The problem with human resources.

Human Resources. On page 289 of the hardcopy of A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, I tripped across the following description of Russian life in 1938 in a footnote:

“*Stripped of their names and family ties, of their professions and possessions, herded together in hunger and hardship, the residents of the Gulag — the zeks — became indistinguishable from one another.  That, of course, was part of the point. Not content with the toll exacted by means of incarceration and forced labor in inhospitable climes, the supreme authorities sought to efface the Enemies of the People.

But an unanticipated consequence of this strategy was the creation of a new polis. Having been stripped of their identities … would move in perfect unison, sharing in their privations as well as their will to persist. Henceforth, they would know each other whenever and wherever they met. They would make room for each other under their roofs and at their tables, addressing each other as brother and sister and friend; but never, ever, under any circumstance, as comrade.” 

Aha! There it is. Comrade. Stripped of their identities, reduced to comrade.

In a past life as a Project Manager, I wondered why I railed at referring to individuals — people, co-workers, employees — as “resources.” How many “resources” does it take to get a project done? Individuals with work habits and knowledge ranging from novice to master or expert stripped of their identities. Reduced to a number expressed in units of FTEs. Full-time equivalent or full-time employee. How many?

Remember Einstein’s observation? “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”  

Employees reduced to ‘resources’ are a numbers game, commodities, objects. One can be swapped for another. Widgets. They can be counted but they no longer count.

And see also, Orwell: “All pigs are not created equal.

Be kind to one another.


Footnote:

A Gentleman in Moscow is an engaging and delightful read! The first half moves a little slow but by novels’ end, it feels like flying down a hill on a bicycle with no helmet and no brakes.

As I read, I folded the corners of so many pages that my book almost looks like a Reader’s Digest Christmas tree.  Folded pages on top of folded pages … oh well. Mr. Towles is very quotable. Page 68:

“Here, indeed was a formidable sentence — one that was on intimate terms with the comma, and that held the period in healthy disregard.”

Sounds like a description of the type of sentence Viva aspires to write.

A Gentleman in Moscow

– Viva’s hardcopy of A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

A Sundry Assortment: BOLD News

Celebrating Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL)!

Oh, so much to woW!

First, congratulations to Senator Duckworth and family on the birth of Maile Pearl Bowlsby this week. Wow! Senator Duckworth is the first US Senator to give birth while in office.

Second, Senator Duckworth is 50 and Maile was conceived via in vitro fertilization. I understand that IVF is time-consuming, painful, and expensive, but what gives me pause is fifty (50). Infants and fifty? Combine the two? I just wouldn’t.even.ever. So, woW.

And woW is just Mom turned upside down.

Finally, Senator Duckworth lost her legs in Iraq in 2004. The Black Hawk helicopter Captain Duckworth was piloting ¹ was shot down.

2020? I could vote for a President Duckworth².

Michael Cohen

A search warrant was carried out in the offices of Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal lawyer. Lookin’ for crimes:

“There is no “deep state” conspiracy against Donald Trump. Law enforcement officers, federal included, tend to lean right. If they are finding crimes, they are finding crimes.  It’s not ideological (which frankly, can’t necessarily be said about Hillary Clinton).” (@JoyAnnReid, 09 Apr 2018 08:40 PM. Tweet.)

And in his defense, Prescedense Trump blew public kisses Twitter gaskets:

“Attorney-client privilege is dead!” (@realDonaldTrump, 10 Apr 2018 04:07 AM. Tweet.)

“A TOTAL WITCH HUNT!!!” (@realDonaldTrump,10 Apr 2018 04:08 AM. Tweet.) NOTE, ALL CAPS WAS PRESCEDENSE’s IDEA!!!

And Twitterers responded:

“It’s actually doing just fine unless a federal judge believes there is likelihood that you and your attorney were committing a crime.” (@Judd Legum, 10 Apr 2018 04:24 AM. Tweet.)

