Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Wednesday Factoid: Phone Calls

Today's Wednesday Factoid is: What are your thoughts on receiving or making phone calls?

I'm pretty neutral about phone calls. Some of my friends have major anxiety over calling strangers, or even calling friends and family, so they prefer to communicate in e-mail or text. Truth be told, I'd rather communicate in text, unless I want a conversation--in cases of conversation, I would much rather talk it out than type it out.

At work, I'd rather e-mail someone to get information than have to call them, but if I have to call them it's no big deal. I do know people who need to rehearse what they're going to say or even have it written down before they call, and they get off the phone as quickly as possible. Me? Not really. I think I used to hate it more than I do now. I've really gotten used to being able to think on the fly and not say the wrong thing or get frozen up, though I'm familiar enough with that feeling from my shy days that I completely sympathize with people who struggle with it now (or have other issues I never had).

For socializing, especially with long-distance pals, I don't mind phone calls. I can and will stay on the phone for hours, but there are also people I don't talk to on the phone often. Jeaux and I hardly ever use the phone to voice-chat. (Of course, that may have something to do with the fact that I see him every week.) But then my mom and I live in the same town and usually see each other around once a week too, and we're still prone to marathon phone conversations. And my friend Victor continues a tradition of calling me once a week while I'm drawing my webcomic, even though now he lives in my city and can see me regularly. (We don't see each other as regularly as I see Mom or Jeaux, but still frequently enough.) And I definitely call and talk to Meghan and sometimes my dad.


Tuesday, June 20, 2017


I read recently that it's uncommon to be authentically invested in your career unless you're making around $96,000 a year.

I don't know if that's the actual figure or if that's true in all cases, and I'm sure it moves around a bit based on where you live and what your needs are, but the basic premise of what I read seems sound: that you need to be making enough money to cover your basic needs, to have some disposable income, and to have some security for the future before you have the resources to be a "company person," and that therefore when upper management claims they don't want to hire new people who "only care about a paycheck," they're being unrealistic.

Sure, it's easy for someone who's very secure and not in survival mode to look down their nose and want their worker bees to give themselves to the company without expecting to be paid handsomely for it. What's weird is that if their company stopped paying THEM handsomely for it, they wouldn't "give 110%" or whatever they think they're doing. They are loyal to their employer because their employer has been good to them--has treated them with respect, has given them appropriate bonuses and promotions, has provided benefits, and has created incentives to keep good people at those desks. These people can still sometimes turn around and expect good work out of unpaid interns, or very low-paid entry-level workers, and can sometimes judge them as selfish or money-grubbing if they expect livable pay in exchange for their work.

It's not a hard concept that if you treat your workers like they're worth something, they will be more likely to produce quality work. And if you do the reverse, people who still go above and beyond aren't displaying a "good work ethic"; they're being abused and taken advantage of. When you manipulate people into believing they're selfish or undeserving if they won't work hard for pay that barely (or doesn't quite) meets their needs, you're abusing them.

We've got this cultural narrative that tells us you're a good person fighting the good fight if you kill yourself for your career. Praise is heaped upon people who sacrifice long hours for low pay, but if what they're doing is so good, WHY NOT PAY THEM BETTER AND INCREASE THEIR BENEFITS? Is their job necessary or not? Is it fair to take up all of a person's available working hours and still not pay them a living wage? Is it good to build society with a dependency on low-paid workers and then limit their opportunities to earn more or refuse to reward them for performing the job well? Weird that slaving away and not asking for much in return is spun as noble, so people will feel like they have to do it. After all, changing the conversation so moneyed employers feel obligated to reward their employees for loyalty and hard work--that just won't work.

The hardest work I ever did, for six years of my life, was a low-paid retail position. I had pride in my work because I felt responsible for it and wanted my customers to have a good experience shopping in my section, and I loved books and I loved readers. But my management sometimes made it tough to want to do a good job. At different times during those years, they made rules and quotas that made the job unpleasant, abused the management, accused employees of theft if our inventories didn't meet expectations, saddled department heads with everyday customer service on top of their main duties, and wouldn't provide even basic everyday benefits (like we had a café but we were not allowed to have complimentary coffee from it; we had to buy our coffees AND keep the receipts rubber-banded to our cups to prove we hadn't stolen them). I eventually had to leave the position because they just wanted too much for too little, and I couldn't keep letting them have it.

