Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Transpersonal Psychology and the Blue-Eyed Thai Girl

One of my favorite things about blogging is the pool of knowledge available to all of us with just a few key words in a search engine.

The next best thing is the way we are able to engage each other in a form of conversation. One post read on another site will generate one on mine. Maybe one on mine will generate a post on another site. I can't imagine a better way to take advantage of our collective education and points of view.

Jen who writes One Plus Two and I have been engaged in an email conversation about ego and its place in our lives. We haven't gotten academic or pedantic. It's a casual sharing of views between us. It's just one mind to another, one thought to another. Her post this morning is abut her concept of ego and its place in our lives. This post is a response to hers.

She presents the trifecta of Freud's ego, id and superego. I don't remember too much about Freud with the exception of the basic concepts taught in a college course too many years ago to admit. What I remember most is that his basic premise is that human beings are evil and that when given the choice will always choose anti-social behavior. This creates conflict between three elements of personality. I believe he built the theory based on the cultural premise of the time which was Calvinism. (We need a big bad White Dude In The Sky to keep us on the straight and narrow and we get to heaven [reach enlightenment] by repression of our base human instincts. Morality must be enforced with an iron fist.) There is an interplay between culture and psychology and one developes in support of the other. The psychology becomes part of the worldview of the members of a common community. The model is perpetuated through a socialization process of propaganda.

That's true for any society, east or west. All cultures will develope a collective psychology that will support itself. The social reality produced is considered "normal" if it coincides with culturally accepted behavior.

I think at some level we become attuned to these things and they may or may not resonate with us. Sometimes they won't resonate to a point where we can become alienated from everyone around us.

To a certain degree, that is what happened with me over the years. That caused me to explore many different types of thought, hoping I would find one to use in my own life, to provide me with guidance and context. It took literal years to sort through all the "stuff" that's out there.

So, although I feel somewhat out of my league when responding to someone like Jen who has an intellect I can only dream about, I will do my best to summarize how I view ego and its place in my (the) world. This exchange is particularly interesting, given our different educational backgrounds.

Ego is the part of me that demands separateness, including the separation of body and mind. It is the source of unhealthy attachments, anger and insecurity. It is the part that is satisfied by power over others and a higher privilege than others. It is in constant competition with other human beings by necessity. If we can't overcome others in one way or another, we will find ourselves at the bottom of the heap or worse yet, extinction. That is the shadow level of ego. Our perception of self determines our perception of social reality.

My ultimate belief is that ego is what hinders our ability to escape the cycle of suffering. That doesn't mean complete self-abnegation but it does mean that I remain conscious of the potential dangers inherent in perceiving myself as separate from other human beings. By "dangers", I don't mean to imply that we should be without boundaries or identity. I do mean that it is necessary to see ourselves as an integral part of a larger community. It is necessary that we understand that when an Other suffers, we all suffer. When the community is out of balance, we are likewise out of balance. It is important that we choose to use power for something higher than self-interest.

In that respect, ego creates conflict. On the other hand, it is also what prevents us from stepping in front of buses or allowing ourselves to be abused or oppressed. That is the positive aspect of ego.

So within that context, there's still the question of how to manage it, how to make it work for us instead of against us.

I will be interested to hear other thoughts on this topic. :)



Monday, January 29, 2007

Monday Morning at 3.00 AM...

So what in the name of Ghod am I doing up at 3.00 AM, writing blog posts?

It's simple really. I've been sleeping more than usual. Whatever my body was doing, I went with it and now I am awake, feeling physically better than I have in some time. Who knows? I'm just here for the ride. I must have had a fever because it broke before I knew I had it.

And at this hour, there's not much to do but sit here quietly and read email. I am signed up on several email lists through Yahoo, the ones where people write in about a variety of things. The list that has been producing the majority of the messages is not a topical list. It's a free-for-all and people write about anything that grabs their attention in the moment except of course, the things that matter.

The majority of it seems to be about daily troubles of one nature or another. Personally, I find it very hard to respond to such things because open bids for sympathy are rather unseemly. There's a big difference between seeking collective wisdom and seeking sympathy. There's also a big difference between working something through and mindless bitching. Working it through and seeking wisdom is a participation exercise. We all get to be involved, to think about the situation and come up with meaningful responses.

The lists are overwhelmingly the latter. People natter on about every petty thing that might go wrong in their daily lives. And somehow, they manage to make it sound tragic.

This got me to thinking ~ which is rather unseemly itself at 3.00 AM but natural inclinations prevail once again.

To me, "tragedy" is a child who lives in a home where the parents are drunks or drug addicts who burn them with cigarettes. Tragedy is thousands of young men and women being killed in a war that has no purpose beyond protecting the business interests of greedy men and women who want to insure their continued wealth. Tragedy is people who are forced to live and work in inhuman conditions because they don't have the power to rise up against their oppressors. Tragedy is not having clean drinking water. Tragedy is a life wasted because someone committed the unpardonable sin of being born poor.

It wouldn't occur to me to engage in the kind of mindless griping that takes place on these mailing lists of privileged, mostly white, middle-class suburbanites with whiz-bang computer systems in their climate-controlled dens. I'm familiar with it. I grew up surrounded by the 90210 mentality that demands pats on the head and recompense for the most minor inconveniences.

It strikes me as self-indulgent and silly. It's taking every ounce of self-restraint to not reply to these messages with a copy of this blog post.

What say you?



Sunday, January 28, 2007

Sunday Fluff....

Okay. It's Sunday.. and as usual, I'm posting fluff.

A few people have asked over the past few days to see what kind of clothing I buy. Since my digital camera doesn't work well inside, I decided to copy the pictures from the catalogue. These are all things I own.

The interesting thing is that the entire time I spent in Thailand, I rarely saw people dressed in this stuff. Most of them look just like people everywhere. There was some traditional clothing worn by people in the service industry or people who were engaged in one celebration or another but it was truly rare to see an ordinary person dressed this way.

I absolutely love it though and that is why I decided to adopt this as my everyday style, the stuff that hangs in my closet and is packed in drawers. After quite some time, it's become "everyday" to me.

Really, I don't like to overdo it. I don't want to look clownish. At the same time, I want to capture the "flavor" of Thailand. I have two very elaborate outfits that I've worn for special events. The compliments usually come but there is also a sense of "what in the world do you think you're doing?" :)

Most of the stuff is average though and I buy it bulk in each color available. It's not expensive, looks a little different and it feels good. It's very comfortable! The top to the right is one I have in each color available.

The other top is less expensive and even more durable.

The pants are extraordinarily comfortable! They would have been great, especially when I was thinner~ They are also available in bulk and I bought them in lots of colors and patterns.

The skirts are great for summer and spring. They're inexpensive and colorful.There's something else though that really makes this look work more than anything ~ and that's the jewelry. Without it, I suspect the look would be rather ordinary, just kind of hippie-like without the definite Thai influence. Most of mine is Karen Hilltribe jewelry, although I have some other as well.

There's much, much more. I also wear traditional ankle bracelets which I've shown here before.

It's different ~ but it works for me.

These pictures are all from ThaiCraft Warehouse which is where I order 99% of my clothing.

