The Dragon

Economy and finance are not my specialties. However, trying to live in a universe where money and finance rule the world is what I have to cope with everyday.

Is it possible that companies only look at their own benefits when it comes to workforce? They always want to increase their profit. I have never ever heard of a company that was satisfied with its earnings…
Now my question? Is a company an entity that breaths, sleeps, eats and decides on its own? Sometimes I come to think that companies are like the old dragons in ancient legends… They devour towns, burn crops and eat the princesses… =:-O But weren’t dragons created by human imagination? And aren’t companies founded, managed and brought to success by human beings?  Why is then so that money and profit matter much more than the well being of humans? This well being I’m referring to is not wealth or fame, it is only the right to have a job that allows you to live and feel human by doing so.

This weekend in an article in the newspaper “Die Welt” (only in German):

http://hd.welt.de/ausgabe-b/specials2-b/article126322364/Deutschland-riskiert-Erfolg-und-Wohlstand.html

Germany talks about risking its success and wealth by introducing a minimum wage, an earlier retirement age of 63 instead of the current 67 and by improving the rules for temporary work (Zeitarbeit). I ask myself again, is “Germany” a person or even “human”? Can “Germany” think and decide on its own?

It’s very comfortable to talk that way and to forget about the individuals, the single persons who constitute a company, a school, a country. It is also understandable that individuals have to build groups, find and share common interests, but are economic wealth, money and power really the common interests that we want to share as human beings?

In the article they (…or should I rather say “Germany” ?) are also worried that many companies will have to reduce their costs… again. How does this usually happen? By firing more people. They get rid of people in order to reduce the high costs that a fix wage would cause. Imagine the margins they are talking about! They are not planning on reducing the salaries of the managers or the costs of the top executives with company cars, business or first class airline tickets, evenings in expensive restaurants, etc. No, “they” prefer to get rid of more ‘workforce’ to continue enjoying the privileges of their high positions. Now, who are ‘they’? Those who have a well to very well paid position and have all the benefits, simply those who decide. Who is the ‘workforce’? The worst paid ones and also the temporal workers who have to accept a lower pay and worse working conditions than the contract workers in a company.

It is also true that we cannot find fairness in the world, and that we should not always compare ourselves with others, especially, if we cannot change anything at all. However, what I try to point out is that talking in an impersonal way: the company, the management, the country, we easily ignore that the unit of each one of this conglomerates is a person, yes, a human being, and not the capital, the money, the shares, the votes, or whatever…
We cannot either change society nor the economy, but I think that the economy has developed into a ferocious dragon that needs more and more victims to survive…

Another crucial topic in Germany is that most of the companies, top or middle, complain about not being able to find adequate candidates to hire… And we, qualified ‘workers’ older than 40!, are not even given the chance of starting in one of those positions and are denied the opportunity of showing “them” that we are able to learn fast. Because of our “advanced age” we also bring a lot of experience and many of the so called “soft-skills” so popular nowadays…
Currently, I know of some engineers, scientists, lawyers, … me… and other highly qualified ‘human beings’ who are struggling to find a job. So, what is happening? What kind of super being are the companies looking for? You usually find out that the ideal candidate should be flexible, well to highly educated, qualified, and, if possible… good looking, too!? 😉 And of course between 25 to 35 years old. In that case, I agree, there aren’t that many.

If I then consider the age pyramid in Germany, look at the picture… Then I ask myself, why do “they” insist on mostly hiring young people in a country that is not that young??

Image

From the “Sueddeutsche Zeitung”, 2010. (Männer = men; Frauen = women)

One of the consequences of this economic decisions is that there are a lot of time work companies who offer you a contract with them so that you can work as a hired workforce for another company to the lowest price. This contracts often offer less holidays and no long term contracts.
All these people with such time work contracts don’t appear in the unemployment statistics, where Germany makes a good figure compared to the countries in Southern Europe. Students who have finished and are looking for a job are not included in the unemployment statistics. People who aren’t registered as “looking for a job” in the Job Agency don’t count either. http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arbeitslosenstatistik#Nicht_in_der_Arbeitslosenstatistik_enthaltene_Unterbesch.C3.A4ftigung

Considering all these exceptions we may then understand why the unemployment rate is not that high…

I mentioned in one of my older comments that in this new economy I feel like in a modern slave market: you’re sold or given away, and maybe if attractive enough, you’re bought to the worst conditions and the cheapest price. If only Spartacus would come fast to save us!

