How research prevents you from working for shady people

In the midst of the pandemic it has probably occurred to a number of us to take a step back and re-evaluate our situations. Complicating day-to-day life has provided a chance to actively look at our day to day routines in a way that we normally just autopilot our way through. We’ve seen the same people that claim that we all need to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps whine at the notion that they might have to go a little while without a haircut. A country that can bail out multinational corporations but can’t be bothered to worry about the little guy. That same little guy that folks are demanding cut their hair without concern for the health of the barber. The barber serves a purpose. They are a transfixed figure that exists only in the context of cutting the individuals hair.

But that isn’t how life goes. We are all undeniably part of something bigger. That the barber has a building and a chair and people can find it and pass through is just one facet of the larger community. We all see the day to day as existing around us. We see from our center and look out. Cars on the road aren’t full of people with day to day lives and families they are just traffic. Everyone wants to be the priority because we think with our priorities first. It can’t be said for certain whether people are better off on their own or in a group. My opinion is that when we are able to work together toward common goals because we understand the situation and can make accurately informed choices that we reach greater heights than we are able to achieve through individualistic thinking. The buck stops with the individual, but the individual choice to work cooperatively is powerful.

Currently, that individual choice to work together is being spread through whispers and discordant bird song. Disaster provides us with an exposure of some of the facades. A boiler plate where we can reduce things to their core values. We’ve discovered that a remarkable number of us are completely unprepared for something like this. Some companies are bragging about their ability to scramble together a response and a react to the situation as it arises but moments like this require forethought and mitigation. People have been told for years that their work is unskilled labor that can be replaced by anyone able to walk in off the streets and are now being told that their jobs are essential to the function of society. If they are so essential then why are they making so much less? Shouldn’t essential status be increasing the demand and therefore the cost should rise. We should be providing the gratitude that capitalism allows in the form of compensation. Instead we give money to companies that lost their cash on stock buy backs. In response to people making this demand the company shows their hand when they let the organizers go. They aren’t interested in having the workers united under any flag other than their own.

So some of those workers might turn to other work. Find some roots in their community and decide that type of work might be more in line with their values. They find an entrepreneur that recently purchased a favorite roadside hot dog stand and is trying to start a new concept in a local dying mall. They also have two lawsuits open against them, (this next part is speculation because I’m not a lawyer and only kind of understand law dockets). One of which appears to be a partner suing for fraud and the second is a labor action by employees who are filed as managers to avoid paying overtime. It took me 15 minutes of googling to go from hopeful to dismayed about this individual doing business in town. There is a news article about him working with the mayor to distribute lunch to children who might have relied on the school for providing lunch. Publicly this individual may be viewed as a local hero for his efforts, but that heroism is hiding the darker elements of where his ambitions lead him. What do we do when the monsters can all hide their true nature so effectively? Is it even fair to call them monsters? The values we praise as a society are decided by a few and then declared to be arbitrary. We internalize these notions the same way that victims of bullying grow to think that the taunts are the truth. Are the viciously ambitious monsters or misguided? Or right? The world doesn’t seem to have an answer, but that seems to be the way of the world itself.

Timing and Circumstance

Timing can make or break a song. Timing is the difference between being stuck in traffic and ensnared by the accident. Timing happens on its own. We plan for so much in the understanding that the factors we have to account for become so numerous we couldn’t hope to reach what we thought was the final consideration without losing the first. You leave work one day to go to a concert. You leave early but not as early as you would have liked because earlier that morning you felt a little under the weather and therefore were slow getting to the building. You curse your hours younger self for being lazy and causing you such delays. The delays themselves continue to stack up and you begin to feel anxious and start apologizing to your wife who by this point in the relationship is very aware of your inability to be on time (which is ironically coupled to a reasonably sharp ability to guess the time). She is patient though and assures you that no one else is sweating it. You take a shower and get ready as the anticipation of the event starts to build against the flu that has been trying to beat you down all day. Chills and sweats and aches make lifting boxes that much harder, but the hot water and the extra steam from the cooler air help to relieve some of the congestion. Menthol and camphor paste with its minty scent and color tackle the rest on the way out of the bathroom. A quick run to the bank for parking money and then a dash across the street for dinner before we venture out onto the longest least exciting straight road ever engineered. A mix up at the bank causes another delay. Credit cards all look the same when you use the same bank and what do you mean my pin is wrong? Dash back outside to swap cards, withdrawal the requisite funds, acquire the aforementioned dinner and we find ourselves well on the Way.

