Category Archives: Societal Observations

Rebuilding with Retraining: Ideas for Rebuilding after Hurricane Harvey

America has been watching the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, and all of us are wondering what happens next. Obviously, people will need to find ways to get their lives back together, but how do you even begin to do that when everything you own has been damaged beyond repair?

Experts are already estimating how much money it will cost to start the rebuilding process, but it’s not just a matter of fixing homes. We’re talking about billions of dollars to shelter and feed victims, build temporary housing, rebuild damaged housing, fix infrastructure problems (including roadways, bridges, trains, levees, etc.), and not to mention rebuilding all of the businesses, schools, churches, community spaces, and everything else that was brutalized by the storm.

The rebuilding process requires a multitude of steps. More importantly, rebuilding requires people, businesses, and the government to all work together, and I personally think that may be one of the biggest obstacles to overcome.

What Helps and What Hinders

I don’t think it’s a matter of people having a difficult time working together. We have seen and continue to see the love and kindness pouring out as regular citizens all over the country are going out of their ways to go and help the victims of Hurricane Harvey. Even radio stations up here in Portland, Oregon, 2,500+ miles away from the disaster, are promoting stories about Portland citizens gathering truckloads of donations to drive down to help those in need. 

People help people, no doubt about it!

8887539_600x338

Many businesses are also helping, including those down in the Houston area. Jim McIngvale, more lovingly known as “Matress Mack,” (pictured above), opened his giant furniture stores to the victims of Hurricane Harvey. He’s giving victims a place to stay, a place to sleep, and food to eat. Nobody asked him to do it – he just did it, because it was the right thing to do.

Businesses are made of people, and business owners have more power to help a greater number of people. Matress Mack is only one of many business owners reaching out to help the victims.

While I would like to be optimistic, I do not have a lot of hope that our government will be as quick to aid those most in need. It’s not that they don’t want to help. Our government is made of people, and these are people who care about the safety of their constituents. Unfortunately, the lack of efficient systems and infrastructure in our government, as well as budgetary issues, will tie up the works.

Since helping people in need is often a political point of contention – oddly so, since most of the main political parties believe in helping their fellow citizens, they just disagree on the methodology – it remains to be seen if the government can stop worrying about party politics and instead do what they need to do to get the rebuilding process in full swing.

Sadder still, despite the amazing outpour of support through donations and volunteers, most of the rebuilding process will be slowed down by financial concerns and the lack of a suitable workforce.

Who Will Rebuild the Gulf Coast?

Articles on CBS news and The Washington Post, as well as articles from newspapers published within the state of Texas, including My San Antonio and The Dallas Morning News, all cite how Texas has been experiencing one of its largest labor shortages in the field of construction. Before Harvey hit, there were already major delays with building new homes, simply because contractors could not find enough skilled workers.

CC_SkilledWorkforceDecrease

There are also issues related to immigration, as it is not an uncommon practice for contractors to supplement their workforce with undocumented workers. Like other industries, the construction industry also pursues the option of legally sponsoring foreigners to work in America to supplement the workforce; however, sponsoring foreign workers often involves government regulation and paying workers equal wages. Some employers would rather cut corners by paying undocumented workers under the table, and, if these workers are deported, it further depletes the workforce.

Although, as Patrick Sisson might argue, it’s not just a matter of cutting corners and paying undocumented workers under the table – it’s the fact that there simply aren’t any other construction workers available. In his article, “Construction boom exposes labor shortage threatening homebuilding,” Sisson points out that in Texas, (and across the nation, for that matter), not enough young people are entering the skilled trade fields, especially in the construction industry. He notes that there is a “greying shrinking pool” of qualified workers, which he attributes to vocational trades being ignored in the education system.

There is a major social disconnect, as Sisson points out, between young people’s perception of career success and the reality of the job market. Students believe they have to earn college degrees to get good paying jobs. There is also a massive amount of stigma associated with those who choose vocational programs over traditional degree programs, as the majority of vocational jobs are still looked at as lesser than non-vocational positions.

Sadly, high schools, and colleges for that matter, have become so wrapped up in this, “you can be anything,” mentality that they have neglected to teach students certain facts, including the following:

  • College isn’t for everyone. As of 2015, the National Center for Education Statistics reported that 41% of full-time students pursuing a bachelor’s degree did not succeed.
  • Not all good-paying jobs require bachelor’s degrees.
  • Many vocational programs can be completed in less than two years, as compared to the 4+ years it takes to get a bachelor’s degree.
  • The majority of vocational programs have built-in internships and apprenticeship programs resulting in almost immediate employment, whereas most bachelor’s degree programs only have optional internships that may or may not lead to full-time employment after graduation.

Young people also believe that skilled trade jobs in the construction industry don’t pay reasonable salaries. Again, this is due to a complete lack of the education system preparing students for the real world, as administrators tend to be more obsessed with test scores versus life skills training.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), (a government run organization that monitors the salaries of a multitude of vocations), there is clear evidence that skilled trade workers earn desirable salaries. The data below reflects the average annual salaries of various construction trade workers, as reported by the BLS in 2016:

  • Brick masons = $53,440
  • Carpenters = $48,340
  • Carpet installers = $44,310
  • Cement masons = $43,720
  • Construction equipment operators = $50,560
  • Dry wall and ceiling tile installers = $47,400
  • Electricians = $56,650
  • Plumbers = $56,030
  • Rail track laying and maintenance operators = $52,810
  • Structural iron and steel workers = $56,040
  • Tile and marble setters = $44,770

As young people have been steered away from vocational jobs for over a decade, or as they have simply been allowed to believe that vocational jobs are not as respectable as nonvocational ones, Texas, among many states in the nation, are facing serious problems with finding a suitable workforce. In terms of rebuilding after one of the biggest natural disasters, this lack of a workforce will prove increasingly problematic in the days to come for the rebuilding process of all areas affected by Hurricane Harvey.

Idea to Increase the Workforce for the Rebuilding Process

I know that there are an unbelievable amount of problems to solve with the rebuilding process from this point on, including funding for the housing and sheltering of victims. Likewise, as explained above, there is the added problem of the lack of a suitable workforce.

497054780

Idea!

Instead of bringing in workers from around the country, or bringing workers from out of the country, if any are available, why not use that money to create a modified apprenticeship program that focuses on utilizing the displaced victims as a newly trained workforce?

The following explanation will obviously be oversimplified, but as a general idea, hear me out.

We have people who have been displaced, because of the floods. Many of their places of employment have also been eliminated due to flood damage. These people face the real problems of no jobs, no possessions, nowhere to go locally, and no income. Most likely, as proven by what happened after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 , these displaced victims will simply leave the region to find employment and new places to live.

If they had the option to work, be trained in a new career, and have suitable housing, would they stay?

If we created this apprenticeship program that trained an entire new workforce, giving these people job skills they could use during and after the rebuilding process, it could motivate a large percentage of the victims to stay and reclaim their communities.

Ok, but would this idea save money?

Right now we will have to pay to house the victims, feed them, payout insurance claims, etc. We will also have to pay for construction workers to come in and rebuild. Basic facts and figures.

What if a sizable percentage of the money we plan to use to house and feed the victims could simultaneously pay for workforce?

