Category Archives: In the Culture

Culture, fashion, and other.

Are You Feeling the Bern Now, Mr Krabs?

Politics is my thing. Have you heard about this guy named Bernie Sanders? Well, you should have unless you have lived under a rock for the past couple decades or if you’re an ignorant piece of shit. Anyway, whether you agree or not, I like him, I like his policies, and I am “feeling the Bern.”

So, why am I writing this short little piece? Well, I have seen a lot go down over the years. The gap between the poor and the wealthy have increased with income equality, the middle class in the U.S. has declined, and people are still without health insurance (although better than before the Affordable Care Act). With a more progressive and European-styled policy person, this can change and should change. Franklin D. Roosevelt started it in the United States and few liked it then. Today, Sanders has drawn some criticism because of misunderstanding. Seriously, he is the FDR of the modern U.S. history who will and can take us from our recession (or I would really argue a depression) through the past decade.

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Do you “feel the Bern” now? I hope you do eventually. Read about him. Read about how someone came up with the awesome slogan and hashtag of #feelthebern. Someone named Winnie Wong started it all. Interesting stuff, but I know you can read so do it. Do it now. Feel it. Are you feeling it now Mr. Krabs?

Adventures of Job Hunting While Being Underemployed

Employed with minimum wage? Cannot afford an apartment, bills, student loans or health insurance? You are not alone.

Being underemployed is just as bad as being unemployed. Do not let anyone fool you, do not let anyone say “at least it is something” or “at least you are getting a paycheck” to you because no, that paycheck and that work time is taking away from getting a real job. It is taking away from availability to search for jobs and go to interviews. It is taking your present and postponing your future.

What about that paycheck? Yes, I know, it pays some of the bills depending if you are lucky enough to get more than “minimum wage,” but if you do not own your own home you must find a living situation. If you are luckBenny Frankliny you can live with family. While that is not ideal for many, it is something. If you must pay for an apartment, good luck. It is not easy. The cost for apartments is rising, and many rental agencies and landlords requiring more income to rent, it is even more difficult.

Minimum wage is take-home less than $1000 a month for me. Yeah, I know, it sounds like a lot of money, but considering the cost of renting an apartment is between $600 and $700 a month in many places, and rent for an apartment is over $1,000 on average nationally. That does not leave much. I recently applied for an efficiency apartment which was a steal at $550 a month. I, of course, was laughed out of the office for not making enough money to afford it. Back to the motel for me

It is a different world we live in than previous generations in the U.S. It is a different culture of employers, the employees, and the unemployed. It is a strange, dark world all around.

I was unemployed for quite sometime before now. Now I am underemployed, but for over one and a half years I lived off friends, family, and some left-over student loan money. No, I was not lazy while being unemployed. I worked hard to find a job. I looked and applied during that time. In fact, I applied for at least three jobs a day making calls and traveling hundreds of miles or more weekly. No, I did not sit on my ass and collect unemployment. In fact, the state I lived in would only provide six months of unemployment, and the job assistance people at the unemployment office told me “Why don’t you move out of state?” True story. I was not a lazy unemployed man. For almost two years I applied for positions and traveled to seek employment with many different companies.

After almost two years of unemployment, I found a small company willing to hire me at minimum wage. That minimum wage job was car sales. No advancement and only the occasional commission check. Why only occasional? Oh, just so you know, it is a requirement for automotive sales agents who have no mechanical background to know about the quality of that used car to pay a percentage of the automotive repairs. That is right. I pay to fix your junk car you just bought from me. Oh well.

Underemployment is a huge issue in the United States. Many people are underemployed and work hard night and day to find something better. About half of college graduates are underemployed and going up in a company is done on a ladder with many broken or nonexistent rungs. It is not for the lack of trying. This applies to many different degree holders and to people with many different ideal jobs. One of those is the adjunct professor. No matter the course they teach, they are underemployed, underpaid, and often are on government assistance including food stamps. No, this is not temporary. No, this does not apply to specific subjects. There is no temp-to-hire situation in education. Educators are being hired permanently at low wages as adjunct professors with tuition rates going up and up higher at college campuses around the United States.

