Working in the USA defies logic sometimes

I haven’t been blogging due to work. But that’s good and bad.

It’s good because we have a new manager who doesn’t require the bandwidth of our old one. I’m no longer supporting a nice guy, but Senator-type, with ADHD. So now I can do the job I’m paid to do and not admin support prepping the manager. In return, I’ve been doing a lot more writing and creative work.

Happiness.

On the flip side, I work at the speed of light. I’m the Pizza Hut Express of creative training development right now. Churn and burn. Thus, I’m doing my part to keep unemployment in the USA high. That’s a joke on my part, but not far from the truth.

How are USA companies reporting record profits right now?

Well it’s not because they’re hiring the number of people they need to get the work done.

My least favorite management motivation pep talk: We’ve got to do more with less. The business schools need to can the class where future managers learn this motivation-killing tool.

Bring in the book that got me riled up.

Overwhelmed: work, love, and play when no one has the time, by Brigid Schulte.

It’s a great book, but I must admit it feels like it’s meant for the smarter sex.

This feels like an important book and a must-read for my daughter when she gets older.

This feels like an important book and a must-read for my daughter when she gets older.

If you’re a guy, don’t read it because you’ll probably feel guilty about how much work your wife and the mother of your children does. I gained a much better awareness of this, and I’m now picking up my socks and putting them in the laundry basket. I cleaned out a cabinet and vacuumed yesterday.

However, beyond the facts showing how great women are, which I 100% agree with, there are other facts in the book about how we work here in the USA – longer hours, but not as productive per hour as many European countries, very few worker rights, fewer rights for parents, health care challenges, limited flex time, etc.

It’s an eye-opening read about the way we work in this country, which so many like to tout as the best in the world. The numbers just don’t support that anymore. We’re not as progressive as we once were. Heaven forbid we pay someone a minimum wage they can live on. Sad.

I’m not here to criticize the USA. It’s our corporations and rich politicians pulling the strings. I just hate the illogical idea of supplementing companies that pay a low wage to workers with government funding to help these people survive. And I don’t like the manipulation of the exempt worker who is paid for 40 hours but works far more than that every week, helping to keep companies from having to hire more workers. It doesn’t make sense to me.

Work/life balance. Hmm.

Or, are we living in the Matrix? Have we become interchangeable batteries without rights?

Those are the questions that keep me up at night.

 

 

 

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One reason we need government: Foster Farms

We eat a ton of Foster Farms chicken. Then I read the following article tonight. 

Foster Farms? More like Salmonella Farms.

I know it’s easy to get on our government about how much they suck at times, which I do, as I can’t stand Congress, except for Senator Elizabeth Warren, but the government does provide some good services. As in policing the companies that provide our food.

Not looking so hot today, Foster.

Not looking so hot today, Foster.

On top of the Salmonella concern, once again the continued use of antibiotics in our food supply rears its head. How long is this going to continue? Does anyone still think it’s a good idea? Years from now, this is one of those actions people will look back at and shake their heads, wondering how we could have been so stupid.

Worst of all, the example above is just one of many stories each week of companies pushing the boundaries of what not to do. Without government, though far from perfect, we’d be hosed and puking chicken casserole into a toilet while the banks took crazy risks with our money.

Hold it? What the hell. That’s already happened. Our government sucks. Never mind.

Parenting for the upcoming zombie wars

As my daughter approaches her teen years, my level of stress and worry increases: drugs, alcohol, guns, driving, high school drama, school shootings, men and boys that may want to hurt her, ineffective antibiotics, the bird flu, and who knows what else my mind can conjure up.

Wait, I do know: the end of the world and the complete breakdown of society as we know it.

I've been watching too many Walking Dead episodes. © Jeffrey Collingwood - Fotolia.com

I’ve been watching too many Walking Dead episodes. © Jeffrey Collingwood – Fotolia.com

There I said it. Throw me in an underground holding tank with a deck of Uno cards and the rest of the doomsday nuts.