That’s what I’m talking about by this apprenticeship program. Instead of paying to house and feed the victims AND paying strangers to come in and rebuild, we could save some of that money and invest it in the people to become the new workforce we need.

The modified apprenticeship program I’m imagining would provide on-the-job training, allowing people to learn a trade, to work, and participate in the rebuilding process. For a period of time, their salary would be the cost of their housing and the cost of basic food and toiletries.

Essentially, instead of paying the teams of contractors, we would be using that money to supplement what we need to pay to house and feed those displaced from the floods. As an added bonus, we would be working to solve part of the diminishing workforce problem in the coastal regions of Texas and Louisiana.

As I said above, this is a rough idea, but it’s an out-of-the-box idea that I think has merit.

Not only could we build and pay for a workforce at the same time, but we could also be preparing a workforce that could be used to deal with the massive infrastructure problems that contributed to the flooding itself, such as badly designed drainage systems, the levies and dams in disrepair, and other related issues.

A public works vocational apprenticeship training program such as this would give the victims reasons to stay in the area, which would avoid an economic collapse that would only further devastate the region. Likewise, those who currently feel lost after losing everything could gain a sense of pride, hope, and a real sense of community if they go through this program and participate in the rebuilding process. Furthermore, utilizing people who are already there can help offset costs, and the program would also serve to address some of the major vocational problems our country is facing with a dwindling pool of skilled trade workers.

Yes, this idea needs work – it’s still rough. We would still have to pay people to come in and train the workforce, and we would need to hire some more experienced construction workers to get things started.

That aside, we have to think of solutions that address a multitude of issues – what to do with those who’ve been displaced by the floods, how to rebuild, how to prevent this from happening again, budgetary concerns, maintaining economic stability, etc. Solutions to a problem of this magnitude will not be simple, but that does not mean the problem cannot be solved.

Advertisements

Why are Talks about Russian Orphans Such a Big Deal?

As the media circus concerning the actions of President Trump, his cabinet, and connections to Russia unfold, many people are questioning the significance of one key factor: namely, Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian lawyer, which supposedly resulted in a discussion about Russian orphans.

What exactly do these Russian orphans have to do with any of the politics going on right now?

Although the idea of Russian orphans may seem completely unrelated, when you connect the dots, the story creates a real-life thriller so complex that it would seem as if Steig Larsson has been writing our reality! I assure you that while everything may seem incredible, sometimes real life is far stranger than fiction.

How Did We Get to Talks about Russian Orphans?

In some of the latest developments concerning investigations into Russia and their involvement with the 2016 election and our current presidency, news has come out that Donald Trump Jr., along with Paul Manafort, (President Trump’s campaign chairman during the election), and Jared Kushner, (President Trump’s son-in-law), all attended a private meeting at Trump Towers with a Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya.

According to the Washington Post, as well as other reliable media sources, the meeting between Trump Jr., his associates, and the Russian lawyer were set up via email through a third-party, Rob Goldstone, who has known connections to Russia.

You can read a copy of the annotated emails by following this link. You can also learn more about how Goldstone is connected to the Trumps via this article in Wired .

In a nutshell, the emails implicated that Goldstone’s Russian connections had illegally obtained information about Hillary Clinton that would damage her reputation during the 2016 election. Trump Jr. clearly acknowledged that he wanted to acquire this information, which led to the meeting.

Since being questioned about that meeting, Trump Jr. first denied it, then later admitted to everything and claimed that the meeting had completely slipped his mind, since it was only 20 minutes and not much was discussed. He claimed that all that was discussed was Russian orphans.

As of August 1, 2017, allegations are being made that Trump Jr.’s statement about what occurred during the meeting may have been “dictated” by President Trump, according to both the Washington Post and the BBC . If President Trump was involved with creating his son’s statements, many have already surmised that such suspicious activity on top of everything else could lead to impeachment trials.

Okay – But What about the Russian Orphans?

The idea of Trump Jr. and his colleagues talking to some Russian lawyer about orphans seems bizarre in and of itself. How do you get from emails offering condemning material about Hillary Clinton to a 20 minute conversation about Russian orphans?

To understand this strange twist, you need to know about Bill Browder and The Magnitsky Act.

sd-what-is-magnitsky-act-2012-20170710

On July 25, 2017, Bill Browder released to The Atlantic his remarks on his upcoming hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee about the enforcement of the Foreign Agents Registration Act. The hearing, which took place on July 26th, can be viewed here .

In case you aren’t aware, Browder is a financier and the CEO of Hermitage Capital Management, which was one of the biggest firms advising Russia on investments prior to Vladimir Putin’s rise to power in Russia.

You can read Browder’s full remarks from The Atlantic article here . While I encourage everyone to read his story, it is a long piece, so I have prepared take away points to summarize:

  • Before Putin came to power, corrupt oligarchs were in power in Russia.
  • Browder was trying to expose the corruption, as was Putin.
  • While Browder and Putin were not friends, they had mutual goals.
  • Putin eliminated his competition and became the President.
  • Browder alleges that Putin came into power by eliminating the oligarchs and stealing $230 million.
  • Browder was trying to prove that Putin had stolen the money.
  • As a result of his investigations, Browder was kicked out of Russia.
  • Browder’s lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, was acting as Browder’s man on the ground to find out information about the corruption and to put pressure on the Kremlin.
  • Magnitsky was forcibly taken into custody by Putin’s regime in November 2008.
  • Magnitsky was detained (imprisoned) for almost a year.
  • During that time, he was tortured, deprived of sleep, starved, beaten, and received little to no medical care.
  • Magnitsky was told that if he signed documentation stating that he had stolen the money on Browder’s behalf, he would be set free.
  • Magnitsky refused to perjure himself and never signed any such documents, which is why the torture lasted for so long.
  • During his detainment, Magnitsky filed almost daily complaints with the Russian governments through his lawyer, documenting the whole sordid affair.
  • Magnitsky died in a detention facility in 2009 directly as a result of being beaten and receiving no medical attention.
  • No one was punished for this gross injustice!!!
  • Browder took it upon himself to do what he could to seek justice for Magnitsky.
  • While Putin could protect his followers in Russia, Browder knew that most of Putin’s money and the money of his underlings were in the West.
  • Browder knew he needed to hit them where it would hurt, their wallets.
  • Browder presented his findings and information about what happened to Magnitsky to government committees all around the world.
  • In 2012, The Magnitsky Act was signed into law in America.

Alex Horton provided a thorough explanation of The Magnitsky Act in this article from The Washington Post. In the article, Horton summarized the effects of the law as follows:

“The Magnitsky Act was signed by President Barack Obama in December 2012 as a retaliation against the human rights abuses suffered by Magnitsky. The law at first blocked 18 Russian government officials and businessmen from entering the United States, froze any assets held by U.S. banks and banned their future use of U.S. banking systems. The act was expanded in 2016, and now sanctions apply to 44 suspected human rights abusers worldwide.”

The government officials described above were those who had helped Putin rise to power, and who Putin was protecting. Before the act was signed into law, Browder implied that Putin’s protection also gave these government officials small fortunes. By implementing The Magnitsky Act, the government officials would no longer be able to access these fortunes promised to them by Putin, thus reducing his power and his support.

Browder has acknowledged that he feels more should be done to punish those responsible for what happened to Magnitsky, but given the levels of corruption in Russia, Browder also realized that creating the law was his only course of action to get some form of justice for his fallen friend.

