The Frank Salad

June 15, 2015 at 3:45 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Hey, everybody! I’m going to teach you how to make a Frank salad today (no, settle down ladies…not like that).

I take a holistic approach to health and well-being. A huge part of being in good health is what you eat. Good food shouldn’t just be smart about calories – it should be functional food that tastes good and gives you nutrition. The Frank salad has all of that and on top of all that, it’s ridiculously easy to make and very portable! – great for those of us on the go. In this post I’ll show you how to make it as a first course for dinner at home and as a portable side for lunch. As an added bonus, this salad helps to keep you regular. Don’t laugh, intestinal health is critical to overall health!

I eat this salad at least once every weekday and as often as I remember on the weekends. As such, I’ve developed quite a nice system of storage containers and quick ways to make this up. Total prep time is under five minutes, even if you’re making two like I am in this post.

The vegetables you’ll need are red onion, tomatoes, cucumber, and carrots. I use my red onions in thin slices, the small tomatoes to avoid lots of prep, and julienned carrots. If you can afford the extra money, go organic! For the greens, I suggest red leaf, green leaf, or romaine lettuce. You can also use the bagged spring mix. Whatever you do, don’t use iceberg lettuce – it has very little nutritional value and, in my opinion, not much flavor.

I begin by washing my greens. This photo is a bag of the spring mix. I dump it in to the bowl, pick out all the icky-looking stuff, and dump the water out. It’s a good way to rinse off the greens and get all of the bad stuff out. Then refill with cold water and store in the fridge, uncovered. Your greens will stay good this way for a lot longer. This is a neat trick that also works with fresh herbs, asparagus, broccoli, and just about any other green vegetables. It keeps things fresh for longer and perks up veggies that are starting to look a little sad.

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Wash your greens! This keeps them fresh, clean, and crisp for a lot longer than simply storing them in the bag from the store.

Here’s a photo of how I keep my veggies. I keep my cucumber in thirds because one third is as much as I use for one serving of the salad. The carrots are easy – just toss in a handful. The tomatoes are easy, too – rinse and toss in to the salad. The onion I slice by hand very carefully. I prefer my cucumber chopped and peeled, but you can do whatever you like – be creative!

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Veggie storage for an efficient setup.

The first thing I do is pile up all the veggies.

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Always do the veggies first.

Then, lay the greens on top. This is especially important if you are storing it for lunch the following day because lettuce can becomes soggy if it is waterlogged without way to breathe, as in a container for work. So I always make sure to put my veggies on the bottom and my greens on the top, then give it a few minutes to air dry a bit before sealing up the container.

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Lay the greens on top. The container is for storing and eating on-the-go. The plate will make you feel like a five-star chef!

If you’re eating it right away, toss the salad and drizzle with your favorite dressing (featured dressing is Russian – nom nom). If you’re eating it the next day, add the dressing right before you eat the salad. If you add the dressing before then, you’ll end up with liquid lettuce.

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Voila! Functional, healthy, refreshing, and oh-so-satisfying.

And there you have it! It took me longer to write this post than it did to make those two servings of the salad in the pictures. Enjoy!

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What is Child-Free Living, and Why Would Anybody Want That?

April 24, 2015 at 3:41 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sometimes I feel like I am at the fringe of every possible mainstream there is whether that be political, social, musical, religious or, in this case, the dating world. Of all the things that “normal” people find odd about me or to which they simply can’t relate, my desire for not having children is easily the biggest, baddest skeleton in my closet. It is the biggest single obstacle in my path to achieving success and happiness.

Child-free living refers to someone who consciously chooses not to have children. Strictly speaking, it doesn’t include women who are infertile but trying to adopt or anyone who is trying to date someone who already has children. The philosophy of child-free living is just that: child-free.

I think it’s an interesting topic to discuss because it’s sort of an autopilot thing for most people. The idea that you grow up, get married, and have kids is so incredibly ingrained in to our heads that almost nobody out there even thinks twice about it, or they don’t think about it until it’s too late. Society has given us this idea that you simply have to do it, or worse – that you want to do it. The decision to have children is a big one and the overwhelming number of women out there who insist that they do want children leads me to believe that most of them have not actually given it any thought beyond a primal urge to motherhood (same thing goes for men). So I urge you to consider the benefits of choosing a child-free life, even if only as an exercise in thought.

Oftentimes, when I tell a prospective mate that I don’t want children, they are dumbfounded. The most common response is to cut the flirtation process off completely and disappear from my life. The second most common response is to ask “Why don’t you want to have children?” My response is simply, “Why do you want to have children?” Interestingly, I haven’t personally heard an answer to that question that didn’t sound entirely selfish or remotely begin to outweigh the drawbacks. I know, I know. You parents out there are screaming, “You’ll understand when you have kids!” I don’t doubt that I would make a great father and that my life would change, and that I would be filled with pride to see a tiny extension of myself out there in the world doing good things.

But think about that – most of the reasons people want kids are for themselves. For their own selfish reasons. Sometimes I respond, in my head, with “Really? You want a tiny extension of yourself in the world? Isn’t that the most selfish thing anyone has ever said? And do you really think you are the best thing we could replicate in future generations?” Okay, I admit – that sounds a bit elitist. But we all know that most of the people who are reproducing shouldn’t reproduce.

I’ll share with you some of the reasons that led me to my personal choice of not wanting children. Some are good things, some come with a negative tone. Just like life. So deal.

More time to do adult things like travel, work out, cook, hobbies, etc. What woman’s favorite hobby isn’t traveling? A research project was done to analyze trends among women’s profiles on dating sites and almost every single dating website profile for a woman lists an interest of hers as traveling. Sorry, honey, but you don’t travel much once you squeeze out a baby (or two or three or four…shudder). And why are a lot of parents fat and out of shape? One reason: time. There isn’t time to cook a healthy meal. There isn’t time to cook at all. Hell, even single people hardly have time to cook. There isn’t time for exercise. The average working couple is exhausted by the time they get home, and more exhausted by the task of caring for children 24/7 (and that’s what it is – a 24/7 job). If there is barely time to eat, you can damn sure bet there isn’t time for the gym. You can point out plenty of exceptions to the rule, I’m sure, but remember that these are just that –  exceptions. Hobbies like hiking, going on dates, or practices that increase your health seem to be the first sacrifices that people make in the interest of time.

More money. There can be no doubt that raising children requires a lot of financial resources. And a very steady income. The stress of losing a job is so great when you are providing financially for tiny human beings that you are likely to stick around through good and bad and worse and ugly and all of that at any given job. Employers know they can sucker someone with children in to doing a lot of things they can’t get a child-free employee to do. Some people cite tax breaks for children as balancing out the financial deficit created by caring for their children, but this is simply incorrect. The deficit far outweighs the break. What would you do with your extra money? Travel? Get a pair of quads and a trailer? Remodel your house? Quit working 40+ hours per week?

Bigger goals, bigger dreams. A person without children is free to focus on his or her own goals and dreams. Without children comes more money, more time, and more mobility to pursue whatever it is that makes you tick. A lot of people who are very career-driven have to make sacrifices once children enter the picture. Forget taking that promotion in Phoenix – your children simply can’t move elementary schools at this time in their lives. And that house you have had your eye on in the south end? Not a chance, buddy. Time that you might use to work on your own projects or business in the evenings is suddenly gone to caring for the children or recovering in front of the TV. There are certainly plenty of people out there who have had success pursuing other goals besides raising children with children in the picture, but they are few and certainly not “average.”

More friends more of the time. Ask any married couple with kids and they’ll tell you that their social life dive-bombed once they tied the knot, and fell through the floor once they had their first baby. The couple that lives next door to me had a child about six months ago and they haven’t attended a single bonfire (NEXT DOOR) since. Unreal. Maintaining friendships and connections requires time, effort, and resources. Be prepared to sacrifice that social life for your future babies.

Mobility. I mentioned it earlier, but if you have children, you are limited in where/how you can move. Sometimes even moving across town is out of the question because of school district boundaries. If you choose not to have children, you preserve your mobility not only in terms of where you live, but also in terms of employment. If an employer begins to treat you badly, you can switch jobs or move without fear of having to provide for tiny people or upsetting their social lives. It helps you avoid being taken advantage of at your job. It also allows you to take promotions that might require moving to a new city. And it expands your housing options as well – you don’t need as much space. You don’t necessarily have to be in the suburbs. And if you feel like roughing it in a bad part of town to save on the rent, you can.

Those are all the great, flowery points of having children. The following points are less than rosy and we might be reluctant to think about them, but extremely relevant all the same.

Lack of commitment from the opposite sex. This is true on both sides of the gender spectrum. There isn’t any guarantee that anyone you are with in any capacity will still be there tomorrow. So why would you want to tie yourself to someone for the rest of your life with a commitment like having a child? And why in the world would you want to risk having your relationship with your children potentially severed or decreased by tying it to the health of your relationship with your spouse/significant-other/baby-mama/baby-daddy? The potential for separation of relationships is higher than it ever has been and people who make decisions to have children blindly typically rush into that decision without consideration of that uncomfortable fact.

Bad divorce laws. Almost all of the time, someone gets screwed. Having children involved in a divorce settlement makes that divorce 1,000 times worse. On both sides of the gender spectrum.

Drain on the world’s resources. We already know that the world, in terms of its ability to support human population, is straining. There are doomsday models all over the place. Each time you bring a new human being in to the world, consider the impact that organism will have over its entire life. People will say that the population in the first-world countries is either stabilizing or declining, and that’s true. But the ecological footprint of a single person in a first-world economy is equivalent to far more than one person’s ecological footprint in the developing world. As a species, we are already walking a fine line in terms of our ability to preserve what we have for future generations. I personally don’t want to be responsible for handing someone the remains of my life if everything goes to hell in the next decade or two. It already sucks. And I definitely don’t want to be held down by tiny people baggage in a zombie apocalypse scenario.

So there you have it. The reasons people choose not to have children vary widely, I’m sure, and these are just my observations on the topic.

So now you might be wondering: Frank, if you don’t look in to your future and see a family and children and all that garbage, what do you see? How can there be happiness in that future?

This is a relevant question. In all honesty, the answer varies because I don’t know what my future holds except for tremendous potential. But in my dream future, I see a wife (or some equivalent type of best-woman-friend-relationship-type of thing), two great careers, two social beings with plenty of connections and a great social life, two fit people who like to share gym time together, or outdoorsy time together, and plenty of traveling. Perhaps someday we would settle down with a small acreage and get AN ADORABLE MINI PIGLET CHILD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Ahem… My point isn’t so much about the details, but about the fact that you can live a fulfilling, happy life without raising children. The flavor is different, but it isn’t bad.

So I hope I have at least inspired you to think critically about the decision to have children. The reality of having a family is almost always different from what people imagine it will be. Sometimes I think that those brief moments of “overwhelming pride” and “indescribable fulfillment” might just be a bit of a dopamine high combined with the need to validate a decision that person made which consumed half or more of their adult life and at staggering personal cost. But who am I, and what do I know anyway?

In the words of my local friend on this topic, “Some people should just get a dog.”

Americans are Overly Feminized

April 21, 2015 at 4:17 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Yep, I said it. Feminism has been one of the most fascinating social movements to watch unfold. Admittedly, it began probably before I was old enough to know what was going on, but it seems to have come in waves as I have gotten older. It is interesting to me because it is a topic on which everyone is divided. Even different women have differing opinions on what feminism means and how it affects us. Geographically, the interpretation and implementation of feminist ideas varies wildly. And a lot of people think that feminism only affects women, but it has the potential to impact men in a huge way. In that way, I believe it is different from social movements that came before which seem, at least now, to have had a much clearer, more defined purpose (e.g., emancipation of slaves, women’s suffrage, all that stuff).

Another way in which feminism as a social movement differs from others is that it has had, I think, a variety of unintentional (or at least unanticipated) effects. In this blog post, I hope to offer my thoughts on the topic and share my view of the world as it has been affected by the feminist movement. The Pacific Northwest is one of the best places in the country, I think, to observe the fallout of the social upheaval that feminism has left in its wake. I certainly see that it has deeply affected both men and women here in this part of the world and in ways that I don’t think anyone could have imagined in the beginning.

