Monday, June 26, 2017

Stalkers and creeps: WHY?

Someone I used to be friends with has been stalking me on the Internet since 2009.

My friends sometimes ask me how the heck I end up with the weirdest people obsessed with me. I honestly do not know. But I have so many bizarre stories that one would almost have to think there's some Weirdo Magnet drawing people to me. Sadly, I'm not talking about the good kind of weirdo. 


  • I'm talking about people who do stuff like write me long meandering letters about how they wish I was their mom and how cruel I am to not have sex with men, with a 100+-page manifesto attached about the author's gender identity. 
 
  • Or people who harass me for years about how they don't like certain parts of my website, culminating in their construction of a parody website about me (using my photos), detailing my establishment of a utopia on an island whose population is only people shorter than me, where we all perform sex acts on each other and judge whose genitals win prizes. 
 
  • I have had someone create a user account just to review my book and advise others not to buy it because it's trash. 
 
  • I have had someone steal my writings and then "retaliate" when called out, creating a whole fake web network pretending to be people who were upset that I'd stolen content from THEM (because obviously that'll show ME to think twice before defending unauthorized use of my writing). 
 
  • I have had someone make a 10+-minute video about how disappointing it is that I, personally, am not a vegan. 
 
  • I had someone write me a bizarre series of disconnected messages about transgender people's surgeries being bad and violence in America being correlated with fewer churches existing, and when I asked him not to send me weird irrelevant things, he created a six-part video series about my rudeness and the likelihood that I am lying about my age.
 
  • I had someone message me repeatedly with prescriptive commentary on my lifestyle that was bizarrely off in left field, opining that I should wear a badge stating my negative perspective on romance so I could warn away prospective suitors and avoid breaking poor men's tender hearts, and that I should wear boys' jockstraps under my clothes because surely it would delight me to wear something unfeminine and repellent to men.
 
  • I had someone hack my website's guestbook and replace every piece of feedback, manually, with the phrase "You seem like a dirty little slut. Do you suck your daddys cock?"
 
  • I had someone create a shaming website about me because he thought it would be funny to punish an asexual activist by starting a damaging rumor. He unearthed my legal name from an interview I'd done (before I started using my name publicly in association with much on the Internet) and included it with accusations of my being a pedophile and encouraging people to find me in real life and harass me. (I had to get a lawyer for that one. Yes, I won.)

And plenty of other baffling interactions that I don't need to dredge up right now.

But this time, we're talking about this one.

My stalker since 2009.

I'm talking about this here and now because she is still harassing me. She still hasn't accepted that I told her years ago to leave me alone and stop contacting me. As recently as this week, she's posted "anonymous" comments on one of my webcomics--comments that sound like they were written by a grade-schooler, like "You'll never be as good as me you LIAR!" (This person is around my age. And has been capable of ordinary conversation in the past. So I don't know what happens to her when she flies into these rages, but she directs them at me with regularity and has been doing so for literally eight years.) 


The most recent comment responded to the webcomic's subject of day jobs by saying, sneeringly, that I am a liar who can't even KEEP a day job. You know, after I had the same job for over ten years and had to leave the position when the corporate office shut down our branch, and after I had no trouble finding another similar job. Obviously what's happening here is I can't keep a job. It's like, a bunch of weird reality-denying stabs in the dark trying to make me feel insecure or insulted over things that aren't applicable to me in any way. You might have similar success annoying someone by accusing them of being terrible at a craft they've never demonstrated any interest in, or snorting that they'll never be rich enough to own the smart phone they're holding in their hand.

In 2006, this person contacted me after, I guess, admiring some of my work on the Internet. We had a few pleasant conversations--she could write a competent sentence and communicate clearly, though the messages felt impersonal and sometimes the phrasing was a little tortured or stilted, typically with non-standard punctuation use. Then one day, she wrote me a message that was just like all the others, and when I didn't answer it within two hours, she wrote me a follow-up e-mail about how selfish and terrible I am for not even being willing to answer an e-mail. I had crossed her, she said, and was no longer her friend, and was a liar, and she wanted me to shut up and never speak to her again and by the way I'm blocked. Etc.

