Monday, December 19, 2011

Happy Holidays

It's that time of year when stores are crowded with shoppers looking for that perfect holiday gift for family and friends.  Whether you celebrate Hanukkah (just ended), Kwanza, Christmas, just New Year's Day, or no special days, December is always a month that has a lot going on. 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to my family and friends - and you my readers.  However you celebrate this time of year, do something to make it special for yourself and those around you.  Spread a little cheer and do a kindness to someone else.  It's amazing how good that can make us feel.  I've been blessed many times over the years by the kindness of others.  Thank you to those of you who have done this - for me or for others.

Merry Christmas to all and Happy New Year.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Fall is in the Air - and that means Changes

The weather in the Greater Boston area is signalling the end of summer and start of fall.  Within a day we went from 80s to 70s and now, about a week later, we're in the 60s with a frost anticipated for some northern areas tonight.

With the seasonal change comes budget changes for organizations on certain types of funding (funding cycle of Oct-Sept for many) and that means shifting resources to maintain services.  Sometimes it means changing services and it invariably means a rethinking/revisiting how well we are meeting our mission.

This year starts our particularly rough for many.  Funding has been reduced for a great many organizations and programs.  Fuel Assistance this year has a $400 maximum unless more funds are approved legislatively; that's not even one tank of oil!  More and more people are unemployed but out of UI (Unemployment Insurance) funds.  Companies are practicing the illegal but hard-to-prove craft of not hiring older workers or not hiring workers who have been unemployed for more than 6 months.  There's even a petition someone started on the Internet to pressure Monster and CareerBuilder from accepting job postings that state the employer wants someone who is "currently employed."  I haven't seen those job ads, but I'm not job searching.  If I were, and if this is true, I'd be plenty angry. 

As the colder weather moves in and makes things even more difficult for the poor and homeless, we can do something.
  • Start following the budget talks in Washington.  
  • Talk  to our state and federal legislators.  
  • Urge our federal legislators to pass our message along to the Super Committee that they must also focus on revenue generation and not just try to cut back on programs and services. 
  • Volunteer, if you have the time, so local nonprofits can continue their much-needed services.
  • Be vocal about how you are affected by proposed cuts in services
  • Think about ways your community can increase revenues and talk with your local legislators.
 If we think, engage, and work together, we should be able to make a difference in our communities.  Those who are served by our efforts need our help.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Job Changes for Me & I'm Eager to Get Started

I haven't posted lately because I've been holding onto some information that changes quite a bit of how my time will be spent at work.  Now that it's closer to the transition, I can speak a bit about it.

For the past two years, I've been in a split job working 4 days/week working with consumers who need public benefits; either help with the application process or, more and more these days, help with advocacy when their applications are not processed properly or promptly or are outright mishandled.  The other day I devoted to financial literacy education and taxes (VITA).  During tax season, the job split to 3:2 so I had a second day for taxes.  But it is difficult to split your time like this, especially when those 8 or 16 hours don't all occur on the same day and you try to balance how much time you are devoting to projects that require more time than you have available.  Complicating this is the evening hours that 2nd piece of my job entails.

As of October 1st, I'll have only the one job, managing financial literacy, VITA, working more closely with the IDA program (Individual Development Accounts), and employment-related programming/services in our technology center. 

I'm glad my patience has been rewarded with this shift.  If you want to help people get out of poverty, they need to develop assets.  This comes under the umbrella of Asset Development or Asset Formation; in my case, we help people to:
  • develop their financial competence (financial literacy education) and put money into savings;
  • save towards owning as asset such as a home, business, or to go back to school (IDAs);
  • get the most out of their tax return through credits, better advance planning (how to use their refund, setting up withholding properly, file past year returns), and on-time current tax filing (VITA); and
  • become bankable: save towards paying back-owed money to a bank if they've had past banking problems so they can once again open and bank account (2nd Change Banking Account).
You can see how this could be difficult to manage in an 8-hour/week schedule! 

In addition, people need an income to live on, save with, and spend.  Many people have trouble getting re-employed after being on unemployment more than 6 months.  Jobs are highly competitive and many people need help with today's electronic application process.  Without a new job, they'll lose the assets they do have and become a statistic -- unemployed and sometimes eventually homeless.  So beefing up our employment-related services and reaching out to communities that are hardest hit and most affected by our tough economic situation is closely tied to poverty prevention

This also helps integrate our technology center more closely with the overall agency; something I've been working on over the past year with a good amount of success, but only possible because of the help of agency staff who also see the value in this.  Together, we're providing better & more integrated services.

