Three Things Thursday

Inspired by Nerd in the Brain

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*three things that make me smile: an exercise in gratitude – feel free to steal this idea with wild abandon and fill your blog with the happy*

Some of my recent posts have been really heavy, so I’m taking this weeks TTT to focus on the things that truly make me personally happy. Added some of my own photography (mobile phone) to make the post more interesting.

Twizzlers

Perhaps the only true favorite candy that I will almost never say “No” to while in the store. I have yet to walk past an “impulse buy display” of these things. Yeah, if I could take only one food to the deserted island….. Twizzlers!

KC

K.C. is my German Sheppard. She loves to smile. I’ve caught her numerous times with my camera smiling after saying “Are you hungry?” This is the first dog of many I’ve had that actually look like they’re smiling.

Dr. Who

This was given to me by someone who was decluttering their home to make it ready to sell. It was given to them as a gift and they weren’t really a Dr. Who fan (I know, crazy talk!) Anyway, she brought this to me one random afternoon and it’s been on my desk ever since. It plays the TARDIS sound when you push the blue light on the top. You know I hit that light at least once every day! LOL!

Looking forward to seeing everyone elses TTT posts today!

Standing letter to alien visitors

I am a human being of the planet Earth. Please do not visit us. The human species of Earth is violent by nature, intolerant of differences, and will perceive a visit as a hostile action regardless of your intentions. We fight amongst each other and have for our entire existence. See references in our world texts regarding hate, war, and racism for example. We are not an enlightened species and most are motivated by fear triggered by the slightest change in their environment. For cripes sake, if you are an Arachnoid species, seriously, stop reading this and just keep going! No one down here likes spiders.

We are unable to get along with each other for any sustained length of time and multiple times have engaged in what can be described as world wars throughout our history. Our hate and intolerance of differences is what drives us to fight with each other. In regards to our wars and armed conflicts, the only option we are able to agree on is answering violence with more violence. There are exceptions though, as history shows Switzerland has not engaged in armed conflict for what seems to be their entire history as a country. If you had to visit, I would suggest dropping in on them as my opinion is that they are the best of the mediocre examples we have to offer.

As you can probably tell, our environment is less than appealing even to our own species. Our water is dirty, the air is polluted, we dump trash everywhere we can manage. A precious few live in extreme excess while the majority of others struggle to have enough food for their entire lives. We have stripped Mother Nature of her dignity and weakened her ability to sustain our species for the long-term. We are a society of chemicals and technological advancements that probably makes us look interesting but scratching the microscopic surface you will see us for what we truly are. There are individuals distributed throughout the world that are trying to help and may in fact be very enlightened, however how much can one individual do to fix our problems when the rest of the world is bent on destroying it for short-term gains?

Rather than deciding we have a chance to learn from your more advanced species, do consider that in our current state, we will never learn from you any more than we have learned from our own actions toward one another. Rather than deciding we can benefit from your technology to help fix our problems, do consider that while there will be brief gains, we will continue to take more until we end up eventually turning on you.  We are still inherently greedy and self-centered with a superiority complex that blinds us to a level of thinking that would be required to accept rather than reject your presence.

The only outcome of a visit at this point is a fundamental shift of our focus onto you, however that shift will most likely not be a positive one. See “Independence Day”, “The Day the Earth Stood Still”, and “Knowing” for examples of how we handle visitors from other planets. All good examples of a few “good” people with a whole heaping lot of “bad” people. Once you realize we’re more similar to our primate ancestors than to enlightened humans, you’ll hopefully leave swiftly so that we can continue our focus on destroying each other. I offer you this letter as a friendly warning to just keep going, we’re not worth your time right now. At the rate things are going, we’ll end up destroying ourselves before you decide to return for a progress update.

Sincerely, Concerned Human

P.S. – Please feel free to probe our politicians, they’re not human by any definition.

Trump is cracking

Here he goes again, blaming everyone other than himself for problems in his own campaign. Some parts of this post are taken directly from the article linked below.

Trump Sees Wide-Ranging “Clinton Machine” Conspiracy to Steal Election

Highlights

In this article, here are the conspiracies he claims are being orchestrated against him:

  • intra-party turmoil over Trump’s feud with Gold Star parents
  • deteriorating standing in national and swing-state polls
  • a positive U.S. job report in July
  • his wife’s plagiarism

Trump took it a step further by suggesting without proof that Hillary Clinton and her allies may steal the election.

He also claims that he was running against a “rigged press” and a “dishonest machine” that wouldn’t hold Clinton accountable for her transgressions.

This quote directly from the article is the cherry on the cake.

