If You Don’t Work, You Die II


I had planned on a different and far more complex post today, but I woke up at six, went back to bed and woke up at nine thirty.  This used to be a normal time to wake up in summer when I was a kid, but now it’s decadent and strange.  It threw everything off.  I’ve been running around getting caffeinated, etc.

Only I was reading your comments, and I thought there’s another aspect to “If you don’t work you die” which Kipling might or might not have thought about, but which to me and people like me is as important as the financial/productive side.

I don’t know how widespread this is, or whether it’s a human characteristic.  As I said, I have friends who would gladly not do anything the rest of their lives, given a modicum of money to live on.  BUT this seems to be true of me and a lot of other people.

I’d rather work scraping crap off shoes than sit still day after day, watching TV or whatever.  Part of this is that I like feeling like an adult, and it’s been dinned into me since an early age that adults take care of themselves (and their own.)  Forgive the crude image, but that’s the most offensive job I could think of.  I suppose you could also say cleaning septic tanks.

When I was very young and had no work history in the states, I worked as clerk at a store that was like a discount pier one.  The worst part of that job?  It was boring.  I mean, really rock bottom boring.  They wouldn’t let me write, either, which I thought was dumb.  I could stand behind the counter, writing on a composition book and put it away when the customer arrived. We were not allowed to read.  And we could only straighten/clean if there were more than two of us there.  If we had only two, one was supposed to stand behind the register, waiting, and the other was supposed to go walk around the store to … well, to prevent gay couples making out behind the baskets.  (No, I never understood the attraction, except that it was very private behind the basket shelves.  Eventually I became friends with a gay guy who lived behind the mall – and was the first other writer I ever met – and he’d cheerfully go and roust out “the people back there” a couple of times a day – he came in to talk writing, which made it easier – because it embarrassed me.)

As a result, I was tortured with boredom.  There’s only so much I can make up stories before writing them down.  BUT the money I made allowed us to buy groceries, so it was all good.

(I eventually got permission to polish the brass from the very tarnished brass shelf, while behind the register, and that allowed me to not go insane.)

My next job was as a multilingual secretary; after that I was a freelance translator, and I’ve been a writing bum ever since with brief intervals of teaching at college.  What this means in practicality is that if I come on hard times and I can’t find an opening to teach in a nearby college or community college, I will be “unskilled labor.”  The thing that scares me most about this is the boredom.  Which is why I’m working on my sewing skills, my carpentry skills and my cleaning skills.  If I need to, I can do stuff that will pay as much as minimum wage labor.  Because I don’t like being bored.

But I keep hearing people say things like “I’ll stay unemployed the rest of my life rather than work minimum wage.”  Well, minimum wage would seriously suck.  If both Dan and I worked minimum wage, we might JUST survive, just.  We’d need to take all sorts of assistance (and more on that later because it was the point I was going to write about today, in that longer, more complex post.)  We wouldn’t starve (when Dan was last unemployed we joined a food buying cooperative.  We’ve since left, because most of it carb intensive, but we know of other programs.  It reduced our food bill to about $50 a month.)  We might have to rent a studio apartment in a bad part of town.  None of these compare to doing nothing and JUST living off charity.  Why?

Well, first when you’re out there, no matter how menial the work you’re doing, you’re meeting people and sooner or later someone will say “Hey, you know, if you could do x” which either leads to another job or a supplementary contract type work.  My international secretary job came about because a secretary who was working with me, (she took a second job after hours to pay debt) said “Hey, you know, we’re looking for—”  Second because it’s not insanely boring.  You’re doing something, no matter how futile it might seem, like me polishing brass.  There is the possibility of something happening.  You’re still alive and still struggling.

I’m not putting down the plight of anyone who can’t find another job (these days if you’re over a certain age they don’t want to hire you for beginning jobs) or people who are disabled, or people who have to take assistance.  I’m fifty not fifteen.  I can imagine circumstances in which the best I can do is stay home and take public assistance and/or charity.

As far as that’s concerned, that’s a legitimate use of ‘aid’ though I still think it’s a function better not done by the government.

HOWEVER even if, G-d forbid, that happens to me, unless I’m seriously ill in a mind-or-mobility reducing sort of way, I’ll be doing something.  Why?  Because I have to.  Because otherwise it will be boring.  Now the something I do might be knitting baby shoes, but at least it won’t be nothing. Even if I give the shoes away.  (Of note, Robert volunteers at the hospital.  A lot of the other volunteers are young, single mothers on public assistance.  If that’s not a requirement in CO – x number of volunteer hours might be – at least these women are trying to do SOMEHING.)

What I’m trying to say here is what Jerry said in 08: learn another trade, learn another skill, take another job, do something.  If everything else is barred, start cleaning your house and make it really clean.  It will take your mind away from how much trouble we’re heading into, and it might give you another skill that helps you survive.

My other advice would be “don’t be proud.”  Yes, I felt terrible, coming from a Latin country with its ideas of honor, with the equivalent of an MA + in my pocket, going to work as a clerk.  I felt it was “demeaning.”  (One is a fool at 22, okay?)

I no longer feel that way.  Demeaning would have been sitting at home waiting for something magical to happen.  (Starvation is pretty magical.)

Working retail took nothing off me, and it helped me a side of the culture I would not normally run into.  It also helped me realize at an early age that intelligence, ability and employment are NOT covalent.  Some of my co-workers were dumb enough you wondered how they tied their shoes.  Some were brilliant.

