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Apr. 8th, 2015

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Two Grapes walk into a Bar...

Two grapes walk into a bar, sit down and order soup and drinks. They discuss the day's bittersweet travels until things get icy. Between bits of cheese, they slice each other with sharp remarks, & accusations fly.

At one point, the Thompson Grape bursts out "at least My family's not as bitter as yours about losing the farm!"

Upon hearing, the other grape, a Concord, retorts: "you're just sour about grandpa dying! Stop moping about the past; get over it, like OK? Either that or I'll kill you too!"

Mr. Thompson replies "I've had enough of your homicidal ideations! I will unleash the wrath of my misfortune upon you!" as he then proceeds to blow into his now empty bowl, stirring up a whirlwind of dust which ruins everyone's food. Now everybody's hungry and complaining.

The bartender looks up from the commotion, rolls his eyes, and says with a huff, "pshhh...classic."

Apr. 4th, 2013

B&W

Unemployment, Self-Employment, and Jobs...

It was four years ago today that I first became unemployed.  It doesn't seem that long ago, but sure enough it was exactly 4/4/2009 to the day.  It has been a rough road, but I did survive.  And although I haven't returned to "employment," I am now [somewhat] gainfully self-employed.  (What I mean is I have found a way to do useful things that make a difference in people’s lives and improving the economy while making enough to live on.)  That wasn’t the original goal, but after looking for a job for almost a year, I once again decided to roll up my sleeves, and do something about it.  I call this the “Robinson Crusoe” moment, after, as the name suggests, the fictitious character in the self-named classic novel (my favorite—if you ever have the time, it is definitely worth the read).

But it didn’t start that way.  Here’s how it did start.  I noticed that there is always work to be done.  I see it everywhere.  I always have… especially while I was unemployed.  Odd, huh?  The fact that there is work to be done but there are no jobs to pay you for it?  Yes, it puzzled me too.  This “work-but-no-job” phenomenon as I began to call it, was so puzzling that it got me thinking… and I thought about it over the next year and a half while I was searching for work.  I ended up going back to school in the mean time because there was an incentive program, and it allowed me to save some on the cost that I would have had to pay anyway.  But the point is I did a lot of thinking about the “work-without-a-job” problem even after I was back in school.  My conclusion by December 2010 was this:

The problem of insufficient jobs often lies in the ability of the business sector, the government policies in existence at the time, and the labor market to cooperate long enough for steady jobs to form.  Yes, I said form.  As if jobs were living things that needed the right conditions to grow.  That’s exactly how I pictured it.  They need the right environment, just like ears of corn or wild flowers need good soil, rain, and sun.

Consider how jobs are made.  Contrary to popular belief (and even some textbooks—oh no!), entrepreneurs, not the government, are responsible for the vast majority of jobs created.  And among the jobs they create, they create a multitude of other useful things at the same time.  Entrepreneurs are pretty cool people.

The entrepreneur modus operandi is to take a series of inputs, apply process, knowledge, information, experience, and other resources, add their magic touch, and voila!  Out come various desirable things, including jobs.  It may not be easy to see jobs as “goods” produced, but I can assure you—they are—and they are some of the most important things created in any economy.  Jobs function like normal goods as far as supply and demand are concerned… (I can’t believe I just said that in a blog post… wow school has taken its toll.)  Anyway, jobs, and good jobs especially, require a good environment for growth.  An entrepreneur may have all the right ingredients for job creation, but if the weather or soil is poor, job growth will be limited. 

That is where the government and the labor market regulations could suffice to lend a hand to the hardworking entrepreneurs. Job growth, then, is rarely limited by the seed--the entrepreneur and their ideas. It's the outside environment--the government policies, labor regulations, inflation rates, and other economic conditions that are generally the limiting factors. (However, there is also something to be said for the experienced farmer who can make anything grow in clay soil... so even in tough conditions, experienced entrepreneurs can and will still grow jobs--they will just not be as healthy a crop as they could be.)

Anyway, while I was out of work I was reminded again that jobs are treated like goods, and are affected greatly by supply and demand.  This analogy helped me realize how much of an opportunity there is in job creation—as an industry.  But not just jobs of any kind, but good jobs specifically.  I let the idea bounce around in my head for a semester or two… asking, What makes a job good... or desirable? or What would make the difference between leaving or keeping a job I was on the fence about?

It took awhile (because of bureaucracy, red tape, etc.) but I finally managed to put all those ideas together and form a cohesive thought which utilized the opportunity I had identified earlier.  This was a business model—and it wasn't for a temp agency either.  It was for a managerial consulting firm, focused on micro-businesses as its target market. Why? That's where one of the greatest opportunities for job growth intersected with one of the most crucial elements of job satisfaction: Meaningful Work.  The potential of this kind of solution in this kind of market was wide-open and virtually untapped.

So that was the conclusion I came to after eying the ailing job market and still seeing plenty of work that needed to be done but no one willing to pay you for it.   All the while I was unemployed for almost a year and a half.  I came to see jobs as goods—goods that need to be produced, have various quality factors, require good management, experience a market full of regulation--and while supply fluctuated quite drastically, job demand was relatively constant AND growing.   This helped me realize that one of the greatest opportunities in this economy today is available to anyone who can create jobs—and not just any jobs, but good jobs.  the kind of that people will actually want, be excited about, and find meaningful purpose in.

After a few weeks of planning in early 2011, I expanded an existing but mostly defunct contracting company to start offering managerial consulting services to micro-business markets—and the rest is history.

Today marks 4 years from that fateful day where I lost my job (government cut funding--see what I mean? This kind of job was unsustainable). I still have not returned to the workforce doing the kind of work I used to (data analyst), but what I have done is almost more helpful I think overall.  There could have been no foreseeable way to predict how the next 4 years would play out, but a lot was learned along the way I can tell you that. And I'm not in a bad place today either. Neither are many other people and clients for whom I have worked... or the workers they have employed.

