Welcome to the working week

31 07 2011

So I finally got some work. A real job.

Or real-ish job. I’m not sure.

A guy I know got me a job in shipping/receiving on a construction site. I’m fine, more than fine, with that: I’m old school enough to thrill to the sheer bluntness, there-ness, of steel and concrete. I’ve never wanted to be an engineer, but I am fascinated how to make something appear where there was nothing, before.

So the work is real.

And I’ve worked receiving previously, so while I don’t know the specific procedures of this work site, I at least have a grasp of the general process.

Still, there are bits about this offer that are sketchy. I don’t want to go into precisely, but let’s just say I’m a bit skeptical about the promises made.

This skepticism was small, at first; hell, at first I was thrilled at the prospect of replenishing my drought-ridden bank account. But since then my questions have multiplied, and I’m not at all sure I’m going to get good answers to them.

My reaction then swung from thrill to terror: What the hell am I getting myself into? Is the job (i.e., the conditions under which I’d do the work) even real?

I’ve since calmed myself by saying, Well, I’ll find out. I’m slated to start tomorrow, so tomorrow or by the end of the week, I should have some sense of what’s happening. If it’s solid, I’ll stick with it; if not, I won’t.

It sounds dumb, but I really did need to remind myself that this job offer isn’t a prison term: I get to say, No, this isn’t for me.

Once I remembered that I have that option, I was able to shrink my outsized suspicions—this all happened so, even too, quickly and informally—to a reasonable skepticism. Now, instead of being either thrilled or terrified, I am merely uncertain.

I don’t particularly like uncertainty when it comes to the requirements of a job, but, again, I remembered that I am always uncertain when I start something new. I am good at ending, but not so good at beginning.

That’s how it is; that’s how it always is.

So I have questions about this job, some of which I  might not have about other jobs which have been offered after a more considered process, others which attend any new venture. Instead of assuming the answers, however, I’ll show up and find out for real.

That’s how it is; that’s how it always is.





If I had a hammer

29 07 2011

President Obama is smart. Very smart.

You can see it in press conferences and prepared statements, his grasp of the whole of an issue and its part, its relationship to other issues, the uncontroversial and the contested pieces, costs, benefits, risks. . . the guy’s got it down.

All of that analytical might, however, does not translate into political savvy.

It’s not unconnected, of course: the man ran a highly disciplined and ruthless campaign against a very strong primary opponent (Hillary Clinton, who is not lacking in the candlepower department, either), was solid against a less-strong Republican opponent, and quietly brilliant in his patience as the economy blew apart: Where McCain flailed, Obama hung back, projecting an image of calm competence as he moved in concert with the White House, Treasure, and Congress.

It worked.

That’s good, at least for those of us who wanted Obama to become president. And I think he’s been pretty good: the Lily Ledbetter law, the Affordable Care Act, the end to DADT, the reworking of diplomacy—all good. I’m well to the left of the president, but as I knew that when I voted for him, I’m not particularly chagrined that he turned out to be the moderate I thought he was.

No, my differences with the president are less about policy (tho’ there are those), than with his tactics and strategy.

Strategy: Unclear.Would be nice if there were some stated positive purpose to the Democratic party in general and his presidency in particular.

Tactics: he has only one—hang back calmly, try to work in concert with the powers-that-be.

Yes, that worked in the fall of 2008, but it is the summer of 2011 and at least some of those powers are rather uninterested in working in concert.

You need new tactics, Mr. President. Holding out your arms and waiting for everyone to gather within them ain’t gonna cut it, now. You have one approach, and when that one approach fails, so do you.

(Oh, christ, did I just address the President? I hate that shit when columnists and commentators do it, and here I just did it. Can’t keep my inner pundit down, I guess.)

Anyway, to restate this in more analytical terms, all me to state (in all obviousness) that any successful leader needs multiple tools, implements, arms, routes—however you  to put it, you need more than one option.

And having a clear purpose might help, here, if only in creating some urgency in developing those new tactics. When he has a purpose—winning elections, passing ACA—Obama is willing to pull out more than one stop.

In any case, I get it: the president runs cool, not hot. His VP, however, can rile himself tying his shoes, so why not unleash the Biden? There are folks outside of government who’d really like to be allies who could rally and provoke and stoke all of those passions of which Obama is clearly leery.

He might prefer his passion furled, but people are rarely moved by reticence. And if you can’t move the House and you can’t move the people, then you can’t move the country, period.

