Monday, September 17, 2012

It's All in How You Look at It

Had an interesting conversation with someone today. He hates both Democrats and Republicans, but it's obvious which one he hates more. He noted that welfare recipients and minorities are Democrats. And don't get him started on environmentalists. It's sort of strange listening to him. He's angry about jobs being sent to China, but I didn't feel like asking him (and playing Devil's advocate) about the freedoms of business owners and whether or not they have the right to seek out the cheapest possible labor. I made the mistake of asking him shouldn't we reduce the amount of pollution we produce. He sort of agreed, but brushed me off. According to him, global warming is all a scam to make us pay more taxes and exert more control over us. If that's true, okay, but does that mean we can still act like pigs and litter all over the place?

I kinda got the feeling that once he gets enough money, he'll join the Republicans anyway, even though he hates them.  With him, it seems to be all about money. People on welfare or unemployment would probably disgust him, but get this--he applies for any scholarship that's out there. If it's a scholarship for African-Americans, he applies for it. If it's a scholarship for gays, he'll apply for it. Incidentally, this guy identifies as being straight and white. So, is it okay to lie in order to get scholarship money even though you are using it to pay bills and buy stuff unrelated to your education? I kid you not, when this man told me how much he got in financial aid, he bragged about "working the system." It's okay when HE does it, but if someone else did the same thing, and spent the money on drugs, would he be as okay with it?

He's against gay marriage (he's divorced, of course) and I didn't want to be around him more than I had to, but part of me wanted to ask if a lesbian atheist was bound by God's law, or God's word, if she didn't believe such a being existed.

This person gets free software too, and distributes, er, um, "donates" it. Not to everyone, just certain people. Since this isn't shareware, doesn't this sort of count as stealing? I mean, okay, Microsoft has tons of money, but that doesn't make it different. If people got in trouble for uploading music onto Napster so others could download it for free, how is this different?

So I don't know. It's all in how you look at it. Is doing something illegal to make money worse than going on welfare? If I applied for scholarship money and used it to start my own business, am I stealing money from a student who could use it? If I claim that I'm a Mexican-American lesbian atheist and get scholarship money and use it to pay bills and buy things unrelated to school, am I being dishonest, or am I merely "working the system to my advantage?"

I guess it depends on how you look at it.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Because Smart People Suck

There is a divide in this country between the educated and the not educated. And I don't necessarily mean people with college degrees vs. people who don't have college degrees. That is just part of it, but I am always concerned when I talk to people, and they've never heard of the term "white hot" or the artist Jackson Pollock. A few years ago, I worked with a guy about 24 years old, and we were discussing the person living at the house we just delivered an appliance to. I couldn't place the accent, but passing through their garage, I saw a map of the former Soviet Socialist Republic of Georgia. That solved that mystery, but out in the truck, my co-worker said he couldn't place the customer's accent. I said the woman was from Georgia. My co-worker's response: "oh no, she couldn't possibly be from the states." I then explained that the Soviet Union had collapsed, and once upon a time there was a republic that was called Georgia, just like the state. I asked him if they had covered that in high school. Apparently not. Yes, he was very young when the Soviet Union had broken up, but you'd think he would have run into that reference at least once when growing up, but I guess he didn't.

I always feel a bit awkward when I'm talking about something at work, and I have to explain who or what I am referring to. I had to explain who Jackson Pollock is. I never majored in art, but I know who he is. I find myself gravitating toward people who are educated. They seem to have a certain awareness of the world.

And then there was my mother--a high school drop out, but a voracious reader. She told me to learn all I could about computers because they were going to run our lives some day. She also suggested I become a teacher, and I'm doing that, on a part-time basis, and I'm loving it. She chose to be aware of what was going on in the world, and I'm astonished that people seem to stop learning as soon as they leave the classroom.

That being said, education is taking a hit, notably from the conservatives, because if you are smart enough to figure out what's going on, you are going to be harder to control. I'm stunned when I listen to self-declared conservatives, and their comments on education. I have a co-worker who sometimes pronounces education, "edumacation," and I want to flinch. It's obvious what her views are on it. It irritates me, because I was trying to educate a customer on one of our products, and the co-worker told me it wasn't necessary to explain to the customer the differences in paint bases. I try to always pass on information to people if I think it will benefit them. And nothing is more annoying than a customer bringing up an ultra white base and wanting it to be tinted black. If I can educate one customer to let us get the paint off the shelf, I feel like I've done something.

