tisdag 20 oktober 2020

Den onda cirkeln

 Hejsan. Mitt namn är Jonathan, jag är 32 år och jag har inget arbete. Jag har ett helt okey CV men ingen arbetslivserfarenhet det senaste året. Detta beror delvis på att jag har en diagnos - Aspergers Syndrom - som gör att det är olämpligt att jag arbetar mer än 75%. Det innebär att en läkare har bedömt att jag har en permanent nedsatt arbetsförmåga på 25%. Hänger ni med än så länge? Nu ska vi ut på en resa förstår ni. 

Vi börjar hos Försäkringskasssan. Jag begär sjukersättning då jag har nedsatt arbetsförmåga på 25% som inte är troligt att jag får tillbaka under min livstid. En läkare har skrivit under intyget, en ansökan är inskickad. Försäkringskassan anser att det inte är omöjligt för mig att få jobb och bifaller därför inte ansökan. Utan ansökan kan jag heller inte få bostadstillägg vilket vore verkligen hjälpsamt i sammanhanget.  Överklagan väljer de att ignorera helt. 

Vi går vidare till Arbetsförmedlingen. Arbetsförmedlinen kan med begränsade resurser inte hitta något annat än Samhall och Praktik åt mig. Samhall vore mycket olämplig arbetsplats för mig av flera skäl och praktik ger inget betalt. Men jag får en praktik jag trivs med - efter att jag hittat den själv. Praktikplatsen har pga COVID-19 inget ekonomiskt utrymme öht att anställa en ny person, ens med lönebidrag. 

Vi går vidare till Socialkontoret i Lidingö Stad. Jag begär försörjningsstöd då min familj betalar nästan allt mitt uppehälle och jag vill inte placera dem i den situationen. Lidingö Stad påstår sig ha läst igenom en lunta med 100 papper (med den information de begärt) på en eftermiddag, begär in fler uppgifter på Torsdagen och skickar ett fullständigt avslag på fredagen; dvs innan jag ens fått besked om att de vill ha in fler uppgifter. Ett av skälen till avslaget är att de anser att jag kan få ut pengar från Försäkringskassan.Ett annat är att jag äger 10% av en Bostadsrätt vilket jag måste göra för att få bo där. Ärendet ligger nu hos förvaltningsrätten.

Flytta har jag försökt göra i ett och ett halvt år nu. När jag äntligen hamnade etta på en bostad så fick jag inte hyra där eftersom jag inte har tillräcklig inkomst, detta trots att jag kunde erbjuda borgenärer och trots att bolaget ifråga tillhörde allmännyttan.

Således anser alla delar att "någon annan" ska sköta det hela. Försäkringskassan anser att jobbet finns. Arbetsförmedlingen kan inte hitta någon som vill betala för att få jobbet utfört. Socialkontoret tycker att det är Försäkringskassans ärende. Och så går vi runt runt runt tills jag blir fullständigt galen.

Nästa person som säger "det är för lätt att få bidrag i det här landet" riskerar en jävla smäll på käften. 

tisdag 8 september 2020

No such thing as a Free Lunch - When I worked for an MLM

I worked for a Independent Distributor of Herbalife. I did not manage the sales; at least not directly. The entire business model was to lure people in. I say lure because we could never say what we did. Either they came because they were promised huge sums of money or a "free health scan" or "free gym membership". At no point did they mention Herbalife until you got there. How did they get there?

The company - and that was my job - had around fifty different websites. They had names like "youaredying", "freehealthscan or "make10000aweek". All of them was made with pretty much one or two clicks then using stock images I sincerely doubt the company had a licence for and then over and over. Aside from me having to unlock each side individually(by asking my boss) since our customer roster was on the very same server (Yes, under the same FTP).

I was not provided with any equipment. I used my own personal laptop for my work, I was not paid to be there, the only thing I was provided - if you can call it that - was herbalife nutrition bars. This was the office fika. Eating anything that was not Herbalife at the office was discouraged. They even served us Herbalife stuff during the hiring interview! My contact from Lidingö Stad was with me during the first workday - to make sure everything worked out. He and me had bonded pretty well and that was the only enjoyable workday; because we sat and very quietly ridiculed most of the things we saw happen.