I’d also like to begin with a disclaimer, saying that I am not suggesting anything here is right or wrong. I do have my personal opinions, but what I hope to offer is a very real view of the dating world from the trenches post-feminism.

My interpretation of what feminism was meant to be is a clearly defined social movement with the intent to empower women in a variety of ways, with a focus on equality. In the beginning, the intent was to advocate for women as equal human beings with the ability to hold a job, earn a competitive wage (as compared to men), and do all of the things that men could do socially like hold a political office, hold a technical job, sleep around without being judged, raise children alone, go out with friends without the boyfriend/husband present, be single, the list goes on and varies with each “wave” of feminism that has hit.

For the most part, I’d say that those objectives of equality in rights were achieved by the movement. There is still a lot of (what I believe to be misplaced) contention over certain aspects of the movement. For example, in some professions which were traditionally dominated by men (such as engineering, or law), women still command lower salaries (in some parts of the country). But there are more variables to be considered. Consider that a young woman, from about age 16 to age 30, can make a salary equivalent to or greater than most men who start out in a technical profession, such as engineering, by working in the service industry. Exotic dancers, event hosts, waitresses, bartenders, and those types of entertainment-based professions are exceptionally lucrative for young women. A man in that same profession would not make the living that a woman would, all other variables equal.

The point of this anecdote is merely to point out that from the beginning, the idea of what “equality” meant to activists was flawed. Gender is a trait in which there can never be a literal equality. Ever. Because genders are DIFFERENT. What society values in men and what society values in women are entirely different things – as strongly evidenced by the fact that an attractive young woman working as a bartender can take home more in annual earnings than a male aeronautical engineer starting out at Boeing. Another sobering example of this is women that sleep around excessively. Empowered by the ideals of feminism, a lot of young women believe they are entitled to ride as many cocks on the cock circus as they possibly can – and they are. But no amount of social conditioning will convince a self-respecting male that she is a good marriage potential. It wasn’t a good idea to marry a girl who sleeps around before feminism happened, and it isn’t a good idea now.

So with all of that in mind, I’ll dive in to some details.

Feminism is not equality. The very word itself implies that it is not.

Feminism puts women on a pedestal. At the same time, it has devalued men to women and eroded the self-confidence and self-worth of men on a widespread scale.

Like many boys, I started my relations with girls in my teenage years – in high school. I was going on “dates” and getting together with girls I liked, exploring the way children do with one another. I remember my parents occasionally asked me about the girls I liked over the years. I will never forget when I made a remark such as “Well she isn’t very pretty,” or “She’s kind of big.” My parents gently responded with, “It isn’t what’s on the outside that matters.” Of course, they were just trying to be good parents and foster good values in their child. They didn’t think about what repercussions that might have.

On a massive scale, feminism has led to male social conditioning like this. Boys are (perhaps unintentionally) taught from a  young age that it is not okay to judge a prospective partner’s dating value, in any way, on her looks. Until I got older, I thought that perhaps this was just my experience. But now that I’ve had time to observe and, particularly, have moved to the Pacific Northwest, I know it wasn’t unique to me. Young men everywhere, starting at what appears to roughly be my age/generation, were conditioned to feel ashamed to reject a fat girl because, well, she’s fat. Or a homely girl for being homely. What a shallow thing to do, they would say.

At the same time, social conditioning began to tell young women that it was okay for them to blow up to the size of a house and not ever wear makeup or practice putting on lipstick, eyeliner, etc. They taught young girls that a good man worthy of dating would judge them by their character instead of their physical beauty. They taught them that an unattractive woman could have every reasonable expectation to date a tall guy with all of his shit perfectly in order, even though she wasn’t bringing much of anything to the table. It created an attitude of entitlement in young women that worsened with age, much akin to the attitude of the spoiled rich trust fund kid.

This type of double-ended (laugh) social conditioning fucked both sides of the gender spectrum in what were then unimaginable ways. Take the Pacific Northwest, for example, which has been heavily influenced by the feminist movement. The “average” couple here is a decent-looking guy in his early thirties, with a decent to good job, paired with a mid- to late-twenties girl, at least fifty pounds overweight, an up-do (or a masculine haircut), and not a speck of makeup to be seen.

But it goes beyond the physical, in terms of what it has done to the dating scene. Polyamory is pretty common in the Northwest. For those of you who don’t know, polyamory is a form of mutual non-monogamy and, although it takes many forms, the most common is when one or both partners in a relationship have a separate relationship with another person. For example, a man could be dating a woman with two boyfriends. The arrangement extends to marriages. In the Northwest, polyamory heavily favors women. It is not uncommon for a woman to have two or more regular male partners that know about one another. The arrangement is usually somewhat like blackmail or a threat in which a male partner is afraid to speak up against the arrangement because either a) social conditioning has taught him that it is not okay to oppose her desires or b) he fears he would lose this relationship if he did not agree to the arrangement. Most of the time, men fake agreement/enthusiasm to avoid conflict. By contrast, it is exceptionally uncommon to see a man with a similar arrangement, dating more than one woman. Relationships like these are either highly unstable and end in a financially shattering divorce for the man or are with two (or more) very unattractive women.

This is only one area of the country, however. I would be doing you a disservice if I didn’t look to other parts of the country for more evidence. And so I shall. Let’s zoom over to a part of the country that is entirely different, socially, from the progressive Northwest. You can pick your poison, but let’s say Texas, Illinois, Ohio, or Pennsylvania. These states are especially known for being more traditional and conservative. Here, traditional gender roles have more or less survived the feminist movement thus far. This isn’t to say that no social progress has been realized in these areas, but the dating scene remains relatively unchanged.

The indicator variables I discussed above are more or less reversed in these areas. In the “red” states, it is far more common for men to be able to find physically attractive mates who are less demanding in relationships and more respectful of monogamy, sexually or otherwise. Women in these parts of the country tend to keep feminine haircuts, maintain their looks much better (especially as they age), maintain a healthy weight, and take a more submissive role to men socially and in relationships. In Texas, an old, balding fat guy can wrangle in a threeway with a couple of young, cute girls just by being charming and having a few spare bucks. The values that men and women put on one another in these more traditional parts of the country are more in line with what previous generations experienced.

Male sexuality has been demonized.

This is a specific but extremely destructive aspect of the social conditioning that takes place as feminist ideals become more accepted in a community. In this case, I could go on at length, but someone else has written an exceptional piece about this particular topic and I am simply going to incorporate by reference.

http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/the-danger-in-demonizing-male-sexuality/

I will add a few things to this that build on what I spoke about earlier. Male sexuality has been demonized, but not just strictly in terms of sexual interactions. I pointed out earlier that young men are socially conditioned, from a variety of angles, that it is not okay to reject women as partners if they are not attractive to them. For example, the majority of men do not find overweight women to be attractive. That has always been true. The majority of men do not find masculine haircuts on women to be attractive. I have said this a thousand times in my personal life, but no amount of social conditioning will change what men and women find attractive.

Social conditioning has changed how men outwardly act, however. Especially in the Northwest, men are prone to settling on a woman who is not attractive to them for any number of reasons – women are scarce, women are rarely available, and attractive women are about 1 percent of the total. But all of these things do not play as much of a role as the social conditioning that young men receive early on saying that they should be ashamed for judging a woman by her outward appearance. It essentially leads to throngs of beta men who are afraid to stand up to women and afraid to ask for what they really want.

This doesn’t just hurt men though. It actually hurts women, too. I can’t count the number of young women I’ve met in the PNW who are starving for a man with self-esteem and self-respect. It manifests itself in unhealthy ways as more and more women turn to domination, especially of the sexual type, to experience what they consider to be that domineering male role in any way they can. Sometimes I feel utterly hopeless when I realize that all we have done, for some women, is exchange rape culture for rape fantasies. Even I don’t know how to interpret that and it leaves me feeling gross.

At the same time, the same type of social conditioning that teaches young men to settle for unattractive women (because it’s apparently wrong to do otherwise) teaches women that it is not okay for them to “submit” to a man. To be seen publicly obeying a man’s will is somewhat like the scarlet letter in the Northwest because of the feminist culture. For women, it’s cool to show off your trained, attractive man to your friends. This leads to a lot of internal conflict in young women. On the one hand, they want this thing that is socially unacceptable. On the other hand, they want to be accepted by society because acceptance, to a young woman, is the only thing that matters. It leads to them essentially being undateable, even by a man with the best intentions. A great example is a woman who demands that the man pay for the date, but then internally lowers his rank because he submitted to the idea just to get a date with her. This happens on such a subconscious level that most young women are not even aware that it is happening. And even if they are, they aren’t sure what the resolution is because their inner values are at such conflict with one another.

The social conditioning about sexuality and the shaming of traditional male sexuality and male gender roles has led to a void that neither gender knows how to fill. And deep down inside, most men and women are yearning for something they are unable to find because of it – especially the younger generations.

Young men do not have role models or clearly defined gender roles anymore.

This point segues nicely from the previous one, that male sexuality and male roles have become more blurred as feminism takes hold. The effects of male roles being ill-defined affect both men and women. Women are left wanting for “real men” but completely unable to define what a real man is and, even if she finds one, unable to hold on to him. Young men are left asking the question, “Where do I fit in? What value do I bring to society?” Both are legitimate questions and feminism has left both of those questions without answers.

Young men now are growing up without male role models because of the way society has demonized typical male roles. Young men no longer learn how to fix cars or leaky plumbing from their fathers. They aren’t taught that it’s okay to want attractive women or to reject women who don’t suit their needs. They aren’t taught to have balls and man up and go after their dreams. They are taught that it’s wrong to take charge in their relationships with women because that is a form of disrespect. Typical male sexuality has been turned on its head in to something synonymous with fat shaming, except it’s sex shaming now. Slut shaming has almost reversed itself in terms of roles where it is now women doing the slut shaming of men.

You can find most young men sitting at home, holed up, playing video games as an escape from the confusing real world. young men are simply withdrawing completely from the world of dating and socializing. Some young men are turning to bisexuality to meet their sexual needs (this may seem extreme but go look up numbers). Young guys are out there in the world drinking wine at the coffee shop while they cruise online dating websites or playing games, ignoring the real world around them and secretly hoping that a young, attractive woman will sit down and strike up a conversation. Is it any wonder women complain there aren’t any “real men” left in the world? The “real men” have been shamed out of the dating scene.

I’ve heard many of my friends ask the question of what men are even needed for in our society at this point. Women can, and very often do, choose to get pregnant by artificial insemination. Single mothers abound in the dating world.

Let’s take Betsy, for example. Betsy grew up with social conditioning that taught her that good men don’t judge by looks. She was encouraged to participate in athletics in high school and pursue a college education. Besty took a liking to social work and decided to go to school until she graduated with a master’s degree in social work. She diligently worked on her career, working her twenties away. Her drive and passion for her work were her sole focus, and dating was put on the backburner. The few relationships that Betsy did have ended because she wasn’t really willing or interested in putting that much effort in to them. She wasn’t interested in sacrificing anything on her journey to be a better partner.

Betsy lived in the Pacific Northwest where the weather wasn’t exactly conducive to a good attitude, and certainly not to exercise. She was overweight. When Besty hit her thirties, she felt ready to date seriously. Her biological clock was ticking and she felt internal pressure, inexplicable though it may be, to have children. Her motherly instincts were kicking in.

Betsy played around with guys when she was younger, but she was not prepared for her youth to leave so quickly. Her good looks had faded in to her thirties and her overweight nature wasn’t helping her attract men. The men she did attract were pushovers she met on online dating websites. They only seemed to want to have sex – none of them wanted to get serious. She suspected her looks were the problem.

Desperate for children before it was too late, Betsy turned to artificial insemination. By god, she may not be a wife but she would be a mother, she told herself. Three years later Betsy is a single mother of two, her body wrecked from childbirth and the crushing reality of daily life as a single, working mother of two. She has steadily become more delusional in her social life to maintain some semblance of happiness and continues to date men, casually, into her forties. Usually they are younger, horny men who just want a night or two and to be on with their lives. Finding friends or men who stick around for any period of time has been difficult for Betsy, but she keeps her head up knowing that someday things will get better.

I may be painting a dismal picture, but the truth is very often not a convenient or easy thing to accept. I truly believe that we underestimate the effects that male gender disillusionment has had on both genders. My personal opinion is that while feminism and the ideal of equality between genders was a pure objective to begin with, it became warped and twisted along the way in the hands of extremist interpretations and misguided, well-meaning intentions.