'Kay.

Eventually she apologized, and though she offered no real explanation for what she'd done, she did say she'd recently been in a car wreck and had gotten kind of scrambled from it. I was hesitant at accepting that, but she seemed sincere and promised me she'd never blow up on me like that again. I decided to resume communication with her and figured it was just one of those things, but I remained wary. We had a few more conversations, exchanged gifts at holiday time, and one time she even visited me when her family was vacationing in my state. I won't go into detail but that meeting was super awkward. She was really really nervous (or at least, she acted like she was) the entire time, and the communication for our meeting had gone awry because she'd said we were going to go have lunch someplace but then, inexplicably, she'd been dropped off at my house alone. I never figured out what that was about.

Fast forward to 2009 when she did the exact same thing she did in 2006. 


Sent me a message asking me for help with a writing question, I answered in decent detail, she followed up to ask another question and then sent a "never mind" because she'd changed her mind about what to write, and then . . . random curse-out e-mail. I'm selfish, I'm a liar, I'm a terrible writer anyways, I "can't even help a person," etc. I figured at that point this was a pattern, not a once-in-a-while thing, and I wasn't getting anything from this relationship that made me think putting up with unwarranted, random abuse would be worth it. When she crawled back to apologize, I basically told her I'd need to think about whether I could be friends with someone whose words I can't trust, and eventually after she wheedled and pestered and poked me despite my request for some time to think about it, I responded by telling her I can't be okay with how she communicates and I don't want contact with her anymore, though I was also sure to say I forgave her because she seemed really fixated on forgiveness. I didn't wish her ill, obviously. I just wanted her to leave me alone.

I also did a little research on her to see if she had any kind of dangerous history, and found another blogger who was randomly, inexplicably harassed by my same stalker. She was receiving intermittent messages from her saying she was fat and ugly and deserved to die, and that her kids also deserved to die. Even if she'd never said anything bizarre and gross to me, I couldn't be friends with someone who periodically wished death on other people.

But she didn't stop. She sent multiple apology postcards and e-mails online. She'd forward her own e-mails to me as if I just didn't receive them the first time. She commented on my LiveJournal anonymously, asking me to contact her. She sent me a physical letter. She mailed me a gift (from Amazon, so I couldn't see who it was from and refuse the package), and she sent me her own wish list like I was going to reciprocate, and then I received a message purporting to be from her mom (but used her same stilted sentence structure and punctuation idiosyncrasies), scolding me to thank my stalker for the gift and be her friend again. She tried to call me on the phone. She sent me messages saying she was coming to my state again and needed to know what day she could come over and "make things right." Yikes. And here's the bizarre part: I also began to receive "anonymous" messages from her same IP address about how I was a shitty writer and a liar, and occasionally there'd be a message about how I needed to perform a sex act on one of my parents. (Not kidding.)

Every couple months or so, I'd get another form submission from "no one" criticizing my novel ideas and telling me to give up, telling me I'd never be published (and she continued to say that even after I had been published, but I guess she's decided it's all a lie), telling me she's a successful, published writer who is much better than me (who somehow still has the time and inclination to unceasingly dog me on the Internet bleating about my incompetence). The "anonymous" messages always took aim at my writing ability and called me a liar. Pretty much every time. They usually came like clockwork a couple weeks after I'd ignored another sappy apology e-mail, postcard, or Facebook friend request. (Yes, she tries to do that too.)

Here's an example of the apologetic e-mails she would send me:

I am writing to you with a truly sincere apology for being stupid. It was my fault, and it was out of line. I would never really hurt you, and I miss you terribly.
You are such a nice friend, really.

I wanted to you let you know that I am learning important lessons about kindness, and that's what motivated me to send you this email. I am really, honestly, truly sorry. This is sincerely from my heart, this time. It's been so long, and I want us to be friends, again.

You are sweet, a creative writer, loyal, and loving, like I am. We have a lot in common. I am still writing, too.

Another chance is what I request, here. I now know I can be kind, always. A good friendship isn't worth ruining and losing.

