Monthly Archives: December 2010

52 Cups

Through Twitter, I discovered an interesting site on Tumblr yesterday. It’s called 52Cups and is the work of a young senior at Michigan State, Megan. Her premise is that each week she sets up a meeting with someone she’s never met before and has a discussion with them over a cup of coffee. And she’s writing about what she learns from each interview. Since I love learning from other people (and I don’t think I’ll ever get enough of that), I started reading and discovered that this 60+ year-old guy and that 22 year-old have a few things in common beyond blogging. However, even if you don’t have the same sort of connection, I encourage you to go there and read a few of her posts. It’s good stuff and what she’s learning is worth knowing – or reinforcing, if you already know it.

One of her “cups” asked her what her plans were for life after college. She doesn’t have a good answer for that, and as you might expect, that causes her some stress since she’s so close to graduating. I totally understand that and that’s something we share. Neither did I back then – even after I graduated – even way after I graduated.

There was no “I want to be a brain surgeon or a lawyer” epiphany light going off in my head back then. I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up and no clue how to figure it out – and that’s fundamentally unsettling when you’re on the verge of starting a career. Careers are supposed to be the most important thing ever, aren’t they?

Actually, not. My experience has shown me that enjoying what you do and enjoying life itself is way more important than that career. Sure, it’s better to be able to afford a roof over your heads and food on the table, but roofs and food come in a wide host of varieties. You don’t need make it into the top 5% income bracket to be happy (and it’s a good thing, too.)

What I learned was that I’m blessed for some unknown reason, because being absolutely clueless about a career path, even after over 60 years, has brought me to the right place to be in my life. I do things I love and have for most of my life. When I graduated, I had no job (or prospects for one) but I’d received an invitation from Uncle Sam to go to work for him for two to six years – I’d been drafted. Rather than moving to Canada or going to jail I opted for joining the Navy. Once I’d spent four years doing that, I went back to school since I had the GI Bill to pay for it, figuring I’d do what a friend of mine had done, get a PhD and teach in college somewhere.

What I discovered was that I’d developed a lowered tolerance for the BS of academia (probably brought on by the level of BS in the Navy) and I could no more stand sucking up to professors long enough to get that PhD than I could have stood reenlisting for another four years. I ended up moving back home and finding a job working in an entry level job for the state. Through that job I met the love of my life, married her and somehow stumbled into a job in aerospace. That job ended with a layoff when President Carter ended the B-1 bomber production and I found my next job literally by running into an old friend from the state. Once I helped her up off the floor (I did say I’d run into her), she introduced me to someone who needed a grant writer.

Writing grants eventually led to a job in corporate America supervising writers for technical manuals. My writers needed graphics work done (my wife had been a graphics designer and I’d helped her with some of her work for years) so I figured I could learn to do that better. So I became a manager/forms designer. But we needed more creative graphics before long and, next thing I knew we were designing brochures and document covers and books – first in black and white and one or two colors and finally four color work. And damned if I wasn’t winning awards for it. Who knew?

We (by then I’d hired a few  more designers) got busy doing increasingly more sophisticated designing and marketing work and “multimedia” came along (Macromind Director). We began to design complex interfaces for internal projects. 

Along the way, the company sent me to be trained with some of the best in the business (people like Bert Monroy, Jeff Schewe, David Biedney, Kai Krause, and a lot of others) and I actually got to be good at what we were doing.

Multimedia morphed into designing interfaces for other computer platforms (like Lotus Notes and SharePoint) and eventually we began to create marketing pieces for the company used on the website and finally designing websites. Through it all, every couple of years or so, what we were doing morphed somewhat and we were always doing and learning how to do new things. I love that aspect of it. You can never learn too much or enough. From being a designer of websites to being smart about the designs we were creating - making them easier to use – was a pretty short step, leading me to a career in user experience. I’m still learning and growing. We’re designing things for iPhones, iPads & Android phones now. It’s been a constant change.

Internet Humor

As it turns out, not only in the internet the perfect place for pictures of naked people, but also humor. Although few people know it, Amazon.com is a wonderful place for humor, especially when it’s a case of people enthusiastically recommending their favorite products. For instance, did you realize (and this will change your whole life!) amazon.com sells Tuscan Whole Milk, 1 gallon, 128 oz? And it’s not the imitation Tuscan milk, it’s the real thing! And the reviews are amazing:

