Thursday, October 20, 2011

Speak Softly...

I was watching my own video, below, and it occurred to me just how softly I speak. Now, in this case I was in the dining hall at the shelter, and if I'd raised my voice any more, it would have attracted unwanted attention, but generally, I speak softly.

I do not carry a big stick.

I do however, carry a message of hope, and though I can't yell it from the rafters, I can write about it in such a way as to get people's attention.

Or at least that was the hope. The message is being spread, though it's a slow process. In the coming weeks, I'm going to be putting more of my message in video form. I have some video and audio taken at the shelter, and I think when people see how things really are, they might think twice about whether things are really okay or not.

I've been spending some time with Occupy Raleigh, both at their site on the sidewalk outside the Capitol building in Raleigh, and online, posting messages and videos, and generally getting the word out. The word is CHANGE.

It's funny, but I seen to recall a presidential candidate running on that platform, but nothing has really changed, and that is why I protest.

So I continue to speak softly, write hard and use social media as my big stick. If I wave Facebook around in a crazy fashion, will someone listen?

Monday, October 17, 2011

My 'Occupy' Video

I made this video after not getting a chance to talk at the Occupy Raleigh event on Saturday. It was an interesting event, and I wish circumstances allowed me to be one of those arrested, but, as I explain in the video, that would be a very bad thing for me right now! Enjoy! Sorry in advance for the bad singing!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Working Hard Or Hardly Working?

I used to think that hard work would lead to bigger and better things in my life. I practice a strong work ethic whenever I do work. I give the best effort I can when I'm working. At times this hard work and enthusiasm seemed to pay off. For instance I landed a contract position as a computer programmer while I was still in college. I impressed the man who made the contract with me. I went to work every day and school at night. It seemed to be working.

Then suddenly the money dried up. The man said there was none. I kept working, though, in hopes of impressing this man into hiring me full-time. The man who financed the company offered me a rent-free apartment, which certainly helped. But I could no longer afford to go to school.

I kept that up for a year and a half, working for almost nothing, just a few bucks every now and then to tide me over. The man who hired me bought a new Trans Am. I had a beat up old Ford Maverick that needed a lot of work, and of course, gasoline that I could not afford, even back in those days. Then the manager of the apartments told me I had to start paying rent or get kicked out.

I read the writing on the wall and left, moving from Tallahassee, FL, to Tampa. I found temporary work and worked that job to death. I got a call from my old boss who wanted me to come do some work for him, over a weekend. We negotiated what I felt was a fair deal (boy was I naive.) And I came back for a weekend. My transmission failed on my car on the way up. An unexpected expense that hurt my profits for that deal. Later on I found out he was bad-mouthing me when people called for references. Some boss he was!

But I was still working full-time, even if it was for a temporary agency. It was clerical work. I made a few friends and even played softball with them.

Then I got sick, coughing up phlegm to the point where my supervisor was concerned about the safety of the rest of the people in our office. I did not have insurance. I did go to a doctor, but the damage had been done, my supervisor arranged for the temporary service to find someone else. Hard work wasted. I often wonder if maybe I worked too hard, making myself sick in the process.

Flash forward a few years, and I'm in  Denver, working as a data entry clerk for US West. I worked hard, got noticed, and then the office closed, and I was offered a transfer to Omaha. I worked hard there too, got noticed, but the supervisor there didn't seem to like me much, possibly because she had no say in my coming there. I don't know.

But in the end my hard work landed me a programmer position, working with COBOL. I thought I had it made! I got to stay in Seattle in a hotel while I trained. When I got back, though, I found that the people I worked with did not share my enthusiasm. They had a set way of doing things. I accidentally stepped on toes. I did my best to work hard, even spent some time updating their documentation.

But in the end I stepped on the wrong toes too many times, and that job ended.

More recently I worked as a customer service rep for a local call center that handled multiple clients. I was coming off a stint with homelessness, and grateful to have any job. I worked that job hard, got briefly laid off, then called back again to work for a different client. I worked that client hard, got noticed, got promoted, pissed some people off because they thought someone else deserved to be promoted, and that led to increased pressure on me.