However, before you do, I wonder if I and others haven’t been approaching parenting the wrong way. I mean we’re the protective generation of parents, aren’t we? We do everything we can to keep our children safe, which is a good thing. But I  wonder if we should have been looking at the “big picture” instead of worrying about our kids falling off a swing at the park, or riding a skateboard without knee pads.

Like doing more to make sure they inherit a habitable Earth.

I know other generations of parents have worried about their children and the future. However, are we the first parents to ever have the concern of our planet being so screwed up it won’t be able to sustain life?

And, as life heads to a possible end with food and water shortages, overpopulation, a larger percentage of poor, rising sea levels and global warming, what will those last years of life on the planet be like?

Yes, I worry too much. I know. I just wonder while the majority of us are working our asses off, and paying bills, and putting food on the table, and figuring out how to pay medical bills, and stressing about our jobs, who is keeping the planet safe from harm?

Was that up to us too?

I think it was.

Cotton-Candy Flavored Grapes: A Sign Our Species Is Doomed?

At our recent summer dinners, my daughter and I fight over cotton-candy flavored grapes, seeing who can grab and eat the most from the bowl of mixed fruit. The winner is the one who grabs the last from the bowl.

Grape-fight Royale.

But then I got to thinking, which is always a dangerous thing in my case, why make grapes taste like cotton candy?

Yum, yum, yum, yum, yum, burp, yum, burp.

Yum, yum, yum, yum, yum, burp, yum, burp.

Grapes already taste great by themselves. It’s not like you need to convince most people to eat grapes – it’s not a hard sell, though I’m sure there are grape haters out there. But if I had to guess, I’d say grape lovers outnumber broccoli lovers.

So, why improve the taste of a smooth, green fruit that Mother Nature made ready to eat as is? That’s not to say she didn’t make broccoli ready to eat and full of healthy ingredients. She just gave the good taste to grapes, not broccoli.

It makes me wonder if these wonderful flavor-injected grapes aren’t a sign of something greater, something wrong with our world.

Like global warming and the end of our species.


cotton candy grapes 2

As in . . . the world is melting while we’re all marveling over how great cotton-candy grapes taste, and saying, wow, how did they make grapes taste like cotton candy? and, Aren’t these impressive? and the person who came up with this should get a medal . . . and meanwhile the world is heating up and a bunch of scientists are jumping up and down screaming, “the planet is in trouble and we’re hosed if we don’t act now,” but no one hears them because we’re all gorging on these amazing grapes.

Okay, so I’m pressing some boundaries here, but these grapes are telling me something about the way we live. Or, maybe, they’re just fruit improved by humans. I don’t know. But there is something about them that bothers me.

And until I figure it out, I’m going to eat as many as I can.

The 87-hour work week (Yes, there is a hell)

I wake up between 7 and 8 in the morning. The red light on my Blackberry flashes and I check my email while I’m still in bed. Then it’s a short walk to my laptop.

The workday begins. And it’s intense. Not a leisurely day. Juggling to-do items, and nervous people who have never done a multi-city event before, and email – loads of email, which makes me remember I used to be creative in this job. Now I write email.

Chisel this on my tombstone: He wrote a shitload of email, and some were well written. My legacy.

As the day goes on, I eat breakfast and lunch at my desk. I take a couple of short breaks during the day, and I eat dinner with my family before going back to work until between 11 and midnight.

My dreams are made of these. © Tryfonov - Fotolia.com

When I work at Home Depot, I plan and saying clever things, such as, “ex-screws me, do you need help?”  © Tryfonov – Fotolia.com

Repeat.

Tomorrow will be my 24th work day in a row. At least my schedule is easing to 11 and 12 hour days, but I am tired. And I think a lot about doing something else with the remaining hours of my life. I should be able to do better than this.

I dream of working at The Home Depot in the screws and bolts aisle, and telling customers the unique qualities of flatheads, phillips and square-drive heads – when to use galvanized, stainless steel, or deck screws – and when to give up and call a contractor.

I dream of simplicity and meaning.