Looking out the windows that you haven’t used in years you see sights from your childhood that have grown right along side you. Age paints the landscape more vibrantly as the clusters of warehouses and airports and towns start to come together in the complex systems they compose. The airport comes out further than you realized, but it makes sense in proximity to the large rail yard below the highway overpass. We change the radio and it seems to be aware of the extra passenger present. Odd things sometimes, but all ultimately just coincidence of various degrees. Songs and talks of the hubris of man to lay out these stone canals when water failed to keep up with our ambitions. As the meeting is crossed we are joined on the stone river by more colorful characters in twin-seat highway race cars and ponder if we saw a glimpse of the act or a fellow member of the crowd. These musings go forever unanswered, but enjoyably pass the time as we travel. The organism of societal movings is becoming whipped into a frenzy as we approach the local epicenter of activity. In this opportunity for human to shine as a cooperative species we are reminded of our selfish and distracted natures at every turn. The cell directions service warns us of approaching congestion which has managed to work its way out of your nose and into the system at large. In a city you realize that engineers don’t look at a landscape the same way. The highways ignore what we see as slopes and curve through the air like intricate flight paths to guide the swirling masses of people around and through the spaces where we congregate. A separate roadway exists behind a fence along the waterway and we jest that the locals must have a secret access point to avoid the mess we find ourselves in. A building in the distance displays a familiar scene of a flowing river and your mind wanders back to the radio’s playful sentience. The lights show fades from the building and for a moment you await it’s return. A new pattern is displayed and the coincidence is enjoyable. The highway drops into a low trench as you slowly round a bend and witness some incredible displays of assertion as the wielders of steel bricks swerve to cross the road in the deadliest version of frogger. Traffic slows to a crawl and flashing lights can be seen in the distance. A sign indicates that an accident has occurred. Not all of the players were able to maneuver safely through the flow. Glass and fluid remain to be ground into the pavement by the unyielding river of vehicles. Briefly you wonder how far back in time the accident happened and when you might have been crossing the path of that collision if you had been more on time.

Parking in a city designed for horses is an adventure in alertness. A location is selected based on convenience and we enter the car dungeon through a bizarrely reminiscent concrete ramp. This is likely not the first time you’ve ever parked in this garage and you dismiss the thought. Signs and arrows lead us astray but a hipster with a hybrid advises us to be more perceptive and check the middles rather than the edge. This labyrinth provides a transformative mindset. You enter and in losing your car decide to loosen up and embrace a more present aesthetic. Bicycles and cars compete for space with the former slipping into equal balance. She calls you a nerd and you agree. Shown all the sights to see and a metal frame is what catches your eye, she’s not wrong. The energy and the crowd along the street are refreshing after so many walks along comparatively dim and abandoned sidewalks. The people are as varied as the storefronts and though there was tension most of it seemed positive. Seekers of joys and of love laughed amongst themselves and for a moment it seems like the area has forgotten the surrounding storms building around the world. This amnesia is comforting for a while.

We arrive at the venue and you discover another small joy as she has a keychain confiscated for the safety of the other attendees. A silly pride warms a small part of your chest as you laugh and await her by the door. Light ribbings about our mutual bad influence distract us from the building nerves in the changed scenery. We find a corner and proceed toward a flight of stairs. Lead astray by a desire to escape the crowd we originally sought to join. Guided by a sweet voice to an overpriced can and a woman could could provide us with exclusively roped off stools or chairs we eventually seek an exit. Forces of odor and a ginger with something on his mind drive us toward the front of the show. The first act of hypnosis is completed and the crowd buzzes with excitement and what can be assumed to be various intoxicants. The floor grabs as your feet and attempts to trap you here for ever. The main act prepares their stage. A father and son join our space and we rearrange to accomodate the shorter. Comfort is found in relatable conversation and a tingle works its way through you. The King of Sludge arranges a tall sleek metal stand and we are left in wonder as to its function. Jazz musicians always dress so sleek. As with everything else, all convention seems to be cast aside and the end result remains complementary and pleasing.

