PRIME TIME DISCUSSION

If there is one thing that I have learned about over the last few weeks, it is that being a good person does not always equate to being a (financially) successful person. Which is not to say that there isn’t room in the world for more good people, but rather to qualify that the world as we know it may not be in a good place.

Recently, I heard a talk by Cory Doctorow, who is a brilliant guy and very engaged in the world as we know it. The key point that really stuck with me through his talk was this: There is no good or bad in the world, there is only people with leverage and people without leverage. This was backed up by a slew of examples, that included major businesses like Amazon, YouTube, and so on, where the simple number of people using these platforms outweighs any individual power. Think about it. Amazon literally said “oh hey, lets make a day called Amazon Prime Day” and it exploded. That’s a business with leverage that is more powerful than many governments.

And I’m not trying to say that Amazon is all bad or anything. I mean, I use it, my family loves it, and they have done a lot for the various communities, which has allowed many groups to be successful that otherwise never would have been. But it is a bit concerning to me that one business can hold so much power. Especially since they are not transparent. Now, I don’t know that a business should be entirely transparent, just as I don’t know that we as individuals should be. I mean, I certainly don’t wish to be monitored 24/7. That would make me paranoid and probably cause an early death. But at the same time, it frightens me that one of these businesses could be lobbying for changes that damage the core of our values, without us even realizing it. In some cases, it might be that they simply have to not get in the way.

For example, there are plenty of businesses that stood to gain by having Donald Trump elected, but with his unpopular choice of words, they could very easily back Hillary Clinton and publically donate to her campaign, thereby saving face. At worst, she wins and they are on good footing with her because of how much they contributed. At best, Trump gets elected, and suddenly all these regulations, like, I don’t know, the Paris Agreement, go away, and these groups get to maximize their profit by not sticking to emissions standards. Just a hypothetical. But likely one that did occur.

Regardless, it is always good to be keeping an eye out for what is going on in the world, and to see when the number match the public representation a company presents (and when they don’t).

——

 

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HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY!

Happy birthday America (also to my younger brother, so I’ll be keeping this short today)! These days have been a wild ride. Being American this year means something different than it meant last year. This year, it means that you likely do not support the current president of the United States. It also likely means that many of the political decisions being made are not in the best interest of the common man. Which, ironically, is the backbone of any good society. When the lower and middle class (AKA the bulk of a society) is doing well, there is no need for revolution. Revolution is the bane of an established country.

That being said, it is also a boon to refurbishing a failing system, and with all the political power that various corporate entities carry, it might be a good thing for America to re-experience its own revolution of thought, especially speak that the revolution that birthed this country was heavily focused on the little guys. It was about standing up to the corporation that was the British Empire. It wasn’t about putting American businesses first, but rather giving the businesses of America a shining city on a hill to display their wares equally.

That is the kind of America we need to go back to—one open to revolutionary ideology, with compassion for the commoner. Not some business-centered bull, that would suppress news media. The core of a country isn’t its corporations, but the people inside them everyday, making sure the lights come on in the morning.

——

 

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GIVING CRITICISM

Hello everyone,

It’s been a little while since I took the time to be a “normal” blog and give those little updates on life that have literally no impact on the world whatsoever (don’t worry, more creative work will be back tomorrow). Which is why I am not going to talk about how I finished all my graduate school applications recently, how stressful it’s been, etc, etc, etc (wait but that’s what you just did Cassady…). Instead, I wanted to talk about something that has not happened to me before. Someone who had been reading my blog asked me for advice. Now, obviously I am a busy person—we all are. But I took the time to check out a bit of their work and give them constructive criticism. Which I like to think I am decent at giving, and I know a lot of people who are not very good at it. So I wanted to discuss it.

One of my good friends is a person who doesn’t know how to give criticism. He will  say things like “that’s bad” or “I don’t like how this looks at all.” And that’s fine if a person is secure with their work, but let’s be honest, how many of us really feel completely secure with our work? Especially when we are just starting off? Probably not that many of us. I know that I, personally, was exceptionally afraid to show people any of my writing when I first began doing it, and even before that, I was afraid to write because I felt like I myself would be doing a bad job. If someone had criticized me like my friend does right away, there’s a good chance I would not have gone forward with my writing.