This isn’t meep-meep or 11th-dimensional chess, but a mud-and-blood political fight. So the president doesn’t want to step into the cage himself. Fine, not his thing.

But he still needs those fighters.





You can’t always get what you want

28 07 2011

Completely irresponsible.

Yes, I disagree with the Republican agenda in general and the Tea Party agenda in particular. No surprise there.

And I’m not particularly happy with the Democrats, either—see my various Bam! posts—and their apparent inability even to generate an agenda (which is likely related to their lack of overall purpose).

But there are certain realities which are indifferent to ideologies and agendas, realities which include a high unemployment rate, divided government, and a wary global economy. There are, in other words, constraints on one’s aspirations, constraints which ought to discipline one’s behavior.

And yet they do not. Or, to put this another way, “limits” are apparently to be used only as an ideological battering ram by the TeaPers, rather than marking out the boundaries of a difficult debate.

Difficulty? What difficulty? We’ll simply wave our “don’t-tread-on-me-flag” and declare that our will is what is.

Why deal with reality when you are the Master of Your Own Universe?

It must be admitted, of course, that life in the real world is a little less heady, a little more complicated, and contains more than its share of frustrations. The notion of living within one’s means requires that we nail down just what we mean by “living with” and “one’s means”, and that the old Rolling Stone lyric is wrong only in that, honestly, you don’t always get even what you need.

We can change the world (the universe? not so much), but not by declaring the world changed. We have to do the work.

So, members of the House of Representatives, put down the flag and do the fucking work.

If you don’t like how and how much the government spends, you deal with that in the budget process. Want less spending? Then allocate fewer funds. Lower taxes? Ditto.

If, however, you want to increase defense spending, maintain agricultural price supports, protect subsidies for oil companies, fatten up the transportation/highway spending budget, fence out all illegal immigration, give money to survivors of tornadoes, hurricanes, drought, and fire, well, then, you have to make some decisions about those taxes.

You don’t get to say “no deficit spending” and then vote for deficit spending.

You want a balanced budget? Then produce a FUCKING BALANCED BUDGET.

And after you’ve produced an unbalanced budget, don’t pretend to have been victimized by your own actions.

Don’t say “hey, spend money on this,” and then refuse to hand over the credit card.

I’d prefer more spending: on multiple high-speed rail routes, a single-payer health plan, scientific and medical research, aggressive development of green technologies, elder care, day care, welfare, environmental protection, job (re)training, mixed- and low-income housing, education—the whole social welfarist shebang. Higher taxes, more and better services.

You want more, you have to pay more, full stop.

But maybe you don’t want to pay more. I think the anorectic approach to governance is wrong, but legitimate—or it is only legitimate if you actually lower your spending levels to match your revenues (and, frankly, if you don’t off-load any costs on to other entities). If you’re willing to tell people that they’ll receive precious little in return for the precious little they pay, then, okay.

But you don’t get say “I’ll cut—and there will be no blood.” And then double-back and proclaim your courage in dealing in “hard truths”.

Don’t paint yourself as a martyr—“I’m willing to risk my seat over this!”—for doing your fucking job, especially when you’re not doing your fucking job.

You took a job in government, a government which has obligations which predate your arrival and will incur obligations after you’re gone. Whether you like it or not, you’re responsible for those obligations.

So start acting like it.





Unexpected smashing

27 07 2011

So I learned a couple of things:

1. Smashwords doesn’t like smart quotes. It was easy enough to fix—deactivate smart quotes conversion, copy each version of smart quote, then find-and-replace on the version.

2. It also doesn’t like converted m-dashes. Which is truly unfortunate, given how much I like m-dashes. The fix for this was considerably pickier: because the symbol for the m-dash is “C”, I couldn’t run a find-and-replace without turning every “c” into “- – -“.

3. And it’s not a fan of the converted [small] 1/2 fraction. Not a huge problem—this was a novel, not a math test—but still.

4. If you follow the directions in the free guide, you’ll make it through the AutoVetter. Again, it didn’t catch the problems, above, but I hate to think of the problems I’d have had had I not gone by the book.

Learning curve, I guess.

Oh, and now that it’s fixed, I can recommend that you check it out on Smashwords (it’ll be a week or so before it’s available at Amazon or B&N): The Unexpected Neighbor.





The Unexpected Neighbor

27 07 2011

So I finally did it.