We are told later that the first portion of the performance is a gift. We are all drawn in by the trios ability to dance along it and bring us along with them. The lights covering their armor flash in rhythm to the sound. To close one’s eyes is to miss the flash but it remains easier to follow without the distraction. We are told we are all just one thing in a bigger thing. All just one part, our rhythms following the flow cast out by their signal. A local solar system guided by the gravity of the bass and the balanced chaos of the horns. The frequency rises and falls and then breaks to silence. We exit into a frozen night, now colder than before in our sweat soaked outfits as the heat and people swarm away from the scene. Our evening folds itself up neatly into the next adventure.

Cut where the knife goes through, forcing it will dull the blade. Just go with it.

I’m tired of this and I’m tired of that but most of all I’m tired of you

I’m tired of being told that we must all race to the bottom and figure out who’s burden is the greatest in order to determine our worth in a given situation. As though some how modern society had been replaced by ancient models of human sacrifice to appease the gods and in doing so you were only worth how much you were personally giving up or suffering. Except we aren’t ascetics as a result of this. We don’t sacrifice and give things up for True GreatnessTM, we do it for greatness in the social rigamarole. We gain materially and dopamine-ally through these “Sacrifices.” We turn down help and discredit what we get while claiming that we single-handedly overcame every adversity thrown at us. We spit at the open hands reaching for compassion and help and we applaud those that overburden themselves when there are plenty to share the load while standing idly on the side grinning at our own fortunes. We stick the pipe in the spoke and blame the bike for falling over.

I’m tired of having who I was held against me. If in some ways that are negative anyone finds me to still be that person, please, let me know. Perhaps it’s a blind spot. I’ve spent nearly 5 years working with someone to find as many of them as could be rooted out and I’m about to possibly graduate from that process. Go me. I’ve made mistakes, some of which I can only see in retrospect. I had to make them to be able to recognize them. I recognize that I am critical in the now. Maybe that makes me hypocritical somehow, but the now is supposed to be the result of all of the thens. We have to be worse to get better. That said, don’t take credit for who I am unless you deserve it. Some people do, I’ve had lots of help. And to those people, there are some of you that I will never really be able to repay. I hope I have thanked you enough so far. But to those who in this dense field of perceptions of centrality, don’t flatter yourselves. We all think we are the central architect of the things that happen around us. Wait, you don’t? Maybe we’re born with it because it’s genetic narcissism.

And you, prick.

You, are whom I am the most sick of. You reactive, self-interested, conniving, paranoid, self-exiled outcast. You thought you were taking care of yourself and keeping yourself safe and that didn’t fucking work out did it. Like, pretty much ever, asshole. Thank you for not dying, and thank you for showing us all so many of things it turns out that you decide that you want are actually set out to destroy yourself. At least you are a complete failure in the right regards. If it’s alright though, I think I’ll try to run things from here.

“How do we know if famines killed millions when the Bolsheviks took over Russia?” Or discerning wheat from chaff in a digital world.

I have a friend with whom I frequently debate social theories and political ideas. We entertain the notion that what we are practicing is philosophy and we are sticking to it. Often our ideas lay in opposite camps. That’s putting it mildly at times. Our conversations have changed both of our opinions about certain matters and caused us, I believe, to deepen our search for an agreement if nothing else. This agreement is crucial to the success of any group, be it a family or a town or a federally led nation. The debates get heated sometimes and that’s important too. Partially so that I can practice restraint and learn to focus my passion into well formed argument without all the yelling and carrying on.

