Friday, February 16, 2007

Working For Sauron

On 2/15/07, G@P wrote: Salut, Russ... The morale at work is so bad, that it leaves me bitchy and whiny about my lot in life and everyone around me is pretty damned tired of hearing it. What no one can seem to tell me is how the situation would improve if I jumped ship over to another WORLD IS FLAT/WAL-MART situation. At least HERE, I have a fair amount of time off...and at work, there seems to be more than ample time to catch up on reading. But make no mistake...change is needed. The big question mark is WHAT? Are you a NETFLIX person? Can't believe I didn't hop onto that sooner... In the middle of FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING...and while I'm FAR more ready to appreciate it now than I was in high school, topology-travel tales take some patience on my part to get through... How are you doing? GaP How am I doing? Well, GaP, I'm bitchy, angry and tired. Tomorrow I go to the schoolhouse in MSP for recurrent. My heart is not in it. I'm suffering from recurrent headaches, my blood pressure is pegged at max for the first time ever ... and something has to change. How can we create a new reality? What are we doing wrong? Are we living in Hell and don't know it? I did my books and found that I'd spent $5,000 more in January than I brought in. That kind of cash flow drain is unsustainable. Okay, all that said, today I realized that I must quit concentrating on the negatives. In reinforcement of that idea, the Universe gave me a message. I opened the mail, expecting a bill, and found a $700 refund check from my insurance company. Then I checked my stocks and found I'd made several thousand dollars over the last 24 hours. So it's not all bad. We need to stick together and fight the dragons. We haven't done all this study and reading about myths, heroes and personal paths for nothing! I have a hard time with Tokien, too. So much so that I've never gotten past the first couple of chapters. There's a lot in there but so far it's not accessible to me. You have my admiration! Well, brother, we've got to learn to "hold our mouths right," stick to an idea of a better version of reality and, one day, we'll be sitting on the boat having a single malt and good long talk. We ain't gonna fix it all, not even the smalles part of it, that's not what life on earth is about, but we can get our spirits and minds into a better place. I believe that. Now, how do we do it? Beating up on each other is not the way. Yep, the morale sucks! Big time! I've been saying to the flight attendants in the briefing, "We're going to take care of each other, close the door on the Dumpster Doug Show and the funky corporation and keep our passengers safe. Please know I do take your concerns seriously." Since I've started saying these simple things, I've noticed I've gotten a more "thank you's," some real smiles, and more en route calls from the back, "Do you need water? We don't have any food but I just wanted to check on you. Do you need anything else?" than before. Just knowing that I genuinely (I do not say these things to blow smoke up anybody's ass) care for their interests and concerns seems to have a positive, though temporary, effect on morale (It is just too bad the skipper continues to grind his teeth and crunches on pills to fend off the migraines!). Keep the faith! Russ ---------------------------------------------------------------------- "We are raised to honor all the wrong explorers and discoverers--thieves planting flags, murderers carrying crosses. Let us at last praise the colonizers of dreams." ---Peter S. Beagle, praising the works of J.R.R. Tolkien.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Slang Exchange

Salut, Doc... You ever consider visiting the colonies during winter? Like, say, the Christmas break? Right now, you're missing out on what we New Englanders call a "nor'easter"...We're slated to get 24 hours of the white stuff covered with a nice icy glazing to top it all off... Candace harks from this area of the States, right? I'm sure she's familiar with the term. An observation of the mother-tongue crossing the great transAtlantic: The crew was waiting for a part to show up for insallation...It was being flown out from Detroit to Newark airport. "What a cock-up," I mumbled. "What did you say?" the Captain asked. "Are you from England?" "No," I replied. "But I like the vernacular." "What does that mean?" asked the First Officer. "A snafu," I fumbled. "A screw-up." "A cluster-f**k", the Captain offered. Doing my part to make sure that all the idiom exchange isn't ALL one way...GaP

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Exhaustive Self-Loathing...

I just did my first domestic trip after a long vacation...and while it was basically easier, it drove home the fact that I really don't want to be doing the jet-set thing anymore. I find that I'm putting up a wall around myself, blankly staring through people, scraping through with the bare minimum... I'm just so jaded with humanity. Everyone and everything seems so utterly pointless, trite, and absurd to me. I see people as sheep...a bunch of vapid zombies yakking into their cellphones, cheering on the latest mass-media sports event, or filling the air with inanities like the weather, what they do for a living, or what exotic location they just came from. A bunch of labels believing themselves to be individuals... I wish I could reach out, get to know people, engage in friendly small talk but I can't really see the point. It never leads to anything like friendships or meaningful conversation. I know it takes work to CHANGE, to cultivate positivity...but it's too exhausting. So I put up walls, make as little eye contact as possible, limit my conversation. I'm a robot keeping my distance... I blame the job but the real truth is the picture I included above. How do you find your path or passion when you think that everything is pointless and ineffectual? Most of all yourself? In a world where everything is commerce and commodity, how are you able to be anything more than a sellout or somebody's meal-ticket? Sorry. My thoughts aren't very well-organized...Let's hear it for the long, dark mid-winter afternoon of the soul...