So, do you suppose you might recognize me? :)



Saturday, January 27, 2007

MILF Friday on Saturday

As usual, I don't have a lot to report beyond a couple of pounds and perhaps another fraction of an inch.

It occurs to me though that taking a good multivitamin is essential to lose weight so I decided to look into that a bit. I've recently changed multivitamins and the new one is producing better results than the cheaper Target brand.

It turns out that I am at least partially right in my intuition about it. It's said that as we take the vitamins, it boosts the immune system so our bodies don't hang on to the fat in fear that more nutrients won't be coming.

Since I've been on the new one for a few weeks and pounds are beginning to drop off instead of just inches.

I am not an active person by nature. I live a very quiet, sedate life that doesn't include the usual busy-ness that many others experience. In some ways, my daily life is actually rather contemplative. I sit a lot. During spring and early summer, I walk a good number of miles but I need all the help I can find on the "off-season".

So this week's discovery is that a good multivitamin helps even those of us who are not overly active. Green tea also seems to be boosting my metabolism. I am still walking 30 minutes a day, even if it is only walking in place.

For the next few weeks, I have a motivator. I spent quite a bit of money (which I can ill-afford) on another shipment from Thailand. The wrap pants I bought are a bit tight so I'd better get the exercise on.

Chok dee (good luck) to all this next week. :)



Friday, January 26, 2007

Officially old enough for Thailand....

I knew it would happen eventually but it does feel good, now that it's finally here.

This week, I officially became old enough to get a retirement visa in Thailand. That means I will not have to move there, stay 3 months, leave the country, come back, leave again, come back again. I will be able to apply for a regular, ordinary retirement visa that will allow me to stay for longer periods of time. At this very moment, I don't recall all the specifics but I have them written down. Additionally, the requirements seem to change at the whim of the Thai government.

The fact is I can't just leave at this very moment. There are other things preventing that .. but it is still nice to know that one milestone has been met.

And who would have known fifteen years ago or so that I would fall head over heels in love with a little plot of land in Southeast Asia that's not any bigger than California? Who knew that it would turn my world upside down and change my life completely? It's just dirt and rocks and mountains and streams and waterfalls and beaches ~ all the standard things that make up a land. It's politicians and greedy business people. It's mothers and fathers and kids. Grandparents, aunts and uncles. It's friends. It's people working, loving, living ~ just like everywhere else on the planet. All the same, it has captured me in a way nothing ever has in my lifetime. There's a thread of it running through me.

It's home .. and I miss it the way anyone misses home. Sometimes it's okay. Sometimes I long for it. Sometimes I miss it in a way that feels almost unhealthy because it's so intense.

Most of the time, I'm just grateful it's there. And it will be there when I'm ready to go. Steady. Unchanging. Permanent. Home.



(Note: I realize this is MILF Friday. I will post about that tonight. :)


Thursday, January 25, 2007

Money, money, money, money, money....

I got to thinking this morning about what it would be like to be where there is not the fire-truck brain-hosing by advertisements at every turn of the eye and ear. Most of the ads I've seen so far today all involve something we absolutely must have so we can be what we must be. At risk of being a social pariah, we must spend, spend, spend and work, work, work so we can spend, spend, spend more money, money, money, money! Blecht! I'm sick of it!

When thinking so much in terms of money and commodities, it becomes a staple of the mental diet. Huge volumes of the brain just cease speaking to each other, the eyes grow glassy with myopic greed, the teeth start to hang over the lower lip, the nose extends, drool appears at the corners of the mouth, and the victim begins to spout stock quotations. One antidote is the reading of the works of George Ade.

Communicating with others will be as follows:

"How are you George?"
"I'm profitable."

"My wife is in an on-sale position."

"The ledger sheet of my mind was audited by my psychiatrist and he found that I had embezzled thoughts from my childhood and suggested that I do a leveraged buy-out of my subsidiary fantasies."



Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Ministry of Culture in the US?

Sevenwinds wrote a post this morning that got me thinking.

The Thai government is launching a PR campaign to discourage young people from wearing revealing clothing, disrespecting elders and displaying morally corrupt attitudes. Sevenwinds quips, "Can you image the stink that would cause in the US? --government control of clothing!!!!"

He raises a good point. I don't think it would be tolerated here. The squalling and complaining would probably be heard on Jupiter. At the same time, I do believe people want to see some sort of consensus on acceptable behavior among young people. Personally, I've often joked that I would like to see a Ministry of Culture in this country, with Lee Kwan Yew at the helm. I will be thinking about this Thai initiative a lot today and it seemed to be a good idea to put it out on the table here for discussion, especially since a good number of parents read here. Not being a parent, my opinion doesn't hold as much weight in the short term. As a member of the community however, the long term outcome matters. I am equally, if not more, invested in the outcome in Thailand, given that I plan to spend the rest of my life there.

Do you believe that controlling some of that behavior in the schools here would be effective? Plenty of schools have adopted a dress code ~ and they are trying to control media that comes into the schools. Does it need to go further?

Do you believe the US should have a similar Ministry of Culture?



Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Parental loyalty....

This morning I was watching the news and came across this story. In a nutshell, a man went to a local call center and shot his girlfriend to death at the front door. He was, of course, ultimately arrested. His parents were arrested as well for helping him to get out of the area. Their reason? "We love him".

It got me to thinking about the extent of parental loyalty, how far parents might go to protect their children. Even though I am not a parent, I can understand the impulse to protect our children, even when it might not be in their own best interest.

I've seen this first hand as well through a friend whose son has financially devastated her ~ and still she wants to believe he will come around and do the right thing even though his history makes it evident that he has no desire to change.

At what point do Mr and Mrs Rivera ~ or even my friend ~ have to say "enough is enough" and allow their children to take responsibility for their own actions?

Knowing I will never be confronted with the situation, I am fairly certain that I would not help my adult child escape from the area if he murdered someone. I would not be willing to help a daughter with a history of making bad choices to a point of financial devastation. She would know from a very young age that certain choices would make her life very unpleasant. She would know it because I would teach her. I would teach her that if she got pregnant as a teenager that she can toss all of her future dreams out the window because the next 18 years of her life would be devoted to raising a child on probably very little money and few resources. I would teach her that making decisions based on emotion is going to lead her down a less than satisfying road. I would teach my children that not learning to control their anger will lead to possible violence. I would teach them that they are responsible for the consequences of their choices and while I would support to the best of my ability their opportunities to make new and different choices, they would have to fix the fallout from bad ones.

These are very basic things.

So what of the Rivera parents? What say you? How far would you go to protect your children from consequences? Or would you?



Monday, January 22, 2007

Easy Like Sunday Morning...

Who would have thought it would take most of the day to recover from an easy Sunday?

Yesterday, I went to meet someone for lunch. This particular guy has an extraordinary sense of humor and always has one funny story after another. He is a recent refugee from the "dating wars", trying to meet someone through match.com, eHarmony and other such services.

He truly is a good guy. He's a regular working man. In fact, he is a milkman. He delivers milk throughout the area to convenience stores and grocery stores. He lives simply, preferring to keep his life uncomplicated. As you can imagine, most of the women he met didn't like that. They're looking for the lottery.

