Tuesday, October 28, 2008

California, you disappoint me.

I'm not your mother. I'm not your father.
And yet, I have to power to tell you who you can, and can't marry.
Who am I?
A California voter.

And I'm thinking: What the hell?

Proposition 8 debates are emotional. They're personal.
You can give your friends the most rational arguments, and they won't budge. I do understand why this is an emotional, private issue. But it's about someone else's private, personal life. Not mine. Why do I get to decide how someone feels about the person they love? How do I, a complete stranger, get to decide on someone's love life, on their emotional future, on the decision that all of us take years to take?

Why do I get to decide on a complete stranger's commitment to the one they love? Isn't this worse than having your parents, your family, your church, decide of your marriage? A bunch of complete strangers will get to decide on an individual's private decision to commit their love and effort to their better half. And that's precisely where I feel disappointed in California. California's all about fulfilling your dream, your hopes; it's about becoming you... at your best. And that proposition, and the intrusion in someone else's life, is a huge let down for me.

I am proud of being able to know what's best for myself. I live in an apartment I rent thanks to wages I earn through long hours of hard work. I pay my bills. I don't have debt. I pay taxes. So why wouldn't have the same right to happiness?

I'm not going to tell my friend to get married or not to get married.
I'm not going to tell my family members to get married or not to get married.
I'm not going to tell YOU to get married or not to get married.
And I don't think I should even get to decide on a total stranger's right to get married or not to get married.

Thoughts? Comments? Email me at carolineblogs at gmail dot com

Why I'll vote NO on prop 8 next Tuesday

We're one week to turning another page of history. One page I don't want to see turned is a page of personal freedom.

I will vote No on 8 next week, California.

California labor law protects against discrimination. The list is actually pretty extensive. You can't discriminate based on gender (Women staying in the house and cooking with the kids, that's a thing of 100 years ago), on national origin or ethnicity (that's a thing of 60 years ago), on age, on religion (and yes, that protects extreme catholics, extreme protestants, extreme muslims all alike), and lastly, on sexual orientation.

That's right. In your public life, no one can hire/not hire you because of what you do at home, in the apartment/house you rent or own. Why? because that doesn't hinder your ability to deliver good work. And that doesn't prevent you from paying taxes and contributing to society.
One could argue that other categories do (like religions that ask you not to work on certain days). But taking away the right to your beliefs is wrong. It's a direct attack on your basic right to freedom and to happiness.

If we allow all to be protected under California law for employment, in someone's public life, then why would it be justified to publicly rule on someone's private life? Why would be Ok to deprive a minority from basic rights to freedom and happiness?

I hope that you will comment on this post. And I hope you understand that Church and State are separate, and for a very good reason. The State services are not Church services; they shouldn't be. So I believe religious arguments are erroneous, and are not valid when it comes to matters of the State.

Looking forward to your thoughts... Caroline.
carolineblogs at gmail dot com.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Give it your best shot: 5 tips to make your photos memorable.

I've been taking pictures for 5 years now. I've shown in a gallery, restaurants, cafes... so my friends ask me: how can I make my photos better? Here's my 2 cents:

  • Use your feet
    Sounds strange, huh? I mean, walk, kneel, stand on your tip toes, go up the stairs, under the stairs, up in the middle, lean, bend. In short: try different angles. What would this look like if I was a mouse? What would it look like from the top? How about from an angle? Take several shots of the exact object from different angles to see how it changes how that object is perceived. Take an object from far away, take it up close, even closer. Try. And try. And try again.

  • Start Black and White
    Photos "like" contrast. Almost any shot will look good provided that it high contrast. To train your eye to contrast, start taking photos in black and white (all digital camera have that option). If everything looks like one shade of grey... there's not enough contrast. Try taking shadows, dark over white, cars, cutlery... whatever. Look for contrast.

  • Start outside
    Unless you're lucky enough to have a high-end DSLR, chances are, your camera doesn't like inside. Most indoors settings are too dark to practice in; they often have mixed lighting, low light conditions, so that many shots will be very blurry. Start outside, in the daylight. Around noon, the shadows are harsh; early morning and early evening provide for softer, gentler light on objects. Try both and see what difference it makes... especially when taking portraits.

  • Start digital, but...
    ... don't touch Photoshop! We all want our photos to look the best. But to get better, practice is the way to go. And spare yourself the cost of film by using digital. Use the full potential of your digital camera: take lots and lots of shots. I find that I learn faster when I don't leave myself a safety net (oh, yeah, I'll edit that later). The more you try to make it perfect on the spot, the more you'll learn. I got better with that method: try, fail, try again, fail again, try again. Trust me, you'll get better faster than you think.