For now, that is how it is to be for most of us. I know more people with only high school diplomas making more than those I know with college degrees. For those working these low paying jobs, it is difficult to find the time to look for good work. The biggest problem is after sending out resumes and making phone calls is getting a job interview. If I get one, then I need to take time off work and make even less in my next pay check.

Everyday on the job hunt while underemployed is a long day of work. Taking time off for a job search is the risk and the gamble of the underemployed. I rarely get a job interview, but recently I was able to schedule three in a week.

I took a couple days off work and traveled to them. It was a long trip because that is what you need to do if you cannot find work near the place you sleep. It was is in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It did not end well. Apparently a man with a masters degree cannot be hired at this company in that position, and even more so cannot be hired because he does not currently live in the area. I protested and explained I could move anytime. It was not enough. I did not get the job.

The next job interview was a couple of hours from Pittsburgh. Luckily I had GPS. The interview went well, but they for some reason could not tell me too much about the job or the pay. It was all hush-hush for some reason. In the end, I would not mind it, however, with the hush-hush on the job information, I had a feeling the pay would not be worth my time.

The third job was closer to home, so it would be easier to move to work at this job. It was a small company working in their shipping department. I knew I was overqualified, but I thought I would apply and interview in case the pay was good. After going through the interview they finally were able to tell me the pay. It was just a bit over minimum wage. So, pay was not worth it, and I was definitely “overqualified.” I thanked them and left.

All of these interviews were for positions for which I was overqualified. The location of the place I slept was also an issue for them. Apparently, in this day of unemployment and underemployment, where one lives is a big deal even if relocation is not a problem. I did not get the jobs. This happens. The term “overqualified” is thrown around frequently, and it is as a common reason to not be hired. Companies often have residency requirement when hiring for their positions. Why did they even request an interview with me if they knew of all this information prior to the interview from my resume?

I wondered why I was denied a position for a reason the companies were aware of prior to my interview. I went to a career counselor a couple months back and explained my situations to her. I told her of the several instances where I was denied work for having a college degree from a northern state. I told her I was denied employment for being overqualified and living too far from the place of work. I did not get a good, clear answer. She laughed and told me “no such thing, if a company wants to hire you they will.” I told her I disagreed based on my experience. She denied that businesses considered these factors when hiring people. Obviously, from my real-world experience, I thought I had some good points. I knew one of us was incorrect. Apparently I was wrong because she is the “expert.”

Oh, well. For now, that is how it will be. I will keep pushing as should all. For now, it is back to work. Back to underemployment selling cars. Back to not being able to get an apartment, a vehicle, clothing, and insurance. Back to applying for jobs between car sales. Back to paying for the repairs of the cars I sell. Back to wondering why I went to college. Back to complaining on the internet. Back to asking you: “Will you hire this mediocre writer? This computer nerd with a love for travel? This educated fool with a desire and passion for writing and the truth?” If not. I understand. Grumble, grumble, complain complain. Gosh. I complain a lot. Tweet me at @TheMushandMilk if you do that tweet thing.

Give Me News, Not Biebs

Breaking news from CNN and just about every reputable news organization: Justin Bieber Arrested. In other news, people are dying, but let us get back to the important subjects to us all like the Biebs.

O.M.G.

I regularly read the news. I am a bit of a news junkie, in fact. Every morning starts with a cup of coffee, a newspaper, and some news websites such as CNN and BBC. This is what I do as I am trying to wake up. I like to find out what is going on in the world. I want to know what is important to me, the state in which I live, the country in which I live, and the world, too. I will try to keep calm as I say this, but seriously, “reputable news sources,” what is up with all of the ridiculous celebrity gossip?

First things first. Bieber was arrested for being a dangerous, immature, bratty kid. What he allegedly did could have hurt someone or killed them. No excuse, and the kid should be punished if he did it. Why are all of these fans supporting this menace to society? Some of his fans, known as Beliebers, are outraged by his arrest. Seriously angry about it? The incident he was allegedly involved in was dangerous and illegal. They should be mad at him, not the arrest. I heard a girl say she did not like him for his music, she liked him because he is cute. Poor, misguided kid. In a civilized society people should be liked for how they treat people and not their appearance. The Biebs, in this imaginary world I think should exist, would have been knocked down a peg. Either way. In the real world he needs to go.

