Thursday, April 17, 2014

So Much, So Good, So Often

Knows it's Good.
Too much time on the news perhaps but please, would everyone please stop carrying on like everything is just OK? Are we serious here... Look at this. Look at this! My god man, this whole civilization thing could be crumbling and we just carry on! We get the joy and pleasure of having all of the American cities where you can actually find a job dramatically rising in price and most folks utterly unable to afford them. How promising for our future...

Here, they're dumping out a whole reservoir of water in Portland because someone peed into it! All 38 million gallons because of a tiny bit of piss. Spiders lay a number of eggs in you while you sleep, you'll be find drinking the damn water with a fraction of a percent of piss! I'll drink the pee! Don't flush the water especially on that coast because THIS IS WHAT IS HAPPENING! You need water to live. That's one of the criteria for being alive. Only .007% of the water on Earth is accessible for human use. This is and is going to continue to be an issue!

You also need food to live. But we did a great job in the U.S. of cutting SNAP benefits. Let's just take the food out of the people's mouths... that's how we've advanced over the years. Don't look at our tax policy or the fact that Apple just passes it's billions of wealth around like a goddamn hot potato so it can avoid an astonishing amount of it's tax burden! How noble of them! Let's just keep putting the squeeze on really a wide majority of our citizens that have been squeezed for so long and completely divest into funding anything that will allow us to function as a whole. What we need is more E-cigarettes, casinos and more types of shit ass social media. That'll make it all fucking better.

Let's not worry about starvation or the changing climate that scientists speculate will reduce our foot output by 2% each decade! No need to give a flying fuck about that because look... here is a new app called locket  where you get a PICTURE ON THE SCREEN OF YOUR PHONE WHEN ITS LOCKED. THAT'S EXACTLY WHAT WE NEED TO BE FOCUSING OUR ENERGY ON! That'll do it... Problem solved. Fuck. 

Again it's extra good when the rising food prices are combined with the lessened social supports for food, coupled with the continually fickle economy and growing disparity of wealth. These are winning combinations for a healthy everything. On some days, it seems like the only people that are on the right side are the motherfucking ostriches that we see on the T.



So please, let's just do each other a big one and not just carry on with business as usual because you can't do that when well, things are highly unusual. It's not genuine... and the saddest piece about this is how bad at doing a thing about anything we've become. That's what's sad.

So please, don't just carry on as usual. Take the steps, any steps, something to get us back into being able to carry on usual, cause we are  just getting further away each and everyday. 


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Everything is just Great



So for a lot of non-profits, the pressures of budget season has swept over us like a northern gale... sorry, I actually don't know what that means. But essentially as the state budget is being released, more individuals are getting e-mails in regards to issues like this one. More and more non-profits that provide crucial services to the community are struggling to get the funding to stay viable.

A lot of these non-profits operate on budgets in the hundreds of thousands or tens of thousands in comparison to a state budget in Mass that can be around 30 billion dollars. If we're to do the math, when a lot of social service and non profit organizations ask for a half million dollars to disperse across youth development organizations, organizations that support the arts, health and human services we're talking about .0015% of the budget. That's a drop in a barrel that all these organizations have to then divert immense amounts of energies to advocate for that often seems futile to the legislatures representing us because it is just a drop in a barrel in funding. 

If as a society, we are tolerating the gross inequities in wealth that create some extremely dire circumstances for probably around half of our population, then at the very least we should  make sure that the very little needed to ensure service agencies to support those in these dire circumstances are able to function well. It's very little financially to ask, it's the moral thing to do and it's the economic thing to do. If we spend money on ensuring that the youth in our communities are well supported and have access to the adequate resource to function in today's information economy, than that's less money we have to spend on $20,000 - 30,000 a year on prison and other societal costs (though the prison industry might not be in favor of American society actually bettering itself as that's not profitable for them).

So in contrast to this, next year maybe in January, we'll have the pleasure to see the World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland. There, you can meet the 85 people who have more wealth than HALF OF THE WORLDS POPULATION. These 85 folks who probably just have a lovely time together in Davos, have more money than 3.5 billion people and of course that makes sense and is how things should be.