Certainly, this is “my fault.” No individual should stop someone from achieving his or her dreams. But that’s not reality. Humans value other opinions—it’s the reason we ask people for advice on relationship, even if they have a terrible track record in them. It’s true that the only way to improve is to get criticism, but when we criticize it can be done in a better way. One way I like to do this is through a “compliment sandwich.” Going back to my original scenario, this blogger asked me to take a look at their work in the comments of one of my posts. That takes some guts, but they sounded rather shy about it. So I took a look, and I found a few things. First of all, they had a great basis for their work. Their concepts were really personal and relatable, which is a solid bedrock for writing. That said, they looked like they had rushed through their writing. Which we all do. I do it. Professionals do it. It’s not a big deal. That’s why people hire editors. But it did take away from their overall message, and they need to correct it to make their work as good as they envision it to be. So I pointed out the positives, then the negatives, to reinforce that they were doing good work but that it needed improvement, and then finished up with a reminder of those positives. Not excessively-if that is done, then the person isn’t going to take the criticism seriously. But this does allow for a friendly way to express the needed improvement. If someone, especially a stranger (or an acquaintance that isn’t very close), asks for advice, it means they value the opinion of the person they are asking, and to shoot them down will only cause self-doubt. It makes the matter more personal than it really is.

What do you think? This approach can vary in impact depending on the context of the discussion. Check out this article for some areas where this technique doesn’t work. Do you have any techniques you use to give constructive criticism? Let me know!

——

 

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SAVING MONEY

Hello everyone,

 

Let’s talk about being broke. You’re broke, I’m broke. We’re all broke. Well, not all of us, but hey, this is the world we live in. If you’re reading this, you probably have some curiosities about financial aspects. First off, I’m not a banker. I don’t have any monetary ties, and these are just opinions. If you are in serious financial trouble, I recommend talking to a professional (though preferably someone you know, since my financial friends tell me that some people in the business like to “hustle” customers).

Now, if you have ever read the Penny Hoarder, you have a few cool ideas about saving money or earning more. And that’s fine—I mean, the reason I’m writing this is because I read a post on their website about saving money. Living paycheck to paycheck is hard. That’s pretty simple and if that’s your life, you know it. Solving that problem can be pretty hard. Some people can build budgets, and work within them, but often times that is difficult because we want to have luxuries, either for ourselves or for our family. This is a hard reality, but sometimes luxuries are just that—something extra that you can’t get. If you really want to save your money, you need to cut down on or completely remove the luxuries in your life right now, so that you can have more in the future.

Let me give you an example. You have a ritual of getting coffee every morning at McDonald’s, because Starbucks is too expensive, but you really need that cup of caffeine in the morning. This is a luxury. You don’t need that coffee, you just have lulled yourself into the idea that you need it. Many societies lived for years without it. But ok, maybe you need the caffeine and you won’t budge on that. Can you find an alternative? Buy bags of coffee and make it at home? Or maybe switch to a cheaper tea? Sure, it’s not as great, but if it get’s the job done, does it matter?

Of course, if you’ve been penny pinching already, then this might seem obvious. You probably are already pouring yourself half cups of coffee from the cheapest bag possible. But try to apply that to the rest of your life. Are you sure there’s nothing you could cut out or down on? Gym memberships are a big one I hear about people wasting. $20 per month. That’s nothing right? Wrong, that’s $240 a year. So many people have gym memberships for a treadmill and some dumbbells. If you are a legit bodybuilder person, this doesn’t apply to you, because you need those machines, but guess what everyone else! You can run at the park and you can do push up on any sidewalk. Do exercises right in your living room, and you have an extra $240 for your Christmas shopping. It doesn’t have to be a gym membership, but find the excess in life, and minimize it’s cost.

The Penny Hoarder does a good job at looking at new apps and things like sending your spam mail somewhere to be processed for a couple dollars, and that’s cool, but it can be a hassle and that’s really just a way for them to make money. And there’s nothing wrong with that—I mean, they have to make money like everyone else. But all these plans like “save $5 a month every month for a year, and you’ll have $60 extra in December” are no brainers. But you don’t need MORE money, you need to be more efficient with your money (ok, well, maybe you do need more money, but minimum wage is crap and you have to work with the money you currently have. You could probably be more efficient). For me, it’s easier. I’m not currently paying rent, I don’t have kids, and so on. BUT, that doesn’t mean I go out every weekend. In fact, I very rarely go out, and I very rigidly decide what I spend my money on. Why? Because going out every week can be expensive. You will regularly spend $12 or more a head on a meal if you go out. Don’t even factor in drinks.