As with many social engineering experiments, I believe we are approaching a breaking point where the pendulum has swung too far in one direction and is about to come back. I think there are brilliant young men out there who are starting to see clearly the negative effects that feminism has had. We are already seeing some extremist responses such as the self-proclaimed men’s rights activists. Although we might look at them in a somewhat tongue-in-cheek light, the idea behind their purpose is much needed and probably expected at this point.

So there you have it. My 3,300-word diatribe on how feminism has affected the world through my glasses.

My Experience with Public Employment

April 7, 2015 at 12:58 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

When I first entered the world of civil engineering, I worked for a private consultant in Oklahoma. We designed a lot of municipal infrastructure for cities and small towns that ranged from sewage processing lagoons all the way up to major pipelines and streetscapes. My second job was doing more or less the same thing, but on a bigger scale in Washington state. I swore up and down that I would never work for the public sector because I saw it as wasteful and unnecessary. I thought that people who worked on the public side were not as bright as those folks on the private side.

That attitude is only somewhat true and depends on where you live. What I’ve learned, over four years later, is that the talent pool split between private and public varies widely by geography. For example, in Oklahoma, most towns and counties are sparsely populated and don’t keep highly skilled staff of any sort on-hand. They can’t afford to because the tax base is weak, and they have no need because their infrastructure is either non-existent or relatively uncomplicated. The consequence of failure is low since very few people depend on the public infrastructure. The majority of counties in Oklahoma are a metal building in a field with three county commissioners who get together from time to time to shoot the shit. The Pacific Northwest is the opposite of that world. It’s made up of large cities that own a lot of complex, large-scale infrastructure and manage huge populations in small spaces.

So it makes sense that in Oklahoma, trained staff are likely going to be freelance consultant engineers who move from place to place as the need arises. It wasn’t uncommon for us to travel in excess of four hours one way to a job site. In the Pacific Northwest, the public sector has a real need and a lot more resources available to keep trained engineering staff in-house. And the challenges are great, technically speaking. Accordingly, when I began my job as a consulting engineer here in the Pacific Northwest, I found myself outfoxed regularly during conversations with city engineers, even the ones in small towns. They clearly knew something I didn’t know. Okay…they knew a lot of things I didn’t know.

Not long in to my consulting job, my firm won a contract with the City of Tacoma to do engineered plan review. The terms of the contract specified that my firm would provide one engineer on an as-needed basis to review plans prepared for private development. The plans included anything from marine structures to sewers to streets and sidewalks. As you have probably already guessed, my firm chose me to fill this role and I found myself at the City of Tacoma’s offices a few times per week, reviewing engineering plans.

It was during this time that both the depth and breadth of my engineering experience expanded at an exponential rate (lots of exp’s in there – you like that, don’t you?). During my time at the City on contract work, my firm began its downhill descent. I spent less time there and more time at the City. The contract between the City and my firm did have a specified end date and, as that date drew near, private development began to pick up the pace. More permit applications were coming through the door than the department could handle and I was a star reviewer. They didn’t like the idea of losing me. When contract negotiations for renewal went south, they set their sights on hiring me full-time.

Naturally, with things in the toilet at the other office, I accepted the position. It also amounted to a tremendous salary boost, partially because of how poorly I was paid on my consulting job and partially because the City pays pretty well. And thus began my experience with full-time public employment. Of course, I felt pretty silly ever thinking I would never find myself in this position. I’ve been at the City now part-time for over two years and full-time for about a month.

What has blown me away and really surprised me is that my preconceptions of what government does and what the people who work in government are like were completely wrong. Now, I’m sure that my experience is limited and that it varies with geography (as mentioned above), but my experience with the public side has been very eye-opening. I wanted to share my experience because I was wrong and I know that many people share my incorrect interpretation of public institutions. And I also wanted to share because, as a taxpayer, it’s good to know that at least some of your money is going to a good cause. So without further ado, here are my more in-depth, myth-busting discussions about government and why each preconceived notion, in bold, turned out to be incorrect.

Government is Wasteful

I thought it and so do you. In fact, it is true of some government. But the City of Tacoma is definitely not. The people who represented other cities in the Pacific Northwest were at the recent public works conference and I had a chance to talk to many of them and get an inside look at the workings of their cities. They are not wasteful. By the way, I’ll be saying “cities” throughout this miniature novel, but what I really mean is cities, counties, utility districts, and other forms of local government.

Not only did I learn that cities are not wasteful, but I also learned why people think they are. Someone at the conference made a remark that caught me off guard and left me, quite literally, stunned. They said “Government isn’t in it to make a buck. If you could make a buck doing government work, someone would be doing it.” When those words hit me, I felt like a deer in the headlights. And a total moron. Of course it’s true. And it blows the whole “privatization of government” theory right out the window. It can’t be done, and I’ll show you the fundamental reason why.

Let me give you an example to show you what I mean. I work in a department of the City that deals with regulating private development. Of course any city wants development – that is, the investment of private dollars on public and private land to build improvements. An example of private development might be a builder who buys a large plot of land, subdivides it in to 40 smaller lots, builds some roads, and puts up a bunch of houses. But it can also be construction of apartments, or a shoreline development, or a nice big park. Development is essentially the construction of a city, one piece at a time. It is what makes a city somewhere we want to live.

There are a lot of codes in place to regulate how developers do things. Development is a business in which private owners attempt to “make a buck.” It is for profit work. So let’s say that you go in to business as a developer and you want to build a bunch of houses on this big field you got. Let’s say that this parcel is located with the City of Tacoma’s jurisdiction. There’s a lot of parts to the process, but ultimately the City will say that you can only build the houses if you construct roads, utilities, traffic signals, and parks with those houses. The building department would say that you can build those houses if they are in compliance with the latest building codes. Codes keep becoming more restrictive and the cost of compliance goes up, resulting a nicer end product but more capital outlay for the construction of the product.

The nature of development is to make money, and one way to make money is to do as little as possible. It isn’t uncommon for developers to cut corners because development is a big dollar game and you need the big bucks to play. So it is the City’s place to ensure that the roads, houses, utilities, etc. are constructed according to code and in the best interest of the public and the end users of those homes – the homeowners.

Think about that for a minute. The City’s objectives and interests run contrary to the developer’s interests. Of course no private company would ever attempt to do that. And if they did, they would probably be sued in to oblivion and fold. It is only through the power vested in a public institution that the City can fulfill that role. Sometimes, it is the City’s duty to sit stubbornly as a road block to a frisky developer until the developer complies with code requirements. There is no way to make a buck doing that kind of work.

This is just one case study and the one to which I can speak most directly, but it extends in concept to many other parts of the City’s responsibilities. You might look at this and say, “Okay, Frank. I see what you’re saying. But that doesn’t meant government shouldn’t make efforts to be fiscally responsible and financially solvent.” I absolutely, 100 percent agree. And although you might not be able to privatize government for the reasons above, you can most certainly borrow practices and principles from the private sector meant to eliminate waste and unnecessary costs and you can apply those to municipal corporations.

You’ll be happy to know that it is happening already. The negative publicity and the widespread notion that the people have about government being bloated and wasteful has initiated a move in the public sector to trimming down – smartly. Cities, counties, and utility districts in the Pacific Northwest are progressive and usually some of the first to adopt new trends. One such trend is the concept of “lean government.” It has a lot of uses and applications, but the basic concept is to eliminate redundant steps in a work flow to provide more efficient, valuable government services. Seeing the ways that various cities in the region have implemented lean government in their own ways at the public works conference was inspiring and encouraging. It isn’t rocket science – the basic idea is to eliminate redundant work and reduce opportunities for error. But because of the complexity of what cities do, it isn’t as straightforward as you might think. Cities also seek to limit their review and jurisdiction where legally allowed as it relieves them of liability and keeps staff from becoming too bogged down with work.

I see it within my own department as well. We have weekly meetings to discuss policies and procedures. The discussions are always geared toward making us all more efficient and doing our work cleanly and effectively. I sleep well at night knowing that the money supporting our department is not wasted.

And, lastly, the financially solvent piece. Places all over the country are tackling this issue in different ways. Utilities have it the worst, especially water and sewer utilities. People are accustomed to subsidized water and sewer charges, so they don’t see the full cost of maintaining our buried infrastructure or supporting growth of those networks. That is likely to change as utilities all over the country undergo financial audits and reset rate structures. In my department, the majority of our salary as an engineer is supported by the private developers whose plans we review. They pay hourly rates for our review services which encourages them to do a good job the first time. And, of course, we recognize that people are paying for our services and we have absolute respect for that – we don’t run up the bill unnecessarily.

Government is Outdated and Archaic

The public perception is that government, especially cities and counties, work on outdated technology and processes that haven’t taken the last ten years of industry advancement in to account. I can definitely see how that perception comes about. The City of Tacoma just finally moved all of its permit processing from paper to electronic within the last two years and that change was very slow to come about.

While it certainly isn’t perfect, where the City absolutely excels is in progressive management of development. The City has adopted recent building codes and continues to update its own development (civil engineering) codes constantly. Washington state is known throughout the country, at least in the civil engineering world, for its cutting edge management of stormwater and the environment. Tacoma is near the forefront of that effort. The City has installed countless alternative stormwater management systems that include such things as rain gardens, bioswales, natural filtration, wetland mitigation, I could go on.

The City also requires private development to mitigate stormwater impacts to the highest extent feasible. For those of you who don’t know, extensive development can cause biological and hydrological changes to a stormwater basin. An example might be where a developer builds a hundred houses and roads on what was once an empty field next to a stream. That stream will see reduced flow during dry weather and increased flow during wet weather, without mitigation. The water quality will also deteriorate so that you might see lots of gravel, oil, and other pollutants washed in to the stream. Washington state doesn’t allow that type of unmitigated development.

The City is a bit behind the curve on processes that might be visible to the public eye, such as how it processes permits or stores information, but its management of stormwater and public infrastructure is making headlines. New stormwater management techniques are tested in Washington state and if you can succeed here, you can succeed anywhere.

Public Employees are Incompetent

Another misconception that is probably somewhat true, but think about it – it’s no more true than saying that private sector employees are incompetent, too. The old idea is that private sector cuts out the incompetent people because they waste dollars and the objective of private employment is to make money, but that certainly hasn’t been my experience in the world of private consulting.

In fact, though it may pain me a bit to say so, my personal experience was that I encountered more fundamentally dysfunctional teams and individuals in private consulting than I have on the public side. In private consulting, everyone had a different agenda and those agendas typically served only themselves. Through a continuing ladder of dysfunction, these folks eventually reached the top of the ladder and imposed their own dysfunctionality on their subordinates. I dealt with everything you could imagine – of course the usual politics, closed doors, decisions made by supervisors that made absolutely no sense and didn’t take in to consideration the subordinates or their roles. Sure. I also dealt with nearly disabling neurosis, childish egoism, people with bad hygiene, folks who couldn’t focus and wasted other peoples’ time. My point is that, at a minimum, private sector employees are at least as dysfunctional and incompetent as we imagine public employees to be and, in some cases, far far worse.

Maybe I’m just lucky, but I have far more respect and admiration for the folks I work with on the public side than I ever did in my private employment stretch. My favorite coworker is a veteran who has not claimed any benefits associated with his veteran status except for the VA loan program, which is hardly a benefit if you’ve ever tried to buy a house that way. I admire him because he isn’t like your typical vet, demanding respect and special treatment for his years of service and deployment. He isn’t touting his status every time he goes to a restaurant, he isn’t claiming PTSD or using it as an excuse to avoid work, and he’s an exceptionally hard worker (and a great father). This is the kind of guy I wish our veterans were – who we all wish they were. He isn’t waving his flag of entitlement. He’s serving in his new capacity with humility and respect.

The City spends money training its employees. In our department, that equates to sending employees to training relevant to our projects such as stormwater management, road construction, utility management, etc. Because of the City’s size and its many arms, we have immediate access to resources like real property management and legal that a private consultant doesn’t have. This lends itself nicely to a more rounded, complete education of what it means to be a civil engineer.