Where dreams are made if you're richer than anything 
So look, some people might profess that values of the free market, but to these extremes, the effectiveness of society is extremely limited and the ability of a large portion of our world to pursue a better life is devastated. In the end it can just feel sad and pathetic.

In a report released by Oxfam in regards to the World Economic Forum held  back in January, Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis was quoted in saying, "We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of the few, but we cannot have both."

Friday, April 4, 2014

Steps




Throughout all of our tumultuous past 5 - 10 years, there hasn't been that much of a response to what has happened. Not a strong one at least. There hasn't been people coming together, protesting, taking a stand in any meaningful way, against the bankers who got bailed out, against the wage disparity, or against policies that cause this changing climate. I shouldn't speak of the number of groups that I'm overlooking that are probably doing all sorts of things that I just don't pay attention to in the e-mails that get filtered to the unimportant section of my inbox automatically by gmail. I also still think Occupy was pretty cool for the few months it lasted but it was only a few months.

But for the millions of people who lost their homes due to a shitty mortgage, the tens of millions of people who have lost jobs or are living at an unlivable wage and the general weakening of our society partially at the expense of those who want the conditions to make sheer billions; it doesn't feel like people come together. Where would we go to begin with? I think it comes down to the fact that our democracy is eroding as we just don't see or know the people around us. We aren't connected. The millions of people who got foreclosed on in many of the sunbelt states would have made a pretty good army. However, there is no connection in the suburban world of subdivisions where you can barely walks from one section of a neighborhood to the next. Nobody knows and feels as though they need to know each other. We're so connected to our digital world that we just don't have the chance to be tuned into an actual world around us.

I don't know if civic action really counts for that much anymore either. Obviously if you're the only one in a movement, it's not going to be that strong of a movement. However, money speaks really loudly and when you just have so much more wealth in people's hands and so much more ability for that wealth to equate influence on our elected representatives, then so much else can just be drowned out. I just imagine as well that things are maybe more complex now. It's hard to even understand why the repealing of Glass Steagall in 1999 might have been a really significant factor in allowing our financial sector to take such riskier moves. It's hard maybe to get passionate about the policy nuances or all the corruption that happens in such convoluted systems. It's also hard to maybe have enough people around you be able to be on the same page with it.

As usual, not much of a constructive solution will be posed. Maybe a few things though would be useful to encourage:

  • Write your representative with concerns. Especially at the state or local level. I think they like hearing from you, one wrote back.
  • Talk with and get to know your neighbors. Find ways to make connections and share concerns about what's going on in the community. 
  • Attend council meetings at the many levels of your government. 
  • Pay attention to what's going on - a lot of it sucks and is kind of negative (which might be a media thing), but still it's really important to know. 
  • Comment and share ideas in a range of venues. 
  • Sign or start an initiative in your town. 
  • Volunteer in your community. It really helps get you connected to it.
  • Definitely donate foods, goods and money to the right places. Just not Sheldon Adelson. That guy sucks.  
Enough of this man's preaching.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Disparity



Look, just as we move forward with things, the disparity of wealth that we have as many of us have heard continually blather about is insane. For people who are removed from it, it just means that there is so much under-investment in our infrastructure, our schools, our health care system and so many different areas of our society. We have more debt for the costs we do need to incur and more problems arise as there are more people who are struggling financially. It's not sustainable. In the globalized information age we are in, we can't have public institutions unravel and become inaccessible to so much of our population, when now more than ever, we need an adaptive, literate and competent workforce. An education is needed to be able to function, adequate access to food, health care and transportation is fundamental to everyone's ability to navigate the world we currently reside in. The tax rates that the wealthiest pay today and the loopholes that are utterly pervasive will only cause further neglect. Our tax rates today are ridiculous compared to many other developed countries and to previous eras in U.S. history that we deem successful. 

Having the disparity of wealth we have now is simply cancerous in countless ways but it's also just terrible for the functioning of our economy. Having a consumer economy where there is very little spending power doesn't allow for anything near optimized market performance. The few million people in the upper tiers of the income brackets cannot spend, invest or do enough to keep capital flowing through the rest of the economy compared to a society with a more broadly based distribution of wealth.

We need to do considerably more than we are all doing about this, but often it's hard to see a way out with people's attitudes and so much special interest influence in congress.  