Anyway, we talked and laughed through lunch with him telling me so many funny stories that I got a headache from laughing so hard and for so long. It was a comfortable way to spend the day.

When we were done with lunch, we weren't quite ready to stop talking so we sat in his truck and talked some more. We talked about everything under the sun and laughed about it all. It was a good way to get away from the world for an afternoon. He snapped this picture of me as we sat there. Half a pack of cigarettes and twenty stories later, we realized the sun had set. The restaurant was closed and the parking lot empty. We'd been there for five hours. It was time to go home.

I can't remember the last time I just sat and laughed for an entire day, losing track of time. We both decided that it is a Good Thing To Do. Maybe next Sunday, we'll try again.



Saturday, January 20, 2007

For J.G.

This one's for you. Thanks for all that you are. Happy Birthday :)


When the calls and conversations
Accidents and accusations
Messages and misperceptions
Paralyze my mind

Buses, cars, and airplanes leaving
Burning fumes of gasoline
And everyone is running
And I come to find a refuge in the

Easy silence that you make for me
It's okay when there's nothing more to say to me
And the peaceful quiet you create for me
And the way you keep the world at bay for me
The way you keep the world at bay

Monkeys on the barricades
Are warning us to back away
They form commissions trying to find
The next one they can crucify

And anger plays on every station
Answers only make more questions
I need something to believe in
Breathe in sanctuary in the

Easy silence that you make for me
It's okay when there's nothing more to say to me
And the peaceful quiet you create for me
And the way you keep the world at bay for me
The way you keep the world at bay

Children lose their youth too soon
Watching war made us immune
And I've got all the world to lose
But I just want to hold on to the

Easy silence that you make for me
It's okay when there's nothing more to say to me
And the peaceful quiet you create for me
And the way you keep the world at bay for me

The easy silence that you make for me
It's okay when there's nothing more to say to me
And the peaceful quiet you create for me
And the way you keep the world at bay for me
The way you keep the world at bay for me
The way you keep the world at bay



Friday, January 19, 2007

Rubenesque: MILF Friday

This week I came to a certain level of acceptance. That's not to say I accept my weight as it is, but I do accept that it will never return to the Twiggy look of my youth, when I was 5'4" and 96 pounds. In other words, really, it's just a matter of accepting my age and all that comes with it. It will not be possible to shed pounds like I did 30 years ago. It's a longer, more laborious process. The most important thing seems to be keeping a realistic and healthy perspective.

There's nothing unattractive or unhealthy at all about a firm Rubenesque body. The firmness is what matters, the healthy look rather than flabby and pasty. The flab communicates a message that I don't want to send, a message of depression, lack of nurturing and indifference. I came to this conclusion by doing some very difficult personal journaling, facing some core issues head-on.

I've lost inches this week but very little in terms of pounds. The truth is that with my vigorous walks, walking in place and aerobic exercise, I should have lost more. Over the next month or so, I might just visit my doctor for a thyroid test. It's always possible that mine is a little slow.

And here's a recommendation for those who, like me, need encouragement and a "road map" in this process.

http://www.kpcoach.org/ Change Your Life The S.M.A.R.T. Way. It is sponsored by Kaiser Permanente. No need to be a member to join. The good part in this is the interactive nature of it. Click on the link to check it out.



Thursday, January 18, 2007

Dying for entertainment?

There's a local story here that's captured my attention.

Last week some time, a local radio station sponsored a contest called "Hold Your Wee for a Wii" to win a Playstation Wii. The idea behind it was for several people to drink as much water as possible without having to go to the restroom. Most of you have probably already heard about it. A 28-year-old woman, Jennifer Strange, drank water until she died from water intoxication.



There are probably many who would say that she made her choices and suffered the consequences. She's an adult.

Truly though, I have to wonder if she really knew the possible consequences of this. Although there was a similar case in Chico last year, most people don't know the symptoms of water intoxication. They don't know we can actually overdose on it. I didn't know it .. and I'm a reasonably well-read person. It's just nothing that ever caught my attention.

In this reality TV-saturated environment, I believe it is possible the participants in this contest didn't know the possible outcome. The morning DJs who sponsored the contest gave blow-by-blow progress reports during which they egged the contestants on. When a caller phoned in to remind them that people can die from this kind of thing, one of the DJs quipped that it was alright. The contestants all had to sign release forms.

I believe this kind of stuff has gone too far. When does it cross the line? And more than that, when did it become acceptable to put people in harm's way for sport, just to provide entertainment for bored commuters listening to a morning shock-jock radio show? Is it worth a life to get ratings? Apparently KDND believes so.

The Sacramento Co. Sheriff's Department claims that a criminal investigation will occur. Yet they warn that unlikely there will be enough evidence to get past the District Attorney's office for prosecution. If it is determined that a crime took place, the waivers signed by the contestants won't mean a thing.

Personally, I believe the radio station was criminally compliant. If they didn't know the possible outcome, they should have researched it. They should have checked with their lawyers. They should have done something. At the very minimum, they are, in my opinion, guilty of criminally negligent homicide or manslaughter.

A civil suit has been filed against the radio station by Jennifer Strange's husband.

I believe the community needs to speak up about this as well. At some point, we need to say this kind of activity is not acceptable and there will be consequences for those radio or television stations that sponsor it. It's easy to blow this off, saying that adults can make their own choices about what activities to pursue but it is a community issue as well. Our standards as a community are determined by many factors that go beyond individual choice.



Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Sacred Cow....

This is one where I challenge a sacred cow in this culture....

The failure of individualism...

I'm following up on one of my statements yesterday, one major change in my worldview over the past few years.

As for self-esteem, some people may have mistaken my reasoning. Feeling okay about oneself is not the problem. There seems to be a little switch inside of us that automatically guarantees our survival and that is part of it. We do tend to think we're okay. That is what keeps us from walking in front of trucks or doing things that are completely self-destructive. I would suppose that most recovering alcoholics and addicts have responded to that internal switch and chose life over death. It is the part of us that leads us to refuse abuse and oppression.

The "self-esteem" movement is another thing entirely. It extrapolates to an automatic sense of entitlement, the ghod-given right to consider that we are all "okay", no matter what we believe or do. It is the root of political correctness, the attitude that demands that all worldviews, all lifestyles, are to be equally respected and accepted.

While I am very inclusive, there are some worldviews that are just plain unacceptable. I will never say that a white supremacist is equally worthy of respect as, say, the Dahli Lama. Call it a quirk, but I can't go there.

This leads me to the sacred cow of individualism.

I am not an individualist. People far brighter and better educated have addressed the root causes of the failure and how it has manifested in the world, particularly in the realm of economics and geopolitics. That's an area I know little to nothing about ~ but I do know that it is damaging us every single day.

It is ego-based, presupposing that I am more important than you, that my rights matter more than yours, that my relationships are based on self-interest, that this is a valid and satisfying way to live and will create more harmony than the alternative.

It presupposes that competition is a valid way to establish relationships whether it is with other individuals or with community. There is a natural hierarchy that builds, not on merit but on power. The objective is for me to have more power than you and to get it in any fashion I determine is necessary. It further presupposes that, that is the "natural order". Actually, it is not. There was life before Aristotle.