You are not what you do.  If circumstances close it off (and we’re living in a time of catastrophic change, so it’s almost guaranteed)  you might have to pick up at a much lower/much weirder/much different job.  You do it, and you move on.  And you try to improve your lot every time.  Flipping burgers or drawing coffees will not reduce your “Status” because that’s internal, it’s who you are.  You do what you have to.  What will reduce your status is failing to look after yourself and yours.

We have this idea of people getting a job with a company and staying there fifty years.  Maybe this happened at one time, but probably not over most of the time, in history.  For most of history people had work collapse under them and move, and learned new skills. And the high-performers were always those who jumped from job to job, bettering their lot.  The ones who stayed in the same line assembly job for life might be secure.  They were also, usually, stuck.

Yes, I know, it’s preposterous to think of starting again at fifty or sixty.  But honestly, that’s a function of how long we’re living.  We can now pick up a new career at fifty and work at it twenty five years, easy.  This used to be impossible.  I’m glad to live now, not then.

It’s good not to be old at fifty, and if I have to start again, I will.

Now, keep in mind this applies to me only marginally.  Unless both traditional AND indie collapse, I should be able to write for money TM.  And if they both collapse, I’m in more trouble than having to start a new career.  BUT if my income falls below a certain level, I’ll have to find a way to supplement, so it also applies.  (It might require a tardis, of course.  I’m already full-up.)  In my old age (ah!) I am writing non fic at beginner prices.  And if you don’t think that’s a different art… let me tell you.

I hear so many people say “I was working, then my job went away, and I didn’t know how to do anything else” and I wonder if that’s true, if those people really exist.  I can’t imagine one of us doing that.  Because doing nothing is boring.  If you don’t work, you die – inside as well as for lack of sustenance.  And while there’s life, there’s hope.

We do, we try, we learn.  And if the rug gets yanked from under our feet, we dust ourselves off and we go on.  While there’s life, there’s hope.


188 thoughts on “If You Don’t Work, You Die II

  1. I’ve bounced around to a lot of jobs since retiring from the military – retail, temp file clerk, administrative assistant, phone bank taking hotel reservations – that’s the one that I hated the most, by the way- delivering newspapers, data entry (which I am actually rather good at) and the freelance editing, writing and constructing simple websites for clients. I probably won’t ever work a regular 9-5 (or something like it) for anyone again, as I am too old to be hired, and because I am disinclined to endure the tedium and the pointless rules.
    I will go on making a living of sorts, though – I like the flexibility of working for myself. My business partner is in her eighties – we’ll both be working until the day we get carried away to the morgue.

  2. I’m a 47 year old teacher, who has only been married for about four years. For most of my teaching career I held a second job, mostly out of boredom in the summer. Teaching a full year is emotionally draining and physically as well, and every June, when I put away my academic robe and hood after bidding farewell and godspeed to my graduating charges, I look forward to summer.

    I need about two weeks of recharging my batteries, sleeping in, drinking coffee, watching the movies and shows that my wife doesn’t care for but that’s it. Unless I was travelling or taking a summer class, I was climbing the wall by week 3.

    For those who need an emergency job, may I recommend pizza delivery. I did it from 2007 – 2012 (finally quit about two years into my marriage). For a single male teacher it was great. Minimum wage, gas allowance and tips. It came out to about $19-$20/hour. It wasn’t stressful, and I delivered in a good suburban neighborhood, very safe, we had several female drivers and they never had a problem.

    And I love when people say there are no jobs out there. WE had a help wanted sign in the window every single day I worked there.

    1. Well… you’re in TX. Here it’s grim, particularly for the boys trying to juggle it with school.
      And yeah, my issue in summer as a kid was getting BORED with doing nothing halfway through the summer. I WANT to go away and sleep late for a week, take walks with husband and read a lot — but OMG. For life? NEVER.

      1. I never had trouble finding a job when I was in high school or college, even though that was during the Carter recession and jobs were so scarce in my home town that a person could look for 6 months to get a job at McDonald’s. Curiously, it’s at least as bad, now, for my kids who are between 16 and 22. It’s just really not a case of, as long as you’re not too proud to work a menial job, you can find a job.

        My last job was retail… did the stock room thing every morning. I’d be there still, working minimum wage, except that I decided to go back to college and the only available Chem class was at 9am. The store I worked at didn’t have enough hours to move me to cashier. I’m not proud but there really is not work.

        1. It isn’t that there isn’t work, particularly for those Sarah’s boys age. It is that you have to know people to get the work. There are people that need work done that would be happy to pay for having it done; but the government has put so many legal hoops and hurdles in the way that they can’t afford to pay to have it done legally. The work is still there, but it either doesn’t get done, or gets done illegally/under the table. To get a lot of such work people either have to know you or have you recommended by someone they trust.

  3. When I was laid off subtle comments were made that I was too old to keep working. I have a pungent response to that and I intend to have a full time job again. Right now I have been incredibly busy with volunteer work and family matters, and I will write a book.

  4. Right now I’m on SS disability (my last FT job was Y2K Cobol work). I did do some “at home telephone help desk” stuff but that went away. While I’m also helping Mom, since I was able to get help for her weekdays at an Adult Daycare place, I’m thinking of going back to volunteering at the local county Museum.

  5. I can reinforce that “stay out there” notion. In my late teens — early 1970’s — I drove and radio dispatched taxicabs. In my mind, it was a tide-me-over job to keep the wolf from the door. I really wanted to be in Show Bidness.