I finally dragged my first novel into Smashwords, where it is being uploaded as we speak.

Not the exact cover, but darned close!

Converting it into their style was a pain in the ass, especially since I had to work in the hated Word rather than my preferred WordPerfect, but their free style guide was easy to follow.

It’s still waiting to be approved and vetted and ISBN’d and all that, but, hell, at least it’s a start.

Now, I just have to convert the second novel, and get off my ass on the third one. Oh, and try to find work. And a life.

Whatever.

*Update* Oh, hey, there it is, temporarily on the home page of Smashwords! I guess the wait is for inclusion in the premium catalog (Amazon, B&N, etc.), but if you wanna, you can read it right now!

*UpdateUpdate* Here’s the link to The Unexpected Neighbor‘s Smashwords page; I’ll put up links once it gets into other catalogs.

*UpdateUpdateUpdate* But wait a moment. Something’s weird with the formatting—doesn’t like the single quote mark. Waiting to hear how to fix it.





Hold on

23 07 2011

Bombings are not rare.

Karachi, Mumbai, Kabul, Mogadishu. . . people are murdered every day by criminals and terrorists who see  their fellow humans  solely as means to their own bloody ends.

I don’t know why I’m particularly affected by the Norwegian killings. Do I find it easier to identify with white Europeans? Is it that this is so unexpected, as if it matters more when horrific things happen to people who live in safe places than those who are under constant threat? Is it that a bomb in that city makes me wonder about a bomb in my city? Why pay more attention to this than to what happens in Baghdad?

I don’t know why it matters more, why all those bombings and shootings don’t matter more. They all matter.

So my sympathy to all of them, all of their friends, all of their families, their communities.

This is the least we can do for each other.

_________

Credit: REUTERS/Berit Roald/Scanpix





Summer in the city

21 07 2011

Hot, broke, and unemployed.

Yes, once again, I hate everything.

(Tho’ it must be said that we New Yorkers don’t have it as bad as those in the middle of the country. . . .)





Stop me, oh ho ho stop me

17 07 2011

I am fucked. Fuckity fucked fucked fucked.

And if it’s not completely my fault, well, it’s damn sure that had I been less of an idiot, I might not be quite so fucked as I am now.

*Sigh*

Same old shit: how many times on this blog have I moaned about all that I don’t do? And what have I done as a result?

Yeah, you got it: bupkis.

I used to keep a journal, but it’s been years since I’ve bothered with one. The blog is no substitute for a journal, but certainly there were some topics which could overlap with a journal.

Methinks I need to go back to journal writing, mainly because I can repeat myself and repeat myself and repeat myself and not worry about it because nobody else is going to read it. It works as a kind of practice: go over and over and over and over and over something until that something moves, until I figure out how to move.

I’ve said previously that there was some stuff I needed to work through, but just thinking about it hasn’t been enough. I need to write this shit out.

You, however, don’t need to read it all. I might get all meta on you and report on this process, but, for your sake and mine, I’ll stop me since you’ve heard this all before.





Long beautiful hair

16 07 2011

She might be, as The New Republic so ably puts it, Bellatrix Lestrange to Rupert Murdoch’s Voldemort. . .

But damn, Rebekah Brooks has great hair.

_____

h/t: Hendrik Hertzberg, The New Yorker; Photograph by Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images.





Snips and snails and puppy dog tails

13 07 2011

I know, children die every day, children are killed every day. This is heartbreaking, nonetheless:

The search for a missing 8-year-old Brooklyn boy ended early on Wednesday when investigators discovered what they believed to be his remains . . . .

The grim discovery capped two days of intense searching for the boy, Leibby Kletzky, who had disappeared along a short walk between a Borough Park school and a meeting place with his parents on Monday. Police detectives searched around his neighborhood and used helicopters to find the boy, who was part of the Hasidic Jewish community. They recovered video clearly showing the boy alive.  . . .

The police said it was the boy’s first day of walking home by himself. “He’d asked his parents’ permission to walk home alone and the parents were waiting outside” for him to return, Mr. Browne said.

The parents live on 15th Avenue. They were to meet their son at 13th Avenue and 50th Street; six blocks from the school.

The police retrieved other video showing the boy walking near a hardware store in the direction of where he was to meet his parents, but not quite at that spot.

His first day walking home alone! He must have been so excited. . . .

My condolences to his family.