In other news Syria’s government is murdering more people with barrel bombs, and there is violence in the Ukraine. It is not completely the citizens’ fault that they are powerless against their government. The world and superpowers are turning their heads. This happens frequently. I guess they do a little rubbernecking at the violence and crimes which they should do something about, but they do not do any more than lip service.

Back to the important information for your day: The men from the 1990’s television series “Full House” are coming back together for a reunion. I miss some of those good television shows so this is kind of nice to see them together again. Well, I like it when I see old, television series actors any time for the nostalgia, but this is for a short reunion in a Super Bowl yogurt commercial.

Oh, more advertisements for upcoming celebrities. Mork and Mindy’s Pam Dawber will be on an episode of the Crazy Ones with Robin Williams, too. I wonder if Robin will get confused and try to sit on his head like Mork. Oh well. This is all great, but this should not be headline news. Interesting, nostalgic, fun stuff. Not news. Advertisements for celebrities and gossipy bull. That is all.

Had enough celebrity information and tabloid bull with your coffee? How about some news about a guy being sworn in as a deputy in Mississippi? Finally, real news. Dan Aykroyd is now an honorary deputy in Hinds County, Mississippi. The police are hiring actors now? Great. Celebrity gossip meets the real news. Then again, this is a story I enjoyed because I imagined myself being arrested by Elwood Blues. I would even give him some toasted white bread as a bribe. No butter or jam. Dry of course.

I do not know who is following who. Are the governments of the world ignoring the real issues because of the media or is the media ignoring the important news because of the apparent apathy of the governments? The most likely explanation of the government apathy is really just the politicians trying to get votes. The most likely explanation why news organizations do what they do is that they are just trying to sell newspapers and get ratings. I get it. Maybe it is the customers to blame and the voters’ fault.This culture is screwy.

These news organizations of which I speak are not TMZ or the tabloids. They should not specialize in these types of stories.  These junk news stories are in the headlines everywhere from the big boys of CNN and BBC. These types of stories, especially any story about Biebs, are trending on social media as if they are the most important events in the world. This junk news is what people want, and maybe they read and share it because they do not want to be depressed by what is really happening in the world around them. We live in a world of apathy, ignorance, and disinterest. A blind eye is the best eye. Television drama and sitcoms are the only things seen in the window to the world by citizens which reside in the wealthiest countries. This is sad.

Trust me. You can plaster the front page with all the important events happening in my state, country, and planet, and I will not freak out. I am a calm, understanding, mostly sane individual. Just please, I want good information which will help me have an understanding of my world. If I wanted gossip or celebrity bull I would pick up a supermarket tabloid or follow some dumb Hollywood brats on Twitter. I am so annoyed. I want the news. I want the facts. Give it to me, baby.

“And remember, people, that no matter who you are and what you do to live, thrive and survive, there’re still some things that makes us all the same. You. Me. Them. Everybody. Everybody.” – Elwood Blues

The Technology Fad, Twits, and InstaTwits

I don’t know about this technology fad. Strange how it has been embedded into the culture. Everyone wants the new device to access the internet for college classes and whatnot. People use it for blogs like that on WordPress.com, people search for people like old friends on Facebook.com, and people are using it to share pictures on sites like Instagram. People are even using it to meet people on websites like Plenty of Fish (pof.com). What happened to the good old days when if you wanted to talk to someone you showed up at their house or met them at a bar? This is a silly fad.

Of course I jest about technology. Some of it is good, some of it is bad, and sometimes I just feel nostalgic about the times before it was mainstream. Technology has been growing as a way to share thoughts, ideas, opinions, and general information. I would not know anything about sharing my opinions of course. We, the consumer, do this through our mobile devices or laptops or computers, and these devices seem to help us reach out and touch someone as AT&T would say. The network and the websites which offer these social digital services, however, is how these devices are able to reach people.