He has these conversations with lots of people and I give him credit for that, one person recently hit him with the idea that everything commonly expressed about the repressive nature of the communist governments of the world is vastly exaggerated and mostly exists as propaganda. It occurred to him that this would be difficult to truly personally verify even with usage of the internet. There exists so much misinformation that to really get a quality first hand source that can be verified as authentic would be a seemingly impossible task and that by simply accepting on face value the notion of Stalin’s communist atrocities he himself was doing what he accuses people who accept the reported news of climate science. The lesson here being that without realizing it, we can all be hypocrites. Our opinions are formed by the information we experience in life and they can be changed and influenced all the time. It’s important to challenge your own beliefs every now and then. If they hold water then it should be a reaffirming experience, but we shouldn’t be afraid to discover that we have new values or beliefs. That’s growth, and that things that exhibit life on Earth also exhibit signs of growth is a fairly undeniable fact. Don’t let that say too much about life though. You don’t want to get me started on my opinions about free-will.

Try to count every success

This one should be a little bit more straight forward. In discussing distraction, it’s important to understand focus. Short term focus is easy to lose. Long term focus is difficult to recognize. Both of these statements feel discouraging. It is definitely in vogue to talk about distractability. Everything is a distraction on so many levels that to really dive into that would take away from the point I’m attempting to wrangle together here. Seriously though, at some point even trying to pay attention to everything that is going on just starts to feel like a distraction. The other option is blissful unawareness of anything happening on a global scale. Imagine not knowing that Australia is on fire. Imagine having no knowledge of the current goings on in the middle east. Imagine having no real concept of where the middle east is or why there would even be conflict there. I don’t think John Lennon had sticking our head in the sand in mind when he wrote his version of that day dream. The world keeps turning though, and all we can hope is that we are here to see that continue to happen. How much of knowing about it is useful though? At the same time it feels very privaleged to be handed a live stream to an amount of human thought and be like, “nah.” Proponents would make points about how the connectiveness has helped and it definitely has. We now more than ever can understand how similar the world has become. We can gain an overview understanding of nearly anything we can think up keywords to. And it gets updated recklessly fast. But then feeling connected makes you feel isolated because you are just sitting there soaking in it and letting the currents of human consciousness and tensions flow from your glowing palm directly into your eyeballs. But then you’ve lost an hour or three and you haven’t accomplished anything you set out to do. At some point it’s just discipline, but that requires something to stick to.

Which finally brings us full circle to my original point about getting distracted and how to count successes in the long term. The term that really counts because it generates the factor known as consistency. Stoics would probably tell you that focusing on one thing is just the most you should aim for. I say that’s great if you can, but good luck. I’d say recognize how much you can actually maintain. Some things take only certain amounts of time and some end up being complimentary. Anything that contributes to the things you have determined to be your long term goals counts as a success. Period. Screw anyone that says other wise. As long as you actually did something as opposed to just thinking about doing it. If the goal is to ride your bike more, anything you get in terms of saddle time counts. Just enjoy it and be in it. And sometimes go for a spin around the block even if it’s a weird hour. Sometimes you might still fail to check every box, but don’t discount the ones you have checked off. Perfection doesn’t exist. Perfection exists only in your mind and even then is constantly shifting. Lost as soon as you found it.

This all assumes you’ve found something to shoot for. There’s plenty of good reasons to do anything and an equal number of bad reasons. At some point you just have to choose. And if it doesn’t work, then choose something else or pick a different approach. If that still doesn’t work, then consider giving up. Take an inventory of where you are and really think about what you are looking for in the change. Maybe nothing is missing and you just want more from something than it has to give. Sometimes things just are what they are, but our attitudes about that can make them miserable and intolerable. These days almost any shift can be made with consistent effort. It’s often the sticking to it that’s difficult. This isn’t anything new, but maybe the more it gets said the more people will understand the breadth of the issue.

Forget the time, where do I go?

In case you haven’t been clued in by the disjointed style of this blog, I’m a little disorganized. And incredibly easily distracted. Those two things are without a doubt related and several years of therapy have taught me that. I’m also having the rare “really good day” today and I’m trying to pay extra attention to the things that make it one. Sometimes the sky seems like every day is gray, and horrible, and the same. Sometimes my feet fail to hit the ground. Part of me feels like I’m just hiding, but I couldn’t tell you what I’m scared of. Part of me also feels like I don’t know if the way I experience life is valid or if I need to try harder, or find some better strength. My strategies are weak, but I am ambitious.