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Glad To Be Older

Tomorrow, I head back to work after a month off...I've had some time to reflect on some of the changes in my life over the past year... I notice myself sort of withdrawing from certain things. Ever since I met Bill, I've been gradually drifting away from my comic habit. Have I been sublimating all of these years? Am I growing out of them. They were my shelter for the longest time... I've also gotten lazier about keeping my written journal. Granted, from time to time, I post to his blog, print out this page and count it as an entry...(Like I'm going to do with this one.) Also, this past week, I've had every intention of going to the gym but the moment I heard that sub-zero arctic wind rattling the windows, I just turned over and dropped right back to sleep. I've also gotten less passionate about writing letters...I guess this is getting OLDER. And with THAT in mind, I have to say that I absolutely do not MIND the ageing process... I don't miss being insecure all the time, not knowing the answers to everyday problems, feeling out of step with all of the other kids who, of course, seemed normal. I don't miss being anxious and stressed about stupid things like brand-name clothing, zits on my face, whether my peers are laughing at the self-same insecurities...I don't miss my former lack of self-confidence, the pointless workaholism, the hyperactivity, the obssessive-compulsive way that my mind used to work...I like the way more things roll off my back, the calmer way that I take things in stride...issues that I never would have imagined dealing with before. Getting a oil-heater boiler fixed, having a cellar spayed for termites, and balancing the checkbook for all of these little home-owner improvement maintenance details. You might say that this is normal, everyday stuff...but there was a time when I never had the slightest clue about any of that. I've had good teachers. Feels good learning a bit of practicality.. I like the way that former fiery convictions have cooled to a reasonable temperature. I used to think rock and roll was the ONLY music and that the music had to be made with REAL instruments. No dance-crap, no synths, NO hip-hop, and godDAMN, country was for shitkickers only...If my fifteen-year old self could take a look at my music collection, he'd probably cringe and then make some sneery remark. But hey, when you know everything when you're younger... I look at my greying temples and I breathe a sigh of relief that I'm assuming a sage-like appearance... "Distinguished" is what it's called...(I could live without the bald-spot, though...sometimes, genetics suck.) I look forward to the day when I can sit back in the easy chair , light up a meerschaum(by that time, I won't be so concerned about the health-risks of smoking at that age) and just feel a whole lot more comfortable in my own skin. Maybe that's one of the purposes of the ageing process...helping one to be more at ease with one's self... All this with a teenage/slacker mentality...because age really DOES mean not giving a damn about what other people think. Could age be the REAL punk-rock? Two years shy of forty...GaP


Wednesday, February 07, 2007

If I'd ONLY Known About This Therapy...

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Haggard Now "Completely Heterosexual" By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Filed at 9:59 a.m. ET DENVER (AP) — One of four ministers who oversaw three weeks of intensive counseling for the Rev. Ted Haggard said the disgraced minister emerged convinced that he is ‘’completely heterosexual.'’ Haggard also said his sexual contact with men was limited to the former male prostitute who came forward with sexual allegations, the Rev. Tim Ralph of Larkspur told The Denver Post for a story in Tuesday’s edition. ‘’He is completely heterosexual,'’ Ralph said. ‘’That is something he discovered. It was the acting-out situations where things took place. It wasn’t a constant thing.'’ Ralph said the board spoke with people close to Haggard while investigating his claim that his only extramarital sexual contact happened with Mike Jones. The board found no evidence to the contrary. ‘’If we’re going to be proved wrong, somebody else is going to come forward, and that usually happens really quickly,'’ he said. ‘’We’re into this thing over 90 days and it hasn’t happened.'’ Haggard resigned as president of the National Association of Evangelicals last year after allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced. He was also forced out from the 14,000 New Life Church that he founded years ago in his basement after Jones alleged Haggard paid him for sex and sometimes used methamphetamine when they were together. Haggard, who is married, has publicly admitted to ‘’sexual immorality.'’ Haggard said in an e-mail Sunday, his first communication in three months to church members, that he and his wife, Gayle, plan to pursue master’s degrees in psychology. The e-mail said the family hasn’t decided where to move but that they were considering Missouri and Iowa. Another oversight board member, the Rev. Mike Ware of Westminster, said the group recommended the move out of town and the Haggards agreed. ‘’This is a good place for Ted,'’ Ware said. ‘’It’s hard to heal in Colorado Springs right now. It’s like an open wound. He needs to get somewhere he can get the wound healed.'’ It was also the oversight board that strongly urged Haggard to go into secular work.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Dumpster-Diving Barbie

If the enclosed photo confuses you, check out the link below...GaP

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Here, Here!