We connect everyday with people through this websites. Some of it feels a little cold to me. With Facebook I can find people I know and try connecting with them. In fact, I have recently connected with some old friends using the website. That website I understand. Some of the other sites make me feel as if a connection is incomplete and distant. I wonder if anyone out there in the digital world is real because I cannot see or touch them to know if they are flesh and blood. That is how the digital world works, though, and that is why some of it feels cold. I am trying to warm up to it.

Technology is nifty. I understand the importance and value in it. I am a technology-nut of sorts. I dig it. Then again, some of these sites I don’t really even understand. For example, and the reason for me to start thinking about the technology fad, Twitter and Instagram are two of the sites I just do not “get” fully. Eating dinner? Post a picture of it on Instagram. Watching a program on television or participating in an event? Tweet about it on Twitter. I just do not get it. Some things people just do not care about. It is as if technology is for the “it is all about me” people. Then again, as I type this in a blog, I cannot say too much about it.

I just started using Twitter. I follow a few people, but I’m not really followed by anyone. The word “following” makes me think of a stalker though. I don’t know how I feel about following people in real life. I guess it is okay if you digitally follow.

The idea of just sending out a message like done on Twitter seems odd to me, too. A message is called a tweet. Some of the messages are informative while others are just rambling junk messages by dumb Twits. Maybe those who tweet should be officially called Twits and people can then upgrade their status from twits to tweeters or some other hierarchy. Just a thought. Pass it on if someone has not brought this up before.

So, a tweet is 140 characters sent out in often broken internet-speak as if it is just yelled out loud to a big crowd. I imagine as I tweet that I am just yelling in a crowded train station or public event. It seems cold. Twitter has a fix for that general yelling thing with “#” a.k.a. the hashtag. With this you can use keywords about your tweet and put a hashtag in front of it so you can easily categorize their message and other people can find it. If you want to yell at someone specific you can use their Twitter name which begins with the “@” like mine which is @themushandmilk if you want to follow me. Follow me, you creeps.

Another website I do not fully understand is Instagram. It reminds me of Twitter except with pictures. I could be wrong. I see if you prefer the idea that “a picture is worth a thousand words” then uploading pictures to share is a great idea. Pictures show so much more than I can ever in the words I write here. Other sites, like Facebook, you can share with friends and family, but with this site it can be shared with more people I guess. I get it, but I don’t know why some people use it to share a picture of their meal on Instagram. These people I can affectionately call InstaTwits.

The more I think about these sites the more I think about how in ways it brings people together. People can share thoughts with like-minded people and have a soapbox of their own. It seems, as Twitter and other social media sites, all of these sites are just other ways to both share and distance oneself from other people. At the same time it brings people together. Hmm. I “get” it, but I do not know all of the fun ways I can share, distance myself, and bring myself closer to other people at the same time.

I am no expert. These are just my thoughts and understandings. I am not trying to be funny, however, I am a technology-nut trying to understand and explain it for myself. I see the good and the bad. Some people who send tweets are just twits, and other people are really trying to do something with the site. I am warming up to it – slowly.

So many choices. So many ways to share information. The great wide internet, as it does, is coldly reaching out with digital fingers and grabbing people by their eyeballs. As I learn more about Twitter and Instagram I think I may learn to enjoy them. These can reach many people in short bursts and pictures unlike other technology sites and other forms of communication. Maybe the coldness of these technology tools will warm up to me. We will see, my digital, possibly not real people-like friends. All of these hashtags are making me dizzy. Tweet me you twit, and tell me about something. If you have nothing to say, just tweet me about your meal you just uploaded to Instagram. Creepy stalkers can follow me on Twitter @TheMushandMilk and send me a message. You Twit. #hashtagsforthemushandmilk #tweetsfortwits #instatwits

Education Failures and The Onion as a News Source

The Onion, one of my favourite news sources, recently reported about a teacher who discovered her students will believe anything she tells them (The Onion). Interesting. Then I think, wait, this is satire, right? Or could this have happened?

Of course it is joke, but it speaks some truth and borders on what may be found in the classrooms. Opinions are sometimes slipped into lessons depending on topic and class. People attend classes to be taught by someone they revere as knowledgeable on the topic. Anything this person speaks or professes is valued as fact. Why would you not believe it? You are being taught by someone who claims to be an expert on the topic. Do you believe me? Well, I pretend to be an expert, and if you only follow what I say you may be screwed.

