and I try to learn all these things. You never know when it might come in handy, right?

So it got me to thinking about what was happening in front of me and why she responded positively, with humor and had her own come back. improv. They both understood improv. In inprov, if you respond negatively, you can kill what could be a very funny bit, dead in the water. If you don't give the concept thrown at you room to breathe, you are wasting a beat, even if it's in some way, offensive, distasteful, or itself, negative.

The part about her responding positively gave me a strange feeling of pleasure. What was that? Where did it come from? And then I realized. Past relationships. It is so cathartic and enjoyable to see (for me especially, a woman) to take a comment and reply in a way that was both entertaining and useful to the repartee, that it stopped me and made me and wonder, why?

From there it was a short trip back to my own failed marriage. But also, other failed relationships when I thought about it, and I'll bet, others have had the same experience at the end of a relationship when things are going downhill. But this doesn't only happen at the ends. It can also happen at the middle, or even during the beginnings, if you don't watch out for it and nip it in the bud.

I've said before that it would be nice to have a relationship like in sitcoms where the wife never seems to get angry at the silly goofs of the male in the relationship and my friends have responded that those are "Sitcom Wives" or girlfriends. And that in real life, THEY DON'T EXIST. Perhaps, sadly. But what is special about those women? Patience, I always thought, and a sense of humor. Of not letting the little things get to them. But life does take it's toll the 100th time someone leaves their socks on the bedroom floor to bring up one stereotype from relationships. So we especially don't need to add to those things in our verbal interactions with one another. Do we?

So. Improv.

The first rule of improv is stated in various ways, to say "yes and...." (David Alger's), to always agree (Tina Fey), but to basically always respond in a positive fashion to anther's comments and then add something to that.

This also works well in relationships.

When I think back to my previous marriage, the one thing that frequently seemed to be missing was this element in our relationship. I unknowingly followed this rule of improv, and she didn't. In fact she rejected my approach to things by saying that I always have to turn everything into a joke. This was true to a point but then it really wasn't true, as obviously some things are just serious in life.

But not everything. Which was a trap I would argue, that she fell into. Everything seemed to have the utmost seriousness to it for her. Life was all about drama. Yes, she was a Drama Queen. Addicted to drama. In fact an older women who knew her since childhood and cared for her, once told me that, "If there isn't drama in her life, she'll create some."

"Many people who have studied improv have noted that the guiding principles of improv are useful not just on stage but in everyday life.[8] For example, Stephen Colbert in a commencement address said:

"Well, you are about to start the greatest improvisation of all. With no script. No idea what's going to happen, often with people and places you have never seen before. And you are not in control. So say "yes." And if you're lucky, you'll find people who will say "yes" back." [from Wikipedia]

So, consider all this in your own life and relationships. Add a little improv to the mix and find someone, or enlighten your someone, about this.

Tina Fey’s Rules For Improv…And the Workplace

Rule #1 — Agree
The Lesson: Respect What Your Partner has Created

Rule #2 — Not Only Say Yes… Say Yes And
The Lesson: Contribute Something

Rule #3 — Make Statements
Lesson: Don’t Ask Questions All the Time

Rule #4 — There Are No Mistakes… Only Opportunities
Lesson: Stay Positive, Learn to Adapt

In business [as in life and relationships], it pays to have the qualities of an improvisationist. Respect. Create. Contribute. Adapt.

from Tina Fey’s Rules For Improv… And Your Career from Women 2.0

Monday, April 8, 2013

Three Goal Levels in Life and Three Important Elements of Success

Life is not the easiest thing to get through. But we need to do more than simply haphazardly make it through.

We need to think ahead. To look around. To be aware of more than we think we need to be aware, of. Or if we can't think ahead, to set goals for ourselves to keep check on our progress through life. Like when you are out in the wilderness, you need to pick a landmark ahead in order to avoid going in circles, or simply getting lost.

George Carlin said that if you are an artist you have a responsibility to always be going somewhere. "An artist has an obligation to be, 'on route'. To be going somewhere. There's a journey involved here. And you don't know where it is and that's the fun."

I think that is something in life that's important for everyone, really.

I've found that the best way to do this (for me) is in three levels:

  1. Choose a goal for the day, week or the month, depending on your life and lifestyle. 
  2. Choose a goal for the year, a mid-range goal. 
  3. And finally, choose a goal for the next five to ten years, or even a more long term goal. 

Adjust these as fits your own life. The point isn't to do what I say here, but to do what best increases the quality of your own life and therefore, the lives of those near you.

Choose a lifetime goal, but I find that those seem to change too easily with trends in the country, society, your work situation, partner in life, and so on. It's good to have an overall lifetime goal to shoot for, but realistically, things just change on you.

When I was a kid I wanted to be an astronaut. Then more realistically in Junior High I was leaning toward Jet Pilot. By the time I got out of High School, I was looking at some kind of behind the scenes work in government and so, I joined the military.

But things changed during that period, to make a long story short. I learned things I hadn't known. That I couldn't have known until I got into the situation. Reality set in. And so in my case, I ended up leaving the Military and going to a University. I got a degree in a vast lifestyle change, in Psychology. From there I got married, we had a child and life changed again. I remarried, suddenly found myself with a new life partner and another child. I thought that finally I had found my path and it would be like that till the end.