SFO FA Helps to Strengthen America's Middle Class On Wednesday, January 31, 2007, SFO FA Rosemary Miller represented working Americans at a Congressional hearing held by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor. Rosemary, a single mother of two, testified about her struggle to maintain a stable family life and provide for her children while NWA slashed her wages and benefits. Click here to watch her compelling and heartfelt testimony. TESTIMONY BEFORE THE HOUSE COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION AND LABOR COMMITTEE HEARING ON STRENGTHENING AMERICA’S MIDDLE CLASS: EVALUATING THE ECONOMIC SQUEEZE ON AMERICA’S FAMILIES JANUARY 31, 2007 BY ROSEMARY MILLER FLIGHT ATTENDANT MEMBER, ASSOCIATION OF FLIGHT ATTENDANTS - CWA Thank you Chairman Miller for holding this important hearing on the many challenges facing the middle class in this country – the real backbone of the American economy. I especially want to thank you for giving me the opportunity to testify today. I am honored and humbled to be a face and voice for so many women and men in this country who struggle to play and live by the rules, raise our families and hold on to the hope that the future holds a better life for us and our children. Unfortunately, that hope has grown dim for me and many others as we struggle to find a balance between working to provide for our families, spend quality time with our families, and plan for a stable future for ourselves and our children. My name is Rosemary Miller and I have worked as a flight attendant for the past 17 years. Unfortunately, my career in the airline industry qualifies me to speak on the topic of today’s hearing. Airline industry employees have suffered greatly over the past several years and have borne the burden of returning the industry, hopefully, to profitability. We have been at the forefront of a trend that is repeating itself all across our economy as we work longer and longer hours for reduced pay. We have seen our benefits slashed simply to keep the most basic of health care. We have had our pensions frozen or terminated and our employers have used this country’s bankruptcy laws to shred union contracts and set back decades of progress we have made in turning our jobs into decent, stable careers that have allowed us to raise and support our families. I would like to emphasize, however, that I am not really here to speak as an “I”: I am here as a “we”. In my remarks today, you should replace “I”, “me” and “my” with “we”, “us” and “our”. In fact, please feel free to insert any one of a number of careers in place of mine. Whenever I say “we”, I mean the workers of the middle class, your constituents. It could be a pilot sitting here today, or an airline mechanic, or an air traffic controller. It could be a nurse, or a firefighter, or a police officer. We are the people who install your cable TV, who drive your buses, who truck your groceries from farm to supermarket, who check you into your hotels, who teach your kids. We are the city and county civil servants who run your communities. The reason we’re here today is to tell you what it’s really, really like in this country’s current economy, and to impress upon you that our reality is not pretty. We have all heard and read the numbers coming from some economists and bureaucrats in Washington, DC, that suggest the economy is doing well. They tell us that the economy is growing, unemployment is low and things look rosy. I am here to tell you that things do not look rosy for middle class Americans. We are seeing our professions destroyed by corporate management policies. We are watching our wages plummet, our benefit packages shrink and our pensions disappear. We are working longer hours, for less pay. We are being forced to choose between dental work and the electrical bill, between required prescription medication and groceries, between braces for our kids and new brakes for the aging car. In my own case, I have tried to do everything right in order to balance the demands of working full time, being a single mother and raising my two wonderful daughters. I choose a career as a flight attendant because of a love for the profession and the flexibility it allowed to spend time with my daughters when they needed me to be home. But knowing that things can change, I prepared for the future in case the day would come when I might have to quit the career I love. I went back to school and have been able to obtain two bachelors degrees and a masters degree. I started saving early for my daughters’ college educations. I willingly joined a union and supported that union in order to have a voice on the job to preserve our wages and benefits. I’ve done everything within my power in to secure my job and my future. However, upon entering bankruptcy, my employer has forced on me and my colleagues drastic wage and benefit reductions. I am now working longer and longer days as well as having to spend more and more time away from home. I have had to miss some of my daughters’ school events that I vowed I would never miss because now I have to work longer in order to keep food on the table and a roof over our heads. But not only am I working longer; I’m earning less. My pension has been frozen. My benefits have been reduced. It is harder for me now, even with three degrees, to re-enter the workforce. And it angers and saddens me that I am going to have to withdraw the small sum that I managed to carefully set aside for my children’s first semester of college in order to keep paying the mortgage and keep my house - our home - a little longer. Again, my plight is not unique and I consider myself fortunate in many ways. Consider me the voice for