Breaking up with people who probably already broke up with you

Last weekend, on the beach, we met a very nice older couple. Our dogs met first, as their rare breed, 80 pounds, black and white with a patch over one eye, had a crush on our common black lab and couldn’t help but go Hugh Hefner on her every five minutes, until the leash came out and took the spark out of the stud.

Details about the couple: husband with salty gray, wavy, windblown hair, a deep tan, Ray-Bans, quiet; she of proper upbringing, talkative and charming, warm. They live in Santa Monica and have a house up here in Ventura they visit on weekends. They’re intelligent, articulate and the husband worked in Hollywood for a long time, making them successful. They have a son who is an engineer and working with a racing team back east.

Oh, and they’re in a class above us – the one I’ve always wanted to be in.

This is my calming ocean photo. I look at it and relax and forget about people that drive me nuts.

This is my calming ocean photo. I look at it and relax and forget about people that drive me nuts.

So, right off the bat, I’m depressed and jealous, a bad combo.

Why are they speaking to me? What do they want? 

My wife tells the woman, Joan, a name I just gave her, that I know and write about automotive technology and luxury cars. And Joan, it turns out, is in the market for a luxury car I know a lot about. We have a great talk about it on the beach, as I keep one eye on the dogs to make sure Cali doesn’t run up and steal someone’s food, which she likes to do.

And Joan and I continue what I like to call, “rich people speak.” I can’t explain it. The tone of the conversation is unique, and uncomfortable. Name-dropping, lots of questions about what you do. A sizing up of the other person. Networking for one’s personal benefit? (Is there any other kind?)

We hang out with them for about 20 minutes or so, and Joan asks us if we’ll be around next weekend (yes), and if we’d like to come over for a glass of wine (yes). Great, she and her husband will stop by later with their contact info.

Two hours later, they show up. I’m standing on the front patio when they pull up. Joan gets out of the SUV and gives me a piece of paper with their names, phone number and address. Again, they’re super nice, which makes me wonder again why they’d want to hang out with me. My wife, I understand. She’s the nicest person in the world. But me? It’s all about the cars, which I’m okay with, and used to. People love to talk about cars, but it’s usually men.

The week goes by. I ask my wife to send Joan a text on Friday. She does. We don’t hear back, but then Joan and her husband show up at our door later that day. She has information on tomorrow’s Artwalk (Did you know about it? Yes. Are you going? Yes. Would you like to hang out and have fish tacos? Yes.)

We talk for 10 minutes and I probably say a bunch of stupid things (to be discussed later in this post). And she tells me she didn’t see the text from my wife.

The next morning rolls around. I send a text to Joan on my wife’s iPhone because my Blackberry is drying out after its swim. But I don’t hear back.

We arrive at the Artwalk with a couple of our friends and I call Joan. It rings but she doesn’t answer and I leave one of those messages where I didn’t plan on leaving a message and sound like a complete idiot. These calls come easily to me.

We attend the Ventura Artwalk, which is a bit of a disappointment, as it’s more “walk” than “art.” I don’t hear back from Joan. And it drives my OCD mind crazy: Why did they come by twice and then stand us up?

I re-think their second visit to our house and analyze everything I said. What did I say wrong? I was nervous for some reason – stretching to be cool? More name dropping? Was it the point I made of how similar Google employees seem to Hollywood people, that they’re special and in the in-crowd? Arrogant? Did I piss off her husband?

I can’t figure it out and my wife doesn’t understand why I’m concerned. She doesn’t care. And it’s not that I cared, as much as, I was curious what went wrong.

We went to the beach at the end of the day with the dogs, and who do I see down the beach? Joan, her husband, and their horny exotic dog. They’re leaving. (Did they see us and leave?) I have a business card for them. So, I follow them home. (Yes, I’m aware that sounds very stalker like, but it was to give them the card, not peer in their windows.)

I catch up to them at their house, as 50% lung function does not make for moving quickly through deep sand.

Again, they were super nice and offer water, which I thought was for me, but was for my yellow lab, though I did think about getting down on all fours to share it.