Throughout history, I think any of us would find that most societies were built on a more communal model where each member of the "clan" had his or her role in it but it is all interdependent. These societies and clans worked successfully for thousands of years.

In the ideal world, there would probably be some sort of balance where individual creativity could be honored and embraced as it should be without the negative outcomes, such as competition. However, that would take a socialization process that is very different than the one we've experienced.

This is barely scratching the surface of the topic and I might come back to it later today and fill some of this in with a bit more detail. Unfortunately, I lost track of time and have to leave in ten minutes. Hopefully, this will at least generate a bit of dialogue on the topic though. :)



Tuesday, January 16, 2007

American Culture on the Half Shell...

I had an interesting phone call last night. And, truly, I do not mean to blog every single phone call I get ~ and won't. Some of them are dull and boring. Most of them are dull and boring, not to mention short.

Still occasionally someone calls out of the blue. After a long absence, the conversation flows across all sorts of rivers and valleys, covering a variety of topics we may have been thinking about for months, trying to congeal into something worthwhile.

I'm becoming increasingly surprised at the depth to which Thai culture is shaping my way of thinking. It's so different that it is often at odds with people I once admired, people who seemed wise and beyond questioning. Things that used to be di rigeur now are glaringly out of place and odd.

The discussion last night involved "self esteem". This particular friend believes I have a bad case of Lack Of and wanted me to focus more on me, less on others, more on my value, less on contributing, more on being assertive, less on harmony. She believes I let people "get away" with too much. "You have to do what's right for you," she said, "if someone else doesn't like it, f**k 'em. You have to be tougher." This kind of talk now sounds to me like something from another planet. Yes, there are times when I let people get away with crap but in the final analysis, it is irrelevant crap ~ and forgotten a week from now. Living life on the defensive is not something I want to do.

First of all, let me begin by saying that I believe the whole "self esteem" movement is a crock of unmitigated crap. What the hell is "self-esteem"? Usually it translates to the belief in entitlement, that everything I do or feel is just fine. It doesn't help anyone aspire to anything beyond the mediocre and perhaps the most destructive thing about it is that it serves egoism and self-centeredness. (Like we need any more of that!) It makes any behavior acceptable because "that's where my heart led me."


I've learned this lesson the hard way. For 25 years or so, I had just me. I got to do anything I wanted to do without any social repercussions. (In the desert, there's nothing to lose.. and some of my worst personality traits grew from that time. It's a consistent effort to overcome them.) It's easy to stop growing when there's no accountability.

Now I find myself wanting to be concerned about others, to give to them, to be inclusive rather than exclusive, to build community with likeminded others, to have meaning, to be considerate, to be kind, to show compassion, to be a better person than I was before. The five principles of mindfulness are now something I take very seriously. Every decision I make is balanced against those foundational principles.

Sometimes it seems my karma runs over my dharma ... but I do my best.

So, given this, what of my friend's comment? What of her worldview compared to mine?

The very thing she is promoting is what I put behind me when choosing a Thai way of life. It no longer resonates on any level. It no longer has any meaning. It no longer feels "right" in my soul. It's like hearing something I believed as a child, long since discarded and forgotten.

I don't know if it is possible to find much commonality with this friend any more. The time may have come when it will come to its logical conclusion. It's hard to imagine but these things do happen. Gives new meaning to the idea that people come into our lives "for a reason, a season or forever." Our season has passed.



Monday, January 15, 2007

Working Outside....

This past few weeks, I've been spending some extra time dredging up jobs I can do at home.

This is probably everyone's ultimate dream, to work at home in PJs, drinking coffee, watching the morning shows. I entirely understand it. Most jobs can be done from home but corporate manager types don't want to lose control over their employees. There is an underlying belief that no one would ever do a good job unless there's someone watching over, making sure they do it.

Under most circumstances, I can find things to do often enough to supplement my small pension and bring in a little extra cash. I also sell on eBay. There are certain things I won't do though, like sending sp*m. Those jobs are not hard to find at all. "Data Entry at Home! Get Paid to Place Ads". Yeah, right!

This past few months have been a bit dry so I decided to place a call to one of the temporary agencies I work with on occasion. I'll take low-level, cattle call jobs. I can't seem to cope with jobs that require interviews. My objective is just to make a little extra cash. I don't want to get involved in corporate crippety-crap.

The agency I called had a job that sounded like it might work out. I agreed to do it and then they came up with this nonsense:

AR: "We need you to come in and fill out paperwork."

TG: "What paperwork would that be? I'm already registered with ****** (agency name)."

AR: "Well, we need you to fill out a new I-9 and W-4."

TG: "All my information is the same as it's been for five years. Can you fax me a W-4 and I'll fax it back to you? It would save me a long walk."

AR: "No. We can't do that. We haven't seen you for a few years and would like to meet you again, you know, just to get to know you."

TG ... scratching head. Thinking. Get to know me? Are we going to be dating? You want to marry me? Have sex with me? Why do you need to "get to know me"? It's a job, for crying out loud, not a relationship!

I've decided to put some extra energy into eBay for the next month. There just seems to be this ingrained part of me that copes very poorly with being asked to do things that make no sense, just to be doing them. There is something that feels dishonest about it, that many of these things take place simply because someone has the power to do them.

Of course, perhaps I'm wrong ~ but that's my take on it anyway. Anyone agree? Disagree?



Sunday, January 14, 2007

Blogging questions...

Jen at One Plus Two had a series of questions about blogging to ask us. They were thought-provoking and quite interesting. It's not the usual fair in "memes" which include fluff questions about favorite this or that. (At my age, one becomes precariously close to not having 'favorite' anything ~ just a series of 'what will probably work most effectively'. :)

Anyway, I would like to see anyone who chooses to answer these questions pick them up and do so. Please leave me a comment though so that I will know to come read your answers.


1. Do you like the look and the contents of your blog?

Not particularly. It is just a standard cookie-cutter template offered by Blogger. If I had the money or the energy, I'd probably come up with something else. For now, it will do. The contents are sometimes okay, sometimes not so okay.

2-Does your family know about your blog?

Hell, no! I wouldn't trust my family of origin with my shoe size, let alone any product of my internal life. As the Thai saying goes, "see sor hai kwai fang". It would be like playing the violin for a water buffalo.

3-Can you tell your friends about your blog?

Sure. In fact, I've given it out more recently to a few people because I am tired of hiding. This is me, warts and all. Imperfections, insecurities, health problems, incomplete thoughts, undeveloped ideas, kindness, compassion, love of all that is Thai, eccentric, reasonably intelligent but hardly Mensa material ~ all of it. I spent a lifetime hiding who I am ~ and it has become something of a personal jihad to become more WYSIWYG and to feel safe doing so. It has also served as a good weeding-out tool. If I meet someone new and he or she can't take the raw honesty I deal in here, we wouldn't be a good match as friends.

4-Do you just read the blogs of those who comment on your blog?

No. I always read the ones of those who comment but there are several I enjoy silently and there are a few who do not allow comments. I probably should leave a comment for the ones I can, at least to thank them for writing.