The whole point of the Penny Hoarder, and other sites like it, are to give you tips on how to be more efficient with your money. But that’s the problem—it’s your money. You choose how you spend it. So stop making the choice that leaves you struggling. Or, if you have no good choices, make the choice that makes you struggle the least. And I don’t mean mental struggles—your well being is important, but if you can’t feed yourself or live with a roof over your head, you’re going to end up worse for ware. Take the 6 months of extra mental weight so that you have the security blanket to not have to have those mental struggles down the line. And to those of you that are already doing this and still struggling…I’m sorry. The truth is that sometimes you can only pinch yourself so dry before something breaks. The system is against you, and there isn’t much you can do. But, that doesn’t mean you should despair. Despair leads to mental paralysis, and you don’t have to have that. In that 20 minutes of free time you get, or 5 minutes, or whatever it is, look for a new job. Craft a way to ask for more money at the job you have. You deserve it. Don’t tell yourself you don’t. You really do.

GO VOTE

Hello everyone,

 

Alright, I’ve decided to take a bit of time today to impress upon my growing readership the importance of voting (like no doubt every other website is doing right now as well). People always talk about how you should go vote, and that is super important that you go vote. Even if you are voting between a Giant Douche and a Turd Sandwich. I don’t see voting quite the same way as I think most people do, especially not the people who say that “it is your duty to go vote as a citizen.”

Voting is a decision. And, like everything else in this life, it starts with the choice of yes or no. Do you want to get off the computer to go vote or not? Well, I’ll start with reasons for not. First, neither candidate appeals to you in any remote way. In all honesty, I have no clue how this could happen, but for arguments sake lets roll with it. Lets say that you think that the only answer to all of our problems exists in putting the whole world into a black hole in space. I don’t think any candidate wants to solve problems that way, so that’s an example of this (I suppose). Hungry? Black hole it. Annoyed with the neighbors? Black hole them. It doesn’t make much sense does it. But, in this instance voting is irrelevant because you will not get any aspect of life that you want out of the choices.

The next reason not to vote is that a person doesn’t have time to. And I don’t mean “I don’t have time to” people. I mean “I work from 4 am to 11 pm with a 30 minute lunch break” people. That’s a pretty feasible excuse, and it’s a problem with society, but it’s a reality. The last reason I can see is that you simply don’t want to participate in the world as we know it. I think of monks in off the grid areas when I think of this, but the people who are completely out of touch and unaffected by the rest of the world, and do not care how the world outside of their space deals with everything, and knows their space will not be enclosed upon in their lifetimes. To be honest, those are all the reasons I can see to not vote, but again, it is your choice to vote. Let’s get into the reason why.

The reason is simple. The person elected will change how the country works and, and this is the important part, that will impact your life. “But these candidates both suck” is an excuse I hear often. So? Doesn’t one suck more than the other? Life doesn’t always give good options. Sometimes it’s jail or death. Sometimes its college ruled paper or wide ruled paper. Sometimes it’s a 10 hour shift or a 12 hour shift. Neither choice is good, or even exciting, in some points in life. But they will have an impact on you. They might start a world war. Or not start one when it needs to be started. This is the simple reality that we live in. And it’s easy to find something to agree with a candidate on. One person want’s to limit the people entering the country, one person wants to expand the minimum wage. Neither of those matter to the average person? I doubt it.

One of the things that I can understand that make voting hard is a hierarchy of values. Maybe you think that Donald Trump’s border security pitch is ideal, but you think that Hilary Clinton’s position on wages is also ideal. How do you choose? Well, which is more important? This is called a hierarchy of values. And they can be the tough choices, but they are choices that you need to make in life—life doesn’t make choosing easy every time. But if you do not choose, then things end up worse for you when the ideal you eventually decided was secondary, but could not decide when voting was happening, wins. Maybe you feel like your vote doesn’t matter. It does. Because while one drop of water does not make an ocean, without any rainfall the sea would be empty. And every drop, from the first to the trillionth, adds depth to its waters. So please. Go vote.

THE LAST GREAT DEBATE

Hello everyone,

 

Alright, so, the third and final debate is out of the way and we get to discuss it. Now, hopefully things have digested in your stomach a little bit, and not given you too much indigestion, because talking about last night it certainly a curiosity. I’ll try to touch on both candidates today as quickly and succinctly as possible in my short time.