    And I got fired for taking my eye off the ball one time too many. Then I started a small business (that failed), had several sales jobs (that went nowhere — seeing a pattern?), and finally wound up working as a box office slut in a failing music hall.

    I know, right? But I was IN SHOW BIDNESS!

    Part of the job was running errands. Occasionally, I even got to take a cab. One day, the driver knew me from my stint with the company. And he said, “Hey! You know, they’re looking for a dispatcher.” He handed me the radio mike and, in about sixty seconds, I had a second job. It was the last time in my life I remember being flush with cash.

    I never would have even HEARD about the opportunity if I’d been sitting at home.


    1. > I got fired for taking my eye off the ball one time too many.

      I swear on a bible, I read this three times in a row as “I took my eyeball off one time too many”.

      Thank goodness for the fourth reading!

          1. Glass eyes always remind me of Mark Twains story about Jim Blaine’s Grandfather ‘s old ram from _Roughing It_:
            Miss Jefferson [….], poor old filly. She was a good soul–had a glass eye and used to lend it to old Miss Wagner, that hadn’t any, to receive company in; it warn’t big enough, and when Miss Wagner warn’t noticing, it would get twisted around in the socket, and look up, maybe, or out to one side, and every which way, while t’ other one was looking as straight ahead as a spy-glass. Grown people didn’t mind it, but it most always made the children cry, it was so sort of scary.

        1. I knew a girl in college with a glass eye. She had to have it replaced, and it took something like 3 weeks to get it back from the dentist.

          O.K., I won’t make you ask – it was an office which made dentures. They had the ability to do it, and their price was better than the medical prosthesis manufacturer.

          1. Somebody posted a link to an ER forum on here the other day, and one of the stories was of the woman with a glass eye. She knew she was going to get in a fight, so she took it out and placed it… er somewhere… for safe keeping, and then when she was incapable of retrieving it, she went to the ER.

        2. This reminds me of a story.
          There was a gal who was not pretty because she had a harelip, and a guy who was not handsome because he had only one eye and was too poor to afford a glass eye, having a wooden one instead.

          Well, they happened to meet, developed a mutual liking, and commiserated about how both were too ugly to get laid. Well, one thought led to another, and it went down like this:

          Guy: Would you be willing to, uh, you know, uh, with me, Ma’am?

          Gal: Wouldn’ I!

          Guy: Harelip!

  6. “Flipping burgers or drawing coffees will not reduce your “Status” because that’s internal, it’s who you are.”

    Most people use “status” in this context as a shorthand for “social status”, which is definitely not internal.

    However, I don’t mean to say that chasing social status is a good thing (sometimes the peacock with the most unwieldly large tail just ends up getting eaten because it) or that choosing unemployment over underemployment is a good way to preserve social status (e.g. see Megan McArdle’s blog archives for an array of depressing information about the catch-22 mess that the long-term unemployed are now in).

    1. It’s easy to fall into the mental trap of identifying too closely with your employment. “I’m a geophysicist” not “I’m a brilliant woman, currently working as a geophysicist.” Take away the job and . . . it can be a blow to the ego, the internal perception of oneself.

      I think the unwillingness to take a “menial job” is a combination of self perception, social status . . . and really knowing that the job is boring/physically difficult/poorly paid/no fun at all. I think we’ll all “get over ourselves” if times get much rougher.

      1. I had someone at my work imply I was stupid for being a supervisor at the store. Never mind I finished school a year before that. Really annoyed me.

  7. For anyone not yet in college: figure out what you want to do before taking on all that debt, and make sure it can pay for the debt. A lack of money focuses the mind beautifully.

    1. Part of the reason the boys are living at home and attending state college — we’re trying to skate through this with no debt. We’ll see.

      1. A good move. Do all you can to keep the higher ed bubble from inflating more.

        1. Google 100 Reasons Not to Go to Graduate School. The author is, as of this posting, on Reason #90.

          If you see a double comment, it’s because the spam filter ate my original comment that had the link. I hate spam as much as any of you do. 🙂

        2. The problem with that link is that he is talking about Social Sciences degrees, which have been pushed so much by the Liberals that they are glutted, and therefore nearly impossible to get jobs in. The competition for PhD-level jobs in the Medical and Physical Sciences fields is not nearly so bad, and they pay reasonably well.

        3. There are valid reasons to go; there are valid reasons not to go. It’s an individual decision. A one-size-fits-all caveat is that:

          A little learning is a dangerous thing;
          Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:
          There shallow drafts intoxicate the brain,
          And drinking largely, sobers us again.

          Those words remain true in the cyber era.

          1. But what about the stratospheric levels of debt, with little chance of a job that can pay it back?

  8. Brad and I are both working part-time jobs in addition to the business (He’s delivering flowers, I’m inserting ads into newspapers), We are both of the “need to keep busy” school. The week I spent sitting on the couch because of issues with my back drove me just crazy! and I still was working on my kniitng/crochet because I couldn’t just sit there. To paraphrase a quote: “Charity is fine for widows and orphans, but a *real* Man/Woman can take care of themselves and others”.

  9. I’ll admit. There’s a certain amount of that effect in me. (Not the whole “if I had enough money I’d just not work” thing…if I won the lottery, most of the prize money would go into rebuilding my business, and I’d end up working way harder than I do now, just like I did back when it was running before.)