5-Did your blog positively affect your mind?

Not always and sometimes. There are times when it forces me to deal with old insecurities. There are also times when it seems to be a good growing tool for me. I put out some very private things and don't get slammed for it. I am, as most of you already know, not very confident (Mistress of the Understatement here) in the social world. This gives me a safe way to learn new ways to do things, new ways to think about things. In that regard, even when I might feel negatively, it is still a positive thing.

6-What does the number of visitors to your blog mean?

It means a lot. I won't lie about that. If my readership was very low, I would be disinclined to write.

7-Do you imagine what other bloggers look like?

Hm. Not really. Now that you ask it, it isn't something I think about. I don't care very much.

8-Do you think blogging has any real benefit?

Yes. Blogging is one of our greatest learning tools. I believe western culture has this backwards, that we learn from looking within ourselves. I believe we learn from each other. Like it or not, life is participatory and we need each other. In that respect, blogging gives us an opportunity to learn from others, not just practical things but also to realize how very much alike we all are. We are not as alone or as independent as we might like to imagine.

9-Do you think that the blogosphere is a stand alone community separated from the real world?

No. It is one component of "the real world". People need to be heard, to be validated, to know there are others experiencing similar things in our lives. It helps us discover commonality. Since it is often unsafe in person-to-person, day-to-day interactions for a variety of reasons, blogging is a safe outlet.

10-Do some political blogs scare you?

Sure. Some ideas frighten me.. and when those ideas are expressed in writing, it gives them more power. Words have power. What we say matters.

11-Do you think that criticizing your blog is useful?

Yes. Only in a constructive way. Only in a "what is my real reason for saying this" way. I feel a responsibility to put out only truth as I know it and to practice Right Speech. Occasionally I slip and an f-bomb drops or I express something in an unkind way but that, too, is a learning experience. It is also a good exercise for me to learn to criticize it constructively and not give into my rather obvious struggle with perfectionism and feelings of inadequacy.

12-Have you ever thought about what would happen to your blog in case you died?

Not really. I know what would happen. It would cease to be updated. :)

13-Which blogger had the greatest impression on you?

I don't like to single people out that way or say "this one rates higher than another". I also don't like popularity contests. In fact, I despise them. I'm not big on weighing or measuring value. All the blogs I read impact me one way or another. I read and smile along with someone, or feel compassion for a hard time, laugh at a well-turned phrase or get my brain cells tweeked by reading a new idea. Naturally, I resonate with some people personally more than with others but that only indicates commonality, not superiority, and I don't see any positive result of listing those people here.

14-Which blogger do you think is the most similar to you?

All and none.

15-Name a song you want to listen to?

This morning, I have been listening to Jack Johnson ~ and it seems somewhat right for right here, right now. Tomorrow or later on, it will be something else.

Thanks for the questions :)



Saturday, January 13, 2007

We Can't Make It Here Anymore....

I haven't been around very much today and this will be a short entry. It's been a long, cold day.

However, I did get the chance to read a few blogs, one of which struck me in particular. We are experiencing a cold spell here in California. I hear it snowed in Los Angeles. That happened once when I was a kid, too, although I couldn't tell you exactly when.

Anyway, the blog.

The author of One Plus Two wrote about her work with the homeless and how the shelters are overcrowded during this weather event. It's not an uncommon phenomenon. We're experiencing it in this city also. It happens each summer as well. When the weather becomes too extreme for life outside, those who care have to scramble to find shelter for people whose lives would otherwise be at risk.

There's only just so much "compassion exhaustion" any of us can experience before it is time to stand up and point the finger directly where it belongs. I sat here in the den and remembered a song from a few years ago by James McMurtry. Instead of yakking on about it, saying what's already been said a million times, I offer the lyrics. They say it all.


Vietnam Vet with a cardboard sign
Sitting there by the left turn line
Flag on the wheelchair flapping in the breeze
One leg missing, both hands free
No one's paying much mind to him
The V.A. budget's stretched so thin
And there's more comin' home from the Mideast war

We can't make it here anymore

That big ol' building was the textile mill
It fed our kids and it paid our bills
But they turned us out and they closed the doors

We can't make it here anymore

See all those pallets piled up on the loading dock
They're just gonna set there till they rot
'Cause there's nothing to ship, nothing to pack
Just busted concrete and rusted tracks
Empty storefronts around the square
There's a needle in the gutter and glass everywhere
You don't come down here 'less you're looking to score

We can't make it here anymore

The bar's still open but man it's slow
The tip jar's light and the register's low
The bartender don't have much to say
The regular crowd gets thinner each day

Some have maxed out all their credit cards
Some are working two jobs and living in cars
Minimum wage won't pay for a roof, won't pay for a drink
If you gotta have proof just try it yourself Mr. CEO
See how far 5.15 an hour will go
Take a part time job at one of your stores
Bet you can't make it here anymore

High school girl with a bourgeois dream
Just like the pictures in the magazine
She found on the floor of the laundromat
A woman with kids can forget all that
If she comes up pregnant what'll she do
Forget the career, forget about school
Can she live on faith? live on hope?
High on Jesus or hooked on dope
When it's way too late to just say no
You can't make it here anymore

Now I'm stocking shirts in the Wal-Mart store
Just like the ones we made before
'Cept this one came from Singapore
I guess we can't make it here anymore

Should I hate a people for the shade of their skin
Or the shape of their eyes or the shape I'm in
Should I hate 'em for having our jobs today
No I hate the men sent the jobs away
I can see them all now, they haunt my dreams
All lily white and squeaky clean
They've never known want, they'll never know need
Their shit don't stink and their kids won't bleed
Their kids won't bleed in the damn little war
And we can't make it here anymore

Will work for food
Will die for oil
Will kill for power and to us the spoils
The billionaires get to pay less tax
The working poor get to fall through the cracks
Let 'em eat jellybeans let 'em eat cake
Let 'em eat shit, whatever it takes
They can join the Air Force, or join the Corps
If they can't make it here anymore

And that's how it is
That's what we got
If the president wants to admit it or not
You can read it in the paper
Read it on the wall
Hear it on the wind
If you're listening at all
Get out of that limo
Look us in the eye
Call us on the cell phone
Tell us all why

In Dayton, Ohio
Or Portland, Maine

Or a cotton gin out on the great high plains
That's done closed down along with the school
And the hospital and the swimming pool
Dust devils dance in the noonday heat
There's rats in the alley
And trash in the street
Gang graffiti on a boxcar door

We can't make it here anymore.



Friday, January 12, 2007

MILF Friday and Body Image...

Today is the day I am supposed to write about diets, losing weight and progress or lack of it.

This week has been cold and I haven't made the progress I'd like. While I've kept to the program of a few hundred calories less per day and a 30 minute walk a day (even when it felt like the Bataan death march, once or twice), the scale has not budged an ounce. So, again, I will tweek it and work with it a bit more until I find the magic combination that kicks my metabolism into "it's safe to dump pounds" mode. There are a few new things I want to try, including doubling up on those walk times. This weekend will not be the start of that however since we're supposed to have freezing temperatures.

