Archive for May, 2003


I am packing up and heading to Black Mountain, NC today. I will continue to post and email but will certainly be more busy as work is pretty much 24/7 at camp….not that the work is bad, just long.

I’ll miss my family and Josh and my dog. Other than that….Greenville can EMA.

On another note:

Anyone reading this page that wishes to help me find a job is welcome to contact me. I would like to eventually work in organizational development. I want to help design work so that people like it better. If done right, people will be happier (score one for us) and more productive (score one for the organization). I am willing to do any work that would help me along that path.

Why would I be good at it when I have no direct professional experience doing it? Three great reasons:

1) I have an obsession with work/life balance. Anyone that has read this website once or talked to me twice knows how I feel about the established career path and the endless hours people while away at work with no real engagement. My unwavering committment to the issue is easily seen by looking at the decisions I’ve made in life. If you employ someone to work on what they are obsessed with anyway, you’re bound to get a high level of committment.

2) I love to excel. I waste endless hours getting better at and learning stuff that is of no real use. I just like to do it. It follows that one of the things I like to see most in other people is improvement. I love to help people get better.

That is one of the main reasons I am going to camp for the summer. I get a chance to help all those little kids get better….at everything. For two weeks at a time I have to follow around a cabin of kids and make sure they don’t kill themselves. But they will also be following me around. Remember when you went to camp and there was that counselor you thought was the coolest person ever? You wanted to be just like them when you grew up. You still remember them. I want to be that guy. Isn’t that what you really want to do with you work anyway? You want to do something that, in whatever small way, affects people’s lives for the better.

3) I have an unnatural preoccupation with process. When I bowl, shoot basketball, or play golf I obsess about mechanics. When I think of the guitar I think of scales. When I think of software I think of the code that makes it go. Strategy fascinates me. Lots of people are good at stuff, but few people know exactly why they are so good at it. I like to break it down into component parts and examine what makes it work or not. This coupled with my drive to help people get better, coupled with my ability to write means I am pretty good at communicating to others what works and why it can be good for them.

These three things will some day allow me to design (talent three) excellent (talent 2) jobs (obsession 1).

For the record, these can also be very annoying talents. People hate arguing with me. I have a tendency to get on people’s nerves when I really compete at something. The inclination to break things down into understandable component parts makes me overanalyze and nitpick. This last one has cause me endless problems over the years.

Oh yeah. There is one other thing I’ll miss from Greenville: Riley. She lives up the street and I’ve become pretty good friends with her family. She can’t pronounce my name yet, but she knows who I am….and she loves my dog.

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Like many things in my life, I almost completed my entry on the Destruction of Mankind, but figured it was too depressing. I’ll save you the agony of reading it.

I’ve said just about everything that can be said about where I am these days. There are no real events that make up my life right now and I am neither happy nor unhappy about it.

As everyone that knows me knows, I have a slight problem with cynicism and bitterness. I have no particular reason to feel this way. My life has been no more or less fortunate than others that may or may not have the same problem. One could easily have lived my life and turned out a bleeding heart optimist (I think).

I make no huge point of the issue anymore as it has become something I know I will always deal with in some form. That does not mean I like it, nor that I don’t try to do something about it at times. But as I have gotten older I realize there are things we change and things that have become who we are.

I would say classifying my misanthropy as a permanent personality trait is dangerous for my head. And it is a dangerous. But I am pretty sure about it anyway. No matter what I’ve done since around 1998, nothing has subtracted from it. I have escaped it several times (while travelling, in Salamanca and at Camp Rockmont). But I have never made significant strides towards overcoming it. Curiously enough, my ability to deal with it has increased at just about the same rate as the cynicism itself. Which is to say, I shovel the shit away about as fast as it piles up.

I had a conversation with Josh last week about hypocrisy. He hates it and I think hypocrisy has its uses. If I were better able to believe one thing and live another way, then I would have erased my bitterness. Of course hypocrisy can breed self hatred too, just in a different way. Life can be hard though. If it takes hypocrisy to get you through the day….you gotta do what you gotta do. I would argue it mostly hurts more than helps, but that is just something else for those people to tune out.

In my head there is a gap between what I know is possible and the reality of life. That gap has made me bitter. If I am wrong and there is no gap, then I hate myself for being different and unable to make a reconciliation. If I am right then the world is full of people half-assing their one opportunity to exist. Either hate myself or hate the world….or bridge the gap, which I mostly fail to do.

Many folks live with this same contradiction. I am certainly not alone in the idea. We all share it to some extent. The difference is that it gets to me while others are unaffected. They live well with the contradiction. I do not. And that is the fourth option: know there is a gap and that there will always be one, but live with it. Well…I do live with it, just not always so well.