Please be kind yourself and give me another chance. You won't be disappointed. This is all from my heart. If not for me learning my lesson, you wouldn't be reading this now. Thank you so very much.

And then she'd follow it up with messages like this:

you are so stupid...i'm a MUCH better writer (not to mention PUBLISHED! which you will NEVER be!)

you are just mean and unfriendly, and you don't know a GOOD FRIEND when you have it!

go bl*w your ugly hag, stupid-ass DRUNK mom!

f you

(I was already published when she sent this.)

Another one:

Subject: hey stupid

just wanted to say...SHUT UP!!! you have no business deciding anything about anyone. i DO NOT have any SO-CALLED "bad-side" to me, unlike a stupid, brainless LIAR like you! go to hell, and get a real brain. of course, you'll eventually realize that i'm RIGHT. >:)

~a smarter, better, PUBLISHED writer since '98


I'm not sure what the "bad side" reference is. Surely she read something I wrote that had nothing to do with her and decided it was about her. It's weird that someone can have so little self-awareness, though--like, who sends someone a message about how they're a "stupid, brainless LIAR" and still insists they don't have a bad side to them? Like. Listen to yourself.

I've threatened to get a restraining order before. Once when I finally made a public post about what she was doing (still without revealing too much personally identifying information, like e-mail address or last name), she left me alone for about two years. But she started up again sort of recently and doesn't seem to care that I made that threat. I have since looked into it and it's sort of costly and especially difficult to get a restraining order on someone from another state. They're really designed to stop people from coming in physical proximity to you, though they also decree that the person can't have contact with you either. I don't think it would help much and it probably wouldn't be worth it to go through all that just to get some Internet weirdo to stop sending me incoherent, petty messages.

But I do have her personal information, ten years' worth of saved conversations, and an IP address and a phone number she called from, and a photograph of her that she asked me not to release publicly. (I have never done so. I promised not to and she seemed really super cagey about it.) But I have an awful lot of identifying information about her, and she knows I do--to the point that it doesn't make sense she'd behave like she's invincible when she very much does not want that information revealed. Why would you keep harassing someone if you depended on their compliance for your comfort and privacy? I mean, I realize I'm not dealing with someone who is behaving rationally, but the longest period of her leaving me alone did seem to come after I made it clear I'm not above connecting her publicly with the behavior she refuses to stop (while trying and failing to hide her identity). So I guess this is me doing it again.

I wanna finish up here by saying I think most of my harassers and stalkers over the years have been motivated by different stripes of one thing: Jealousy.

It sounds silly if you oversimplify it. "Oh, they're just bothering you 'cause they're jealous! Forget the haters! None of their criticism is valid!" Critique and commentary are actually very important to me. (Snotty comments about how someone else is ~a better writer~ and I'll never succeed don't read as valid critique to me, obviously.) But more and more, as I've pursued (and succeeded at) multiple disciplines, I find people standing around on the sidelines rolling their eyes and trying to shame me for caring about something. For being so ~lame~ as to put my efforts into something to the point that I get something out of it. For "having no life," somehow, even though my successes are evidence of my doing something pretty effective with my life. 


When you CARE about something, and you make a lot of stuff, and you get a lot of attention, there are always going to be people out there who react by feeling personally ashamed. But they can't be seen trying, because they know it's likely failure will be involved, and it's a lot easier and more satisfying to mock people who are trying (or have succeeded). If you can make their hard work and their payoff look like it doesn't matter, you don't have to feel bad for not having anything you love, or not being where you want to be in that discipline.

Ultimately this is self-destructive behavior. It's self-preservation to some degree--insulating oneself so someone else's success doesn't make them feel small and hopeless--but one thing I've seen in common from most of the people who harass me is that they pay a suspicious amount of attention to my work and activities for someone who wants me to shut up, and they demonstrate an inappropriate level of investment in targeting me personally. They sneer and condescend and badger, but if that behavior is meant to make THEM look superior, they've got it backwards. I document what my Internet jerks do because there's always a chance I'll need it later (or enjoy laughing at it), and I share stories about some of the worst ones, but . . . I don't do anything that compares to what they're doing.