Putting that aside, there is something important I need to address about all of this dieting stuff. Dieting is good, certainly, and a healthy diet and exercise is important. One of the main things, I believe, is to be clear on our motives.

Last week, Patricia of Windchimewalker challenged me about sizism and the cultural edict that we must be rake-thin to be acceptable. She was right to do so and I have given it a lot of thought over the past week.

Any prejudice is destructive ~ but prejudice against people due to body size is particularly pernicious. There are many reasons why people become heavy and it is very rarely because they are lazy slobs who have no will power when it comes to food. Weight is not a character issue. People who are overweight need support and encouragement, not judgement and vilification. Shame on anyone who sees a heavy person and thinks "fat slob" or "pig" or "heifer"! Shame! It not very often that I will call "shame" on this blog unless George Bush is involved but under these circumstances, I believe it is appropriate. There is no excuse for that kind of talk or behavior. It comes from the bully mentality, the one that says, "I will feel better about myself by putting you down." Yuck!

Food can indeed be a comforter and it was mine for a long time. That is how I became overweight. I was suffering from an undiagnosed major depression and food is how I medicated myself. As a recovering alcoholic, I couldn't very well go out and tie one on. (As a matter of fact, when I was drinking I was reed-thin... scrawny even.) But when the energy to get up and walk across the room to get a book from the bookshelf seems like a Herculian effort, the idea of making healthy meals or exercising is beyond the pale.

For those who feel battered and bruised by the world in general, fat feels like a protective layer over our very souls. It is a barrier between me and you. There have been books written on this topic, the best one in my opinion (even though it is a bit old) is probably Kim Chernin's "The Obsession: The Tyranny of Slenderness". It's very important that we realize why people become overweight and address those issues, many of which should be of more concern to feminists and others who care about women's lives (and men's lives, although the unrealistic body standard seems to be imposed on women more than men) . Health care providers need to be educated on this topic as well as the general public.

My goal in this weight loss effort is to insure a healthier old age. There are health risks with obesity. Even being moderately overweight can bring risks. I'm not talking about ten vanity pounds but mid-double digits. Hypertension and arthritis are real risks, not something made up by the Only-Thin-Need-Apply oligarchy. It is not about beauty. It needs to be about health. And our approach to it needs to be holistic. One of the questions I have asked myself about losing weight and perhaps the most important one is "why am I doing this and what are my real feelings about it?" I believe obesity and fat is as much a metaphysical issue as it is a physical one.

On this I am clear: I am not willing to intentionally lose even one more pound than is necessary to be healthy. I am also clear that I would never want a friend, male or otherwise, who wouldn't accept me as I am, regardless of my weight. I am very clear that a bunch of clothing vendors and weight loss merchants will not be making money by appealing to my vanity or determining the acceptable body type for women. I am clear that I am not giving into a cultural standard of beauty that harms women. And I am clear that it is okay to lose weight now. I am safe. I don't need to hang on to the weight to feel protected. I am ready.

I hope all of us will examine our motives and make sure we are doing this for the right reason. In fact, I would go so far as to say it probably won't work if our motives are not clear.



Thursday, January 11, 2007

Rosie and Donald...

Can someone put a sock in the mouths of these two?

I'm not big on pop culture stuff but this war of words between Rosie and Donald Trump has really gotten under my skin.

Rosie O'Donnell can be a funny woman sometimes. Her wit is a bit biting for my tastes but it is the job of a stand-up comedian to be provocative. There are also times when she's made me laugh out loud.

I like that she's not skinny. I like that she's openly gay. I like that she is showing her audience that families can come in an assortment of configurations. There are merits to her public image.

I never watched her daytime talk show because I don't like daytime talk shows. "The View" is no exception but it is occasionally on here while I do other things. I was watching the day Rosie made her remarks about Donald Trump's "second chance" speech. It was marginally funny, given that I'm fairly aware of how these things work. One doesn't grow up a few miles from Hollywood without picking up a tidbit or two about the entertainment industry. There was no doubt in my mind that the Miss America person (whose name I can not recall ~ Terri, Tanya or some such) would be retained. The timing of Trump's TV show was significant.

Conspiracy theory. Yeah! If it walks like a duck....

Donald Trump strikes me as a guy who has nothing going for him except his wealth. So, what? So he knows how to exploit situations to his own benefit. Bleh. He is not someone to be admired, in my opinion. He has a trail of failed relationships behind him, a TV show that promotes questionable values and his attacks on others remind me of a 14-year-old in the high school gym. If Rosie was a man, he would likely say something about her penis size. I fail to find it amusing to call someone "fat pig", "loser", "useless", "morally reprehensible" (how's the black kettle, pot?) and suggesting that he would like to see Rosie's partner leave her. It doesn't get more mean-spirited than that.

With no small amount of pride, he says that he believes that when he is attacked, he is justified in attacking back. Gee, such maturity and wisdom from a man who is probably ten years older than me. (How old is he anyway? Chronologically, I mean.. not his emotional age.)

Rosie called a truce and Donald keeps attacking. If anything, his public image shows us what we should not be. He is not an example of someone our kids should emulate. Heck, I doubt he's even a particularly charismatic or charming guy. He seems rather dull and not very bright. Getting him out of the public eye would be the best for all of us.

Donald, you're fired!



Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Kwan pah sahk...

Kwan pah sahk....

Basically, that means "splitting hard wood with an axe" ~ coming clean ~ telling the truth.

I've gotten way out of balance. This afternoon I took a fairly long walk (it's relatively warm here) and began to evaluate why I feel so off-kilter, so lacking in the ease and contentment that has been a part of my life at the minimum since June 2005 when I retired.

I adopted my Thai lifestyle before that, although not as radically as I live it now.

And I've been getting away from that. Granted, there are some things I've needed to work out to put past things behind me but I am getting into a morass that may be difficult to get out of if I don't put the brakes on it.

I've been obsessing about this goddam blog too much!

Today, I was agitated and restless because I felt inadequate, that I hadn't performed well enough and got sucked back into a way of thinking that should have been long since left behind. I have gotten into a precarious personal state of mind. I had trouble concentrating and felt panicky. I know where that leads.. and I'm not going there. I have clinical depression and am headed for a big fall without taking necessary steps. The beginning signs are already present.

It's going to stop. Here. Now. The obsessing. The wondering. The insecurity. The fear. Now. Here. Today.

The reason I began this blog is because some Internet friends on one of my email lists found some interest in my lifestyle and thought others would enjoy it as well. While it is somewhat unimaginable why anyone would be even remotely interested, I allowed the flattery to influence me and kicked this thing on.

And I'm keeping it.

But I absolutely must go back to its original intent which was to meet likeminded others, to share the joys of this lifestyle with others, to document some of my experiences in existing in what seems like a foreign world now since adopting a new set of cultural values and customs. Of course, I still consider politics, religion and personal subjects as appropriate because those are all related to my choice and how I implement these customs and beliefs into my daily life.

