I Have a Gripe

August 30, 2016

Freedom of Expression vs. Freedom from Consequences

“There’s a place in the world for the angry young man. With his working class ties and his radical plans. He refuses to bend he refuses to crawl. And he’s always at home with his back to the wall. And he’s proud of his scars and the battles he’s lost. And struggles and bleeds as he hangs on his cross. And likes to be known as the angry young man”
~ Billy Joel

So last week Colin Kaepernick turned a hose on the hornet’s nest by choosing to sit during the National Anthem before a pre-season game when the San Francisco 49ers took on the Green Bay Packers. His reason was to protest the treatment of minorities by police and other groups within the United States.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media in an exclusive interview after the game. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

I have been a fan of the Niners since childhood. I had a SERIOUS crush on Joe Montana. I thought it was terrible when Alex Smith was traded and Kaepernick took over as the first string quarterback. But, I went with it. I thought he was a good player, but I didn’t think it was right that Smith lost his job because he was injured.

Kaepernick’s decision has sparked commentary, debate, and anger from what seems like every side of the ongoing discussion about race in the United States today. Personally, I disagree with his decision to sit down. I feel it is disrespectful to all of the members of the military and their families that sacrifice for our freedom. I love my country and I can’t imagine not standing.

The NFL does not have a policy on making players stand during the National Anthem. I know of people who do not stand during the Pledge of Allegiance or the Anthem and while I disagree with their decision to do so, it is their right to not participate.

Everyone makes their own decisions. That’s what this country is all about. We need to be willing to tolerate decisions made by others, even when we don’t agree. It is when people refuse to listen to each other when we don’t agree that debate turns to hateful vitriol.

Now what?

So Kap stirred up debate across the country. He has everyone’s attention. Now what? I would hope he uses this attention to do something positive. Go into communities where you feel there are issues and start a dialogue. Listen to everyone. Respect flows both ways.

Here’s the rub…

Now here’s where things get rough. Exercising your freedom of expression can come with consequences. There are rumors that Kap may be released from the Niners. He hasn’t been performing well, but it is interesting that this rumor begins to circulate right after he refuses to stand for the National Anthem. The point to remember is that if you are going to go out on a limb you need to be ready for whatever comes your way. Some people will be supportive and understanding, while others will vocally disagree. Still others will reduce to name calling and other nonsense.

“I believe I’ve passed the age of consciousness and righteous rage. I found that just surviving was a noble fight. I once believed in causes too. I had my pointless point of view. And life went on no matter who was wrong or right.”
~ Billy Joel

There have been times over the years where I opened my mouth in the name of what I felt was right. Sometimes the wind was with me and other times I got hit hard. I used to be a pretty serious hot head. Call it getting old (I prefer to call it “wisdom in age”), but maybe I am learning to approach things differently. I try to remember the old “honey vs. vinegar” line. I try to remind myself that I have not walked in someone’s shoes. Yes, I still get angry, but I try to stay calm and hear the other side before I spin like a top. When someone starts yelling, I stop listening, so I assume others will do the same. It doesn’t always work, but I try to remember that we are all works in progress.

March 8, 2016

International Women’s Day -Whatever

So this morning when I logged into Facebook, I was welcomed with the following graphic:

intl-womens-day

<insert eye roll here>

I think days like this are completely bogus. And I’m sure I am going to annoy many of my fellow femme fatales. Let me explain why…

First, I don’t need a day to “celebrate” myself. You should value yourself every day. Second, you are lumping me in to a class that require special treatment and quotas. I hate quotas. I shouldn’t get something (a promotion, raise, job etc.) just because I am a woman. I should get something because I deserve it. You are insinuating that I need the help of someone else to make things happen. All it does is create animosity within a workplace.

I’ve worked in male-dominated fields my entire career. I expected nothing but what I deserve. If I didn’t get something, I would go in and fight for it. I never expected anything to be handed to me just because I am a woman. Have I worked harder than my male counterparts in some cases? Yes. Have I dealt with men who felt I didn’t belong there? Yes. Did I care? Absolutely not. I worked hard and let that speak for me.

Let me give you an example.

I worked on a help desk – generally a male-dominated field. One of my counterparts (a man) had obvious issues with me being a woman (the only woman at the time) in the group. I dealt with it for awhile. When I got sick of him, I didn’t complain to HR or cry discrimination. I cornered him and told him “welcome to America, you’re going to work with women – deal with it.” You know what? He came around and we wound up being great partners at the office. I stood up to him and I think he respected it.

That’s exactly what I’ve always done.