I've done research on a couple of the dangerous ones, like the time I had to get a lawyer to stop someone from connecting my legal name with pedophilia just because he didn't like my work and thought it'd be a good way to hurt me. But I don't follow people whose behavior I don't like around on the Internet, or message them under fake names trying to connect with them, or comment on their websites, or harass them personally. I don't have time to stalk people like that, and I have no inclination whatsoever to do so. Probably mostly because if I don't like something someone does, I'll give them a bad book review or respond to them with a critical YouTube comment, and that's IT. I don't develop obsessive, personal beefs with people when I disagree with them, and I especially have no reason to get involved if their hideous crime is having different interests or different lifestyles. I can't even tell you how many times I've been harassed by people who target me because they think I should be more like them in some way that doesn't affect them at all. They expect me to hate them "back" or be diametrically opposed to what they stand for, but I'm basically sitting here like "uh . . . I'm good with live and let live. You do you, bro."

I don't know what the stalkers want from me or why they can't accept that I don't want to give it to them, but they really should concentrate on themselves and stop being pathetically obsessed with me. It doesn't do either of us any good.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Personal Digest Saturday: June 17 – June 23

Life news this week: 
  • Saturday I was at my dad's, having slept over the night before. I hung out with my relatives and my sister P called on the Facebook messenger so we could video chat. Got to see my nephew too--cutie pants. We all went to see my grandpa and then had pizza out. My dad and my aunt drove me home and hung out at my place for a bit before driving back to Sarasota. I was pretty tired so I crashed early.
  • Sunday I felt really, really awful--low point of the week. Somehow I still managed to make three videos, though--a karaoke video, a ukulele video, and an asexuality video. I'm pretty ridiculous. I also drew a bunch, did laundry, showered, and unpacked.
  • Monday I felt a little better so I went to work. I did some troubleshooting and some marketing at the office, and even managed to do grocery shopping after. Jeaux brought me Moe's food and we talked about cartoons! I finished some drawings.
  • Tuesday I got to get up a little late because I had a doctor's appointment. I did the appointment and they recommended a blood test, so I let them be vampires. I didn't feel good and I didn't feel terrible either. Mom came over and I ate sunflower tofu. I drew my webcomic and did dishes and hung out with Mom. She even gave me a nice back scratch to help me relax. :)
  • Wednesday I had some design work stuff to do at the office. The doctor called and my bloodwork came back normal, so I scheduled a follow-up to figure out what else could be wrong with me. I wrote a trivia quiz and went to Five Guys with Jeaux. After, we watched the season premiere of Wrecked, a funny show about being marooned on an island, and we listened to Night Vale. I also processed the videos I made on Sunday.
  • Thursday work was typical and after the day was over I met with Victor at my house. He had an International Potluck event happening at his work the next day so we made krumkake together. It was fun but pretty labor intensive because we made so many. Also got my comic done.
  • Friday I had another typical workday and went to Drink and Draw after. I drew some writing webcomics and some fan art. When I got home I opened some new toys and they were cute.

    New reviews of my book:


        Reading progress:
        • Finished this week: Nothing, the book I'm reading is gigantic.
        • Currently reading: The Ancestor's Tale by Richard Dawkins.
          New singing performances:

          This week I performed "Dancing in the Sky" by Dani and Lizzy. Special request. :)

           

          New drawings: 

          Feathers in your fro after you fight a giant bird #crystalgemproblems
          Quit being so racist, Steven. #notallpearls
          (I doodled this at work because I am a dork)
          And I made a weird comic, sort of, which took forever because the colors got messed up, leaked, and streaked. Click the pages to blow up. The deeper context won't make sense to people who don't watch this show, but the pictures are still kinda fun.



          Webcomic Negative One Issue 0632: "Fists."






          New videos:

          My latest asexuality video is Letters to an Asexual #47 and it's about religion and asexuality--how religion fits in, some supportive and not-so-supportive experiences one can have in a religious context, and some thoughts on relationships between celibacy, morality, and asexuality.