Trump believing and convincing his supporters that the election was rigged matters a lot,” former Obama senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer said on his podcast, Keepin’ It 1600. “Because when you add with the ‘lock her up,’ ‘Hillary Clinton’s a crook,’ [FBI Director] ‘Jim Comey’s in the pocket of the Clinton campaign’—it’s all about de-legitimizing Hillary Clinton’s first term. To create a set of excuses for why Republicans should oppose the most basic governing responsibilities.

Commentary

I found, while reading this article, that I was feeling apprehensive. My concern isn’t due to Trump being a buffoon, or Clinton taking the high road, rather it’s the shear ridiculousness of his accusations in the first place. It took me all of 15 minutes doing some searching online to discover that his accusations only stand if you don’t look for some evidence or proof to substantiate them. Take the claims of conspiracies above for instance.

Intra-party turmoil
Regardless of the reasons why the DNC decided to put the Khan’s onstage to tell their story, Trumps reaction and subsequent comments on Twitter are just wrong. Trump paraded several people on stage at the RNC that made accusations of Clinton and her allies, however there wasn’t a single negative reaction in the press from them. The backlash Trump received for his feud with Gold Star parents is of his own making because 1 – he made the comments in the first place, and 2 – didn’t apologize immediately or directly for the comments.

Deteriorating standing in national and swing-state polls
Random polls asking people who they’d be voting for and providing some demographic information. How exactly does this get rigged when multiple sources are providing similar information? I get that the media doesn’t always do the right thing, but in this case, the data they collect is difficult to rig.

A positive U.S. jobs report in July
Yeah, sure, Clinton made sure that the positive jobs report was, well, positive. Do I really need to comment on this one?

His wife’s plagiarism
The side by side video is pretty clear to me that most of the content in that section of the speech was, in fact, plagiarized. The issue here isn’t that previous speeches from others may or may not have been plagarized, rather, it’s the fact that they initially denied having plagarized the speech. I’m not a stickler for plagiarizing, enough of the words were changed in my opinion and it was delivered quite well, but not admitting it was “borrowed” as soon as the news broke, *that* is why it’s a big deal.

The Machine

I could be wrong in this statement, but I believe this election year is one for the history books (rather, e-readers). Historical not because there is potential for the first female President. Historical not because the Republican Nominee was a former reality-TV star and business man without a political resume. Historical not because both candidates have poor approval ratings. No, it’s historical because at no point in our history have their been two candidates that caused a collective world to be left shaking their heads at the American democratic system. The machine is broken and it’s every single person in politics that thought it was someone else’s job to grease the gears. Our political machine is starting to show that it’s over 200 years old and decades of poor maintenance have left us with a compromised system that I fear is beyond repair. At this point I don’t even believe that Gary Johnson (Libertarian) or Jill Stein (Green) could make much of a difference if somehow elected to the Presidency.

When considering the two third-party candidates though, Jill Stein has started to pull ahead of Gary Johnson in my own personal poll. You know, the one that includes only me. She has some really good ideas and positions on a lot of hot button issues that match up to my own opinions. What I’m trying to understand right now if is a vote on a third party candidate is a wasted vote or not. I’ve read several blog entries on just that subject and am still on the fence. If I were forced to vote tomorrow, I’m 90% certain that I’d select a third party candidate as I’m done with Democrats and Republicans. The time has come for the death of the two-party system that supports and perpetuates the “us vs. them” mentality.

Bernie Sanders, Independent for President!

Getting lost in science fiction

Ever since I can remember, I’ve been a science-fiction fan. All through my childhood into adulthood, I’ve gravitated to science-fiction of all types ranging from old movies like Metropolis and The Day the Earth Stood Still to newer movies like Bladerunner, Terminator, and Looper. I’ve also read quite a few science-fiction books as well; the more notable ones being Slaughterhouse-Five, Mars, and The Invisible Thread. All three are fundamentally different stories but all fall into the science-fiction category. This one particular genre gives me the ability to imagine myself out of time with reality and satisfies a deep desire of experiencing a future that my life time won’t provide to me.

I dream of a time when we finally decide that poverty, hate, intolerance, and hunger are all problems we read about in history books. Our recollection of these times are used, not for causing war, but rather for teaching a new generation our mistakes so as not to repeat them again. A time when we cast away our labels and see ourselves as more a world species than a collection of countries on the surface of the world. We let our emotions drive our actions when in fact we should instead use our emotions as an indicator when greater control is required, when we need to listen harder, when we need to understand each other better.

