Sunday, August 5, 2012

An Ode to Loafering: It's All we Really have Left

I don't know what I'm doing most of the time but still would consider myself "busy". Sometimes I'll be busy as I can't find my keys, or sometimes I'll be busy as I don't know where the pants are with all my "stuff" inside and thus am unable to leave the house securely. Sometimes I'll pace back and forth many times rather than get laundry together. I get real busy like. I can show you busy...

But perhaps in our world that... well... really needs a lot of work... we can acknowledge that much of what we are busy about is maybe not worth our raised stress level. This is what the wily, and appropriately aggressive Radio Host Tom Ashbrook explored in one of his pieces delightfully titled as "The Busy Trap" (might not be titled this...)on NPR's On Point. This was quite an illuminating piece that I think is important. 

(Photo: J. Costa)
Mr.  Ashbrook: More heroic than I'll ever be...
We're busy, but often it's not because we actually are. For whatever inane economic or social reason, sometimes  and sometimes with high frequency, we spend so much time saying, feeling and acting busy. I do this. It can cause us to lose sight of whats really important and also to tarnish much of our enjoyment. We also, and I also certainly, frequently do so overemphasize how important what tasks we need to get accomplished completed. We're unable to step back and say "hold off a bit". Society does this to us, especially Western society I think. This is noted by the two delightful Authors (one a Southerner) who conducts some thoughtful analysis facilitated effectively by Mr. Ashbrook into the nature of what they term as "Loafering".

Loafering refers to those instances where you might get lost in conversation with a friend and lose track of time; it's the time you spent the whole day gracefully fishing while maybe even sipping beer and maybe  not even catching that much but still enjoying the afternoon; it's those hours you "wasted" with friends just shooting the shit where nothing might have been concretely accomplished but you leave smiling. It's shirking responsibilities for some time to do things that you just enjoy and can be present in.  It's doing something that might be exploratory but certainly enjoyable that gives you space to be refreshed and ready for later challenges. It re-centers you in the moment; to the place and time that you currently inhabit, just to exist and enjoy. It can counterbalance this busy trap that we often can fall prey to. 

I got some loafers...

Loafering is crucial when possible I've come to realize. I really do think it gives you a  refreshing amount of space to just be; it helps you think of the journey as something as meaningful as the destination, and it can do a 180 on your stress level. It helps you enjoy with less, and appreciate what's actually around while potentially giving yourself the space to see and experience more of the actual world.

You could loafers here

My girlfriend has drastically helped me to loafer more. As we both enjoy the woods (and know a little ecology), we've  had times where we've just spent the whole morning exploring a pond, or open field and then maybe taking an hour to watch a dramatic sky pass overhead. She's good at loafering (potentially  due to her lack of native origin in the Boston Area). This has been important for both of us, but certainly for myself. I can be especially ineffective at being busy whereas Loafering... I can be good at this.

... or here...

This past weekend, I was insistent that I have  some time to Loafer  and was due to visit an old friend which was delightful. My friend pushed back the time in which we were to meet which made me decide to saunter over at a slower pace and enjoy some of the nuances of our Commonwealth. Mind you I ended up stuck in in the midst of rush hour traffic which isn't very conducive to loafering, but I eventually pulled over in an embankment and figured I could explore the woods while I waited out the rushed hour. This worked out nicely as I found some pretty spots to enjoy, and perhaps only got a slight amount of poison Ivy as I waded through wood land lots that weren't meant to be waded in. Eventually I found a delightful farm where they were selling plants at very reasonable prices. I was able enjoy the various offerings, discuss some nuances of botany with the owners  (at a slow and relaxed pace) and had a real period of mirth. Later I stopped at some parks in neighboring towns, continuing to amble and viewed memorials of sorts. Again, slowly, and without too much care for deadlines.

Definitely know how to Loafer.

The authors both do a nice job of noting the economics that are currently in play in that many people simply can't afford to loafer and need to be as busy as they are. I definitely concur with this. Our economic situation maybe absolutely necessitate a life of busy for millions of people in the. On top of this, once you have kids, the current nature of parenting and the innate responsibilities of rearing your offspring do take a toll on your time and can stack on the busy. Perhaps there are still ways to loafer, and still enjoy but I imagine at the very least it get's harder, and for some, it might not be an option.

I'd have a question about loafering with television, the internet and any technological 'what have yous'. I'm wondering if it would be cheating in some cases. These items are too automatically arousing. I would say loafering should refresh your systems (as does the delightful Souther Writer that articulates this concept). Often internet usage and video games are very fun and arousing, but I'm tired moreso after using them. More often then not, I'm kind of isolating myself with them and from the outside world certainly, but that might just be me. Maybe if you use the media as a tool to enhance your sociability with friends and loved ones, and are relaxed about it, it can still  count as loafering. Mind you, if I'm all about to be up in people's grill as "the loafer police", well what I twat I would be so who am to Judge.

Great way to loafer in one knew how which is impossible....

The concept of Flow comes to mind when I think of Loafering. The philosopher Czyksamahili (if I spelled this right without looking something up that might be the greatest accomplishment of my month of August), argued that we all want to maximize our time in this state of Flow. Flow occurs when we are hyper engaged with a task, project, craft or problem that we might be working through. It's that point when Musicians really click with their instrument or scientists become extremely focused with their current research. The state of flow means you are immersed in what you're doing, you're in state that allows you to produce as much as possible, you can learn and develop a great deal and it's a very fulfilling and important state that we want to maximize for ourselves and others. I do remember reading that Czykas..... whatever his name was argued that it requires active initiation; TV was cheating for example.

Just will never be able to say this man's last name

Anyways, it would be thought (well only by me maybe) that Loafering can help augment Flow, by returning you to a state where you are more presently engaged with your surrounding; where you've allowed yourself the refreshment of your cognitive faculties to then accomplish things more strenuous, and basically you're immersed not inside  your own world of stresses, concerns, internal monologues, but in one where you're engaged with the physical and social world around you. Let's loafer some...

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

To Not Be Wretched

A starting point for my inane rants starts from two articles I've read by the maverick, Op-Ed columnist in the Boston Globe, Jeff Jacoby. I have no idea if he is an actual maverick nor do I know what op-ed means. Regardless we'll start from here.