My private consulting employer never spent a dime to train me. They wouldn’t even pay the fee to register for the professional engineering exam, much less any preparation associated with that test. For those of you who are wondering, a license is the biggest, most valuable thing you acquire as a civil engineer and it is a tremendous asset to a company. Why they wouldn’t pay is beyond me.

Public Employees are Wasteful

This is my last one, I promise. I thought that public employees were the type of folks who had eight meetings a day to avoid doing real work, went to the coffee shop a few times for an extended break, and generally just took advantage of their cushy jobs with a nice salary. I thought it was difficult to get fired from public employment.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. The folks I’ve had the privilege of working with are actually immensely productive and incredibly dedicated to their work. I’m not talking about people who stay until 8:00 every night working on projects – a practice which is actually counterproductive. I’m talking about people who find ways to use their time wisely and effectively. Yes, I’ve been to a few meetings where I would rather have not gone because it seemed like a waste of time. But on the whole, most of the meetings I have attended produced meaningful results and did not have superfluous staff. I know that there are dud meetings on the private side, so this is another case of “at least as bad, but probably better.”

The City works a bit differently from private consultants in that the folks who are on the low end still have a say in how their jobs are performed. This gives employees, even the “low man on the totem pole,” a sense of ownership in their jobs. If they have even a limited say in how they perform their jobs, set their schedules, etc., the productivity of those folks skyrockets. People here are genuinely interested in their work and, maybe more importantly, they keep the objective in mind and find creative ways to get to the end. Our role is, at its heart, customer service. Sometimes we deliver bad news, sure, but we find ways to work with people from average Joe homeowner all the way up to Megadevelopment, Inc.

Conclusion

Okay, I used a bold conclusion header for those of you who gave up and scrolled through. Basically, I thought that public sector employment would be terrible and that I would be ashamed to be a City employee, needlessly spending public tax dollars to accomplish an objective in a horribly inefficient manner. Basically everything about what I thought public employment would be was wrong. My experience with public employment has been immensely positive and encouraging. Seeing what the City of Tacoma and other cities and counties around the Pacific Northwest are doing to better serve citizens is inspiring and I wanted to share that with you so that you know that at least some of your tax dollars go to a great cause.

Alive and Well from Washington State

April 6, 2015 at 12:53 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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It has been forever since I logged in and posted something on my blog! There are a number of reasons for the lapse – lack of time, lack of interest, uncertainty in direction, excuses, excuses, and more excuses.

But no more! Recently, an “internet contact” reached out to me and let me know that she enjoyed reading my blog posts (Do we have a word for those people you know online but have never actually met? If so, I need that word…). My immediate reaction was, “My blog! Wait…I have a blog?” But through her kind words I felt encouraged to start blogging again, and I was inspired to find something new to write about.

There was just one problem. When I initially started this blog, it was fueled by fiery passion for things that seemed really pertinent to my life at the time. The blog was initially born out of the idea that I had a lot of useful knowledge that I could share with the world and those who were willing to listen. So, that’s exactly what I did. Over time, I reached a point where I felt like I had shared everything I intended to share and that I had more or less tapped out the topic at-hand.

But I’ve had a lot of time to get out in to the world and live, and realized that my passion is, well, passion. The things I posted were specific to certain topics, but driven by the core concept of self-improvement and intentional living. The concept of intentional living is what gets me out of bed in the morning and drives me throughout the day. And sharing it with other people is an amazing opportunity that I can’t pass up. So the direction of the blog going forward is set to be a smattering of tips, tricks, and ideas to infuse your life with inspiration and purpose and I will shamelessly pepper it with anecdotes from my own life to prove the concept. Geez – now I sound like every motivational speaker that’s ever lived.

I’ve written a little bit about intentional living before, but let me recap it for the new readers. My favorite analogy is, naturally, the one I made up just now. Actually I’m lying – it isn’t new at all. Incubus even wrote a song about it (bonus points to anyone who identifies the song). Life is somewhat like a running car in that you have the ability to either drive it and choose your destination or let chance take the wheel. We all know what happens when you take your hands off the wheel though. The car will go anywhere that gravity and the road take it…most often into a ditch or a lake. Most of the people you meet in life are either not steering at all (can you say pregnant at 16 years old?) or occasionally offering a corrective nudge or two enough to keep the car on the road, but not really with any particular destination or objective in mind, and they confuse this with success. And then there are those rare specimens, about 10 percent of people according to recent studies, who are actively driving and choosing where to go next. These 10 percent of people produce more than the other 90 percent combined. No, we aren’t the 1 percent. We are the 10 percent. I’d rather be in that bracket than the 1 percent.

Intentional living is about not cruising through life and going with the flow. Sure, there are times when it’s okay – even productive – to let go of the wheel and see where it takes you. But for the most part, choosing where you’re headed in life and taking active, intentional steps to get there is much likelier to get you somewhere you want to be. It’s about setting realistic goals and achieving them. It’s about finding ways to motivate yourself to take the next step. Phrases like “There is always room at the top,” and “The extra mile is one stretch of highway that never has a traffic jam,” come to mind. Those are nifty phrases that fill me with good feelings. And let me tell you, (ladies,) there is plenty of room at the top.

For most folks, the concept of intentional living and the practical implementation of the principles are foreign. You may have a goal or want to achieve a certain something, but you may not have the tools to get there. That’s where I hope to help you. Because if you are here reading this now, that means you have enough of a desire to at least put yourself in the right place. Maybe you want to lose weight. Maybe you want to find happiness. Maybe you would like to improve your career. Maybe you want to improve your personal relationships. Maybe you want to improve yourself. The good news is anything is possible and all of these goals, though seemingly unrelated, can be achieved with the same set of tools.

That’s all for this post. I wanted to check in and get things rolling again. This post is as much for me as it is the readers and it serves as my commitment to you to get it off the ground and moving again. I’ll also be going through old posts, tuning up and fixing broken links, missing pictures, and the like.

For those of you who are new or want to know, the rest of this post is a bit of self-disclosure to bring things up to current and describe my experience with intentional living for the last three years. I stopped writing my blog intensively back when I lived in the Midwest. A lot has changed since then and I have been somewhat hibernating in my cocoon, perfecting my craft. Of course it will never be perfect.

Since the Midwest, the direction of my life has changed quite a bit in some ways and I’ve conquered many projects – things that I grew up thinking were impossible or never for me. I moved to Washington state in the spring of 2011 because I thought it would be a good change. There have been a lot of great things to come out of that. Moving to Washington wasn’t something that “just happened.” By the way, I hate that phrase – just happened. It’s one of the most overused phrases of our time and a blatant indicator of how people drift through life without direction or purpose. But I digress. I had planned to move to the Pacific Northwest for years and spent over a year searching for jobs. I didn’t have time off when I came to Washington. I started work on the first working day I was here. It was a consulting engineering job doing exactly what I thought I wanted to do at the time. And it was exactly what I thought it would be.

Washington has been good to me. I felt an inexplicable calling to the Northwest. I had never been there, so I didn’t know why it was so interesting to me. But I knew the Midwest wasn’t the place for me, being as religious and traditional as it is. Education isn’t valued as highly there as it is here, and there is not much opportunity for a highly skilled, highly trained, driven professional. In fact, the Midwest has no need for highly skilled, highly trained individuals of any type. It’s a simple life, and there’s certainly value in that – it just wasn’t for me. Since my move, I discovered that Washington has fantastic craft beer, the best coffee in the country, and lots of bearded guys so that I fit right in. Washington also has a very educated population and a lot of really hard-working, independent people. It’s like people here are constantly working and when they aren’t they’re being antisocial at home recovering. The majority of homeowners are actually single people. So I do really fit in pretty well here. What I didn’t count on was the fact that almost everyone here is affected by seasonal depression and that physical fitness isn’t valued very highly, especially (sadly) among the single female population. That fact really blew me away given the tremendous opportunities we have here for outdoors recreation. You can’t haul yourself up to the top of Mt. St. Helens if you’re packing an extra 50 pounds! And why wouldn’t you want to do that if you live here!? But anyways…

I worked at my consulting job for about two years, but the office took a turn for the worse about halfway through. The firm began moving work away from my office and in to other branches. They initiated a corporate shift at the top level that was good for some and bad for others. The low guys on the totem pole really got screwed. My boss (who really liked me and was perhaps the only reason I got hired to begin with) ended up taking his own life in a tragic turn of events last summer. Things really plummeted. I moved on and became a public employee at the City of Tacoma where I do engineering plan review for private development. It sounds fancy, but I’m not doing anything too rocket-science-ey. The job is a great move for me because it offers me a ton of engineering experience across the board of disciplines.

One of the reasons I became an engineer is because my personality is that of an engineer – very much a planner, a dreamer, an executor. I’m about getting things done. But another thing that drove me to civil engineering in particular is that I have a gift of understanding the physical world and the world of construction with a clarity that most others do not. It probably has a lot to do with being predisposed to building things when I was a child. I grew up with legos and Lincoln logs just like the next guy, but I had the opportunity to help out with concrete paving and remodeling homes as I got older. I never knew how much that experience would affect me at the time, but it played a huge role in what I became.

I always though that my career would be the place I would take off, but it surprised me when I encountered as many obstacles as I did in advancing my career. I am still a very successful professional, especially for my age, and I like to think that I am a notable presence in the local engineering community. In fact, I know I am because I recently attended a conference of public works professionals and networked like a champ. Some of my professional contacts are nationally acclaimed engineers with distinguished careers. My mentor is one of the greatest treatment engineers I’ve ever met. But I put my career on the backburner for a while to pursue some personal goals. My personal life was where I found the best opportunities to improve my life and myself.

When I arrived here in Washington I had a long list of big, lofty goals. They were a combination of new goals and goals left over that I didn’t have the resources to achieve in college or things I couldn’t accomplish because of my location before (e.g., make friends – difficult to do in a town of 13,000 in oil ghost-town Oklahoma). After a year or so of Washington life, I either crossed goals off the list as achieved or irrelevant and I was left with this void. I was like a pickup truck in tow mode without a trailer.

So I began to focus on my personal life and finding out who I am and what is most important to me. It led me on a breathtaking adventure. I tried a lot of new things in a short period of time and I met a lot of new people from all walks of life. I became a host for a local meetup group in town. I traveled all over the Puget Sound region checking out the cities in the area and meeting people from different places. I bought a house and turned it from a pile of junk in to a nice little cottage by completely gutting it and starting over. I began and completed a long list of projects that made me a better, more complete person. And I did all of it in the face of overwhelming odds and hardship. As of today at this writing, I am generally a happy person. My core values revolve around people and making the world a better place. The process of discovery and self-improvement is not one with a beginning or an end. It is a journey for the sake of a journey – Kaizen, an Asian term for the philosophy of constant change for the better.

And none of what I have described here “just happened.” Maybe you look at this and think it simply isn’t relevant to you. That’s probably true…you aren’t buying a flip house, working two jobs, and hitting the gym regularly. But I can show you one example to which we can all relate, and an issue that is near and dear to my own heart – relationships and love.

Is there anybody out there who doesn’t want to find good relationships and love? Good, I didn’t think so. So much of what we see on social media and television revolve around all of these laissez faire approaches to relationships – phrases like: love will find you when you least expect it, don’t go looking for someone, they have to come to you, chemistry is “just there.” These phrases drive me nuts and they couldn’t be more incorrect. If you disagree, take a look at the current state of marriages and relationships. A lot of people, especially young people, are extremely frustrated with their love life (or lack thereof). Could all of this be coincidence, or could it be that good relationships take time and effort and hard work and people are undermining their own efforts through their actions and attitudes? Laziness is not going to bring you happiness. Ever. Even in relationships. Nobody ever got anything worth having by doing nothing. At what point did people decide that it doesn’t apply to dating, too?

Next time someone is coming down on you because you are, in their opinion, trying too hard, ignore that comment. Nobody will know you’re looking if you don’t put yourself out there. There is absolutely no shame in putting yourself out there – whether that’s dressing up and going out to a bar looking cute or starting an online dating profile. Get out and join a hiking group, or a book club – anything that interests you. People meet people in different ways in this age. Don’t let yourself be shamed by others for wanting a relationship and don’t let others stop you from finding it. Just like you wouldn’t let them shame you or stop you if, for example, you wanted to lose 50 pounds and modified your eating habits and began exercising to accomplish that goal. Not that anyone would discourage you from wanting to lose weight – but isn’t it funny how they make you feel ashamed for trying to find a boyfriend or girlfriend intentionally?