This doesn’t mean I give up. I know how to make the reconciliation. You make it with forgiveness, compassion and a whole lot of faith. Religion arose from this basic contradiction. It is us trying to bridge the gap between what is real and what we would like to be real.

The problem is the same as the one with my cynicism. I do not know why I feel like this….nor do I know why I lack the faith overcome it. Another person living my same life could have tons of faith and no misanthropy. I don’t understand it. It just is. It could pass just as inexplicably as it came.

There are other ways to get over these kind of problems too, less magical than faith. I continue to explore those and hope to one day hit the jackpot. For one, I’ve always been big on place. Where you are is third in importance only to who you are and who you are with. Additionally, Places often bring with them a certain type of people, which makes it doubly important.

Following this line of reasoning, I might try moving away from the South. I’ve always said I love the South….and I do. But I’ve actually been happier while I was away. I’m not saying its the right decision, but it might be.

None of this solves my problem of unemployment, but I’m sick and fucking tired of thinking about that. I’m not even gonna comment other than to say I understand it as well as I’ve ever understood anything. Which has become another source of disaffection over the years: To discover yourself is to realize that you must still survive the day…no matter how “enlightened” you may become.

Socrates claimed that an unexamined life was not worth living. He became so enlightened his government sentenced to death. Oedipus went on a quest for knowledge too…and gouged his own eyes out when he finally learned the truth.

They say if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. I say if you can’t beat ’em, run. Therefore, I am officially taking a break from the frustration of job hunting. I am going back to Camp Rockmont for the summer. It is filled with incredibly nice people. There is tons of fun stuff to do and no need for money. Best of all, I get the chance to change a kid’s life for the better every single day. It is the closest thing to Utopia I’ve ever found.

After that we’ll see what happens.

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Actually, The server problems continued. I’m sorry for not writing on Tuesday but I was unable. It is fixed now so I’ll get to it.

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Hey folks. The server problems are finally sorted out, so hopefully I’ll be posting again. Also, I’m nearly finished with a new site design, so you’ll have something new to look at.

I’m going to the beach this weekend. I’ll post again on Tuesday. My topic will be the Destuction of Mankind. Stay Tuned.

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Anyone ever given any thought to the GDP? It is perhaps the most influencial number in our lives. When GDP is up, we prosper.

GDP was invented during the years of the Great Depression before WWII. The thinking was that if we are going to help the economy we first need to be able to measure it. Before that there was no consistent measure of economic growth. GDP was little help until WWII started and we the increased production as a result of war.

At the same time John Maynard Keynes rose to prominence in Britain as a wartime economic planner. His great idea was that the role of government as a social planner and industry regulator should be diminished. The new role of goverment would be as a gigantic financial carburetor.

To me this seems like a ridiculous idea, but Britain won the war and Keynes got famous. So, Keynsian economics got together with our newly minted measure of economic prosperity, the GDP. And so our government became the priests of the church of economics and dropped most social and regulatory agendas since they add little to GDP.

What is the GDP? Simply put, it is a measure of national consumption. If government’s first priority is economic growth then if follows that my duty as a good American is to consume as much as possible, in that way adding to the GDP and general prosperity. Is that really my primary value as a citizen?

Ok. So GDP is a measure of national consumption and used as a surrogate to national well-being. The reasoning goes that as we get richer, the nation is better off and so are its citizens. No one argues that it is a perfect measure. However, the basic premise behind GDP remains unquestioned: As the nation gets richer, overall we are better off.

I disagree and here is why. GDP measures consumption. Consumption of what? Anything. It simply measures transactions, with no regard to whether they are beneficial or not.

Here are some startling examples of the shortcomings of GDP as a measure of well-being:

Husband loses his job, gets rehired at a lower wage, and wife goes to work to help support the family. The wife quits her volunteer position at local community church as youth coordinator. The children go into daycare because the mother is now at work. The relationship get strained. The parents divorce and the kids enter counseling.

Sad story right? Depends on who you ask. Lets look at it from the perspective of GDP, our surrogate measure of well-being.

-Wife goes to work: GDP goes up. There is more money overall entering the household, thus more money to spend.
-Wife quits volunteer position at church and church is forced to hire someone else for a wage: GDP goes up even though church doesn’t benefit.
-Children go to daycare: GDP goes up. A mother at home taking care of her children adds nothing to GDP. The national economy would sky rocket if all mothers went to work and sent their kids to paid day care.
-Parents get a divorce: GDP goes up. Lawyer fees are outrageous, but they do qualify as consumption.
-Kids go to counseling: GDP goes up. Psychologists don’t counsel for free. Misery costs money. Happiness is cheap.

