Category Archives: Uncategorized

November 23, 2007

Yesterday was Thanksgiving.  As with this year, me and my immediate family members usually spend the day at my Grandmother’s house, along with a sparse selection of relatives (typically the same ones make an appearance every year.  This year, however, all of my Grandmother’s children, all of my aunts and uncles, were able to make it out for the feast.  This was also the first time that my nieces were able to spend Thanksgiving with our family, instead of their father’s family.  I believe, actually that the last time we were all together like this for a holiday was when the youngest generation was still in grade school.  So, it was interesting to see the interactions with the newly formed adulthood generation.  It is also interesting to see the distinct changes, as well.  All of our parents started having children in their early-to-mid 20’s.  There was about a 10-year range between the older and younger group of siblings and cousins in our generation (very similar to the age range of all these brothers and sisters – our parents, aunts and uncles).  However, with our generation there is only a small handful that has actually started families of their own.  Most of us are mid-20’s to 30’s, but we are definitely waiting longer than our parents did to settle down and start families of our own.  Another interesting factor is seeing the interaction with those that used to order us around as kids and their slow realization now that we are adults.  It is apparently pretty tough to handle for some, but a Godsend for others, as it just means there are more of us to step up and take responsibility for preparations, cooking, cleaning, etc.  It is amazing to watch a family grow up during the years, and to see the different role and responsibility changes, to see children become parents, and parents becoming children again.  It is interesting to watch elders react to the reality that all of their little kids are growing up and growing old as well.  No longer do they run up to you when they’ve skinned their knee or have any other problem.  Now, they just give the feedback and results of the actions they took themselves.  In one way, for our generation, it is a relief to finally be treated with a little respect and regard, to allow our opinions to be taken seriously, instead of just being sent outdoors to play while the adults figured everything out.  However, it is also a reminder that we will one day be sitting back, watching our children take over everything that we once did.  I don’t know if that is pleasant, or not.  I’m sure that most parents would welcome the thought of being able to take it easy around holiday seasons, so that their children can take care of everything.  Is it really a relief, though?  The older I get, the more I come to respect and enjoy the company of all my relatives, especially in group settings such as this.  Every family has their differences, not all people get along all the time, but I love the opportunity to virtually glance down the timeline that is kept witch each passing generation – with what we’ve learned, what we’ve lost, what has made a difference in the way we work things out, and what has been passed on.  I think that families are a lot more successful at this type of growth than entire cultures and societies.  It is easier to learn from history within a close-knit community (as in a family) than as a larger group, culture, race or being.  It seems, sometimes, to stop at the family level, though, and that’s unfortunate.  Maybe one day we will learn to break that barrier, and will be able to use history for what it is really worth. 

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November 13, 2007

I have learned today that my co-worker decided to go to the President of the company with the information about our CEO’s photography price-fixing.  He was furious about different issues than those of my own, however.  His main source of contempt was the assumption that we would be paying the CEO’s husband approximately twenty-thousand dollars that we are charging (the total amount of the images alone) the client.  The issue, in his eyes, was no so much about using amateur photography and trying to sell it as professional work.  Nor was it any other issue I felt to be unethical.  It was simply all about the money he thought we would pay out for the images.  Either way, the issue had been addressed with on of our authority figures in the company.  I do have a high respect for the President of our company, too.  She was put in her position for a reason, and one of those reasons is due to her high ethical standards.  She keeps people in check, as far as that is concerned, and would have likely caught this, even if we simply did our job and let it go.  However, if we had simply done our job (well, if I had simply done my job, as my co-worker was just a confidant at this point), how would that have looked for us?  Even if it is not your job to question, even if your job is simply from point A to point B, you have to decide for yourself how to get there.  In this way that we were going, I was not comfortable with.  Before the President of the company spoke to the CEO about it, she asked me about it, and then why I had not brought the issue to her when it first happened.  Wow – I really did not expect it to come back to me like that, but in hindsight I should have.  Of course, I did have a reasonable defense – how do I, a simple employee, confront the owner of the company on how she is running her company?  After talking about it, the President came to realize my point of view, and, more importantly, got all of the facts behind the case.  She handled the situation really well, too.  She sent out an e-mail, taking full responsibility for finding the images in our inventory, and then questioning the price, explaining the proper process that should have taken place.  Surprisingly, the CEO owned up to it, taking responsibility for setting the price, and actually apologized for her error.  We did not change the price for this particular client, however, as she had quickly turned in the paperwork to the client and the client had, in turn, sent out a purchase order.  The President and CEO did, however, have a lengthy discussion about the right and wrong of such an event, and how it wouldn’t be tolerated in this company.  They finally came to a compromise, in which we would not charge anything but a printing fee for employee stock photography, mainly from her husband.  I also learned a little more about my own responsibility and authority of calling things such as this into question, which makes me feel a lot better about my job.  Through my own questions and discussions with other employees, I was actually able to help turn around an otherwise unethical situation at work.  It was a little less painful and stressful than I had honestly anticipated and changes were made to halt these actions in the future.  I will have to admit; it feels pretty good.  It gives me a little hope, and more confidence to question authority when it is wrong, and makes me realize that I do not have to fully compromise my own ethics and standards, or even my own conscience at my job.  It is a victory indeed.  A small one, but a victory, nonetheless. 

