Thursday, May 27, 2010

hope in the singular

I love people. I really do. But individually, not groups. I have little faith in groups of people -- I distrust Congress, companies, crowds, the majority, the congregation. So many seem to abandon themselves to the collective will, and in so doing, lose their individual values. Groups seem capable of actions that a person would never contemplate. Lynchings, torture, genocide, war; all actions of the group.

But where I distrust the hordes, people, in the singular, are my hope for the future.

A single person can turn the tide of history. A single act of kindness can change someone's life. I hold onto these truths, and use them as my touchstone in difficult times. Always and everywhere, there are good people. Single voices raised against the darkness. Our future, our hope.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

the oil spill as object lesson

The recent oil spill in the Gulf is an object lesson -- corporations exist in opposition to public welfare. The problem is that the corporation is like a virus; it's sole purpose is to grow and survive. Corporations cannot consider ethics, or public well-being, just CAN'T, unless this can be seen to be beneficial to growth and or profit. This is not because the corporation is blind, or callous, but because legally it exists to benefit its shareholders, and only its shareholders. Spending corporate profits to install protective devices to safeguard wetlands is a poor corporate decision, but a good decision from a human standpoint. The cost of the clean-up may change the corporate cost/benefit analysis, but probably not.

Private companies can make choices that benefit the community, or the planet, because the owners can decide to reduce profits, or slow growth, if they choose. They can operate ethically, be loyal to employees or customers, because they are controlled by the owners. This is not to say that all private companies are good, and all corporates are bad. There are corporations who feel their long term profits and growth are tied to being good citizens and stewards. And their are private companies that rival BP in their quest for profits above all else.

But companies can at least ask the right questions. The corporation can't even ask.

Monday, May 10, 2010

selective default?

I was watching TV the other night, and I saw a story on "selective defaulting". This is where you walk away from your mortgage because your house is worth less than you owe on it. This is different than foreclosure or defaulting, where you cannot make payments because your circumstances have changed. No, these people CAN pay, they just don't want to.

This bugs me. You borrowed the money. The bank agreed to lend it to you. You agreed to pay the loan back at so much money per month for the term of the loan. The bank does not promise you that you will make money on your investment. Some investments don't work out. You can look at my stock purchase of CISCO at the absolute peak of the internet bubble as an example. I bought stock for over $300 a share, because it was a "can't lose" proposition. Analysts rated it a "buy" when I bought it. It's worth about $40 a share now. That's how the universe works sometimes.

When you walk away from a debt that you have the means to pay, you are cheating the system, and to a lesser extent, you are cheating all of us. Because the money comes from somewhere. When you stick the bank with a worthless property, instead of paying your obligations, the bank has to charge more for services, or tighten up on foreclosures, or give fewer loans, or fail. When you signed those loan papers, you gave your word. You promised that you would pay off what you borrowed.

To be clear, I am not talking about people stuck in the nightmare of foreclosure or bankruptcy. If you can't pay, you can't pay. Shit happens. You aren't in control of all the circumstances of your life. People get sick. They lose jobs. They suffer runs of bad luck that eat at savings. The agreement with the bank says you will pay if you are able, and the bank will foreclose if you can't. In bankruptcy or foreclosure, both parties have held up their sides of the agreement.

This is different than the people who simply "walk away" from their responsibilities; the ones that have the means, have the ability to make payments but just don't want to. Be ethical, be responsible, and pay what you owe. Otherwise you are no better than the wall street thieves that helped cause the housing crisis, and almost destroyed our economy.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Largo's Airedale Spotlight

One of our facebook groups has picked Largo for it's spotlight airedale. Every dog owner gets the spotlight eventually, it was just our turn. I had to write his "story" for it, so I thought I'd post what I wrote here.

Largo is our first airedale. He is also our first dog. For years, we didn't get a dog because of my husband's allergies. And then we had a child, and thought he was too young for a dog. Then we moved to Baltimore City. Our nieghborhood has sidewalks, and trees, and big yards. And dogs. LOTs of dogs. Seems every neighbor had a dog. Before too long, my husband, who works at home, decided he "needed" a dog for company. Our son was older, and he too wanted a dog. And I had wanted one all along. So we started searching for a breed. We wanted something not too small, active, hypo-allergenic. We put all our searching into identifying the breed, not so much on a breeder.

We did absolutely everything wrong. I found an ad on-line, an airedale hobby breeder had puppies available. The price was right. So my husband and I drove out to West Virginia (way, way out) to a little farmette. And they had airedale pups. One little 'dale came running from the edge of the pond, and leapt on my husband. He was just so joyful. We named him Largo, after a character in a web comic called MegaTokyo, and fell in love. What we did not do was check into breeding records, get a health guarantee or a first check-up before buying our pup. We were too excited to drive him home.