Instead of sticking to the original intent, I've allowed myself to get into high school mode, worrying about whether I am "accepted" or whether I am "liked" enough. Every blasted insecurity I've ever had has been coming to the surface since a few weeks before Christmas. My bad. My fault. No one else's. It was me making me miserable. Just the same, I need to correct my thinking and actions. Just like quitting any other unhealthy behavior, sometimes it means cold turkey. The first step is that I will give one hour in the morning to writing this blog. I will give one hour in the evening for reading and commenting. Not a minute more. While this activity is important to me, I have to keep it in perspective.

So, I hope that those who are still around will stick around, that the things I have to say will be of interest and I will do my best (within reason) to make this a fun, interesting and occasionally challenging place to visit. I hope you will still comment and allow me to comment on your blogs. There are some people I've met through this effort whom I respect and admire, consider cyberfriends, and I don't want that to change.

But for now, until I get my balance and perspective back, this is the best I can do.





Given yesterday's topic, a little bit of fluff seemed appropriate for today. Additionally, I have to go to one of "the system" offices to apply for something. That in itself will render my brain non-functional for the rest of the day. :) This is only one step above talking about Apple's new something-or-other I-phone. Maybe it's even worse. At any rate, I apologize in advance. (Why is it I have this sinking feeling in my stomach that I'm going to pay big time for this one! LOL And I take back my promise to not "delete". It's already a very, very strong urge.) It is another series of questions floating around out there.


1. When you looked at yourself in the mirror today, what was the first thing you thought? "I wish that dog would stop yapping at my heels and let me finish brushing my *&^%ing teeth!"

2. How much cash do you have on you? Currently, nothing. As for how much is in my wallet, I guess forty dollars or so.

3. What's a word that rhymes with DOOR? Galore, store, shore, explore, implore.. enough!

4. Favorite planet? Hm. I don't have one. At this stage, given lack of other knowledge or experience, it would have to be Earth.

5. Who is the 4th person on your missed call list on your cell phone? I haven't a clue. I actually dislike talking on the phone so I don't have any of those extras. If the phone rings and I'm home, great. If not, catch me later on or we'll set up a time. My cell phone number is classified TS/SCI.

6. What is your favorite ring tone on your phone? Pachelbel's Canon

7. What shirt are you wearing? Brown Thai-style pullover

8. Do you label yourself? Yes. Occasionally I do that. I suppose the most accurate is still just "old hippie". I'm not sure if that is a label or a demographic. Mai pen rai.

9. Name the brand of the shoes you're currently wearing: No shoes. Ordinarily, I wear non-brand-name flip-flops, whatever's on sale at Target.

10. Bright or Dark Room? The light is on. Does that count? Otherwise, it's kind of shady in here.

11. Why is there always a missing question? Because someone didn't anticipate it.

12. What does your watch look like? No watches. Can't stand them. They represent a nightmare scene out of "Babbit".

13. What were you doing at midnight last night? Listening to "Coast to Coast" on the radio.

14. What did your last text message you received on your cell phone say? "44.63 has been withdrawn from your account" for my monthly bill.

15. Where is your nearest 7-11? Arden Way at Fulton

16. What's a word that you say a lot? "Drat!" No, I'm not kidding. I have an entire repertoire of "kiddie words" to say when exasperated. Doggone it! Rats! :)

17. Who told you he/she loved you last? Private

18. Last furry thing you touched? My dog. I'm not telling about that thing wrapped in tin foil in my refrigerator.

19. How many drugs have you done in the last three days? Blood pressure meds, anti-depressants, vitamins ~ just the usual chemical soup.

20. How many rolls of film do you need developed? Fortunately, none. I use a digital camera on the rare occasion that I want to take a picture of something.

21. Favorite age you have been so far? Oh, I suppose my 40s were about the best. Too young for mortality issues and too old to give a damn.

22. Your worst enemy? I don't have enemies to the best of my knowledge.

23. What is your current desktop picture? A Khon Kaen sunset

24. What was the last thing you said to someone? One of my housemates and I discussed home decorating but I don't recall what either of us said specifically.

25. If you had to choose between a million bucks or to be able to fly, what would it be? Um, I think I'd take the million... Flying is highly overrated and unnecessary. A million dollars however would get me to Thailand where I would be able to live out the rest of my life quite comfortably. With that kind of buckage, I'd be able to take someone with me.

26. Do you like someone? Sure. I like many people but the context in which this question is asked I believe is more specific. The answer would be "Hm. Someone has my attention."

27. The last song you listened to? "Nights In White Satin" from the Moody Blues Live At Red Rocks CD ~ One of my favorite songs for more than half of my life. It is probably the best "break up" song ever written. It's embarrassing to remember how many wine-sodden evenings I spent listening to it ~ and how it can now, 35 years later, still make me weepy.

28. What time of day were you born? late morning. Another of my unforgiveable sins. My mother missed lunch. :)

29. What's your favorite number? 7

30. Where did you live in 1987? Soquel

31. Are you jealous of anyone? Jealous? No. Not really. Envious perhaps. I tend to be envious of people who are obviously much smarter than me. I can't choose my IQ. Most anything else is pretty much within the range of choice.

32. Is anyone jealous of you? Only if they're not very bright.

33. Where were you when 9/11 happened? In bed watching CNN.

34. What do you do when vending machines steal your money? Depends on how badly I want the item. I've been known to put money in again. Usually, I just cuss a little and walk away.

35. Do you consider yourself kind? Yes. Too kind in some ways. I get in trouble because I am too thin-skinned and naive.

36. If you had to get a tattoo, where would it be? I've thought about that, not that I ever *have* to get another one... but I believe it would be on my ankle, after weight loss.

37. If you could be fluent in any other language, what would it be? Thai

38. Would you move for the person you loved? Absolutely.

39. Are you touchy-feely? In a way, yes. In a way, no. I am not particularly effusive or openly affectionate ~ but I do like to touch people if it is okay with them. I am not a "hugger" though. I'm more "a touch on the arm" type... I never shake hands but I have been known to take someone's hand in both of my hands.

40. What's your life motto? "If you choose wrong, choose again."

41. Name three things you have on you at all times: skin, eyeballs, fingers. I'm thinking "shower" here.

42. What's your favorite town/city? Khon Kaen, Thailand

43. What was the last thing you paid for with cash? Chinese take-out a few hours ago

44. When was the last time you wrote a letter to someone on paper and mailed it? Oh, heck. I truly do not remember. I had to send something to the IRS. Does that count? :)

45. Can you change the oil on a car? No. I would end up putting it in the brake fluid receptacle. I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed when it comes to things like that.

46. Your first love: what is the last thing you heard about him/her? LOL ~ That was 40 years ago! The last I know, he'd gone into the Army at his parents' insistence to break up our relationship. We communicated covertly for a while and eventually we both drifted away from each other. Teenage love doesn't survive absence very well.

47. How far back do you know your ancestry? 1700s or so. No British royalty or anything exciting.

48. The last time you dressed fancy, what did you wear and why did you dress fancy? Too long ago to remember now. Some time last summer. Style was, of course, full-tilt Thai. I'm not really a "dress up" kind of gal though.

49. Does anything hurt on your body right now? Not significantly. I am arthritic so there is low level pain in some of my joints fairly often.

50. Have you ever been burned by love? Oh, yes. But I got over it. I don't believe there are very many people who pick the right person the first time. We've all been there.