However, I’ll take it easy and try not to get angry when I read such articles. I have just read in the blog of Enrique Boeneker, an excellent writer, that “bad news + anger = heart attack” .

http://boeneker.wordpress.com/2014/03/26/el-que-se-enoja-pierde-el-mundo-desde-mi-bici-lxxvi/#comment-80

As a conclusion, trying to change things that cannot be changed is impossible, I’ll try to accept them… However, I don’t know, if I’ll read the newspaper again…

I’ll better leave it here now and… Let’s hope for better times!

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Online Dating

Hot topic! How true are the romantic ideas propagated by older films like “Sleepless in Seattle”?  Or how mean are some internet users to play jokes on each other, like in the film “Closer”?  How do teenagers interact with each other, is it like in the American version of “LOL”?  Who is responsible for spreading news like in “Gossip Girls” or “Pretty little liars”?
Nowadays a great deal of our lives occurs, either we want it or not, online:  you look for a job, you buy and sell stuff, you communicate with family, friends, acquaintances and merely strangers,  you join discussion groups or movements against and for something…  
And for many of us who are single, the internet and the online dating sites are almost the only possibility of getting to know an appropriate candidate. Of course, you can meet someone special at work… in school… at the university… in the club… But many of the encounters with a special person occur online.

 

Asking around among friends, men and women, we’ve come to the conclusion that it is indeed very hard to get to know someone spontaneously at a bar or cinema or restaurant.   It may be a national phenomenon, but people here don’t like to talk to strangers and men hardly address women freely or invite them for a cup of coffee or a drink.  If you’re very outgoing, you may end up talking about the weather with that handsome man standing in the supermarket at the cashier in front of you. But usually that will be it… Rain or no rain, but for sure, no coffee, no coke, no going out… I’ve asked some male friends around and most of them wouldn’t dare to “flirt” openly with you… Yes., you may be thinking, I’m not Brigitte Bardot, but B.B. would have even more trouble than a normal woman, believe me… 😉
So what has happened? Why is it so?  
Many have told me that as they don’t know, if the nice lady is taken, they better don’t ask. Wearing a ring or not isn’t always a hint. Others say that they would just get an estranged look and no answer or an impolite answer at all… So in conclusion, they don’t ask rather than risking to lose their face. You are maybe thinking, why do you, ladies, wait to be asked?  Well, the little experience we’ve had with trying to make conversation or contact in a restaurant or bar is that we get the very exact answer to the very exact question. E.g. She, nice looking and friendly: “ Sorry, have you got a match?”  He: “No, I don’t smoke.“ Or  “Yes, here you are. “   and they leave the scene…  There may be some exceptions, but we’ve encountered very few on our way.

 

The most hilarious thing I have found is on the home site of the Munich Public Transportation, MVV Munich. There is a special area called:  “Re-encountering people with MVV flirt” which would be more or less the translation of the name. The MVV is the Munich Transportation System. Here you find the original text:

“Menschen wiederfinden, mit MVV Flirt”
Angenommen, Sie sehen Ihre Traumfrau in der S-Bahn fahren. Lächeln kurz – und schwupps, steigt sie aus. Nein, dann ist noch nicht alles vorbei. Suchen Sie sie! Oder suchen Sie ihn, den Traummann. …”

and the translation:
“Re-encountering people with MVV flirt”
“Supposing that you see your dream woman traveling by train. You smile briefly at her and — ooops, she gets out of the train… No, not everything is lost. Look for her! Or look for him, your dream man. “  The description continues lightly for another paragraph.


And here you can read one of the contact texts:

U3 — Er sucht…
Du gefällst mir. Sehr. Schade, dass ich Dich am Holzapfelkreuth schon wieder verlassen musste. Hätte Dich gern zum Kennenlernen mit Cappucino eingeladen. Fahre jeden Mittag 11:50 und stehe im letzten Wagen. Wann kommst Du ?”
 