Still Wondering about the Russian Orphans?

Okay – we’re really at the part about the orphans. (Thanks for sticking with me!)

In Browder’s statement in The Atlantic, he makes the following comment concerning what happened after The Magnitsky Act went into effect:

“Putin was furious. Looking for ways to retaliate against American interests, he settled on the most sadistic and evil option of all: banning the adoption of Russian orphans by American families.” (Browder)

Starting to connect the dots, yet? Let me help you make a few more connections.

After The Magnitsky Act was signed into law, Putin was in a difficult spot. Especially since information exposed in the Panama Papers, according to Browder, could implicate Putin and make him subject to The Magnitsky Act himself, which would freeze an immense amount of his fortunes. Therefore, Putin used his fortune, his political influence, and the Russian government to try to have the act repealed.

The Russian government and their associates have tried discrediting Browder’s story, and they have been lobbying for support in the U.S. to repeal the law. All of their attempts have proven fruitless thus far, according to Browder.

The group of Russians who were trying to repeal the act here in the U.S. were working on behalf of two Russian government officials, Denis and Pyotr Katsyv, a father and son team. Their lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, proved a major force in their lobbying efforts.

Does her name look familiar?

That’s because Veselnitskaya is THE SAME LAWYER who had the meeting with Donald Trump Jr.!!!!

“Russian Orphans” as Possible Code for Talks of Dismantling The Magnitsky Act

170717155826-restricted-donald-trump-jr-russia-meeting-kushner-manafort-goldstone-veselnitskaya-agalarov-akhmetshin-full-169

The 20 minute conversation about Russian orphans, in my own personal opinion, was probably a discussion about what would be expected of Trump Jr. and his father, should they accept potential assistance from Russia.

In my imaginings of the meeting, I picture the lawyer explaining or implying that if Trump came into power, particularly as a result of whatever incriminating information about Hillary Clinton was being offered to Trump Jr., as described in his emails, and should Trump gain the presidency, he would be expected to repeal this act and the sanctions connected to it.

While I do not know for a fact if my opinion and analysis described in the above paragraph is accurate, the players involved and the presented evidence do make one suspicious of everyone’s intentions.

After all, why would a lawyer who’s been working for the people lobbying for the repeal of the act suddenly be talking to Trump Jr. about Russian orphans? And, if the meeting between Trump Jr. and the lawyer was set up under the belief that Trump Jr. would be receiving damning documents about Clinton, why else would the lawyer bring up the topic of Russian orphans if she did not hope to lobby for the support of the Trumps in dismantling the act?

136197

What to Say (Cite) When Conservatives Say Obama ALSO Banned Muslims

Background

We have seen a barrage of articles praising and chastising Trump for his recent executive order effectively banning people from 7 mainly-Muslim countries from visiting the United States. There have been countless protests at airports against this executive order. Political leaders have made their opinions against Trump’s executive order known, and other societal leaders have also spoken out against Trump’s order.

In response to all the protests, conservatives have been making statements that liberals are hypocrites, because they did not accuse Obama of being a bigot or anti-Muslim when Obama supposedly “did the same thing” and “banned Muslims.”

I saw the following video claiming these conservative viewpoints posted on various social media boards within the past 24 hours:

The video was promoted by Infowars.com, which was founded by radio host Alex Jones, who is noted  as the leading conspiracy theorist in the nation, according to the New York Magazine.

Infowars.com has an obvious conservative slant, which already makes me suspicious of anything they post. Furthermore, the news headlines used in the video were predominately also published on pro-conservative and anti-liberal sites, including Fox News.

In case you’re unfamiliar with which news sources are slanted, the following graphic provides a rather clear guide:

News stations.jpg

 

Going Beyond the Anger and into the Debate

When I saw the Infowars.com video, I admit at first I was angry, because I am more liberal than not. After I got over the anger, I started wondering about Obama and these allegations, since I’m a critical thinker and thinking is what I do. I could not say whether or not the video was completely wrong, because I simply did not know the facts.

When I saw this video, it was in the middle of my work day, and I really didn’t have the time to do the research right then and there. I told myself I would check into it later.

At some point I did take a break from my day to read “Trump has fired the acting attorney general who ordered Justice Dept. not to defend president’s travel ban,” which was written by Matt Zapotosky, Sari Horwitz and Mark Berman, and posted in The Washington Post on January 30, 2017.

The information in this article is impressive, and there are some major quotes in it that truly struck a chord with me. I shared this article on my Facebook feed, citing the following quote and my response to it:

“She has to be asked to resign immediately,” Terwilliger said. “Look, the executive branch of our government is unitary. There’s only one boss, and that boss has spoken. If some subordinate official thinks that his direction is illegal, than the choice is to resign.”—This quote implies a dictatorship, not a democracy. WTF!

Some of my conservative associates and family members – yes liberals have these connections – made some disparaging comments about the article I had shared. To continue the discussion with them, I would have to make the time to do the research, which is what I did this morning.

My mostly liberal friends and associates have urged me to turn my multiple responses into one, easily shareable post, which I now give all of you to review, share, and discuss.


 

democrat-republican

As to claims about Obama’s executive order doing the same thing, I believe this comparison is faulty.

Obama did not unilaterally ban Muslims. Obama’s ban was in direct response to Iraqi terrorists who were living in Kentucky. These terrorists had lied about their past terrorist connections, and it was found that they were directly involved in bombings, as proven with fingerprint evidence.

In response to that, Obama banned visas for Iraqi refugees for a period of six months. During that period, however, there were still Iraqi refugees being allowed into the country, but due to what happened in Kentucky, the visa process became far more in-depth as a means of national security.

In comparison, whereas Obama’s executive order was direct and specific as a response to an immediate threat, Trump’s order is broad, vague, and neither he nor his supporters have yet to show any evidence as to why they are completely banning individuals from entering the country who have not been directly connected with acts of terror.

Trump has stated that he is simply continuing with the policies from the previous presidency, namely Obama’s. This is a gross overgeneralization on Trump’s part.

According to Trump’s executive order, the countries listed in his executive order are “countries designated pursuant to Division O, Title II, Section 203 of the 2016 consolidated Appropriations Act.” This references the policies of the Obama administration.

Prior to Obama’s policy, citizens from a designated 38 countries, (including the 7 Trump has listed), were permitted to enter the United States without a visa for a limited period of about three months. After Obama’s act, and after the Kentucky incident, citizens from these 38 designated countries who had ALSO recently traveled into Iraq were not allowed the luxury of being able to travel into the U.S. without completing the visa process.

Therefore, due to suspicion of proven terrorism, those traveling in and out of certain countries had to go through the proper channels. This is not the same as completely banning them and stopping them from entering the country, as is happening with Trump’s executive order. Obama’s administration merely made the process of entering the country take longer to verify that those entering the country were not doing so under false pretenses or with connections to terrorists.

You can verify the facts for these above statements by checking out Linda Qiu’s article, “Why comparing Trump’s and Obama’s immigration restrictions is flawed,” or Eugene Kiely’s article, “Trump’s Faulty Refugee Policy Comparison.”

6a00d8341fcbf753ef016305a95be5970d-320wi

My comment on dictatorship was in direct response to the quote by Terwilliger that was from the original Zapotosky, Horwitz, and Berman article listed above.