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Let's Brew Together





There is a new coffee shop in town. What a surprise. I think there's probably a billion.
This coffee shop, Boston Brewin Coffee, located on 45 Bromfield St., is different though. It's small... real small. It's the size of maybe two big closets and there is certainly no real place to sit. You definitely can't horde it's table space and wi-fi treating it as an office. I think the coffee's real good, but to be honest, I could be drinking motor oil and might not know the difference (other Yelp reviews do high light the general satisfaction one can glean from consuming the coffee)

However, it's the feel and atmosphere that Tom Barnes' has created in this phenomenal institution that makes it so special. Unlike most of the city of Boston,  it's  incredibly friendly and welcoming. Tom and the rest of the staff make it a point to foster lovely conversations and establish a connection with you while you're there. They get to know you, they'll make it a point to make your day (one Yelp reviewer explains how they sang happy birthday to them on their birthday) and are just wonderfully nice and welcoming people. You even end up talking with the other customers just from being in there. That doesn't normally happen in this city.
It's part of I think a larger experience they try to create in their coffee shop which you can get a sense of from there "about us" page on their website here. They also are all good with the food they get and support other organizations like the Haley House Cafe by procuring their delicious pastries. 

Just Amazing Folks
So all of this seems like a Yelp review which you should write for them when you do go and have such a lovely experience. Largely though, it pertains to my usual rantings of the importance of contentedness in society. The type of interactions that you get at a place like Boston Brewin Coffee are needed. As social beings we need to be, well social.  I can rant further about the importance pf these conversations for civic action or for higher levels of well being, or to help stem an "epidemic of loneliness" in our country. Mainly though, I just want to highlight this wonderful coffee joint as something that we all can and should experience on a more regular basis... a short friendly interaction with someone you didn't know that is part of your community. That's something you won't find brewed up in just any cup of jo'. 



(sorry for the awful last sentence)

Friday, September 27, 2013

Unemployed What-Have-You




As someone who was recently unemployed due to being downsized, I'd like to elaborate a little on my experience as maybe it's a little bit useful to someone who is going through a similar experience. I'll very much emphasize that there are many, many factors that would make someone else's situation much more trying and difficult then others. I was very fortunate to have a masters degree of sorts (M.Ed), to have some decent experience, not too much in bills and a slew of other things that certainly should prohibit me from "telling folks what to do". There are also a slew of articles about career steps to take when you're unemployed which I don't want to focus on as much as the personal experience of unemployment and how to keep yourself going through such a time. Again, I'll mostly talk about my experience which may or may not be relevant to others. 

I'll first mention that it's taken me close to four months to land a full time job. I applied to 57 positions and had 13 interviews with six different organizations. I was applying to positions mostly in the non-profit, education, human services and higher education fields but also was motivated to secure a job with benefits that was full time. I didn't apply to many part time jobs but was at the point of reconsidering this. I expected to be unemployed for maybe 2 - 3 months. At the beginning I remember not really wanting to put the time into research as how to more effectively secure a good position thinking that I wouldn't be unemployed that long. I might of hesitated a couple of weeks to get on unemployment. I think that was somewhat of a mistake. I wish I had done a little bit more leg work at the beginning that would have paid off overall in maybe securing something sooner. 

Being unemployed is tough (though I'll emphasize again for most folks there would be a lot more pressure than what I experienced). On one hand you have a lot of time. You might think to yourself, "I should do all these fun things while I have this time as that will change when you're fully employed." Often you can't. You would feel too guilty doing so as you don't have a secure source of income. You have a finite amount of resources to spend at these points and certainly need to be thoughtful. Your job is to find a job which can take a lot of effort and energy, but at the same time it can be tough as the unemployed life is an unstructured one. It can be awfully discouraging as you send out an application and often just don't hear anything back. It can be scary and you can feel pretty bad about yourself even if you became unemployed because of external circumstances outside of your control (downsized). 

Securing part time, contract work was really helpful. I worked at a summer camp when they were short on staff and helped out with some educational programs. This really helped psychologically in keeping me somewhat in the habit of working and feeling productive while also bringing in some needed cash flow. It's also something I could refer to on job interviews. However, I did at points turn down work to ensure I had enough time to apply to other places. 