U3 ( Line 3 of the subway) He is loooking for…
“I like you. A lot. What a pity, that I had to leave you at “Holzapfelkreuth” (a subway station) again. I would have invited you for a capuccino. I travel every noon at 11:50 and I’m usually standing in the last wagon. When do you come?”
 
Well, what do you think? Is this a better way of flirting or dating? 😉  Do you think this guy, we don’t even know how he looks like, young, old, hair no hair, glasses, etc. … will find his beloved one? I really doubt it!
 
There is then one possibility left: real online dating.  And that is the problem, the word “real”…
 
This image is from a Spanish book, and if you look at the descriptions, you’ll soon find the “errors”. She’s supposed to be 25 years old, tall, thin, while he should be dark, very strong and 35…
 
We cannot generalize and think that everybody with an online dating profile fakes their appearance, but there are cases… The disappointment waiting for a tall, handsome, nice guy can be big, if you instead meet a short, ugly and unpleasant guy.  That would be only on the physical aspect, which is very subjective. A man that I find attractive may be considered “horrible” by another friend of mine.   But how about the personality? Everybody can write about themselves: nice, intelligent, educated, etc…. Everybody wants to make a good impression.  The first impression counts and listening to our inner voice during the first real encounter may be of some help in getting acquainted with someone we only know from a dating site.
 
There are then dating portals for every need and “almost” every age. There is even one specialized in “seniors” where the texts are written in extra big letters and you can find a step-by-step description for every action: subscribing, reading, writing,  uploading a picture. 
Other dating web sites are proud of their psychological tests and the exclusive selection of their well educated members, for example elitepartner.de or parship.de. However, they charge up from 60 EUR and on for a month implying that three months are not long enough to get to know the love of your life. You should subscribe for 3 months, a year or even longer!  
Is it worth it? I’ve heard of some people who have met their current partner on one of these sites, but other friends have said that it didn’t work out and they just had lost a bunch of money. There weren’t many candidates on that age range and the interesting ones were living very far away. There was no option to limit the search to Munich and surroundings.
 
There are not so exclusive sites, that cost nothing or very little, with a big risk of meeting fakes, swindlers or perverts.  There was a group of North African guys who subscribed to these pages trying to attract desperate middle aged women who were looking for a partner.  They presented themselves as nice British guys working in humanitarian projects out of Europe and later on started asking for financial aids for their projects or a contact address in Europe. Very dangerous and disappointing for the ladies involved! There were warnings about these cases in the local radio.
 
Many sites offer some special interest, especially sports, as Germans love sports… Dating in the Alps… I think of  “Lederhose” or leather breeches and fatiguing expeditions to the top of the mountain…  I personally don’t think those dating pages would be adequate to my needs 😉
 
And of course on the dark side… There are dating sites for every other interest, a special site for cheating… Believe it or not! and all kinds of dating platforms for s-e-x. Well, we’re living in Germany with quite an open minded society.
 
I don’t know, if online dating has the same weight in Mexico, Brazil, the USA or France, and would like to know your views about it.  Young people have other needs and I imagine that it’s easier for them to find dates. That’s maybe why online dating is so popular between people from 30 to 60 years of age. 
 

 I’m in a hurry!  I’ll leave you now and start writing my online profile  😉

 
 

One of those days

I woke up yesterday morning wrecking myself delightfully in bed. I was feeling very relaxed after the nice Sunday I had had. My stiff neck was doing better, especially after the treatment I gave it on Sunday, lots of warmth and some stretching exercises without forgetting a sparkling glass of champagne.
I finally got up and went to the kitchen to prepare my green smoothie with spinach, coriander, ginger, green lime and bananas. I got back to my bedroom with my smoothie and while I started sipping it delightfully, I decided to check my emails and appointments for the week. I was waiting for an important telephone call from the Job Agency. I had been waiting for contact from them since last Thursday …
 
After having finished checking my calendar I went back to the kitchen to prepare my morning cup of coffee. I turned on the machine, chose a coffee tab and pressed the “Start” button. I poured milk into the cup and was quite surprised with my “white” coffee. I just smirked looking on the counter at the coffee tab next to the coffee machine and restarted the process. 
Thinking about the possibilities I had for my so called “professional” life I took a long shower. Yes, I know, sorry eco-friends, but sometimes…  I even took the telephone and my cell phone to the bathroom to avoid missing the very important call. However, no one called. By that time my daughter was also ready and we decided to do our Monday groceries’ shopping. We drove our nice red car to the “green”supermarket… Well, if driving is already bad, let’t compensate it with buying ecological food.  Maybe this way I can recover my lost point with the eco-friends.
 