So there you have it, the story of going from unemployed to self-employed… and creating jobs for others in the process.  That's what I mean by managerial consulting.  Now I do this kind of problem solving for a living: turn bad situations (like unemployment) into much better ones (like creating a job that creates other jobs).  My methodology not only addresses the problem itself, but the needs of the entire system around it, yielding a much better result as a whole.  That is what I call good design coupled with real-world engineering.  It has very little to do with math, but everything to do with resourcefulness, organization, planning, and management.

Or, as I like to call it, stewardship. (=>)
~AK

(C) 2013 Aaron Kendall Enterprises. All rights reserved. May not be used, accessed, or distributed to others without permission of author. Publishing an article on a website does not hereby explicitly or implicitly grant distribution rights.

Mar. 12th, 2013

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6-week delay and waiting your turn...

Alright, so this is no typical "Fourth-week syndrome" ...no this is something quite different.  No, what I'm talking about here is simply a general 6-week delay in everything that comes through my door/phone/email as a request of any kind before it is answered or handled.  That is bad.  Much worse than its ever been.  Last September I was serving requests on an average of 20 days from Date of Initial Request (or, DOR for short), but enough problems were caused by various issues that now the delay is closer to 43 days.  It more than doubled.  That's not only bad in general (think of how many things are simply missed!), but I want to know what's causing it.  What I've found is shocking... but I can't say I didn't see it coming.  The problem is actually coming mostly from customers complaining about the wait themselves.

BLOCKQUOTE{
For those unfamiliar with the Fourth-Week Syndrome mentioned above, this 'condition' typically occurs around the fourth week of the semester (thus, it's name), and consists of an acute-turned-chronic pile-up of delayed assignments which produce tidal-wave style demands upon your time which dictate the complete remainder of your semester, effectively derailing your otherwise normal sense of existence. For more detail, see MDJ article "Fourth Week Syndrome"...
}END_BLOCKQUOTE


OK, so let's start where it makes sense.  I do a lot of things.  I run about a dozen different local business or not-for-profit/cooperative operations or activities.  I have a "day" job where I assist students with disabilities.  I also go to school part time.  Then there's all the volunteering and community/life/small groups I'm a part of (or leading).  ...AND I'm the main client liaison on all customer projects.  I'm also the lead project engineer...  and customer relations manager.   Plus my friends have learned that I'm pretty resourceful, and so they come to me whenever they have needs or questions, too.  Then there's the part of my life where I'm an actual human being and I have groceries to buy, food to cook, an apartment to clean, bills to pay, plants to water, and fish to feed.   How about we just summarize by saying I wear a lot of hats--which generates a lot of requests.

A lot of things come across my desk every single day.  (For example, today I had 34 requests come in, and they came in all shapes and sizes... but that's still 34 unique requests which need to be handled... somehow).   These requests are usually scattered across the entire life-work-school-business-friend spectrum and come in various formats.  It could be my landlord emailing me about a hole in the roof.  Or the insurance broker calling because one of my clients mis-routed payment.  Or it could be a client asking to schedule or rescheduled an appointment (three times, once each in voicemail, calling, and email).  Or to place a change-work-order.  It could be something as simple as a professor assigning homework or announcing a quiz, test, or project deadline on the BlackBoard.  It could be a scholarship thank you letter request (true story).  Or an auditor wanting to know why last year's books aren't done yet.   Or a merchant claims specialist.  Or it could be my mother... calling to wish me happy birthday and chat for a bit.  Ahh.... so many things at once it can be overwhelming.

When you get this many requests, you could handle each one individually, but that would no sooner cost you a significant portion of each day.  After 3 days of fielding requests, it becomes clear that a better solution is necessary.  When you get over 10 requests per day (my opinion), you need a system to handle the demand.

And although people don't like the impersonal routing at times, I don't have an easy answer for you.  I am sincerely sorry, but it is nothing personal--as one human being there is a limit to how many things I can allocate one-on-one attention to at any given time.  And I just can't take your request right now.  My system? ...Please take a number.  Yes.  And in return, I will do my best to handle your request in the order it was received."

Since September 2012, this system was delivering requests (on average) at around the 3 week mark from the DOR.  This was the longest it had ever been and I started receiving complaints.  From vendors and customers alike!  So I tried to listen... but what happened next was disastrous.  I should have never bothered because making exceptions caused the entire process to break down.  By December, dozens of folks were in an uproar (and I had missed some class deadlines... oops!).

So starting in January 2013 I had to re-institute some form of order.  I called upon the deli-counter analogy.  If you want deli items, you walk up to the counter and... what do you do?   Come on!  Say it with me: you would...

TAKE A NUMBER!

Yes.  You all know what a deli counter is like.  You will be served when your number is called.  Until then, you have to wait!  Or go do something else.  And guess what?  Harassing the delicatessen staff does not get you served faster!  What a concept.  I soooooo wish I could make this more clear.

Now, there is only one big problem with this method.  Many people understand the deli-counter analogy.  But not all.  No... some people feel they deserve an exception.... or... um... hm... no that's not right.  Some people think they ARE the exception.
And these people usually self-select, giving me little or no warning.  They just show up at my respective door, inbox, or voicemail and DEMAND things.  Well I'm glad you think you are important Mr or Mrs Somebody, but have you read the sign?  Everybody takes a number. That means you too.   It doesn't matter what you are contacting me for.  No, I said it doesn't matter.  Take a number. TAKE A NUMBER!  Everybody gets a number.  Yes, you too.  Like the band.  I don't care.  LOOK! Do you want me to handle your request or not? OK THEN... TAKE.  A.  NUMBER.  (Gee... some people..)