For a while, I was the only full-timer in the department who knew how to cut blinds and special order blinds. No one else in the department knew how to do it. And when window treatment training came around, one of my co-workers claimed illness and instead chose to unload freight, because this co-worker didn't want to sit in a room full of people all day. Now, if I'm sick, I'd rather just sit around (and get paid for it) than sling merchandise around. A few minutes after choosing to unload freight, this person decided to go home. Despite having a degree and having a number of skills (I have a Class A commercial driver's license, I can mix and custom match paint, install refrigerator water lines, washers, dryers and electric ranges, and cut shelving) my retail job dropped my pay level. This was based on not having the correct paperwork submitted so that I could drive. That has since been resolved, but I am at a lower pay rate than when I first started. I was told I would get a review, but that has not materialized and I doubt if it ever will. I've only had one review since working at my retail job, and I've been there for four years. I thought in the real world, the more you knew and the more skills you acquired, the higher you were paid. Right?

When paint training came around, four of us had to go to another store for training. Of the four of us, three took notes. One of us sat back, and crossed ankles. Care to guess who it was?

And when that shooter shot up that theater in Aurora, the co-worker said James Holmes was in medical school. Wrong. He was a doctoral candidate in neuroscience. Little bit of a difference there, but I didn't bother to point it out.

I used to wonder why I had bothered to go to college. For the last 20 years or so, it seemed that my degree was worth nothing. Then a funny thing happened. I got a part time teaching gig--something I wouldn't have gotten if I hadn't had a bachelor's degree. And here's another funny thing--the teaching gig pays more and is far more pleasurable than any regular job I've had. Yes, there are frustrations, but no student of mine has ever hit me. Contrast that with the two customers who whacked me in the shoulder in a matter of six months. I put up with more shit and less respect in the job that I didn't need an education for, and get more money and more respect (and job satisfaction) with the one that I DO need a degree for. I'm actually thinking of going to grad school. I had one of my students write me a glowing email about his experience in my class. It was really, really nice to read it and made me feel like I do make a difference. I've never, ever, gotten anything like that from any of my other jobs. And this student urged me to get my master's degree.

Funny, all the rich, powerful conservatives have had at least some college--even eternal windbag Rush Limbaugh got in, but dropped out. It seems like it's another case of, "college for me, but not for you."

But I feel sorry for some of these anti-education conservatives. They are working retail, and pretty much will be working retail until they retire. They have nowhere else to go, and they consider themselves too old to go back to school. Yet, corner them and you'll find they don't like working retail. They won't do anything to change their situation, and they will sneer at the college students who spend a few years working retail, then when they graduate, move on to bigger and better things. More than ever, in the United States, you have to stone cold hustle just to make a modest living. A college degree doesn't guarantee you'll be rich, but it's an important investment that may change your life somewhere down the line. My college degree and a willingness to try teaching means I don't have to be a full time retail slave, and that means my mental health has improved.

If having a college degree means I am a piece of liberal scum, so be it. If being liberal means I'm not going to freak out about your alternative lifestyle, so be it. I love to learn. That makes me a bad person, in some people's eyes. I want to educate people. And THAT, in some people's eyes, is threatening. Keep them dumb and in the dark. No thanks. I WANT people to know that light-colored paint goes in low-numbered bases, and dark paint goes in higher-numbered bases. It may seem like a small thing. But I guess if my co-worker likes having customers give her ultra white bases they want made into dark blue, she can keep them ignorant all she wants.

And I've noticed the customers she likes are the ones that annoy the hell out of me. Birds of a feather ...

Monday, September 3, 2012

Computer Woes and examining a life that doesn't seem worth living, sometimes

If you've been wondering why I haven't posted more Tee Arr Eff fashion photos, it's because my computer was massively screwed up. It had more than 1,000 viruses, and I didn't know I didn't have any anti-virus on it. Financially, I'm screwed, so having a subscription to anything, including computer software, is just not going to happen right now. And to be honest, this laptop has been a bit of a mystery. I have no idea what it's capable of, how many gigs of RAM it has, etc. I only know it had Vista on it, and had I known how bad it was, I never would have purchased this computer.

