Use Loneliness

You can feel alone in a crowded room. True statement. I often feel that way. Maybe I’m not the friendly type. Not true. I tend to talk too much. I spend hours and days alone or with kids then when I’m finally around people I dominate the conversation. I’m loud. I learned to give speeches without a microphone, to speak to the back of the room and be heard. Projection, that’s the word I’m looking for. I learned to project and enunciate. So when I’m in a room and make a connection, I’m there.

But when I don’t make a connection with someone. It feels like I’m invisible. I’m the loneliest person in the world. Is this a universal feeling or am I unique? Is loneliness a universal truth? The universal pain that seems unique to each of us but is felt by everyone?

But loneliness can be bliss. I’m wishing for it right now as some child rolls and bangs that toy car on the bleachers. I’m trying to write, kid! Take it somewhere else, OK? No the world doesn’t work that way.

The way I’d like the world to function is so much fantasy. I dream that I can reach out with my mind and connect to someone else. I’m a super mind agent. I’m the secret weapon. I don a new personality, a new body. I am Cody. I can walk through the minds of the enemy. I cast doubt within their thoughts. I am that special snowflake.

When I walk through my fantasy world, I find that I’ve forgotten my own name. I am only Cody. I have a bodyguard who lives with me. My mind is special. I can do things, create things like no other. I live within a large compound. My house has bullet proof glass, secret doors and tunnels. There are bunkers, cameras and sensors. No one can come close without the guards detecting them. That is what I am told. It is not what I believe. I trust my senses more than I trust the technology. I designed the technology. I know how to defeat these modern marvels of wizardry.

And now back to our regularly scheduled reality. I don’t like most people. They bore me. They have agendas. Even those with whom I can converse on a technical level, have agendas. I am not interested in agendas. I don’t have an agenda. I’ve lied to you again. I have an agenda. Everyone has an agenda. I just can’t put mine into words. It’s a subconscious agenda. I do things for a reason. That’s an agenda. Even when I don’t want to have an agenda, I have an agenda. My agenda is to not have an agenda. See how that works? Yes, I’m making silly little jokes to amuse myself.

As Cody, I don’t want to design technological wonders that will defend our soldiers in the next conflict. I don’t want to safe guard our nation against the enemies that beat at our door. I want to design small houses and comfortable chairs to sit on the deck. I want to carve wood into shapes and trace the patterns of its grain. But there are many builders of houses and chairs. I am not needed for those agendas. I am needed to think as the enemy thinks. To walk through the mind of the enemy and find his stumbling blocks. But who is the enemy? Tonight the enemy takes the form of the very company I created. Tonight, I sit with a glass of scotch staring at my reflection in the windows. I know that there are more men out there in the darkness. I will drink more. Perhaps, I will walk naked through my house. The luxury of open blinds is most often enjoyed by those that live far from others.

The scotch begins to sooth my jangled nerves. I do not like others in my house. Not because it is my house, not because I feel possessive of this house. I don’t like others in my house because I forget that they exist. I wander about. I scratch my ass, my boobs and up my nose. I forget to close the bathroom door. I am used to the loneliness. I do not like others in my house because I disturb them.

Writing Month

National writing month has rolled around. Seems easy enough, write two thousand words a day for thirty days. What could possibly go wrong? Yeah, that. I could write two thousand trite, cliche words and accomplish nothing.

I’d love to write about going undercover for a month but that would blow my cover and I can’t afford that.

I could write about the difficulties of an older woman returning to the workforce after years of raising children. I probably should write about how the electronic systems are not designed for older people. Never mind the older part. It’s the been out of work for a while part that creates the problem. Yes, I really should write about that but it’s still to fresh and painful. It shouldn’t be. I got the job but the electronic online employment forms were more stressful than the interviews.

So I think I’ll just go back to my old standby, Writing Down the Bones/Wild Mind by Natalie Goldberg. I’ll open it to an exercise. Open a new blog post and just let it fly. There will be no editing. There will be only writing.

Welcome aboard. Keep your chair backs and trays in any position that pleases you for this trip.

The Wheel of the Economy

I’ve been reading a lot about the economy. I’ve lived through Reagan, Clinton, the Bushes, Obama. In my old age, I’ve probably forgotten a president or maybe two. But it really doesn’t matter who is President of the United States, he (so far we’ve only had Hes) gets more credit and blame for things than he really has the power to change. Without a cooperative Congress to write legislation, there are no bills for the President to sign into law. Currently, many people think it is President Obama’s fault that our economy is in its current state. They blame his policies. Others blame the Fed (the Federal Reserve Bank). Still others blame big corporations. I think it’s much simpler and comes down to basic money habits and how we each learned to apply them. Oh, it gets into economic policy too. Just roll with me for a bit first, we’ll get to the policy.