Here’s another example. While still working in IT, I used to support publishing processes. I loved it. I was good at it. Others knew it. Except for one male manager. He was known for not being very forward thinking when it came to women in roles of authority. Now, I wasn’t a manager, but I did have some level of authority. Again, I worked hard. I proved I knew what I was doing and had the knowledge to get the job done. One day when there was an issue he said to me “they should listen to you – you know better than anyone.”

Wow. Just wow. I won the guy over. I proved I knew my stuff. And that compliment from him meant more than he ever realized. And I didn’t need someone wagging their finger at him telling him to be fair. I did it on my own.

So what exactly is my point?

If a company has a boss, manager, etc. that has an issue with women, eventually he will be dealt with. He’ll have a hard time finding people to work for him. He’ll get his. Quotas don’t work with this guy. He’ll just resent them and make it even more difficult for those that are part of his team.

Some say “we need days like this for young girls.” I say absolutely not.

Again, what are we teaching them? Because you are a girl you should expect preferential treatment? No. Tough it out. Work hard. Prove yourself and be confident. Don’t rely on a quota – in college; in the workplace; in life.

So what should we as women do? Encourage each other. Support each other. Celebrate success and acknowledge failure. Personally, I have had more issues with women stabbing me in the back at the office than men. Men are good at the game. They help each other out. Generally women are so focused on getting ahead they don’t care who they step on or stab to get there. You want to know why men think women in the office are bitchy? That’s why.

And if you have kids? Don’t expect even more handed to you. You want to know what really grinds my gears – women who expect not only preferential treatment because they are a woman, but preferential treatment because they have kids. The built-in excuse. Can’t work late? Kids. Can’t take on an extra project? Kids. Then especially don’t complain when you get passed over for a raise or promotion. People used to tell me “well you don’t have kids, so you don’t know.” You’re right. I don’t have kids. I made that decision with my husband a long time ago. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have special circumstances. My answer used to be “well my grandmother is sick – should I wheel her in here like you do your kids?” Prepare for children. Yes, things happen, but it shouldn’t be an automatic excuse for everything. You want to be treated special because you are a woman and mother? Then don’t expect me to applaud you when you get something you don’t deserve because of a quota.

Can you tell I hate quotas?

Now are there situations when female-related issues need special attention? Yes. For example, insurance companies should cover reconstructive surgery for women with breast cancer. They should also, as they are now required to, allow women time in the hospital after childbirth. Both men and women should be allowed time home after childbirth. Beyond that? I can’t think of anything else, but I’m sure I’m missing something important along similar lines.

So my advice is simple. Be tough. Be strong. Be a woman. But don’t expect to be treated differently just because you are a woman.

July 8, 2014

The American Dream & Happiness

Filed under: company interaction,Economy — alvb1227 @ 12:24 am
Tags: , , ,

I plugged in my headset at the gym today at lunch and listened to a section of Outnumbered on Fox News. The topic? A USA Today study that has determined a salary of $130,000 is required to live the “American dream.”

The discussion jumped around in an attempt to answer the question “why.” Topics included tax policy, student loans, social engineering, a lack of free markets, and housing prices. What really got my attention was when Harris Faulkner, a favorite of mine, tied in the concept of happiness, citing studies that once a person reaches a $70,000 salary, their level of happiness doesn’t change. She was able to turn the entire discussion to happiness and what makes an individual happy as far as their own personal American dream.

The discussion turned again to jobs and what makes a person happy in their work. A point was made that people often focus on their job as their source of income instead of a way of making themselves happy. This is a subject that has always fascinated, and frustrated, me.

In recent years, whenever this topic comes up, the standard answer is “just be happy you have a job.” Yes, I completely understand in this harsh economic market anyone who has a job should just be happy and keep quiet. However, year after year, as this rotten economy goes on, when are we as a society allowed to say “yes, I want to be happy in my work as well as make money?”

Think about it. A full time employee spends on average 40 to 45 hours a week (minimum) at their place of employment. That equates to approximately 25% of your time during the week (including sleeping hours) at your job. You generally spend more time with your co-workers than your family. Why shouldn’t we strive to be happy at work?

Now I  can go down a rabbit hole here and ask why employers choose to treat their employees poorly, especially in a bad economy, but I won’t.

I simply ask this – at what point in our working lives are we allowed to want more than just a salary?

September 11, 2012

September 11th – 11 Years Later

Filed under: New Jersey,New York,Politics,Security,Terrorism — alvb1227 @ 1:58 am
Tags: , , ,

Tomorrow is the 11th anniversary of the day that changed America. Last year, on the 10th anniversary, the New York City memorial opened. It was an amazing structure and a beautiful way to remember so many on such a heart breaking day.