Let me say that it is not the job of the U.S. President to make all the decisions and all of us to say yes to those decisions. The president has a lot of authority to make executive orders, amongst other powers he or she possesses. Nevertheless, the Senate and Congress, on behalf of the citizens of the country, have the right to oppose, argue, and debate whether the laws or executive orders set by the president are in the best interest of the country and whether they uphold the principles for which this country stands.

For Terwilliger to say “(t)here’s only one boss, and that boss has spoken. If some subordinate official thinks that his direction is illegal, than the choice is to resign,” implies that there is no due process, that checks and balances do not matter, and that whatever the “boss” says is the only thing that will happen. That is NOT what this country is built on. Also, the Attorney General is the HEAD of the DOJ, and not some “subordinate official.”

doj.jpg

As to comments about the Attorney General (AG) not doing her job, and analogies about what would happen if, for example, a nurse did not administer meds ordered, because he or she had a difference in opinion about those meds, well, frankly, analogies like these are unfair, as they do not reflect the reality of the situation or adequately compare job duties fairly.

According to WhiteHouse.gov, the AG is part of the executive branch and is head of the Department of Justice. Per their information,

“(t)he mission of the Department of Justice (DOJ) is to enforce the law and defend the interests of the United States according to the law; to ensure public safety against threats foreign and domestic; to provide federal leadership in preventing and controlling crime; to seek just punishment for those guilty of unlawful behavior; and to ensure fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans.”

Therefore, as head of the DOJ, the AG’s job is to make sure that any laws created by the president or by Congress stay consistent with current policies, that they are lawful, that they do not in and of themselves commit crimes, and that these laws maintain safety. The AG’s job is to act as a system of checks and balances and verify that his/her superiors are acting in accordance with policies, laws, and that they are meeting the standards of the country.

The AG is quality and consistency control.

In contrast, a nurse’s job is to follow the orders of his/her superiors, although if those orders were immediately life-threatening, a nurse would have the right to say something and not administer the medication/treatment.

Likewise, if the laws created by Congress or by any order of the president were threatening to the legal system or to the standards of the country, the AG is REQUIRED to point that out.

Sally Yates’ decision to order the lawyers within the DOJ not to defend or support Trump’s executive order was because the broad nature of the executive order did not meet the criteria for being completely lawful, as per the policies of the DOJ. In addition, the lack of evidence that would have provided reasons for targeting individuals from those countries has not been fully provided.

In other words, she was doing her job.

It seems rather clear that the Trump administration’s continual use of the label “a leftover of the Obama administration” in reference to Yates blatantly dismisses and ignores the fact that she was doing her job. Instead of acknowledging that fact, it is my opinion that they used it as an excuse to expedite her removal from the DOJ.

president-seal1

Furthermore, as explained in this article posted in The Washington Post, an executive order “is not the president creating new law or appropriating new money from the U.S. Treasury — both things that are the domain of Congress.” Thus, any of the orders or memorandums the president creates are what the president wants the country to do and what the president believes need to be the top priority. It is still the job of Congress, especially the DOJ, to verify if these orders are valid, lawful, worth pursuing, worth discussing, etc.

Lastly, let’s address comments about the number of executive orders, and how conservatives believe that Obama made the most orders of all presidents.

The “American Presidency Project,” funded and operated by UC Santa Barbara, provides an excellent table that clearly shows the number of executive orders given by each president.

As you can see from this link, the president who made the most executive orders was actually Franklin D. Roosevelt, with a total of 3,721. Here is a listing of presidents between 1981 and 2016 with the total of executive orders they made during their single or double term presidencies:

  • Ronald Reagan = 381
  • George Bush Sr. = 166
  • William “Bill” Clinton = 364
  • George W. Bush = 291
  • Barack Obama = 276

By these numbers, conservative presidents over the past 35 years have created 838 executive orders, and liberal presidents have created 640.

I have not found a confirmed number for the amount of orders signed by Trump as of January 31, 2017, as most places only update these numbers on a monthly basis, and Trump has only been president for 11 days.

What Amazon Is NOT Doing for Kindle Users — L. Rigdon Wants You to Know!

Today I received an email from one of my fans who is blind. My fan indicated that the assistive technology that he/she uses for reading books is not compatible with Kindle. My fan wanted to know if I published on Smashwords, as that is a more blind-friendly platform.

First of all – I was shocked!

How can a company as big as Amazon not have this technical issue sorted?

I am not blind, but I am disabled. I use adaptive technology to do ALL of my writing. I know how frustrating it is when you have to take a bunch of extra steps just because your technology doesn’t always work with everything else on your computer or online. Sympathizing with my fan’s frustration, I had to find a way to help.

news-121004

I told my fan that I would do some research and see what I could find on solving this problem. What I found were several articles, including this article by David Faucheux, a well-known audiobook reviewer who is also blind. Faucheux’s article reflects all of the immense issues that others have been discussing across the Internet concerning usability for blind users. The main issues he mentions include:

  • Lack of sufficient instructional information in braille or in an audio format
  • Instructional information is not always written by people with experience educating the blind
  • Customer support teams don’t have enough training to work with blind users
  • Customer support teams don’t always employ blind workers who may be better equipped at helping blind users

Because of these and other problems, blind users and partially blind users are struggling to even make Kindle’s work, let alone find their way to the books they want to read, plus all the problems with the text-to-speech apps not always reading the books appropriately.

From what I have read in these various articles, there are several assistive technology programs that can read books to blind or partially blind individuals. Unfortunately, these programs don’t work with all book formats, and since Kindle uses a proprietary format, the format itself causes the issue.

Smashwords, among other book retailers, offers customers the option of different formats when they buy books. Multiple formats give blind users a better chance of finding a version of the book they want to read in a format that their assistive technology can understand.

My Plan Moving Forward

I would hope that someday Amazon will get things figured out and become more user-friendly for the blind community. Until then, I need to make some changes so that all of my fans can have the access they need to enjoy my books.

Up until now, all of my books have been enrolled in the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) program. For authors, Amazon has this KDP program to have exclusive rights to sell your books. They give you other perks, but for the most part they are trying to make the most money off of your books.

The KDP program automatically renews every 90 days. You can opt out of the program, but you have to specifically opt out on each book before the next cycle. In addition, even if you opt out, you have to wait for the 90 days to end, otherwise you are in breach of contract.

I have just opted out of the KDP program on all of my books. The cycles were not in sync, so each book will be officially out of the program on a different day. But, I will hopefully have all of my books available on Smashwords by the end of February.

I plan to release all my books from here on out on both Smashwords and Amazon, but I will avoid the KDP program altogether. I want my books to be available to as many people as possible, and that means making it available in as many formats as possible, which is why I think using both platforms will be the best way to reach everyone.

Helping Refugees: Advice From One Poor Person to Another

While scrolling through my Facebook feed, I came across Neil Gaiman’s post about his poem, “What They Took with Them,” which promotes standing with the refugees. This jarring and moving poem can be found –>here<– , as read aloud by Neil Gaiman, along with Cate Blanchett, Keira Knightley, Juliet Stevenson, Peter Capaldi, Stanley Tucci, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kit Harington, Douglas Booth, and Jesse Eisenberg, as part of the #WithRefugees campaign, hosted by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the UN Refugee Agency.