If you’re already in a relationship, ask yourself if you’re putting in effort and making it better. Relationships aren’t inanimate creatures – they are living, breathing, and changing because the people in them are living, breathing, and changing. It even goes beyond romantic relationships and applies to friendships and business connections. Do you treat your personal relationships the same way you treat your business relationships? I doubt it, because everybody would be at each other’s throats if they did.

There’s a lot wrong with the world today, but a little education goes a long way to reducing ignorance. That’s my rant for the day and my welcome back post. Look for more as I get back to writing.

Going Back to the Basics

August 12, 2012 at 8:33 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

I recently spent an evening in the company of two young women in West Seattle. We had a fantastic time. We ate Mexican food for dinner and one of them mentioned that she was glad black beans were served instead of refried beans. I protested, informing them that I loved refried beans, and they responded that they are full of fat. Well this was news to me. I thought the same thing until I looked on the nutrition facts for a can of refried beans at the store – no fat at all. How could this be? Well, as it turns out, the restaurants add lard or some other kind of fat to thin the beans out and make them delicious. This came as both good and bad news. Finally I felt like it wasn’t my fault that the refried beans I made at home could never seem to taste as good as the ones in the restaurant, but it also meant I had to cut back on my extra side of refried beans whenever I went to a Mexican restaurant.

But more to the point, perhaps, was that it got me thinking: when was the last time I met a female who could teach me anything about cooking? With feminism and idiocy in full swing these days, it seems young women would starve if not for restaurants. Of course, there are plenty of men out there the same way – let’s not discriminate here (yes, I know, don’t have a heart attack). I’ve been sort of dating around, sort of seeing a girl here or a girl there. (Actually, most of it is sort of texting a girl here, sort of texting a girl there. I think this is the consensus definition of dating among young women. They are socially crippled by things like Facebook and texting – but that’s another rant.) Nothing ever amounts to more than 0 dates (occasionally I get to one). It’s due in equal parts to my incompetence with women and the incompetence of the women I meet. None of them know how to even meet a guy in person, let alone know how to cook. But enough about that.

I have thought about it a lot since it happened, and I think I’m ready to make a generalized statement to the effect that most young people (i.e., 30 and down) don’t have a damn clue on how to go about the general, daily workings of their lives. It could be that our parents were too good at taking care of us. It could be that college and the military are the two things young people usually do now, and both of them do everything for you except scrubbing you in the tub. It could be that home economics got a bad rap in middle school, so nobody took it (or took it seriously). I don’t really know where or how the knowledge was lost.

But one thing is certainly clear: it needs to be found. Things like cooking, cleaning, laundry, ironing, gardening, etc – they don’t really change drastically over time. The need for them doesn’t ever go away, either.

It seems to me that most young people simply expect to open the fridge and have something sitting there for them to eat. I guess this shouldn’t come as a surprise since young people are awful planners. I actually observed yesterday a young couple standing in front of a restaurant in downtown West Seattle. They were discussing whether they wanted to go into this one or another one. “What do you feel like, honey?” I facepalmed on the spot. It’s a damn convenient thing there were half a dozen different kinds of cuisine within a block radius, otherwise they would have been fucked. PLANNING! Fail! It frustrates me to no end.

I keep going off on side rants here. Anyways, point of the story is that none of that shit just happens. You don’t just go to the grocery store and have divine inspiration tell you what ingredients to buy for some amazing Indian dish tonight. That’s assuming you have the foresight to get to the grocery store in the first place. And going to the grocery store four times per week is a fast way to unnecessarily spend a lot of time and money – and a quick way to burn you out. Enter the art and science of meal planning. It’s a real thing – look it up. And as much as you might like to believe it, nice, pressed clothes and clean suits do not just appear in your closet. You have to do shit to make that happen, too. And this is all a bunch of work that has to happen just so you can do what you mostly do with your life anyway – go to work.

So now that I’ve dampened your already bleak hold on reality, let me say a few positive things. Learning the various components of “home economics” has a lot of benefits. For one thing, your clothes, shoes, appliances, and other personal belongings will last a lot longer and look a lot better. I mean who seriously polishes their shoes anymore? But who shouldn’t? They last so much longer and look so much better. Ironing clothes properly helps them hold their shape and appeal a lot longer, too. Ironing them improperly shortens their useful lives considerably. Planning meals in advance will save you a great deal of time, headache, and money. It sure is cheaper to take a good, satisfying lunch to work than it is to buy something less than healthy for you on the fly. You also won’t be wondering what you are going to do for dinner when you get home exhausted from work every day. And if you planned in advance, you won’t have to go to the grocery store or to Taco Bell. It may be a pain in the ass at first, but it’s sure worth the trouble in the end.

As far as actually educating yourself goes, the internet is as much as you ever need. Sure, you could probably go to great lengths to find a class on some related topic or something. If that’s what you’d rather do then, by all means, go for it. But the internet can teach you to properly iron a shirt. There are recipes and basic cooking guides all over the place. Every time I find a recipe I like, I write it into a cookbook document I created in Word. Every once in a while I print a bunch of pages off and put the into an ongoing binder I keep in the kitchen (it makes a nice display piece, too). The hardest part isn’t even learning – it’s just having the discipline to set aside the time to do it on a regular basis. Find what works for you. Maybe you do everything on a Saturday or Sunday when you would have been scarfing cheetos on the couch anyway. Maybe you hit the store twice per week and plan only half of a week at a time – I find this works best because I eat mostly fresh foods that don’t keep for an entire week. And if you’re worried about cramming this into your schedule, then I suggest you take a good, hard look at said schedule. I bet if you tally it all up, you’re spending more time on this sort of thing now than you would be if you did it the right way. It’s not rocket science at all.

So, there you have it. My relatively short rant on people being incompetent at life. I only used a few “curse” words as well. I think this represents a great accomplishment. Now I’m off to do my laundry.

The Jobs Problem

November 23, 2011 at 5:34 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

I have been really deviating from my original intent with my blog, which was to talk about athletics and the environment. At first, I was somewhat ashamed that I couldn’t stay on topic. Now, I’m thinking that if I really wanted to stick with that scope, it was stupid to begin with since they’re really unrelated topics. And lately I have just been writing whatever comes to mind. Although I have only ranted lately, and I feel like I should try to offer something of value this time.

I have been watching the economic struggle of our country for a while now, like everybody else. I have learned a lot in the last year as it has been my first year of real, honest-to-science employment. One of the problems that our economy has utterly failed to solve, regardless of any political or fiscal policies, is the jobs problem. There are simply not enough jobs and a lot of people are out of work. I have a few theories as to why this is the case, but I want to present my strongest one here. Why? It’s not just a “Hey here’s what I think!” post. I would label it as a rant if I intended to waste your time in that manner. Instead, I hope that you take it as a way that you can improve your own game as an employee, employer, or unemployed person. After all, it helps to know what the problem is if you’re going to solve it, right?

The way I see it, everyone has done something really stupid to get us to this point. Everyone is two groups: employees (current and potential) and employers.

Employees

Employees is a pretty broad term. I want to keep it broad, but note that there are marked differences that you can draw between older and younger generations. That said, let’s dig in.

The biggest mistake employees are currently making is the one you see all of the Occupy Wall Street kids making. Simply put, they want to start at the top. I’ll admit that I haven’t figured out exactly what Occupy Wall Street is trying to accomplish but, as far as I can tell, I see a couple of major themes in the “movement.” There are a lot of people who are complaining about how hard their lives are. For most of them I have little to no sympathy because their current situation was due to extremely myopic planning, or even downright stupidity. The other theme I see is naive college kids wanting a job handed to them on a silver platter.

Take a look at the baby boomer generation. Most of them have worked the same old job since they began working.  Most of them aren’t college-educated and they work jobs like receptionists, mechanics, maintenance, construction, etc. Maybe they haven’t lead particularly illustrious careers or made a name for themselves that will go in a book somewhere, but one thing they did do was work hard and get really good at what they do. My father is one of the most accomplished mechanics I have ever met. He doesn’t just work on cars. This guy maintains a fleet of concrete mixer trucks. I know a lot of older folks for whom I have immense respect because of how hard they work and how good they are at doing so.

By contrast, I can’t really say I have that kind of respect for most people around my age. Every kid in college right now has this delusional dream that they’re going to be hired for six-figure salaries right outside the auditorium doors after the graduation ceremony. Forget going out to the sewage lagoons and taking sludge samples. Forget getting down in a manhole and measuring the flows. No, these kids want to be the engineering manager. They earned it. With their pretty, $100,000 degrees. And what’s more: they deserve to be engineering managers in Newfucking York City. They’re the best of the best. But it’s hard to blame them when they are being fed this kind of crap from the institution that sold them the degree.

One thing that no college graduate has is experience. Kids are electing to stay in college to get master’s degrees and even doctorates. Why? Two reasons, I think. One is that it helps them stave off the real world of work and keep living the dream as they know it. The other is that they think it will help them get hired. In my business, it doesn’t matter if you have a master’s degree or a bachelor’s degree. You start out with the same salary and same position because you have the same thing: zero experience.

And experience matters. Experience matters more than any education you can get. Experience made the baby boomers into one of the most formidable, successful groups of employees history has seen. To all you college students and soon-to-be graduates, you could take a serious piece of humble pie from your parents.

Here’s a quick little story about myself, because I’m a bit of a narcissist. I was one of the best civil engineering students in my class. Not just at my university or in my state, but in the entire Midwest. I know that because I’ve been all over the Midwest, by the way. I have as good a college career as any graduate. I, too, thought I deserved a great job doing awesome sustainable projects that made use of all of my “special training” in hydrology and water resources. I was on track for my master’s degree while working – the works. Guess where I got hired? Woodward fucking Oklahoma. Possibly the shittiest backwater outpost work camp the country has to offer. Actually it’s probably not the worst, but it sucks. Hard.

A little about my job: I go out to sewage lagoons and take sludge samples. I frequently pull manhole lids in the field and check out lift stations and pumps. I go out to jobs and get dirty and muddy all the time on inspections. I get down into the trench to check out the pipes being laid. I travel all over Northwest Oklahoma, traveling from one shitty small town to the next shitty small town. Each place takes a little bit more of your soul with its shittiness. When I go home at night, I stare at the walls of my apartment. I try to catch up on the sleep I didn’t get the night before. I don’t go out. There are no places to go to besides the gym. There are no girls to meet. There wouldn’t be a neutral public place at which to meet them even if there were girls. There are no concerts. There are no sports teams to join. There are no classes to take at night. There is only work.

But what do I get in return? Experience that far exceeds anything my peers get. Our office has so much work we can’t even see straight. I have a nationally recognized mentor to work under. I am allowed to take on as much work with as much complexity as I feel I can handle. Sure, it’s not glamorous. There’s nothing thrilling about standing out in the middle of a semi-arid desert without a tree in sight watching sludge being dug up. But at the end of this hellish period in my life, I will be better equipped to work in a nice place than any of my peers.

The point of this anecdote isn’t to complain about my job or ask for your sympathy. The point is to tell you to suck it the fuck up and move to Woodward, America and work a shitty job. If you really want to make yourself into a successful professional with an illustrious career, you’re going to need as much experience as you can get. And waiting around for a few years to get into that struggling MEP firm in Phoenix isn’t going to get you any experience. You don’t start at the top. You eat shit at the bottom for a long time until you’re worth moving up. And like it or not, you’re not better than Woodward, America when you graduate college. It’s called earning it, and you should try it.

Employers

Employers are at least as responsible for this problem as employees, however. In fact, if I could say anything about employers as a group, it’s that they have the same problems as employees but they have more power.

Take a look at any company actually hiring these days. And for a real thrill, take a look at the good ones or the ones whose offices are in places where you might actually want to live. My favorite example is URS, an environmental/civil engineering firm. They do decent work on projects that I would have killed to be a part of in college. Not a single one of their entry level postings requires anything less than a master’s degree. You can’t even apply without a master’s degree. Without even having worked at URS, I can say with certainty that a good bachelor’s degree candidate would be more than capable of their entry level work. Yes, URS, I am calling you out. That’s partially for not hiring me, but it’s entirely the truth.