(In fact, the only reason you may not end up with a number is if I don't give you one on purpose, in which case, it is my decision to create an exception, not yours.  If you happen to be one of these people, don't gloat...It makes the other children jealous.)

Now let's take a look at butting in line, because it does happen.  More often as of late (and, as I suppose, because the line is longer)...

Here's the policy on cutting in line:
If I see you butting in line (or trying to), I will notice and determine how to handle you accordingly.  But be careful cutting or butting, because most people that try this end up at the back of the line regardless of how long they've been around or how important they feel their issue is.

If this process is somehow difficult for you to accept and you decide to challenge me... or if you decide to become... shall we say "difficult?"  Hmmm.  Well, just remember who's queuing system you are in... you need me, so you will wait.  And you will wait as long as I say you will if you won't follow the posted rules.  What's that you say?  You have a problem with that.  OK, then you can take your problem back to the end of the line. That way you don't make as much noise. Problem solved!  ;-)

And yes, don't bug me while I'm trying to serve the customer at the counter (who, might I add, has typically been patiently waiting in line for about 3 weeks!).   That's rude!  Wait your turn! Don't interrupt somebody else's order.  You're an adult (presumably).  And if you still feel your issue is pressing or more immediately urgent, you can file an appeal for urgency.  Those forms are blue  and can be found on my [nonexistant] website, must be submitted in signed triplicate... (thank you, Hitchhiker's Guide...)

*sigh*Collapse )


Maybe this is a sign that I need an assistant.  Or maybe a life... (as in, a new one, with less difficult clients).

Or maybe not so many things.   But who am I kidding.  I love my life.  it doesn't take long reflecting on my testimony that I wouldn't trade it for anything.

As always, I'm open to feedback, so comment away.  ..But don't be surprised if I don't respond for 6 weeks (=>).

~AK

Mar. 7th, 2013

B&W

So Many Jobs....!!!!

[The tune for this article is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BCkfTCjF8SM -- love the mood]


Alright, so since I recently posted my updated resume on both CareerBuilder and LinkedIn, I have been getting about 2-3 job offers a week. Well, let me clarify--invitations to apply at and interview with a company that has a job for which I've already been selected and approved for... That's not technically an offer, but it kind of acts like one. At first, this frustrated me. After all, that's all I need--one more thing to do, one more email to respond to--*ugh.*

Then I just feel like venting all of the sudden, so I fire up livejournal (because blogger crashed my browser and is becoming all kinds of lame recently); I'm getting ready to go on a huge rant about how busy I am and how this is one more thing I don't need, quickly tallying all the 702 things I have to do combined with the fact I haven't had time to empty my own voicemail... and the list starts with "I can't believe this... I'm STILL IN SCHOOL for crying out loud!... I have classes to take, homework to finish, tests to study for... wa..."

I stopped mid-sentence in my mind-prep-only rant.

I'm in school. I'M IN SCHOOL? What kind of excuse is that? People spend years in school just to get the kind of job they want... and here I am, sitting here with jobs dropping out of the sky and into my lap, and the best thing I can think of is say "I'm too busy with school to fill out applications for jobs these companies have already approved me for?" That's lame.

These companies are asking me for interviews. Since when does that happen? It does, but it is rare. Especially in today's market. These aren't spam, either. They are real. I checked, just to be sure.

Let me take a minute to pause. Not one. Not five. Closer to twenty-five companies. All asking me for interviews. Interesting. Didn't see that coming. (Really, I didn't.)

So why am I even contemplating a rant then? Too many jobs? Think: this is a good problem. Maybe I should fire up my blog and write an article about now, because of all these "offers," I'm having a hard time deciding between them? no no... I can see near and recent graduates screaming at the top of their lungs... bad idea for an article. hm... maybe... no, no. hm. Well, the article page editor is open and I'm already typing...and since I don't waste anything... *link: opportunity, stewardship, (=>)* maybe I'll just keep meta-writing...

Where is an editor when you need her?

Maybe I'll write about how I'm finally making this decision to take a job. There! Plus this back story? Sold! That, then, is what this article will be about. Now I have content, purpose, backstory. And... it's my birthday. Good stuff..

article.Collapse )

Fact #1: I'm still in college, (yes, *sigh*) but now I have more jobs and offers than I know what to do with. Do I quit school and start work? Do I finish out the semester and risk the jobs being filled by the time school is out? Do I take on both simultaneously? Do I have the option to accept at a later date? Maybe I should I use Doug's decision grid about best/worst outcomes if I do/don't? That's why I need to state the facts. This is both for external processing and a point of record.

Fact #2: I have more experience than education--this is true--in total time and on paper. I've been in school... too long. I don't like school right now--it doesn't feel like it's helping me reach my goals. It almost feels like a parasite, slowly sucking the life out of me! Honest, that's what it feels like most days this semester, and I have no motivation to finish anything. It's not senioritis--it has to do with the learning itself. If I'm not learning something new, I'm not motivated to do the homework. I'm motivated by learning itself, not the receiving of a good grade or the promise of a diploma. Therefore my experience is my biggest asset right now, not my academic credentials.

Fact #3: I've already learned about as much as I'm going to learn in college. I have the equivalent of a masters' degree in total credit hours earned, but no degree. So, if positions that require 10-years of experience and seniority are being offered to me AS-IS, waiving any degree requirements, does staying in school to achieve the actual degree accomplish anything? If it does, its effect is minimized by the plethora of offers arriving in my inbox, daily. I may revisit this topic of degree completion vs opportunity cost at a later time (with my friend Sam--he's a good sounding board for these things), but for now, this fact is noted.

Fact #4: For the last 11 years, I've run not only A business, but a host of businesses--82% of which were profitable or broke even on schedule and are still in operation today. I love small businesses! Why? Because they allow me the freedom to do what I love to do and what I'm best at--solving problems. Working with startups and local small business leverages my strengths in changing the world for the better. The only problem is, it doesn't pay super well... at least not right now. So although I can get by working for equity in startups, it does effectively limit capital acquisition and therefore potential to start new ventures in the long run. Duly noted.