    But the “couldn’t flip burgers/collect trash/retail clerk/whatever” thing? Yeah.

    I guess it all comes down to one’s definition of “giving up”. Working the professional network and the job boards from home during the day, and then dividing the evenings between praying for a good lead, writing down some of the stories that get put off and pushed to the back burner when I’m working full-time, and working on non-paying projects that keep my skills sharp? That’s frustrating, but I don’t think of it as giving up. Giving up means conceding that my mother was right after all…I _am_ a failure, my life _isn’t_ worth anything, and the dead nine-year-old I’m named after would have made a much better go of the world than I ever have or ever will, even though I’ve had all the advantages a human being could possibly ask for and he had nothing, so I might as well depart from the Earth, since nobody needs their burgers flipped badly enough to justify my continued existence. (Yeah, I’ve been to that particular ring of hell even _without_ the McJob…just from lack of apparent progress in the search for something decent. Part of what pulled me out was divine intervention, and the rest, to be blunt, was a willingness to _lie to myself_ about the odds. Getting up every morning and having no choice but to face “this is your life, now and from now on”? I don’t think I’m that strong. That would break me.)

    Would I do it if it were the difference between life and death for me? Probably not. But if it were the difference between life and death for my wife? I hope I would. And I hope I never have to face that particular choice.

      1. Yes. This is what I need to do. The learning curves are intimidating. I need to learn photo manipulation, design layout and formatting. At the bare minimum. Then copyright law, tax law as applies, contract law as applies. All while continuing to, y’know, actually write. Not an optimistic day today. Words have happened, though not in the quantity I’d like.

    1. Oh, and as someone else who feels the need to justify the fact she’s here and “so much trouble to everyone” — you have a value beyond what you do or what the world views as success. I for one think you contribute positively to this blog. Be not afraid. And if you need someone to just jabber at, I’m here — as I said, I completely understand where you’re coming from.

      1. Just for the record…we’re doing pretty well, right now. Present employer thinks I walk on water, the money’s great, and the project I’m attached to is the one that’ll probably turn out the lights, if things go bad for the company. (Plus, since I’m FTE for once, if I do lose this job there’s unemployment insurance that’ll cover basics for a little while. Only upside of not being a contractor.)

        But the last spell of frighteningly-extended unemployment wasn’t that long ago. I remember what it was like.

        1. Oh, yeah. I wasn’t sure which it was, but yeah. The last spell of unemployment was scary for Dan too, which is why we’re not looking forward to another — but we’ll survive. We always do. If we hold on till the boys are out, the rest is easy.

          1. Yeah, unemployment is a taste of Hell. Between my “obsolete job skills” and my personal problems, job hunting was the pits.

            The best thing about my last period of unemployment is that the State people realized that I had personal problems making the job search harder.

            They got me into the testing that resulting me getting the SS disability. The best thing was that I got “back pay” so I was able to pay off my credit card debt.

    2. Getting up every morning and having no choice but to face “this is your life, now and from now on”? I don’t think I’m that strong. That would break me.

      It’s nearly broken me completely several times in the year and a half since I was fired as a programmer, *has* broken me for hours or days at a time. I know that feeling of despair, and it’s beyond what I can rage at. Some set backs will result in me rage and roaring and fighting back, or lashing out stupidly in really bad cases. That feeling of inevitability just leaves me drained of all will and hope, dejected and slow. The black dog has never quite kept hold of me – something or someone always showed me that there was some way up and out – but I fear what I would be if he did.

      1. I think this compares to thirteen years of writing and “Thank you for your submission.” G-d, I’m glad those days are gone.
        Stay strong, Mollusc. We love you.

      2. Do you do PHP reasonably well? While It’s unlikely to be your career desire, interested in a little web site hourly work on the side?

        I have more stuff than I can deal with at the moment, which is preventing me from writing nearly as much as I want to. A few hours here and there from someone who knows PHP would help me out…

        1. I’m reasonably competent, though a trifle rusty. I started to get back on the PHP wagon a couple of months ago, but I’ve been too swamped since to get entirely up to speed. Shoot me an email and let me know what you have in mind; work schedules are changing next week and I may have more time than I want again soon. My address is somewhere in this thread already.

  10. In high school I had a teacher who said every summer during college he walked through the commercial/industrial section of town and introduced himself at each business to say he was looking for summer work. Usually took him a week and a lot of rejections to find work. I tried it one year and ended up working as a drapery installer. Learned how to use a Yankee screwdriver, though not well. Then there were the jobs as a maintenance man at a clothing factory–“Sweep the floors!” the boss would announce as he drifted by on his motorized cart (think primitive Segway)–and as day laborer at a recycling enterprise.

    Now I’m the old man among coders. I’ve seen this business change so much over 30 years that now I see it coming back to the beginning. Cloud Computing and virtual desktops, umm, ever heard of mainframes and terminals? Hadoop and CloudBase, yeah, remember when that new-fangled relational database thing started to replace those hierarchical databases?

    People are indeed who they are , not what they do. When my wife befriended the stock room clerk at the University where she was in the Chemistry PhD program, she found out he had been VP at a bank, but wanted to do something to keep busy in his retirement. She couldn’t believe how badly some of the grad students treated the staff.