This transition will take time, as people still need help with benefits and we cannot expect other agency staff to know, overnight, all that I've learned in 2.5 years.  But we have good staff who can rise to many occasions.  Together, we'll at least be able to handle benefits applications and possibly refer to other agencies, especially legal ones, for many of the advocacy issues I've been handling.  When state agencies continue to improperly deny benefits or make it difficult for eligible applicants to get benefits, perhaps it's best to let some "legal eagles" take them on and push them to properly train and supervise their case managers. 

That is for the difficult situations.  For the less difficult situations, many of my clients have learned how to advocate for themselves.  This really is a good advocate's goal - empower clients to self-advocate and win on their own; help them recognize that they have the can do attitude and skills to do other things that will move them forward. 

It won't be an overnight transition, but it is an important one.  I'm so glad that our funders and board recognize Asset Development/Asset Formation as a proper and potentially powerful tool in the fight against poverty. 

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Debt Deal - with Rep. Ed Markey

Last night I was one of about 30 people attending a meeting with Representative Ed Markey (D-MA) to discuss the Budget Control Act and its likely effect on health care.  It was an information exchange, as he presented how the Budget Control Act is slated to play out and then listened to our concerns as to how that will most likely affect health care, ourselves, and our constituents/clients.

The Debt Deal (Budget Control Act) Basics
Markey laid out the "Debt Deal" as having 3 major steps, with Step 1 already complete: passage by the House and Senate and President Obama's signature on the Bill last Monday, August 1, 2011.

Step 1 is designed to trim $917 Billion from the budget over 10 years through spending cuts and caps.  $350 Billion will come from defense with the remainder from discretionary funds, which could include health care areas except Medicare and Medicaid.

Step 2 is the Super Committee, comprised of 12 members: 6 Republicans and 6 Democrats -- divided evenly between House and Senate from each party.  These legislators must hammer out an agreement by November 23, 2011 that reduces the federal deficit by $1.2 - $1.5 Trillion over 10 years and Congress must then pass that agreement as a Bill by December 23, 2011.
  • In this step, nothing is off the table as far as spending cuts or caps or measures to increase revenues. 
  • The Super Committee must reach agreement - i.e., reach agreement by simple majority (7 yes votes). 
  • If they reach an agreement, that agreement goes to Congress as a bill they must vote on with no options for changes, filibuster, or other political maneuvering.  A simple yes/no vote is required.  
  • The Bill then goes to the President for signature, with Presidential veto possible but unlikely. 
Step 3 kicks in only if Step 2 fails totally -- i.e,. there is no agreement --, Congress fails to approve an agreement, the President vetoes the resulting Bill, or it fails to reduce the deficit enough*.  Step 3 triggers automatic cuts in spending that are basically 50/50 between defense and non-defense budget items. 
*Note that Step 3 would kick in, at a reduced level, if Step 2 results in passage of a Bill that is significantly less than the expected $1.2-$1.5 Trillion.  The cuts in Step 3 would be amounts that would bring the total deficit reduction to the $1.2-$1.5T.
    Super Committee
    The 12 legislators chosen for this high stakes poker game have a great deal of latitude in how they slash the budget to reach $1.2-$1.5 Trillion in deficit reduction.  Nothing is off the table, according to the rules of the game. That includes Medicare, Medicaid, and other programs that are actually protected in Steps 1 and 3.

    This step also includes the possibility of revenue generation.  However, when half the Super Committee has already pledged no tax increases, that immediately ties the other half of the Committee's hands.  As Markey pointed out last night, GOP leadership excluded any Republican leaders from the Super Committee who had indicated they were open to raising taxes**. 

    Response from Attendees
    Attendees included some people from Cambridge Health Alliance, two different Alzheimer's advocacy groups, Mass Senior Action Council (they were out in force with half a dozen attendees -- great advocacy!), Hallmark Health, myself from Tri-CAP (also representing the HealthMINT Network and the Heritage Tenants Association), a Mass Elders advocacy group, individuals representing themselves and their family members, and state senators Pat Jehlan (D-Medford) and David Linsky (D-Natick) and a representative from sate Senator Katherine Clark (D-Malden).  Some groups were represented but I just cannot recall their names, so if were there and I missed you feel free to comment on this post and add that you were there!