The federal judge, in this case, is a Trump appointee.

And with humor.

And with Tang:

“I see Tang the Conqueror hasn’t tweeted since he unraveled at his Syria photo op. We’ll see how long that lasts.” (@eclecticbrotha, 10 Apr 2018 2:30 AM)

I hate that I know immediately the ‘Tang’ in the above reference is not to a drink the early astronauts took into space but refers to the sitting POTUS, President of the United States. And I hate that it makes me laugh.

Ugh.

S*it Looks French.

In an effort to return some class to the public discourse, I would like to propose that instead of editing the ‘i’ in ‘shit’, we edit the ‘h’.  Thus, ‘shit’ becomes ‘s*it.’ It looks French and like the French, we can drop the sound of the ‘t’ at the end of the word thereby softening the whole sound.

S*it would be pronounced: ess-EEE.  There. Fixed that s*it.

Likewise, ‘shithole’ would become ‘s*it*ole.’

‘Shithole countries’ would be pronounced: ess-EEE ol-LAY countries. A musical international mix of French and Spanish meaning so much worse spelled out in actual English.

Bitter Southerner

New York Times editorialist Charles Blow recently tweeted:

“Ppl often comment to me: “You need your own show.” My opinion: Never going to happen. I’m unapologetically black and unapologetically southern (which is markedly diff from northern/western/urban blackness). America doesn’t even believe that the intellectual black southern exists!” (@CharlesMBlow, 14 Mar 2018 03:27 PM)

And so it came to pass that I tripped across the website Bitter Southerner and specifically, the gorgeous photo essay Blue Alabama on the site.

Mr. Blow’s comment combined with the recent spate of southern writers who offer reading alternatives to J.D.Vance’s widely panned Hillbilly Elegy, has made me think a bit more critically about the voices that are misunderstood, caricatured, and drawn as cartoonish buffoons by the media.

In addition to mainstream news alternatives like The Root – Black news, opinions, politics and culture – I share The Bitter Southerner. A quote from their first inaugural membership drive:

“I have yet to find a publication that so capably and gracefully captures the nuance, soul, tragedy, and beauty of the region like yours does. I just wanted to thank you for that.”

And from the About page:

If you are a person who buys the states’ rights argument … or you fly the rebel flag in your front yard … or you still think women look really nice in hoop skirts, we politely suggest you find other amusements on the web. The Bitter Southerner is not for you.

The Bitter Southerner is for the rest of us. It is about the South that the rest of us know: the one we live in today and the one we hope to create in the future.”

My bold in the above. I confess, I wondered. Enjoy!

Or not.


¹ Note to self: Read all three Parts of this story.

² Senator Duckworth was born in Thailand. This might preclude her being President but her father was a US Army veteran who could trace his family back to the American Revolutionary War. (Source: Wikipedia. Web. 12 April 2018)

A Sundry Assortment: It’s drafty in here.

Ah so! Here I am circling up to my first year of Viva blogging and Happy Birthday! Or something-something and given the events of the last three weeks — I mean, doesn’t the SOTU address when the Prescedense Shouts Out to Us All, already seem a lifetime ago? — I am woefully behind.

My DRAFTS folder is full of shits and farts fits and starts. In remembrance celebration of a year spent on the crate of holler-into-the-void, I’m cleaning out my DRAFTS over-sharing.  Where is, as is. Enjoy! Or not.

From December 2017

I was particularly taken by the senate race between Doug Jones (D) and Roy Moore (R) in Alabama. Even though Roy Moore dropped loads of turds in his basket of deplorable behavior, the GOP backed his run. 

White Women in Alabama

Well, how’s this for news? 63% of white women who voted in Alabama voted for Roy Moore.

I feel their fear.  It’s palpable. It’s contagious.  After all, who wants to upset the status quo? “I feel more comfortable with my future in the hands of a Republican, no matter how bad he is.” Hmmm, instead of “hands of a Republican” substitute “Roy Moore”, and substitute “my daughter” or “my granddaughter”, for “my future” and the statement becomes “I feel more comfortable with my daughter in the hands of Roy Moore, no matter how bad he is.”