Fact #5: I've held 12...13... or was it 14 (?) full-time or part-time employment positions in many sectors: government, academia, industry, and small business; most with offers to return if I wanted. Those jobs were OK, but didn't really give me an opportunity to do what I loved, which has always been far more important to me than the money or benefits they provide... besides, the "job security" thing I think is actually a negative. If you feel secure in your job, won't that lead to stagnation and stifle your productivity? I have to wonder about this sometimes... so it's all a question of what your objectives are for getting a job and are they in line with your values. Noted.

Fact #6: I'm getting tons of job offers right now. But now these offers are not just in so-so areas with boring duties like before. They're in areas I like... areas I want to work. And now I have tons--literally, dozens--of job offers (invitations, qualifications, interview requests, instant hire decision letters, etc.), so much so I don't know what to do with them all. These aren't just any jobs either. These are good ones. Kinds that people work 5-10 years in one company or industry in order to earn the seniority for this job promotion. That's the kind of job they want to hire me fresh for... interesting, and noted.

Fact #7: I never expected this anytime soon. I figured I would be self-employed for most of the foreseeable future--which I can enjoy and am contented with. Then maybe at some point in another 5-10 years I might work for a company in engineering or consulting--perhaps after selling a few of my businesses, or something similar. But hey, I'm open to new possibilities.

Fact #8: These jobs range from everything I've already done, to ones I'm currently doing (and love doing), with a handful everywhere between, spanning all my major fields of interest: management, engineering, entrepreneurship, energy and power systems, contracting, small business, web-tech, and drafting/design.

Fact #9: This part is shocking: these companies want to pay me to work for them, as in, they want to pay me real money. A lot of it. We're not talking average pay. These are the kinds of jobs people refer to as REAL jobs. Some of then with starting salaries with enough zeros that I thought the number contained a typo. There is no typo. That's what people with this kind of experience make. eek.

Offers. Kickers.

So anyway, back to the job offers. Here's the kicker: these job offers (or invitations) I was receiving...? I still can't really wrap my mind around it, but I'm getting there. These were not just everyday jobs. Nor were they average or lame jobs. These were, for lack of a better term, REAL Jobs. Why is this so hard to compute? I know that in today's job landscape good help and real talent is hard to find. Trust me, I've been on the hiring side of the interview table more times than the to-be-hired side... so I guess it's not all that surprising when a company wants to hire me. After all, my track record is fairly successful and I do have a lot of useful skill, so they probably want to harness my talent for furthering their company... yeah, I guess that does make sense after all.

And they were in my industry. Their job descriptions matched almost exactly what I do already. Today. Right now. But pay 6-10 times more than I've ever made in my life. And now I have options. Options! I didn't even look at the benefits packages because I don't really care. I can be paid to do what I love? Why not take one? Oh... but what about school...? Hm... I have a feeling this is where the opportunity cost journal entry will come into play. It will be coming soon, I promise!

But seriously, when things like this happen, sometimes you really have to ask yourself... Is there a good reason to I need to be in school right now? If one of the main purposes of graduating college is to get a degree so you can find a good job, why the heck not just take one of them when they make themselves available? They're literally handing them to me... with new ones falling into my lap by the day... I even got a second and third email from one company, basically begging me "send us an email with your salary requirements and acceptance terms; we'll schedule negotiations and training immediately." No joke.

decisions. decisions.

Hm. Let me think about this. OK. But not just OK. Yes. Alright. OK. Uh-HUh. Amen; Yes, Please, and Thank You! (for those who got the Rich Mullins reference: *fist pound*; you're cool!).

Goodbye homework. Hello career world*.
*this is contingent upon the assumption that I can still do what I love... otherwise I probably won't stick around long and leave it for something more fitting.

Many people would say "it's about time, AK." All that hard work put into running my own business (for what will be 11 year next month? what?!?!?) is FINALLY starting to pay off--that's exciting. Maybe not in money directly, but in the sheer amount of experience and trade skill I've learned in the process. But the true accomplishment is finding what I love to do AND getting paid for it.

Either way, The. Fruit. Is. Coming. Now I just need to wrap up this current phase of school semester and business things to a point which makes the most sense and then TAKE THE PLUNGE, opportunity costs analysis pending. The best part about it? I'm not scared at all, not even a little. I'm actually a bit excited for what this new adventure might bring... especially if it means saying goodbye to the love-hate relationship I have with college. Oh, good idea: I should write an article about my breakup with college. I'm liking this decision already...=)

~AK

Feb. 15th, 2013

B&W

*REAL* Jobs...

real jobs.Collapse )

Consider the following situation where a college student or recent graduate are asked about their future prospects in finding work. This sets the stage for what I mean and the context behind the concept of the "REAL" Job. Annnnnnnnnd ACTION!

Enter the [recent] college graduate. When asked "so what are you going to do after college?" his typical response almost invariably follows this pattern or one very similar to it:

Various person(s) to graduate: So what are you going to do after college?
Graduate: Oh, I don't know... maybe go home for the summer, take some time off and
__________________. (fill in the blank from the list below:)

* A) backpack / hostel-hop across Europe,
* B) Do nothing / play video games / vedge in parents' basement
* C) get a job with the company I worked for in high school / work at my old summer camp / volunteer in my old youth ministry
* D) pick up some part-time work / babysitting / landscaping / whatever else I can get until I find a REAL JOB.


Note the keyword: "Real Job." Technically, if a job issues a paycheck, it is a "real" job. As opposed to the jobs that don't issue paychecks? See what I mean!?!? The term is kind of bogus to begin with. Every job issues a paycheck eventually (or breaks the law). Therefore, there aren't "unreal" jobs. But this understanding, while coincidental, is figurative rather than literal, meaning REAL and NOT REAL are stereotypes for the number and quality of characteristics people look for in a job.