There are people who have every facet of their life planned out. They do not count me as one of them. This is only advantageous in that I am likely incredibly lucky. There are certain things in my life that cannot be attributed to anything other than luck. Things just happened the way that they have and any other way would have resulted in my not continuing to happen. Several years ago I felt very much like a ship without a rudder, let alone a sail. That’s not an uncommon sentiment these days. A job and some distractions are fine for a while, but what happens when you decide that you want more from life. Hobbies fill the time, but finding out that produces a feeling of growth and reward is often a tradeoff that must be weighed against the tedious repetition of it. Which is really only to be compared to exciting repetition because car soccer and battle royales are pretty repetitive. Knitting doesn’t get the heart pumping.

I sit at a cluttered desk, with a cluttered desktop. My mind is cluttered, but definitely less so recently. The rudder that so many of us lack these days is purpose. We’ve all been told, convinced, or simply came to the conclusion that at some point we mostly exists as wheels in a bigger machine and that everything is meaningless in the sense that it matters on a larger scale. Nihilism runs amok and people fail to achieve the apparent goal of really that nothing matters which is to decide on a couple of things that personally do. How that is actually worked out though varies so much from person to person. And in my case there are a few things that matter. Again, shocking probably nobody. Me, unable to decide on a single directive. I managed to find a level that works though, but my routine still needs work. All any of us can do in that situation is do better from here on. Habits exist as they do until we try to do them differently and then eventually, theoretically, they exist without having to think about them. Finding something to do, some central driving self narrative to serve as a point of magnetism for your attention. Odds are that if you really pay attention you will find something that your attention drifts toward. Follow it. See where it goes. Take action. That’s the really tricky part is shifting from thinking and day dreaming where you can be anything that you tell yourself you are into actually working toward making those day dreams a reality.

What do you want to do that you feel like you aren’t because you can’t? How much of that is just something that you’re telling yourself? What barriers are real and what barriers are just there to protect you from harm that isn’t there? We are what we do and what we do is what we focus on and that all just serves to feedback into itself until we achieve what we set out to do. Getting out of a funk can be as simple as taking a step. No one ever said that simple was easy though.

We have about a buck twenty, but there haven’t been any results

Once upon a time, a small town discovered a social media site. What started out as something that was used exclusively (or at least so we thought) by students in school, had turned into the digital version of community centers. A group online could be started at a moments notice and required no physical location to facilitate the flow of thought among a group of peers. This would not be anything that could be defined as a group of like minded individuals, though a more closed off group could be located without much difficulty. Private groups require membership forms, initial inquiries into one’s commitment to the groups core values. In a town trying to find it’s place in the current century everyone has the perfect plan to solve all of the woes and strife. The area is the most urban city in the county within which it resides. The average citizen has little awareness of the goings-on of the county they live in and the county is aware of this. The story is almost comical in the way that it sounds like a television drama when laid out.

I’ve described the area that I live in previously, but for those that are just following life and jumping in wherever they feel like it here is a small recap. At the confluence of two rivers, a city and a town formed. The town became an industrial and transportation center which developed a sprawling suburb that devoured the surrounding farmland as the population began to concentrate in the town. The town itself was deemed of value because of the narrowness of the river at that specific point. Crossings had been made there by rope guided ferry before the bridges were constructed; bridges for cars, that once carried trollies, and bridges for trains that still run as active freight lines. Before the trains, there were canals powered by the numerous rivers. The area has always served as a facilitator of transportation and commerce, and has always done well for itself. Despite what some would describe as a negatively perceived reputation, the school system provides an excellent education and now modern facilities. There is municipal trash pick up and the option to go with an alternative services provider in most places. The town is divided into more boroughs than necessary and maybe that’s the problem. Like I said, everyone thinks they have a solution, I’m not exempt from that.