Science-fiction for me is an escape that takes me into a world that is different from my own. Ok, not all science fiction is postive. Bladerunner for instance is a vision of a distopian future that is dirty and corrupt where technology has been perverted to serve our selfish tendencies. Terminator is similar in that our own superiority is challenged by the very technology we have taken for granted and self-awareness is no longer just a human trait. Shows such as Star Trek (Next Generation, Voyager) give me the opportunity to imagine an escape of present reality and into an imagined reality. A future where we are free to discover new things without the burdens of hate, hunger, and poverty. Sailing through space meeting new species of life definitly makes me feel humble thinking (hoping) that we’re not alone. Independence Day is a good example of how a conquoring species forces the human race to set aside differences and see everyone as a fellow human being, not by the color of their skin or the religion they follow.

There is a scary side to science-fiction as well. The side where we use technology to immerse ourselves into a world that isn’t real except in our heads. Virtual reality has the potential to blur the lines between our own lives and our virtual lives to the point where we’re not sure anymore which is real. The movie Total Recall (both versions) is a perverse example of how these lines can be blurred. I just recently watched a short film on virtual reality that has a very chilling ending that I encourage you to watch when you get a chance. It’s not long, but it certainly highlights with extremity the dangers of the warped use virutal reality can provide. The short film is called Uncanny Valley and is worth the watch. This short video elicits an emotional response and causes you to consider the ramifications to something that is basically a human experiment in anti-social behavior.

While a lot of science-fiction is really out there in terms of believability, at it’s core it’s based on fear. Fear of the unknown or fear from ourselves to not self-govern with the survival of the species front and center. My own theory is that our future will not be much different than today. Sure, there will be advances in the technology and medical sectors, however the fundamental characteristics of daily life will remain the same. We will still have the same problems and struggles we have now, the environment around us might be slightly changed. Think of the 1970’s compared to today. People still talk on phones, they’re just mobile. People still drive cars, they’re just modernized and safer. People still got to the hospital, more survive today. A lot of buildings from the 70’s are still around today. People still fly, planes are larger, safer, and more efficient. There are of course a lot of changes as well: computers, the Internet, private space exploration, modernized infrastrucutre (to a point).

I tend to focus on the improvements that science-fiction holds for us. Distopian futures aside, even in the worst examples of our futures in science-fiction, we’re still surviving relatively well. What truly is scary is our ability to not see potential impacts of certain technologies until it’s too late to fix anything. Virtual reality has the potential to remove our ability to socialize in less than 2 generations if it becomes pervasive. Artificial intelligence has the potential to “dumb” us down by taking standard tasks and responsiblity away from us and at some point after becoming self-aware, understand that we’re our own worst enemy and try to protect us like in I, Robot.

Not sure about you, but I hope that a lot of science-fiction remains just that, fiction.

Islamaphobia, the exit is over here

Inspired by The Washington Post article “Muslim couple says they were kicked off Delta flight for using phone, saying ‘Allah’

Seriously, what the hell is wrong with all of us? Why are we all so afraid of each other?

A muslim couple, American citizens for 16 years, were singled out on their return flight from France to Ohio, USA because she was wearing a scarf and using a phone and he was sweating. Others heard them say “Allah” while seated. Trying to put myself into the shoes of the flight crew that reported this to the pilot is an impossible task for me. I can’t even begin to start forming thoughts that could justify the flight crew persons motivation for making this report to the pilot. Then, the fact the pilot forced them off the flight or he wouldn’t take off just added more fuel to the racist and bigoted profiling that had already taken place.

The rhetoric is already at a feverish level causing everyone to revert to thinking “with the crowd” instead of relying on their own, much more logical individual thinking. The article doesn’t indicate it, but I can be sure that most of the flights passengers were siding with the flight crew as they watch the couple being taken off the plane. They were probably thinking things like “Another terrorist is caught”, “I’m glad they’re not on *my* flight”, “They should have stayed in their own country.” What is apalling and absolutely disgusting is that it was their appearance and only their appearance that prompted the crews actions. The pilot didn’t even see the couple, they were going by the report from the flight crew only.

I’ve been on a lot of flights in the last several years. I can honestly say that until the flight takes off, I’m usually quite uncomfortable and sweating because a plane on the ground is warm inside. The difference here is that I’m not sitting with someone in a scarf, using a mobile phone, and saying “Allah”; I’m also not Muslim “looking”. I’ve been on flights where people pray before the plane takes off and pray again before the plane lands, it’s certainly not out of the ordinary. One particular flight I was sitting next to a devout Jewish Rabbi that prayed in the middle of the plane for over an hour during the six hour flight. Although that seemed to be like a bit of overkill, it wasn’t certainly anything I would report him for doing. In fact, I was slightly relieved he was doing this as it gave the flight a better chance of not crashing, every little bit helps for a guy that doesn’t like flying.