      1. Yep, pays to treat people well unless and until they prove unreliable. Of course a bank VP wasn’t much networking help for a Chemist, and I’m sure now, many years later, when Sharon’s a writer, he’s met his maker. Still meeting and interacting with nice people is its own reward. If she ever needed any supplies, he told her to just come in and get them while the rude people had to go through all the hoops. My wife’s a genius and a very kind person. Marrying me was much more due to the latter than the former, shiftless bum that I was when she married me.

        1. You never know who might be a good networking contact. I met a lady working in human resource development for a local non-profit and talked to her about my work. She had nothing to do with any of my fields, but it turned out her son owned a small personal history press, and she recommended me to him for some editing work that lasted me two months. Heck, I struck up a conversation with a coworker in the security business last week and discovered that a friend of his was a very successful indie author who needs a better copyeditor. Probably most surprising, I did some grunt labor for a friend a month or two ago on someone else’s rental house, landscaping and handyman stuff. Turns out the landlady is a successful fractal artist and sci-fi author who needs editing and HTML 5 work for an upcoming project. You never know.

        2. Actually, I’d think a bank VP would be a primo networking contact for just about anybody…”networking” isn’t usually so much about “meeting people who might want to hire me” as it is about “meeting people who have friends or contacts who complain to them about unmet needs, that I could fill”.

          Bankers have lots of conversations with business managers.

          But “interacting with nice people is its own reward” is also key. Only hard-core sociopaths can actually fake the level of interest and friendliness that you want to convey. So much better to actually feel it. 🙂

  11. A nasty thought… know how so many businesses are doing “we give hiring preference to vets”? Show you’ve got anything but a dishonorable discharge, and you get priority.

    That’s one way of getting workers who can show up, spell their names and follow directions bets out of three without having to hire ever higher levels of college educated and debt-riddled….

    1. A lot of practices that people don’t understand come from laziness on the part of incompetent HR staff but a lot of practices come from trying to find that correlation between something you can ask for and the answer “Yep, X shows up”. Since for fear of litigation, no one gives references any longer at any significant sized company.

      1. And sometimes there’s a reason for the litigation. First IT job I ever had was with a small company in Montgomery AL. President and owner took having anyone leave personally. After he threatened a departing programmer with a bad reference, we took advantage of the AL law that says only one party had to be aware of a recording and had a friend call up posing as a prospective employer.

        Long story short, he said several things that were defamatory (as in implying criminal behavior defamatory). We promptly confronted him on it and said that basically unless he wanted to know why AL was referred to as tort hell he would cut this crap out…. and he’d never know when some of our friends might be on the line. He reformed immediately.

        Joker was the living model for the pointy-haired boss in Dilbert… and this was in 1990.

  12. My life has been an arena for a struggle between restlessness and inertia.

    In various stable gigs, I would either leave or get thrown out. Yet I could never bring various high-risk, high-payoff efforts to fruition: not even when the risk had been surmounted and only a bit of common sense was needed.

    When I was younger, I could summon an adrenalin-driven frenzy to extricate myself from the ensuing jackpots. Age has forced me to seek a different modus operandi, without which all my downstream options will be unpalatable.

    Only in the last couple of years have I recognized the pattern, via the Internet. As of now, I neither claim success nor admit failure wrt the new m.o.


  13. I worked one summer as a clerk at a self serve gas station when I was in college. I think it was the first self serve gas station I’d ever seen, and there were no computers, or even credit cards, involved. It was “interesting” for a couple of months. But forever? Yikes! I read a lot during the slack times, and listened to a lot of music on the radio. And got really, really good at making change and smiling at jerks who thought it was funny to have nothing but a hundred dollar bill to pay for three dollars worth of gas. Heh, you should have heard the complaints, when regular went above 35 cents a gallon.

  14. I’ll do just about anything when I’m not working. I used to have a hardware store gig but the store closed up. Frankly right now I’m getting so many calls for contract engineer jobs(none of which go anywhere) that I haven’t tried to use my connections to find another gig.

  15. Sarah, my first job was at age 14 loading hay bales on a flatbed truck. Until the last few years I’ve been working all my life. But even though I haven’t been ’employed’, I’ve still been productive – and all the bills are paid.
    Recently, my wife was diagnosed with S3 breast cancer, and the treatments are expensive and extensive, no matter what options you choose. But the bills are still paid, and aside from family donations we have not received public assistance. Our daughter are organizing fund raising activities to offset expenses – but we still aren’t receiving medicaid/medicare or public assistance for the state or federal government. It can be done, if you look creatively enough.
    BTW, see the news about the proposed boycot of Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game movie? Makes me want to see it just because, and I didn’t particularly like the book


    1. I hadn’t planned to see the Ender’s Game movie but that nonsense may make me change my mind. [Frown]

      1. The trailer didn’t exactly fill me with confidence that they were going to Get It Right (though I can’t put my finger on why), and I’d planned to sit it out until I was able to read some reviews.

        Now? Opening night.

    2. Yes, and again the thing is I have gay friends, I have no issues with “gay marriage” provided it doesn’t force churches to perform them. (A friend of mine — a gay friend of mine — opposes it because he thinks they WILL force churches to perform them.) BUT this type of thing makes me want to wreck the boycott. Let’s make it a blockbuster! 😉

      1. “A friend of mine — a gay friend of mine — opposes it because he thinks they WILL force churches to perform them.”

        I agree with your friend, and I think that has been the goal of the core groups pushing it.

        1. So a Denver party of Huns to see Ender’s Game? What about other cities? What cities do we have a quorum in? I know five? in Dallas. How about other places?