As I listened to Neil Gaiman’s poetry spoken through his own mouth and through the mouths of so many actors I respect, I began to think about the refugees, their plight, and what I would do in their place. Having recently moved, I’ve become profoundly aware of the belongings I store, the ones I use, and the ones I keep with me for no other reason than to keep them. Yes, these are merely things, but they are the things I’ve carefully wrapped, packaged, and dragged with me from move to move throughout my adult life. The thought of being forced out of my home in a matter of minutes, if not seconds, with little else than my life and, hopefully, my family, scares me to the core.

Please do not misunderstand me.

Logically, I know I do not need all of the belongings I carry with me. That said, if having pared down and downsized three times in the past three years has taught me anything, it’s that the things we carry are the same things we use to keep connected to our past and to our identity. Even though I am still me without these things I have lost or left behind, I feel disjointed in the here and now, because the handful of broken pieces I have should fit together, but, more often than not, the pieces refuse to come together.

This must be how the refugees feel all the time, I imagine.

In time you can rebuild yourself, but the self you build is new. The shadows of your past haunt you like ghosts or half-forgotten dreams, and they influence how you rebuild the new you. The physical things you lose or leave behind were your connection with who you once were, and without them you are left always grasping for that part of you that was once here but will never be now.

What Can a Poor Person like Me Do to Help?

26f99cfWhen I see celebrities promoting awareness and encouraging citizens to act, I commend them for being good examples to the rest of us, but a part of me struggles and feels unable to help. I live paycheck-to-paycheck. My family and I are barely getting by, and we are currently seeking better employment options to improve our situation. Even when we do improve our situation, it may only be by so much, making any financial contribution we could offer to charities minimal at best.

I know of the analogy that even if everyone gave only a dollar, those dollars would add up to lots of funding, but to whom do I trust my dollar?

There are many organizations that do help social causes, like the refugees, but a large number of these “non-profit” organizations only deliver a percentage of my dollar to the people they claim to be helping. The rest of my donation goes to pay for the organization to keep itself running. While I agree that the people working in the organizations should receive compensation for their efforts, and I know it takes an infrastructure to solve world problems, I still feel uncertain of who to trust. After all, when you have so little free capital to give away, you want to make sure you’re giving it to someone who will do the most good.

Since I do have so little free capital, I figure that the next best thing I can do is to provide you with some insight about who provides the most help, so that even a poor person like me can reach out to do the most good somewhere else.

For this post, I’m only going to look at organizations helping the refugees worldwide. If I miss any organization, please feel free to add them in the comments.

Which Charities Do the Most Good?

general_rectangleCharity Navigator  is a non-profit organization that reviews different charities and verifies each organization’s level of transparency and legitimacy. It also gathers data to prove how much of the money goes out to the causes each charity supports. You can go to their site and look up any charity for a full free report.

Below I have included a list of the charities that help refugees. Some of these charities focus exclusively on refugees, but other charities may have a wider area of focus. This list also indicates the percentage of donations that go directly to the refugees and supporting programs, according to Charity Navigator records published in June 2016.

United States Fund for UNICEF = 90.3%
International Rescue Committee = 91.9%
Catholic Relief Services = 92.7%
Hias  = 87.8%
Islamic Relief USA  = 87.2%
USA for UNHCR = 54.8%
Oxfam = 77.8%
Save the Children  = 90.2%
Refugees International = 80.7%
Friends of Refugees of Eastern Europe = 76.6%
American Refugee Committee = 90.1%
Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition = 83.2%

Things to Consider Before you Give Money

If you can donate money, there are a few factors you should consider. As Tara Siegel Bernard explains in her article, “How to Help in a Global Refugee Crisis” , providing money for a refugee’s immediate necessities is good, but it doesn’t solve the overall problem. Refugees need help with relocating, education, training, and rebuilding. Finding organizations that have programs geared for these purposes will make whatever money you can donate go a little further.

Siegel Bernard also recommends being selective when you choose any charitable organization. In terms of refugees, if you want to do the most good, you need to choose organizations that are situated in places where refugees are in the most need. For instance, if you choose an organization that has offices here in the states, but has no one on the ground in countries that are overrun with refugees, you have to wonder how much good that organization will do. Therefore, you want to choose organizations that can accomplish their goals and provide direct help to the people in need.

How to Avoid Being Scammed

bigstock-computer-crime-fraud-scam-33085697Sadly, there are horrible people in this world who would lie to you simply so they can pocket your money. Many organizations have a list of recommendations to help you steer clear of any scandals. For example, UNICEF warns against organizations who ask for funds sent by Western Union. They also state to be wary of emails claiming that funds are needed to help charity employees get back home, to pay for medical bills, or for third-party companies supposedly arranging travel accommodations for charity workers. In addition, UNICEF points out that fraudulent charities may try to trick you by promising a commission, a reward, or something else in exchange for your donation.

The Center for High Impact Philanthropy,  as run at the University of Pennsylvania, offers a significant amount of education materials about the entire philanthropic process, including a discussion on how to create greater social change through identifying which philanthropic causes are best situated to produce the highest level of change. The organization also participates in researching charities, and it produces reports that help people determine which organizations to support. The Center for High Impact Philanthropy also makes the following recommendations on how to avoid being scammed:

  • Do some rudimentary research online to see if a charity is legit
  • Make use of organizations that provide free and unbiased reviews of non-profit organizations
  • Before you donate money, see if you can volunteer your time as a way to get involved and make sure the organization is real

A Fairy and a Leprechaun Walk into a Bar . . .

My Thoughts about St. Patrick’s Day
By L. Rigdon

On a cold day in January, a production company invited a fairy and a leprechaun to a photo shoot. The production company was working on some new marketing ideas for St. Patrick’s Day, and spared no expense to take elaborate photos of the fairy and the leprechaun in various poses to promote the holiday.

After the photo shoot, the fairy and the leprechaun went out for a drink.

The two had known each other for ages, twelve and a half centuries to be precise, and they enjoyed chit-chatting about different things. After several hours of drinking and talking had passed, the leprechaun looked around to make sure no one else was paying attention before he started talking to the fairy in a language only understood by the Fae Folk.

“I’ve been meaning to ask you something all these years that we’ve been doing these silly photo shoots, and I can’t put it off any longer.”

Smiling mischievously, the fairy leaned in closely. “Well by all means, ask away. You know we have no secrets.”

“Okay, well as far as I know, there isn’t a single Catholic or Christian amongst the Fae, right?”

“None as far as I’m aware,” answered the fairy.

“Then why do they want to take pictures of us for a Catholic holiday? I mean, the Pagans and Celts believed in fairies and leprechauns and the like, but St. Patrick forced all the non-Catholics to convert. That’s why the Catholics have this holiday, isn’t it?”

“Oh, Cousin, that was just the first stage.”

“The first stage?” The leprechaun seemed surprised. “How many stages are there?”

saintpatrick“Well we’re in the third stage right now.” She took a quick sip of her drink before she continued. “The first stage was about all the Pagans and Protestants being forced to convert to Catholicism, causing devastating problems for our people, as I’m sure you remember.”

“Aye,” he replied.