    Concerns included fears that:
    • the automatic deficit reduction strategy would decimate essential health research and that will result in far-reaching future medical costs that will only increase our debt, 
    • cuts to medicare providers will result in increased health costs to everyone else,
    • no one seems to be talking about increasing revenues to offset the deficit
    • the GOP is playing hardball while we're caving in and that has to stop
    • it's not a negotiation if one side comes to the table refusing to consider other options (i.e., the "no tax increases" stand by the GOP),
    • defense cuts might unfairly reduce VA benefits, and
    • fear that those already slipping over the edge into an abyss of depression, job loss or pay cuts, housing loss, stress, mental health issues, etc. are not finding any relief and this Bill makes that worse. 
    Markey then asked us each to tell him which Step (2 or 3) we would "vote" for so he can go back to the House and talk to his colleagues.  Nineteen (19) participants voted for Option 2 as preferable over the seven (7) votes for Option 3.  He also reminded us that every legislator needs to hear from all of us.  If we want to have a say in the final outcome, we must mobilize and make our voices heard on the subject.  The Tea Party has been very organized and goal-driven; we must do so also if we don't want our worst fears to come to fruition. 

    Congressman Markey, we appreciate your invitation for us to meet with you and give you our input on this critical matter and to represent our constituents' needs.

    Additional information sources for this morning's article:
    Disclaimer:   I attended this meeting as part of my paid job with Tri-CAP and thus "reported" on it in this format.  My views do not necessarily reflect the views of Tri-CAP. 

    Sunday, July 24, 2011

    WordCamp Boston, 2011

    I spent yesterday and will spend today at WordCamp Boston, a conference for WordPress users. I have wanted to add WordPress to my web design toolbelt but just haven't had time to sit down and really play with it. Conferences like this are a great way to shorten the learning curve.

    I typically use Joomla! for web design, but WordPress has come a long way in the several years since my initial research led me to adopt Joomla! as my preferred platform. I'd like to be able to offer clients a choice or, if necessary, make a choice for them with whichever tool seems right for them.

    From the minute I walked into the registration area, I was impressed with the organization and planning of this conference.  The Registration "badge" was a complete portfolio for the conference -- including the information to log in to the network, a complete schedule on the inside (still readable even though it was comparatively small), whether or not you'd ordered a T-shirt, etc.  With hundreds of attendees, it was relatively quiet and very organized.

    Speakers have been top notch too.  One speaker had only one year's experience using WordPress, but he gave a great presentation of Top 10 tips he'd learned in that year.  As an experienced web designer, I came away with some "Ah Ha's" from it.  That's quite good in my book. What I appreciated was that many sessions focused on web design and not just how to use WordPress.  That creates a good mix for people who may know one or two tools but need to create better content, enrich their site, or grow into a more sophisticated use of thie websites (marketing outreach, SEO tools, etc.). 

    I go back today with a better idea in my mind beforehand of which sessions I'll attend.  There is a stream of "how to" sessions specific to WordPress that I plan to attend, as well as some focusing on the freelancer (that's me -- or, as I prefer to say Solopreneur). 

    This has been a great way to spend the weekend; I'm glad I made it this year.  The BU location has also been quite nice.  

    By the way, if you're a Joomla! user in the Boston area, our monthly user group meeting is this Wednesday (7/27/11) from 7-9 PM at the Cyber Cafe @ Malden Square.  Preregistration is preferred although not required; since it's summer, I'd check the website to make sure the meeting is still on before showing up!

    Saturday, May 28, 2011

    How Well Do We Know Our Online Friends?

    Online friendships are great to have. They stimulate online conversation, help you stay connected long distance, and reconnect with long-time friends from the past. You can and your friends can find new people to connect with through each others' friends, and you can gain deeper insight into your friends.

    But let's face it; most of these friends are really acquaintances. That's not a problem; it's just that the word friend has a different meaning in the real world than it does in the virtual world. I understand why though. Which sounds better? Facebook Acquaintance or Facebook Friend? I get it. On LinkedIn, they're called Connections, which is a more apt term. (I mostly use FB, LI, & Twitter for examples here because I'm active on them and can speak directly to their use; this is not a research paper, so I'm not concerned with examining other social media.)