In the supermarket we realized that they had changed the entrance, had rearranged the racks and that the supermarket looked nicer. This implied though that they had also changed the prices and not in a positive way for our wallets.
Having bought the necessary for cooking, we dropped by the “Getränkemarkt”. That’s like a store specialized in beverages. There you can buy soft drinks, water, juice, all kinds of beer and some snacks. We gave in our returnable bottles and even got 2 EUR back. 
We were happy humming around some pop songs that we had just heard in the radio.
We were wondering because the parking lot, the supermarket and the street in general were empty for a Monday morning.  We got in the car with our 2 EUR return ticket and I started the engine. I looked in the rear mirror and the way was free… We heard a loud “bang!” and I immediately stopped the car. A lady parking some 5 meters from our car looked at us in an outrageous way. Some other people parking about 10 meters behind our car also looked outraged in our direction… We got out of the car and… Yes, we immediately knew what had happened. I had hit one of the red and white metal poles that mark the entrance to the market. To my disgrace, the pole was standing and my car had lost its whole front part! That was the loud noise, the wrenched part was lying on the floor attached to only one screw.  I tried to fix back in some way the loose end of the bumper so that I could park again. I managed to reattach it for about 2 seconds, which lasted exactly that long. At least we were now parking with the “hurt” part to the front. Some other people were walking by and they all looked outraged in our direction, as if we had destroyed national property or had hurt some people. But no, my car was broken and that was all that had happened. This is though a typical conduct in this country, they always look at you in a suspicious and judging way. Sometimes you ignore it because in time you have got used to it, but sometimes you would expect a kinder look or maybe a nice question: “May I help you? Is everything alright?”  Well,maybe, if we had been in a bad situation… However, this didn’t look really dangerous, only a little funny. My daughter could at least laugh, while I tried to reach the insurance company.  Fortunately, I had my insurance card with the phone numbers for an emergency written down.  I tried the first number, which wasn’t active anymore… I tried the “Free call” number and after 3 or 4 minutes I got to the next hurdle, the first waiting line: “You have reached the Allianz Insurance Company” In case you need A, dial 1, if you need B, dial 2, if you need C, dial 3 and so on and so fort. When I got to the description that matched my case, I dialed the next number and waited… and waited… and waited… The weather was nice and I was sitting comfortably in the sun, I almost went back to the market to buy some coffee…
I finally got a person, not the next computer on the line, and he instructed me on what to do, this of course with my active help and active questions… He told me I should take my car to the mechanics… In this case I told him that it would be a brilliant idea, if I could drive my car… which I couldn’t. I remembered listening to our local radio station and having listened to a commercial of “Geissler Karroserie”, your partner in car problems, car body work and just very close to you”…  Mmmm, true! They are just around the corner. I told the customer service employee on the phone that I could walk to the mechanics and ask them, if they could repair our car. He gave me his registration number and that was it. We explained the problem and with the help of one of the young mechanics I could drive the car to them  and they even offered to drive us home. We had luck in our misfortune, or “Glück im Unglück”.
 
At home I noticed that I had a call from an unknown caller and remembered my long expected call. I looked for my emails, expecting to have a message from the Job Agency…   Useless… I looked for the “Hotline” number of the Job Agency and dialed, this time with a glass of water. I had been waiting for about three minutes listening to a modern tone that was drilling in my ear, when my telephone suddenly died!  I couldn’t believe it, we have had some problems with the phone lately, but now and at this moment?!  In despair I had to look for the other telephone and started the same procedure. It took another 5 minutes to get through, but I managed to get a person on the phone and gave her the reason of my call…
 
We finally prepared our lunch, ecological tomatoes and onions for a Brazilian vinaigrette and a biological steak grilled on our “Barbie” grill… Yes, our grill is pink! 😉
After a delicious lunch I got to my desk and wanted to write… But the telephone rang and I saw the message “ unknown number” on the display… Cross your fingers, please… Yes, the Job Agency! 
The well known voice of my so called coordinator or contact person asked me in an unfriendly manner: “Where are you?”  I answered: “Errr, at home…”  “I have been waiting for you, didn’t you listen to my message?”  