However, going with the emphasis on the word "Real" in this context, what the graduate really implies is: I'm holding out and diligently looking for the kind of job that is in the area I want to work in and/or I have a newly acquired degree in, which makes a competitive starting salary, has room for growth, full benefits package with retirement matching, {insert random blah blah blah}, or other similar sentiment with huge expectation embodiments. All these expectations are summed to one descriptor of jobs: REAL.

And when a job fits most or all of these embodiments, it is almost arbitrarily deemed "REAL" ...versus jobs which... are not real?... sure, I mean, they're jobs alright, but they're just not good enough to meet our expectations, or maybe we are now overqualified for these jobs, or worse, they don't have sizable starting salaries in the competitive range. These jobs are called anything from "just a job" to "temp job" to "something-that-keeps-me-busy-while-I-look-for-a-REAL-Job" to "something-I-don't-really-want-to-do-but earns-a-paycheck-because-I-can't-find-a-REAL-job," or other, similarly derogatory associations, usually with spiteful overtone toward the people who've managed to find a REAL job...

(I think once or twice I heard these referred to as "lame" jobs but this apparently didn't catch on well... ? Not sure, but I haven't heard it in awhile, so maybe that came and went with the crash of 2008 and high unemployment of 2009.)

Regardless, the REAL job embodiment, complete with all it's self-centric, mass-consumer-mindset-infused ideation, is a strong concept. Although people's criteria for what constitutes a "REAL" job vary, generally, they include a pristine wish-list the reads like a fairy-tale: 6-figure starting salary, corner office, no boss or be-your-own-boss, full discretionary travel reimbursement, full fringe benefits plus 2 months vacation, all the sick and personal days you'll ever want, 401-k-IRA-pre-tax double-matching with free brokerage and paid stock options, full pension and retirement after 15 years, full med/dental/vision/diagnostic/accident/sickness/life/death/disability insurance, all paid holidays (including boxing day, flag day, secretaries day, groundhog day, and every other calendar named-day)...

I have a friend from Korean; he has a term he uses to describe the American fascination with entertainment, no work-ethic, and entitlement mentality. He calls it "Football Culture,"
first noticing how much time and energy Americans put into things like professional sporting events rather than other, seemingly more important things. Therefore I could combine these terms, and call this embodiment a FOOTBALL job.

Once the graduate takes a few summer or ho-hum jobs wherever you can get them, eventually, you'll land an entry position in your industry & field of choice with one of your top 8 companies, and eventually start working your way closer and closer to that REAL job, or so it is thought by the college student turned graduate. Aside from the obvious problems with the self-centered consumerism mindset now extending to every area of life, including job selection, it is this REAL job concept I want to focus on, rather than its sundries. Anyway, enough about this grandiose and idealized REAL JOB...

I should apply for some jobs. But before I do, I'm going to write about how many jobs and job notifications I keep getting, along with the frustrations.
~AK

Jan. 10th, 2013

Stickman Icon!

Re-Posting about Re-Gifting...

So I don't usually read the HUFFINGTON POST (it's full of a lot of huff 'n puff), but this one article I found today speaks quite clearly to me. For one, it's on a topic I always like--Reusing/reducing/recycling--you know, that whole 'green' thing. Yeah, I was green before it was cool... but ANYWAY, here is a fab post about RE-GIFTING! I just love it.

So true, so brutally honest...and so true ...I kept thinking as I read... (actually, I don't agree with everything he says, especially making up things to say about how much you like something you don't.. but it is a funny read).  Well, enough of me, harken unto the timely post.  The link is to the printer-friendly version, which is a permalink AND HAS NO ANNOYING ADS to clutter the screen--(shhh! A well-kept Lifehacker secret, posting printer-friendly links).  Carefully selected excerpts from the piece are below to give just a quick introduction to the topc, followed by the link to the original article with the full content...

One last thing... a healthy dose of salt is necessary when reading from the left... so keep a shaker handy.  Without further ado, I re-post about re-gifting:

HUFF POST > COMEDY
Re-gifting Dos and Don'ts
Posted: 12/31/2012 10:44 am

Now that Christmas is over... ...take an appraising look at some of the useless junk you received...

Forget returning [the stuff] because there's no receipt and you won't know where the item was purchased unless you ask, an obvious tip-off. There's always Goodwill, but who wants to subject themselves to the mocking, sardonic looks from the Goodwill people who want to say, "Re-gift them, idiot."

They would be right. You'd have to be an idiot not to re-gift. It's both frugal (read, cheap) and environmentally sound (a lame rationalization, but there's enough crap in landfills), and who wants to schlep around finding gifts for people when you already have them?

Of course, the biggest danger is getting caught. People will think you're a slimy, ungracious a****le, which would be dead-on accurate. The only upside is that your rude behavior might convince them to give you cash next time.

But re-gifting can be dangerous territory...

...(read the full article, by John Blumenthal, here .)


And remember, there's nothing fundamentally wrong with Re-gifting.  It does not make you a horrible person, despite the stigma that may shroud the practice.  Re-gifting means you are creative, resourceful, frugal, and smart. Just heed the fitting warnings (to which I would add, don't LIE or be fake polite either... people don't like fake)... and then re-gift to your heart's content! Never wear another unwanted ugly sweater or uncomfortable slippers ever again!

Enjoying the Spirit of [Re]Giving!
~AK

Nov. 17th, 2010

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A Queuing of Values

I value doing things the right way the first time – in essence, I value high-quality, thorough workmanship that will not need to be redone later.  Do it once and for all.

I also value punctuality and timeliness – being early as fitting – or at the very least, on time.  After all, to be early is to be on-time, and to be on-time is to be late.