I fear their fear.

And they claim they fear abortion. I fear for them that the Roy Moore’s of this world make abortion for unwanted and unplanned pregnancies due to rape necessary.

But I reject their worldview. And that’s part of their fear. The fear of rejection. The fear that when all is said and done, they won’t have a horse to ride in on. And they don’t. It was not a horse. It was an ass. An old racist ass.

When did they learn to hate themselves?

Madeleine Albright: “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”

GOP: RIP; RIP: GOP

Roy Moore? Really? He was the best the GOP could pull from the swamp to represent Alabama in the Senate?

GOP: RIP Mitch McConnell

So Mitch McConnell sat on Merrick Garland’s confirmation as a Supreme Court Justice for 10 months. It was about a principle and not about a person.

Well, I’ll bite.  It was about a person. Barack Obama. President Obama nominated Merrick Garland. See also, Mitch McConnell is a pro-civil rights racist.

And now? The current Prescedense federal judge nominees can’t answer basic legal questions.

And I’m not opposed to a federal judge with a federal election committee background, but from the video, it looks like Matthew Spencer Petersen would be getting lots of on-the-job training.

Just like Jared and Ivanka. Oh well.

And I’m smdh.

Black women in Alabama

Oh man. All glory, laud and honor.

On Tuesday in Alabama, black women voters got out the vote and voted in their best interests for Doug Jones delivering a dose of smite² onto Roy Moore. I want to say ‘healthy dose of smite’ but the margin of victory was still within 2 percentage points.

¹ The noun becomes a verb.

² The verb becomes a noun.

Black women elsewhere

Meanwhile, in the nation’s capital, Karen Bass (D-California, 37th district) continues to punch in the mouth challenge administration officials — here, the FBI Director — on the fictional historical black identity extremists identified in a report issued by a ghost at the FBI to law enforcement agencies around the country. “The harm that document is causing.” Continued praise.

Just for the record, if black women could round up Millenials and form a viable party, I could get behind that.

Paul Ryan

Since this ‘Paul Ryan’ snippet was written, Robert Mueller has indicted Russians, Russian companies, Paul Manafort, Rick Gates. This observation holds true.

Well if ever there was a reason for Robert Mueller to stop the investigation of Russia involvement in business conducted from the Oval Office election meddling it is the US Presidential order of succession chart. 

But that’s just choosing to keep the Prescedense of incompetent evil over a President practiced in evil exercised and honed. Oh well.

And given that Paul Ryan is 2nd in line, reports of his stepping down after the 2018 elections are in my opinion, wildly optimistic. If the Russian investigation removes Trump and Pence from office, Paul Ryan will be #46.  Sit with that for a moment. Breathe.

He is a big fan of the writer Ayn Rand giving everyone in his office copies of Atlas Shrugged for book discussion. But I prefer to consider Paul Ryan in light of The Fountainhead, for many reasons. Primary is that it is the only epic brick weighty tome Rand wrote that I ever read.

Consider the definition of fountainhead (noun): An original source of something. 

Howard Roark, the protagonist of The Fountainhead, is an architect with a singular vision, the source of a building blueprint so good, so perfect, that it has to be built his way or no way. He works outside educational institutions, outside of the mainstream. He is his own man loosely and accurately based on Frank Lloyd Wright.

And plot: Howard has a vision so pure, so right for the construction of an apartment building that he is unwilling to modify his design one iota. He would rather his building be blown up than built. At Fountainhead’s end, Howard Roark is sitting on the pile of rubble of his own design, his own making, that he didn’t purchase and he didn’t pay for. He’ll make rubble of it all because he can’t compromise.

And so I submit Paul Ryan for the real-life role of Howard Roark, an uncompromising architect to oversee the rubble of the US economy.