People believe what they are told by experts or those who they believe are experts in subjects. A person learning would not commonly speak out against or question the superior on the topic. A study in the 1960s known as the Milgram Experiment found people will follow orders of a superior even if they think they are wrong. In the experiment they believed orders were followed for several reasons which included the fear of not being accepted. If an authority figure, like a teacher, tells you something, you want to believe it. You want to be part of the group. People like to be accepted, and they want to follow authority. That is how people are taught from birth. We could be screwed.

It happens, I have seen it, and for the weak or those unable to think for themselves or research for themselves, an opinion labeled fact can change their view. Bias is inevitable, in my opinion, because no matter how hard you try to avoid it, bias can slip into your words. What about when you are only dealing with numbers and facts? Facts and numbers can be used and manipulated to support arguments. As one of the best philosophers and thinkers ever to not exist said: “Facts are meaningless. You can use facts to prove anything that’s even remotely true.” That non-person was Homer Simpson. So, news, education, information, facts, can be used to lie to us? We are screwed.

Even more so we are screwed if future generations discouraged from researching and coming to conclusions on their own. That is a way to learn and works well for some in every class. If this ever happens where people are taught to not think for themselves, not saying that  it does happen, but if it does we are screwed.

We should trust our teachers. Educators have an important job, and they should be respected for what they do. It is also important to read outside of a class and do some research. When researching and trying to find information on something, sometimes you can fall into some problems with bias, too. If you are looking to prove something you value, even if false through evidence, you will “prove” yourself to be correct using facts in your favor. Scientific method can seem to fail you and this is called confirmation bias. This happens. So if you are trying to teach yourself, you could convince yourself a lie or falsehood is true. If everyone does this, we are screwed.

Now, wait, this sounds depressing and makes the future bleak. The Onion writes fake news articles, and now as it is brought into reality it makes reality look dark. Are students being taught to listen and obey? Are teachers, like in this satirical article, telling students whatever they want and hoping they accept it as fact? No. That is silly, I think? It does look bad, but it really is not that bad. It is getting better. We are not screwed.

The real issue is when education is screwed. It is when people think they know everything and screw around with the facts. Education is a touchy subject. People want their children educated, but they also do not want their children to not learn certain things such as sex education, topics related to evolution, and other hot-button issues. In these situations, parents often opt to have their children home-schooled (New York Times). To some degree, this is understandable. It can be good. Then again,  it does not matter the teacher and his or her relation to the student, the teacher can still send them down a wrong path. Even if the teacher is a parent, the teacher can still be biased and not know it. That reminds me of the Onion article, and again, we could be screwed.

It really comes down to teaching children how to research and how to be good researchers. They should be taught to use all the tools they can to find their answers, and they should be taught how to filter information so they know what is reliable. The Onion, for example, is not a good source for an essay or any school assignment. Probably not Wikipedia.org either. As you have seen, I have used the Onion as a source for the entire post, but real sources have been in there, too.  Students know not to use the Onion as a source, right? If they do not know this, they should learn. Other people, experts unlike me, agree with me. They agree especially when it comes to technology, according to the blog on KQED.org. If they are not taught these filters or how to research they are screwed.

Basic skills are also important. Students should know how to use basic skills like reading, writing, and arithmetic so they have a good foundation. Some people think these subjects are not focused on enough like  some parents in Canada according to an article in the Globe and Mail. Children need a foundation to build their research skills. People should be taught with great focus reading, writing, arithmetic, and maybe some scientific method to counteract bias concerns in the classroom. Then again, I don’t know, sometimes opinions are good for thinking outside of the box, however, what do I know? I’m not an expert, remember?  Where the individual student goes with the information and what they do with their education outside of a school is up to the student. If they are taught how to learn for themselves, they will be forever students. They will never stop learning, and people should never stop learning. That is a very valuable bit of advice. Of course, this all my opinion. For all I know,  I may be wrong. If you follow my opinion you may find we are all screwed.

Thank you the Onion for this informative article. It hit a little close to reality for me. Now that I have thought about it, and looked around, I think I will laugh a little.