These are two values that I hold (among many others) in high regard.  Now, I know what all of you are probably thinking… AK values being early? How is that even possible since he’s always late to EVERYTHING! or “I’ve never seen AK early for ANYTHING!”  Interesting how reputations develop.  Let’s take a few steps back and explore this disparity.

Even though I value both of these things very highly, there are many times where I cannot have both.  You all know this too, so I won’t belabor this point.  However, if there’s ever a point where these two values are at a crossroads, I will personally choose quality over time, every single time.  I settled the matter in my mind as a child and after experiencing firsthand the disastrous results when jobs were not done properly.  To this day, I’ve seen no reason to change this stance, so I’ve been that way ever since.  I’m a staunch adherent to the old adage, “be the task great or small, do it well, or not at all.  You might agree with this on the surface, but the implications are far-reaching and sometimes require sacrifices in everyday life.

Even though I don’t see any problem with my queuing of priorities in this manner, the intriguing part is that so many other people do – and they tell me about it!  In no uncertain terms, I’ve received no shortage of flack for my stance on quality and thoroughness.  Many people become annoyed, frustrated, angry or spiteful, or (if they can, often do) levy heavy penalties when I choose to uphold this one value over another.  As a result, the relationship suffers if other person involved holds to a different value-system, chooses to uphold the other value at the crossroads, or refuse to acknowledge my value-system as credible or even proper.

A simple question to ask about this judgment is this: is it right for them to be upset with me for simply holding true to my values and living out what I believe?  A truly logical response would be that of respect or respectful disagreement, i.e., “you remained true to your principles, therefore I respect you” or “although I do not agree with your decision, I can respect you for it and agree to disagree.  The problem I’ve found is that often neither of these responses is common!  People don’t say those things!  The more typical response goes something like this: “What you’ve done is inconsistent with what I value or what I feel is the right response, so I hold you in low regard – as your actions deserve” or even “I don’t like what you did, so now I don’t like you either. This latter response assumes that my actions were an effort to offend or attack the person but is far from the truth.  In many of these common cases, the result is that people become upset with me because they do not stop to think that I may be acting in accordance with my values instead of their own.  Based on their response, most people don’t think in terms of other people acting in accordance with their own values, but how their actions are not in accordance with our own values.  This, in a sense, is somewhat self-centered thinking, and can lead to premature judgment, misgivings about a person’s character, or even misunderstanding who a person is or what they stand for entirely.  I’ve fallen prey to these mishaps enough times that I’ve collected a statistically significant sample of occurrences (>30) to conduct an analysis in order to find a better approach.  And I would argue that a proper response would be that people gauge character not upon their own value-systems, but upon an ethical, moral-based value system.  Here’s why:

In the previous examples, do these people have a right to be upset with me?  Usually, yes.  But does simply being upset give them the freedom to pass illogical judgments against my character without respecting me as a unique individual, a person with his or her own values?  No – that is a violation of boundaries.  I should be able to adhere to and live out the workings of my value-system without critique just as you should be granted freedom to live out yours.  This is the natural moral law of personal boundaries.  And more specifically, those who seek to pass judgments on my character based upon their own value system is in violation of that natural moral law.  In plain English, who are they to tell me what my values ought to be? If you are not a natural, moral, or spiritual authority figure in my life, then you ought not have any business telling me what my value-system ought or ought not be… and with all do respect, I’ll do the same for you.  I respect other people’s boundaries in these areas of value-systems and value-queuing, so why should I not be granted this same extension of respect?

Graphic Depciting Value Relationships, Tulane University


If it is ever brought to my attention that the priority level of my values might be causing difficulty for another person, I will often stop and consider it.  In fact, not stopping to realize how my decisions will affect others around me is an intrinsically irresponsible choice in general.  In order to go about this consideration, a quick, first order approach is to typically reverse the roles to see what my reaction would be in such a situation.  In this case of the Time-Quality continuum value, the situation might be that someone is late getting their part of a group project to me because they’re “concerned about it’s quality” and are not ready to deliver yet.  In effect, they need more time.  What will my response to them be?  Well, it is simple.  I’d be completely fine with it – in most cases – and in fact I would hold that person in high regard because they are holding to their value through a difficult situation.  So many people today compromise their values because of difficulties or circumstances, and even more perform mediocre or poor workmanship because a high work ethic is generally lacking in society today.

Good solid reliable work is hard to find, and harder still is a good, solid, upstanding and ethical person who holds to their values when faced with challenge or a difficult situation.  Therefore, if the roles were reversed, I would have a tremendous amount of respect for the group coworker who is late on a project because of his upstanding moral character.  As a result of the lateness, I would simply find other ways of dealing with something as simple as inconvenience.  Ideally, it would be nice to have a group worker who was both industrious, punctual, and outstanding in character – but we live in a less than perfect world.    And if I had to choose, I’d choose character first, quality second, and punctuality (which is simply logistics in the end) as least important in the grand scheme of things.

Even in a situation where their work is essential to group progress, a large amount of respect is due the individual who puts their values above their situation; and in the end, it is much easier to float the time aspect of a project rather than recognize that a poorly made component is failing later where it will cost far more time and resources to fix.  In order of importance then, it is high moral character (someone who holds true to their values, and holding to values that are good), then aside from practical considerations like general competencies, everything else is simply semantic.  If a person’s character is solid and they are qualified, their work should not be in question – nor should it need to be.  Ultimately, we are all accountable to a Master who is over all, so why do we feel the need to lord it over each other – to tell and demand that others align their values or opinions with our own simply to facility our own convenience?  That, my friends, reeks of selfishness, does it not?