Which brings me back to the social media network communities that had started to form. During the last election cycle I became even more politically involved that I had before. To lay out roughly what I mean by that I would start by saying I have for most of my late teenage to current adult years been interested enough in politics to read news articles, research topics in encyclopedias, read through textbooks, pay attention in social studies, and once wrote a paper criticizing the very education that I praised in the previous paragraph rather than write a paper about James Joyce or bother to develop a quality educational work ethic. Someone offered to publish that in two local papers and I turned them down because I was already worried about the repercussions just of turning that in rather than turning in my turn paper. But I had things to say. or, I guess I have things to say. That hasn’t faded much. Deciding then to not publish is why now I have made the choice to do the opposite. One of the social media groups that I found was announced as leaning to one direction. I joined this group because of my personal affiliation with them. The town had previous held a meeting where they invited the denizens to discuss what they thought should be done to improve the town itself. There were engineers and project managers and local business owners and plenty of regular townsfolk who had gathered because they wanted to try to make the area better. Apparently, leveling the waterfront to make it more appealing to people from out of town would do that. That design forum served as my introduction to community politics. Working for the town during the summer when I was in school and simply participating in public school introduced me to community involvement. Crowdsourcing feedback isn’t new. This town is in danger of falling behind the curve and being taken advantage of forever. And that’s why I joined a group on a social media network.

As a bubble does, the group itself tended to be rather focused. Everyone had their suggestions or their gripes and the various members would send praise or commiserate in scorn. One gentleman in particular was full of ideas that the town could do to improve. He had a tagline with each idea that implied his ideas only cost a couple of pennies. Idea after idea flowed in the group and a lengthy chat and chatter would commence and then people would move onto the next thought completely failing to realize that simply discussing the idea on the internet doesn’t actually bring it to life in the real world. The mayor wasn’t sitting there reading the page taking notes other than to get a little boost of dopamine for whatever praise the group decided to shower upon him. Or if they rose to his often unearned defense. One day, an idea was proposed that landed near to my interests and background and so decided enough was enough. There has to come a time where we stop suggesting and start doing and down with the idea that we have to wait for the government to get around to keeping up. You want to do this community group in real life, then let’s go do it. We don’t have to do much, but we should meet in person because in person is where the interactions that will affect our day to day lives will likely occur. And so they and several other people agreed to meet in the back of a bar to discuss what we would want from a specifically oriented community group. I brought a white board and markers and we brainstormed. We discussed the difference between actionable ideas and delusions of grandeur which we decided to refer to as step one and step two. You can’t get anywhere without figuring out if what you are trying to do is step one or step two and it’s amazing how many are the latter. Everyone wants a building, no one wants to pay a guild fee. Our meeting was visited by town council who offered us business cards and open assistance, and a phone call that offered us sand castle promises and wanted to lead us toward their vision for our group.

We continued to meet several times to discuss how to spread the word of our group and what we could do in the area to make genuine improvements and impacts. What we wanted to offer was an inclusive space for people of like-minded output based interest and to offer an open opportunity for people unfamiliar to the practices to give them a shot. The town exists next to a city with a similar thriving community, but it seems to serve as a larger draw. No one is looking at the town partially because the town doesn’t seem very open to people from outside of it. Our group flourished to the point that I had to question what I was getting myself involved in. There are already so many draws that require the time that I have available that I was starting to feel as though I needed to choose between a few of them and decide what was really important. My goal had ultimately been realized. Point proven, build it and they will come turned out to be the nonsense that happened. One meeting in bar turned into another in a restaurant where people who knew what they were doing showed up and managed to turn the group into a functioning entity. Perfect. That was my primary intent. Just to make it happen, I don’t even really care about the credit. The area now has a specific output based community group which is supposed to improve the area through the invitation of inspired minds, but making crafts that cheer people up is also dope.

Most of us feel some compulsion at some point to try to make a change even on the smallest scale. Sometimes when trying to do this we get so caught up in the end result that we forget to figure out what action we have to take to earn the dream we thought up. So much can feel so far out of our reach simply because so much of what we think we are pursuing as action amounts to no more than pure thought and fantasy. We had so many ideas for what to do with that group that eventually panned out well. A building was located for the purposed of hosting collective output creation events and participation in town events was coordinated. The idea of starting with step one isn’t exactly ground breaking, but sometimes I have to remind myself to take those first steps. We all get a little lost in our ideas and forget to actually pursue them from time to time.