But this is just one case of a thousand. URS is not the only company at fault. Most hiring managers are trying to do exactly what college graduates are trying to do: “start at the top.” Except in hiring, starting at the top isn’t about getting the best job without having worked up to it. It’s about getting the best employee without having invested anything in said employee. Open engineering positions all ask for 200 years of experience, knowledge of local regulations (how could you if you don’t live there or work there as an engineer already?), and about eight or nine certifications of which you have never heard. These certifications will likely be useless in a few years, too. If I was guessing, the interview would involve some sort of test in which you part the seas and walk on water.

The only jobs that are open are the ones to which almost no one can apply and meet the minimum requirements. I use engineering as an example because I’m so close to it. Engineering students that graduate college, whether it be with a bachelor’s, master’s, or Ph.D., must work for a certain number of years before they are even eligible to sit for the PE licensure examination. This means that the young engineer is not able to sign or stamp drawings, construction documents, or design calculations. This means that, to a company, the young engineer will be something of an investment. Even if the young engineer is extremely capable and produces more work (measured in dollars) than he (or she) costs, he will not be able to work without supervision until he has the license. Therefore, EITs are in a massive hiring slump. Almost no one will take on an EIT.

Now, this has something to do with the concept of “career security.” Without going on a tangent, career security is the idea that job security is a thing of the past, but if we keep up our qualifications and continue learning, we will always be hireable within our chosen career somewhere. This concept was brought about by massive corporate layoffs in the past decade, which urged or even forced most professionals to become self-reliant for training and continued education in order to recover. The employees have responded by screwing over companies by moving around a lot. The idea is there’s no employer loyalty to the faithful employee, so why should the employee be faithful? It’s difficult to say who is at fault and for what, but it seems clear to me that both parties have a degree of guilt here as well.

Regardless, the main problem is that employers simply are not being realistic in their expectations when they hire. The only group of people in the country whose skills are in demand are the ones with all the experience already under their belts. There is very little room for newcomers in almost all industries. If all of the engineering firms refuse to develop new talent, what will be left when the old talent retires? It is simple common sense, but when was the last time you encountered a hiring manager with common sense? Hiring managers try to sound clever and profess to know what they’re doing when they give the vaunted hiring advice on public message boards and in “exclusive” interviews, but really they are just playing politics and contributing to the problem like anyone else. The fact is there is legitimate young talent out there, and lots of it. And if hiring managers were really as good as they claim to be at what they do, they would have found it by now.

Anyways, there you have it. My brief opinion on what’s wrong with the economy. Lazy employees and myopic employers. If you’re looking for a job, the best thing you can do right now is go to where the work is, which is where the shittiest quality of life is, not-so-coincidentally. Suck it up and get your experience. Stop expecting to have a downtown loft and a glamorous job right out of the box. Alternatively, move to Canada. Employers need to come back to earth with their expectations and start thinking long-term. And, if you ask me, they need to stop pushing specialization so hard and focus on the fundamentals. But so do students.

Rant: New-Age Hippies

July 28, 2011 at 11:29 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

It’s Friday evening. That means that I am once again resenting the fact that I had to move to a tiny town to get a job, and I am seething with jealousy of all of you who have somewhere to go tonight or someone to be with – or both. Especially those of you attending large group outings. At sushi. With beer. As such, the following rant will be underlain by tones of that jealousy.

But on a more serious note, I feel like venting. When I think it’s unwarranted, I usually try to keep my ranting to myself. But this is totally not unwarranted. I can’t guarantee that it will follow any sort of coherent structure – I have a lot of things on my mind to get out, but I think they’re all “pretty” related.

I still keep up with “green” happenings even though I’ve been cut off from the world in all forms except electronic. I’m definitely excited about some of the changes happening and the continued progress. But I’ve steadily grown more and more disillusioned from the people spearheading things – at least on the internet. One of my mainstay sources is treehugger.com. When I originally got a Google Reader account and added them to my feed, it seemed like an alright source of information. They had well-written articles backed with good, solid numbers and research. That is in stark contrast to its current state, however. Now, the articles are a few paragraphs long and seem more like incoherent blurbs of information from science knows how many contributors. It’s as though the author sees an article somewhere else and copies it into treehugger with his or her own garbage interpretation.

Now, the point of all this isn’t so much to destroy treehugger. I’m not that kind of guy. Wait, yes I am. I love taking down other people when they are stupid or incompetent. That includes organizations. But really, what I’m getting at is that this kind of behavior really reflects badly on the entire green community. Maybe that’s not necessarily inaccurate though.

Moving to the country and being absolutely surrounded by conservative Jesus lovers who tend to hate progress or change has really given me a new perspective on how things are done. No, I’m not a right-wing conservative or anything. But I can definitely see how people can become skeptical of the kinds of far-reaching, ill-informed claims that the green community is wont to make. Take, for example, a recent article on treehugger about “smart” water infrastructure. If you’d call it an article (here’s a link). I actually happen to be an engineer who designs water distribution systems and improvements. Even though I’m in a rather backwater region, we use what is called telemetry all the time. Automated systems to control water distribution systems are exceptionally common. Even rural water systems in Oklahoma (trust me, you know what that means if you live here) are beginning to install automatic meter reading systems. Wells, pumps, water towers, valves, and treatment processes can be entirely automated. Even irrigation systems can be put on automatic control (usually they are), reducing the need for operators to use as much fuel for the daily tasks required in running a system. It is also possible to monitor for problems and notify operators at all times of day, rather than having a problem spiral out of control before it is discovered or repaired.

Now, granted, I can school this guy because I work in the industry. But a quick Google search would have been enough to convince the author that automated water distribution is already an industry norm. Am I saying there’s no room for improvement? Absolutely not. I just don’t think that this kind of “blogging” (I prefer the term ‘public brain shitting’ for posts like this) should be encouraged. Maybe you think I’m being overly critical or unnecessarily harsh, but look at the last part of that blurb. The author claims that there is no reason why ALL water distribution systems shouldn’t be using this kind of software. That claim reeks of ignorance. A skeptic knows the first answer: money. Telemetry installation and programming for a really small rural water system costs tens of thousands of dollars in equipment and labor. So, immediately, I know two things about the author: he obviously lives in a big city with an enormous tax base as he seems to think these kinds of improvements simply form out of some hardass republican’s tight asshole, and he’s most likely an academic, left-wing liberal. You can spout off environmentalist idealism all day, but you’re no one until you’re out in the world making a difference.

So, that brings me to my next point: new-age hippies. And the real point of all this. I would say that the majority of posts on websites like treehugger represent skewed, uninformed, left-wing idealism. But this kind of thinking isn’t at all limited to the authors on treehugger.com. I have been following the debate on the government debt ceiling quite closely. While it’s just politics, it does offer some insight into mainstream America’s political leanings. I would offer the idea that 75 percent or more of the population is more left than right. The number comes from the figure stating that over 75 percent of the country’s population lives in large population centers. I can tell you that life out here in the middle of fucking nowhere is pretty much a total 180.

So why is everybody that lives in a city more on the liberal side of things than the conservative side? Look around a city. It’s gorgeous. There are plenty of things to do, public places to see, concerts, parks, water features (most man-made) – a utopia of public facilities. The buildings are made of masonry, the sidewalks are landscaped, the grass neatly trimmed. In a city, you never think twice about a water distribution system unless a main breaks – and even then it’s fixed in a matter of hours. You don’t think about power coming to your apartment or your mobile web coverage. Those things are just given in a city. Coming from a public works engineer, I can tell you right now that at any point in time in a big city, you are looking at millions or even billions of dollars. Take a look out your window. Millions, maybe more. Downtown is billions – even trillions. That money doesn’t come from nowhere.

I know I’m taking a roundabout route to my main point here, bear with me. Or don’t. It’s my rant. Whatever you want. Ignorant academic liberals aren’t the only offensive group of people with a dangerously narrow view of the world. Everyone who has never had to spend time in the darker, lonelier parts of the country has a skewed view. I know this because I was one of those persons. I lived in Omaha my entire life up to the age of 22, and I thought the entire world had a tax base the size of Omaha. Every time I visited a small town I thought “Why doesn’t someone clean that up? Why are two out of three buildings caving in and abandoned?” The answer: reality.

The current debt predicament represents, to me, a macroscopic view of the larger part of our society today. The government has expanded tremendously, even exponentially. They are supposed to use tax money to support its activities. Instead, tax money has shifted from things like roads and infrastructure to places like unemployment benefits and welfare. Then there’s medicare and medicaid. I’m not here to offer any opinions, but I am here to state the obvious: the government is in debt because it spends more than it receives. Now, to me, what the government takes out of my paycheck every year is already too much. Yet it has been stated and proven that our taxes are close to the lowest in the developed world. What blows my mind isn’t the amount they take out of wages though. What blows my mind is the amount they take away from businesses. If you know anything about investing in stocks, especially those that pay dividends, you know that the government is essentially driving away business by taking too much. Add to that consumer pressure to get prices as low as possible and you’ve got no one really earning anything. Consider it from the other side. Say you own a successful national corporation like AT & T or Bank of America. Since it costs a billion dollars just to eat every month and your profits are below 5 percent on the dollar for all your production costs, why would you create jobs? Why would you opt to put any of what’s leftover after the government takes its huge chunk back to the people? I wouldn’t. I would keep it all for myself and hope it was enough to live the standard of life I had earned by creating a massive, nationally successful corporation. So when you wonder where the jobs are, and when you’re pressing really hard for that cushy government job with huge benefits and steady job security, remember where they went.

So new-age hippies don’t care about free love and marijuana. That’s a thing of the past. But they resemble hippies because they think they deserve a high standard of living while being expected to contribute nothing of value to society. That is my main point – I’ve heard it referred to as the entitlement phenomenon, too. One of the articles I read on a far more reputable source (CNBC to be exact) compared our taxes to our expenditures in a pretty straightforward way: taxes are essentially what they were in the 1950’s, but we expect services to continue to increase? Taxes would have to increase for that, and I’ve already lamented at how an increase in taxes is going to destroy what little is left of America’s economy. People need to remember how to do it on their own and the government needs to be cut back hard.

If you don’t really think I’m right, consider the fact that most people are massively in debt. Consider further that almost everyone lives well above their means. The reason the CEOs of GM or GE or Exxon-Mobil drive nice cars, take long vacations, and bang lots of women is because they built enormous, vastly successful companies to finance that kind of life. What did you do? It is most often the middle class crying out against the rich for having “too good” of a life. Treehugger.com wrote an article about how income inequality makes people unhappy. You can deny it, but the concept that there even should be income equality defeats the point of the discussion. The middle class is the class of people who are financing exceptionally expensive, five- and ten-year educations in order to “get a good job.” It’s getting to the point where a college education doesn’t even make sense from a financial standpoint. If the goal in life is to be materially comfortable and secure, shouldn’t you take that into consideration? I mean most people work for ten years or more just to pay off the school debt. And I suspect most people only pay it off because they have to. Some don’t – I know a lot of people who get loan forgiveness because they go to work for the government. In a life where everything is simply handed to you, how can you learn to be grateful for anything? It’s no wonder young people across the board don’t value hard work or innovation or creativity.

Young people are generally idealistic, ignorant, lazy, apathetic, and focused on their own material satisfaction. I should qualify that further by saying young people TODAY. It’s almost pandemic, and it’s incredibly easy to verify. What kinds of activities require lots of practice and hard-earned skill to be good? Take something like musical instruments or sports. Actually, we don’t even have to go that far. Take simply being in shape. How many people are in shape? Anything that takes any kind of sustained, focused effort is largely outside of the realm of young people today.

I’m a bona fide hater of “alternative” music. You can see the kind of cultural degeneration young people are inundated with in this particular genre. A lot of alternative appeals to young people because it reflects their most sacred values in life: apathy and material comfort. Alternative lyrics are dripping with things like entitlement to a good life and abandon for other people. It subtly promotes a selfish, reckless attitude toward life in general.  You can see it in the job market, too. Young people go to school for four years, get a degree in English and then expect a cushy office job that pays six figures. That’s right – EXPECT. The sense of entitlement young people have is disgusting. Let’s say our test subject gets a degree in English and manages to get a half-decent job. Chances are he knew the owner or supervisor or HR agent. Next, he expects a big paycheck. Since his degree in English is worthless, however, and his written and oral communication skills are on par with a monkey like most people, any sensible executive sees that he is more of a draw on company money than a contributor. Long story short is he doesn’t get the big paycheck – he gets a salary that is entirely undeserved, but still in the range of something like 35k a year. That’s not really enough to pay off school debt, pay for groceries, a girlfriend, a new car, an enormous home theater system, or a data plan on a smart phone. But that’s just too damn bad, because those things are all “essential” to his live-it-up lifestyle. Who cares if he didn’t earn it? Loans! Loans are the answer. Besides, the government is doing it. It can’t be that bad. And now we have come full circle.