    In the virtual world you can learn a lot more about your acquaintances fairly easily. From the discussions and Q&A sections in LinkedIn, to the wall posts in Facebook, there are a lot of insights into people sprinkled all over the web. Follow someone's Twitter feed (Tweets) for what they read, tweet, and retweet and you have a goldmine of insight available. If they have websites or blogs, you'll find those useful as well.

    Here's a real example from my online acquaintances. I met one of the organizers of PodCamp at PodCamp2 Boston several years ago.  Later we connected on LinkedIn.  I follow this person's blog posts because I find value in the content; they're informative and helpful to my work and life.  In fact, I pull in his blog feed directly to my LI home page, along with the feeds of several other friends, so from one page I can quickly review what they're posting about and stay caught up with their activity regularly.  After a few years, I thought I knew him pretty well, as far as virtual acquaintanceships go.  Imagine my surprise when, last week, I was perusing some virtual thinking websites and found some art from this person.  I checked to make sure it was the same person; yes, it was.  That led me to Flickr, a site that lets you post photos and other images for sharing, where a lot of his art was shared.  This was a whole new dimension to my virtual friend that I never knew existed. 

    Another online acquaintanceship develop in a similar manner.  We had some mutual friends in both the real and virtual worlds.  From reading her blogs (yes, she has more than one), I found that we share more than a passion for technology (which is how our acquaintanceship began); we share a spiritual and philosophical mindset that made me want to know this person even more -- to move an acquaintanceship into a friendship.

    The neat thing is that you can convert acquaintanceships into real friendships over time. After all, we tend to develop strong friendships with people whom we respect. Whether that begins because we share some level of political or religious beliefs, because we care about ecology, enjoy gardening, read or watch sci fi--at some level we have a common bond that draws us closer together and we form a stronger-than-acquaintanceship relationship and become true friends.

    Some might wonder why the virtual world is so popular as a place to connect with others.  My initial thinking on this, which is not scientific or deeply thought through, is that it provides more options than the typical places we meet people.  We work longer hours, limiting our opportunities to get out and meet others.   We want to meet people outside of bars, especially if we are not looking for dating relationships. And the virutal world breaks down geographic barriers for just getting to know others and see what they're all about.

    Those are my thoughts this early Saturday morning.  Do you have any thoughts on this topic?  Use the comments to respond.

    Saturday, May 7, 2011

    What Goes Into A Punch

    I just read this blog post by Chris Brogan and thought how timely it was for me. 

    It's a short post, so I'll let you read it rather than trying to extract a lot from it here.  One paragraph is particularly important:
    But with every success I’ve ever had, it started with work. I had to start somewhere. I had to accept that I wasn’t where I wanted to be, and then I had to work harder and harder. 
    Each program I run could be improved, even though they each are successful to some degree.  They can each be more successful if I accept that they aren't where I want them to be and work to get them where I think they should be.

    I'm beginning to write a report on the recently-ended VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) program I coordinate with the help of a small group of dedicated and talented volunteers, a lot of support from the IRS, and growing support from the Mass Dept. of Revenue.  We do a good job and we help a lot of people.  But we can serve more people if we improve some of our internal processes and find a way to fund my position for more hours each tax season and fund an Assistant Coordinator part-time for 3-4 months.  We need to begin earlier, but funding doesn't permit the extra time needed for me to take time away from the other programs I handle as early as needed. 

    It's a problem I've tried to tackle with more effective procedures and tools, but they can only take you so far.  Now it's time to tackle the real roadblock - funding support at the right amount for the many hours necessary for self-training (I have to recertify each year), volunteer recruitment and training, and planning/preparation with other agencies so they actually help us with getting taxpayers informed and to us (or us to them). 

    This is just one of several programs, but has quantifiable numbers and data from other VITA sites doing the same thing that can help me analyze our improvements.  It's always helpful if you can quantify your results.