Ok, so let’s get down to it. Today I’d like to start on the left, with Hillary Clinton. She did a pretty good job as usual. Now, I know there are a lot of people that don’t like her, but it’s pretty hard to argue with how prepared she is for these speeches. I mean, her closing statement was pretty indicative of that—it was made up on the fly and sounded like it had been prepared two weeks in advance. That’s pretty hard to do, even for a professional improve actor. Especially when staying in line with policy. She was composed, firm, and stuck to positions that were backed up with evidence. The Wikileaks refutation she made, in which she pointed out that numerous US intelligence agencies have linked these leaks to direct hacks by the Russian government to sway the campaign trail is a great example. Another great use of factual evidence was in the comparisons between the two candidate’s tax plans, in which she cited several bipartisan economists as having backed her plan as the more likely one to create jobs and promote income for people.

Of course, not everything about her is perfect. She interrupted Trump more than I would have liked her to, because to me it seems to put things “in his court,” so to speak, but that doesn’t mean by any means she was a weak. Her interruptions seemed to knock Trump a little off balance at first, because she had been polite to him the first two debates. She was also very forceful in negating his position on abortion, where she didn’t challenge his obscene statements about “day before” abortions, and indeed asserted herself as not only a person well aligned with women’s healthcare, but also the struggles that women go through daily.

I know I am left leaning, but Hillary’s debate last night was phenomenal, even for a “normal” debate. Much less one where she had to juggle a guy who does not play by fair rules. And that’s, unfortunately I think for Republicans, what happened with Donald Trump. Trump’s debate was a weird one. He started out…well, worse than his second debate, but still less “off the charts” than we have come to expect. That being said, there was a turning point, and I think it’s because Hillary got under his skin. I mean, telling a candidate she does not deserve to vote? A vote that is a protected right? Day-before abortions? Now, regardless of your position on abortions, abortion does not happen the day before a child is supposed to be born, even in late pregnancies. And if it does happen as late in the term as Trump claims, it’s not called an abortion, because the procedure is different. It’s a C-section, or induced labor. And it’s done because there is a problem with the child. It might surprise you, but nature isn’t perfect. There are a number of babies that develop without brains, or that die in the womb. And if they aren’t taken out, the mother will die too.

None of this is fun or fair. There’s no “I got out of it.” And this is how Trump has built his campaign, and I think (I hope) that this will be why he fails. His debate last night because a microcosm for all the problems he has created. A lack of respect for citizens, a lack of respect for people in need, a lack of respect for people who have done good, and a lack of respect for people who do not bow to him. He’s acted like a dictator in this election, and in all honesty, the bullying, the lack of emotional control, and the whining are all indicative of this. Democracy is a hard thing. And it does not come without faults or compromise. And the only way to usurp that is to defy it—which is exactly what Trump has done.

This is dangerous to the America we aspire to be, even if we are not there yet. Let me know what you think. Is it unfair to say this about Trump? Why?

MOVING AND MONEY

Hello everyone,

 

Let’s talk about our almighty ruler today. The dollar. Today’s writing was inspired by a friend’s post on Facebook. He asked how much more a job would have to pay to justify moving states for work. Which is quite a loaded question, and I gave him a short answer since I have no doubt that a long form answer probably won’t be something that he will read. I also used watered down examples because I think exact numbers might be harder for him to grasp conceptually—I know they would be for me. I’ll also be doing this in examples today. Let’s get into it!

So lets say that at your current job you make $20,000 (moving forward I’ll refer to numbers like this as “20K”), and living expenses in that location cost 15K. The job you would be moving to pays the same, however the living expenses of the area are only 10K. That’s 5K more in your wallet per year. Which is nothing to scoff over. Moving costs, what, maybe 5K? So your first year is a little tight, but as you settle in, things have a significant up tick.

Let’s take another example. Let say your job has a significant increase in pay from your current job. 50K, instead of 20K. Living expenses in that area are 25K. I think you can figure out for yourself that this is significantly better net pay than either of the other jobs. That said, what if this new job also requires more hours out of you? That average American works roughly 45 hours per week, to my understanding. If your old job only made you work 35 hours a week, and this new one requires 50 hours, you suddenly have lost a lot of free time to explore life.

This accounts for one of the more difficult aspects of moving, because it is not easily quantifiable. What if you’re really close to your family, but this move will leave you across the country from them? What if you absolutely hate your family but your dad owns the business that is offering you this new job? What if your partner has a good job at home, and would have to find a new one or leave you? Suddenly it’s not so simple. And I don’t have an answer for you. But I do know that, at the end of the day, while money can’t buy happiness, it can produce more avenues to happiness. If you can live without seeing your family constantly, but want to still have access to them, maybe that new job is good. Enough extra money means you could fly back for a weekend to visit them every once in a while.