          My latest unlisted ukulele video is "The Special Two" by Missy Higgins. I'm playing while I was sick so it's not that great. 




          New photos:

          Dad with his cute doggie Honey.

          Secret Team!

          Making krumkake!
          Some of our first pizzelles!
          Victor ladling.
          The recipe made so many! Good thing they were for a potluck.
          Eric loves his sandwich maybe a little too much at Drink and Draw.

          Social Media Counts:

          YouTube subscribers: 5,307 for swankivy (1 new), 643 for JulieSondra (1 new). Twitter followers: 871 for swankivy (1 new), 1,334 for JulieSondra (lost 7). Facebook: 292 friends (no change) and 207 followers (no change) for swankivy, 653 likes for JulieSondra (2 new), 55 likes for Negative One (no change), 125 likes for So You Write (no change). Tumblr followers: 2,494 (lost 3). Instagram followers: 117 (no change).

          Wednesday, June 21, 2017

          Wednesday Factoid: Phone Calls

          Today's Wednesday Factoid is: What are your thoughts on receiving or making phone calls?

          I'm pretty neutral about phone calls. Some of my friends have major anxiety over calling strangers, or even calling friends and family, so they prefer to communicate in e-mail or text. Truth be told, I'd rather communicate in text, unless I want a conversation--in cases of conversation, I would much rather talk it out than type it out.

          At work, I'd rather e-mail someone to get information than have to call them, but if I have to call them it's no big deal. I do know people who need to rehearse what they're going to say or even have it written down before they call, and they get off the phone as quickly as possible. Me? Not really. I think I used to hate it more than I do now. I've really gotten used to being able to think on the fly and not say the wrong thing or get frozen up, though I'm familiar enough with that feeling from my shy days that I completely sympathize with people who struggle with it now (or have other issues I never had).

          For socializing, especially with long-distance pals, I don't mind phone calls. I can and will stay on the phone for hours, but there are also people I don't talk to on the phone often. Jeaux and I hardly ever use the phone to voice-chat. (Of course, that may have something to do with the fact that I see him every week.) But then my mom and I live in the same town and usually see each other around once a week too, and we're still prone to marathon phone conversations. And my friend Victor continues a tradition of calling me once a week while I'm drawing my webcomic, even though now he lives in my city and can see me regularly. (We don't see each other as regularly as I see Mom or Jeaux, but still frequently enough.) And I definitely call and talk to Meghan and sometimes my dad.


           

          Tuesday, June 20, 2017

          Invested

          I read recently that it's uncommon to be authentically invested in your career unless you're making around $96,000 a year.

          I don't know if that's the actual figure or if that's true in all cases, and I'm sure it moves around a bit based on where you live and what your needs are, but the basic premise of what I read seems sound: that you need to be making enough money to cover your basic needs, to have some disposable income, and to have some security for the future before you have the resources to be a "company person," and that therefore when upper management claims they don't want to hire new people who "only care about a paycheck," they're being unrealistic.

          Sure, it's easy for someone who's very secure and not in survival mode to look down their nose and want their worker bees to give themselves to the company without expecting to be paid handsomely for it. What's weird is that if their company stopped paying THEM handsomely for it, they wouldn't "give 110%" or whatever they think they're doing. They are loyal to their employer because their employer has been good to them--has treated them with respect, has given them appropriate bonuses and promotions, has provided benefits, and has created incentives to keep good people at those desks. These people can still sometimes turn around and expect good work out of unpaid interns, or very low-paid entry-level workers, and can sometimes judge them as selfish or money-grubbing if they expect livable pay in exchange for their work.

          It's not a hard concept that if you treat your workers like they're worth something, they will be more likely to produce quality work. And if you do the reverse, people who still go above and beyond aren't displaying a "good work ethic"; they're being abused and taken advantage of. When you manipulate people into believing they're selfish or undeserving if they won't work hard for pay that barely (or doesn't quite) meets their needs, you're abusing them.