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November 11, 2007

I picked up this notebook to continue with my journal today.  It is an old notebook, one I had previously used for a backcountry camping class that required me to keep a journal as well.  As I flipped through it, I came across a page that had a note written on it, from a classmate in my backcountry camping class.  It was not a love note.  It was not a “hey, how are you” note.  It was an opinion of some of my personal journal writings from that class, that were also contained within.  Now, I feel that there are things you make public and things you make private.  Those things you make private, you do so for a reason.  Whether you are simply releasing thoughts, sharing intimate secrets, or admitting a crime, there is a reason why they are privately kept.  The fact that this person went through my personal journal without my knowledge or consent really made me mad.  I felt that it was a huge violation of my privacy, and a huge lack of respect for my personal privacy and property.  I immediately put down the journal, because my train of thought had instantly been broken.  Now, I figured that this would be a passing moment for me, and that I would soon get back to writing in my journal.  It really surprised me, though, as to how much it affected me.  There was nothing remotely private, embarrassing, or revealing about my journal entries.  They were actually pretty banal and harmless, considering.  It wasn’t really so much an issue of what was in there for him to read, though, it was simply the principle of the matter.  The principle being that you do not violate a person’s trust, nor do you violate their privacy without consent.  We are not talking about true crime here, but just think about what the world would be like if everyone felt the right to tread around and take what they wished.  If there was no right to privacy.  If we were held to that extreme, would free thought exist?  When small things like this happen to me, I usually tend to let them go.  However, I always get into the thought of these “small things” on a potentially larger scale, and wonder if people really give a thought to what their actions may cause.  I remember this guy in my class.  He was not a mean person.  He was not evil.  He probably meant no harm in this, but clearly he didn’t think about the repercussions of his actions.  You should always have a basic sense of respect for those around you, and I feel that, in our times and society today, we are rapidly losing this basic sense for each other.  We seem to be at a crux right now, to where we really need to change the way we act toward each other, or fall just far enough to where it may be too late to change our paths.  This may seem like a small example, and may even more so seem like a great exaggeration, or an overreaction.  I don’t think it is, though.  I don’t think people should put up with a certain amount of bad behavior, for fear of appearing to be a little too dramatic.  I feel it is everyone’s responsibility to react to every wrongdoing, regardless of how small it is.  For me, I choose to vent in this journal, as I have no other recourse.  It’s a step, though.   