Shame on the flight crew and any of the passengers that fed into this fear that this couple were indeed terrorists. Shame on the pilot for blindly taking the flight crews report without first asking a few questions of the couple before dismissing it as ridiculous racism. Yes, I may have a broad “trust first, ask questions later” attitude, but I’m so exhausted with stories like this. People have to choose to not be racist and see the good in people until proven otherwise. The majority of people want to do the right thing but choose to ignore that due to their circumstances. It takes one person, one action, to cause someone to question their actions and be given the choice to do the right thing. If I was in a situation where I tried to accept the other person and offer the opportunity for them to do the right thing and they choose wrong, I won’t be afraid or hate them becuase *I* did the right thing.

I choose to do the right thing, always, regardless of the consequences to myself.

Can I work from home? Denied!

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No, this isn’t me.  I laughed at the picture though, because I’d totally geek out working from home like this!

Had a 1:1 recently with my boss. I again, brought up the request to work from home one day per week. He again, told me that it is difficult or near impossible to get something like that approved for the long term. The current policy as it stands is:

Working from home is available upon request for any colleague and is at the discretion of next level management. Work from home criteria and objectives should be set between the colleague and his/her manager to set appropriate expectations.

The annoying thing here is that “next level management” in my case is actually two levels above me and their discretion is hopelessly set at an “as needed or required” level without the hope of any type of regular approval for a weekly work from home day. My director in this case has been working for the company for over two decades and is very much stuck in the realm of old-school thinking where working from home is horrible and anyone doing it is just skipping on work. Here are the reasons I think this man is a dinosaur stuck in the middle of a modern workplace:

  • Everyone is using a laptop, there are *no* desktops
  • Internal phone system is VoIP through Skype for Business
  • Completely an Office 365 shop (Outlook, SharePoint, Office are all hosted)
  • 80 offices world-wide, on average, 80% of my communication is electronic or on phone
  • Mandatory methods to track and verify productivity

I will often give the benefit of the doubt with resistance like I’ve received at the onset of convincing someone to give an approval for something they’re initially opposed to. However, in this case, a direct conversation with said Director resulted in “I don’t approve work from home.” I was promptly asked to leave his office if there wasn’t anything else I needed to talk to him about. Not one to back down from a challenge, I took a different approach at first. I started looking up research on the benefits of working from home for both the employee and the employer and found quite a lot of positive information. The other side of the coin unfortunately had just as much negative information that contradicted the positive. There was information to support either point of view rather convincingly.

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This is how I see my Director right now

As I think I may pay a personal price for the next action I’ve taken (not played out yet), I went to HR to talk to a few people about the origins of the policy and where and when it was set. In my logical mind I had a plan to work behind the scenes to get the policy updated by whatever committee set it in the first place. The committee in this case, was made up of several people….. that also included my Director. My posture must have changed as the HR person asked if there was a problem. I asked her when the policy was set and it, unsurprisingly, hasn’t been updated or changed since 2005. 11 years ago!! I went on to explain what I was after and if it was, in her opinion, something that had a snowballs chance of being changed. She didn’t need to answer, he face said it all. I got up and thanked her for her time.

For the last 5 or so years, I’ve pushed very hard with my current and previous companies to get a permanent arrangement to work from home setup and approved. What I was asking for was a single day to work from home that wasn’t a Monday or Friday; rather Wednesday was my preferred day. It provided a break in the middle of the week that helped greatly on both the front and back end of the week with an estimated 20% increase in productivity. A very non-scientific study conducted by me, subjectively, where I had a feeling of greater efficiency and effectiveness. Well, the few weeks I was able to do so that is.

Here is my current push, with highlighted justifications and benefits below:

  • Online no later than 6:30am / Offline no earlier than 4:30pm (company gets the hour I’d be commuting, at a minimum)
  • Activity time tracked through Skype for Business and correlated with VPN logs
  • First complaint related to remote work would end the agreement (puts skin in the game)
  • Important meetings or training would override a scheduled work from home day
  • Short weeks would override work from home day (holidays)
  • Any measured drop in effectiveness or efficiency would require a review of the agreement

Personally, I think this gives the advantage to my company. They’re getting more work out of me, a potential 52 extra hours, just for allowing me to work from home one day per week. My estimation has that closer to 40 when you take out short weeks and the occasional 1-2 meetings per quarter that would require my physical presence. I’m certainly not a 9 to 5’er, often getting to work by 7am and leaving around 4pm, so around 9 hours per day as I typically don’t take a lunch away from my desk, most times. I’m getting close to that mindset where I will stop overproducing for a company that isn’t willing to approve a simple request that is more than justified based on previous performance. I’ve been here before and I ended up looking for and getting a new job eventually. I’ve not worked for a company in my career that I actually enjoyed coming to work for everyday though, so I’m in a tough spot.