George Carlin made a good point in his final years that you really don’t have any “rights.” The idea of “rights” is a gimmick. For someone who has nothing of value to offer to society, that is a rather scary thought. Since most people have nothing to offer, most people reject the idea that you don’t really have any rights. Think about it though: you’re a free person. You can choose to travel around after college, financing your travels with credit cards and not giving a care in the world about actually getting a job or producing anything. You can go out to expensive restaurants and bars with all your friends on the weekends and live like you’re a millionaire. You’ll eventually end up in default or in jail, or working a shitty job you hate that you only got because you knew someone doing the hiring. The only real “right” or “freedom” in the world is money. The only thing with a political voice is money. The only thing that speaks to most women is money. The only thing that really makes sense is to do everything you can to amass enormous wealth. That is the only way in which you will be free to actually enjoy life instead of working for the rest of it. It is the only way you will ever get married or have a sway in policy-making. Money is freedom in our world, and if you’re just a punk who can’t produce, you’re going to lose hard.

Anyways, I’ve listened to an entire As I Lay Dying album and am hitting 2600 words here soon, so I’m done.

Rant: How Women Really ARE the Root of All Evil

June 29, 2011 at 12:02 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

I think that a huge part of growing up and becoming a man lies in realizing the best way to attract a woman. After all, it’s our job as the male half of the species to do whatever it takes to get a female in bed with us. And, hopefully, having our children and passing on our genes. That’s what we’re biologically hard-wired to do. No amount of social conditioning or change can overcome that need. But what about a woman? Her biological hard-wiring is finding the best protection and provision for her children. That means finding a male who can provide food and security for her and her children.

It’s taken me a while to realize it, but the game changes slightly in our “civilized” world. The objectives aren’t different, but the means by which we go about it are. For example, a silverback male gorilla’s prowess might lie in his physical strength to overpower competitive males, his ability to gather food and his ability to command others of the species to do as he wishes. Certainly this is the example of the alpha male, holding all the cards. In human terms, it’s a little muddier. We aren’t still foraging the land for food or fighting each other constantly in a physical way (unless you live in the South). But, males are still looked upon to be providers.
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We all know men are shallow. They want a hot piece of ass to fuck and that’s really 90% of what they care about. Even the noblest of men can only get that percentage down to around 80 or so. But women are really that shallow, too. They just have a different set of indicators. What are they? Well, after much “growing up” and many “studies,” the answer is pretty clear. Women care about social status (i.e., power), money (ability to provide) and looks. What they’re into might not be so clear though. Ever wonder why that insanely hot, smart girl goes for the dickwad, skinny pale programmers? That’s her version of hot. That’s the most unpredictable piece of the puzzle in figuring out what women go for, so you’re better off focusing on the other two: money and power.

That’s right. Get lots of money and power and you are a very secure provider. Women are shallow in that they are extremely materialistic. Take a look around. It doesn’t take long to figure that all the trophy wives are fucking someone who has what seems like an infinite supply of money. They have a boat, several cars, a few trucks, a house or two, land, work for themselves, the list goes on. They’re the guys who, week after week, you wonder how they’re paying this and that. They’re the guys dumping money into a run-down property that you know they’ll never get back if they sell. You know who I’m talking about – and they have the hottest wives and girlfriends. Sometimes they even have several. And when you look at things like this, it’s no wonder fugly politicians who are complete slimeballs get an infinite supply of tail.

But how does this amount to women being the root of all evil? Well, it’s quite simple. Put on your treehugger glasses for a moment. What are some things we typically see as being bad for the environment? Huge, shiny pickup trucks sitting in stop-and-go city traffic are a fantastic example. It’s clearly a kick in the face to mother nature, it’s absolutely unnecessary in the city, it’s shiny and brand new so it couldn’t be used for work anyway and it’s 100% there to say “I’m a bigshot with money to burn (literally).”  And women fucking love it. Women LOVE a man who can pour thousands into the tank whenever they fill up each year. Why? Because it means they have a huge disposable income (or at least appear to). And that means that not only will their children be secure, but they won’t have to work and they can enjoy life by spending tons of money on pointless materialistic things like clothes, coffee with the girls, going on road trips, flights, etc.

Women want all the rewards of hard work with none of the hard work. They want an endless pile of cash to burn through, but they don’t really care how it gets there. Now, they’re smart about this. They know they have a good body and that men will do anything for it. If what they want is a huge house and a luxurious life, they’ll sleep with whoever they have to sleep with to get it. You see it all the time – it shouldn’t even be a surprise, really.

So, as a man, what is the logical thing to do? The first thing to do is to attempt to legitimately get rich. But if it were easy, every guy on the face of the earth would be a millionaire. So, only some men make it to the top of the business world as owners. Some are born into it – they really have it the best, with a brand new Mustang or Jaguar in their 20’s and a huge cash flow from a family-owned business they will inherit. And threesomes every week. The good kind.

The next-best thing is to PRETEND like you’re rich. For a man, pretending to be rich has less to do with competing with the neighbors (keeping up with the Joneses, as the saying goes) and more to do with fulfilling his biological purpose: having sex with as many of the hottest women he can. If women basically hand him a manual that says “The amount and quality of sex you get is directly related to your disposable income,” he’s going to do everything in his power to become rich and powerful or ACT rich and powerful. Thus, we see a vast majority of the population living far beyond its means and financing its wealthy lifestyle with debt. A debt-ridden economy full of unproductive employees is a sure recipe for economic failure, and here we are today in the midst of a seemingly endless economic failure.

This whole transparent shallow game of attraction does raise one important question, however: the question of whether or not an emotional bond is possible, desirable or even a well-defined concept. We grow up as children with these fancy ideals of romantic love that lasts forever, and we see it replicated in movies and sometimes in our lives (we don’t see what’s really happening, we’re too young). Understandably, our first relationships are centered on the idea that we could find someone to love us and enjoy life with. The part where you become a cynical adult is when you realize that all the shit they told you growing up was a lie. Sure, you may have an amazing experience with someone in college or something, but there’s always something to end your relationship. Note that there’s always SOMETHING that ends the relationship. The only thing that will keep men coming back is a beautiful woman, and the only thing that will keep a woman faithful is an ever-increasing material status. Note that as women get older, their husbands buy them progressively “nicer” vehicles, progressively larger houses and progressively more wasteful, unnecessary furniture sets, TVs, decorations, clothes, etc.

So is an emotional relationship possible? I asked a wise friend of mine for some insight. His idea was that it is possible, but that it follows the shallow materialistic attraction. If the materialistic needs of the woman can be met and she can hold his physical interest for long enough, and both partners are of the age where they would both consider getting married, then a marriage will happen. Usually, women will not consider marriage until their biological clock starts ticking, by the way. When the marriage doesn’t end in divorce, the two “love” each other in the sense that they come to deal with the things about the other person that they don’t like. You might liken it to a state of equilibrium where each party perceives that the benefits derived from the relationship are better than the drawbacks. Sometimes, the mutually perceived disadvantages of breaking up keep a couple together, although this is somewhat unrelated.

As for myself, I’m a single, frugal, financially responsible male. With frugality and fiscal responsibility comes great loneliness and frustration. I turn my air conditioning off during the day, and I only turn it below 75 degrees well after the sun has gone down. I drive a small car that gets phenomenal mileage and looks like a fairy princess next to a diesel hemi extended cab (which I’m surrounded by every day because I live in Oklahoma). I put no less than 30% of my salary into liquid assets that generally appreciate in value or earn me passive income. I rarely go out to eat and I don’t have any luxuries like digital cable, a data plan on my phone or expensive electronics. I plan travel months in advance and generally spend as little money as possible on trips. I live out in the middle of nowhere surrounded by grumpy old men and bugs. There is almost nothing desirable about where I live, so it costs me next to nothing to live here. In so doing, however, I forego most of the marriage pool that is my age. After all, what woman wants to live a financially responsible life? I forego countless opportunities at shallow, short-lived relationships that could result in sex. I forego countless opportunities at friendship and I live mainly in isolation. I am also throwing away the best years of my life, from a physical perspective.

On the rare occasion that I do go on a date with a girl, I usually insist that the bill be split. Unless she’s REALLY hot. Why? Because I figure it’s a fair trade. The chances that she has sex with me on the first date are exceptionally low. The chances that she has sex with me on the first date if I pay for it are marginally higher. I figure that it’s still too negligible to justify. Of course, you could figure that the chances she goes on a second date with me are higher if I show off some money and power. That’s probably true. But usually women hold out for a good, long while before they have sex with you or perform any sexual favors of any kind. That makes it a pretty expensive lay (or blow). And as much as I love fucking women, I know I can’t afford most of them right now. And most of them really just aren’t worth their asking price, quite frankly. Nor are they worth the drama they cause when they realize you just used them – kind of like they just used you. Except it’s bad when guys do it. Yeah.

So, the moral of the story is that women are indeed the root of all evil. They are a great excuse to destroy the environment, be it by owning a destructive but efficient business, a huge vehicle or house or just living an immodest lifestyle in general. They have had a huge influence on where our economy is today with their ruthless, unapologetic spending and the way they require men to be everything that is the opposite of financially responsible. It’s really quite comforting to know that women are just as shallow as men, though. Even if it is in different ways. What ticks me off is that they go about touting noble things like honesty, personality and other bullshit. That’s what sends me to the end of my tether. They don’t care about that shit any more than men do. Your shit stinks, too, my vagina-possessing friends. You’re no better than the rest of us. I think you’re even worse, really. I’ll save my money for more useful things.

Easy Changes You Can Make to Green Up Your Life

February 10, 2011 at 2:39 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I hope putting the word “changes” in the title didn’t scare you off already.  Anyways, I recently moved to a small town where recycling isn’t available locally.  Of all the things I love doing to stay current and reduce my impact on the environment, recycling has got to be one of my favorites.  Naturally, I was really upset to find out that there was no local service.

I decided to deal with the problem using a multifaceted approach.  On one end, I have implemented some pretty hardcore “waste prevention” changes in my life.  On the other end, I’ve decided to keep a stash of things to take to the next town over periodically.  In order to justify the trip just to recycle, I need to have a lot and be saving a lot of resources with what I recycle.  Therefore, I keep paper and cardboard.  You might not think it, but paper and cardboard are huge resource users.  They use a ton of freshwater (because they come from forests) and they take up a lot of energy, especially oil, to get to your door.  I’ve also found that some metal recycling can be done locally.  I’m working on figuring out plastic.

I have also switched to as many ‘green’ products as I possibly can.  Wherever I can make a replacement with a wiser choice, I do so.  I’ve decided to share the changes I’m making with my readers.

Waste Prevention Tips

If you can’t recycle, the next best thing is to reduce the waste you produce in the first place (it’s the soundest practice of all, really).  I’m also aware that many of the people with access to recycling are what we call “lazy piles” in that they refuse to take action and do the right thing.  If that sounds like you, then this section should really help you out.

Reducing Junkmail

Not only is this a great thing to do environmentally, but many of us hate receiving and sorting through a ton of junkmail anyway.  Pre-approved credit cards, insurance offers, Victoria’s Secret catalogs (ok, maybe some of us want to keep those), or unwanted solicitations and promotions from local chains.  Many people think there’s no way to fix this problem – after all, if you ask at the post office, they’ll tell you they are legally obligated to deliver anything that says “current resident” in the address line.