Of course, there are so many factors to moving that it’s hard to say for sure. But if it is for a job, factor in more than just an increase in pay, because you could end up with a real problem on your hands if your living expenses are too high when compared to how much you are making. At least, that’s my two cents on the issue. What do you think? Am I totally wrong? Are there factors I missed? Let me know!

PRODUCTIVITY AND CONVINIENCE

Hello everyone,

 

What? 20 minutes till I have to do something at work? AH! Ok, time to type fast. So I was curious what everyone thought about convenience and productivity, and have decided to go into a discussion about it today. First of all, if you don’t know these terms, or have a different definition than I do, I’ll share how I define them. Convenience, in relation to business, is effectively the idea of a drive-thru of a McDonalds or Starbucks. It’s quick, easy, and at your disposal in minutes. There’s one close to nearly everyone, and it’s relatively cheap (at least, McDonalds is). It’s also lower quality.

To contrast this, productivity is loosely antithetical to convenience. Productivity I define as something requiring more work, and then following through with it. For example, at the small business I work at, productivity overall is fairly low. Typically people on shift don’t do a whole lot. I like to think of myself as the exception to this rule, but I’m sure I have taken more lax days. Typically though, the store will fall into states of minor disrepair, and to compensate this I will clean things up, as well as organizing things so that they become more streamlined. Alphabetizing things often helps with this, but in general maintaining a level of consistency throughout organization is typically more important.

Sometimes, sorting too much can cause for a lack of productivity as well. Eventually, if everything is sorted, and then sorted again, and then sorted again, the time spent sorting again becomes a waste of time. I said a few moments ago that productivity was antithetical to convenience. It’s somewhat true but also is a bit unfair to say, because they take up separate roles—the role of the consumer versus the business. The higher productivity at an establishment, the higher the level of convenience available for the consumer. This provides an avenue for customers to feel less stressed about their shopping.

Alright, well that’s all I have time for today, have a great day!

LOVE POEM #3 – EMBRACE

Do you ever wonder about me and you,

And all the different things that we do?

The old, the boring, and the new,

And every time we say adieu?

 
Do you ever wonder about what’s to be,

And all the things we cannot see?

The breaths and smiles; being free,

And something just for you and me?

 
Do you ever wonder why we’re here,

And all the people we hold dear?

The sense of love that’s always near,

And how it’s something we come to fear?

 
No, but I often wonder what is true,

And who in life will pull through.

The fact that good hearts are so few,

And yet I found my way to you.

LOOKING OUT FOR OUR PROTECTORS

Hello everyone,

 

I hope you all liked my piece yesterday (if you didn’t read it, just keep scrolling down). Talking about war is something that’s hard for me to do because I am pretty anti-violence. I call myself a pacifist but I am uncertain the extent of the reality of that. I know there are situations in which fighting is the only safe way out. I also know that sometimes refusal to battle is seen as weakness. Which can cause more people to attack. That being said, I do have great respect for our armed forces (though I disagree strongly with many of the people eager to send them out to war). It takes a lot of guts to go to war.

That being said, we live in a weird time. A time where being a warrior doesn’t mean you are honorable. Or that you are honored. Take our Vietnam veterans as a prime example of this. They put their lives on the line while countless officials and high-level administrative decisions caused one of the most laughable errors in American history. And how did we reward these brave men? Well, if you hear accounts, many were literally spit on as they stepped off the planes. Most Vietnam veterans are too ashamed to take pride in their positions, because of the treatment they received when they got home. Thousands of veterans sleep out in the cold at night because we have horrible veteran’s benefits programs.

We also live in a world where letting strangers into your house can be dangerous. One of the advantages of living in an honor based society, or even a society that focused more heavily on personal interaction is that we could trust people more easily. And people were less likely to betray our trust. We could open our doors to travellers; give them a warm meal, and a place to sleep. Now people are lucky to ring a doorbell and receive a polite hello.

With this being the case, it’s no wonder so many people are against their children going to war. Seriously. I can’t imagine crippling my child’s opportunities simply to potentially stop a threat. It’s all rhetoric by the people in power to keep the common person sacrificing their lives for “the greater good.” Of course, I’m not saying that there is no need for sacrifice. But we no longer reward those who sacrifice so much. Money is the basic reward, but who can put a price on the lives of a warrior? Can we really just put it on the government to pay their bills? Shouldn’t we be putting it on everyone who is protected? And I don’t just mean filling in more taxes for people—but that certainly is a fair price for security. I think that the businesses should be more open to supporting veterans. Have classes or sessions at local doctors offices to help veterans through physical and mental trauma. It’s time to start looking out for each other more, and stop looking out just for ourselves.