It feels like I’m fighting a losing battle. Why can’t more companies embrace modern and progressive ideas?

Why some whites are waking up to racism

Inspired by the article of the same name published by The Washington Post

It’s my lunch hour when I usually read the news from the previous days events. As I opened this article I was preparing myself for a one-sided and biased article about all the things “whites” do, or not do, to support their “non-white” neighbors. Before I even started reading the first word, I was already in a frame of mind that was making me angry at the lack of dialogue and increasingly negative rhetoric in the media. As I started reading though, I was surprised as to the tone of the article and was immediately guilty for feeling angry at the onset before even starting to read it.  The title of the article, while completely appropriate, implies something all together different out of context, at least in my opinion.

Reflexive actions

We all have reflexive initial thoughts about everything we experience through the day. Whether negative or positive, they’re the actions and thoughts that we were brought up to believe by our parents. As much as I’d like to think of my parents progressive and enlightened, they’re not. Little comments and facial expressions when certain topics come up tell me they’re not. I have several examples from my past where the reflexive thought turned into the action of speaking out loud with truly negative and hurtful consequences. I immediately realized, even as I was saying the words, it was utterly wrong and very much a white stereotypical statement. In all cases where this has happened, I’ve alienated co-workers and friends and lost friendships to never get back again. The consequence of a reflexive action is damage that can’t be undone, a statement that can’t be unsaid.

Black Lives Matter

I’ll be the first one to admit that I don’t completely understand this movement despite having read quite a bit on the subject. I admire and respect the fundamental meaning that is being implied and supported, however what confuses me is how it can be warped and twisted to justify what seems to be escalating levels of violence. I’ve known for years that answering violence with violence, creates a slippery slope of exponential consequences to the point that it seems there is no end to how far it can be taken. To even begin to understand something is to admit that you just don’t understand in the first place. Then, once there is a small dialogue open, listen to the other person, really listen.

“Seek first to understand, then to be understood” – Steve Covey

No one seems to listen anymore, they have their dialogue already queued up and ready to fire out their mouth not truly understanding themselves in most cases why they’re even angry. I am inspired right now to find the local BLM chapter and attend some meetings to understand the problem and then seek to find ways to help, not fix, the root problem. As much as I like to think that I understand certain things, I am naive in a lot of ways to the world outside of my circle of influence. Having watched the video embedded in this article, I’m left with more questions than answers due to the fact that there are so many meanings behind the singular phrase.

Enough blame to go around

Police, blacks, whites, Hispanics….. It’s no one person or groups fault. We’re all to blame to varying extents to the problems we’ve created. I’m in a place where I recognize this. I fully accept that I’ve not done everything I can to help the situation. In this age of technology and instant communication, the injustice and inequality is being brought to the surface and shoved in all our faces. It’s saying “Here I am, you can’t hide from me, you’re isolation is no longer tolerable.” I’m excited to see that we’re finally all waking up to the problems we’ve been hiding or suppressing since the 1950’s, because in many respects we as a nation have not moved forward from this point. Stop blaming and pointing fingers, stop the negative rhetoric, stop wasting energy that only serves to divide us as a society further apart. I’m a logical and open-minded individual that is willing to listen to anyone provided they’re not judging or putting me into a category based on my outward appearance. I’ve said this before, and will say it again, everyone I meet starts at the same level of respect and acceptance until their actions dictate otherwise.

Individuals are smart, “people” aren’t

We’ve all heard it before, mob mentality. A group of people will tend to follow someone if they see others around them doing the same thing. It happens in nature all the time in flocks of birds, herds of deer, etc. An individual is instinctively vulnerable and perceived as weak. In nature, the individual often will become dinner for a predator. In our case, we have to fight the base instinct of individuality being weak and question the crowd if something doesn’t seem right. A large crowd of people listening to a singular leader on a megaphone will chant along with them regardless of whether they think the person is right or wrong. In a group, you’re individual view is not important or overruled, for most people, it’s impossible to fight that. There have been times that I fundamentally disagreed with a group and had to force myself to walk away. The group didn’t speak for me and I disagreed with their point of view and disassociated myself so that I was free to have my own view and opinion that I felt was the correct one to have. This is one of the reasons I never agreed with “All Lives Matter” or “Blue Lives Matter” as I disagreed with their purpose being anything other than a protest against the Black Lives Matter movement. I have since removed posts to Facebook that contradict this statement as they were made without understanding all the facts.  I even wrote about this subject before, but I left that post published to provide me with perspective.  My anger in that post was apparent and it was based on my naivety of the movement in general.