Oh, my God!  I then looked at my cell phone and during the whole incident with the car this lady had left a message on my mail voice. I told her my story which I’m not sure she believed… She wanted me to get there immediately, which of course, wasn’t possible due to my car If I take the train it would take me more than an hour to get there and by that time the agency would be closed. I even offered to take a taxi, which she didn’t want me to do… So in her friendly way she asked me again, what I wanted.  I repeated the same story I had sent her by email and the story I had told the lady on the phone, the one from the hotline… I wanted to meet her to discuss the possibility of getting a special course to modernize my IT skills so that I could have a better chance in getting a job in that area again. Her reaction: “Why do you want a course? You already know a lot… I see that you have already worked in the administration, even at the university. You don’t need to learn more, you need a job.”  
I answered: “That’s it, I need a qualified job! I cannot find an adequate position and they don’t consider me for easy jobs. as you already mentioned I am qualified, but my IT skills are a little bit rusty” And then she told me: “ I don’t understand why you can’t get a job… Let me look at your file… Ah, yes, I know, you are old!” 

How did the story end?  Well, like in school, I have an appointment with this lady next week and I have to bring her all my documents from the last 5 months printed out: CV, letters of application and of course the letters of rejection from the companies I have applied to…   I hope I get at least a good grade and maybe a star on my forehead like in Kindergarden…   After one of those days, I really feel old…
 

Woman or human being?

I may be a little late choosing this topic for my post, I know, The International Women’s Day was last week. However, I think that it is not only on one day a year that we should think about women and the roles women play in our society. 
I cite this time Simone de Beauvoir who says that
“Man is defined as a human being and woman as a female — whenever she behaves as a human being she is said to imitate the male.”
The word man can be a male human being or mankind as such. In German for example, there is another word for mankind, which is Menschheit, being “Mensch” a generic word for a human being, although sticking to grammar, the gender of the word “Mensch” or human, is masculine…  “Ein Mann” is a man and “eine Frau” is a woman. In Spanish as in English we refer to both using the masculine word for man or hombre. We also have mankind, humanity, and other words, but it is significant that “man” is still a popular term.
So, how should we behave? What does being a woman mean? 
Simone de Beauvoir was and activist and a feminist who wrote about what it meant being a woman, thinking, behaving and feeling as a woman. In her book, The Second Sex, she analyzes women’s situation and her work is seen as a symbol of contemporary feminism. It was written in the late forties and at the very beginning she didn’t even liked to be called a feminist. However, in the seventies she agreed to being one.
I think that we all agree that there still exists prejudice or discrimination, the so called sexism, in many areas of our society, in many countries stronger than in others.  This attitude comes from traditional stereotypes or gender roles, as explained in the definition in Wikipedia. Extreme sexism may lead to sexual harassment, and even harsher actions such as sexual violence or even rape. There is an interesting video postulating a theory of how a man could also be the victim of harsh sexism, if society would be ruled by woman.
I don’t think we have to go to the extremes to may it clear.  Any one could belong to the oppressed majority, as the video shows us.
Let’s take a look at the way a woman managed to be taken seriously in a difficult area and in a time when men, and especially, medical doctors were considered gods.  This woman, Virginia Johnson, was one of the first ones who started questioning the sexual behavior and sexual responses of women at a time when the topic was out of any question. Moral and belief were the guidelines to judge and decide how a woman should behave.  She started assisting Dr. William Masters with his first scientific studies on human sexuality in the late fifties and early sixties in the United States. The studies were on male and female sexuality, but there were a lot of prejudices on the female role. Before these controversial research studies and their conclusions the idea of sex was very limited. These ideas culminated in the publishing of one the first sex manuals “Human Sexual Response, (1966)” ,   There had been studies on pregnancy and birth, but the way women functioned hadn’t even been questioned before. It was also a pioneer work in having a woman be part of such a study.
A good idea of how she got there and how the topic, studying human sexuality, started to be taken serious, can be watched in the TV show “Masters of Sex”. It sounds really spicy for a TV show, and it really is.  The characters in the show are very well portrayed and I found every episode very interesting. 
Going back to women, do we need to have a special day because we are women?  I’ve seen a lot of posts about the “Day of the Cat”, “Day of the book”, “Day of…”  Is it really what we want? In this case, we also need to have a Men’s day, a Dog’s day, a Turtles‘ day,  etc. 
I think we often miss the point, women’s day was introduced to think about all abused women in the world, and not to congratulate each other on being women…  It is a call to respect women’s rights in the working world, to respect their position and condition, and to remind the States all over the world to help in this undertaking.
It is of course nice to be a woman, and to be proud of being one, but remember, don’t stick to predefined roles, don’t judge yourselves and compare yourselves with ideal or superficial woman figures. Be simply yourself, every one of us is beautiful in her own personal way!
 