Not all of it was funny.

I saw people running for the door and they where the smart ones. They usually got pursued by another seller hellbent on making the sale or drafting them into the program. I saw a lot of diplomas promising rich rewards and I was subjected to a lot of propaganda from my boss who wanted me to start in sales.

He was not very good at it. He would send me stuff like "look at this dishwasher who is now a millionaire by investing in Herbalife" and then he could not even answer the question where a dishwasher would find that money. He also claimed to be a part of the "Executives team", a meaningless title that pretty much showed what position he had in the Pyramid. I never found out if he was a part of it or if he did what many retailers do; put his Herbalife goal as his facebook job.

The health scan was a scam, pure and simple. It was a scale attached to a wire. In general, the person who asked for a health scan would be told stories of doom and gloom whereupon they would be recommended an ample supply of Herbalifes overpriced products. Many bought them, simply because they felt they had saved money on the health scan - and was told as much by the more experienced sellers.

One day, three weeks in I had enough. I sat in the same area as where the "customers" were handled. An old lady held her ground, refusing to buy anything despite being shamed by the seller who kept insisting she "owed" them for the health scan; a new recruit - a young kid, maybe 20-23 - came in, was introduced to me and my boss said "this is Jonathan, he has only been here for three weeks but already doing great".

He never said I was the one who made the website that brought that kid there.

On that day on the third week I walked away. I took my boss aside and said I felt this was a scam and I was unable to continue this line of work on the backs of other people. He tried to talk me out of it but I would not hear it. On my way home; I noticed they had not removed me as administrator of the social media so I revoked all the changes I made during my time there. They still use one of my ideas last time I checked; focusing heavily on Facebook Events. They still pretend they are simply inviting friends along to the gym. I hope it goes poorly for them.

When I had walked away, they tried to get me back. They called the unemployment agency and went on a twenty-minute long rant about how they were not a scam. After that, my contact there ceased to try and talk me into going back. I would never do it. I am not the kind of person who can rip people off and I am quite happy to work where I am currently - with honest work as a photographer. 

If you want to know more about the bigger picture on Herbalife, Betting on Zero on Netflix is a good option. John Oliver also have a very good piece on the topic.

söndag 5 juli 2020

Untitled Rant Blog Post

This was intended to be a Twitter thread but I realised quickly it would most likely get too long for that. I woke up this morning feeling absolute shit and I realised that I have not really felt that kind of shit for over a year. Not since I left my former place of employment. I still remember snippets of the dream I had and sure enough, most of them are about that place.

At the same time, I am very happy about my current internship. It fits me like a glove, my coworkers are nice people and I get to do something I happen to know a lot about. Getting that one was a huge boon even if I am convinced it won't lead to employment; it might just send me into that career path instead and I would like that very much. If not, it would be three months spent that is far better than the alternative since my Unemployment Benefits are almost drained.I get another source of income with this internship. If I did not, I honestly do not know what the hell else I would do. I have a depression due to the events I will describe below and with COVID-19, jobs are drying out fast.

But why you may wonder have I still such strong feelings about my former place of employment? Well, part of it is how I came to leave it. I make no secret that I was bullied out of the workplace. Things like nitpicking on everything I did, intentionally keeping me out of the loop regarding my future and disregarding agreements regarding how we approach things was commonplace during my last two months to the point that going to work made me feel very much like I felt this morning.

But let us start from the beginning. I got the job through the Swedish Employment Agency. I had been unemployed for a long time and lived mostly on state support tough if you look at my CV, you will see the period mostly covered with different photography assignments. I did my attempt to support myself as a freelance photographer and I failed. Simple as that. But either way, I got an internship for six months as the receptionist.

The fact that they went that route to get one should been at least a yellow flag but I was happy for it, because they did employ me afterwards. They were just handily bribed to do so. You see, I was employed under a system where the Employment Agency reimburses part of the salary. This is of course set by a max cap but the poor salary and the fact that I worked 75% meant that they could get my entire salary reimbursed.