Well, since then, many have equated the memorial to an amusement park. People have been seen leaving their Starbucks cups, letting their children throw stuff in the reflecting pool, and my personal favorite, seating toddlers on top of the plaques holding the names of the fallen. To me that is like someone standing on a headstone in a cemetery. While I am sure this poor behavior is a minority, I think it is important for visitors to remember this isn’t a tourist spot. It is where 3,000 lost their lives and to treat it with the proper respect it deserves.

I think it is also important that during this year’s ceremonies politicians aren’t going to speak. I believe these events shouldn’t be politicized. No matter what a person’s political affiliation, this is an American event. Politics should stay out of it. When Usama Bin Laden was killed and the President, the New York and New Jersey Governors, and the New York City Mayor went to lay a wreath at the memorial, before the event began, and I am sure they didn’t know they were on camera, they were laughing and joking. The moment they realized they were on camera, they became serious. It left me feeling icky.

Many worry – and I am one of them – that as time progresses and people move forward, people may forget. I hope that isn’t the case. The moment we start to forget, the dragon goes back to sleep and we are vulnerable.

I pray we never forget.

 

September 11, 2011

9-11: Ten Years Later

Today is a cool, cloudy morning here in New Jersey, much different from that fateful day 10 years ago. Each year on this day I have tried to provide stories and impressions of that dark day and the light that came of it. As I sit here watching the reading of the names, I am reminded of every moment of that day. As a friend on Facebook said the other day, I can’t remember what I had for lunch two days ago, but I remember every minute of that day.

I am reminded of the acts of heroism by everyday people at I am sure they never expected to do. They are people who went to work, got on a plane, committed their lives to protect us as fire fighters, police officers and members of the military. They never expected to be tested to that extent.

Last night I saw a television program about two men who worked at the World Trade Center who could have easily survived, but they chose to continue to go up the steps of the North Tower, saving the lives of 77 individuals. Architect Frank De Martini and construction inspector Pablo Ortiz are true heroes that came out of that dark day, showing what the American spirit is all about. What those animals could never take.

Yesterday was the dedication of the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, PA. Those 40 people took the information they collected, took a vote, knowing full well they would perish, and thwarted the plans of the fourth hijacked plane that was likely headed to the United States Capitol. Again, people put in a position they never expected became heroes and are a shining example of what the American spirit is all about.

These are only a few examples of the heroic actions taken by many on that day and the days following. There are many more we will all come to know as time progresses.

We can all learn from those who lived through – and those who did not – on that day. We can make sure to stay alert, help our service members, fire fighters, police officers, EMS, and other first responders whenever possible.  Most importantly, we can never forget. Never forget what those animals took from us. And what we have gained.

May God continue to bless the United State of America.

July 15, 2011

The National Debt and Common Sense Solutions

OK, it is time for all the boys in D.C. to put their big boy pants on and use the common sense God gave them to resolve this budget issue. I have some suggestions; some are easy, some may take a bit of a spine, but they ultimately make sense.

First the easy ones…

The politicians keep talking about not being able to “cut checks.” I realized that they aren’t just using this figuratively. They are LITERALLY cutting checks! Who still does this? Transition over payments like Social Security and the like over to direct deposit.  How much could that save just in paper, printing and postage? If someone insists on getting a physical check, charge a $10 fee.

I mentioned previously about using technologies like secure Sharepoint instead of (again) wasteful spending, such as printing out the budget.

Now some tougher, but still common sense solutions…

First, MOVE TO THE FLAT TAX. Approximately 45% of the American population do not pay any taxes. That same 45% also utilize the largest majority of government resources. Everyone should pay something in taxes. While we are a very compassionate country, we need to switch from giving a handout to giving a hand up. By simply handing out money and/or services without actually helping to acquire something, those individuals are doomed to staying on the bread line. “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

Social Security needs help…a LOT of help. If you are under the age of 40, you should have the opportunity to opt out. Additionally, if you are under the age of 40, raise the retirement age to 67. When you reach your retirement age, you should get only what you pay into Social Security. If you didn’t work or pay into the system, then you get nothing. Period.

Take a hard look at “pet projects” to see which are working and which are not. Every project has its own set of fans, so some will be tougher to cut than others, but again, people must start to use the common sense God gave them.

Again, these are just a few places to start. Look at some of my other national debt common sense solutions to learn more.

What would you do?

