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Friday, December 12, 2014

One Life, Multiple Agendas

Lately, when we've finished watching a movie, and it's lights-out, go-to-sleep time, I turn mentally to my fictional characters. I've got a couple chapters under my belt and am well into a third of what I initially envisioned as a three-part 
novella that quickly began to sprawl towards being a novel. So I put my mind where I left off writing as I go to sleep, and I wake up with the characters still (or again) in my head, doing what I need to capture in words before the ideas slip away.

So up I get in the dark to make coffee and sit down to begin writing, either on laptop or, other times, as this morning, on yellow legal pad. A few pages later I'm distracted by thoughts of a bookstore event only one day away. Where is my recipe for peanut butter brownies, and what do I need to get at the store tonight for the tomorrow's event? Come to think of it, what do we need here at home that need to pick up at the store after I close the bookstore at 5 o'clock? 

All at once I remember a question e-mailed to me that needs an answer today. It's a number question involving percentages. Soon the top page of my yellow legal pad (because my draft fiction never begins on the top page, where someone might see it) is covered with lists and formulae. 

David gets up about then and brings his cup of coffee to the table across from me to update me on the latest world news, gleaned during his partially sleepless night. I tell him about my writing and listing projects. Sarah dances about the room with unbelievably fetching cuteness, tossing her pretty head toward her kong, in hopes we will load it with peanut butter. How can we resist her? We can't.

I got about three pages written this morning. Not bad, considering.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Others Seem to Lack Focus, Too

The recent Supreme Court decision that said A__z_n did not need to compensate workers for time spent in security check lines at the end of their shifts sounded strange to me. The employer's argument was (1) that the wait is rarely as long as 30 minutes, usually only a couple of minutes, and (2) if workers had to be compensated,  it would cost this employer and others across the country millions of dollars. Huh? Wait a minute! Which is it?

If compensating workers for time spent in line would be that costly, the workers must be spending a lot of time in those lines. Or, if the wait is really so short, how could compensation be such a costly burden to the employer?
Wouldn't you think that counting time spent in security check lines as work time would motivate the employer to keep the wait short, even when, as was the case in the original lawsuit, the employer outsourced the security check to another company?

The application of “portal to portal” in this case sounds fishy, too. The employees obviously have not yet left their workplace, because it is precisely the purpose of the security check to sniff out attempted thefts before workers leave. And if they were not still at work, how could the employer demand that they submit to a security check? 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Almost-Invisible Continuing Disappearance of Jobs

This morning I paid my November retail sales tax to the State of Michigan. Here are some of the offices and workers who help me with that transaction:

1)  My local branch bank: I don’t bank online because (a) I enjoy face-to-face interactions and (b) every online site is “secure” only until someone figures out how to hack into it. It’s fine. Since our once-local bank was bought out by a larger national system, many annoying features have crept into my banking life, but I still like my local tellers, and I want them to keep their jobs.
2)  Friends of the Library: Small part but important. I make a copy of every form and check I send to the DOT.
3)  Post office: This is my third face-to-face interaction. Some people hate going to the post office, but I’ve always loved it. And in 21 years of bookselling, not a single book I’ve shipped USPS has ever gone astray. Every civilized country has a national postal service. I don’t want my country to give up being civilized.
4)  State workers in Detroit and Lansing: These people live and work miles from me, but they’re doing their jobs, just like the people here in my little village.
5)  Check printers: Again, people I don’t know and never see but whose work I appreciate.

Recently those of us who do retail business in Michigan received a form letter from the state, telling us that beginning in 2015 all sales tax payments must be made online, electronically. Presumably, what that means is that I will go to an online account, tell a program how much I owe, and the MDOT will reach an electronic arm into my bank account and take its money directly. I will no longer be trusted to send my monthly check in a timely manner. There will be no printed check. The post office will not be involved, nor will anyone at my local branch bank.

I will be losing an important measure of control over my finances, and how many people will be losing their jobs? Why? Because state government and the federal postal system are “bloated”?

What some people call “bloat,” I call jobs.

What some people call progress, I call intrusion into my business and negation of my autonomy.

Who is winning here? I know I'm not.