          1. I know there are at least three of us in Utah County, and one or two closer to SLC. For those in our area who want to go, hit me up at freerangeoyster at google’s free email service, and we’ll work out a day and time.

      2. 1. I have no strong views one way or the other about homosexual marriage. I lean toward caution because I don’t think millenia of tradition should be tossed overboard impulsively, but my reservations have been overruled by The Most Enlightened Generations Ever.

        2. Here’s Card on the issue, last year:

        There’s no need to legalize gay marriage. I have plenty of gay friends who are committed couples; some of them call themselves married, some don’t, but their friends treat them as married. Anybody who doesn’t like it just doesn’t hang out with them.

        No, legalizing gay marriage is not about making it possible for gay people to become couples.

        It’s about giving the left the power to force anti-religious values on our children. Once they legalize gay marriage, it will be the bludgeon they use to make sure that it becomes illegal to teach traditional values in the schools.

        Whether I agree or disagree, this sounds reasonable.

        3. That said, I am quite aware—and suspicious—that the combatants in the Culture Wars may try to hide their true agendas. Both/all sides.

        4. I don’t go to the movies, but I’m willing to unclench my tight fist and get the DVD at full price: unless, of course, it’s a stinkeroo like the deliberately sabotaged film of Starship Troopers.

        1. Starship Troopers was not made into a movie. Rather, saboteurs hijacked the name of a wonderful RAH novel, and libelously applied it to a movie guaranteed to make the great man spin rather rapidly in his grave. (Did they even bother to hook up a generator, and capture the energy from this effect?)

          Mr. Card being quite emphatically still alive, and thus involved in the project in a way that RAH couldn’t be in what became the horrific tragedy which Hollywood slanderously alleges to connect in some way to his work, I’m inclined to suspect that the Ender’s Game movie will be far better.

          I’d have gone to see it even if I _weren’t_ striking back against a boycott. Now, I’m likely to do roughly as I did when “Serenity” cam out…go see it over and over and over and over again, just to do my share to boost the numbers. 🙂

          1. I have a fuzzy memory that the studio tried, or started, to market the film as Robert A. Heinlein’s Starship Troopers—a deliberate, knowingly lying attempt to discredit Heinlein and the book—, and Virginia Heinlein, by then a widow, sued to stop them.

          2. Paul Verhoeven and Edward Neumeier

            Those are the names to burn into your memory. If found on side of road bleeding, leave him there. If a organ donation drive is announced on his behalf, do not participate. If found in a dark alley alone … well, who needs instruction from me on that?

            1. No, no, you just tell them all the blood they received in surgery came from the Robert A. Heinlein Memorial Blood Drive. And Military Recruiter Show.

        2. The Starship Troopers movie was loosely related to Heinlein’s book. However, I though it an amusing spoof about the cliches in various categories of movies. The top high school jock is dumb and can’t go to flight school. The co-ed shower scene was a spoof of 1950s military movies with the Army recruits telling about themselves. The alien bugs were over-the-top parodies of half the evil alien movies. The brain bug was even funnier. The boy genius (with the SS-style trench coat) ends the war. Etc.

          1. My understanding is that the script writers had a vaguely similar plot about buglike alien nasties attacking Earth and a few characters having to go off and fight them. Someone said, “Hey, that sounds like this one bestseller; get the rights to it and we’ll re-write the script as much as needed to fit.” So they did, and ended up with what kinda sorta looks like Starship Troopers if you squint sideways.

            But it is neither a retelling nor an adaption of Starship Troopers. It is a separate work that did some stealing of names and scenes. And while I can kind of enjoy it as a twisted, over-the-top spoof of alien action/horror movies, I really wish they’d picked some other book’s title to use, because too many people have watched Starship Troopers and assumed it was based on the book in some way. Or, worse, seen the movie and judged the book thereby. ::facepalm::

            1. I liked the movie, because I NEVER expect a movie to reflect the book period. And I think it did the Heinlein estate more good than harm: JUST the exposure.
              BUT for the record, oh, sweet bunnies, people go on about how Heinlein was a nazi because of that character’s trench coat. foggedaboutit.

              1. The movie was awful. Awful Awful Awful. And not just because it was a movie based on a bad translation of a review of a book I once read.

        3. Silly question, but has anyone seen the Starship Troopers anime? I don’t mean the Roughnecks series that came out at the time of the movie, but the Japanese one from 1988. I’m curious how it compares, but it’s hard to get ahold of.

          1. Roughnecks didn’t come out at the time of the movie. It came out two years later, and was only very very loosely based on the movie- it was a little closer to the books, but also took elements from the books and greatly expanded on them. Most of the episodes were produced at Foundation Imaging (RIP)

    3. So… at this point, no believing and practicing member of the LDS church should be allowed to participate in or (heaven forfend) succeed in cultural activities and mass entertainment.
      Oh, and while you’re at it, add Catholics to that.
      You can probably add most Baptists to that.
      And so on and so forth, with the goal being that whoever disagrees with the party line must be demonized, polarized, ostracized, and hounded from the public square.
      (and of course, any member of any church has the right to accept particular parts of the theology or not. We’re not thought police here. Just saying, if you believe and practice – know what it is your church is teaching. That’s all I’m saying.)
      It’s just more bullying. It’s another facet of the same thing that’s been driving the SFWA nonsense. To which you have to say “nuts”. What else can you do?
      Well, that and grab a bunch of friends and neighbors and go support good art. I mean, if the Ender’s Game movie sucks? (I mean, I’ll be there opening night, but…) If it legitimately isn’t good, then that’s a separate issue. Forcing people to not see good art because it challenges a dominant narrative in the culture? I thought that kind of challenge was what art was supposed to do.
      Here’s hoping it ROCKS.