“That stage only lasted for so long, the whole rush for one country to be one religion, I mean. The second stage started when other countries began taking over Ireland, and Irish immigrants were forced to flee. At that point, celebrating the holiday was a way to relate to your fellow Irishmen, making the second stage one of nationalism.”

“You don’t say?” The leprechaun leaned back in his chair with his mug in hand. “Well keep going and tell me about the third stage, as you call it.”

On-Being-Irish-American-Ancestry“Irish nationalism was all well and good, I mean most fairies and leprechauns are Irish, so we’re just as proud. But nationalism in a country like America can get a little tricky when you have so many people from so many different places. That’s when the third stage happened, the stage of commercialism. Irish people wanted St. Patrick’s Day, so they could celebrate their heritage and their religious rites, but they also wanted to promote their home country of Ireland for tourism.”

“So this third stage is about tourism? Then how do we fit into the picture?”

“If you want something to sell, especially here in the States, you’ve got to make it pop! Being religious won’t sell a holiday. Being Irish or wanting to be Irish is good, but it’s still missing something. That’s where we fit in. When people think of the Irish they think of all the folklore. People dressing up like fairies and leprechauns, wearing green clothing, and pinning on fake shamrocks all make for a fantastic marketing campaign.”

“So the holiday that was originally based on getting rid of the people who actually worshiped the Fae Folk is now the same holiday that uses the Fae Folk as marketing mascots?” He felt confused at this point and took another sip of his drink.

“Cousin, it’s the 21st-century. People don’t know the truth about their holidays anymore! Most holidays are about getting the day off of work and getting drunk,” she explained.

“So why don’t they just call it ‘National Get off of Work and Get Drunk Day’?” He asked.

“Because they would only get one day off a year if they did it that way! By calling each holiday by a different name, like St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo, Presidents’ Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, etc., they can have several days during the year when they can get off of work and get drunk,” she replied.

“Well I guess I can’t argue with that logic.” The leprechaun finished his drink and ordered another round. He chuckled to himself as he said, “An excuse to get drunk and get off of work! What will these mortals think of next?”

st.-patricks-day-marketing-ideas-2-660x370© L. Rigdon 2008
[Edited 2016]

[Featured picture from this FABULOUS article: “US leprechauns versus Irish fairies – a St. Patrick’s Day death match”]

Smokin’ Hot vs. Beautiful: What’s the Difference?

You might think these terms are interchangeable, or that they mean the same thing, but listen to the nuances:

  1. That girl is beautiful.
  2. That girl is smokin’ hot.

Do you see it now?

In western English, predominantly in the states, the second sentence above indicates a more attractive girl than the first sentence describes. In fact, the second sentence would usually be ended with an exclamation mark to emphasize the level of attractiveness, but I didn’t want to sway your judgment.

Beauty is based on a purely subjective scale – let’s not kid ourselves. With this example of two words that seem synonymous, yet have subtle differences, how does the ranking on that subjective scale work? More importantly, what are the effects of that ranking?

Splitting Hairs and Defining the Difference

We possess an endless stream of adjectives that describe the concept of beauty. Check out these examples:

  • Beautiful
  • Pretty
  • Attractive
  • Handsome
  • Lovely
  • Hot
  • Gorgeous
  • Charming
  • Stunning
  • Ravishing
  • Smokin’ hot

Grammatically, these words act as synonyms to one another, but given the rules of society, we attribute different levels of beauty or attractiveness to each of these terms. Sticking with just the two terms in the title of this post, what are the differences between smokin’ hot and beautiful?

Believe it or not, it comes down to general beauty versus specific beauty.

The term beautiful, along with several other of the above adjective examples, represents a general description of attractiveness. It lacks specificity. Thus, a wider range of items or individuals can be assigned to the term beautiful, because they meet the most general requirements of attractiveness.

For contrast, smokin hot wolf reactionlet’s look at the term smokin’ hot. The adjective, “hot” is being modified by the adverb, “smokin’.” In simple terms, it implies that a person’s attractiveness level is beyond just hot, and has reached such levels of beauty that it must be emphasized with an additional word.
The specificity of smokin’ hot is not used to describe just anyone. Unlike the general terms beautiful, pretty, or attractive, to be considered smokin’ hot requires that someone exceed the typical social construct of beauty. More often than not, this term is based solely on superficial appearances, and lends itself to completely objectify the female, male, or other subject in question.

Unintended Results of the Attractiveness Scale

I don’t want to talk about the psychological damages of not being considered beautiful, or the fact that the social construct of beauty often represents an unattainable standard.

What I want to talk about here pertains to the experiences of attractive women.

I myself know that I am beautiful. I do not say this to brag or to fish for compliments. I know where I am on the scale, I know how far I am from the American social construct of smokin’ hot, and I’m comfortable with that.

In my life, I have been fortunate enough to know several women who certainly rank within the smokin’ hot category. A few of them were even my fellow classmates during my undergrad and graduate studies. As I was thinking about writing this blog, I looked back at the shared experiences I had with these women, and I noticed some disturbing factors.

With one of the women I knew, I remember admiring her beauty from afar, because she was/is amazingly gorgeous, but I also remember she almost always sat against the wall or in the back, and she didn’t contribute much in class during our undergraduate studies. In fact, it wasn’t until graduate studies that I realized her level of brilliance. One of my professors had us make posts on an online messaging platform, and we had to reply to several of our classmates. As it was a small class, you got to see everyone’s internal thoughts rather quickly. Her interpretation of Renaissance literature blew my mind away! I had NO idea she had this level of skill or intelligence, because I got stuck on the gorgeous façade of her body.

From then on I made an effort to try and engage her to talk in class. I noticed others do the same. Granted, we were in a smaller class, and many of us had known each other for years within the major, and perhaps that made her feel more comfortable as well. When I started hanging out with her and some of the other grad students socially, she talked about her life and her experiences.

bitch facePeople hit on her constantly since she was a teenager, seeing her for nothing more than a trophy or a conquest. She tried dismissing them politely at first, but they didn’t stop, and often made her feel unsafe. She had to develop what she called the “bitch face” as a way to tell people to back off! Most of her life she had been seen but not heard, because her level of attractiveness was so high that people never expected anything out of her. She could have taken the easy road and let people do things for her, buy things for her, but that’s not who she was. Yes, physically she was and remains breathtakingly attractive, but she refuses to let her brilliant mind stay idle.
I had two other grad students in my class in similar situations. Both phenomenally gorgeous, and both also had to create facades that pushed people away. The bitch face defense seems a common tool among smokin’ hot women who are also blessed with brains.

As I thought about my female friends and how they dealt with this stigma of beauty, I thought about myself and what I have done.

Yes, I’m beautiful, but I never felt like people expected me to just sit there, say nothing, and be pretty. My level of beauty has always been pleasing enough that people enjoy my presence, but part of that enjoyment exchange has given me the access to be outspoken, to say my ideas without fear, and to have lengthy discussions with all manner of individuals. I’m sure that I get objectified for my level of attractiveness, but because I never had to contend with such dismissive behavior from onlookers, as my smokin’ hot friends have had to do, I learned early on how to assert my dominance in a conversation. My degree of beauty may have opened the door to these conversations, but I have always felt that people continued listening to me more for my mind than for my looks.