So I had to have my computer fixed, and I also had to back up everything. Since my external drive got knocked on the floor by my cat, I went out and bought a jump drive and put everything I wanted to save on there. I've not reloaded my stuff, because it's kind of nice to turn on my computer, and actually see the screen saver instead of literally dozens of icons.

And I have also been occupied with my book. I am in the process of converting it to a print version, and plan to have copies of it for sale at the ACPL Author's Day, which is going to be in November. I made a pocket paperback of the book, and it looks nice, but I screwed up a few things. The page numbers are off, and the cover has the title of the book on it twice. It was still nice to see my writing in print though. I am working on formatting the final story in the book, and it should be done soon. I try to do about five pages a night, so it should be done before the end of the month. I plan to make a print copy; hopefully this time I will do it right.

I've also been trying to be positive about the future. I've been thinking about my life, and my mistakes, and wanting to have the kind of life that isn't so frustrating. Part of it is being broke all the time. There is a reason for that, and hopefully I am in the final months of poverty, but I worry that something else will hit me shortly thereafter, and perpetuate the process of being broke all the time. Money isn't everything, but what seems like constant poverty is depressing. I feel like I've finally found my career calling, and to do more with it, I need to get a master's degree. I'm scared of going back to school, how I'm going to pay for it, and possibly running into bad luck--I finally get my degree, but can't get a job with it. That's what I'm most scared of, and why I am reluctant to take out student loans to finance this future educational endeavor.

I'm also thinking I need to go back to school to give me a better chance of leaving Fort Wayne. I would like to save enough money, and eventually move to the Toronto area. I'd feel better about that if I owned the house, instead of half of it, and if I had a job offer in Toronto or somewhere nearby. Why Toronto? The city basically gave me a reason to live after my mother died. When she died, I really wanted to die too, because I felt I had no purpose in life. But Canada gave me a reason to live. It's clean, there are fewer people, and they are a lot nicer. I know there is no such thing as utopia, but more and more I feel like I don't belong in Fort Wayne, or the United States. My family basically died when my mom did, and it's not like I have tons of friends in town either. I tried to reconnect with a friend almost a year ago, but his excuse of losing his ability to write (and therefore taking months to respond to emails) is just another way of saying, "I really don't want to spend time with you anymore." It's never worked when I pursue men, and if I never have a relationship again, I can take that. But I want to be a little more financially secure, and be able to live in a place where I am proud to be there, and happy to participate in the community. Fort Wayne seems incredibly dull and unexciting, and will never be a cool city, because it spends tons of money on stuff that doesn't bring people or jobs to the city. I've never attended a game at Parkview Field. I've delivered stuff there, but the thing that draws me downtown is the library.

So I am in kind of an interesting state of mind. I self-published two books and I'm in the process of getting both into print. There's that, and also my financial memoir, which I'm going to try and interest some publishers in. They will probably turn me down. If so, I'll self-publish, and hopefully by then I will have some money to really promote it. Dave Ramsey, Suze Orman--look out. My financial experience and advice is going to make your writing look really boring.

I'm kind of lonely, but since people seem to continually let me down, perhaps I'm better off just keeping to myself. I no longer have a family. They live, but sadly, I have nothing much to say to them. I am a fat ass failure to them. So be it. They've disappointed me as well. So we are even.

I'm scared. I want out, but the only thing that kept me from being homeless in 2008 was owning half of this house. Will I ever earn enough money to pay $800 a month in rent (plus utilities) and not be sweating bullets about it? Toronto is an expensive city. If I have to work three jobs to afford to live there, would it be worth it? Or would I be so exhausted, I'd just come home, sleep a few hours and start another day of working just to keep a roof over my head and food in my stomach? These are some questions I will have to answer. But it's terrifying how fast time goes. To other people, I've done a lot, and I have some important skills, but on the other hand, I see myself as a failure, a doormat, and completely scared. I'm also very angry. Perhaps I will make my peace with things. Hopefully I will find some success I feel I can be proud of, and form the kind of life I want to have.