    4. They told me if I voted for Mormon Mitt Romney that people would be persecuted for their religious beliefs — and they were right!


  16. My vote for worst job is hot tar roofing in the Florida Keys in midsummer. Pumping out septic tanks isn’t bad. I know people who shovel out frozen pit toilets. There are pictures of David Drake with sanitary burn barrels. The sad part is when the old job is still there and available but the old skills are long gone.

    1. I am somewhat in that position now. I’ve lost my language skills. Could I get them back? Sure. But it would take me years and it would affect the writing. The two can’t coexist.

      1. Right. So many jobs I know HOW to do, but my body won’t allow me to do so anymore.

    2. Worst jobs? My oh my, what could they be?

      Towel boy for Rosie O’Donnell?
      Joint roller for Willie Nelson?
      Chauffeur for Bill Clinton?
      Twitter editor for Alec Baldwin?

      1. Continuity editor for the White House press secretary?
        Outside auditor for [giant publishing company]?
        Forensic accountant assigned to the bankruptcy of [formerly giant publishing company]?

  17. I was surprised to see “help wanted” signs in shop windows in Germany. I’ve never, ever seen those before. Granted, the majority seem to be part time, and several of the political parties are screaming about the shift to hiring two part-timers instead of one full-timer (because of benefits and taxes. Imagine that 😛 ), but still.

    Yet another employer has decided that they are not interested in trading their money for my services, apparently, so I’m a little growl-ly at the moment. It’s a good mood for editing. And writing lesson plans and drawing up exams. [evil cackle here]

    1. Was that the private school teaching position you started a while back? If so, I’m sorry to hear it. You seemed pretty excited about it. Ping me when you get a chance; I’d like your help with educational things in the near future, and I’d like to work out some barter or exchange of services.

      1. No, this was a college position. I like the private school and hope they need me next year, but I’d really like to get back to terrifying college students again.

  18. It might say something about the crowd I hang with, even amongst non-fen, but we had a discussion a month or so back, and most of concluded that even if we won the lottery, we may change the emphasis of WHAT we work at, but couldn’t imagine not being bored out of gourds doing SOMETHING useful and not just playing at caring/vacationing/whatever.

      1. For me, it means return to college and being able to build some of the things I’ve got on the fire, if only to make people’s heads swim. I have some very weird things I’d like to create, but not enough money to even get started.

        I will do crowd funding eventually for a couple of them, but I’m not ready to get started on that yet, either.

      2. If I won the lottery I think it might be fun to produce and run third party ads supporting progressive causes … by telling the truth about them. Something featuring selected quotes from Margaret Sanger about eliminating “diseased” genes might be a nice independent expenditure in support of Nancy Pelosi, for example.

          1. It would, I confess, please me greatly to do so. In fact, I maintain that I may already be a winner, even though I refuse to buy a ticket (accountant, math, y’know.)

            My argument is that, given the government has established a precedent by giving tax refunds to people who do not pay taxes, the requirement that people buy lottery tickets in order to participate in the sharing of the loot proceeds is unreasonable and unjust.

            I have yet to find a lawyer interested in pursuing my claim, but when I prevail be assured that I will share the benefits with others unjustly so deprived. I plan to establish a charitable non-profit foundation which will pay me a mere one dollar a year to head it up.

            Of course, it is important for the head of such a charitable endeavor to incur certain minor expenses in its operations, so the Foundation would, of course, pay all of my reasonable expenses: living quarters in whatever municipalities I find it desirable to operate from, clothing suitable for the representative of so august an institution, reasonable meal allowance (say, $1,000 per diem) and entertainment budget (for fundraising activities), travel (as representative of the foundation it would be necessary to engage in fact-finding missions both before and after bestowing largess), health care and, of course, a suitable pension for when I have been broken by the rigors of serving the foundation. I think I will have to look to the UN. for guidance on how to properly model the role.

    1. I work at a non-profit that’s funded by donations, making a third what I could make in the business world, because I love what I do and the cause my work is advancing. If I won the lottery, I wouldn’t change a thing except to tell them “You can stop paying me a salary now; I don’t need it anymore. Put that money to good use somewhere else.”

    2. Win the lottery?

      I think I could happily spend the next decade “homeschooling” my daughter in New Zealand, some of the nicer parts of Africa, guam, a trip above the arctic circle, maybe a drive up to Point Barrow, then down to Tierra del Fuego. Ride a bicycle on every continent I haven’t hit yet.

      Then when she’s done and heading to college hop on the motorbike and do it the other way around.

  19. In case it wasn’t *completely* obvious, I’m a very traditional sort of man. (For strange sorts of values of ‘traditional’. Okay, I’m an Odd, you know how it is.) For me, providing for my family, working hard at *something* and making it happen is a core part of who I am and who I want to be. I suspect growing up on Tolkien and L’Amour had a lot to do with that, among other things. So being unable to find work for nearly a year or to make some of my more ambitious projects pay off was devastating. What kind of a man doesn’t come up with the cash to feed his family and fulfill his obligations?