Progressing forward, recently I was reading his piece "Tax Avoidance is Lawful and Logical" arguing that Senators Chuck Shumer and Bob Casey go too far in disliking Eduardo Saverin, an ultra - wealthy facebook founder who recently renounced his U.S. citizenship to move to Singapore. I too like Durian and don't want to be allowed to spit or chew gum. Shumer and Casey wanted to double the capital gains tax for any ex-patriats that attempt to do business in the U.S. Saverin made some reasonable arguments that he broke no rules and that we might as well tax those who move from states like New York to Florida as their motivated in a same way. He argues that, though unseemly, it's not something we should try to tax as what Saverin did breaks no legal code what so ever and was based on logical economic incentives.

Going further Jacoby had a previous article entitled, "Thanks Obama, but wealth is not Theft", really is something that I was more aghast of. He counters Obama in arguing that economic inequity is not a problem and Obama is utilizing this to engender sentiment in his campaigns. He different between different types of equality and discusses why Americans in the end will not agree with the president. Here I'll try this things and cite some piece of it:

“In a democratic, capitalist society, gaps in income are inevitable,” write Peter Wehner and Robert Beschel Jr. in the current issue of National Affairs. “Yet it is worth noting that democratic capitalism has done far more to create wealth, advance human flourishing, and lift people out of destitution than any other economic and political system. . . A policy agenda that has as its top priority the elimination of income gaps. . . not only encourages resentment but also threatens the American economy — because a narrow focus on closing gaps tends to go along with reduced overall growth.”

There's this. Yes gaps are inevitable. I can agree that wealth created as well generally.  Hold on though, here's Jacoby's conclusion...

There is no fixed limit to the wealth a society can produce, and today’s “1 percent” produce an amazing amount of it. But their wealth takes nothing away from the other 99 percent. We are all free to rise as high as talent, education, and hard work will take us. Wealth is not theft. Productivity is not zero-sum. If economic disparity is a problem, then the way to solve it is by raising those who are stuck near the bottom, not tearing down those who have climbed to the top.
I'd like to attack this on two ends. I absolutely believe people should be motivated to be successful, however, not to the extreme we are seeing. Alluding to Saverin, I don't understand why ultra wealthy people work so hard at maintain there ultra wealth. I always want to ask, what else do you need with your extra millions? How much can you gorge upon in global economy you hollowed, empty soul?! Having enough money is crucial, and being rich is a nice thing, but just being hugely rich beyond all schemes is something different. Mind you Saverin will probably invest his money again maybe and we call fiddle about in his oppulence as it theoretically trickles down. Maybe people just see the government as so dysfunctional and thus don't want to pay taxes to support it? Still though, I don't get why the ultra rich work so hard to hoard so much.

Obviously the ultra-rich are good at it, often making and sustaining this ultra-wealth, but literally billions of other people could use just a little bit of all the life blood that they have and it would really make their day. It could help to sustain a school so it could maintain reasonable class sizes, or it could ensure the access of a system of public transportation, or it could help a family stay insured to be able to receive adequate medical care without the threat of financial ruin in trying to pay it off. That .5% of their hundreds of millions or billions could ensure access to the basics for the millions that need it; food, clean water and shelter. The institutions that people like Saverin probably relied upon (roads, schools, hospitals, environmental sustainability for agriculture) are struggling right now. Yes, these institutions are failing as a result of mismanagement sometimes. Largely, I think they fail because rather than having a citizenry that's involved in supporting them and ensuring their solvency we have so many individuals effectively taking such a proportion of the resources needed to sustain them.

I would argue the opportunity that was present in America for those willing to work hard, play by the rules and be successful for themselves and their family is not nearly as present as it once was. No longer are there that many jobs, albeit factories and agriculture previously to that, where you can work full time and make enough to support yourself and move up the economic ladder. A college education is becoming the requirement and the norm and this is costly.

Climbing a ladder with broken rungs

There is a foundation that is pushed up in our day and age in our global economy that requires a huge investment to get into. I would generally say that the ultra rich are significantly much less likely to have started out with little economic resources to begin with. Most likely (by no means all the time) they had a foundation; families with money in a wealthy community, the unquestioned ability to go to college, great schools to prepare them, maybe test prep classes to get a higher SAT or ACT score, great technological access, and basic access to more than everything they needed to prepare themselves and enter our global economy. I think if they made in the global economy they still have worked incredibly hard, but it was unquestioned for them that they were  able to enter.

Contrast this to those growing up in families and communities that do not have as much resources readily available to them. Where schools are overcrowded and staffed less; where their is more crime, less access to healthy food, reasonable transportation and health care, more access to environmental pollutants and contaminants leading to higher rates of asthma, cancer and birth defects; more access to crime and drugs, and less access to reasonable to alternatives. This day and age especially, with such costly requirements to enter our global economy; the idea that these individuals need to just pull themselves up by their bootstraps is disgusting and those who typically say it don't begin to understand what it would be like coming of age in these circumstances. 

Education Inflation

I would fervently argue that the ultra rich really must have a harder time swallowing their drivel of the beautiful essence of an unfettered free market. You all have fettered up the free market so it's really not that free anymore. Between the bail outs for corporations that were too big too fail; the feverish amount of lobbying securing tax cuts, regulatory change and immense financial contracts, this is not an open and free market. This is not a market where only the fittest or best survive. Our major financial actors in some way contort the landscape to suit their needs and thrive not nearly as much because they deliver a superior product, service, or have the greatest methods; they often have the current level of wealth and are well in grained enough to ensure that the financial environment suits their specific needs at the cost of others.

Rather than just being disgusted all the time, and I'm no means above most if not all of my drive. I would urge the ultra-rich to tone down their ultra richness; to step back and see if you can get a broader view of the economic horizon we're facing as a society. We're struggling. It is your responsibility to share, give, donate, invest, advise and take whatever steps need to be done in whatever way is best but actually making sure that your clout spreads to those who have so much less so that we can function again as a country and society. It's not a nice thing for you to do, it is what you have to do. You need to be focusing not on how you can further your personal gain, or the gain of just the sector of society you belong in, but how you can create the opportunities for others to enter our market place and contribute; where more of our citizenry has the credentials, background and education so that they can sustain themselves and the communities around them.

