Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Single Guy and Recycling

Hawaii has had a recycling law for a few years now. It's completely out of whack in that they charge you $0.06 per bottle/can and when you return the container you only get $0.05 back. They have $0.01 as an administrative fee. You have to go to special recycle centers to get your money back and they can weigh rather than count the containers. The state keeps the money for containers not returned and then they also get the extra penny. Plus, if the recycling rate his 70%, they will charge $0.065 per container, meaning since there is no half a penny they'll collect a full one. They have a surplus which in private business terms is making a profit on the basis of trying to keep Hawaii green. In my opinion, it's a poor implementation of a recycling program because they charge a lot, have made it very difficult to get your money back and make a profit off of the process.

Although, at first, I didn't care because I consume so much soda that I don't bother with bottles or cans from a case. I did the two liter bottles. I bought my soda, consumed my soda and then threw away the bottle. After the first year of the program, the legislature changed the program and two liter bottles were charged too. Damn, now I gotta pay that $0.06 per bottle. Alright...I'll pay.

For the returnables, I used to bring the bottles, 3-4 at a time into the office and drop them into the recycle container. As the operations manager, it was my responsibility to take care of them. I had a friend that would come by every so often and take the garbage bags full of bottles and cans from the worksite. Usually between 6 and 10 bags at a time were carted out for recycle. I asked my friend and he said he'd get between $10-$20 per trip. OK, cool.

The boss asked me to stop that one day as her daughter's Daisy troop were getting into the recycling. OK, not a problem. Hello friend, my boss has overridden me and she's going to take the recyclables for her daughter. Thanks for helping out! All is cool.

Then I get laid off. As I said earlier, I drink a lot of soda. Now, instead of being able to take the bottles to work, they lay around my apartment. The Apartment in Paradise as I call it isn't that big. But I would collect 20 bottles at a time and make a recycling run. I would dutifully make sure the caps were off, although I collect coke points and have gotten a crock pot, food processor, photo enlargements, and most recently a set of binoculars from point redemption; and the liquids were out before turning them in. I crushed them, counted them, put them in a garbage bag to take them a mile from my location to get back my nickels.

It just occurred to me today what a total waste of time recycling is under my conditions. To walk them over and then walk back would be 45 minutes. If I take the bus, it's $2.25 plus about 20 minutes of time. All that storage, effort and time for a measly buck back.Several times I got my nickels, but they kept the garbage bag which by itself was almost as valuable as the bottles! No matter how you cut it, I loose money. The return won't even buy a burger on the dollar menu at McDonalds because I'd have to take money out of my own pocket due to the excise tax.

So, what am I going to do? Just crush them and walk them out to the sidewalk with the rest of my ordinary trash. With the cost of oil, they are more valuable as fuel for the H-Power electricity generation. The state gets to keep my $1.20 that I paid and at least someone there could get a dollar menu burger at McDonalds and get change back.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Joys of Being Laid Off

Wow, hard to believe that it's been four months since I was laid off. I can't believe what this time has been like. It has been some of the best time of my life! I realize that I for lack of a better term had let myself go for the past number of years. I really hadn't done anything to improve myself. I got out of the habit of nightly reading and trying to improve myself, to be better than I was the day before.

With the release from the job came the opportunity of what doors are there available to me to open. One of the programs that I've started to take advantage of is called the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). It provided money for me to get training to upgrade my skills. I've been working with computers since 1978 when I started high school. Over the past decade plus years I had been using the PC but never took the time to really get into the nitty gritty of some of details. Been all around it, but never really got my hands dirty. WIA allowed me to go back to my old employer, this time as a student to take a certification class for Network+. On June 24th, I took the certification exam and passed. I'm waiting to hear about what the next step will be, hopefully I'll be attending a class for Security+ soon.

Being at the place where I worked, allowed me to make observations and hear comments. I really have to thank the person who let me go. She released me from worrying about "do I" or "don't I" have a job. Whether or not the bills will be paid, will they be able to make payroll, do they meet specs for various partnerships. All GONE, all lifted off my chest. I don't have to worry about that anymore. She's got to figure out if cutting expenses and not increasing revenue for what they are supposed to be doing and trying to move out of the training franchise model will keep them in business. So to that person I say MAHALO NUI!!

A few weeks earlier, I signed up for am in the middle of an adult ed creative writing class. This has been fun as I have met several people outside of my normal sphere. I am glad that I'm improving myself once again. Granted, it's not as stringent as taking a course at the university level, but I'm hoping that I can use the skills for a project that I have in mind in the not too distant future.