          We've got this cultural narrative that tells us you're a good person fighting the good fight if you kill yourself for your career. Praise is heaped upon people who sacrifice long hours for low pay, but if what they're doing is so good, WHY NOT PAY THEM BETTER AND INCREASE THEIR BENEFITS? Is their job necessary or not? Is it fair to take up all of a person's available working hours and still not pay them a living wage? Is it good to build society with a dependency on low-paid workers and then limit their opportunities to earn more or refuse to reward them for performing the job well? Weird that slaving away and not asking for much in return is spun as noble, so people will feel like they have to do it. After all, changing the conversation so moneyed employers feel obligated to reward their employees for loyalty and hard work--that just won't work.

          The hardest work I ever did, for six years of my life, was a low-paid retail position. I had pride in my work because I felt responsible for it and wanted my customers to have a good experience shopping in my section, and I loved books and I loved readers. But my management sometimes made it tough to want to do a good job. At different times during those years, they made rules and quotas that made the job unpleasant, abused the management, accused employees of theft if our inventories didn't meet expectations, saddled department heads with everyday customer service on top of their main duties, and wouldn't provide even basic everyday benefits (like we had a café but we were not allowed to have complimentary coffee from it; we had to buy our coffees AND keep the receipts rubber-banded to our cups to prove we hadn't stolen them). I eventually had to leave the position because they just wanted too much for too little, and I couldn't keep letting them have it.

          The next job I got paid twice as much, was much lower stress, included significant benefits, and treated me like my work had value. I felt like part of a team, so I was willing to work hard for my team. I sometimes had to make sacrifices, but I really didn't even have to be asked--I knew it was my part. At the retail job, having to come to meetings or participate in work outside my assigned hours felt like punishment. At the better job, it was just something we had to do to keep the machine oiled. I still wouldn't have gone to the job or performed my duties without the pay, but that didn't mean I was a disloyal employee. It's just that when a business makes your lifestyle possible and the management treats you like they want you to be content with your life, you understand the transaction's mechanics and you offer up your part of it without issue.

          But you cannot expect someone who works for you to magically become invested in the company if you believe that loyalty should be automatic, or treat them like they should be grateful to be abused by poor conditions and underpaid labor. THE EMPLOYER has to be invested in THEIR EMPLOYEES before they can expect said employees to offer their own investment.

          Saturday, June 17, 2017

          Personal Digest Saturday: June 10 – June 16

          Life news this week: 
          • Saturday was a bunch of catch-up work. I also colored my doodles of my toys that I did the previous night. Jeaux's niece had a baby so he has a new family member: Olivia Jean! Cute little baby. I also listed some of my duplicate toys for sale on eBay. And two of them sold!
          • Sunday I did music and went to my mom's to help her hang pictures. (She wants to put Ash's art in them.) I prepared my eBay packages for the person who bought my toys (and drew a cute little card to go in the package). At mom's I ate tater tots and hung out with her, and later wrote a long analysis post about a cartoon character that became pretty popular.
          • Monday was back to work and they had a ton of work for me to do on a set of plans. So I was busy and the day went by quickly! But I was also feeling pretty ill and it was gross. I still had the energy to go grocery shopping, but I was tired when I got home and didn't get anything done really after that.
          • Tuesday we found out my office won a big contract so we're very happy. I worked on those plans more and reviewed a book online. I got a little drawing done.
          • Wednesday I had a late day at the office (late arrival, late departure). Worked on the plans all day and then met Jeaux for food at Pei Wei. It was rainy. There was a weird incident on the bus with two guys trying to fight each other. (One of them threatened to knock the other's teeth out, to which he responded "I ain't got no teeth!") After Jeaux left my house, I fell asleep.
          • Thursday I had a bunch to do with sending documents to people at work. On the way home the bus I was riding was in a little accident, sort of--we had to stop really fast and people went flying into the aisles. A couple people had to leave on an ambulance. Darn. (I was fine.) At home I drew comics and talked to Victor. I had to pack quickly before going to bed because my dad was picking me up from work the next day to go out of town--we laid plans really last-minute and it was a bit of a crunch!
          • Friday I got a paid ride to work because I didn't want to lug everything for my overnight on the bus. There wasn't much for me to do that day so it wasn't much of an active day. My dad picked me up and I got to see my aunt! We went to my dad's house in Sarasota and had some food Connie made (I even ate brussels sprouts!) and some delicious pie. Mostly we just hung out chatting and it was a good time.