 I would say to Jacoby that at some point in American History it was fine to tout the glory of becoming rich, that it's part of our American passion, and that inequity is just fine; but to the degree we have our inequity right now, this message is obsolete. We can't justify the continued greed and bad behavior of our upper tiers by saying that this is just logical based on principles of our free market. We need to have advanced further than this; we need to be at a place where the immense wealth we've reaped since WWII is put to better use in strengthening the foundation of what we call a nation and where the immense power that our upper tiers of citizenry is not used solely to entrench their continued power but to grant them the chance to better their support and spur the growth of the larger communities that they are a part of. 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Give me a Paper... A Newspaper

Look. I'm by no means an ideal citizen and certainly not one to be listened to for very long or really at all. I also will be writing things about stuff which really I don't know much about. But I got urges. We all do. You're gonna hear about them.

That being said, I'd like to talk with all y'all about why I like newspapers. When I first started reading them, I found them cumbersome.  I can lose pages often. Trying to get to page A 4 or G 9 took some time. Sometimes I spilled barbecue sauce on them. But with practice, I developed some skills in maneuvering each wispy page of the Boston Globe or the New York Times. I enjoyed taking the news on the T. It would make my journeys to Cambridge or Downtown Crossing feel worthwhile and I would exit the subterranean layer of Boston's transit system a little wiser then which I entered. The paper was big and I had somewhat of a fort that I could reside in which made me feel safe in some Freudian way. 

What I'll look like shortly.

The Boston Globe I believe to be thorough. Each news story is longer and more in depth then what you might get from TV news on CNN, Fox, or the Johnny Stewart show. There are also multiple pages in this newspaper... at first I was pretty overwhelmed. Am I supposed to read all this shit every fucking day? That's a lot. I don't know if I can read so good to begin with. Practice though. Practice makes perfect and you get accustomed to synthesizing all the rich stories offered in the news.

As I delved further into the newspaper and realized my day wasn't that useful to begin with, I realized how much I was learning. I could win arguments about abstract political or social issues (well win in my mind at least). I could rant our many pieces of evidence and offer exemplars of whatever sordid theorems I was trying to prove. I could find things to get real frustrated about that I didn't know existed and this gave me purpose. I could impress colleagues at work with particulars of various what-have-yous going on in the world. I could scour opinions but then also wallow in the nitty gritty details and put pieces and ideas together for myself.  I knew some great things about our cold city, Boston, and in knowing some of these things, it felt less cold.  I was an informed fucking citizen. 

The newspaper plops itself on your doorstep saying gently "If you want to be an adequate human being, get used to reading all that's in here asshole." The problem with on line news is you only have one story on your page at a time. I find that that's usually the extent I read before the facebook, addictinggames or pornography ensue. This guy agrees. The newspaper, in all it's voluminous glory (unless it's the Herald), says "this is how much you should read, burn in hell if you don't fuckface." You're not confined to one screen, you're not allowed to go to illicit, or sensational websites, and you're reminded this is your duty. You need to know this to be part of our society.

Why are we watching them again?

The media sucks. I know this kinda as do you. The sensational nature of programming today is really ruining much we hold dear. There is a huge amount of partisanship and kids are fat. News has to compete now. It has to entertain to get it's funds. It's gets sluttier because of this. No longer do we move to reach it's ideals, it sinks below the depths of our baseline morality and attempts to scare us, shock us, seduce us and use us. It's entertainment.

Newspapers are having trouble.  So hold on to those last bastions of semi quality information. Hold on to these papers like my grandparents did when they clipped articles that they found important. Sure we have the blogosphere and social media. But I don't know what good they do.  Everyone's got a blog now, even your Uncle Harry. Does that means we should listen to them. Is he trained in any reasonably journalistic practices? Am I? I don't think so.

Better than your Uncle Harry's blog

The nature of how we get the important information has become so convoluted and messy. Don't fuck us society. Ensure that we have our quality News that is rich, objective as possible, and varied to give us what we need to know. Support this institution. Be an informed an active citizen at least moreso to some degree. Support the good places of news*** (and at least explore what it means to be good) that provide us this information as its been the decline in our civic activity as a populace that has led to the disaster that we call a democracy today (well it's not all bad and thats an overstatement, but you know, congress is so divided and caustic, and you know... money and politics... huge wealth disparity... citizens united... I don't mean to offend).

*** Lord knows what I don't know,  but here is what I think are some good sources of news what have yous ***

The New York Times
Wall Street Journal
BBC news
Reuters (spelled like Roy-ters or something... don't ask me)
60 minutes
Meet the Press
NPR's Tom Ashbrook and All things Considered
The Economist
Slate Magazine
Boston globe
Washington Post
This dude who wrote this article
Spiegel (German and such)
Prospect Magazine

The onion

If you want to be real hard you can just go straight to C-span and get that ish for yourself.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Was I Too Born to Run?

We're all Born for Things

This was a brief conversational interlude that went on at Franklin Park as I was trying out my bare-foot jogging. This event weaves through some of the main ideas of this entry.

"Doesn't that hurt running bare-foot?"
"Yes m'am."
"Why are you doing it than?"
"I've heard it's good for my feet if I do it enough..."
"Do you really think you'll be conscientious enough to keep this up, you don't seem like the type of individual that would."
"You're probably right m'am."
"I don't know why you're running that way than. It's silly if you ask me and you probably need some direction in your life."
"Thank you mam."
"You look a little foolish you realize and you're also going at the same pace as me because you're in so much pain and I'm just walking."
"Thank you M'am, I just misplaced my shoes as I hid them under some leaves... I'm a little off course."
"A lot off course I'd say...Why did you hide your shoes? That seems foolish".
"Well I had to take them off, and I figured someone might take them"
"Why would someone want your stinky shoes that are probably in pretty shoddy condition and don't fit most people's regular sized feet?"
"Thank you m'am, point taken."