Brilliant Minds in Beautiful Bodies

agent-carter-9999Going beyond myself and my own experiences, I see similar examples in television today. The show Agent Carter,  for example, has the lead female character as both beautiful and brilliant. Physically, the actress playing Peggy Carter, Hayley Atwell, is quite good-looking, but she is not considered by societal standards to be smokin’ hot.

I think this was a deliberate choice by the writers and directors.

By choosing a beautiful but not smokin’ hot actress to play Carter, it confirms the fact that if a woman is too beautiful she will NOT be listened to. Instead, she would be treated like how everyone treated the characters played by Marilyn Monroe, for instance – they patted the hot bombshell on the head and let her giggle her way through everything. They expected nothing more of her than for her beauty to please them.

In this season of Agent Carter – and by the way ***SPOILER ALERT*** – the show goes one step further to underscore this aspect of the attractiveness scale.

Peggy’s main adversary right now, Whitney Frost (Wynn Everett), is a woman with such genius level intelligence that her brilliance is off the charts, as described in the show. Frost’s back story shows that she possessed a technological aptitude from a young age, but it also shows her having one of the great flaws of true genius, which is a lack of social skills. Frost’s mother, a single woman who has nothing except her looks to get her through life, consistently chastises her daughter for not being nice to the man who is taking care of them, a man who treats Frost’s mother as a kept woman/prostitute. As Frost grows up, her mother’s relationship with this man deteriorates, and when he finally leaves, Frost’s mother blames her daughter in part for not being nicer to him. The mother then takes the teenage Frost into the bathroom to show her her reflection and to tell her that no one in life will ever take her seriously for her brains, because she’s a woman.

(Remember, this is supposed to be early 1920s/1930s mentality).

From this impressionable age, Frost learns that she has to hide not only her intelligence, but her animosity towards those who see her only for her beauty. Instead of developing the bitch face, though, as 21st century women do, Frost does the exact opposite. She creates something akin to what I call the helpless doll face as a way to play on the desires of her onlookers, only to use those desires against them.

Frost uses people by letting them believe they are using her. She uses that leverage to get in a position of power. Frost becomes a famous movie actress married to a wealthy scientist/businessman. Through her power over her pushover husband, she can use her helpless doll face to manipulate him into practically anything, allowing her to assert her brilliance from the sidelines as she gets her husband’s company to lead their research down the scientific avenues of her choosing.

WhitneyFrost-Growing-Scar-Mirror

Of course, as she gets inflicted with zero matter, and becomes more physically powerful, she no longer needs her husband, and gets rid of him after he betrays her. Yet even with this immense power she now wields, the secret society of men she aligns herself with still mostly refuse to see her brilliance. All they can see is how the zero matter has scarred her once stunning face. To be honest, she still looks amazingly beautiful, even with the weird zero matter lines on her face, but the men’s reactions of absolute disgust to her visage further underscore the concept and trappings of the smokin’ hot label. These men have attributed everything she has, her worth, to her high level of beauty. In their eyes, without that beauty she loses everything, hence their reactions. They cannot see her as anything other than an object of beauty, despite her brilliance.

Due to the era and the social constructs, Frost chose to go with the whims of society and used their label of smokin’ hot against them. Manipulating people and navigating through the system allowed her to move far, even while being forced to the sidelines. In playing the game within a society that does not possess the same level of female mobility, compared to modern day society, though, Frost seals her own fate. By allowing society to label her as smokin’ hot, she will remain in the objectfied position, either as something wondrous for them to look at, or as a monster for them to try and control.

Glittersin: A Fun New Word

 

During the holidays, glitter gets around faster than Santa!

Of course, glitter isn’t just for the holidays. It stays around all year long, no matter how much you try to wash it out. As a result of all the glitter, I have decided that there should be a word that describes the mess and the madness, and that word is:

Glittersin

What Does It Mean and How Do I Use It in a Sentence?

First of all, glitter in moderation is okay. It adds a dash of sparkle to everything, and in some instances you need a little extra shimmer.

Unfortunately, most people go overboard when it comes to glitter, and by doing so they have stumbled into the territory of glittersin.

In simplest terms, you use the word “glittersin” to describe a person, item, or décor that has gone overboard with glitter. I understand that this glitter assessment is subjective, but as you’ll see from the examples below, there are clear instances of glittersin.

You can throw this new word into any conversation. Here are some examples:

“Did you see that glittersin of a dress over there?”
“Let’s glittersin it up!”
“What sweet glittersin is this?”
“Hello, my little glittersin.”
“Touch me with that glittersin and you will lose an eye!”

As you’ll notice, there is no space between the word “glitter” and “sin.” Combining these two words into one word further underscores the level of atrocity with true glittersins.

Examples of Glittersins from Around the Web

 

rainbow-glitter-pills.jpgWhen I see this picture, I shudder to think that people are taking pills to poop glitter. Talk about the epitome of going too far! According to this article on Vocativ.com, these pills are meant as a novelty item and are sold through many outlets, predominantly Etsy.com. Besides the novelty, according to this article, even the makers of glitter pills don’t understand exactly why people are buying them. Some people give the pills as humorous gifts, others open the pills and use the glitter for makeup or crafting. All in all, when you could just buy glitter in bottles, this seems excessive and silly. Thus, GLITTERSIN!

 

edward_sparkling-1A sparkly vampire!?!? Because a humanized monster has to be covered in glitter (?). Is the glitter supposed to make vampires look like gods or something? If anything, the idea of something murderous being shiny is even more evil, since everyone knows that shiny things attract people. In this world of fiction, glittery skin might be an evolutionary thing to attract prey, but in my world of reality – GLITTERSIN!

glitter-beards-7

When I first saw the glitter beard images online and on social media, I had my WTF moment. I thought maybe it was a pro-LGBT statement, which I would totally support. Then I wondered if the pictures had been doctored for the season, because who would be crazy enough to cover their beards in glitter? Apparently these guys: The Gay Beards. As entertaining as their video is, glitter beard = glittersin.

3040931-inline-i-1-glitterEven though the word “glittersin” may not yet be in anyone’s lexicon, the idea of glittersin has been around for a while, as proven by the company that started weaponizing glitter. Dave McGinn, a reporter for The Globe and Mail, discovered that the company that sends your enemies glitter originated in Australia. The person who started the company had to shut down the site due to an excessive amount of orders that could not be filled. The company was sold, and per McGinn’s research, currently there are two companies in Canada providing the glitter bomb service.

Unfortunately, McGinn discovered the expectation of glitter bombing your enemies is fairly different from the reality of sending glitter in the mail.

web-glitter105

Yep, that’s it. A mean letter with like maybe a few tablespoons of glitter. Talk about a failed attempt at vengeance!

Can you describe sending glitter to your enemies as a glittersin? As it is not a bomb of glitter and more of a vague inconvenience, I would say no. You could describe the idea of using glitter for vengeance as glittersin, since it is going one step too far with glitter, much like this idea:

glitter revenge

Tradition and Interesting Typos

keep_calm_and_write_obits_mug_jumbo_mug-r74dfe68aeaed40f0a8f1808b18374e75_2wn1h_8byvr_325Of all the documents you write, you definitely want to avoid typos on an obituary. It’s most likely the last thing anyone will ever read about your deceased loved one, so you want the obituary as close to perfect as possible. If you’re a professional writer, like me, the pressure for perfection is on!