I’ve been told in the comments section on various boards that I don’t understand basic economics. In yet another comments section, I was told that I’d just effectively written a basic treatise on economics. So I’ll write, you can read and decide if I know anything about the basics. This is my world view of economics.

The basics of economics are what concern me. The basics are what concern most people. Most of us will never own stocks other than through a 401K. Our day-to-day lives are just the basics. No derivatives here. Our basic concerns are a roof over our head, food on the table, and gas in the car. We never get as far as saving more than a ten or twenty per paycheck…if we are lucky. We know nothing of government bonds vs foreign investments. The closest we’ll ever come to a foreign investment is if our employer provides a 401K plan and we’re invested in it. Our economics are simple. Money comes in; money goes out. We hope that things balance out at the end of the month.

I’m a pictures person. I see the economy as a wheel. What comes around goes around. Money moves around the circle as it is spent. There’s a saying, “If a rich man gives a poor man a dollar, it will be back in the rich man’s pocket within a week.” That is a very basic description of an economy. The economy of the United States currently has an unbalanced economic wheel. Most of the money has become contracted at the top of that wheel. People at the bottom and sides of the wheel are getting less and less. Companies aren’t hiring because consumers aren’t buying. Consumers aren’t buying because employers aren’t hiring or giving raises. Benefit packages cover less. Employees must pay higher healthcare premiums. Higher healthcare premiums mean smaller paychecks. Smaller paychecks mean less spending. Less spending means less hiring. Notice the circle?

So how do we get out of this circular mess? Obviously waiting for the private sector to begin hiring isn’t working. We’ve had tax breaks for corporations and those in the top income brackets for years now and we’re still not seeing quality jobs come back. As new technologies are developed, we’re seeing many good paying jobs go away. Medical transcriptionists have been replaced as doctors enter their own notes and voice recognition software has improved. Theranos Lab Testing and similar advancements will soon replace laboratory technicians. Restaurants such as Applebee’s and Panera Bread are replacing wait staff with ordering kiosks. Where there were once pages of software jobs in the newspaper, there are now jobs for caregivers at minimum wage. We seem to be stuck in the mud with no way out.

If the wheel on our car becomes unbalanced, we take it to the tire shop and they add weights to the rim until the tire is balanced. How do we add weights to an economy to return balance? Balance means money to move around the economic wheel. The simplest method would be for companies to realize that their own employees can’t afford to buy their products and provide pay raises. The government could force the issue and raise the federal minimum wage. The government could get really drastic with taxing the money sitting at the top of the wheel and institute a basic income scheme to move money around the wheel. I think the best method is for large corporations to forego a bit of profit and provide pay raises. This is the quickest and least invasive action. If large companies were to offer better wages, smaller companies would follow. A rising tide carries all boats.

How does a pay raise given by a large corporation help a small business owner? Remember the circle. I sell sewing patterns. I’m a one woman business operating from my home. I sell an item that is not a necessity. It’s cheaper these days to buy clothing than the fabric to make your own. So people tend to buy when they want to give a special handmade gift or when they get a tax return or bonus.Sally works for the XZY Corporation. XYZ Corporation has 3,000 employees. They’ve just received a new contract and the employees are getting a pay raise. Sally likes to sew but buying fabric and patterns haven’t been in the budget. But she just got a pay raise and is feeling flush. So Sally orders a $5 sewing pattern from me. She buys fabric from her local store. Now, I like to indulge in fountain pens. Once again, not a necessity. So Sally buys a $5 sewing pattern from me. It’s only $5 but I get excited. Those $5 orders add up. So now I’m feeling flush with money. Maybe I buy school clothes, new team swimsuits for the kids, and maybe, just maybe, I order a fountain pen for myself.

This is how money moves around the economic wheel. A pay raise at a large company can lift many other businesses and individuals as the wheel and money turns. We need to push for higher wages either by asking for a raise or pushing for a higher minimum wage.

Let’s All Be Futurists

Why don’t we hear much about futurists anymore? Where are our emerging Buckminster Fullers? Who is planning our future? I think we should all be planning the future. Think big. Think outrageous. Forget about how to pay for it. Just think about it.