Ok, the lady was much nicer than this I'm embellishing for the sake of romance. Just to summarize though... my barefoot running was inspired by a completion of the "Born to Run Book" by Chris McDougalstein or something. This book explored the nature of running stemming from the frustration that apparently many modern day american runners experience. They are so injured all the time despite our fancy shoes. I thought I just ran like a sasquatch which is why I'm always hurt / frightened during a saunter. The author explores the world of ancient running cultures, namely the Tarahumara in the copper canyons in Mexico looking to see how and why they run real good. Apparently it's partially due to not having the really spanky Nike shoes with cushioning; they wear sandals; thin ones.

Our handsome author delves further into the nature of running and human evolution, citing evidence that humans evolved as long distance running creatures and we're built for it. He explains some of the mechanisms of the foot and our upright nature that makes us so good at distance running to the point that we could actually catch up to and slaughter a whole horse if we needed to. Lord knows I will do soon. Nike's fairly evil. However, we've lost out on most of this as the modern running shoes sort of put your foot in a tomb and cushion it ever so that it changes the style of your running where we don't develop the muscles in our foot that we have the potential to. Also, the cushioning extends your stride to the point where so much of the impact travels through your joints and knees. It's clunky.

 Going even further, McDingals cites research that argues that this is how we survived past our neanderthal peers. We chased down game, tiring them out to the point of death and exhaustion. As the climate changed from the ice age to a wamer climate, we thrived whereas neanderthals declined. That's how we do essentially this book argued.

My running style is like this guy's... hard and inane.

The author has a great race with all his new friends down in Mexico, he talks about how he we need to start running again as a society with fun in mind and with less cushioning and stuff, and now I've just spoiled everything for everyone except you've probably read this book like five years ago and this is ancient history... There you have it.

I liked the book. The author Jared was a little too exuberant about all his "conclusions". He's gotta tone it down a bit and stop playing "sammy the scientist" and remember that his evidence is evidence, but there's many different ways to collect and analyze data and their is plenty of contrary date out as well. Anyways I should stop playing some literary critic as I don't even know where I am right now.

This book was  fun, and had some neat ideas. I'm a sucker for anything "innate to human nature" and I was interested to try out them minimalist shoes and see if I too was "born to run". Prior to this I had "completed" a half marathon. The aches and pains killed me and by mile 10 I was walking (though I finished it in good stride as a kind fellow runner prodded me to do so with gentle cajoles). So I've tried some of this barefoot running and such. I'll have a bit of it when I cross over a grassy knoll or a golf course during a larger run.

 I got the funny five fingah shoes. I can't begin to run in those as based on my preliminary research I'll certainly get planar fraciitis as many others have. I have really flat feet which is problematic. When I walk in them I can't say that I feel welcome in society by any means. I feel like people see me and probably think I'm some type of amphibious creature that's gonna poach their chickens. Them glove shoes look real weird. But I'm trying to build up my arches enough to be able to get started with them.

So I don't know what to say in the end and I don't have anything to add. The barefoot running seems like a nice thing to try, but definitely slowly without running too hard, long or fast. Here is a link to a little how too with Mr. McDougal demonstrating some silliness on how to prepare your feet for bare running. He's a real guru and we should be so lucky, but who am I to satirically deride... what did I ever do that's worth putting on a mantel.

Going into this book, I also thought that this running thing is not a big deal. So what if we don't run as a society? Society's got some real issues  right now, running seems like the least of it. Author McDingal does a nice job of making this activity important. We're unhealthy as a society, and McDougal maybe believes that reminding / teaching us to return to what he believes as our origin as a species is what would really make us healthier physically and mentally. We're meant to run and we need to keep doing it. We often think of running as this separate entity, but it's something that for much of our history was ingrained into our survival and maybe it still can be and we'd be much better off for it. Running and the mindset of of being active is certainly relevant and important in our day and age.

I like the idea of this book. I like running.  It's always been something that makes me feel lively again and helps me unblock mentally and physically. I like the idea of our ancestors doing it for a large part of their waking moments, that it's helped them and us advance as a species. As anything in science, it's just a theory without complete validity but it's a nice one. Born to Run makes this running and ultra-running lifestyle more feasible, both by providing examples, tips and inspiration in getting us to be more active and appreciate what we as humans are capable of. Whether it's right or wrong I like it.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Making us Feel Like Death

So two stories come to mind that remind us evermore that the reaper's scythe is hanging ever closer to the vital organs of our ability to engage as a citizenry. NPR's voracious and longwinded Tom Ashbrook peers into the depths of a gorging swell of micro-labor, tasks, jobs, and other opportunities for work ranging from professional, to degrading, to "I'd rather wallow in frothy, vat of bile before I work like this for such little pay". From the other end, we're seeing our Supreme Court debate and ejaculate arguments as to whether the Health Care reform law is constitutional, lining themselves up ideologically, and spending time, effort and resources destroying more things sanctimoniously.  

We're seeing the nature of work and employment become more schizophrenic; more experimental, but more inhumane, more removed from our public sphere's scrutinizing eye; we're seeing some piece of safety net being eroded by the forces of special interests. I wish everyone would stop, think, and listen. 

These internet web-sites like task-rabbit and others involve competing for stupid pieces of work that are really hard to sustain yourself on. You're competing potentially with individuals from all around the world where the standard of living is much lower than it is here and of course they will be able to outbid you for work. Sometimes they're neat and useful ways to get things completed and to generate income on the side, but they're definitely iffy and have the potential to move the nature employment further out of the sphere of the public realm where  employment protections laws can be applied. Maybe that's ok, but maybe not. As an asinine young buck like myself, I don't have any sort of wisdom to decide but maybe Harold Ramis does...

At the same time, taking away the potential for accessible health care really has a duality in piercing through the flesh of having a sustainable society. I just wish Scalia, Thomas, Roberts would stop already... stop ruining so much. You've done so much damage already with citizens united that I'm haunted by the potential for Super Pacs to be lurking under my bed as I sleep, gloating at how much they're able to contribute to political candidates and calling me real mean names.


The duality of this is that if people are and feel safe to some degree, they're more useful. If I'm not worried about burgeoning debt and the potential for a injury or sickness to cost me tens, hundreds or even millions of dollars, I could be more useful to the economy and I might take a risk to engage more with the erratic tasks that could be useful in our labor force. Maybe I'd take the risk to start my own micro-labor web site. I could take these risks if I knew that I'd be mildly ok as I had something to fall back on. 