    Chris also speaks about delaying gratification while your work on your punch.  I agree with him.  We started out with a small program and made some improvements.  The next time, we had greater numbers and discovered we could improve even more.  In our 4th year, we increased our production by almost 70% over the previous year.  If we had tried to reach those numbers in the first year or two, we could have made a real mess of it and not served low-income taxpayers very well.  Instead, by building slowly and adding other services slowly, we are able to help people with their taxes, food stamps, and health insurance needs in one appointment.  The volunteers don't feel overwhelmed, as they have learned at a reasonable pace how to build this into their tasks.  And they have suggested some of the improvements that we now use, providing better buy-in that this is all very doable and makes sense.  It's pretty important that volunteers and staff feel as if what they are doing actually makes sense!

    Our punch? 
    • More people served and served very well
    • Expanded tax offerings (post-season returns, past-year returns, and help with special situations)
    • Expanded non-tax offerings (health and nutrition applications and referrals for advocacy)
    • A growing set of data around taxpayer/client needs (for referrals to other agency services)
    • Better coordination with other agencies that serve the same taxpayers
    • Referrals from other agencies 
    We're pretty happy with that punch, but we're not complacent.   We're always working to improve, be more agile, and better able to respond to changing issues or needs.  Practice, practice, practice; that's what it takes.

    Wednesday, March 16, 2011

    Financial & Life Planning

    People sometimes think of financial planning as something they'll do once they hit 40.  The truth is, it's better to begin as early as possible.  That first "real" job in your 20s is the perfect time to develop the habit of setting aside money into a retirement fund that hopefully will let you retire with some comfort in your 60s.

    Why is this so important?  Well, money grows if it's set aside into an interest bearing account.  Your money works for you and can help you retire gracefully.  Or, if you have a life event that wipes you out economically, you have something that you can rely on while you get back on your feet.  Many, many people have used up their retirement savings over these past few tough economic years and are now starting over in terms of putting money into a retirement fund.  They're so grateful that they had that money set aside which became their daily expense fund through a medical or job emergency that left them financially strapped.

    For some thoughtful posts on how to think about future planning for your money, I go to a colleague's website, Money and the Spirit, for a brief refresher.  Isaias has a nice way of linking our thinking about this with the "real world" we all live in.  It's good advice and before you know it, the future is our "real world" and it would nice if we had some financial cushion to let us live and age gracefully through retirement.

    Wednesday, March 9, 2011

    March 8: International Women's Day

    I wish I'd gotten this post written or at least posted yesterday, but that did not happen.  My life is busy and my blog is something I want to enjoy doing rather than becoming another "must do" on a long list.   There were many places where women were being honored yesterday for being brave, standing up for what is right, or accomplishing great things despite roadblocks and setbacks.

    I spent my afternoon/evening at St. Elizabeth's hospital with someone getting chemotherapy.  When we talk about courageous women, we don't need to go far.  I run into many courageous women every day.  They're all around me.  In this case, this woman's courage doesn't come from the fact that she has cancer; it comes from how she deals with her cancer.

    Diagnosed 10 years ago, she worked throughout her first sets of treatment and surgery, sometimes on a reduced schedule, but she worked throughout.  After two years of that, she had almost five years of No Evidence of Disease (NED) - they don't say remission with her type of cancer because it is usually still there but not spreading and hard to find.   And the majority of people don't survive beyond 3-5 years; she did. 

    Then it sprang back to life.  Shortly after, her job was eliminated and the large company she worked for couldn't find a suitable position for her -- to tell the truth, they didn't even try.  She could have sued them but chose to focus her energy on finding a new job elsewhere and fighting this disease.  She was unsuccessful in finding a new job and after a year, stopped looking.  She needed her energy to fight this cancer.  Treatment is tough and every drug has its side effects. 

    It's been 3 years back on chemotherapy -- various drugs, different schedules, but every Tuesday up to St. E's we go.  She's had a few short breaks of a period of weeks, but the disease grows stronger and larger each time, so we're in a delicate balance of how much chemo, when to take a break, which drug to use, etc. 

    I began by saying she faces this with courage.  No longer able to work, she spends time every day online doing advocacy around cancer and other issues, does quite a bit of research for the issues she involved with, and is a trained peer mentor for others with her type of cancer. 

    She also interacts quite a bit with the youth in her apartment complex.  They often feel that adults think all kids are insensitive, unthinking trolls who should be seen and not heard.  She talks with them, gives them a different perspective on things, and lets them know when they've done a good thing by standing up to someone bullying another or tells who to talk with if they're bullied or if they have a problem that requires intervention.  They respect her because she treats them with respect.  And they go to her with questions because they know she listens. 