Our world has changed. When I was coming out of high school, we were told that it was OK that the manufacturing jobs were going overseas. We have all of these computer and software jobs. We are the best at this. Let the other countries have the dirty manufacturing jobs. I was young. That sounded it good. It wasn’t so good for those folks in their late 40s, 50s and 60s who had worked at those manufacturing jobs. Many of them didn’t have the skills to catch the tech wave. They could go back to school and maybe they could figure out the new fangled computers. Many didn’t. Many became farmers. Many swallowed their pride and clerked at a store. I was too young to think of these consequences. I only saw the booming future. I was too young to realize that my time was coming.

I went to the community college. Everything fascinated me. I had access to thousands of books on every imaginable topic. I finished an associate’s degee. A job opened up. I took it. Isn’t that what you are supposed to do? Get a job and save money? I did just that for ten years. I worked for a state college for ten years. My retirement from ten years of work will be $168 per month. So much for the get a job, work hard and save your money theory. It was one of the better jobs available in my town of ten thousand people. I worked in an office and not in the warehouse scraping labels off of products so that they could be resold to another chair store.

I caught the wave of the 1990s tech boom. I got married, moved to the West Coast. This was during the time when anyone who was a warm body and knew something about a computer could get a foot in the door and work their way up the corporate food chain. I did my time in customer support, tech support and software QA. I was self-taught. I had a good job making more money than I could ever imagine…when you come from a place where fifteen thousand dollars a year is pretty good. Just as suddenly, it was all gone. Yet another reorganization and I was not needed anymore.

My time had come. It was the beginning of the exodus of computer and software jobs offshore to other countries. Now I was the unemployed relic. But how can we change things so that people don’t find themselves as unemployed relics? Sure, there are all these jobs programs…except if you actually try to get into one. Or great, you have a jobs program but what about my kids? What do I do with them from 8-5 while I’m in training? Who will pick them up from school? And since I just came from a well-paying job, I don’t qualify for any of the programs. However, it wasn’t well-paying enough that you could save much of anything. We have bits and pieces of programs and nothing that fully works. But I didn’t start writing today to write about unemployment and childcare, I wanted to write about planning for the future.

What jobs will we need to fill in the future? This is not something that any of our politicians are talking about. No one seems to have a path forward. I see ads stating that we’ll need engineers in the future. I’m sure we will but that ad was placed by Exxon. Where are our leaders? The people who normally give speeches and tell us that we’re going to the moon or Mars are exceptionally quiet. Their primary worry seems to be arguing every few years about whether or not they’ll pass a budget. I’m tired of their argument. They are going to pass a budget anyway. I wish they’d stop arguing like middle schoolers and get on with it.

What I wonder about is the future of my children. I don’t worry about my children paying for the federal deficit. I worry about whether my children will still live with me when I’m 90 because they’ve never been able to get a job that pays a living wage. Will they ever have the independence of living in their own apartment and finding their own way in this world? What should my children study so they will be able to find a job? Do what you love, the money will follow is a luxury of those who already have a foot on the ladder.  I’d love for my child to be able to study archaeology. However, I doubt she’d be able to find a job. Academic positions pay very little. Huge segments of our society think it’s silly to study history.

This is why we need futurists. No, futurists won’t have the answers to my questions. Futurists get us thinking and questioning how things currently function. Futurists challenge us to think of new ways of doing things, to dream big and propose new ideas. I’m going to be proposing some ideas. I’d like feedback. “You’re and idiot!” isn’t feedback. If you’re going to call me an idiot, then assume that I’m an idiot and explain it to me. Maybe you’re right. Maybe I was an idiot in a proposed future idea. Tunnel vision does happen. I can get so caught up in an idea that I miss an obvious flaw. Or maybe I noticed the flaw, I’m willing to admit it and ask “How do we fix that problem?” That is how we’ll move into the future, by suggesting ideas and improving upon those ideas. I hope that there are others out there who are looking to move our world forward.

Changing directions

I’m not who I thought I was. I’ve changed. I’ve become a different person. Some people will be OK with that, other people will not like it at all. I don’t care. I plan on being me. You don’t have to love me or even like me. You don’t have to like what I write. This isn’t about you or what you like.

So what’s changed? I find that I’m a bit more political. I’m looking more to the future. I find that lately in our country we just look one or two years ahead. We look only as far as the next presidential election. We don’t have any long-term plans. It’s just become about getting the current administration out and then it will be better. The sad truth is that it won’t be better just because Bush or Obama is out of office. We need vision and we don’t have that any more.

I’ve decided to write about both political things and a vision of the future. Some people will be offended by my views. You may call them utopian. You may call them socialist. But they are just ideas. Without ideas we’ll never move forward. I do not purport to have the right answers. I don’t think that any one person has the right answer. We are a nation made up of citizens who are people. The answer will be found when people come together as a group to solve the problems that plague our nation, society, and world.