Stress and me don't get along well. It can manifest itself in becoming sick, migraine headaches, coughing, or becoming irritable. I don't go looking for it. It just happens. The promotion didn't work out the way I'd hoped, and I stepped down. My health was more important than the promotion. Life was hard enough.

Since then, I've taken a different look at what I want out of a job. I've worked other call centers, no supervisory positions, though. I've quit one job because I lost my apartment. I quit another because stress reared its ugly head again.

Ideally, I'd like my writing to be my source of income, but I'm realistic enough to know that it probably won't happen. I find writing to be relaxing. I find the sharing of ideas through this blog to be very soothing. I'd like it continue, to be an outlet when I need it.. I've thought about what I can do that will decrease the amount of stress in my life, but sad to say, one of those things is to not work as hard as I used to. I need to blend into the crowd more, in order to save my health.

But I don't want to do that. I want to make Project Five-Star work. I know there will be stress, but if I have more control over the situation, I hope the stress level won't be excessive. And for those that say get a job, well I've already put in hundreds of hours on Project Five-Star, and haven't seen a penny from it. I'm starting to feel like I did when I was a contract programmer. Unappreciated. Spinning my wheels, going full throttle and going nowhere. I'm trying to make a difference here, to impress people with hard work, and it's not working. Something has to give, and soon.

So which am I? Working hard? Hardly working? Something in-between?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Occupy Wall Street: My Take

I've been following the marches on Wall Street and other locations rather keenly the last few days and it's time for a blog about it.

First, let me tell what it's not about: it's not about politics as usual. Politics as usual are why we are in the mess to begin with. It's not about young lazy people who have nothing better to do than complain. I know this because I've seen many that do that. Some might even claim I'm that way. ;-)

These marches are happening because things aren't right with the world and no one in power seems to care. There aren't a lot of things to be happy about right now. I know, just being alive should be enough, but what kind of life are most of us living right now? Are we well-off? Is our future secure? No, we're struggling, fighting to come up for air because some person or entity is holding us back. Some say that builds character, but I say it breeds discontent, and people who are discontent are driving this 'revolution.'

Honestly, I don't know where it will go, or how long. I'd like to see real change happen out of it, mostly in the financial industry that helped cause the problems to start with. For instance, one of the drivers of the housing bubble collapse was the fact that mortgages can be bought and sold as commodities.

Think about that.

Really think about that. I'll wait.

If you haven't got it, let me tell you how I see that. I see someone's home being shopped around by someone who wants to make even more money than the interest and fees generate. And they generate a lot of money. Your home. Someone else's home. I've never owned a home before, so while this does not affect me directly, it sure had an impact on others, making them homeless in the process. The practice of selling mortgages as commodities needs to be banned.

The fact is a lot of people on Wall Street use other people's money and other assets to make money for themselves. I'm a fan of capitalism, believe it or not. I'd love to own my own business, but I have problems with the way stocks, bonds and other commodities are sold. No one is in it to lose money, but do you have to make other people suffer so you can make a few extra thousand dollars? When something is bought at a cheap price and then sold at a higher price, aren't you taking advantage of someone with less skill than you? Shame on you! This is the biggest problem with Wall Street: the lack of compassion. The pure greed that drives the markets into a frenzy.

So what to do about it? I think electronic stock trading needs tighter regulation. Things were bad enough in 1929, nowadays the greed is so rampant that investors are taking chances with other people's money just to stay competitive. And it's ALL other people's money. 401k plans, bonds, stock portfolios. It's like a lottery today, and they money isn't going to education! (I'll leave the state of education for another blog!)

As far as the marches go, I support them! I plan to go to an Occupy Raleigh rally on Sunday. If you ask me what I'm protesting I'll say 'The status quo!' Because my particular status quo is pretty bad.

Oh, and don't forget, if you'd really like to invest in America, and get the joy of giving in return, Project Five-Star is still active, even if it has received no donations thus far. You can donate, though by going to the link on the side of this blog, or I promise I won't take your money and run. I promise that the people trained by that project will come out of it well-armed to get the few jobs that are available. I promise I won't ignore the needs of the 99% to satisfy the greed of the 1%.