November 3, 2010

2010 Election Wrap-Up

Well, the 2010 elections are thankfully over. Robo calls will stop invading our homes and those ridiculous commercials will finally go away. However, before everyone starts to look at the 2012 election, I thought I would do a “wrap-up” of the elections that took place yesterday…of course in my own personal opinion.

The Good…
First off, I am thrilled that Nancy Pelosi will no longer be holding the gavel. I’m sorry, when I look in her eyes, you can just hear the Loony Tunes theme. She is seriously a few fries short of a happy meal. I think Ohio Rep. John Boehner will do a good job, as it is presumed he will be the Speaker of the House, but as I am sure all those who were elected last night, he needs to proceed with caution and know that all of America will be watching.

I am personally very pleased that my Representative, Rodney Frelinghuysen defeated his two opponents to claim a ninth consecutive term in the 11th Congressional District. While he is an incumbent, I believe he has done an admirable job representing his constituents. No matter who I have ever asked about his, regardless of party affiliation, they all say the same thing about Rep. Frelinghuysen; he works incredibly hard to represent his district and makes sure he says in touch with everyone who takes the time to write, call or email.

I can’t believe this had to even be a question on the ballot, but only in NJ. New Jersey voters approved a ballot measure to prohibit the state from diverting money from its unemployment-benefits fund, after governors and lawmakers took $4.6 billion from it between 1992 and 2006 to plug budget gaps. So basically, they are now forced to follow the law. Imagine that.

In the governor’s races, I would like to congratulate Rep. Mary Fallin of Oklahoma, a Republican, who has become the state’s first female governor as well as Tea Party-backed South Carolina Republican, state Rep. Nikki Haley, who was elected to replace term-limited Republican Gov. Mark Sanford, also her state’s first female governor. I am also very pleased that Republican Jon Kasich, a former chairman of the House Budget Committee, defeated Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland. I think these are great choices for their respective states that will help begin to move their states forward.

I am also very happy to see that Marco Rubio won in Florida. In my opinion, he truly represents “the American dream.” He started from meager beginnings, the son of immigrants who fled Cuba. He never forgot his roots, which to me, is incredibly important. I would definitely keep an eye on this guy. He is bound to do great things for our country.

The Bad and the Ugly…

First off, I can’t believe Senator Reid from Nevada, Representative Rangel from Harlem and Rep. Barney Frank of the fourth district of Massachusetts  won back their seats. I have to tell you, if those districts and states continue to go down in a giant ball of flames, I have absolutely no sympathy for their constituency. They get what they deserve.

I really don’t see Jerry Brown doing a lot for California to help pull them out of the rut they are in. I hope I am wrong, but I am sadly, not very hopeful. I am equally disappointed that Barbara “Call me Senator” Boxer was re-elected. This woman is incredibly smug and way too liberal for my tastes.

Speaking of California, I have to say I am sorry they voted down Prop 19. Now, for the record, I am not this major pot-head some believe, but let’s face it, one of the real reasons marijuana is illegal is because William Randolph Hearst owned major forests and wanted to make sure they were used for paper manufacturing. For those who use pot, if it is taxed and controlled like a business, it would generate funds for California, which are definitely needed, and the marijuana would be of higher quality because it would be grown in a controlled manner, thus avoiding potential purity issues. I hope they give this another try in the future.

It is About “We the People…”

Ultimately, I hope those who were elected to office last night remember one thing; it is about “we the people,” and not “we the politicians.” I am reminded of a scene in an 80’s Goldie Hawn movie “Protocol.” We will be watching you all…like a hawk.

September 30, 2010

The Extreme in Bullying

In a previous post about bullying I spoke about a father standing up for his daughter with cerebral palsy who was being relentlessly bullied. Well, sometimes bullying can have deadly results.

This week it has been reported that two freshmen students at Rutgers University digitally bullied and humiliated a fellow freshman by streaming live two private sexual encounters online with another male. This proved too much for student Tyler Clementi and he took his own life by jumping off the George Washington Bridge. Reports this morning say that his body may have been found. A post on his Facebook page said, “jumping off the gw bridge sorry.”

This is simply sickening to many, including me. As I mentioned before, many of us were bullied as children, however, due to the emergence of the Internet, bullying has now gone global.

Tyler’s roommate, Dharun Ravi and  Ravi’s friend Molly Wei, both of New Jersey, were charged with two counts each of invasion of privacy for secretly using a camera to view and transmit a live sex scene, said Middlesex County Prosecutor Bruce Kaplan. Ravi claims he turned on the camera accidentally, however, his Twitter posts prove otherwise.