Explain to me how Medicare and Medicaid trickle down. How do roads get built? Infrastructure created and maintained? A healthy populace? Children educated? It’s a long list.

Paul Ryan, a lifelong hypocrite. Benefitted by birth with white male privilege, he wants to remove the social safety net for everyone else.

From October 2017

Different seats

When I picked the tagline “Honey, I’m a real live writer …”, I didn’t realize how difficult it would be to report on the action from my bleacher seats.  Things and stuffs happen so fast. In the last week:

  • An attack on a concert crowd in Las Vegas with a weapon of mass destruction raining down from on-high killed 59, injured more than 500.
  • The Prescedense OTUS pitched paper towels to Puerto Ricans as if they need to merely wipe up a coffee spill after hurricane devastation.
  • Although early reports of his death were exaggerated maybe even greatly, Tom Petty died. In the process, social and non-social media fell all over themselves in the quest to be the first to report. There is no shame.

And the year in DRAFTS is littered with post-it notes — titles, phrases, links strung together with a nod, a tilt of the head toward an idea. Perhaps they’ll spark a complete thought eventually. Where is, as is they are unreadable.

I’ll end this clearing session with some love for OWGs.

OWG

Old White Guys.  I saw a pic of Jim Sensenbrenner and someone asked: “What can I say?” And all I could think of was “Old White Guy like these OWGs?

And this is hard.  Most, if not all of the OWGs I know, actually want to change the world for the better for people who are not OWGs. Which is sweet.

I attended a meeting of feminists on campus in the early 1980’s. I left with the feeling that in order to participate, I would need to get angry and stay angry and sever relations with 80% of my family and I actually love and even like a couple of them.  That just didn’t seem right.

So what are we left with?  How do we distinguish good OWGs from the bad?

And then this year I  discovered that the divisions between us, between US citizens struggling a more perfect union, is more complex than individual age, color, sex, etc.

I look in the mirror and whaddaya know? 53% of OWLs (Old White Ladies, yes, this is a bit pejorative) are not so sweet either.

OWLs. Profiling.

Aging & Music

Not long ago, Frood¹, Mr. Viva and I watched U2 perform on Saturday Night Live². And what a wonder that 40 years after U2 started making music, they still make new music! And still with the social commentary! And Bono shouts into a bullhorn!  Given that U2 may not be your cup of tea soundwise, agewise they are my contemporaries and here I shout into the internet void making music on my little orange crate with my bullhorn just.like.Bono! But I digress.

As we watched U2, I thought of career musicians and who of the new artists I listen to now, will I listen to in 20+ years?

Looking back, the disco ’70’s Rolling Stones were old guys. To me, they were so ’60’s. And I thought ‘they should hang it up.’ But here’s the thing, they played through my adolescent derision and they played through the disco era. Forty-plus years since, the Stones still persist.  And here’s another thing, I still listen to the Disco Stones as much as I don’t listen to K.C. & the Sunshine Band. Same era, different musicians, different career arch. I’ve seen K.C. & Sunshine in concert, it was fun and they were talented but … hmmm …

Musical progression, personal reflections in the musical mirror, social and political commentary, concepts, cohesion. Not just songs but sound. Who makes a career of it and who doesn’t, who’s a pop-candy-flash-in-the-pan and who’s a full pot roast dinner? The mashed potatoes might be lumpy but the gravy is divine and oh how I love me mixed metaphors.  Again, I digress.

Early U2, the big breakout album The Joshua Tree carried the message ‘I’m-young-and-a-bit-of-an-arsehole-watch-me-change-the-world.’ The new U2 album³, The Songs of Experience messages,  ‘arseholes-aside-we-need-to-change-the-world-and-you-are-part-of-we.’  We can’t do it ourselves. We need you. We all need we.

Two albums separated by decades with the same resulting message – change the world. And all sung to the tune of U2.