I was in a situation where I was applying to a wide array of jobs that were often fairly different. This made writing a cover letter somewhat tricky as you had to change things up a decent amount to make it match the job qualifications. What was helpful was simply having a document where I categorized and saved all the different cover letter sections I've written and thus had something to draw up. This was my Master Cover Letter Template. My girlfriend (whose pretty good at dealing with all job app jazz) very wonderfully looked it all over to make sure it was edited and helped add some pretty clutch statements that I think overall improved my rate of getting offered the chance to interview. She did this on track changes so I didn't have to accept all of it. A common phrase I used at the end of each paragraph was "to the position of (assorted position I was applying for), I would bring someone with a wealth of experience in developing and delivering curriculum." That was useful in terms of the cover letter.

This felt psychologically helpful, but basically, one of my friends mentioned to have a threshold of applying to two jobs a day and then you could be done. On many days I didn't reach this point, but this provided a bit of much needed structure having this threshold in mind. I could apply to two jobs and then enjoy the rest of the day. Some days there weren't two jobs that I thought I was that qualified to apply for, but still that was helpful.

I used idealist.org a lot. The job I've accepted is one I found there. However, indeed was helpful, as was higheredjobs.org. I applied to some jobs at universities but none of those went anywhere. Finding some human service organizations and larger non-profits to regularly check for relevant opportunities was helpful too. I had used google drive and docs to record every job opportunity I've found and make relevant notes if I was offered an interview or rejected. This was helpful just to keep everything together, especially when I used different computers.  

Staying positive was hard at points but I think good to do. I can be pretty bad at editing and polishing up work. I generally loathe writing a cover letter (see previous post here) and think it's absurd that you have to do so even though often you'll just not hear anything back and often employers might not even read the damn thing. I feel like there's generally a better way for our job market to operate. So I had some weeks where I ranted and raved like some type of petulant creature. At some point though I tried to focus on some of the positives of being unemployed (unsuccessfully) by saying ... Oh it's great getting to learn about all these organization, it's neat getting to develop my writing skills, it's wonderful having this time to catch up with friends, it's nice having some time to do some other projects and have a little lull. This effort, though not always successful, I feel was better than ranting and raving. I still think some reforms to the job application process are in order, but that's necessarily helpful to dwell on when you need to find your next place. Staying positive about yourself was hard at points, but definitely important. Realizing it's pretty normal to be unemployed and that you are in fact employable seemed beneficial to remember. It's tough though as you can have a lot of time and mull on things and also get rejected in a lot of different ways throughout the process. Keeping up with running, eating well and all that self-care jazz is good to keep in mind. 

That's about it for now, below are all the articles I wrathfully read to brush up on my job hunting skills. 

http://www.theladders.com/career-advice/creating-effective-cover-lettersCreating Effective Cover Letters
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/06/jobs/06search.html?scp=1&sq=korkki+and+morgenstern&st=nyt&_r=0How to Turn Downtime Into Job Offers
http://www.theladders.com/career-advice/how-to-write-cover-letterHow to Write a Great Cover Letter
http://www.careerealism.com/things-should-doing-unemployed/5 Things You Should Be Doing If You’re Unemployed
http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/shouts/2013/04/essential-advice-for-your-lengthy-unemployment.htmlESSENTIAL ADVICE ON YOUR LENGTHY UNEMPLOYMENT
http://careercounselingblog.turningpointboston.com/TURNINGPOINT CAREER COUNSELING COMMUNITY
http://bostoneventslist.com/us/boCareer Events
http://www.turningpointboston.com/article_finding_work_that_inspires_you.shtmlFinding work that inspires you
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SkcIIY00d30
http://careercounselingblog.turningpointboston.com/Cover letter necessity
http://www.askamanager.org/2007/06/what-does-good-cover-letter-look-like_13.html
http://www.bridgespan.org/Publications-and-Tools/Career-Professional-Development/NonprofitCareers/Sample-Cover-Letter-John-Jones.aspx#.UdDUuDugUccCover Letter what have yous
http://www.idealist.org/view/job/wczMDTFMPfsP/?utm_source=Indeed&utm_medium=organic&utm_campaign=Indeed
http://idealistcareers.org/5-ways-to-give-your-job-search-a-boost/5 ways to boost your career search
http://www.realsimple.com/work-life/life-strategies/job-career/how-to-find-job-00000000035083/page5.htmlHow to Find a Job (Yes, Even Now)
http://idealistcareers.org/how-to-ease-into-a-new-job/Easing into a job or something godawful
http://www.theladders.com/career-newsletters/three-ways-you-re-sabotaging-yourselfThree ways you're sabotaging yourself
http://www.theladders.com/career-newsletters/it-s-not-about-me--it-s-about-you----the-20-questions-you-need-to-ask-in-a-job-interview-June-2013It's not about me, it's about you... the 20 questions you need to ask in a job interview
http://idealistcareers.org/175-questions-to-ask-during-a-job-interview/175 Job questions