The next job I got paid twice as much, was much lower stress, included significant benefits, and treated me like my work had value. I felt like part of a team, so I was willing to work hard for my team. I sometimes had to make sacrifices, but I really didn't even have to be asked--I knew it was my part. At the retail job, having to come to meetings or participate in work outside my assigned hours felt like punishment. At the better job, it was just something we had to do to keep the machine oiled. I still wouldn't have gone to the job or performed my duties without the pay, but that didn't mean I was a disloyal employee. It's just that when a business makes your lifestyle possible and the management treats you like they want you to be content with your life, you understand the transaction's mechanics and you offer up your part of it without issue.

But you cannot expect someone who works for you to magically become invested in the company if you believe that loyalty should be automatic, or treat them like they should be grateful to be abused by poor conditions and underpaid labor. THE EMPLOYER has to be invested in THEIR EMPLOYEES before they can expect said employees to offer their own investment.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Personal Digest Saturday: June 10 – June 16

Life news this week: 
  • Saturday was a bunch of catch-up work. I also colored my doodles of my toys that I did the previous night. Jeaux's niece had a baby so he has a new family member: Olivia Jean! Cute little baby. I also listed some of my duplicate toys for sale on eBay. And two of them sold!
  • Sunday I did music and went to my mom's to help her hang pictures. (She wants to put Ash's art in them.) I prepared my eBay packages for the person who bought my toys (and drew a cute little card to go in the package). At mom's I ate tater tots and hung out with her, and later wrote a long analysis post about a cartoon character that became pretty popular.
  • Monday was back to work and they had a ton of work for me to do on a set of plans. So I was busy and the day went by quickly! But I was also feeling pretty ill and it was gross. I still had the energy to go grocery shopping, but I was tired when I got home and didn't get anything done really after that.
  • Tuesday we found out my office won a big contract so we're very happy. I worked on those plans more and reviewed a book online. I got a little drawing done.
  • Wednesday I had a late day at the office (late arrival, late departure). Worked on the plans all day and then met Jeaux for food at Pei Wei. It was rainy. There was a weird incident on the bus with two guys trying to fight each other. (One of them threatened to knock the other's teeth out, to which he responded "I ain't got no teeth!") After Jeaux left my house, I fell asleep.
  • Thursday I had a bunch to do with sending documents to people at work. On the way home the bus I was riding was in a little accident, sort of--we had to stop really fast and people went flying into the aisles. A couple people had to leave on an ambulance. Darn. (I was fine.) At home I drew comics and talked to Victor. I had to pack quickly before going to bed because my dad was picking me up from work the next day to go out of town--we laid plans really last-minute and it was a bit of a crunch!
  • Friday I got a paid ride to work because I didn't want to lug everything for my overnight on the bus. There wasn't much for me to do that day so it wasn't much of an active day. My dad picked me up and I got to see my aunt! We went to my dad's house in Sarasota and had some food Connie made (I even ate brussels sprouts!) and some delicious pie. Mostly we just hung out chatting and it was a good time.

    New reviews of my book:

        Reading progress:
        • Finished this week:  Avatar: The Rift: Volume 1 by Michael Dante DiMartino & Bryan Konietzko. Five-star review.
        • Finished this week: Make Art! (On Purpose) from Cartoon Network Books. Four-star review.
        • Currently reading: The Ancestor's Tale by Richard Dawkins.
          New singing performances:

          This week I performed "Beautiful Boy" by John Lennon.


          New drawings: 

          A little card I put in the package for the person who bought my eBay toys.

          Webcomic Negative One Issue 0631: "Life in the Silence."

          New videos:

          My latest unlisted ukulele video is "Lapis Lazuli" and its expanded reprise "Wailing Stone" from Steven Universe. It's a song that gets reused for a different purpose in the same episode, first sung by Steven and then sung by Greg, his dad.