If I can potentially be taken care of in some basic way, I'll feel more comfortable experimenting with different ways to generate income and contribute to the economy in doing so. If I don't have this safety net, I'm gonna do something safe that might not be as useful in our experimental information age economy, but I'll do whatever it is that provides me with the health benefits. 

For the love of god, please give us some access to health; reasonable, health not egregious fancy health. I am not convinvced that the free market will make health care more effective and accessible. Free market individuals might argue that the nature of medical school,or the nature of medicare are what drive up the costs, but in the end, the goals of the free market; growth, higher revenue and what I feel the goals of health care should be; accessibility, keeping people healthy are fairly at odds. I don't see how a capitalistic system for health care could meet the latter goals. 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Gigganomitry (The Gig Economy)


So apparently there has been empirical, economic and journalistic analysis of my lifetyle in our hearty economy!  Apparently I've been part of the "gig economy" and I didn't even know about it! What a trendy title as well; a "gig", why I sound like a young rock start  fighting his way into the limelight!

Alright, so basically this gig economy is the idea of individuals holding multiple jobs or engaging in various types of contract work rather than working for one company full-time. Freelancers, part-timers, or temps are other terms for these individuals but the main idea is that these people do lots of different stuff at more than one place for money. 


Now the gig economy has always been around, but apparently now it's gotten more prevalent to the point where 1/3rd of the workforce is in some way involved in the gig economy. How great! So now it's sort of a big deal due to our economic downturn as this has become fairly economical for a lot  of types of business who can get people to work and not provide any of the benefits (health, dental, vision, retirement). 

Now I don't like to reveal too much about myself in my writings as one should be embarrassed to admit to associate themselves with this blog. But basically I have four different jobs (five if you counted being a blogger but that would just be disgraceful to say these writing are in anyway "professional" or "economic") that I juggle to make ends meet. I educate real good in all of them, but all these jobs are different and varying slightly in nature, but a lot of them are  dependent on the ability to "get gigs". I need to attract students to tutor, I do so through a tutor- contracting website known as wyzant. I substitute teach and have to hover around this website like an angry locust waiting for a teacher to make a sub request. I won't reveal two other jobs as that would be too personal, but I juggle a lot of jazz and it's interesting to say the least.


Now, whether or not this trend is a good thing, we deserve this as a society and I'll get to that later. I'll start by saying this can be very fun. I like all the work I do resulting from my ability to more easily choose this. I'm not hampered down by a job, I have a lot of freedom and independence, I have the chance to do things I believe are important in a way they should be done and I get to advocate for what I'm capable of doing when I remember to say things in that nature. Each day of my week is different and as they say variety is the spice of life, I certainly have this in my spice cabinet. My schedule can be flexible to make time for friends and family and in the end, I get paid to do the things I generally enjoy doing, which is just great.

From a negative standpoint is the lack of stability. It takes a while to piece jobs together and I can talk about how glamorous all the flexibility is until the economic reality hits you that you don't have much choice in your life when you're not bringing in the bacon enough. I have months where I'm up financially and months where I didn't get enough work together to feel like I'm financially viable. As mentioned here, any of the labor protection laws that were fought for in America's long history aren't able to conceptualize the gig economy and thus don't include them in their legislation. Things like unemployment, health insurance, and maternity leave (if I managed to hopefully get  pregnant) aren't covered for part-timers. Too bad. I do buy my own health insurance which Massachusetts can be nice about but it is still very expensive. 

From the viewpoint of society, I think the gig economy can be a great thing. I feel like I'm great for the economy. I'm like some type of fish in the ocean that trapses around a whale carcass and while other fish eat away at the good, satisfying, easy to reach parts of the whale, I wait till there's nothing left that the other fish want (say the bone marrow) and creatively devour that.  I'm not taking up that much in the way of available employment and I'm able to do work that full time employees won't do (with my ninja-like flexibility). Employers don't have to worry about "having work" for me to do full time as I'm not there full time and I can do a great job whenever somebody needs it. 

I think this trend just makes sense, and it's what we get as a society when so many of our institutions are this dysfunctional. Largely this is due to economics; it at least seems much more cost-effective to hire free-lancers than full timers. As many of our companies dwindle in profits, manage themselves poorly, or just become greedier; this is a result. Largely this is due to our mess of health and health care in our country. With soaring health care prices, it becomes so expensive to provide health insurance that it's a cost companies sometimes can't really (or prefer not to) handle. Whatever the factors are, it all adds up to pushing out the full time worker. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

How can we Function in Society if we Don't Know Where we are?


"If you don't know where you are, that's probably because you don't belong here". My mother told me this was an old New England credo referring to visitors venturing forth through the Boston area. I could see this being true. Streets are curvaceous; signs are sparse or non-existent; there can be many one-way roads and rotaries all up in your grill. The Boston area is tough to get around and I think this causes more problems than we think and I think we could find a creative way for everything just to make a bit more sense navigationally speaking.  

We have our MBTA system which can work despite it's massive deficit. However, any lateral movement is strikingly difficult as the subway only goes inbound or outbound. I can't begin to fathom taking the T  to Brookline, Allston or Dorchester as those coordinates are sideways to my current position, nor would I ever want to begin to set foot on the notorious B-section of the green line which is slower than Satan. There is also the complaint that the city's public transit system shuts down at the ripe hour of 12:30ish (you can't actually peg that final departing to a exact T). Like Cinderalla needing to return from the ball, having a night out afar from home will have you watching the clock with a fervor knowing that if you miss that midnight train, you'll be ragged, alone and deathly. 

Never get on this color train if you can avoid it!

Navigating by car or walking can be nothing sorts of treacherous. Overall this city is incredibly windy and at some point you just end up on Storrow drive when that was the last thing you ever wanted to do. Signs for major roads and highways are present but sometimes they seem to merely tease you as some other obstacle overwhelms your every whim and thwarts any chance of trying to reach I-90. There are one way streets that not only take you one way, but also manage to trap you in an area you didn't intend. Signs can often not be seen, and roads seem to morph into a different avenue like a developing tad pole that starts to grow legs and lose it's tail. I once circled around the Charles River 3.5 times; hugging and cursing it as I went in between Cambridge and Boston like I was playing a goddam game of duck-duck goose. I don't like that game.  Then for some reason I ended up in Dorchester. I don't know how I got there and nor will I ever know. 