            New reviews of my book:


                Reading progress:
                • Finished this week:  Avatar: The Rift: Volume 1 by Michael Dante DiMartino & Bryan Konietzko. Five-star review.
                • Finished this week: Make Art! (On Purpose) from Cartoon Network Books. Four-star review.
                • Currently reading: The Ancestor's Tale by Richard Dawkins.
                  New singing performances:

                  This week I performed "Beautiful Boy" by John Lennon.

                   

                  New drawings: 

                  A little card I put in the package for the person who bought my eBay toys.



                  Webcomic Negative One Issue 0631: "Life in the Silence."






                  New videos:

                  My latest unlisted ukulele video is "Lapis Lazuli" and its expanded reprise "Wailing Stone" from Steven Universe. It's a song that gets reused for a different purpose in the same episode, first sung by Steven and then sung by Greg, his dad.




                  New photos:

                  I colored the drawings of my toys that I drew the day before.
                   
                  Someone asked a question about my book so I sent this
                  picture with my response.


                  Ready for adventure with my trusty cheeseburger backpack.

                  And the haircut comparison photos:
                   

                  Front, February 2014
                  Front, June 2017
                  Back, February 2014
                  Back, June 2017

                  Social Media counts:
                   
                  YouTube subscribers: 5,306 for swankivy (9 new), 642 for JulieSondra (2 new). Twitter followers: 870 for swankivy (3 new), 1,341 for JulieSondra (no change). Facebook: 292 friends (no change) and 207 followers (1 new) for swankivy, 651 likes for JulieSondra (no change), 55 likes for Negative One (no change), 125 likes for So You Write (no change). Tumblr followers: 2,497 (4 new). Instagram followers: 117 (5 new).

                  Thursday, June 15, 2017

                  Large Corporate vs. Small Business

                  I don't really talk much about my day job. That will continue to be the case, for the most part. But I was thinking about this issue this week and decided to ramble about it: the difference between working for a large corporate company and working for a small company.

                  Interestingly, even though I work in administration and could theoretically, uh, administrate for any kind of industry, I ended up in a very similar company, industry-wise, when I moved from my old job to my new one. I worked for a transportation engineering company for ten years, and it just so happened that the company that hired me next was another transportation engineering company. The focus is a little different here (more design, more diverse applications), but it's the same industry and we work with and for a lot of the same people.

                  But the most significant difference is that my previous company was a multi-office corporation based in California, and my current company is a small business that has one smallish office.

                  Weirdly, even though the previous company had over a hundred employees, my office there was smaller. We had five people in the office most of the time. Sometimes a few more depending on if I had to manage field workers or if we happened to be particularly prosperous. In my new office, there are usually seven or eight people around, sometimes more depending on work.

                  But in my new office, this is it. The owner of the company sits behind me a few feet away. When we order supplies, he puts them on a credit card himself. When he wants to pursue a project or decide against doing so, he can do that based on his own whims, and he's the final authority on how we do business and what we undertake. I can get up, take a few steps, and ask him.

                  At my previous company, there was a decent amount of "corporate culture." We were a little isolated from it because we were not part of the corporate office, but we had company-wide coordination on many things, including how business was done. My boss was a principal and he made a lot of decisions without consulting anybody, but for the most part he had to answer to his boss on many issues. We had to coordinate with other offices to produce marketing documents, and we had to have permission to chase a project or pull out of one. If we lost while competing for work, our president wanted justification. If we wanted a new piece of equipment or new software, we had to get approval from my boss's bosses, and we weren't supposed to install anything on our computers ourselves. Sometimes we'd have to show evidence of our marketing efforts, and there were yearly evaluations and weekly marketing calls. Corporate training events. Complicated signing authority. Red tape.