just a few of the people who can’t be here today. For the woman with cancer who says, “ the thought of the senior executives at my company getting bonuses, gutting labor contracts and defaulting on pension obligations at the same time they are demanding a 40% wage cut from me, while I am literally fighting for my life, makes me sicker than the cancer ever has.” Or the pilot with over 30 years of service who is outraged that when he began with his airline, there were four Senior VPs on the payroll, but at last count there were 37. The colleague of mine who, after 18 years on the job, says she has to decide some days if she’s going to buy a cup of coffee or a meal, or the woman whose husband lost his job of 28 years to outsourcing and had to start over for $7.75 an hour. I know that we could spend hours telling these and similar stories. Since we don’t have hours however, let me move on. What do we, the middle class, think has gone wrong? Among other things, we think executive compensation packages that are wildly disproportionate to the contribution those employees make to a company’s overall health are wrong. Why do we allow for an airline CEO to terminate all of the company employees’ pensions, while keeping his own $4.5 million pension? Why do we allow for these corporate robber barons to reward themselves compensation and management retention bonuses upon “successfully” bringing a company through bankruptcy? And I hate to use the word “successfully” because it is hard to use that term when so many employees’ lives are shattered by the process. Should these individuals that drove the company into bankruptcy in the first place be rewarded for that? The average worker in this country struggles for a modest cost of living increase today while the CEOs that made 20 times what a worker made in the 1960s, now makes 400 times as much. Bankruptcy laws that allow companies to evade pension funding obligations, and instead sanction degrading and unlivable employment contracts are wrong. The bankruptcy laws have become a smokescreen for union busting and a tool to destroy employee contracts that were originally bargained in good faith. The abuse of these laws has eliminated employees’ access to legal self-help when confronted with gross inequities in the sacrifices they have had to make during economic hard times. In fact, my employer has used the bankruptcy laws to enforce a contract on all the flight attendants without having to negotiate one in good faith. When we democratically rejected their proposed contracts as going too far, they instead threw up their hands and with the blessing of the bankruptcy courts imposed draconian working conditions and drastic wage cuts on us. Our union rights were destroyed. Using the bankruptcy laws and courts as a means to destroy union contracts must come to an end. As for our health care system, something has gone horribly wrong. So many workers in this country are making enormous sacrifices to just maintain basic health insurance. Those of us with employer provided health care are finding it harder and harder to save money as our copays, premiums and other out of pocket expenses increase drastically. And it’s increasingly harder for our employers to confer salary increases when they are paying so much more for our health care costs. Washington must act, sooner rather than later, in order to prevent the total collapse of our health care system. Higher education for years was the path to the middle class. Now it is a necessity to simply survive in our globalized economy. The problem is that saving and paying for a college education has become harder and harder for most families today. And those that are fortunate enough to receive student loans to cover their costs find themselves in debt for many, many years. More must be done in order to make sure that American families can afford a college education for their children. Saving for our retirement has grown harder as our wages have gone down, health costs have increased and college has become more difficult to afford. Many of us are losing, have lost or seen frozen our defined benefit pension plans. It is absolutely crucial that Congress act to protect and secure the present Social Security system to ensure that it is there for all of us, who have worked hard our entire lives, when we reach our retirement years. We’d also like to point out something else. We are people who live modest lifestyles. Notice that in our remarks today we are not asking for boats, or vacation homes in Aspen, or luxury cars. We are not lamenting the lack of a 30,000 sq. ft house or cosmetic surgery. We are asking for livable wages, a home that we own, affordable health care, comfortable retirement security, and reasonable means to provide for our children’s college costs. It is obscene that in this country, among all others, it is such a struggle to simply live decently. I know that there are many issues facing our government today. But when you, the members of Congress, walk onto an airplane, or check in to a hospital; when you send your kids to school, or go to the grocery store, or call the police, you expect us to be there to do our jobs. Now we are asking you, as legislators, as law- and policy-makers, to do yours. Which is, listen to us. Hear us. Be aware that it does not matter if we are Democrats, or Republicans, or Independents, or Green or Rainbow or pink with purple polka dots. We are the vast majority of Americans; we are your neighbors, your friends, your own family. We are the middle class, and we are having a hard time out here. I want to thank you again for giving me this opportunity to testify today. I will answer any questions that you may have.