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November 8, 2007

Yesterday, I helped my CEO’s husband with some photos he had taken.  Well – he is “retired,” so to speak, from our company, and has recently taken up the hobby of photography.  He has decided, likely under the suggestion of our CEO, that he could donate some of his photography to our artwork database, in case we needed to use any cheap stock photography for any of our clients.  Today, however, our CEO has decided to use a chunk of his photography, nineteen pieces, for one of our projects.  That, in itself, is rather questionable, considering our stance on using artwork from within the company.  A little background on this – we will rarely use art from employees within the company on the simple basis of keeping fair representation of all artists, and for meeting a client’s demands in the most appropriate way.  We do not want to show favorable status toward those who work for us because, ethically, it is not right.  We have three or four professional photographers on staff (not as photographers; their photography is a separate profession) that we simply do not use.  If we attempt to, our CEO tries to talk them into offering the lowest possible price – or even giving freebies.  Back to the story, though…my boss not only decided to use her husband’s “hobby” photography for a client’s design space, but she also decided to charge a fee for each photograph.  Granted, to print the photo, we would have to charge, regardless of the source.  However, she decided to mark up her husband’s photography to the price of over a thousand dollars per image.  At the size they are being printed at, that cost would be a little high from a professional photographer.  This man is no professional.  He started this hobby, perhaps, a few months prior.  When I saw her doing this, I questioned it.  I knew this was unethical, and was in direct conflict with what our company stands for.  I also knew exactly why she was doing this, too.  Our end of year projection was going to be lower than anticipated.  She was worried mainly because all of the employees are buying out her shares of stock in the company this year, so she too can eventually retire.  As I thought of this, I realized that she had been adjusting all of her projects to gain a little more profit, and this is when I saw that something had to be said.  It is her company – she and her husband started it from the ground floor.  However, they always boasted their efforts to provide their services based on the client’s needs, and now she is manipulating her knowledge and reputation into padding her pockets.  I don’t believe she is concerned about the name that she may be making for the company if this were to come to light, but for the simple fact that those taking over will be my co-workers – people I have learned to respect and people who have worked hard to get into the positions they are at – that is what makes it so wrong.  So, I decided to ask her about it, since I was about to be the one responsible for actually inputting the information into our system.  I asked her to clarify the charges, and she did.  She clearly told me that these were to be the totals to put into our system.  I then entered them into the system, but still had a horrible feeling in my gut.  I eventually confided in another co-worker, who also became immediately furious about the situation.  However, knowing that it was the CEO’s decision, we were at a loss as to what our next move should be.  We discussed a few options and a few ways to undo this wrong, but came to no real solution.  After discussing it for a while, we decided to leave it for the day, and to try to come up with a solution at a later date.  I am beginning to feel the weight of what it takes to live a moral and ethical life, and am now faced with one of those decisions to do the right, or continue on to be a part in wrongdoings.  It is not an easy place to be, either. 

 

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October 31, 2007

Halloween is here – a holiday for children, but also an opportunity to partake in silly, childlike events that would otherwise be considered socially unacceptable.  A few days ago, a co-worker asked me if anyone in the office was dressing up for Halloween.  I haven’t given it any thought, but we mused about things we would dress up as.  Of course, as the day came to pass, I did not dress up.  This was mainly because I never really planned on doing so.  I have gotten to the point of choosing to play the adult part that I seem to be.  Second, I honestly didn’t want to be the stand-out at work.  I knew nobody else was dressing up, as we had not come up with a definitive plan amongst us all.  So, aside from the indulgence in a few cookies and candies, the day went by as a normal day…at work, at least.  After work and school, I stopped by a bar for a few drinks, and started to finally see these “adults” come out of the woodwork.  The few people who dressed up appeared to have no real destination – say, a costume party – nor were they handing out candy (as they were at a bar); no, they were simply taking part in a holiday largely meant for children.  I find a little bit of irony in dressing up for Halloween then heading off to a bar – becoming a child once again, then thrusting yourself into an adult atmosphere.  It’s a little strange, honestly.  I also recall, when I was a child, I would dress up as something I wanted to be, or a role model (be it cartoon or real life), such as Super Woman, or a cheerleader, or something scary like a ghost.  You see a much more eclectic mix of costumes when adults decide to participate in Halloween.  There is a witch, a cat, and a waitress at the bar right now.  Funny, though – they aren’t playing the part of witch, cat or waitress.  They are sitting around, otherwise being normal adults – with the exception of the ridiculous get-up.  Another thing that I always remember – part of the fun of dressing up for Halloween as a child – is that you could be anything you wanted to be, and you would throw yourself into that act.  If I dressed up as a witch, I was a witch.  If I dressed as a ghost, I would try to haunt people.  It seems that when the adults do it, they’re merely trying to get attention or stand out.  Why else would you feel the need to dress up like a cat if you didn’t want to be a cat?  Perhaps Halloween allows those certain individuals to break the mold for a day – to get out of the normal routine, but only in the obscure way that Halloween allows.  If that is the case, then what is the point?  I guess there is still that need to be accepted for the most part – to be on the fringe, but just temporarily, and in an appropriate setting. 