Monday, September 23, 2013

Foraging Towards Heaven


There  is no future out of the abyss that we've created for ourselves as a populace. That being said, sometimes we can find kernels of hope that can erratically burst with life in the otherwise doomed wasteland we call society. One of these that I was most blessed to find was in a book entitled, "Backyard Foraging", by Ellen Zachos. This very engaging annal documents 64+ plants that can be harvested, prepared and eaten by us humans. This women is a saint and I would gladly do most anything she requested.

download

This is because much of my Boston experience has revolved around the act of muttering vehemently at the flora that is present as if it could even listen. TThis is due in part to the immense amount of invasive and especially non-native invasive species of plant that inhabit the Urban Wilds. The Norway MapleJapanese Barberryswallow wort and Purple Loose Strife really do as much to crush our hopes and dreams for the future as they horde space, water and resources away from vegetation that would actually give something ecologically. Don't get me started on the Japanese Knotweed which could probably grow on top of your X-box console as it is that adept. These plants are hell on earth yet and in many ways we've lost any semblance of control over them.


The joy of Dr. Zachos' (I don't know if she officially holds a doctorate but I will certainly regard her that way!) book is that it guides you through the realization that  much of these horrid weeds are edible! Not only are there many edible plants out there, but many are healthy and sometimes delicious! For example...
Milkweed  - Many edible parts.
Dandelions - many edible parts (come forth sometime and we can brew some dandelion wine!)
Sassafras leavesDay Lily flowers, Garlic MustardRose Hips = edible, edible, edible, succulent!

And yes, the Knotweed is edible too. We're thus able strike back in a way that can help us be stewards of our environment and of our bellies. Some of the choice edibles one has to be considerate of. We shant' eat too many huckleberries for there might not be enough for everyone. You might also think, that a meal of just plants isn't the greatest. However only plants is what ultra-Runner Scott Jurek eats and that man has run hundreds of miles at a  time! Can you argue with that?
Jurek
You Can't Argue With That
Somewhat related (though mostly not at all), this book can remind us of the works of the angry scientist Gary Taubes. This man, I believes, spends a lot of time writing to espouse an Atkins type diet saying that refined carbohydrates are what make us fat. It would be important, from Taubes perspective, that any of our carbs that we consume come from vegetation that is harder for our body to digest. This would prevent the insulin spikes that cause our cells to horde their fat rather than burn it. You can eat the squirrels too, but certainly don't refine any damn wheat into flour. Taubes will get you!

Taubes

I now enjoy my runs now interspersed with foraging romps through the patches of Knotweed. I try to crush much of it (don't worry it's a futile effort and there will plenty of the damn weed to go around) as I wade through it's satanic groves. I look for ripe shoots that I can feast upon as I become satiated on their slightly lemony flavor and the sense that I am giving out at least a tiny fraction of the justice that they deserve as a species. This gives me at least an grain of hope. Make sure one only forages from plants at least 100 feet from roads!
What if we could all join together in foraging? We could all ignore the reams of products that the industrial food complex like to regurgitate upon us. The Spinach I like at the Shop and Stop costs me at least $3.00! I could forage my own salad and in fact the dandelion leaves are healthier! If we could all forage somewhat we could both do a small amount to help dismantle the machine that looms over us all and help maybe stem the overwhelming flood of invasive plants and their utter wrathfulness upon our fertile land.

Machine
The Machine

Thank you and god bless america.