          New photos:

          I colored the drawings of my toys that I drew the day before.
          Someone asked a question about my book so I sent this
          picture with my response.

          Ready for adventure with my trusty cheeseburger backpack.

          And the haircut comparison photos:

          Front, February 2014
          Front, June 2017
          Back, February 2014
          Back, June 2017

          Social Media counts:
          YouTube subscribers: 5,306 for swankivy (9 new), 642 for JulieSondra (2 new). Twitter followers: 870 for swankivy (3 new), 1,341 for JulieSondra (no change). Facebook: 292 friends (no change) and 207 followers (1 new) for swankivy, 651 likes for JulieSondra (no change), 55 likes for Negative One (no change), 125 likes for So You Write (no change). Tumblr followers: 2,497 (4 new). Instagram followers: 117 (5 new).

          Thursday, June 15, 2017

          Large Corporate vs. Small Business

          I don't really talk much about my day job. That will continue to be the case, for the most part. But I was thinking about this issue this week and decided to ramble about it: the difference between working for a large corporate company and working for a small company.

          Interestingly, even though I work in administration and could theoretically, uh, administrate for any kind of industry, I ended up in a very similar company, industry-wise, when I moved from my old job to my new one. I worked for a transportation engineering company for ten years, and it just so happened that the company that hired me next was another transportation engineering company. The focus is a little different here (more design, more diverse applications), but it's the same industry and we work with and for a lot of the same people.

          But the most significant difference is that my previous company was a multi-office corporation based in California, and my current company is a small business that has one smallish office.

          Weirdly, even though the previous company had over a hundred employees, my office there was smaller. We had five people in the office most of the time. Sometimes a few more depending on if I had to manage field workers or if we happened to be particularly prosperous. In my new office, there are usually seven or eight people around, sometimes more depending on work.

          But in my new office, this is it. The owner of the company sits behind me a few feet away. When we order supplies, he puts them on a credit card himself. When he wants to pursue a project or decide against doing so, he can do that based on his own whims, and he's the final authority on how we do business and what we undertake. I can get up, take a few steps, and ask him.

          At my previous company, there was a decent amount of "corporate culture." We were a little isolated from it because we were not part of the corporate office, but we had company-wide coordination on many things, including how business was done. My boss was a principal and he made a lot of decisions without consulting anybody, but for the most part he had to answer to his boss on many issues. We had to coordinate with other offices to produce marketing documents, and we had to have permission to chase a project or pull out of one. If we lost while competing for work, our president wanted justification. If we wanted a new piece of equipment or new software, we had to get approval from my boss's bosses, and we weren't supposed to install anything on our computers ourselves. Sometimes we'd have to show evidence of our marketing efforts, and there were yearly evaluations and weekly marketing calls. Corporate training events. Complicated signing authority. Red tape.

          The above makes it sound bad, but it wasn't. Corporate culture is also sometimes fun, because you have goofy events you can participate in, bonuses you can win, and support from other offices if you get in a pickle and need resources. The down side is obviously having a lot more stuff we have to deal with where we answered to higher-ups who had a lot invested in us. We had to coordinate with our west coast president when we wanted him to be part of an interview. We had engineers in multiple states and there are limits on what kind of practice you can perform if you don't have a license in that state, so there were problems sometimes with having engineers from other offices being included on our proposals, or sometimes I had to coordinate the frustrating issue of getting someone licensed in another state. There's nothing like that in the office where I work now, except just one of the licensed engineers is not licensed in our state.

          The thing I don't like about small business life is the comparative lack of security. We have to win new work all by ourselves. We have no extra resources, and if we don't have someone in the building who knows how to use that software, we have no one to ask. I don't own any company stock here. I don't know yet, but I don't think we get bonuses here and I know we don't get reviews and periodic organized raises. (I don't care about that at this point because I'm being paid at a slightly higher rate here than I was there, but I have to do harder work too, so it balances out.) We're a corporation, and we have some good health benefits and other benefits, but the 401(k) plan isn't as robust here as it was at the bigger office, and there aren't as many incidental benefits here. 