A beer maiden just walked in.  I wonder if she will bring me another round?  I won’t hold my breath. 

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October 29, 2007

I was sick today, and stayed home from work.  Food poisoning was the likely culprit.  Every time I have been sick or out of work unexpectedly, I always follow the same early morning ritual.  I check my work e-mail from home, see what I would have had to prepare for or what I will face the next day, then place a call into my boss to let her know I will be out and the best way to contact me, if they need anything.  I have always done this, but I don’t really understand why.  I have already decided that conditions are best if I do not go into work.  I have already decided that I cannot go.  There is nothing that I could possibly hear that could pull me away from my sick bed and head into work – after all, if I could do that, then I may as well go into work and save my sick day for another time.  I think it is a continuation of carrying on the perception of the responsible employee.  It seem to be the attempt to show that, even though I am not actively taking part in my work duties and obligations for the day, I will continue to be a dependable, dedicated employee.  Other than the occasional call from another co-worker or two, checking to see if I am okay, there is never an urgent call to duty that comes through.  We aren’t saving lives with our careers; it’s just artwork.  When someone else is out sick and I need information from them, I will wait for their return, even if they have given out their own compliance toward being contacted in the event of an emergency.  What really constituted a work emergency, anyway?  It is odd that we add this ritual to our sick days, but it seems like it is practically expected.  Most of us, at my work place at least, have ground-breaking jobs that nobody else knows how to do.  In my office, actually, each of us have written out a step-by-step procedure book, as it is a small office, for the very reason of allowing others to pick up where we leave off if there is some kind of emergency.  I guess it is just a step that allows me to exercise a certain sense of control, during my weaker times when I find it impossible to control other aspect of my life – like an unexpected illness.  Perhaps it is the need to continue the daily routine that I’ve built, even though I am forced out of that routine for a day.  After all, we all have our comfort zones.   

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October 26, 2007

I went to a music show for a few small, independent bands tonight.  I love live music and always enjoy the opportunity to go see bands that come into Houston.  However, it makes me a little nervous to go to shows that tend to draw a crowd, because it seems to bring out a younger crowd.  It always makes me feel either too old for my hobbies or too immature for my age.  One good aspect, however, to feeling my age around these groups is that I realize that I have gown out of that impressionistic phase that so many people seem to belong to.  Sure, there is typically only a four to five year age difference, but there is still an innate sense of being out of place.  When I am the elder, though, I don’t tend to worry as much about my reflection.  I am not quite as worried about my outward perception, appearance or demeanor because I don’t really see most of these people as my real peers.  In short, it is a small sense of freedom.  When you are not within your element, there are no boundaries or traits that you feel the need to exhibit.  I am not saying that I put on a show every day that I am around my real peers, but there are those roles that we all tend to fall into a little too easily, within our personal structure.  Outside of that circle, we have no real expectations.  Within a different circle, we have different expectations.  Of course, if it is an outside situation we are putting ourselves into, then we have no expectations.  With this particular circumstance, however, I stay the same.  It is a small venue, so I can see, hear, and enjoy the music wherever I am.  I don’t need to move closer, crowd around or literally get into the music in order to get into the music.  To me, it’s perfectly fine if others feel the need to be right in the center of things as they are happening.  I have grown out of that, and am simply content to stand back and observe.  Those recognitions may not make me a better person – how does one become a better person by just stepping back from a crowd – but it does make for a more enjoyable experience for me.  I believe, as you grow older, that you can take two roads:  either become a social chameleon and learn to blend in and carve yourself into what you experience, or learn your own way, and carve yourself out of what you experience.  It is a lot easier to carve your own path when you are outside of your sphere of influence but I believe it is what is necessary to realize that you need to do so.  It’s funny how it takes the outside world to make us realize this. 