Music. Follow a career. Who persists. What changes. What sticks.

I’m listening.

– Written on a Saturday morning with coffee in the Mr. Viva manroom listening to Miles Davis and The Complete Birth of The Cool, S’il Vous Plait


¹ Frood. Still not her real name, but she knows of where her towel is.

² Saturday Night Live first aired in 1975.  SNL has been around a long time, too.  Future blog post idea: Aging comedically.  And Michael Che on Weekend Update. Deadpan delivery. He persists. He consistently cracks me up.

³ Album. IMO, “album” is a throwback term related to the delivery of music on a vinyl disc played on analog equipment of a specific size, limited to a certain amount of time.  “Albums” (usually) imply a theme. As digital has taken over — I can download music through the time and space of the wireless web. A collection of songs can be organized in many ways other than artist and theme and play time limitations.

Maybe it’s time to rethink “album” terminology.  ‘B’-side anybody? If you know what THAT means, you might be of a certain age … just sayin’.

Scientific Notation: A trillion.

When I was in third grade, The Weekly Reader reported that the national debt per person was about the same as the cost of a new car.  I remember thinking, ‘I can’t pay for a new car! I can’t even drive a car.’ My future was doomed even as I knew that car would be red. Since third grade, the national debt has gone up and come down but the trend of late is definitely up. Cleanly and clearly driving in the red.

The current GOP tax bill is projected to add about $1.5 trillion (USD) to the national debt. Not to be outdone, Prescedense OTUS proposed a $4.4 trillion (USD) budget which, net of income, would throw many more trillion on the national debt. (And the words ‘Trump budget’ sound like an oxymoron.)


A trillion is a 1 followed by 12 zeroes (000000000000).  Reading the word ‘trillion‘ doesn’t have the same impact as seeing the number 1,000,000,000,000.  Represented in scientific notation, a trillion looks like 1×10¹² and ten raised to the twelve (10¹²) looks big … because it is BIG!

I propose that numbers like the US national debt and the budget be spelled out using scientific notation. Scientific notation emphasizes that the number is not of human scale. It is not in your lifetime.  I did the math. It would take 396.372399797 lifetimes lasting 80 years each to count to one trillion. No time for food or any other comfort. Each second counts. For 80 years.  And 400 lifetimes. Whoa!


Although writing $1,500,000,000,000 adds more ink and more space by including all the numbers, writing $1.5 x 10¹² adds gravitas and looks all sciencey and interesting. It looks other-worldly. As a number, it is as hard to wrap my head around the space of a trillion as it was to imagine paying for and driving a red car in third grade.

The space of a trillion.  The space of all those zeroes. The zeroes of space, the last frontier. By means of illustration, this picture was taken from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. Due to sentence construction, the article seems to imply that the Hubble Space Telescope is a trillion miles from earth. It is not. But the photograph itself is of a spiral galaxy about a trillion miles from the earth. And to our point, the article contains this very valid observation:

Looking at this stunning image forces one to ask: what mysteries and life forms exist there?

And so I would suggest that space and applying scientific notation to the national debt gives us pause to wonder where we are headed with all this debt and what mysteries miseries will exist for our children and their children and what form will life take in the future? Let’s face it, the current administration and circus in Washington don’t give much credence to science, scientists, the scientific method, or much consideration to future generations, or shoot, us even.

So, for all we owe ourselves, I think we owe it to ourselves to apply scientific notation to the national debt.  Here we go:

$20.632X10¹² (US Debt Clock.org: snapshot taken 2018.02.16, 12:30 PM)

Hmmm.  I’m incredulous. Stunned. Representing the national debt in scientific notation underscores that most of us don’t understand macroeconomics and economic theory.

It’s like, science, dude.


In closing, as we consider gun control shoot our ‘thoughts and prayers‘ for the victims of AR-15 weapons of mass destruction into the void, let’s add a ‘thoughts and prayers’ chaser for the national debt. Afterall, the nearest black hole is only about 27,000 light-years away or 158,722×10¹² miles. Or 69,913,020 lifetimes of 80 years.