As you know from my previous post, I was staying with family as we waited for my father to pass. He finally did pass a few weeks ago – quietly, in his sleep, and in his own home – and after he passed my mom, my family, and I began getting everything in order for the services. We wanted to get the obituary out somewhat quickly, because my dad made friends with practically everyone he had ever met, and we figured that between Facebook and the obituary that we would reach all parties interested in attending his services.

I volunteered to write the obituary, and I took the time to read through some local obituaries to see comparisons for format and the like. I then wrote down some notes, tinkered with my notes for a while, and finally had a first draft ready to read to my mom and my Aunt. My mom gave me a few corrections about specific dates, but overall she was cool with the content and layout.

Before I officially posted it with the newspapers, I reread and proofread it at least three or four times. As far as I could tell, everything seemed accurate, so I submitted it to the newspapers and received confirmation and PDF proofs almost immediately. I printed the proof so that other family members could see what the obituary would look like. One of my family members came to the house and read through the proof. At the time, I was in the other room, but I could hear the family member as he commented,

“Shouldn’t this be ‘is survived by’?”

From the other room, I rolled my eyes, but instead of starting a fight, I bit my tongue. Emotions were high, after all, as it had only been three days since my father had passed. So I called out that if I had made a typo, it was too late now, and that I was sorry for missing an error. I later looked at the proof and saw that I had put “has survived by.”

Typo or Perfectly Apropos?

My mom, my partners, and everyone else said not to worry about a tiny mistake like that, especially with all the other stress on my mind at the time. Nevertheless, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. In part, it upset me so much because of how the family member had pointed out my error in such a brusque manner. I also got frustrated at myself, since this would be the last thing anyone would read about my dad.

Then I started to think about the wording and its meaning. Most of the obituaries I reviewed used “is survived by.” But what exactly does that mean?

If you were to say, “Frank is survived by his wife and his children,” what you mean is that his wife and his children are still alive and that Frank is now dead. The whole point of the obituary is to announce the fact that Frank has already died, so we don’t need to be told a second time with the whole “is survived” statement. I suppose by including “is survived” that it lets people know that Frank’s wife and children are still alive, which at a time before the Internet would be an important detail to know. In our modern era, though, such a practice and such phrasing seems antiquated and obsolete at best.

Now think about the phrasing I used – “has survived by.”

This phrase only changes one word. Instead of using the verb “to be” conjugated as “is”, I’m using the verb “have” conjugated as “has.” The word “have” can be linked to a multitude of definitions, but ultimately the word implies some sort of ownership, or the word describes a quality or state of being that something possesses.

Let’s go back to my example sentence, but let’s change “is” to “has.”

To say that “Frank has survived by his wife and his family,” would mean that his very survival in life, up to his last breath, was dependent completely upon his relationship with his wife and family.

tradition and changeAt present, “is survived by” still serves as the traditional phrasing for most obituaries, and when it comes to death, many of us cling to our traditions out of fear and familiarity. Personally, for my father at least, I think this interpretation of “has survived by” more closely fits who he was and what he cared about. For many people, I think this might be a better, albeit more modern way of expressing their connection to their lost loved ones. So perhaps it’s time to embrace this typo as a sign for change.

Pay a Writer AND Get Money

invest-money-to-start-businessHow can you get more money by paying your money to someone else? Easy – hire a writer with a background in marketing and funding proposals.

The old business adage that you have to spend money to make money couldn’t be more accurate when it comes to finding ways to acquire more money and support for your organization. After all, the one thing all businesses need is capital.

What Exactly Is Capital?

As stated on both Investopedia and BusinessDictionary.com, the term capital has many definitions. The simplest definition usually denotes capital as your assets, including money or the actual value of the organization and equipment. According to most economists, the term capital can also describe the “factors of production,” including everything used by an organization to provide the services and/or goods available, (e.g., personnel, equipment, marketing, distribution).

Before you start a business, or if you want to expand your business, you need a certain amount of capital to get moving. Typical ways for acquiring capital include:

  • Loans
  • Grants
  • Investors
  • Mergers

Proceeding with any of these listed methods requires having a written proposal, but the proposal itself tends to be the stumbling block that keeps many entrepreneurs from acquiring the capital they need to be more successful.

Why Do Business Owners Struggle with Proposals?

For starters, the word “proposal” is a fairly ambiguous concept, and proposal requirements vary significantly. As an example, consider bank loans. Many banks often want proposals that are accompanied with a full-length business plan, 5-year business strategy, budget projections, and other financial documents. Grantors, as another example, may only require an application and an essay proposal that explains what the money will be used for and why the applicant deserves the grant.

So why are proposal requirements so different? Well, it’s all about audience.

Slide1That’s right – think back to your writing classes. At some point, your teacher probably told you that you always have to consider your audience. Why is this so essential? Let’s face it – a proposal is a piece of persuasive writing. You’re trying to persuade someone to give you money, and that someone is your audience. If you want to persuade them into giving you the money, then you will have to know everything about your audience first to be successful.

Since you are approaching different audiences with your funding proposals, you have to accept that the rules will change every time, because the needs and goals change from audience to audience. Banks ask for more documentation to accommodate their need to measure risk assessment, since they want to make sure you can pay back any money you borrow. In contrast, grantors never expect to be paid back – that’s the whole point of a grant – so their level of risk is very low, which is why they ask for less paperwork.

Many business owners understand that there is a different process involved with applying for a loan versus applying for a grant or approaching investors. Nevertheless, most individuals still struggle with their proposals, because they only go half-way through the process. They are willing to fill out the different paperwork associated with each different group, but most entrepreneurs fail to understand how to change up the content in their proposal to target each specific audience.

How Paying a Writer Can Get You Money

While you know that you need better proposals, you still might be on the fence about hiring a writer. Allow me to elaborate on what you get when you hire a writer like me. After you understand the benefits of hiring a writer, you will no doubt see how hiring a writer can get you more money.

Audience Expert

Before I ever start writing a project, I do my best to get into the mindset of my intended audience. Whether that’s a banker, investor, or grant committee, I figure out what they want, what motivates them, and what gets their attention. I also conduct thorough research to make sure I know as much about them as possible. I take all of this into consideration when I write your funding proposals, because I want to make sure your proposals stands out amongst the rest.

Years of Experience Writing Persuasive Copy

Remember that the main goal of funding proposals is to make the audience want to give you their money, so whatever I write has to sell your organization. I know how to present your organization in the best light possible. I can maintain your branding, point out your best features, and identify how additional funding will make your profits skyrocket.

Outsider’s Perspective

I’ve seen it happen too many times – clients are in love with their businesses, and they only see it through rose-colored glasses. That makes my clients passionate, but it doesn’t always make them realistic. Investors and lenders don’t care about how much you love your business. As a third party, I can look at your business the way that investors and lenders would look at it. Instead of poking at the holes, though, it would be my job to redirect the attention of lenders and investors and get them focused on the best parts of your business, making them more likely to give you money.

If the only thing stopping you from getting more money for your business is writing better funding proposals, then why wouldn’t you invest in a skilled writer? After all, if your teeth hurt, you go to a dentist. If you need to remodel a home, you talk to a contractor. We hire professionals because they have years of experience and know exactly what to do to get the job done. That’s why you want to hire me, L. Rigdon, as your funding proposal writer.