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October 25, 2007

This past week, we have been working on an assignment that our boss turned in late.  It was actually an assignment that she completely mismanaged, and apparently forgot about, due to the work involved and the timeline she had given us.  In fact, it wasn’t even brought to our attention until I had a conversation with another coworker about the assignment.  Three weeks prior, I handed off a box of 50 artwork selections for our boss to go through and select images from.  Upon completion of this, she would typically give the selections back to me so I can format them into a presentation for our client.  Three weeks ago, when I gave her this information, she did not mention a deadline.  Fast-forward one and one half weeks, and she hands off the box to one of her project coordinators and asks her to select the images.  She gives the project coordinator no deadline, and no sense of urgency to complete the project.  So, last Thursday I noticed my coworker was working on this project, and stopped to talk to her about it.  From bits and pieces that we knew about this project, we made the realization that she was preparing to set a deadline, and that it would be best to confront her about it.  I know her habit of deadlines.  The ones she creates usually are unrealistic.  I also recognized the pattern in her behavior, and thought it to be best to head it off before the problem arose.  What concerns me is that this is at least a full week’s worth of work, with dedication being put only toward this project.  In reality, that never happens.  There are always multiple projects in the works, and we all have to schedule our times and projects where they will best fit.  Often, the case may arise to where overtime is necessary.  That is an issue that we all face at this job, and we all accept.  However, during the school year, my options are limited, as I have class 4 out of 5 days per work week.  I don’t want to be placed in the position to have to choose between work and school, so I try to stay pretty proactive with these issues.  Me and my coworker confronted the boss about the impending assignment, and learned that it was too late to try to avoid the mess.  She was giving us less than a week to finish this project, with overtime being the necessity.  I have never had a job place me in the position to choose between doing my job or attending my classes.  I’ve always told myself that I would not allow my job to affect my education, and have always stated that fact at any potential workplace, including this one.  I have always actually worked toward scheduling all of my classes to not interfere with work hours in order to justify this position.  Now, without even a regard to anything or anyone else, my boss has changed the dynamic.  So, toward the end of the day today, after multiple last-minute changes to the project that would definitely put us into overtime, and would cause me to miss my class, she approved everything and left us to tie up the loose ends.  As I was rushing to finish up, it became inevitable that I was either going to drop the ball on this job and make my class, or bend my own principles, miss my class, and allow my job to start interfering with my education.  The job, unfortunately won out.  After weighing the pros and cons, realizing that this job was partially what allowed me to go to school, to live, pay my bills, and eat, it became more of a necessity to bend my principles instead of stand to my ground and prove my point.  Once I resigned myself to this, however, a very unexpected change occurred.  The rest of the office stopped me in my tracks, told me to go, and volunteered to finish everything for me.  I was shocked, to say the least, but very thankful that they all decided to work together to help me out.  I guess I could have applied that option in the first place without bending my integrity, but that thought did not even cross my mind.  I will just have to keep that in mind the next time this job threatens to change my basic principles. 