We talked about the Artwalk. Joan forgot her phone, and they too were disappointed in the lack of artwork. I complimented her husband on an amazing career in Hollywood – I looked it up on the Internet. And I told him he should write a book about the experiences on the different movies. At some point, I slipped in a stupid comment about wanting to make sure everything was good, as I’m prone to saying stupid things. It’s a blur how I threw that comment in. (Come on, I’m insane. I’ll never know where the stuff that comes out of my mouth comes from or why.)

(Now here is the “breaking up with people who probably already broke up with you” part of the story.)

So, Joan asks how long we’ll be in town, as if to hook up with us again. (In a Bronx accent in my head: Oh, no you didn’t. Oh, no you didn’t just say that.) I’m having none of it. No way. She’s just being polite. How many unreturned messages will it lead to? I can read the signs, babe.

“That’s okay,” I say. “We don’t want to bother you. I just stopped by to give you my card in case I can answer any questions about the car. That’s it. “

“Well, we know how to get in touch with you then,” she said.

We say goodbye.

Back to the beach, I went, Luna, hydrated, at my side.

Was it the orange Cheetos stain on my shorts? My week-old, bristly beard and the four long hairs sticking out of my left cheek that I was too lazy to shave or pluck? How stupid did I sound? What mistake did I make?

I’m sure they were relived after I left and looked at each other in agreement that meeting strangers on the beach would be something they would never do again.

BUT THEY CAME TO OUR RENTAL HOUSE TWICE! Twice. I don’t get it.

I’ll never know what happened. And that’s the part that will drive me crazy – for frickin’ ever and a day.

ARGGGGGHHHHH. Damn dogs. Next time, I’m getting two pit bulls, not cute, friendly Labradors.

Just be yourself: My daughter and I attend Anime Expo 2013 (photos included)

Thousands sandwiched together . . .  costumes everywhere  . . . unusual odors . . . loud, dull hum of crowd . . . more shuffling than walking . . . mooooooo, says the cow . . . paper mache swords, knives, guns, sticks, and axes . . . short skirts and garter belts – lots of garter belts . . . a baker’s dozen of Spiderman costumes . . . Zelda and lots of her friends with elf ears . . . characters in action poses having their pictures taken . . . I’m in germ hell . . . some wear surgical masks, smart, should have worn my construction mask . . . men without shirts, men in maid costumes, men in dresses . . . woman wearing Lulumon yoga pants who didn’t hear about the recall, or chose to ignore  it . . . the old X-Men posing together . . . “Must be 18 with ID to enter” sign . . .  the Village People wearing costumes? ironic? . . . lots of wigs, lace and leather . . . more Marvel superheroes (Are they at the right convention?) . . . food truck heaven outside, all with long lines . . . fast-food loving male and female superheroes with muffin tops who should have worn Spanx under their spandex . . . Tip: Never wear wings to a crowded event if you don’t want to walk sideways all day – bad costume choice . . . hundreds of cartoon characters I’ve never seen before . . . more soft core porn . . . drawings of females with large breasts, tiny waists and big eyes (Japanese Barbie dolls?) . . . more weapons with red plastic ties to prove they were inspected upon entry and cannot shoot real bullets, rays, sunbeams or potatoes . . . creepy guy not attending expo talking to two young girls at lunch, started coming toward my daughter and her friend until I caught his eyes and he turned around . . . piles and racks of anime stuffed animals . . . skinny man in Wonder Woman costume looks out-of-place – how is that possible here? . . . attractive woman dressed as Electra with two spandex femme fatales, heads down, race quickly through the crowd – to avoid men asking to take their picture? . . . a lot of superheroes need smartphones to communicate . . . I should have worn a paper bag on my head, or at the very least a surgical mask, which makes me tell my daughter that I’m going as a surgeon next year . . . if this is what the expo looks like at 3 in the afternoon, what will it look like later tonight?

Whew, that was a mindful. Faulkner is turning over in his grave right now.

Little did I know what was coming my way when my daughter asked me to take her to Anime Expo 2013 in downtown Los Angeles.