Listening, tolerance, and repair

There is nothing we can’t fix given the right amount of effort to do so. I’m sure if I was still in contact with the people I alienated with my intolerant comments that I could start to fix the damage done. I can only take that so far though as it requires an equal amount of effort from both sides, which is the true root cause of our problems. No one is listening to each other. Hate an anger from the past is being instilled into each new generation going forward. Someone or something has to break the cycle. What has to happen for all of us to finally stop and listen to each other? After 9/11, we united as a country behind a single idea, we don’t tolerate terrorism in any form. What has to happen for us to unite behind not tolerating racism, inequality, and hate has not happened yet. That is what truly scares me, all the horrible things that have happened in the last few years hasn’t been enough for us to question or ideals and morality. It would seem at this point that we’re doomed to repeat our mistakes from the the last century.

What is the next generation learning from the hate?

That’s a question I ask every single day to remind myself I choose to be part of the solution, not the problem.

Three Things Thursday 8/4/2016

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Inspired by Nerd in the Brain – *three things that make me smile: an exercise in gratitude – feel free to steal this idea with wild abandon and fill your blog with the happy*

Working from home

I know, this is a repeat.  It’s one of my TTT this week for another reason.  I had meticulously selected several pieces  of wall hanging items since my last WFH and over lunch, decided to hang them up in my office.  I forgot to take a picture of my beautifully decorated minimalist inspired office so as to share the awesomeness.  I selected a splatter paint picture that I had a winning bid on to support a past 4th grade class at my daughters school, a framed 50 State Quarters map that took me 6 years to complete, and a picture of the daughter dressed up like Dr. Who.  Made for a better afternoon than morning and inspired me to not be my usual procrastinating self.

Almost school time

I can’t put into words just how much I’m happy that it’s almost school time.  The schedule lately has been so erratic with bed times, etc. that it’s starting to make me nuts.  The daughter was up until 10pm last night trying to spy on us watching Arrow but doing a very poor job of it (I heard her every time).  It’s been a struggle all summer long to get her to read and do education based activities, so the first day of school will be met with my open arms and her complaining.

Technology

This is a rather broad thing and is very subjective.  My recent usage of technology has been to assist me in making my life a little easier in some areas that had consistently caused me pain and heartburn.  Paying the bills.  I converted my entire check register system (a mess) into an online system to help me save and budget properly.  The site is manual and not stored on the Internet as my security conscious self won’t allow anything other than that for protection of my personal information.  The result has been amazing as it now only takes me about an hour to pay a months worth of bills (I get paid monthly).  Used to take me over 3 hours sometimes.

What I dream beyond 2016

This post has been inspired by a comment I made on a post by Deborah Bryan titled “What do you dream beyond 2016?

We often tend to use words in a succinct and terse manner without having the knowledge, experience, or willingness to back it up with tangible actions. Our words should be descriptions of our actions, not what we feel is the right thing to do but never do anything about. Social media is full of people making absolute statements that have no basis in fact or are completely and totally out of context. Rather than be one of the masses that “says” what they want, I’m going to expand on my comment to her post so that it inspires others to do more. It all starts with one, one becomes two, two become four, etc.

I dream of a day when people don’t have to fear where their next meal is coming from.

We as Americans, throw away nearly half our food each year, or $165 billion according to a 2012 study published on The Huffington Post. Considering that there are hundreds of thousands of people that don’t know where their next meal is coming from, the fact we throw away all this food is inexcusable. Not singling out other first world countries (if you can consider America first world these days), there is no reason that we should as a society have people going hungry in the world. The idea that its an “us vs. them” with everything in our lives, it’s no surprise that we waste this much food every year.

The problem is utterly complex though and it can’t be fixed quickly. If you track it back, the trail just keeps going and often splinters into several root causes, almost like a pyramid turned onto its point. We waste a lot of food because portions are larger, there is a “throw away and forget” mentality, and we sacrifice the right thing to do in favor of convenience. Portions have been made larger due to changes in our food directly. Most of our food is processed into a dense and calorie packed convenient package that forces us to eat more of it to feel satisfied. Most people can eat a fast-food cheeseburger that is roughly 500 calories and usually not feel satisfied. Try to eat 500 calories of vegetables and, due to the shear amount, I doubt anyone could finish that before feeling completely stuffed. Food processors are to blame for this as they’ve made it so that unhealthy food is cheaper than healthy food, further compounding the problem of food related disease. A box of Hamburger Helper is less than $2 and feeds a family of four easily, two bunches of broccoli are about the same amount, but barely feed two people let alone a family. Taking another step back, the growers of the corn, wheat, and soy in this country have turned to GMO seeds from chemical companies that can only be used once per season, locking in the growers to having to purchase seeds the following year. I’m sick thinking that 83% of corn and 92% of soy are GMO and that most GMO crops are classified as “pesticide” and the fields are unfit for unprotected humans. The plants’ seeds are covered with a pesticide and the plants are engineered to produce their own pesticide through the leaves.  How does that exactly make the food safe for consumption?