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October 8, 2007

Today, the CEO of the company called a lunchtime meeting for all employees in our marketing and consulting office.  The topic that was to be discussed was the effectiveness and importance of another mundane system of checks and balances that have been recently implemented into our workplace.  The system is an organizing strategy where a person makes a list of the 6 most important things they have to do for each day, gives an estimated timeline for each, and then e-mails it to the CEO so that she is aware of all the projects going on.  It is essentially a marketing gimmick that the has fallen for, but essentially swears by its effectiveness.  Lately, nobody has really been participating.  Namely because nobody really has the time to sit down in the morning and effectively divide their day up into 6 parts.  First off, most of us typically have more than 6 things to do each day.  Sometimes, we have less.  Nine times out of ten, if we do make the list, most of us do not even get through half of it, or even follow the timeline that is estimated.  Why?  Because most of us are reactive.  We have tasks in mind to try to get through each day, but there will always be something that gets in the way of that, and there is typically nothing we can do but adjust.  Not only that, but most people in the office feel that it is just another way for the CEO to check on what we are doing with our days.  In my opinion, if she has that much of an issue with trust, then perhaps she should just clean out the office and hire employees that she actually trusts.  When you try to force that kind of control on a person, they will typically not react in a positive manner.  Well, all issues aside, our CEO realized that we were not on board with this new system, and decided to meet with all of us to discuss its potential effectiveness, and to get feedback on how we think it is working, or how it can be changed to work more effectively.  One would think, with the way group dynamics typically work, we would have the upper hand, and would be able to eventually persuade our CEO to see our way.  However, she is already the authoritative figure, and is not likely to be swayed.  A second problem with this is that one of us may speak up, but the others, for fear of repercussion, may not say a word.  Then, it becomes a problem for the sole person that chose to speak up about what bothered the entire group.  Likely, the second one would be what would happen.  It isn’t so much that the workers are afraid to speak up, though – realistically, it is a combination of the two problems.  We all know that, regardless of what we say, our CEO will not listen to our reason.  We also know that, if faced with an ambush, she will react negatively.  So, the best way we decided was to have 2 or 3 people speak up and positively explain issues that are taking place, with logical solutions.  One coworker started off by explaining how it helped him, but then pointed out major issues with the system.  I spoke up after him, and gave an explanation that, theoretically, it should be a working system, but in reality it has just become more of a burden and an assignment, rather than an aid.  Before the third person even had a chance to speak up, our CEO thanked us, and said ‘those were good suggestions, but let’s focus more on the positive aspects of the system, rather than just focusing on the bad.’  It was with this statement that we all realized that she never intended to hear us out to begin with.  So, nobody else said a word.  We soon were excused from the meeting, having improved nothing, compromised on nothing, and only accomplished even more wasted time.  In the future, we have decided just to nod and smile, and move along with her mundane tasks, because resisting just takes too much time out of the day.   

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October 6, 2007

I have recently decided to get a new dog, as a companion for my other dog.  Dogs are, typically, social animals.  They have needs for companionship, loyalties, energy to expend, and trouble to stay out of.  When I started school this semester, it occurred to me just how much time my dog has to spend alone.  Typically, I leave my house by 7:50, come home for lunch, around 45 minutes, and then get back to my house around 7:15.  After eating, working on schoolwork, and cleaning up for the day, I typically have an hour, maybe two, to spend playing with and attending to my dog.  She is very loyal, and usually sits next to me, or in my lap while I work on my schoolwork, but that time doesn’t really seem to fit into “spending time” with my dog, as she is just sitting there, waiting for me to notice.  I feel guilty about leaving her to her own devices for such long hours during the week.  Sure, she could be on the streets, fending for herself.  In light of most animals, she has it good.  She is fed.  She has a place to sleep.  She has no worries.  However, what kind of life (even if it is a dog’s life) is that to lead?  To sit and sleep, to be alone for most of the time?  So, I decided to get her a companion.  I started checking rescue shelters, and found a dog that sounded pretty suitable for my living arrangements.  A small terrier, house trained, used to other dogs, friendly around people with a “cute” personality.  I am not sure, just yet, what a cute personality is in a dog, but I guess I will find out.  It is funny how people put such human attributes toward their pets, or toward animals to begin with.  I guess I have done the same, as well, since I am adopting a new “sister” for my own dog.  I went to the shelter to pick her up today, and realized that I could be getting into a little more than I bargained for.  Immediately, she tried to start playing with my dog, but – being as how this dog was encroaching upon her territory – my dog was not quite as pleased to see her.  Typically, dogs have understandings about each other’s boundaries.  Usually, when a new dog moves in on another dog’s territory, it assumes a submissive attitude, in order to be accepted.  Well, the new dog obviously missed the chapter on social ediquette of a dog, because she never once backed down from my dog’s threatening glares.  There was no fighting or skirmishes, just threats that were ignored, from my dog to the new pup.  Stiff-legged stances of uncertainty – ironically similar to the uneasy stances and poses that people exhibit in unfamiliar or threatening territory.  It became quite humorous to actually watch them interact. 

            We have 2 days for them to settle, and then I have to leave them to their own devices.  I hope they can manage to get along! 

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