They also got another grant, a sum you get for extra man hours spent. They routinely wrote down five hours a week on this, getting compensated for this as well despite the fact that - if we are to be generous - probably never rated more then 30 minutes of such time during my first six months of internship and almost none afterwards. But they got money for that for two years; tax payer money. And it gets worse. You see, I thought this meant the Employment Agency could essentially put thumb screws on them and maybe even demand repayments if the did not hold up their side of the bargain. Yet it would turn out the Employment Agency was powerless to do anything about it. There was not any rules save just stop the payments and for that to happen, I would have to quit. There was no rules in place to handle misconduct or when the rules were not being followed by the employer.

So. Now you know the ground rules of my employment there. They essentially got paid to have me around. Quite a good deal and I was content with it. I had a job that was a bit out of my comfort zone but I needed to work on that so I did not mind it. What I should have minded was the little things. While I will get back to the bullying later, my current internship has highlighted how messed up other things were. For example, I was always under direct micromanagement. I have not realised that until now. I could get told to do something in the most generic terms possible.

I went on and do it and then get told I did it wrong. Now, if this happened once with the same task, it would make sense but there was almost always some variation. Even if I asked beforehand, they would just say "do it the way you feel best" or any variation thereof. The only person who did not ask this way but gave me huge leeway was the first vice-manager (manager of me, that is) but he quit the job and got replaced by a person who was even worse in this way than my usual boss. He was quick to take any credit for a job well done but anything that might backfire, he made sure exploded in somebody else's hands. Often in mine. He will be referred to Vice-Manager from this point.

To give you the best example of his management style, let me tell you a story. The organisation motto would be painted in the reception area, meaning my responsibility. Only that nobody told me. That was also common behaviour I might add; people doing stuff in areas I had accountability over and not asking or informing me beforehand. I had all the accountability, none of the responsibility.

So they just bring down a painting and have their (unpaid) artist start working on the thing. When I ask them what they were doing, they say they have permission to do so. Now, this painting was very important to another member as it essentially was a tribute to their work so naturally, she became upset and went to the managers. The managers said I should have checked if the painting had any value to anybody before I removed it. So I was held accountable for a decision I had not made. So I apologized to the person who was surprised and said it was not my fault at all.

So now we had to find another place for the painting and it was important this would be another prominent place. Eventually we settled on a spot where the painting would be accompanied by more artwork. It was also argued that part of the reception would have to be removed to make the artwork more visible tough we had no idea if it impacted or not. So I argued that we get the artwork there first, then see if its necessary to spend 15 000 SEK (1450€) on removing parts of the reception to make it more visible. With my boss gone on vacation, I struggled hard against the decision to spend that much money on something that had little proven value because at this point, I had started to see the pattern. If this was the wrong decision, I would be held accountable.

This was obvious because all his instructions were either generic or vocal. So I pushed back and said that we get the painting and the artwork up first. He refused and essentially told me to find alternatives. So I did and presented the cost of the job and he without blinking set me the task to hire them to do it. Fortunately, my boss returned a few days later and agreed with me. Then the vice manager said that the artist had refused to do the work; most likely because we did not want to pay her for her work. So the painting was then put on display in another room.

There are more stories like them. I was yelled at and threatened by other employees twice. Both were organisation veterans and one case I considered serious enough to report to our safety officer. No action was ever taken. I did not even get an apology, just told to go on with it.

The Vegan Lobby at the office was pretty strong, even tough they were in a small minority. One of them however dated my boss so any "suggestions" they had quickly became orders to me and I had to defend their standpoints because neither my boss or the Vegans had any desire to handle the backlash over the fact that we were to no longer buy milk to the office. Officially, the organisation had a Vegetarian Policy but I was to interpret it as Vegan simply because it lacked the "ovo-lacto" branding and this was controversial, even amongst staff. Yet my name was on on any decision.