We grow enough food in this country to feed the entire population with millions of tons of surplus to help feed the rest of the world. I won’t begin to understand how this system became the normal, but I am knowledgeable enough to know that if we take the time to learn about this system, we can take small steps to affect the market as a whole. One person does not make the difference, people do. If enough people stop buying GMO where possible (sometimes its impossible), use local farms, cook and store seasonal food, and teach others to do the same, enough people doing the opposite of the status quo can and will make a huge impact. Here are the things that I do personally that I hope, passing it along, will start to make a small difference.

  1. Buy from local farms as much as possible (meats, fruits, vegetables)
  2. Shop the outside edge of the supermarket
  3. Blanch vegetables to vacuum seal and freeze for the off-season (see #1)
  4. Learned to cook with appropriate portions to reduce waste
  5. Donate to local food banks within my means to do so

I want to be able to trust government to do what’s best for everyone, not just the affluent.

I’m sure we can all talk about government until we’re blue in the face. We all have our opinions and values and will support a politician that aligns to those values, at least in rhetoric. The problem with this is that once in office, they no longer need to listen to you as much and will usually focus on what brings them more money, status, or power. Having followed politics off and on for almost 20 years, this is based on my observations rather than tangible facts, so take it for what it is. Our government has lost site of the fact that they are elected to represent the people, not themselves. The people who elected them are the other side of the problem and the sad truth is that so many people don’t vote anymore. Consider the 2012 Presidential elections. Approximately 125 million votes were cast, 65 million to Obama and 60 million to Romney. There were around 308 million people in the United States in 2012 give or take a few million. Removing the under 18 population, there is an estimated 234 potentially eligible voters in the country. Putting that into perspective, 53% of the total population cast a Presidential vote, of which, 52% of those votes went to Obama. If you’re doing the math correctly, that equates to just 27% of the potential voting population choosing the President we currently have now. Call me crazy, but how can people complain about a system that isn’t working when only about half the population even bothers to go and vote. I stand by this statement: “If you didn’t vote, you have no right to complain.” If we can’t trust the system, how can we begin to trust the politicians elected by that system?

This is probably the only topic that I’m not able to provide a suggestion on how to fix, its just too big a problem and I struggle with where to start every time I start to think about it. The few places that we could start to repair this system is to eliminate the Electoral College, give a fair chance to all parties (not just Dems and Repubs), and pass legislation that makes it harder for the affluent to gain an unfair advantage. None of these are by any means easy.

I want the out of control anger and hate to be replaced with acceptance of differences and mutual respect.

Disappointment in me is extremely high right now and has been for weeks. I fail to understand why so many people are driven by anger and hate when it often doesn’t accomplish anything meaningful. History has hundreds of examples where meaningless death, anger, hate, etc. has been used as justification to continue spreading these ideals. The core of the problem is that most of these behaviors are instilled in us during our childhoods by our parents. My father was verbally and physically abused by his mother and step-father for most of his life growing up until he finally moved out to go to college. My grandparents were bigoted and racist people their entire lives, most of the time hiding it unless there was a trigger. I recognized this behavior and started asking questions once I understood it better. My father told me that he had chosen not to be angry or racist, give everyone an equal chance, and use his parents as examples of how not to be in life.

I took that to heart and have lived my life to the best of those instilled ideals, but I’m not perfect, no one is. There have been incidents in the past that I’m certainly not proud of and acted ugly towards another person out of uncontrollable anger. I’m not excusing the behavior, rather, I’m admitting to my mistake and decided to learn from it. In all but one situation, my apology was accepted and forgiveness was given. By admitting my mistake, in my own words, paired with my understanding of why it was wrong, I was able to articulate and demonstrate that I had learned and grew from it. This growth not only strengthened my relationship with this person, it also elevated our interactions to a new level that transcended the reactionary anger and hate into a greater respect for our own strength of being different. We accepted each others faults and momentary lapses in judgement to in turn help each other grow in a way that would not have been possible otherwise. The more we all try to be part of the solution instead of perpetuating the problem, the quicker we will all benefit.

I want a political system with more than two choices so that in coming years, we’re not faced with a “who do you not like” the least choice.