    To me, this is someone with courage -- the courage to face life's hurdles with a "can-do" attitude.  There's no "pity party" in her household -- just a strong presence that moves forward, even when it's difficult.

    Monday, February 21, 2011

    Waiting to Blog

    I call this blog, "on my mind" because I write about what's most on my mind at the time.  But sometimes what is on my mind isn't in a state to write clearly about; it may be an unresolved situation or issue; it may be something that could harm someone's privacy to write about until I'm able to put it in more generic or neutral terms. 

    That tends to block me, somehow, from writing about other things.  I cannot wrap my head around other issues for writing topics because what I want to write about I should not write about, yet

    I'm in one of those frames of mind right now.  So bear with me, please, as I deal with things I am unable to write about.  When my head is clear, I'll be back. 

    Claire

    Thursday, January 27, 2011

    Homeless Census Luncheon, 1/27/11

    Today, despite the snow and related cleanup efforts, Tri-CAP and the Tri-City Housing and Homelessness Task Force will host a luncheon and conduct its annual Tri-City Homeless Census. Many agencies and service providers are helping to gather the necessary data for the annual homeless census and street count.
    It is important to count everyone for continued funding to provide essential services to homeless families and individuals.  This data is being gathered at the request of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as part of the Continuum of Care Application for McKinney-Vento funding.
    The goal is to capture accurate, reflective, and meaningful data on homeless individuals and families. The data will be collected by many agencies throughout the nation beginning Wednesday, January 26th for a brief period. The census results help Tri-CAP apply for state and federal funds to continue to help eliminate poverty through education, housing and benefits advocacy, housing search, case management, mental health counseling, and substance abuse counseling.
    Any agency or service provider that serves or works with homeless individuals or families can help by referring such individuals to a data collection site or event. One such event is the free lunch reception for homeless individuals and families that will take place on Thursday, January 27, 2011, between 12 – 2 PM at the Cyber CafĂ© @ Malden Square, 110 Pleasant Street, Malden. For more information, contact Fernanda Brito 781-322-4125 ext. 210

    Wednesday, January 12, 2011

    Snow Day -- Northeast Finally Gets the Blast that hit everywhere else!

    I took a few photos a little while ago, while the snowfall had lightened a bit.  But it started snowing more heavily again a little while ago.  Here are a few shots I took during the lull. 


    Dogwood Tree outside our back entrance.  What might be mistaken for a fire hydrant in front of it is really a trash barrel.  It's hard to tell when it's buried in snow.

    The fence is just over 5' high.  Everything is covered in snow.

    The walkway beside the building has become a scenic tunnel protected by snow-laden branches.

    Snow is even sticking to vertical objects; these fence posts look more like prison bars today.

    I don't want to be standing beneath this tree when it drops its snowy load.   This is the park in front of Hormel Stadium.

    At the very right of the photo is a lightpole and barely visible behind it you can see the wings of the wind turbine.

    These two bushes look like a couple huddling in the snow -- reminds me of our homeless clients who do not use shelters; I pray for their safety in this type of weather. 

    Sunday, January 9, 2011

    Free Speech Carries Great Responsibility

    Yesterday's shooting in Arizona is yet another wake-up call to America.  Our political rhetoric carries a grave responsibility to frame that rhetoric in fact and end the dangerous era of distortion, non-truths, vitriolic embellishments, and hate-based speech.

    Regardless of your political beliefs, there is no need to vilify politicians, legislation, or programs because they are contrary to your own.  Fight against what you think is wrong - Absolutely.  Point out what you believe to be the flaws and mistakes - Absolutely.  But the language we use must accept the responsibility that accompanies the right to free speech.

    Last December (2009), I blogged about the need for patience during the holidays.  The situation of that evening would have been aggravated by impatience because the woman I blogged about was dealing with a disorder that often controls her -- our patience helped her control it. Political discussions need the same measure of self-restraint. 

    Between September and October 2009, I blogged several times about the debate over health care and in July 2009 I blogged specifically about Sarah Palin.  Did I contribute to the fray by calling her a whiner?  I examined evidence of her behavior and tried to frame it as to whether or not she was suitable to be our Vice President and even President.  Her behavior seemed to merit that label. 