However, you CAN significantly reduce your junkmail through several services.  Many of you have heard of the “Do not call” list to get rid of unwanted phone solicitations.  There is also a “Do not mail” list.  You can find it here:

http://environment.about.com/gi/o.htm?zi=1/XJ&zTi=1&sdn=environment&cdn=newsissues&tm=2&f=20&su=p504.1.336.ip_&tt=2&bt=1&bts=0&zu=https%3A//www.dmachoice.org/dma/member/home.action%3Bjsessionid%3D15B51561CD238A52EBA4FA4A8708B583.tomcat2%23

You’ll be required to sign up and give them your email address and the street address you at which you would like to stop receiving junkmail.  If you’re worried about email spam, make use of a temporary email service such as 10 Minute Mail or Mailinator.  These services are handy any time you don’t want a service to have your real address, as long as it’s a one-time activation.  You can opt out of credit offers, catalogs, magazines and a bunch of other junkmail here.  It will take a little bit of effort up front (you don’t have to screen like they say you do for a week or whatever), but it’s definitely worth the reduced headache.  Take a look at these statistics, which I quickly pulled up from about.com:

  • 5.6 million tons of catalogs and other direct mail advertisements end up in U.S. landfills annually.
  • The average American household receives unsolicited junk mail equal to 1.5 trees every year—more than 100 million trees for all U.S. households combined.
  • 44 percent of junk mail is thrown away unopened, but only half that much junk mail (22 percent) is recycled.
  • Americans pay $370 million annually to dispose of junk mail that doesn’t get recycled.
  • On average, Americans spend 8 months opening junk mail in the course of their lives.

Go Paperless

When you stop the junkmail flow, you’ll still receive things like monthly bills from utilities or statements from your bank.  Most utility companies offer you the option to sign up on their website for electronic mail instead.  You can completely opt out of receiving paper bills at your address.  This reduces emissions and paper usage.  You can save these bills to your hard drive if you want a record.  Many utility companies offer a small reduction in billing if you go paperless or authorize payments such as direct debit or similar services.  Also, if your energy company offers green energy sources, you can find ways to opt into it on their website (for example, I have opted to receive a certain percentage of my monthly power from wind energy, and I pay a small fee for this extra service).  It’s a great way to support alternative energy sources and make them cheaper and more economical for everyone.  Supply and demand, anyone?

You can receive your bank statements online as well.  Usually, you want a way to keep these for your records so you can save them to your hard drive or print them at home.  Either way, you’re still saving a significant resource footprint when you do this.

Reduce Your Dependency on Paper Products

I talk about this one all the time.  If you’re still using a roll of paper towels every few days or eating off of paper plates, then shame on you.  It’s not hard at all to buy a pack of matching cotton kitchen towels and use them to clean up the counters, stove, dishes, whatever.  See my post about kicking the paper towel addiction here.  You’ll spend less at the store and throw away less at home.  It’s a no-brainer.

Use a Water Filter

Another inconvenience of living in the country in a small town is not having access to drinking water that is *quite* as treated as bigger city tap water.  We have pretty good water where I’m at – especially when you consider they do nothing other than pump it out of wells and disinfect it with chlorine.  But some people are just pissy about the taste of their water and demand a higher quality (whatever that is).  Most often, people simply buy an assload of bottled water at the store and toss the bottles when they’re done.  How many people who are ignorant enough to rely on bottled water as their primary source of drinking water are smart enough to recycle?  Ok, maybe that’s not fair, but ya’ll piss me off sometimes.  Anyways, a friendlier alternative is to use water filters.  There’s only a million ways to filter your drinking water – on the fridge, straight out of your tap, in a pitcher, you name it.  There’s a water filter to fit everyone’s desired level of convenience.

Use Tupperware or Pyrex Instead of Baggies and Plastic Wrap

Tupperware and Pyrex are brand name food storage containers.  What do you do with a plastic ziploc bag when you’re done with it?  Throw it away.  You can’t really clean them out that easily.  And what about plastic wrap?  Not only do you throw plastic wrap away, but you also lose the use of your dishes by using them to store food in the fridge for weeks.

Instead, consider using Tupperware.  Tupperware comes in varying degrees of quality and provides a pretty good seal for your food.  I suggest its use in most applications where you want to store food in the fridge.  Its square-ish shape makes it great for storing partially used blocks of cheese, which is something I have a problem with when I use my Pyrex.

For those of you who demand a higher food quality, Pyrex is a great solution.  I personally love this stuff.  It comes in any number of varieties you can think of and it’s ultra-convenient.  For example, you can bake a meatloaf in a glass Pyrex baking dish.  Then, without removing it, you can store it by putting the plastic lid it came with on top.  Voila!  Effortless food storage.  Pyrex also comes in circular storage containers that make it great for storing pasta dishes, sauces, or liquids.

Another advantage Pyrex offers over plastic products is that plastic doesn’t leach into your foods.  I hate that plastic taste you get from Tupperware and baggies.  And when you use Pyrex to heat something up (such as microwaving), it doesn’t change the taste of your food by getting hot plastic into it.  Heating that dish up at work won’t suck as much.  And one final thing I like Pyrex for is the ability to store foods like tomatoes or pumpkin, which ordinarily leave Tupperware stained red and orange, respectively.  Pyrex cleans up GREAT in the dishwasher since it’s glass.

Using Tupperware or Pyrex means you won’t be throwing away single-use baggies or plastic wrap, and it will also save your dishes and pots and pans from being used up as storage in the fridge.

Reusable Shopping Bags

This is another thing I talk about all the time.  Despite the fact that it’s a great idea and ridiculously easy to implement, most people haven’t made the switch yet.  If you use these bags instead of taking home a new plastic bag from the store each and every time you go, you won’t have a buildup of unused plastic bags below the sink.  You’ll avoid throwing them away, where they sit in landfills and never deteriorate.  They won’t blow around in the wind or in the city, get caught in trees or creeks or in your gardens.  They won’t make that annoying plastic sound that makes me want to crush babies.  But most of all, you’re saving a huge amount of oil when you do it, since disposable plastic is a major waste of oil.

The biggest problem people face with making the switch to reusable bags is breaking their old habits.  Of course, there’s difficulty involved in breaking any habit or making any habit a new one.  I suggest you keep the bags in your car.  I know it’s somewhat annoying to do so at first, but put the bags in your car every time you’re done unloading them.  Don’t wait or you’ll forget.  Soon it will become second nature to you.  Or, if you’re really worried about it, keep half in your car and half in your home.  I think six is a good number to have.  If you’re worried about what people will think of you carrying around a blue shopping bag when you go into the store, let me ease your fears by saying this: people respect you for it.  I’m not shooting that out my ass.  I’ve had more people come up to me in the store and verbally admire the fact that I’m doing the right thing than I can remember, and I have never once heard anyone say anything negative.  Most of the time, people say “Oh, yeah.  I need to remember to do that…”

And one final plug.  A lot of developed countries and even some states are starting to ban plastic bags.  I’m convinced that the banning of plastic bags, by and large, will take place in almost all the states in the next few years.  You’re going to have to get used to the idea of responsibly transporting your purchases one way or the other, so nut up and stop bitching.

Get a To-Go Cup

This is all dandy and fine.  If you can do any one of the above things, it means you are capable of planning to some extent.  But what about when you’re out?  My father always complains about how “big business” does little to curb consumption.  He doesn’t see offices recycling paper or reducing plastic use, even though it happens.  What he does see is fast food places giving all their food out in disposable containers.  To some extent, he’s right – this particular sector needs to grow up and stop throwing everything out.  But instead of sitting on your hands and complaining (or worse, using it to justify your own inaction), take a proactive approach.  One of the things I’ve done is bought a to-go cup that you can wash and reuse indefinitely.  You can get tumblers or cups that close at the top for when you’re on the go driving or in a hurry and don’t want to spill.  These are a fantastic choice if you frequent coffee shops or go in to order at restaurants.  When you order a drink, instead of taking their disposable (or at best recyclable) cups, you can use your own.  It’s a great way to do your part while the corporations get their shit together.

Green Products

Waste reduction is a fantastic first step in making environmentally responsible decisions.  But you can also alter your behavior in a more meaningful and more influential way by changing what you buy at the store a little bit.  Think about it: each time you buy a product, you’re using your money to say “I support this product.”  If you think about each dollar you spend as a vote, you can begin to see why restaurants haven’t changed their environmentally destructive habits yet.  Or why green technology is still so hard to afford.  Here are some items you can buy at the store to put your dollars to vote for greener practices in business and at home.

Recycled Paper Products

Another no-brainer.  Even I have to use paper towels from time to time (like to clean up that massive tomato soup spill on the stove).  Even if you’re as awesome as me at reducing your dependency on paper products, you’ll still need to use them some.  And while there certainly are alternatives to toilet paper, it’s best not to go there.  Instead, when you buy a paper product, make sure it says it’s made from recycled paper on the label.  You avoid putting your dollars to vote saying “I want to destroy forest to clean up my kitchen,” or “I want to wipe my ass with trees instead of paper.”  Most major brand paper towels and toilet paper are made from what is termed “virgin wood.”  Yes, laugh, get it out of your system.  It means that the paper is coming directly from milled, processed logs out of the forest.  Recycled paper products obviously don’t share that immediate source.  Not only does buying recycled paper products vote for a reduction in deforestation, it also votes for increasing recycling.  Think about it: if you’re actually using recycled material, your dollars are saying you want to see more recycling opportunities available for everyone.  Help bring recycling to primitive areas of the country like the one I live in!  Ok, just kidding.  Sort of.

Recycled Plastic Products

This is the same idea as before, just with plastic.  Plastic is a difficult thing to manage.  For the most part, it doesn’t ever biodegrade.  Until recently, plastic was made from a huge number of different manufacturing processes, making it difficult to recycle or keep track of.  Nowadays, almost all plastic is one of six kinds, and the type is stamped somewhere on the plastic.  This allows conscientious people to recycle their plastic.  Where does all that recycled plastic even go?  Well, most of the time, it goes to making new water bottles.  Types 1 and 2 plastic, used for making water and pop bottles and milk jugs, respectively, are the most frequently recycled types.  But some other kinds get used in places you wouldn’t expect.  A lot of toothbrushes or handbrushes are made from recycled plastic.  You can see by reading the package.  I bought a broom recently with its bristles made from recycled plastic.  Usually, you can read the package a bit to see if what you’re buying makes use of recycled plastic.  If not, try another brand.  See what you can come up with.

Wood Fiber Sponges

This is one of the most fascinating products I’ve found recently.  The sponge works and looks just like any other sponge, but it claims to be made from wood fibers and is, as such, completely biodegradable.  There are all kinds of interesting products like these available, especially in places you wouldn’t expect to see them.  Just check things out.

Natural Soaps, Shampoos, Detergents, Cleaning Products, Etc.

I’ve talked about all this before, but one of the easiest and best changes you can make is buying soap that is made from natural sources (usually plant-based cleaners).  Nearly every cleaning product you can think of now has a natural alternative: dish soap, dishwasher liquid, laundry detergent, body wash, shampoo, Windex, Mr. Clean, you name it.  And, no, these products are not inferior in cleaning power.  The “green” Windex cleans without leaving streaks.  The Green Works all-purpose cleaner is just as powerful as 409, which is one of the worst chemicals you can buy (both from a health standpoint and an environmental one).  A lot of these natural soaps offer advantages over others.  For example, nearly all plant-based soaps are hypoallergenic.  This means that if you have an allergy to soap, this is safe for you.  Well, really, when you think about it, should that be surprising at all?  Of course not.  Should it surprise you that harmful chemicals and synthetic bases give you an allergic reaction?  No.  Should it surprise you that these same soaps exacerbate already existing skin conditions?  No.  Should it surprise you that skin cancer wasn’t around until we started using these kinds of products?  No.  Ok, you get the idea.

Buying natural soaps is better for your health and better for the water that receives treated sewage flows from cities.  This is because it doesn’t load YOU up with toxins from artificially made bases and manufacturing processes, and it doesn’t load natural waterways up with toxins that sewage treatment plants aren’t capable of handling.  You can read more about this whole natural soaps business here.

Conclusion

I hope this has given you a few new ideas for easy, simple changes you can make to make your life a little greener.  It’s a lot easier than most people think.  As a long-time environmentalist and activist, I’m used to dealing with peoples’ intrinsic resistance to change and the kind of incredible laziness to which convenience has accustomed our society’s fat ass.  The bottom line is that no matter how easy making green changes is, you’ll need a little bit of initiative to get started.  Any one of the things I mentioned above is a fantastic way to see fast results with minimum effort, and maybe get you started along a more meaningful path to environmental responsibility.

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