  • OK product, but you have to buy a glass to use it. Don’t get fooled by the easy-to-use look of this product.
  • Some assembly required, indeed. Shipping was fine, and the product was not damaged in any way, but my husband and I (both of us have college degrees, mind you, his in Engineering) could not figure out how to assemble this. No instructions, no diagrams, not even a lousy cheap allen wrench. So basically, weeks after purchase, we’re using it as a one gallon paper weight. I haven’t gotten any response from Tuscan. It earns two stars simply because it is heavy and does do a fair job of holding down the stack of newspapers awaiting recycling.
  • Combine with other foods! Has anyone else tried pouring this stuff over dry cereal? A-W-E-S-O-M-E!
  • Big. I ordered this based on the reviews and found it much larger than pictured. *Much* larger.
  • Not a great deal. First of all, I must say ‘Tuscan Whole Milk, 1 Gallon, 128 fl oz’ is a great product, and other reviews will verify that. However, I was able to buy the same product, slightly used, on Craigslist for only $84.99. I haven’t received it yet, but I warn anybody buying ‘Tuscan Whole Milk, 1 Gallon, 128 fl oz’ on Amazon is probably getting ripped off.

You might also check out the uranium ore, and the mountain three wolf moon t-shirt.

It’s the Economy, Stupid

Senator Sanders (Vermont) has a Facebook page devoted to responsible solutions to the economy: http://www.facebook.com/topic.php?uid=9124187907&topic=16641 It’s worth a read.

Here’s one from a guy in Gaithersburg, MD.

I usually advocate all the trappings of the welfare state, such as Medicare for All, Universal Higher Education, etc, and have a bunch of nice graphs for a budget proposal that includes those and incorporates a reduction of the national debt, but since this may be intended for a wider audience, I’ll moderate my stance a bit. My name is Walter LaBiche and I am from Gaithersburg, Maryland.

*Defense Spending: Reduce the DoD base budget by 50%. Withdraw our service members from every foreign nation but Afghanistan. -$275 billion. Reduce our forces in Afghanistan from 100,000 to 10,000, and give our remaining forces a clear mission: Hunt down Al Qaeda. -$90 billion. Eliminate the International Affairs budget for foreign arms sales. Any arms sales must either be budget neutral, or generate revenue. -$10 billion. Double the Veterans Affairs budget, and use some of that money to help our returning service members to find new jobs. +$66.2 billion. Total Defense spending cuts- $308.8 Billion. Introduce a War Tax that will take effect during times of war. Any military ventures aside from the defense of the United States and its territories must first be authorized by congress, and then funded entirely by a War Tax, which would be a combination of both a payroll tax surtax and a national sales surtax for the duration of the war.

*Taxes: Put a cap on Tax Deductions and Tax Credits for the individual income tax. From now on, no one may claim more than $100,000 in Tax Deductions and Tax Credits combined.
Extend the 2001/2003 tax cuts for everyone but the top 5% of wage earners.
Reduce the top marginal Corporate Income Tax rate to 28%. Allow corporations to claim 100% of the salaries of workers whose wages are up to $70,000 each as tax deductions. This would make it cheaper for businesses to hire new workers. For instance, Bob the fruit vendor earns $100,000 a year through his business. Bob hires 2 new workers with a yearly salary of $40,000/year, and as a result, his business income increases to $200,000 a year. But now, Bob can deduct the total salaries of his 2 employees, which is $80,000, from his business income. Bob still has to pay the salaries of his employees, but he only has to pay corporate income tax on $120,000/year, not $200,000.
Lift the payroll tax cap on incomes greater than $106,000/year, and progressivise the payroll tax. For folks who are in the bottom 50th percentile, reduce their payroll tax to 0%, both for them and their employers. For those who are in the top 50th percentile, they will pay a 12% payroll tax only on all incomes above the 50th percentile (roughly $33,000/year), and their employers will likewise pay a 12% payroll tax on all incomes above the 50th percentile. This will also have the effect of making it cheaper for employers to hire new lower-class and middle-class employees.
Impose a Financial Crisis Responsibility Fee, requiring the very largest financial firms to pay a fee to compensate taxpayers for the use of TARP, based on the firm’s size and debt.
Enact Cap-and-Trade.
Impose a 10% surtax on incomes above $1 million.

*Social Security: Set the social security retirement age to a variable rate of Life Expectancy minus 11 years, so that as life expectancy increases, so too will the retirement age. Means-test it. For instance, folks who have a net worth of $1 million or more probably don’t need to be drawing social security checks. Institute a minimum benefit of 120% of the federal poverty level for the poorest seniors.

*Healthcare: Enact a Public Option health insurance plan, available to every American

Traffic Cameras

Volkswagen has come up with a new twist on traffic cameras. They created one that takes snapshots of speeders and sends out tickets, pretty much like every other traffic camera on record. But the difference is that theirs also tracks who is obeying the law in sight of the cameras and enters them into a lottery to sin the fines aid by the speeders. Clever idea.