Largo had lived in a barn with his brothers and sisters, but he had gotten house time, and family time.He had a pond to splash in, but hadn't learned to swim. He had also had some hunting "training" -- they shot shotguns over the pups heads so they would get used to the sound. This turned out to be perfect training for city life. Largo does not mind firecrackers, or gunshots.

We settled in right away. Largo was housebroken in two days. He hated going inside, he was so used to the "great outdoors" that he only likes going on grass. He tried to make friends with our cats, but they weren't overjoyed by his efforts. He was always trying to lick their faces. They were not amused.
We figured to have a long happy life together. He seemed a little low energy compared to what we had read, but that was okay. He was plenty energetic for us.

we took him for his first puppy checkup, and our bubble burst. Largo had a severe heart murmur. We got a referral to a cardiologist, and had a cardiac workup. Largo had a hole in his heart, a genetic defect called VSD. This means he wasn't getting enough oxygen in his blood. It wasn't fixable, but it wasn't fatal either. We would have to let Largo decide how much activity was enough. Oh yeah, and he shouldn't have anesthesia.

Which caused problem 2. Largo needed to be neutered. The vet decided the operation was so short, that Largo should be fine. His heart stopped almost immediately, and he needed an injection to jump start him. They were able to finish the neutering, but it would be his last operation. Period.

Since then,we have had a lot of vet visits. Largo is what happens when breeders don't really know what they are doing. He has hip dyplasia, first detected at six months. He has chronic eye infections, because his eyelids are too deep. He is night blind. He has had a wicked bout of pancreatitis. He has arthritis in his back and hips, despite being only 4 years old.

BUT. We would do it all again. All of it. Because whatever the breeder did wrong, she did something very right. Her dogs are bred for temperament, and it really really shows. Largo is charm personified. He is good with other dogs, with cats, with babies, toddlers, old folks. We take him to a lot of concerts, festivals, city events. He works the crowd like an old school politician. He poses for pictures, kisses the babies, shakes hands. He lets toddlers pull his ears, and stick their fingers in his nose. He doesn't mind the noise or the crowds. He loves it.

Despite his huge size (a 101 pounds as of this week), he is a perfect looking 'dale. He has literally stopped traffic. We have had cars stop on the street, roll down their windows, and ask what kind of dog he is. Or can they pull over and pet him. We still laugh about the woman who pulled her car over, parked, and asked if she could SMELL our dog. Seriously. She sniffed him, much to the embarassment of her teenaged son, who was sitting in the car. We had a group of Japanese tourists take their picture with him, each one posing with him individually. Somewhere in Japan, there are a lot of vacation albums with pictures of Largo.

He is joyful. He would rather play than anything. Even on days when he can barely walk, he will carry around a tennis ball, hoping he can con someone into throwing it for him. He is always up for a car ride, a walk, a splash in the river. He never did learn to swim. He does like to wade though. If his ball floats into deep water, he just tries to drink the whole lake to bring it back. He likes to chase rabbits and squirrels, even though he hasn't got a prayer of catching anything.

He can't jump, so has never been on the sofa, or on the bed. We have to pick him up to put him in the car. Our backyard only has a 3 ft fence, and that's plenty to keep Largo in bounds. He can get into the bathtub, but can't easily get out.

Largo hates to cuddle, won't sit on a lap, doesn't give kisses, but if he leans against you, or gives you a head-butt, you know you are loved. He will sometimes sleep with his head on our feet, and it makes you feel like you won something.

He is loyal, protective, stubborn, smart as can be. He is a perfect 'dale, and we wouldn't trade him for anything.

Monday, May 03, 2010

playing professional

I hate when how I feel, or what I think, runs contrary to how I am supposed to behave. This happens a lot at the office. I am a mid-level manager. I report to someone, and have two people who report to me. I attend a lot of meetings, where I have to be tactful, polite, look like I'm paying attention when I am not, I have to look like I respect everyone's opinion, even when I don't. This is part of being a "professional". From time to time, I have to wear clothes that make me uncomfortable. This is part of being a "professional". When something happens at work that I absolutely hate, I have to act like I don't mind, or that inside I am not really really pissed off. This is part of being "professional". I have to get along with everyone, even people I think are missing some brain cells, or who are truly horrible at their jobs. I am required to send polite, carefully worded emails instead of nice flaming balls of rancor. I don't get to say "no" -- I have to say, "I'm sorry, I really wish I could" or "I can't do that, but I can do this instead". Not "forget it", not "no way in hell". Of course I do realize that I could substitute the term "grown-up" for the term "professional".