    In an August 2009 blog post, I had questioned whether Palin might be more accurately labeled a court jester.  I asked whether she was really working under the cover of being a fool -- one who is able to tell the king the truth without fear of harm -- or if she really were the fool.  I would sincerely hope that these questions and opinions would not lead someone to try to harm Palin.  There is a difference between raising questions about the intelligence and ability of someone to lead the nation versus vilifying that person.   

    It is clear that I am not afraid to speak out about my beliefs.  The difference, I believe, is the tone of rhetoric.  I believe in reasonable debate.  Let's examine issues, based on facts, and skip the fictitious scenarios -- scare tactics -- that make reasonable debate impossible.

    Recently, national attention has focused on hate-speech and bullying; just Google the topic.  While much of that discussion is framed in the context of anti-gay bullying, hate speech is hate speech no matter who is the target.  These incidents need to become the lessons through which we change our behavior and rhetoric.

    My heartfelt sympathy goes to all those who were physically and emotionally injured or killed in yesterday's shooting.  While their families search for some solace, we need to put ourselves in their shoes and ask ourselves if we have become part of the problem.  

    Update:  I just saw the Huff-Post (Huffington Post) article on Sarah Palin's map that has "gun sights" on  the Democrats she wants to unseat in the next election, including Representative Gabrielle Giffords, who was critically injured in yesterday's shooting.  This imagery is part of the problem I blogged about earlier this morning.  Targeting people with gun sights on a map sends a very disturbing message to people who are already on the edge between reality and insanity.  While she has the free speech right to do this, it seems very close to shouting "FIRE" in a theatre -- it is not reasonable and sane.  Palin's statement over this tragedy -- "we'll pray for peace and justice" -- just rings false when she has sent such a vitriolic message to her followers.

    We have seen, over and over again, that people can react as if they were merely doing what the messenger said and no one else would do.  So how sane is it to continue to in the very behavior that we know triggers such an insane reaction?  It is clearly immoral and unethical.

    That's my opinion.  What is your opinion?

    Sunday, January 2, 2011

    Hello 2011 -- New Year, New Decade -- New Deal?

    It's January 2, 2011, and that brings my mother to mind as today is her birthday.  My parents died in the early 2000s, but I was fortunate to have them around until their early 80s.  I still do something and want to share it with them, then remember they're not there to call.  So Happy Birthday Mom! 

    I have no resolutions to share because I don't bother with those.  I do set goals for myself.  I review these throughout the year and don't have any attachment to a New Year's resolution list.  One goal I set for myself a few months ago was to change my business model around website design.  I'm pleased to say that I have two proposals out there that follow this new model; one which I wrote and submitted Friday. 

    The need for this model was to make it easier to work with small organizations and businesses that don't have staff dedicated to these types of projects.  What I've found over the few years in these organizations is that decision-making is often sporadic and impulsive.  Rather than working closely with you to help create what they want, the decision-maker wants a quick meeting and for you to sort it out for them.  You spend time working through options and present them; only to wait and wait for a response.  Then they make another quick decision, often changing their original decisions.  Again, you wait and wait for a response.  The decision-maker sees something on the web and wants it, but has no clue as to how much they're changing the original design and your current execution.  It feels as if the project never ends.  What should have been a fairly quick project, for a set amount of money that the organization can pay, turns into never-ending small changes or even big changes that don't meet the criteria of the original project.

    What I find particularly frustrating is that the original project would include features that staff and the decision-maker all agreed they wanted.  In the end, impulsive and sporadic decisions rid the project of most of these and the site becomes little more than an electronic brochure.  I hate to waste money, including my clients money.  I don't like stopping and starting these projects because it means using more time to go back in and review what has been done, how it's been done, what they asked for, what remains to be done, etc.  And when I review what they originally asked for against what they're now saying, they've actually reduced the functionality of their website. 

    With the change in my business model, I'm really trying to change the executive model.  The problem with these projects is the executive in charge.  So that's where real change has to occur.  It means I probably have to spend a little more time with the executive during the process, pushing them a bit to either stick with decisions they've already made, or at least acknowledge that there's a cost associated with changing their minds partway through the project. 

    It will be interesting to see if this better model works as well for my clients as it should for me.  Helping busy executives exercise a little discipline and consider the costs and consequences of sporadic and impulsive decision-making should be a good thing.  I hope they see it that way once we've gotten started!

    Happy New Year -- I hope your year brings your goals and projects to fruition!