The timing of my release in one way couldn't have been better. Shortly after being laid off my cousin on the Big Island asked if I could help her. Since her husband passed away last year, she made the decision to move back to the mainland and be with her daughter and grand children. I spent two weeks over there helping sell items and be there during the day when calls came in or perspective buyers dropped by. I also got to explore and visit some of Kona. Had I been working, that wouldn't have happened. I went back at the end of May to visit Linda and my other cousins Joanne and Julie who flew in from MA for a day. It was good to see Joanne and Julie and say goodbye to Linda. Once she left Hawaii I have no immediate family in the state.

I ended up going to Disneyland for a week at the start of May. As part of the Disney Podcast Network we held our Westfest event at the Happiest Place on Earth. My annual pass that I bought back in December helped out immensely. I did manager to get cheap airfare and since I made hotel reservations last September, the room was cheap. It was a good time to see old friends and make new ones.

One of the most exciting parts is that I've had chances to explore where I live. I've taken my time walking in areas and really having a chance to see what's there. Walking down Kapahulu Ave and stopping in a bunch of mom and pop type places. Looking at the buildings to see what is new, what is old and what is modified. My own area, McCully-Moiliili...really taking the time to look and observe. Waikiki. going down and exploring. Seeing what is changed. Lots of construction destroying a lot of old and making way for new. Some of it good and some not so good. Visiting Kailua and see what's there stopping into some antique shops to see what some of old Hawaii might have been like by seeing the items that were now calling that store home.

Going on the tour at the Hawaii Theater, visiting the Honolulu Zoo, the Army Museum at Ft DeRussy are just some of the museums/exhibts. Checking out some fairs and farmers market to get a better pulse. I realize that I really need to make a list and start checking off items as I do them. I discovered today the Mighty Mo, the Battleship Missouri is going away for 3 months of dry dock starting in September. I need to make sure that I get there before it goes. I still have so much more to do!!

One of the side effects of all the exploring is that I've been going casual for months and now have a tan...of sorts. I'm not going to the beach and exposing my upper body to the sun, but my lower legs, face, arms and shoulders are all showing some good brown. I just have those funky lines on my feet from the rubbah slippahs and the brown, white, brown, white, brown pattern across my shoulders from the tank tops.

Due to some improvements that the landlord is making, I've been forced to deal with some cleaning that I haven't done in a long time. I did start doing some cleaning after getting back from Kona. Experiencing what it's like to handle items for a deceased person and help prepare for a move was enlightening. I've been in the same place since I moved to Hawaii in 1990. I came across things like the first Oahu Gold tourist magazine that I picked up the day that I arrived. Paperwork from a business that I owned back in the 1990's was still sitting in a file drawer. In my hall closet, I had 23 towels...why would a single male without a roommate need so many? Old computer parts, a Furby, clothes that don't fit, and magazines have all come to the surface. Looking at some of my Disney items and sharing them with my Disney friends has been fun.

Back in the early 90's I was exposed to the concepts of residual income and being debt free. While I don't have residual income, I am debt free. It's actually been six years this month since I paid off the last credit card. How do I know that? Because I've been shredding credit card statements from all those cards. At least the ones that don't show the zero balance. I'm going to hold onto those. To the various people that taught me and encouraged me to be debt free and with that to start a savings account, I can't say Mahalo enough. Not having to deal with the burden of debt and having that savings account has been truly AWESOME!!

Had I not been let go, I'd still be arguing with the boss and sales manager asking why are we dong that? You're giving that to them for how much? Do we have a signed contract? With the words, we have to let you go or we can't make payroll, my life changed. Not for the worse, but for the better. These words can't fully describe the liberation, excitement and joy that have become part of my life since March 4.

I still have so much more to do on many levels. Between planning some projects, cleaning and exploring more about the place that I call home, I'm super excited. Along the way I've been tweeting, plurking and hanging out on facebook and sharing thoughts and pictures with you of my explorations and adventures. I hope that you have enjoyed them and know that there will be more to come. One area that I have been severely lacking and owe apologies to people is with my podcasts. I haven't turned out anything for a while. I need to get on that. During the cleaning I came across a "For Better or Worse" comic strip from April 25, 1995 that I ripped out of the Sunday paper and saved. It shows the dad comforting the daughter after the passing of the family dog. She's blaming herself and wished that it hadn't happened. He responds with "We are temporary. Our lives are on loan to us. Just for a while. ....and nobody knows how long each life will be. That's why we have to take care of each other and to remember everyday, to appreciate the ones we love."

I really do want to say a heart felt thank you to those that have come along on the journey with me from the first day that I was told to clean out my desk until the moment you are reading this. I really do appreciate you!