Similarly, we had a work roster where everybody did their fair part of the office. Had I been in charge, I would have discarded this because it was more work than it was worth. I would have just assumed everything on the list as part of my duties because I often had far too little to do and the list itself was the source of endless drama as some people had to be repeatedly told to do their share. Others complained that their task took too much time or was too difficult in comparison to others. However, the solution to just abolish the thing was never one presented to me, helping out was supposed to be good for office morale argued my boss and vice-manager.

Yet they themselves ordered me to strike them from the list as "they had too much to do". At this point, I saw exactly the kind of shit show that would go down so when I posted the new roster in the group chat, I added the line "By order of management". People quickly picked up on the changes and for once, I did not have to take the flak for somebody else decision. In the subsequent meeting where I was told this was "insubordinate" but I hinted I would keep doing it so people could address their complaints to the right person. Not the smartest move but I suspect I had become so tired of it all I just did not care any more.

Nor was I the only one. The workplace was incredibly toxic, divided into the people who dedicated their lives to the organisation and the people who just worked for it. The latter was expendable and was expended in quite large numbers too. We had a high rotation on multiple roles and poor management was often cited as the number one reason for dismissal - either people quitting or being fired. There was also a habit in place by managers not to inform project employees if they would get their term extended until the same week as the contract expired whereupon the managers often turned sour that their valued project employees got new jobs.

I still maintain a certain degree of professionalism even tough none was shown towards me so I have to speak in generic terms but openly racist remarks were thrown at one employee by another without any sort of intervention by management, favouritism ran rampant, a disregard for emergency procedures in the office, overtime and overworking being expected of people,  organisation veterans essentially doing what they pleased with some never attached to projects. The list goes on.

To keep this entry short - not that it has been so far - I will start writing about the end. The end started on 15th of March when I left the job due to a panic attack. At this point, other things happened at the workplace. My boss was to transfer for another position in another country and my vice manager would be my primary boss. This was not the desired outcome for me, I wanted to take the responsibility regarding the office infrastructure. The Panic Attack on the 15th was the first one I ever had; I had no idea what was going on until I was halfway home.

On the Monday, I was asked why I had left the office and at this point, while I knew it was a panic attack, I had no desire to discuss this as I thought it would just be regarded as an excuse. I was left with a written warning. About the only useful thing the Union did in all of this was to criticize this warning and it took a external consultant to do so; our Union nominally was a workplace organisation and thus our primary representatives in a conflict was our co-workers. So my union rep would have to argue against her direct superior. Yeah, not an optimal situation. She knew as well as I how her worklife would be if she did. So she did not.

Either way, the Union considered this warning to be invalid as it had not been forwarded to the Union so it could be challenged. In other words, they had something they used against me later but had not allowed me any method of challenging it. The week also got steadily worse. Some would argue that the workplace bullying had started well before this. I do not necessarily agree. I just consider it poor management. But what happened after was undeniably bullying.

Anything I did was met with negative feedback. At one point, I was leaving work five minutes after my shift had ended and my boss - in front of guests - asks why I am leaving. I broke down crying at my workstation at least once. This was regarded as "threatening behaviour" and I was told that I would be sent home if it was repeated.

I was gaslighted about the entire event with HR. HR does to this deny that any of this happened yet my reactions about it are things they tried to use against me in the last talk with the external union rep who shut it all down by pointing out that this was not in any material forwarded to them. Furthermore, in the same meeting HR kept saying that the only reason I did not continue my employment was because I had not accepted their offer of three months, yet at that point I had it in writing that the offer had been withdrawn.

The offer of re-employment is by the way my little treat to anybody interested in HR issues because it has been described by several friends who work in HR or Management as everything from "Incompetence in writing" to "A union slam dunk". Amongst other things, the document demands that I agree to like all tasks provided to me. The document also states that "there is a difference in doing your tasks and respecting them and we expect you to understand this". It also concludes with "It is up to you if you can grow into this role".

I was several times told to keep my mouth shut about it all. At once point, they wanted to send me home for doing so. I refused unless I got a written order as I assumed it otherwise would just be used against me. HR backed down.