So then, if this is how it ought to be, why then does this crossroad continue to cause problems in everyday life with most anybody I meet, often, on a daily basis?  Do they not see with logic or eternal perspective?  If they do, it is probably not on the forefront of their mind.  And, not everyone will hold to a value-system in the same way I do – and even if they did, they might not often see the situation as holding true to one’s values – they will see only what they can see: that I’ve not delivered by the deadline.  They are left with only what they can see and deduce, which might appear as irresponsibility, tactlessness, disrespect for people’s time, and a lack of care for the more important things of life in general.  Since actions alone without words or an established character of high regard do not correct this misgiving, if I do not take heed to tell or demonstrate the meaning behind my actions, these assumptions lead to misunderstandings.  The fact that everybody knows me as “the guy who’s always late” is a prime example of a key misunderstanding.  If they knew, the fact would still exist (I am often late) but I would not be primarily known for it.

Since neither my first order approximation (how I would see things) nor the external observation approximation (how others perceive me based solely on actions) is accurate, a third, more universal approach is needed for a proper understanding.  How can this more objective approach be formed?  Who would gather the perspectives if it were not to be biased?  There are several methods to arrive at objectivity (some more questionable than others) and can include: polling or surveying, reading books, consulting experts – and more.  And at this particular value crossroad, it is not a strictly black and white scenario either – it is a continuum – and so therefore answers will be scattered throughout.  As with all continuums, the answer of which approach is “best” will depend on several factors.  However, the “best” answer will likely fall somewhere between either extreme, but where exactly this balance ought to occur I feel is an objective moral standard, meaning, it is not open to debate.

While I’m comfortable existing on one extreme end of the Time-Quality Continuum, most of my friends, family, coworkers, classmates, and professors exist in America where the opposite end of the spectrum is typically favored (deadlines over quality, rather than vice versa).  Recognizing this for what it is – a value disparity – will help triage much of the difficulties that arise day-to-day from this very perspective of the Time-Quality Continuum.  I value good quality so highly that I refuse – often on moral grounds – to submit work that is sub-par or anything less than the very best.  I believe it is my moral obligation to do nothing less than my best, no matter what the circumstance.  This includes everything from sweeping the floor to performing my job duties to every single paper I write for school, and every test I’ve ever taken.  (Relevant aside: my performance on timed versus un-timed tests shows a strong indication of this, so there is data which supports these conclusions.)

This thinking says “If I’ve been given the ability to produce something good, I have a moral or ethical responsibility to honor that strength by using it, and in doing so, incorporate it into everything I do and who I am becoming.”   Therefore, opinion-value structuring, where value placed on things such as punctuality, appearance, or any other outcome which is subjective is merely superficial and cannot hold a candle to objectivity moral value-structuring.

I know this piece could generate some debate, so I’ll go ahead and inform you all:

LET THE REBUTTALS FLY!
~AK

Jun. 22nd, 2010

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kicking the habit by force...

It seems the time to kick the habit has come sooner than expected... I always knew someday I'd discontinue my pervasive use of the widespread and socially acceptable stimulant, caffeine. I just didn't expect it to happen so sudden. Yesterday my stomach rebelled against the substance and just about made me feel like I was going to die from me an ulcer. Ant-acids did nothing. The doc said its a combination of the stimulant's effect on the stomach's lining and the prolonged activation of proton pumps from long hours awake at night without food. For those of you who've never had acid buildup, it's quite unpleasant and hard to describe. "Queasy" does not even begin to describe the wrenching ache lasting hours on end that even over the counter antacids could not quench.

It's almost as if my body is putting its foot down saying, "nope. Do not pass go, do not get a coffee, go straight to caffeine withdrawal hell." At 7:07am this morning I needed to get up and get ready for school, but I'm not even coherent enough to find fitting clothes for the day's weather. I stumble out the door forgetting to pack a lunch. Now it's 8:40am - I sit here in class staring at a blank sheet of paper to work out the example on the board - I have no idea where to start. Where am I? Why am I here? I'm in a fog. Why do I feel this way? Oh right, I haven't had my coff... but I can't now. My stomach can't take the acid. Even the small amounts of tannins in green tea have been upsetting.

I had no idea this is what life without caffeine would be like. I can't concentrate on anything. I'm stuck in this haze where I feel like I'm waiting for reality to finally click, but it never does. A "fog of the brain" if you will, and it lasts until about noon-ish for those who are used to getting their AM fix of the stuff. That's about a good third of the day. I don't think my schedule can afford this setback. It's going to have to. If you all could see my face right now you'd know what this is doing to me... and just to give you a hint, it's not making my day. Nor my week. <--- is NOT happy.

so the saga continues, but without this complicated "friend" ...and foe. Looks like I'm gonna have no choice but to move on without it. Now I'm tempted to look to adrenaline to compensate for what effects caffeine might have done, but I can only produce so much of it. And the effects are very short-lived. After coming close to adrenal burnout a few years ago I don't think I want to go back down that road. Meth is out of the question. So is coke. Then there's sugar - that grainy white stuff.

I have mixed feelings about sugar. Sure, it makes you feel good at first, but there's a triple price to pay. Again, its effects are very short lived, they carry a lot of penalties called calories, and consuming large amounts of refined sugars can cause muscle stiffness - and that doesn't even touch the risk of developing adult onset diabetes. Alas, herbs are about the only things left, and I'm limited to the ones without naturally occurring caffeine. Alas, there's no easy substitute... I'm gonna have to change my habits.