          But here's something else interesting about being a small business (that also happens to be a minority business): in our line of work, there is a push to include "disadvantaged businesses" that are small or headed by minority populations or women. The biggest potential client, the department of transportation in our state, has a percentage they try to meet, so there are incentives to include small businesses and disadvantaged businesses on teams. When I worked for the bigger corporation, which was owned by white men, we generally had to proposition disadvantaged and small businesses to be on our team so we could contribute to those goals when we were hired. Working for this company, we ARE one of the companies that others solicit to join teams, and we can help the Department (and other public organizations) meet their goals every time they hire us.

          There are some things I like better about the small business atmosphere, and other things I liked better about the bigger business. I try to focus on the stuff I really don't miss from there, because I can't go back. But there's usually a trade-off. No different here.

          I do miss my old boss though. Man. That guy was great. 

          I'll end it here. :(

          Wednesday, June 14, 2017

          Wednesday Factoid: Selfless

          Today's Wednesday Factoid is: What was a time when you acted selflessly?
          I guess the best way to answer this is to discuss a time I behaved in an unselfish way that benefited someone else because it was the right thing to do, but required a sacrifice from me. I still can't say they were "selfless" acts.

          I took care of my mom every day when she had hurt her back and couldn't move around by herself, but like . . . that seems like basic humanity there. To help your mom when she's injured. I had to ride my bike to her house every day and make sure she got food and pick up her medicine and stuff. I hired a helper when she wouldn't let me help her take a bath but would trust an assistant with a medical background. And I came and kept her company, and bought her a stool she could use in the tub since she couldn't stand. I had to spend a bunch of time and energy and a little money to do all that, but . . . I would have been a JERK if I wasn't willing to support my mom if I had the ability to do so, right?

          The other thing that maybe fewer people would do and maybe sounds more selfless for some reason is that I took one of my friends in when he became homeless. I was pretty reluctant to do it because the outlook was not so good on him getting out of my house anytime soon, and I really hate having roommates even if they're people I like. I was very stressed out about it and felt like I was sacrificing a lot of my personal comfort in opening my home to my friend for an indeterminate amount of time.

          But I always balance statements like that against "oh no, I sacrificed my personal comfort to stop my friend from becoming a homeless person." What kind of friend would I be if I'd said to him, "sorry, I realize you've exhausted all your other options, but I'm going to say no too. I love ya buddy but you're on your own"?

          My friend had various circumstances that made his chances for employment and living independently pretty low. I knew that he would want to clear out as soon as possible but I didn't know if he could. I did everything I could to support him while he was there, and he did manage to get his first job and move out of my house in about two months. I still stepped in to help him a few times with lending money, offering resources on finding his next jobs and places to live, and being there for moral support sometimes. I do a decent amount of "giving" in the relationship, and there's not a whole lot of concrete stuff I can point to that I'm getting in return besides enjoying being his friend.

          But I still don't think the term for any of that is "selfless." It's the closest I've gotten, I guess.


          Saturday, June 10, 2017

          Personal Digest Saturday: June 3 – June 9

          Life news this week: 
          • Saturday I ate cheeseballs for breakfast. I cleaned up my apartment and blogged some stuff, and I went to the store and watched some cartoons and drew some pictures. And I got to open some toys I bought. I still don't have a complete set. Waah! Curse these blind bag things!
          • Sunday was a little gathering at Mom's because my sister was in town. We ate burritos, macaroni and cheese, and corn. I got to see Lindsay and her husband Mike. We had some good chatting. Then I went home and drew pictures and did laundry.
          • Monday I decided to start rebuilding my website section by section. I started with the art page and began building it on a new secret subdomain. When it's done I'll link my existing pages to it and phase out the old one. It could do with a style update and a content face lift. But I'm still mostly going to keep a lot of the old stuff--just in such a way that it doesn't look like it's recent. Also it was rainy. I practiced ukulele at home after work and drew some pictures of Steven Universe characters.
          • Tuesday was work, more art page, and more ukulele practice. I finally recorded a ukulele song (I usually do it on Sunday, but I was busy). I ended up falling asleep early.
          • Wednesday I kept missing the rain every time I had to go out! I'm magic. I worked on the art page, wrote a storyboard, and did some blogging. I met Jeaux and we ate at Flipper's and then went to my place for Night Vale and chilling. I took some pictures of my cartoon merchandise to post on a website.
          • Thursday I did some document stuff at work, worked on my art page, and got a ride home with Mom! She and I hung out all evening and when she left I talked to Victor and drew webcomics.
          • Friday I finished reading a terrible book and reviewed it, worked on the art page, ordered pizza with a co-worker, and went home to draw webcomics and play with my toys. I have a cool life.