You can't get there from here - Harvard Square
"You can't get there from here" situation in Boston.., 
I can get lost a lot. I've probably spent 3 - 7 years of my life trying to navigate things ineffectively. I absolutely lack a sense of direction and will be the first to admit that. However, my millions of minutes spent going the wrong way, going in circles, or actually going inside myself like a turtle is not completely the fault of my poorly developed cognitive maps. Our region does this to people, maybe deliberately. Not only is New England hard to navigate, but it also has the ability to sully any meaningful chance to develop a sense of spatial intelligence. Nothing makes any sense, at all. Our puritan ancestor released cows in different directions and there movement is what determined our current roads. Thank you everyone and all parties involved.

It is my belief this is something that we jest about, but it's more of a problem for society than we give it credit for. When I am getting lost in this city, what I'm most shocked about is not the amount of time it takes me to find my destination, but its the fact that most people around me seem to have no clue where my destination is either.

Doesn't know where is right now...
 I'll ask people, lots of people because boy am I sure lost, but often they won't know where a street, school, restaurant or baseball stadium are and they're walking dogs and stuff! Surely they live in the area if they're walking their dogs and surely if they live in the area they'll know where Putnam avenue is in Cambridge. It's a major street or artery but nobody seems to know where it is! One guy sent me the wrong way and another guy told me I should just give up, he can't help me and I won't make it to my job interview on time and won't amount to much with my life. Ok, that's an exaggeration.

I just think that this robs us of so much potential movement. Bostons not that big of a place. However, if you're continually getting lost, or can't conceptualize how to get somewhere it seems far larger than it should be. We can't have as much of a sense of community because we can't trust that we'll get to where we need to go. I don't see friends because I don't think I can find where they'll be. It's harder than you think to find Bridgie's house in Savin Hill, Dorchester even though I'm at Ashmont in Dorchester and I'll probably end up on 93 by accident. I have ice cream in my backpack as I bicycle along  Kendall Square, trying in vain to make it to a casual get-together, but this square is just too loopy and the Ben and Jerrys has now melted into goop. Davis Square had me walking the shape of a trapezoid for 43 minutes one New  Years Eve and missing that ball drop. I didn't care, but it was just the principle of the thing. The confusingness of our roads, and the lack of labeling causes so many missed moments and a lack of confidence in engaging with our communities.

Davis is not a square for for the tame of heart...

Obviously I don't think we should have another massive construction project to make our roads logical. As smooth as the Big Dig was, we might want to take a break from rebuilding a quarter of our city inefficiently. What can we do then? Well I think back to a book called "The Tipping Point" by Malcolm Gladwell. Now, I can assure you that I didn't like this book but basically it espoused that often there are very easy steps that cause a massive amount of change for how simple and easy they are. What a delight! The author gave some reasonable examples, but I think in Boston, we could find a tipping point in our city by drastically improving the signs, labelling, maps and aides that would help us know how to get from point A to point B.

At the very least, spending a concerted effort labeling our roads consistently and clearly would help. Whomever doesn't take part in this endeavor and should maybe could be punched in the face. But maybe thinking about the types of signs necesarry to navigate our stupid streets would be good. More visuals. Way more labeling of the building numbers would just be very easy and doable. There could be significantly more landmark signs... good ones. More street maps could be everywhere, not just at T stations but bus stops, restaurants and everywhere. Store owners should be fined if they're unable to provide citizens with directions (ok that's stupid).

If you want to get fancy which you don't have to, you could even have computer kiosks at major intersections and streets. That might be neat. People could operate a little kiosk loaded with google maps and on those days when I'm rushing to an educational program that I don't even know exists I might be able to actually get a sense of where it is. Pretty soon we'll have wonderful robot drones navigating the american landscape with us. As these robots take the time to photograph us and infringe on our civil liberties, maybe they could at least be programmed to help give us directions! What possibilities!

Could help me navigate Somerville before it destroyed everything we've accomplished as a civilization

So I don't know how to deal with this. I'm not Cecil-the-city-planner over here or something. Nor can I be certain that other people feel as strongly about this as I do as they're probably more reasonable than I am and know which direction North is when they see a map. However, just maybe, this might be a tipping point that could improves our commerce and sociability with one another. This could maybe be a cheap fix that could actually improve the livability of a our city and make us less like the miserable abominations we've been acting like all these years.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Exemplars of Inspiration

Every morning one can awake. We can look upon the world with eyes that we have. But then we hear something about Rick Santorum and a state of some sort. Then we hear something about Rush Limbaugh calling someone a whore and getting in real big trouble. We go throughout the day being around people but not actually daring to utter a single phoneme to them as that would be socially unacceptable. It might be warm, which is nice, but then we're reminded of "climate change" and we know that the 60 degree days aren't supposed to occur in a New England winter and that we're all gonna die. Then perhaps one gets a hang nail. It hurts. We try to find nail clippers, but they're pretty impossible to find. Our room's are too messy. Our cars are too messy. Society is too messy. 

Things can seem bleak friends. Bleak indeed. Below are some videos and examples of media that in some convoluted way  can give us hope if we choose to allow them to. 

"The most important film of our time is Norwegian"
If the country of Norway can manage their troll problem, can't we manage our lives and communities as well? Surely this masterpiece will do nothing short of delivering a good jolt of hope to our beleaguered and weary spirits. Is this movie really serious? I hope so... I hope so indeed. 

"Look for the hope, its there, it just blends in!"
Where is the hope? We must do the hard looking...
Is there hope in the world? I'm not sure? Its hard to see... But wait!! There it is!! Oh look, now its over there! Sometimes we cant see what's in front of us because it's just hard to see. Like this damn deer I took a picture of, hope can camouflage with its surroundings. When things seem wretched, maybe just spend some time looking more closelier and hope will reveal.