One of the agreements put in place and that is probably the only thing that counts towards the five hours per week thing they got paid for was that any news would be delivered to me in person so they could be discussed. They stopped doing this, instead sending mails that kept arriving at three o clock; knowing I would just gotten home at this time. Any meetings was always with several people so I always felt outnumbered.

My status regarding a new contract was purposefully kept from me until the last possible moment when they offered three months extension, knowing I could never accept such a thing. I tried compromising with six or nine month contracts but they absolutely refused to even consider the issue.
My contract was left to run out with precious little in terms of warning.

They tried to control what references I would be getting. I knew requesting references from my managers was a dead end so I tried having co-workers instead. It turned out that they had directed employees that I had to ask my managers permission to have references from co-workers. Thankfully, at least four co-workers ignored this directive; one of them confirming its existence. Others made direct references to it when I asked.

Now, I have left out a lot in this but some of the things cannot be told without explicitly saying where I worked. I mean, its easy to find out either way but this is meant as venting foremost. I need to get it out of me and getting it out in private has not worked. I am not sure this will work either. But maybe it will soothe it for a few weeks at least. To those who I value who still work there. I'm sorry. To those who got out in time. I am happy it worked out for you.

söndag 26 april 2020

I do not like my birthday

I have never liked my birthday. It has been a fixture of my entire life. The birthday itself has nothing to do with this. It is a date like any other where my mother gave birth to me far out in the Stockholm Archipelago late in the night in the presence of a midwife. There was no time to get her to a hospital nor - did it turn out - was one needed. I am the only child, my mother and my father are still happily married and there is nothing wrong with our family. We are just the same as any other family. I am just another regular twenty-six year old who long since moved out and started the work of building a family of my own. But that fixture remains.

I do not like my birthday. To be fair, it is not the day itself that bothers me. It is the night. Of course I have seen medical professionals about it and they keep telling me it is just nightmares. It seems to me that it is the only time of year I do have them because I rarely have them at other times of the year but I digress. My first memory of such a nightmare was trying to convey information to somebody and not knowing if I got through along with a buzzing sound that repeated the same two words. The words themselves are long forgotten but the sounds are not.

I had dreams of desperation, dreams of cold, dreams of hanging on, of falling off, being trapped, being thrown across a room or just plain chaos. I do not know how long they last but I wake up shaking and dripping with sweat every single time. My throat hurts like I've been screaming for my life but oddly enough, nobody ever heard any sounds coming from me in my sleep during my birthday night. I have remained silent. It is ironic and almost amusing since I apparently snore every other night to the chagrin of anybody else in the room.

In my younger years, I tried to just forget them. Stayed home from school and just took a personal day to get myself back into order. In my early teens, I tried to stay awake. I could drink large amounts of coca cola and play my Nintendo GameCube but that failed. I fell asleep where I sat. It took me three tries to realise whatever I did, I would fall asleep at around 2 o'clock in the night. So I started to do what I do about my problems. I wrote the dreams down. Every dream on every birthday since I was fourteen is now written down and archived.

Writing them down is a hard thing to do. Whatever I write, I do not feel I make the experience justice as if the person writing cannot possibly understand or comprehend it all. Events, emotions, sounds and visuals are all blurred together and it takes time to divide them from each other and put into their correct place, like a movie that is also a jigsaw puzzle, counting on you to place every piece so you can see it all.

There is a consistency to them that cannot be denied, that much is clear and that scares me more than anything else. Since when are dreams ever consistent?

My parents did try to help me but they relied on the doctors opinion; that it was just night terrors. In time, I stopped talking to them about it. All I do is make sure any birthday celebrations are scheduled days before or after my actual birthday and it is not something people comment upon; easy enough when my birthday is in the middle of the weekday most years. But the help I needed the most came from an unexpected source.