And though the experience may have started with a shock to the system, surrounded by a convention hall full of costumed characters, it bloomed into a cool, hip experience at the second happiest place on Earth. We soon discovered, after we got our credentials, that we were surrounded by people being themselves and having a great time. Not a bad place to be on a Friday afternoon in Los Angeles.

Here are my three favorite moments from the day:

  1. When I had to use the bathroom upon arrival at the Expo, my daughter said: “You’re not going to leave me alone out here, are you?”
  2. Standing in the middle of the food court, my daughter sitting on the floor eating an ice cream cone, and surrounded by 100s of costumed individuals, my exact thought was this: it’s a great time for my daughter to grow up, as she can be anyone she wants to be. Anyone at all. This could not have happened when I was growing up.
  3. See the picture below of the characters posing on the stairs. I can’t explain it.

Here are some photos from our adventure (click to enlarge). We’re already planning our costumes for next year’s event. I may go as a surgeon or Plywood Man, with a costume made entirely from wood. It could happen.

Enjoy.

Cactus Man? Odd cucumber dude? Clearly, I'm not up to date on the latest characters.

Cactus Man? Odd cucumber dude? Clearly, I’m not up to date on the latest characters.

I'm thinking that after three or four Cokes and a large burrito from a food truck, this gentleman may rethink his costume choice for next year's event.

I’m thinking that after three or four Cokes and a large burrito from a food truck, this gentleman may regret his costume choice.

This was one of my favorite superheroes. He's spinning records - DJ Man? This could be the secret identity of my friend @onlyz.

This was one of my favorite superheroes. He’s spinning records – DJ Man? This could be the secret identity of my friend @onlyz.

So, I appreciated this one, but my daughter didn't. It shows what you can do with an old pair of shower shoes, some black stockings and a dress. However, as my wife pointed out, even Death needs a convention goodie bag.

So, I appreciated this one, but my daughter didn’t. It shows what you can do with an old pair of shower shoes, black stockings and a dress. However, as my wife pointed out, even Death needs a convention goodie bag.

"What a blockhead," I said as I spotted this guy before my daughter did. She just looked at me the way 11-year-olds do.

“What a blockhead,” I said as I spotted this guy before my daughter did. She just looked at me the way 11-year-olds do.

There's a pause in the action as Wreck It Ralph takes a phone call.

There was a pause in the action as Wreck It Ralph took a phone call.

There's something I really like about this photo. All of a sudden the sea of humanity parted and this couple was standing there. I can only guess what they were thinking and that's why I like it so much.

There’s something I really like about this photo. All of a sudden the sea of humanity parted and this couple was standing there. I can only guess what they were thinking and that’s why I like it so much.

This was my daughter's favorite photograph, which impressed me when she told me why: it looks like an every day photo of someone getting lunch in LA. Hard to argue with that.

This was my daughter’s favorite photograph, which impressed me when she told me why: it looks like an every-day photo of someone getting lunch in LA, but not. Hard to argue with that.

We think the guy on the left wormed his way into the photo. He seems out of place, if that's possible.

We think the guy on the left wormed his way into the photo. He seems out of place, if that’s possible.

Here's what an action pose looks like and the photographers taking pictures. If I had to bet one character winning this fight, I wouldn't bet on the woman in 14-inch plexiglass high heels.

Here’s what an action pose looks like with photographers taking pictures. If I had to bet on one character winning this fight, I wouldn’t bet on the woman in 14-inch plexiglass high heels.

I was tempted.

I was tempted.

Action pose by the X-Men. What you can't see here is that Wolverine is wearing a Wolverine back-pack.

Action pose by the X-Men. What you can’t see here is that Wolverine is wearing a Wolverine backpack.

Have wings and a wheelie travel bag and you're set for adventure.

Have wings and a wheelie travel bag and you’re set for adventure.

This was my favorite moment of the day. The characters below are photographing the characters on the stairs.

This was my favorite moment of the day. The characters below are photographing the characters on the stairs.

As we were leaving, we saw this beauty, which made me think that leaving before the sun went down was a good idea.

As we were leaving, we saw this beauty, which made me think that leaving before the sun went down was a good idea.