But then things unforeseen changed on me again and that situation too ended. Whether or not I remained married, the kids would eventually grow up and leave and maybe start their own families, or certainly, their own lives. There is no stopping change. And therefore there is no setting goals that will never change in life.

We have to update, learn, alter things, to find tune them. Make good and informed decisions in life and make the best of what Life throws at you. And one of the ways to doing that, is to have goals. But not just a single goal. Don't abandon your goals, don't give up on them, but do adjust them as is necessary and most productive for you and your life as it evolves through time.

If your goal is to marry someone and have a family, but you find major elements in your life have changed, maybe you find that you really hate kids, or you come out of the closet, or you find you're a serial killer, or a politician; these are cases in which you shouldn't stick to your original goal(s) but you should update things so that you are on the best path for you and your loved ones, and hopefully, society at large.

Life is about living. But it is also about learning and thinking and choices. It never hurts to have a path to follow and to be able to handle whatever comes at you while you are upon that path.

I wish you all the best of luck on your own path. And luck is not always a random thing in life. We can cultivate it and it definitely plays a part in where we are headed and where we end up. Luck and random opportunities in life have a lot to do with who makes it and who does not.

But that is another topic altogether.

May you choose to steer yourself toward the best opportunities possible that can and will be available to you. Remember that when opportunity comes, you have to be ready to accept it. Accepting it means change and change can be scary and disruptive. Be ready for it and don't shy away when it is really the best choice for you. Too often people only see their opportunities in life much, much later, when it is far too late. Live your life to revel in your choices and not regret you indecisions.

Just remember to choose and adjust your goals in life. Position yourself to be "lucky". Grab opportunity as it presents itself to you.

In closing I'll just say, all the best to you my friends. May Luck smile on you. And may you smile back.

Monday, April 1, 2013

TV Show Theme Songs and Commecials

There are some shows on TV, very few actually, that when the show starts I let the title sequence play through. Typically, when I watch a new show for the first time I let the title sequence play through, then whenever I watch it in the future I skip right to the beginning of the episode's action. This kind of thing saves  me a lot of time every week, reclaiming that time back into my own life and no longer dedicated to the network or the show's desires.

I actually know people who feel obligated to watch all the commercials on TV. But it is an evolutionary process. Just as many of us skip adverts, so do the networks devise ways of getting past that, or working with us on this change. It depends on how you view it, or which side you are on. The commercials have changed, evolved, and the shows have changed. When you are zipping past the commercials you will now not infrequently see that there is a short blurb of the show in the middle of the adverts. It's easy to skip past without noticing.

But I've become adept at catching these and watching it if it seems like it might be something I could really care about. They have also made commercials that grab your attention while zipping past them, so you simply have to stop, back up and go, "What the hell was that?" Which honestly, is kind of fun. I've been saying for years that they need to make commercials that aren't offensive in any of a variety of ways, and rather simply be interesting or entertaining. I don't mind commercials really, I just hate wasting my time.

I have HD Tivo on DirecTV and I love my ability to record, to move forward and back or skip around. Mostly though, I just zip past the titles to the beginning of the show at hand. But there are a few I always stop and listen to and watch.

"X-Files" was one of the first of these with its award winning title sequence (though I believe I was using VHS tapes back them to record the show on so I could skip the adverts). "True Blood" is another, a current favorite. The title sequence on "Saving Grace" was awesome and gave me chills. Everlast's "Saving Grace" song from that now discontinued show of the same name (may it rest in peace), led me to his other music. I don't like all of it, but I'd say that most of it that I've heard, I liked or grew to like. I couldn't find the actual title sequence with the tornadoes at the end, which always ran a chill up my spine and just seemed powerfully awesome.

Sometimes you hear this title music and you really like it and you get excited about looking up the band and hearing what other great music they may have. But then sometimes too, when you do hear it, the air is let out of the balloon and you realize, that they offered you only a few minutes of awesomeness and you just listened to music that took up a few minutes of your life that you'll never get back.

But talk about hit and miss bands. I love the "True Blood" theme song by Jace Everett ("Bad Things") and the graphics. So dark and well done. I have to mention "Game of Thrones", awesome music and a great animation title sequence. For some reason, I should mention "Californication" but I think it's a very specific thing, considering the show is about a writer. And the show "Suits" and its theme song by Ima Robot ("The Greenback Boogie"); love that show, too. But these are two artists/bands where there is little else that I love about the band's music. However I will give Ima Robot credit for their song, "A is for Action". They seem to be a hit or miss band for me. I do think the title song works better as a shorter title song, but the full length one is still pretty good.

Jace Everett however, is a just hit once, miss all the rest. For me anyway, but I'm also not into that type of music. I was pretty disappointed when I listened to his album with that song on it and couldn't find any other songs that I could relate to at all.

Another is the "Justified'" theme song by T.O.N.E-z ("Long Hard Times To Come"). I hated that song when I first heard it, I was so disappointed in their choice for the show. But after a few seasons of it, I've come to realize how well it fits that show (and I love that show, too, but then, pretty much anything Oliphant does, really). I just don't care for any of T.O.N.E-z's other music.

Times have changed. TV is evolving. Although I'm not a fan of all that is going on, there certainly are some very interesting things out there that are worth noticing. So, while you are skipping things, keep your eyes (and ears) open. Or you might miss something very cool indeed.