What can a stupid frog teach us about hope? Maybe everything. Amphibians are fucking dumb as fucking shit we say to ourselves as we gently fall to sleep at night. Perhaps they are indeed. But maybe, just maybe, they aren't always as stupid as fuck. If this doofy fat fucking frog is able to build a canal releasing his developing brood of tadpoles into the stupid life-saving waters, maybe  we can confront out inner-fucking demons as a society. Maybe we too can build a shitty canal... A canal of hope and dreams or some shit...

We Must Hope to not Sink to These Depths
How many times have we seen this montage of Nic Cage clips? Many I bet. but perhaps we can keep looking again. One can be reminded that even when things seem bleak, they aren't as bleak as the essences that Old Man Cage offers us in his various performances. By no means has our existence (well hopefully not) gotten this bad and thus we can still hope and hope to dream! We still have further we can fall but why would we want to? Does it look like Nic Cage is having a good time in these movies? Perhaps we can be reminded that we must hope! We must hope so we don't end up captured  by an isle of pagan women that will sacrifice us for their crop of honey! 

This Fool is Actually Hopeful
Though I am by no means convinced   here (Peter Diamandis) is someone who is actually "optimistic" about the future. Now, I don't like being a negative nancy, but this guy is a bit too much of a positive-polly-four-fingers for my taste. However, here we can listen to his thoughts that he delivers somewhat longwindedly and inefficiently. Towards the end of his time, he even counters his own argument but actually seems to forget that he countered it and doesn't answer his own question! See what you think for yourself, hopefully and maybe if more of us chose to be a little bit more hopeful, hope would ensue. 

The Sexiest Hope of All
I might live under a cave but I still have been able to see this video from LMFAO - (LMAO). You know, I know and they know that the video below is really exploring the themes of community and self acceptance. Drawing influences from Boy Bands, R&B groups, West Side Story, Buddhism and the Clinton administration, it makes our hearts soar like a hot-air balloon shedding extra weight. What hope I say!!!

Packaged inspiration from Our Youth's
One can view the clip below and ask, "were there actually 40 inspirational speeches?". If you're me, you'll then try to count to make sure that Mathew Belinkie didn't falsify his claim. If you're also like me, you'll lose track somewhere before the number eight as that's when things get tricky. However, what hope it would bring us if we listened to these two minutes today and everyday? What would our time on this Earth be like? It would be like hope is what it would maybe be like...

Alright, this article, does much better job of doing what I intended to do with this atrocious blog entry. So rather than sully it by stealing it's images, I will just encourage the zero people that read this to piece of crap to go to this other entry that probably went "viral" or something.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Book About Snookie

Alright, I just wanted to air another set of grievance and lord knows I'm a being that can hurl grievances and maybe we should all be doing so as there is much to grieve about from a societal standpoint if you look at things with a grimace like  you should.

TV sucks us all in, divides us all, erodes at our social bonds, makes us less fertile and surely will, and probably mostly has been the death of everything. But I'm especially pissed at it because of a show called American Dad. This show, a cartoon that appears on  Fox on the evenings of some day of the week, stems  from the series Family Guy and features an American Family (the father working for the government), his wife, son, daughter an alien and a fish. It's from the same writer as Family Guy, Seth McFergunson or something.

Take a guess as to whether you would consider this to be quality programming
This show is disgusting. I'm doing a poor job summarizing it but that's mainly because my very marrow evokes such a putrid response at the thought of this abomination of an example of media. In one episode, the father enters an avatar of an attractive girl that will date his nerdy son in an effort to spend more time with his child but is then plagued by the problem of potentially having to have the avatar sleep with his son. Of course this makes sense and is reasonable! The show takes time at the end to satire and tarnish the movie Aliens, and really further degrades my view of humanity. In another masterpiece, the Alien is for some reason killing high school students with his limousine I think because they didn't pay a cab fair or something. Either way, there is murdering of high school students, egregiously, mostly for not much gain and only for our further detriment of humanity.

This plot thread and character only take from the community at large

The show sucks, as it's not that funny, but even worse, it is utterly over-the-top and crude and still fails at evoking anything resembling humor. It's bad for society. It's a cartoon, and kids, who still have a significant amount of neuronal development will find this show funny because they don't have much of a prefrontal cortex yet. They're still developing which we all did at some point too. These kids personalities will surely be terrible if they watch enough of this program. They surely won't be able to adjust as well, maybe have a harder time forming relationships with the opposite sex, have a desensitized view of violence and foul language, their empathy might be somewhat lower and yea, they'll have crappier personalities (like the characters on the show who are role modeling).

Here's a graph I made that will elaborate on this show that should have been painfully put to sleep back in the Guilded age (and yes, I took the time to make the graph as I have this much of a life):

Humor looks at how much it makes us laugh. Contrast to say a good Chappelle Show clip, or a conversation with Bill Murray, this show isn't that funny. I don't laugh with it, at it or in it's presence. Mind you I don't want to remove my ability to laugh by watching this show which will be the nicest thing I say about it in this entry, but still, no funnies.

Soul looks at how much soul the show has. Mind you, this blogger sold his soul back in 96' for a popsicle, but as to what I know about this essence, soul looks at the morality, fortitude, and character of the program (and it's characters). Most certainly this show lacks any soul. The characters are hollow and empty. The entire program behaves on some realm removed from societal norms, limits, emotions, feelings, and is so far-removed from humanity that my intestines actually change their direction in disgust. Most shows want soul, but some can get away without it (take Seinfeld maybe?). 

Egregiousness: How much unneeded craziness is in the show. The key is unneeded, but this isn't always a terrible category. The key is to have other positive attributes that compensate for your egregiousness. Similarly to my romantic relationship, I'm egregious, but I also have somewhat decent interpersonal communication. So I'm allowed some egregiousness. 

Crudity: Everything's crude these days. It's hard to buy a pack of pretzels without something that wouldn't have been acceptable back in the 70's visibly displayed on the salty treat. But this show is definitely crude in terms of language, body odor, fluids, speech, parts of body and parts of speech. I wouldn't want my offspring watching it until they're old enough, and if they're old enough to watch it and they still choose to do so I would know I failed miserably in rearing them. 

Abomination: How much of the anti-christ is in a certain program? How much should we castrate, disembowel, decapitate, devalue, devolve, dismiss and derive this show as it's just ruining society so evidently? This also takes  into account how popular the show is... Crack isn't a huge social problem if I'm the only one doing it. Crack is a problem because millions do it. How bad and how popularly bad makes up this category.