For years I kind of knew this was coming, but I was praying it wouldn't occur until I was done with school. God knows how many long nights go into my studies to keep the grades I need. Without caffeine I have no idea what the effect will be on my grades, but it can't be good. At this pace I'm not sure if graduation can be slighted anytime in the next two years, but time will tell. So here goes... today's a new page... here's to writing a new chapter in life without being plagued by that love-hate relationship with my longtime friend and undoing - that magic stuff they call caffeine.

a much slowed down
~AK

May. 7th, 2010

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draft... MDJ:prior~//i_bomb,wk:15...

books
sections, sectionals, and by parts
customers, reports
plans and plants and planting
summer, thunder, rain
disparity, priority, polarity
skit, multitasking
pilot bread!
SCA, MSA, RCA, and the month of May
potholes be gone
paper, paper everywhere!
i times 3 timeline, i current, i-gien vectors
utility, utilities, and utilitarian
angles and Ohms, circuits and vectors, amps and integrals
mals, malware, and more mals
342 nights, trivia night, and a knight
pictures, portraits, and no-read microSD cards
no phone, a new phone, where is your phone?
for the record 33 and 34... and 35
help! the gift of helps, and no more help!
money, Ramsey, and FPU!
simply, simplify, and simplified life
too busy, you're always busy, never have i seen you not busy!
roll call, procrastination (or just reprioritization)
NANT, H.A., F.A., SAR, and VERIFICATION [to the death]... ugh
court and fines, taxes and death, and joy to the world: tax time is here
did i mention unsatisfied customers? they're kind of annoying...
no Pittsburgh =(... Pittsburgh!!! (=>)... and then no Pittsburgh =(
b.hood talks, rants, and Amanda's soapboxes of mention
AND NO REGRESSION! (with aggression) but we have digression...
onward to a draft-in-progress [on/a/the] disparity of priority

The insults hurl and diagnoses fly
what everyone sees in my eye
friends, relatives, passers-by
the same drum is beat with one-ply

but the misclassification runs deep
were self-aware as if to say
we know, oh we know!
not, i say, of pride,
by the reign of experience on our side

i have sided with one of the travelers
of whose path is less traveled
allied, more join me side by side
as if one army, we march astride

forgive me for taking sentiment
accuse me of binding to tradition
say all manner of what you may
only don't expect to benefit someday

I really don't have time to explain
the disparity of priority
but they're really one and the same
it is then by design, you see
just enough to stay sane

not by accident or happenstance
I purpose a life on the road
much less traveled
nay, not for fame nor glory nor pride
yay, be it honor -
else, may it turn me out inside

the never-ending day/week/month/season
the tireless work, call it ethic
every step holds a reason
sometimes, enough to drive you hectic

every reason, a priority behind
every priority, upholding value
each value rooted in belief
this objectivity comes objectively

Objectively? why yes, glad you asked
for belief is founded on what is held
held and held to be true
and all things true

whether by others, you, or even me
comes only through the absolutes
from the absolutes then, stem Truth
yes, Truth--with a capital T

allow me to share, just one bit
if i may - it is a borrowed line
to say more than I can in any
manner of words or with reason sway
an old saying and rhyme
that has withstood the test of time

and it goes with a hymn,
bout a haul - listen, then
"be a task great or small
do it well, or not at all"

So then there is much more
which is at stake or in play
what appears might seem nothing
more than mere fun and games
nay, eg, college and one's youth?
far more weighs upon this moment
yay, far more you'd bewilder't

once again the ancients speak
those solemn abosultes leak
words to those who have ears to hear
what is built will be... tested? what?
weren't those left for my last class?
and everything - just games?!?
harken now, no, tested... in flames!
yes, "the fire!" the ancients would rear
say "you'd ought respect, and fear!"

who beats the drum and who sets the pace?
is it not to each his own, to run their own race?
to make a path by the river fife?
ha! In the end, does it lead to Life???

in a swirl, but not swirled
~AK

Mar. 16th, 2010

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Of Dark Tunnels and Monsters...




When I squinted in desperation to see light at the end of the tunnel I'd found myself in, to my great dismay it turned out to be the light of an oncoming train. As it drew nearer... I tried to turn back, to run, but my legs were paralyzed. My heart began to pound. Louder, closer, louder, faster, louder. louder. LOUDER. Still, my legs would not surrender their hold.

By the time I could distinguish the features of the oncoming steel beast, I regrettably recall relinquishing all claims of hope I might have had, for I allowed fear to enter my legs, rendering them lame and still. Just as I was about to close my eyes and yield to that savage which sought my life, a force greater than myself rose up on my behalf and brought that speeding train to a screeching halt right before them. In blinding fury the monster stared at me face to face with ominous glare, its raging gaze bent on my destruction.

Then once again that mysterious force roused itself, welling up inside, and giving me the will and the strength to start pushing that powerless train backward to whence it came. Before I could come to the full understanding of all these events, that fearsome train came to life - but this time only to turn, and run, steaming backward faster than I could push. I quickened my pace to a run, then a sprint... but even with all my might I could not keep pace. In the swiftness of an instant - indecision, interjection, whatever manner of intervention, the reversal came - and the hunter became the hunted.

The tunnel started to glow lighter with each step on that track I took, the smell of sweet spring air loomed a few hundred yards in the distance of that hazy tunnel, now dimly lit by dancing shadows cast by that receding great black imposter, its menacing gaze now barely visible contrasted with the light of the sun. I slowed my gallop to a walk, then to a standstill to catch my breath and let my heart rate return to its normal. Motionless, I stand with my arms folded. I stare backward into the darkness.  I linger for a moment, then look forward; then back again. I blink twice. Clarity returns; my alertness, quickened; my mind, sound and square; my senses, heightened. I hear faint shouts amid whispers countless - deep in the heart of the abyss – monsters, no doubt.

Once again, I stand in a dark tunnel. I know that many monsters loom in the darkness beyond. Yet, I still choose to wander about these tunnels as before – only this time, surprise is on my side. Monsters think they are hunting me, but little do they know the truth that has set me free. That truth, now, is that I am no longer afraid - that I will not cower before them, crippled by fear. No, as fate would have it, the tables are turned. Oh yes! Those monsters think they are hunting me, sure - but they are gravely mistaken. In Truth, now I hunt monsters in dark places. Monsters? Be forewarned.



Tunnel_picture, curtesy RevJavaDude’s Cafe 

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