Now here’s a topic I can talk about all day, but I’ll do my best to keep it to the heading statement. Our political system has, since inception, been essentially a two party system and perpetuated the “us vs. them” mentality. There have been six party systems in the history of the United States, largely only two parties though. Third parties have always been around, but did not take significant hold until 1971 with the formation of the Libertarian Party. Gary Johnson is a candidate for the Libertarian Party that will most likely make it on the ballot in all 50 states for the 2016 election cycle. Faced with a choice where I don’t like the Republican and I don’t like the Democrat, the third choice is appealing especially when their platform is based largely on scaling back government across the board. Big government is showing that it doesn’t work so well, so logically trying the opposite, small government, appeals to me as a plan and idea I can get behind. Still not sure if that will help, keep things the same, or make things worse.

One of out strengths as Americans is our ability and right to choose. We are faced with so many choices that it’s hard to quantify in words just how free we are sometimes. There are a few exceptions, our two party system being one. Another is how we fuel our vehicles, most of us are locked into unleaded gasoline. Go to another country you’ll see a multiple party political system and a fueling station with unleaded, diesel, hydrogen, compressed natural gas, and most likely electric charge ports as well. A two party political system promotes an “us vs. them” mentality whether we’re ready to admit it or not. A two party system can create, as we’re finding out this year, a lesser of two evils sort of vote. The trouble lies with how the system is fundamentally setup, it favors a two party system by design. Third parties are forced to jump through hoop after hoop to just be included on a debate, show up on the ballot as an actual candidate rather than resort to “write-in” votes, and perhaps the most troubling, almost never get any type of news coverage. I’m not sure who I’m voting for in November, but my decision will be based on what I’ve read about each candidate (taken with a grain of salt) and who I think could potentially do the best job. In the end, once the vote is done, we’re with them for four years and what they said they’re going to do and what they actually do could be polar opposites. Only re-election after the first term could limit what promises they keep and break, a second term will generally have them doing what they want regardless of what they said. One thing is for sure, a wall won’t fix anything and fixing “Wall St.” won’t fix anything either. Decisions.

I’m tired of being upset with my fellow human beings and failing to make a difference despite really trying to do unto others as I want done unto me.

I grew up Methodist and attended church regularly until I turned 15. Religion wasn’t ever a big part of my life despite my being involved with several activities with the church. I view religion as one of the mechanisms that help us understand all the things in life that don’t make much sense. For me, I viewed religion from a different point of view that created a lot of internal conflict. I saw the hypocrisy of religious leaders preaching one behavior and type of thinking to their congregation while behind doors, doing the opposite and causing pain to others. My opinions and beliefs about religion in general run very deep and this is not the appropriate place for me to expound on them.

What I do believe in is that, although from the Bible, we should do unto others as we want done unto ourselves. It’s a powerful statement that honestly has nothing to do with religion. We have an inherent ability to observe and mimic the behaviors of others whether we’re aware its happening. Think of any conversation you’ve had recently that concerned a controversial or sensitive topic. Did you mirror the other persons emotion? Show empathy? Sit or move the same way they did to demonstrate you were listening? We all do this and most are unaware they’re doing it. Our body language is a very powerful tool that is seldom used to the fullest ability. You see this behavior in nature all the time though. Apes show remorse by lowering their heads and holding their hand out to the alpha. Lions understand sitting down and turning your back to them as being submissive and non-threatening. Elephants show a warning they’re threatened by pushing their ears out and squaring off their stance to match yours, leaving you to decide if you want to back off or challenge.

Much in the same way nature does this automatically, we as humans have dismissed these subtle behavior queues. When something wrong is done to me or I’m hurt for any reason, I choose to forgive when there is remorse or apologetic behavior because that is what I would do if the roles were reversed. By doing this, I am able to show my daughter that this is the correct behavior to emulate and it is instilling in her that human life is valuable and worth forgiving other’s mistakes. Of course, that goes two ways and some people no matter what you do will never return the same behavior to you or others. There is a special place for those types of people where it takes more than one or two people to demonstrate to them its not worth the anger and hate they feel. We’re all going to be angry sometimes. We’re all going to feel hate sometimes. The lesson I’ve learned is that although we have these feelings towards others, it’s important to not get lost in them and move towards an understanding that demonstrates respect for our differences. Preconceptions, stereotypes, and judgments are the enemy: Just because they’re white doesn’t mean they’re rich. Just because they’re black doesn’t mean they’re poor. Just because they’re Hispanic doesn’t mean they’re an illegal alien. Just because they’re Muslim doesn’t mean they’re a terrorist. Look past the surface, see the inner beauty, because we’re more similar on the inside than you might think.

Change starts with you.