Intellectuallnessity: How much smarts does a program show? Is their satire or mental algorithms? Are their multiple plot threads or room to analyze characters both psychoanalytically and psychosexually? This is a good quality to have, but not always needed. This show partially removes the foundation in which we can engage in intellectual discourse. 

Let's calibrate this scale with something positive. 

What America needs instead of moon bases

Here are classic Simpsons from the 90's when times were a bit simpler and when one used the phrase "social media" it really meant playing Sega Genesis with your friends while eating pizza at sleepovers. Anyways, just to contrast, The Simpsons is funny (humor). This show also had good characters and would at points invoke some morality in them. Mainly though, the characters were actually human so I give it a seven for soul. A little Egregious (I could actually lower that one to 5). Some crudity was there, at the very least when the Simpsons came out it was viewed as more controversial. It's very much not an abomination and I gave the show an 8 on Intellectualism as there was often much complex satire, some puzzlers, and some nuances amongst the characters ripe for analysis. The show was never too stupid usually  or at least  had enough of a counterbalance to it's stupidity (keep in mind I'm focusing on nothing further than say season 9). 

Though I wouldn't want my offspring watching it, I might not even have offspring and thus can enjoy South Park myself.

Take South Park. It's high on Egregiousness and Crude but it's also high on intellectuality, humor and has maybe some soul. It's characters are rich, they're actually very funny, and there is some good satire in the show which society needs at a time like this. Mind you, I still wouldn't show it to my conservative uncle or the pet rodent. 

For a more subtle touch, check out Napolean Dynamite...

Manages to be of a humorous disposition while not flinging filth every which way. Kudos. 

What intrigued me about Napolean Dynamite was that it was incredibly PG but still funny and reasonably successful. It's crudeness is quite low, as are most of the other ratings, but it's reasonably funny and has some soul. This was an amazing thing to do in the Bush-Era; to have something be funny but not rancid. I give it props for that. Now mind you, this movie came from MTV. Let's venture towards this topic as I have words to say with little coherency and validity towards this abhorrent network.

MTV, I don't like most things about you as an institution. Perhaps you could argue that if you weren't there, then somebody would be filling your void in a much poorer fashion. Still I'm fairly disgusted by a lot of the things you've done and will probably do.

Surely the best role-models for society

Namely, this stems out from an instance that occurred last year, when one of my 7th grade students, who was quite capable, bright and one of the harder-working students in the class brought in a biography of Snookie. Now this just bit me in the ass with it's irony. We were having trouble getting our students to read in general. Often kids don't like reading at that age, but here was a book that they're fine reading and it definitely looked to be over 150 pages... but it was the biography of Snookie. I wondered what the imagery might be like in this text? Did the author use good metaphor or foreshadowing to talk about Snookies on and off fling with The Situation? On certain days we felt like we just couldn't win and this was one of them.

Perhaps we could have  used the book as a tool for learning to make science more relevant. Maybe we could have used Snookie to explore concepts of density as she made various liquor-based drinks, or we could have used Snookie as a hook to explore heredity, bacteria, infectious diseases, but something tells me that would have been too far and in bad taste. Regardless, this was one of those "societies really dropping the ball" moments when this is what kids are reading instead of just about anything else.

Maybe I'm being too hard on The Shore and on Snookie. Maybe there's more to everything then I've chosen to delve into, but for some reasons I don't think so. Now MTV, I've always been frustrated by you. You used to show music videos primarily which... you know, fit nicely with your name of Music Television. I then had to watch TRL which stood for Total Recall Live or something (I think that was actually the movie where Arnold goes to Mars and assists in a mining rebellion). All your viewers had to sit through lots of commentary by Carson Daily when all I wanted to see was the damn Blink 182 video. This was before youtube, I couldn't just find the video easily on the information superhighway as they called it at the time, and instead had to listen to one crappy comment after the next, and sit through more than one N-Sync video which from a societal standpoint I was obligated to experience disgust towards. You never made things easy at all.

So much of your programming revolved around just editing and re-crapping the content you had previously shown in flashier and trendier ways. I felt like it was the same thing I was watching over and over again. But thank god you were so trendy and you could get away with that! It must have been so nice being so hip and fresh that you don't have to worry about producing quality programming.

A significant portion of your programming revolves around young people being really dramatic, drunken and (Dubious?) largely whorish. You just really had the Real World thing going where you were pretty effective at liquoring up a bunch of people and putting them in a house together. You're so hip! It's great! But really, did you want all of societies youth at the time to be dramatic drunken whores? If you did, you hit the three pointer. It seemed cool to be so dramatic over so little. It was great really. And sure, who cares that society has real problems such as climate change, income inequality, unemployment, crime, environmental degradation; it's important for young people to be dramatic over nothing aside from their drunken whorishness. You taught us that, so thanks.

 So if that was your intention, you did and keep doing a great job with that. If that wasn't your intention, what could you have been thinking? Do you think hiply filming cool young people wouldn't affect other young people? Would your viewers see the Real World and Jersey Shore at age 13 and say "Oh, that's a nice a program but really I should listen to what my parents are saying and not concern myself with all the enticing things that these cool people are doing on these trendy shows and nicely ignore all the peer pressure that will ensue from all my classmates behaving like this." That's really easy.

So MTV, you have a lot of charitable work. I think a lot of people would argue that your programming raises awareness of issues that young people should be aware of: drug abuse, eating disorders, teen pregnancy, domestic violence. I'd also guess and you would probably agree that you've done much to create a more open-mindedness among young people. You try to have your political programming to infuse that into youth, but much of it I think is drivel and poorly done. You're mostly just an ass of a network.

Taking a Crap on the Occupy Movement with this show was appreciated MTV... Thanks
But really, Jersey Shore, Jackass, various Real World Seasons, "The Hills"? C'mon, don't be a dick MTV. You can often legally put these shows on the air. It's possible. Our founding fathers might not have wanted to censor you. But you could choose to at least be less of a dick and stop hurling your filth into the primordial ooze which is our media. Lessen your part in tarnishing our culture, we're already tarnished enough. Please.