                  The above makes it sound bad, but it wasn't. Corporate culture is also sometimes fun, because you have goofy events you can participate in, bonuses you can win, and support from other offices if you get in a pickle and need resources. The down side is obviously having a lot more stuff we have to deal with where we answered to higher-ups who had a lot invested in us. We had to coordinate with our west coast president when we wanted him to be part of an interview. We had engineers in multiple states and there are limits on what kind of practice you can perform if you don't have a license in that state, so there were problems sometimes with having engineers from other offices being included on our proposals, or sometimes I had to coordinate the frustrating issue of getting someone licensed in another state. There's nothing like that in the office where I work now, except just one of the licensed engineers is not licensed in our state.

                  The thing I don't like about small business life is the comparative lack of security. We have to win new work all by ourselves. We have no extra resources, and if we don't have someone in the building who knows how to use that software, we have no one to ask. I don't own any company stock here. I don't know yet, but I don't think we get bonuses here and I know we don't get reviews and periodic organized raises. (I don't care about that at this point because I'm being paid at a slightly higher rate here than I was there, but I have to do harder work too, so it balances out.) We're a corporation, and we have some good health benefits and other benefits, but the 401(k) plan isn't as robust here as it was at the bigger office, and there aren't as many incidental benefits here. 

                  But here's something else interesting about being a small business (that also happens to be a minority business): in our line of work, there is a push to include "disadvantaged businesses" that are small or headed by minority populations or women. The biggest potential client, the department of transportation in our state, has a percentage they try to meet, so there are incentives to include small businesses and disadvantaged businesses on teams. When I worked for the bigger corporation, which was owned by white men, we generally had to proposition disadvantaged and small businesses to be on our team so we could contribute to those goals when we were hired. Working for this company, we ARE one of the companies that others solicit to join teams, and we can help the Department (and other public organizations) meet their goals every time they hire us.

                  There are some things I like better about the small business atmosphere, and other things I liked better about the bigger business. I try to focus on the stuff I really don't miss from there, because I can't go back. But there's usually a trade-off. No different here.

                  I do miss my old boss though. Man. That guy was great. 

                  I'll end it here. :(

                  Wednesday, June 14, 2017

                  Wednesday Factoid: Selfless

                  Today's Wednesday Factoid is: What was a time when you acted selflessly?
                    
                  I guess the best way to answer this is to discuss a time I behaved in an unselfish way that benefited someone else because it was the right thing to do, but required a sacrifice from me. I still can't say they were "selfless" acts.

                  I took care of my mom every day when she had hurt her back and couldn't move around by herself, but like . . . that seems like basic humanity there. To help your mom when she's injured. I had to ride my bike to her house every day and make sure she got food and pick up her medicine and stuff. I hired a helper when she wouldn't let me help her take a bath but would trust an assistant with a medical background. And I came and kept her company, and bought her a stool she could use in the tub since she couldn't stand. I had to spend a bunch of time and energy and a little money to do all that, but . . . I would have been a JERK if I wasn't willing to support my mom if I had the ability to do so, right?

                  The other thing that maybe fewer people would do and maybe sounds more selfless for some reason is that I took one of my friends in when he became homeless. I was pretty reluctant to do it because the outlook was not so good on him getting out of my house anytime soon, and I really hate having roommates even if they're people I like. I was very stressed out about it and felt like I was sacrificing a lot of my personal comfort in opening my home to my friend for an indeterminate amount of time.

                  But I always balance statements like that against "oh no, I sacrificed my personal comfort to stop my friend from becoming a homeless person." What kind of friend would I be if I'd said to him, "sorry, I realize you've exhausted all your other options, but I'm going to say no too. I love ya buddy but you're on your own"?

                  My friend had various circumstances that made his chances for employment and living independently pretty low. I knew that he would want to clear out as soon as possible but I didn't know if he could. I did everything I could to support him while he was there, and he did manage to get his first job and move out of my house in about two months. I still stepped in to help him a few times with lending money, offering resources on finding his next jobs and places to live, and being there for moral support sometimes. I do a decent amount of "giving" in the relationship, and there's not a whole lot of concrete stuff I can point to that I'm getting in return besides enjoying being his friend.

                  But I still don't think the term for any of that is "selfless." It's the closest I've gotten, I guess.