51. Do you have a crush on any bloggers? No. I admire several but can't say I have a "crush" on any of them. I'm too old and a bit too cynical for "crushes". In most cases, I might admire someone's intellect.. or creativity.. or something else but that's as far as it goes.

52. Where would you like to live? Um. What's the name of this blog again? LOL

Good set of questions... feel free to snarf it and do it yourself if you'd



Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Human Trafficking and Modern-Day Slavery....

Note: I screwed up. This post is intended for January's "Just Post" contributions, not December's. Oops!

This is a touchy subject and I've been giving some thought to how it is best approached. On two levels:

This is my contribution to the general energy pool of "Just Posts for a Just World" which began last month. I am doing it because it is a Good Idea. I want to do everything possible to support it in its current form. Please see One Plus Two post of 01/06/07 for details. The revisions are very important and they are what allow me to participate now.

More importantly, it is offered in a spirit of mindfulness, the process that encourages us keep these things in mind as we go along about our daily lives, as we develope and grow in knowledge and consciousness of the world around us. In other words, it is an important part of increased maturity.

As a kid growing up in Los Angeles, the people who surrounded us ~ neighbors and the parents of schoolmates ~ frequently had household help. The household help came from many corners of the world, most often from the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Colombia and an assortment of third-world Latin-American countries. The gardeners and the maids mostly spoke Spanish.

We didn't question how they got here. They were in the background. They were called "Maria" or "Carmen" and usually spoke very little English.

So, now I will tell how they frequently "get here".

Coyotes ~ human traffickers ~ promise these young women a "better life". Of course the offer comes with a high price. They are told it's perfectly okay that they don't have the money upfront. They can pay it back out of their wages. The cost is usually in the thousands of dollars, prohibitive for average Americans, let alone uneducated, poverty-stricken citizens of countries that have a national economy no larger than the CIA's banquet budget.

The women come and are either put out as prostitutes or they are "sold" through shady agencies that provide household help and nanny services to bored, stressed Beverly Hills housewives. It's truly not that uncommon. Unable to pay the fees in full to the coyotes, these women are, for all intents and purposes, slaves. They do not have freedom of movement. The coyotes take their passports and all of their meager earnings so they are unable to leave. They are alienated and separated from family. These women are frequently subjected to far worse treatment than having to clean toilets. Anything is acceptable. Beatings, rape and torture are not uncommon. There are even documented cases of homicide.

That is just one example. There are, of course, many more.

I don't claim to have the solution to this with the exception of one very important thing. Mindfulness. Being aware of our environment. Noticing something that seems out of place. If you have a neighbor who has household help and that person seems to be isolated, no visible days off, no obvious freedom, take note. Call someone.

In the larger, global sense, there is an organization addressing these issues. It is "Free The Slaves". Their website provides documents and further information on the topic. Google "human trafficking" and read some of the articles. This is an important issue, one that needs a solution and most of all, our awareness.



Monday, January 08, 2007

There's something to be said for....

... treating people like multi-dimensional human beings.

Apparently, Google has been voted as the best company to work for in this country. Given the coverage I've seen so far, it's no small wonder!

Employees bring their pets to work. There is no dress code. They serve gourmet food in the cafeteria. The workspace is very open. No cubicles. No hierarchy. They have a gym on the premises ~ and a barber. A laundry room. All the comforts of home. It is very definitely a youth-oriented environment. Employees toss balls around, spend break times in a game room and generally have a good time at work. They also work very hard! The statistics show that they take less sick time and the company receives on average of 3000 resumes a week.

Many, many years ago, I worked at Hewlett-Packard. It was cutting edge for its time with daily fruit and donut offerings, free coffee, a gym, a good cafeteria with freshly made food (I will never forget those "crazy eggs" ~ a combination of scrambled eggs, potatoes, green peppers and onions. I still make them now!), a less hierarchal environment ("management by walking around") and monthly "beer busts". For its time, that was downright revolutionary!

Hewlett-Packard, like most companies, eventually gave in to a more standard corporate culture and the perks went away. While it wasn't a horrible place to work, I could see the changes coming. I resigned after 11 years. That started the descent into a workplace, corporate hell that followed.

It was a good way to begin my work life in one respect. In another, it seems that I was unable to accept anything less in the coming years. I wasn't willing to be treated like a cog in a corporate wheel. Nor was I willing to be treated as a lesser being. HP spoiled me.

I've had some wretched bosses over the years, including one who told me that if I couldn't find a way to get to work in a blizzard, that she would "accept [my] resignation, effective immediately". Furthermore, she told me, she expected "loyalty" from me. I told her that if she wanted loyalty, she should buy a dog. I hung up and that was the end of that job. I just couldn't see risking my life to do the back-ups on their mainframes. Sorry. So sorry. Not going to happen in this lifetime.

Yes, I'm going to name names ~ and the worst places I ever worked were AT&T Wireless as a cell phone tech support person, Earthlink as a technical support person and a company called EDS (Ross Perot's company) which made those other places look like heaven on earth!

EDS is the only job I have ever been fired from in the middle of the day after having a rather ugly confrontation with a supervisor (who was half my age and one quarter of my intellect). Arrogant? I hope not. This woman was truly hellish. If there was ever a woman who deserved the label "bitch", she was it!

It began innocently enough. A young woman got a job in the call center. (Again, I was technical support.) She looked as though she had very little job experience and had the general appearance of someone who'd had enough of life already, even though she was probably 25 years old at most. The poor kid was just trying to improve her life!

She made the deadly mistake of locking her purse in a desk drawer which required the supervisor's key to open.

The supervisor asked her in a voice loud enough for everyone to hear, "How could you be so stupid?" (That kind of talk is acceptable at the EDS call center.)

Without even realizing it would come out my mouth, I replied in a voice equally loud, "How can you be such an a$$hole?"

The room went quiet. Everyone's eyes focused on S. and on me. We glared at each other. I was probably 20 feet away from her, helping one of the reps with a computer problem. I heard him mutter "oh, sh*t". The eye-locking ended with her saying, "Come into my office" in a very harsh tone. I told her to perform an unnatural sexual act on herself.

Truly, everyone, this is not my typical behavior. Something snapped. I am by nature very non-confrontative, almost submissive. I think seeing the abuse every day was just too much. Seeing that young girl begin to cry brought out all my protective instincts. Someone needed to stand up for her.

Needless to say, I knew the job was over the moment I spouted off. After all, I was a contractor and contractors don't survive such incidents. I was asked to leave and I did. The End.

I do believe these companies need to be held accountable for such abuse but my letters and phone calls to the Call Center Director went unreturned. I tried contacting a local news station but they didn't bite. I didn't want the job back. I just wanted the director to know what kind of people were supervising there. I wanted it to stop. People have the right to go to work and reasonably expect they will not be verbally abused.

Back to Google, good on them. Good on them for realizing that people work for a living and that doesn't make them lesser beings. Good on them for realizing that treating people with dignity and consideration gets more of the same in return. Good on them for creating an atmosphere that generates good feelings, happiness and creativity. And good on them for providing a pretty decent product, all told.