In my opinion, these charges hardly go far enough. The law has definitely not kept up with the changes to bullying in the digital age. This story reminds me of another digital-bullying case in Massachusetts where a child committed suicide after relentless bullying online.

I am sickened by this two and weep for Tyler. I offer my heartfelt condolences to the Clementi family. I hope law makers work to bring the law up to date and these two are prosecuted to the fullest extent they can.

I implore you, if you know of someone being bullied, or you are being bullied yourself, help them. Stand up for them. Reach out to parents, teachers, administration, police, clergy or whomever else you may feel comfortable with talking.

May 19, 2010

I’m Sorry Mr. Cavuto, You’re Wrong

Let’ me start out by saying I am a long-admirer of Neil Cavuto.  He is both incredibly articulate and intelligent. He has overcome multiple health problems with grace and honesty. He is certainly someone of personal and professional accomplishment and a great role model.

On the way home each day, I listen to Your World on satellite radio. Each show ends with a personal commentary by Cavuto called Common Sense. I will say I agree with his point of view on politics, business and every day life more than a majority of the time. However, today, I must say I was very disappointed with his commentary about the “thin skinned teachers of New Jersey.”

He spoke of merit pay and compared it to other jobs that receive pay increases based on job performance. First off, if you, Mr. Cavuto, have received fair increases based on your performance, good for you. Like most of the people I know, that is not normally the case and has not often been my personal experience. Most increases in the private sector (in my experiences) are more related to playing the corporate game, sucking up to management and other under-handed office-politic maneuvers. While I have, on rare occasion, like others, received fair increases for performance, it is as I said earlier – well, rare.

Now let’s look at the public sector, like teachers. You said that teachers should be held to the same standard. That teachers are doing their students a disservice otherwise “that when they grow up, they either perform on their job, or they loose their job.”

Let’s think about that statement for a moment. I know many teachers who try to teach values like these in their classrooms. That there are winners and sadly, losers, in all aspects of life. Unfortunately, you are forgetting one important factor – the parents. The parents that often bully teachers into overlooking their child’s poor behavior, half-hearted homework assignments and failed tests. The parents that often make excuses for their children. The parents are the ones that are creating this “touchy, feely” environment today. Where, to quote you from an earlier commentary, “every kid gets a trophy for simply showing up.” The parents that are teaching them no matter what, someone else will fix it for you.

You also used the example of “the CEO that seeks his company’s stock swoon, then his corner office soon gone.” Well, we both know, if the CEO’s company’s stock declines, the CEO will get a golden parachute and continue to live the good life. So, this is not the best analogy either.

I completely agree that teachers should be held accountable, but how do you handle merit pay? More standardized testing? We all know how great that works. What about fine and performing arts? How do you determine if an art teacher is doing a good job? If the kids are all Picasso’s? And what about music? Is the music teacher only doing a good job is the child can sing like Pavarotti or play cello like Yo Yo Ma? Last time I checked, there’s no standardized test for fine and performing arts, so I guess that will continue to be decimated by the public school program.

You tell teachers, “this is the real world.” Well, I say teachers know better than most what the real world is. Teachers are expected to repeatedly do more with less, often purchase supplies for their classroom with their own money and are regularly the butt-end of jokes and abuse by people who have no idea what it is to manage a classroom or, God forbid, protect students in a Columbine-like attack.

Teachers know all too well, what the real world is all about Mr. Cavuto. On this one, you’re wrong.

March 5, 2010

Does Anyone Really Care About the Oscars?

Filed under: Celebrity — alvb1227 @ 11:45 pm
Tags: ,

So, I’m watching the local news and I see teasers for the Oscars that takes place this Sunday. I used to watch them every so often when I was (much) younger, but in recent years, these awards shows hold little interest for me.

Let’s face it; people are loosing their jobs in record numbers, foreclosures are up and consumer confidence is down. Meanwhile, the self-absorbed Hollywood elite glam up in custom gowns and borrowed jewels to walk the red carpet and talk about themselves and their projects. In acceptance speeches, the average citizen is lectured about how we need to give and do more for those in our community who are less fortunate. They then go to opulent after parties and congratulate each other.

Seriously, does anyone really care? I really don’t need to be told that I should give back to my community, help those around me and worship Barack Obama  by these people when most of them are so far removed from real-life it is unreal. If you need to be told to be a positive influence on your community by celebrities, then you need more help than these people can supply.

So, I will not be watching the Oscars this Sunday. I feel there are much more important things to do.

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