I was in the cafeteria in college. I had pulled up a book and sat at one of the tables with a Chess board in front of it. I have not played Chess for years and honestly I never saw anybody play on those things. But she just sat down, smiled and asked if I wanted to play a game. And I did. I was eighteen and not very experienced with girls - and she was not with boys - but we got along fairly quickly. I am not sure we ever had that phase where we tried to figure out our feelings or anything like a courtship. Suddenly she was my new best friend and we hung out a lot and when we kissed the first time, we just kept at it. We never declared us a couple, we just became one. Years later, our marriage would be equally simple, just walking down to the courthouse and declaring it more for legal reasons than any desire to actually have a ceremony.

And it was she who disrupted the cycle. The night of my birthday, she had turned up unannounced and asked if I wanted to see a movie. So we did. And then we snuggled up on the couch. And then she fell asleep. And then I did because my stupid ass did not check the time. And then I woke up like I always do, sweating, shaking and scared to death. She looked at me but she did not speak. I became vaguely aware that she might consider me a freak and it did not calm me down one bit but she just hugged me and said we should probably head for my bed.

So we did but I could not fall asleep again. You see, out of all the people that I see in my nightmares on my birthday, I never recognize a single one. But this time I did. It had been a vivid vision. I had shouted for a person to save themself as it was obviously impossible for me to get out of whatever chaotic predicament I was in. But she was there. Her face, her voice. I remember it clearly. I was very perplexed as to how she could be present.

The next morning, over breakfast she asked me about it. It was obvious she thought nothing of it, just making sure I got more sleep after my nightmare. So I told her everything. Of course, this is not something I do often at all. My parents know what they know because it was impossible to hide. But I never actually told anyone the whole story. The dreams, the feelings and the sheer horror of knowing you will experience something like it and you cannot do a thing to stop it.

Very carefully, she asked if she could read what I had written for previous years. I was not really into letting her do it at first but I felt like I told her this much she deserved to see more. So while I sat at the computer, writing down the latest dream she was going through the paper copies of my earliest dreams. When I stopped typing, she just looked up at me and asked to switch. So we did, she sat down at the computer. Ten minutes later, she told me that we were going out. Her complexion had changed dramatically, her usually warm and freckled face was pale and her gaze had a stern determination, like she was decided to go through with something unpleasant.

I was convinced she was taking me to the doctor but yet again, she surprised me. It was a cold, windy autumn morning with a bright sun that provided no warmth as we left the house. As we passed by a flower shop, she halted me and went inside, returning a few minutes later with a bouquet of lilies. And so we went on the bus. I had no idea where she was taking me but she was my girlfriend and I trusted her.

We went off the bus near a local park. There were few others despite the hour being close to lunchtime and I had no idea where we were going. After all, this place was known mostly for walking around and having a bunch of museums and an amusement park. But I followed suit until she took me towards a small, triangular structure that almost looked like walls stacked against each other. Outside, she looked at me, gave me the bouquet and told me to go inside. I do not know why but it was clear she did not intend to go with me. So I went inside.

It was then I saw the names carved into the walls, more than I could count. I stood reading them at random and I realised that many of the names were familiar. Not all of them, far from all of them. But eighteen of them were very familiar to me, as if I read the name of a family member despite the names not being anywhere close to anybody I actually knew. I put down the flowers and stood silent in the center of all the names for a couple of minutes before I went out to my girlfriend. I did not ask her how she knew.

I now do this every year. I still write down the stories. But then I leave, I visit the same flower shop, I buy a bouquet of lilies and place them down. And the number of names I recognize keeps growing. It is now twentysix. One for every year I have been alive. One for every birthday.

This story is posted at /r/NoSleep and inspired by content from the same source.

tisdag 21 april 2020

Två år med Huawei P20 Pro

För två år sedan förlängde jag mitt abonemang hos Tre och jag valde då P20 Pro som min telefon. Jag hade nog valt P40 Pro i år om det inte vore för att Google Play och motsvarande appar inte alls fungerar på den telefonen. Således blev det dessutom att spara pengar och beställa en P30 Pro. P20 Pro är en mycket bra kameratelefon och har i flera fall ersatt tillfällen då jag tidigare tog med en systemkamera. Därför vill jag helt osorterat bjuda på de bästa bilderna som jag sparat på telefonen.