Ugh.

The face of performance under abuse.

The vox populi argues whether or not Circuit Court Judge Rosemarie Aquilina went too far in her comments¹ during the sentencing of Larry Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics doctor.

And other news outlets publish victim’s statements.

So as a reminder, I would like to use this space to celebrate some of the amazing athleticism and performance of a few survivors while under the good doctor’s care suffering sexual abuse and molestation when the cameras were put away:

Jordyn Wieber:

Gabby Douglas:

McKayla Maroney:

Simone Biles:

Aly Raisman:

I watched these Olympics thinking what amazing athletes. What presence! What grace! Give them all the points!

We did not know what was going on backstage. And why did it take so long and so many to report before any action was taken?

– Ugh. I just need to stop here today.


¹ From other opinions I’ve tripped across, during the sentencing phase of a trial, a judge’s statements are from the point-of-view of “we the people.”  In my unhumble, nonlegal and there-is-no-justice-but-karma’s-a-bitch opinion, Judge Aquilina did not overstep. She was IMO, essentially expressing “hopes and prayers” for Nassar’s future life in prison and as such was on board with the small group of “we the people” at coffee today.

New shoes.

This showed up on my Twitter feed last weekend:

skinner (@elizaskinner) “Women over 30 — what’s something you wish you had known in your 20s?” 18 Jan 2018, 11:33 AM. Tweet.

owl, very expensive (@vxpowl) “Cultivate relationships of all sorts with older women. Less surprises as you fill their shoes, less anxiety over leaving your old shoes behind.” 19 Jan 2018, 7:49 PM. Tweet.


I was a latecomer to the ball.  When we first met, Joan moved slower and prefaced stories with “stop me if you’ve heard this before” – aware that the string of memory was thin and unreliable. She was committed but tentative when in motion. Such is age and aging.

But the shoe she left to fill! Over the weekend, I had the privilege to attend her memorial service. She was a strong woman of a certain ageless intellect, curiosity, and strength of will, living with the conviction — “it was the right thing to do.”

  • Joan had an FCF, a First Close Friend because she refused to say “oldest” friend. And in the brief time of our acquaintance, she made me feel I counted, I might be numbered as “Close Friend” too. And I felt special.
  • She dropped some pop music knowledge by singing all the words – multiple verses and the chorus — to Depeche Mode’s cover of Route 66, (1987-ish) and her son’s friends were stunned. Her cover of “mom, ” the old and stodgy, was blown.
  • Working voter registration, she was excited about the poetry slam happening that night, too.
  • Haiti, 1983. She held a toddler who was amazed or frightened by the middle-aged foreign white woman. And as she held him, he had an accident on the front of her shirt. Oh well. She took it all in. It happens.

And right things:

  • She was an early adopter of recycling and reusing. No waste. It was the right thing to do.
  • She believed in the importance of activism and civil rights. While living in Atlanta, Georgia, she volunteered as an assistant in the office of Coretta Scott King.  It was the right thing to do. (And whoa! I would’ve liked to hear the stories.)
  • She brought the activism home. She lived in a tony suburb of Milwaukee and while pushing a stroller, she knocked on neighbors’ doors to solicit support for affordable housing. Doors slammed in her face. And I wonder at the pain she must have felt to learn more about her neighbors than she wanted to know, but she persisted.  It was the right thing to do.

And Joan was a fierce alto and so am I!

And Joan remained bright-eyed and curious — of a certain generation yet not defined by generation or age.

And I want to grow up and be all that too!


Back to that initial tweet: “Less surprises as you fill their shoes. Less anxiety over leaving your old shoes behind.”

And we are surprised at the size of the shoes Cinderella Joan left when the clock struck midnight but filling new shoes and leaving the old behind is the right thing to do.

Thank you, Joan.