So that is GDP. In this scenario a family broke down, stress went up, leisure time plummeted, a community suffered and children were permanently harmed, but GDP rose in every circumstance. Welcome to the wonders of modern economic theory and the unbelievable assumption that increased GDP is good for national well being.

Here is another one: Big company makes nuclear wrist bands. They mine ore to get the raw materials to run their reactor. They pollute the nearby river and the land they occupy. The city residents become ill through exposure to the pollution.

-Company sells wrist bands: GDP goes up. No matter that nuclear wrist bands are just consumer junk.
-They mine ore: GDP goes up although there is no corresponding measure to account for depleting natural resources.
-They pollute: GDP goes up. They will eventually have to clean up the pollution and clean up adds to GDP. The Exxon Valdez oil spill was a goldmine for GDP.
-Residents become sick: GDP goes up. Illness is a huge boost for GDP. It costs alot of money to get well. And that doesn’t even start to account for the court fees that will cover the litagation against the company.

One of the huge issues with GDP is that there is no way to subtract from it and it makes no distinction between types of consumption. Everything my imaginary company did was either harmful or useless and yet every action added to GDP.

Let me paint this extremely painful scenario: Use up every natural resource in our country: trees, coal, oil, minerals, gold, everything and turn the USA into a desert wasteland. GDP would shoot through the roof. But we are consuming ourselves and mortgaging the future for an extra Gucci bag today. Want it to go even higher? Achieve complete fluidity in the labor market and watch the complete breakdown of family and community. People and companies move around the country in an endless circle searching for increased market efficiencies. Crime, alienation, stress and divorce rise. Trust, leisure time, and job security decline.

And it isn’t just the USA that does this. The World Bank defines developing countries by GDP. I remember in school when we looked at GDP per person for a country like Cambodia or Senegal. It is like 25 dollars a year per head or some other insanely low figure.

But consider this: The GDP of all American Indian nations combined was zero when we marched across the country and took their land. A zero GDP or 25 bucks per capita income doesn’t mean life is unbearable (although it can in some circumstances), it just means a nation or people isn’t participating in the formal economy. Killing buffalo and trading that for clean water while the women take care of children and the elderly in exchange for security and a home….that all adds up to zero. One can live a sustainable and happy lifestyle without contributing anything to the formal economy as measured by GDP.

By encouraging these nations to “develop” we are destroying their way of life. Additionally, if a multinational establishes itself in a poor country the revenue generated is included in that country’s GDP, even though it is likely that all profits will be repatriated to a western nation. It is true that increased wealth can increase well being, but not at all costs. The GDP fails to take these other factors into account. The Centre for Economic Performance found that happiness increases with income up to $15,000 per year. After that it makes no difference at all.

Economists and politicians have offerred resistance to new measures of well being mainly in philosophical terms. A measure of national progress must be scientific and value-free, they say. Any attempt to assess how the economy actually affects people would involve too many assumptions, too many value judgments regarding what to include. Better to stay on the supposed terra firma of the GDP, which for all its faults has acquired an aura of hardheaded empirical science.

Aura notwithstanding, the current GDP is far from value-free. To leave social and environmental costs out of the economic reckoning does not avoid value judgments. On the contrary, it makes the enormous value judgment that such things as family breakdown and crime, the destruction of farmland and entire species, underemployment and the loss of free time, count for nothing in the economic balance. The fact is, the GDP already does put an arbitrary value on such factors–a big zero.

I could go on forever. Everyone knows I have a near obsession with work life balance, wage slavery, the false grail of consume at all costs and any other number of similar topics. I have spent much of my life dealing with it in one form or another. It isn’t mystic, weakminded rhetoric for those without the backbone to buck up and take it like a man. It is an ongoing practical examination of the age old question: Why are we here?

And finally, the image of the snake eating its own tail is my pictoral representation of the world economy. The fuel that drives the economy is us. We are consuming ourselves and mortgaging our planet in the process. It would take 1.2 Earths to replenish the natural environment at the rate we are using it. It would take 4.5 Earths to raise the standard of living of the entire planet to that of the USA. I realize these figures are only as good as the assumptions that went into calculating them, but it does make one think.

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I watched the Matrix Reloaded tonight. I can’t say I liked it as much as the first one, but I can say that the sequence on the highway was maybe the most spectacular thing I’ve ever seen in a movie. And when Neo fought Agent Smith on the playground…that was pretty cool too.

One thing is certain: The ending sucked and now I have to wait till October to see what happens next.

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Sorry about the lack of updates. I’ve been having problems publishing to this server. I’ll have it fixed soon.

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