 

What if…

We have asked ourselves, what if we hadn’t done something the way we did or what if we had just tried harder…  Especially, if we are in a situation that has turned out to be not exactly what we thought it should be. 
This is the main question answered in two different ways in the novel “The Post Birthday World” from Lionel Shriver. 
 
The main character is Irina McGovern, who is a children’s book illustrator and lives in London with her long time partner Lawrence. It all starts with a kiss on the birthday of Ramsey, a mutual friend.  What if she hadn’t kissed him? Or what if she had kissed him? 
When I started reading the novel I didn’t really know about this two different versions of one story triggered by a same event.  After the first chapter, there are two chapters two, three and so on. The story evolves differently as if there were parallel worlds. In one of the versions, Irina questions her relationship and takes action to change her life. She makes her own decisions and shows more strength of character. In this same version, Lawrence is weaker and Ramsey is the successful snooker player (a british sport similar to billiard) with money and fame.   On the one hand Irina feels comfortable with Lawrence because he offers her moral support, gives her advice on her job and is more like a good old friend to her. On the other, Ramsey attracts her sexually and has a very different personality, but his only interest is snooker.  In the second version, Irina is afraid of taking the step that may change her safe life. Although she keeps in touch with Ramsey in a different role as in the first version, she decides to continue with her quiet life. In this turn of the story, Lawrence is the one who surprises her negatively.  She cannot believe that he was capable of doing what he did. The relationship to her own family, mother and sister, is also viewed differently in both versions. At the end however, both versions come to a common end.
 
I have to confess that, although I usually read a little bit about the authors before starting reading a book, in this case I didn’t. I got it electronically and that’s maybe the reason why I didn’t look at the author’s picture or read the small biography in the book cover.  Therefore, while reading the first chapters, I was amazed at the insights of a woman’s mind and body that this “Lionel” was describing. I thought to myself, that this “male” author had to have a very good woman counselor 😉   I have to recognize that it was my fault. I corroborated my suspicion and corrected my mistake by reading the biography of Lionel Shriver, who in real life is Mary Ann Shriver! I also remembered that this was the same author of the famous novel “We have to talk about Kevin”, which by the way, I haven’t read. The latter was filmed in 2011 with Tilda Swinton as the mother and Ezra Miller as Kevin.  
Going back to the Post Birthday World, I don’t want, of course, to imply that only a woman can really write how a woman feels, or the other way around, that only a man can write what a man really feels or thinks. It is only that in this special case I was a little bit surprised with the intense descriptions. 
Returning to the main point in the novel, which is what would have happened, if. 
In real life, what would had happened, if I had done something differently? In my case,  would I be still living in Munich? Would I have stayed in Brazil? Would I still be married? Would I have a child, my daughter? Questions and more questions on transcendental topics… I imagine that all of us have thought one time or another that way, but as we’re not in a novel, we cannot create a second version of our lives. So let’s continue accepting positively the decisions we’ve made up to now. There is no way of really knowing which is the “perfect” decision, and I think that there are no perfect decisions, or are there?  Time will show us the way our decisions turned out, good or bad. 
 
Getting to the end, I‘ll finish here, if not it will be very philosophical… Till next week, that’s my decision!