            New reviews of my book:

                Reading progress:
                • Finished this week: Pardon Me, You're Stepping On My Eyeball! by Paul Zindel. One-star review.
                • Currently reading: Avatar: The Rift: Volume 1 by Michael Dante DiMartino & Bryan Konietzko.
                  New singing performances:

                  This week I performed "Standing Still" by Jewel.


                  New drawings: 

                  A new Steven Universe character! Her name is Rhodonite.
                  She's a scaredy-cat but she reminds me of Garnet and she's cute.
                  A new character group picture! These guys are known as the Off Colors.
                  Their names are Rhodonite, Fluorite, Padparadscha, and the Rutile Twins. :)

                  Webcomic Negative One Issue 0630: "Grounded."

                  New videos:

                  My latest unlisted ukulele video is "One Song Glory" from RENT. I was having trouble remembering what part of the song I was on so I just put the lyrics on my screen outside the frame and that's why I'm looking over there sometimes.

                  New photos:

                  Lindsay's husband Mike relaxing while the doggie plays

                  I drew pictures of my Backpack Hangers toys.

                  Social Media counts:
                  YouTube subscribers: 5,297 for swankivy (1 new), 640 for JulieSondra (no change). Twitter followers: 867 for swankivy (4 new), 1,341 for JulieSondra (3 new). Facebook: 292 friends (no change) and 206 followers (lost 1) for swankivy, 651 likes for JulieSondra (1 new), 55 likes for Negative One (1 new), 125 likes for So You Write (no change). Tumblr followers: 2,493 (lost 1). Instagram followers: 112 (lost 2).

                  Wednesday, June 7, 2017

                  Wednesday Factoid: Scary Movies or Happy Endings?

                  Today's Wednesday Factoid is: Scary Movies or Happy Endings?

                  This is a weirdly worded question, isn't it!

                  I mean, theoretically, scary movies can still have happy endings. A lot of them do, actually! Except for if they're straight-up horror movies where lots of people die.

                  But since I don't like any movies that are specifically designed to be "scary movies," I will go with "happy endings."

                  I don't like to be tense worrying about the physical safety of characters or being subjected to human suffering. That kind of tension is not pleasant for me. I like some narrative tension but not anything that involves prolonged torture/suffering or anything that depicts intense, hopeless fear and pain. An occasional fight scene or action-packed chase sequence is fine. But on the few occasions where I've been subjected to horror or scary movies, I hate every second of it, and I'm watching it either because someone else wants me to or because I need to see the resolution.

                  To be honest, though, I'm not that big a fan of straight-up "happy endings" either. I'm okay if the ending is a disaster. Or if people don't get what they want. Or if they get something they want but there are terrible consequences. It's not that I want characters to suffer (remember what I said up there?)--it's that I also care about realism and if someone's going to have a gloriously happy ending I need it to make sense and I prefer that it doesn't tie up every loose end, because then it just "feels written" if you know what I mean.

                  My first year as a mentor in Pitch Wars, I picked a mentee whose book was devastating at the end. Basically everyone including the main character DIED. And it wasn't implied that it was temporary or anything. She still accomplished her goal, but the sacrifice was what sacrifices were meant to be: a thing she had to give up. And she did. When discussing the participants' potential with other mentors, I found another mentor was interested in the author I wanted to pick, but she had asked for more of his materials and had found out how terribly unhappy the ending was. She was abstaining from choosing him for that reason. That only made me more interested. Give me the feels!

                  Honestly, if an author can make you cry over losing a character, or make you cry happy tears when they get what they want, they've done their job. I respect that some people like their fiction to scare the piss out of them, so I also respect that some authors know how to do that . . . but wow is it not for me.