  • Don't collect electronic dust.
    Now that you've gotten started on taking tons of photos to practice, you need to check them out, and let them live. Go on Flickr or Picasa (getting an account is free), and post some of the shots you like best. In the title or the tag line, ask this: how can I make it better? Also go on Flickr and look for other pictures of the same subject. If you took a black and white of a plant, then type "plant black white" and see what comes up. Compare. Which photo appeals the most to you, and what did they do differently? More contrast? Different angle? Perspective? There is a lot to learn from other photographers, and the knowledge is out there. Ask for feedback. Connect with other photographers and talk. And most of all - have fun!

Hopefully more to come soon... enjoy!

For questions or comments, email me at carolineblogs at gmail dot com

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Comcast, I hate your "Protection Plan" that only protects YOU.

Dear Comcast,

I hate that you almost have monopoly in my neighborhood. You try to sneak exorbitant fees on me every few months (have you guys turned on any of your own TVs and watched the economy collapse recently?).

I hate that your website changes every week, only to make it more complicated to figure out where my bill is, what the hell it means, and how to pay it.

I hate that you play cash flow on me. You're one of the very few services, in my daily life, that I have to pay for BEFORE I know whether or not it'll work. 1 month in advance to be exact. I am not your bank. I'm your customer. I should pay only if you're provided the service.

And most of all, I hate that you try to sell me a "Protection Plan". What is a "Protection Plan", you say?
A "Protection Plan" protects Comcast. It does. Comcast tries to tell you that it's for your own good; that if your cable box, or your TV signal, doesn't work the way it's supposed to, that you will have paid this monthly fee for years so that the technician won't charge you $100. Well, that's because they don't charge you (yet) just for making you wait at your house for 3h before that same technician shows up.

The "Protection Plan", you see, is in case Comcast services DON'T WORK. And that's precisely what kills me. I'm sorry for assuming that I was paying for service THAT WORKS. I guess that comes with an extra fee these days.

What's next? A "Life Insurance Plan" in case my cable box doesn't make it through the year??

Questions? Comments? Email carolineblogs at gmail dot com

Friday, October 3, 2008

5 atypical questions YOU should ask at your interview

When you interview for a new job, do you ever consider if that company is a good fit for you? Or are you so caught up in just trying to find "something" that you'll settle for "anything"?
As I'm sitting at my desk and pondering over my last "very successful" review, I have to wonder: what do I expect from my job? what are MY goals and needs here? And are they being met? what is my breaking point? How much twisting and turning of the initial agreement am I willing to put up with?
Here are some questions to ask for YOUR next interview, that you should review every 3 months. Hey, if the company is doing a review of YOU, why shouldn't you also do a review of THEM?

  • Who will I be working with? Can I meet them before finalizing our agreement?
    Definitely not a trivial question. You spend minimum 50% of your awake time or 30% of your overall life working with a handful of people. Don't you think it's essential to see if you can work with them? Google that person. Google your boss, your coworkers. See what their presence is. What their interests are. What they write, how they write it. Get a feel of what it'd be like to work with them.

  • Do you have any team building/ personal enrichment programs?
    If you're hopping on another train, you want to make sure it actually takes you somewhere. If there is a great manager you can learn from, it's a plus. If the company has a form mentoring program, it's a plus. If the company has company outtings, that's a plus. If they have none... think about it. How will increase team building? And how will you grow in your position?

  • Do you have a copy of your HR policies?
    Ok this one may seem weird at first... until you realize that you may work 12h/day and get zero outcome. No raise. No time off. No promotion. You may end up looking at empty cubicles of coworkers who "work from home" but somehow don't answer their phones or their emails. So ask: what are the formal procedures of evaluation, and what are the rewards and punishments? Unless there is a formal system, it won't be applied. You're moving into the dangerous territory of political games, where someone can be part of the "boys' club" and pass the work off to you - a win-win for them, a lose-lose to you. So ask. Read. And think it over.

  • What is the typical path of someone in your position, if they do well?
    Aha. Didn't think about that one, huh? Ask frankly to get that direct answer: if you do well, and fulfill everything they expect out of you, then what can YOU expect? You're spending your life making that company a success. You need to know as early on as possible if they'll give back. If the people in your position end up quitting or getting fired before they get promoted, the company gets a red flag. Get out of there! If you are filling a new position, ask for an example of how high some other position has gotten - ask for a story of personal success from an employee that worked at that company. If the interviewer freezes... red flag!

  • What are some atypical benefits to working for your company?
    If you haven't opened a can of worms with the previous questions, this one may open your eyes to benefits you hadn't thought of. Maybe they offer free food? Discounts at local gyms? Internal contests and awards? Maybe they all shut down for 2 weeks at Christmas so you know you can count on going home at that period? You may be surprised at the array of benefits small and big companies have to offer their employees.


Questions? Comments? email me at carolineblogs at gmail dot com