    I kept busy as best I could, and I think it’s the only thing that kept me remotely sane, that and my wife’s constant support and encouragement. I’ve taken a lot more of other people’s money without goods or services in return than I’d like, but the more I’ve done, the more I’ve found to do. I took classes and workshops, I hustled freelance writing and editing work, I made connections, I called people for leads, heck, I went and got trained and licensed in a new field that’s opened new opportunities to overwork myself! 🙂 It took nearly a year and a half, but today I’m juggling two jobs and two businesses of my own*, and starting to make ends meet. Keep your hand in, friends; it pays off one way or another**.

    * Yes, I owe some of you editing work. Should be done in the next few days. Life happened this weekend.
    ** Yes, survivor bias. But I’ve also seen the result in large populations. It works.

  20. Some thoughts;

    1) When my Father was in the army (WWII) he was posted to Oak Ridge Tn, to refine uranium for the Manhattan project. When that base was built, there were two gates, but once the buildings were up one gate was chained shut more or less permanently. Because of Army regs, however, that closed gate had to be manned 24/7. My Father used to walk the fence (as exercise) and got to know the guy who did the day shift on that closed gate. He wasn’t allowed to read (he had to keep his eyes on the gate, even though nothing coming through it was going to stop for one man), but he could listen to a radio and think about fishing. He thought he was in clover. My Father always said (and I believe him) that he would have lost his mind in one day. There are people whose idea of a pleasant life would drive you or me to suicide from boredom.

    2) I have collected unemployment, from time to time. In each State and on each occasion the process has demanded a fair bit of time just to satisfy the bean-counters (and, let’s face it, to fill the ‘educational’ programs they dream up to justify their existence). After a while I felt that I was so exhausted by simply collecting unemployment that it was hard to imagine that a job wouldn’t be too much for me. I knew better. I knew that it was simply the sitting for hours under florescent lights, listening to twits blather away. But the feeling was quite strong.

  21. I’m comfortable not doing anything, mostly because I’m good at entertaining myself in my mind… if you know what I mean. I don’t get bored unless I have to *do* something (like that clerk job Sarah mentioned) where you can’t daydream but you can’t do anything else, either. I’d rather work much harder and be more involved than have a “slow” job.

    What I’m not good at, though, is being my own boss. And I’m not good at discovering tasks or planning a project (though I’m good at being a “self starter” and showing “initiative” if I’ve got the initial framework provided.) But give me a job to do and I’m the farthest thing from a slacker.

    Still, I really admire people who are good at being their own boss, who can conceive of a project and follow it through.

    1. The worst is a job that requires enough focus that you can’t wander off in your mind, but isn’t really engaging enough to be a challenge.

      1. Especially when that job is hazardous and wandering attention can lose you body parts…

  22. Agreed – I took a great many ‘menial’ jobs post-service, just for the paycheck – and many of them were boring, and the hits to your ego are considerable, if you allow them to strike home. I preferred to think of many of them as a chance to observe people … although the telephone bank one was particularly soul-crushing. I still cannot endure to drive past the job site. But now and again, among the soul-crushing hours, there were some moments of grace.

    One of them was when I finished taking a reservation from a gentleman who sounded on the elderly side of things. And when he had finished giving me his CC number and I had confirmed his reservation (and also tried to up-sell him on the many fine amusements that this entertainment and gambling mecca provided) he asked me if I would listen to a brief lecture – about the necessity for breast cancer screening. His younger daughter had died of it in early middle age, and so he was on a personal mission to encourage ladies of certain age to get mammograms as required. We weren’t supposed to talk to clients for a moment longer than necessary – the system timed us down to the second – but I listened to him.

    And now and again I did draw a call from someone cancelling a reservation because of a sudden death. Sometimes they were still in shock, not sounding if they were processing well at all. I always took the time to convey condolences and urge them to get someone to be with them – a priest, rabbi, good friend, whatever. Yeah, it took seconds off my time for calls. But what the heck – if we can’t be decent to each other, what chance do we have?

  23. “… that’s the most offensive job I could think of. I suppose you could also say cleaning septic tanks….”

    Being an aide to a politician is worse than being a septic tank cleaner: it’s easier to wash off the septic tank slime.

    1. When I was fresh out of college, I had a friend who was sending my resume around political circles. He came back with a job for me but he said “It pays great, you’ll definitely thrive if you make it through, but I don’t want you to take it because I like you.”

      I went and got an honorable job. Found out later, the job was in Chicago. Pretty sure I dodged a bullet there.

  24. I’ve had a whole series of careers, notably years of running fast food restaurants (hence the extensive name tag and hair net collection) before working as an architectural historian and now an engineer. I’ve been one of a tiny minority of English-speaking people working in a factory, and I’ve laid sod in the Utah sun (that was horrible). This experience left me with the feeling “so this is what it takes”.

    If I won the lottery, I might change for whom I worked, but I would not stop working. “Retirement” does not make the slightest bit of sense to me as anything other than “I’m at the point in my career when I’m taking vacation when I want and telling rather than asking others when”.

      1. When asked about retirement, I say “I don’t plan to retire, but I might downshift”. Need to get Junior Cat through college first, of course .. after that, we’ll see.

    1. I have this theory — OK, a working hypothesis — that retirement is a death sentence, that work and movement and struggle are necessary to life.

      Not that I like it, mind — especially the struggle part — but I grok the necessity.


  25. So true, so very very true .. I have, in no particular order, re-hung a door, fixed a floodlight, tiled a bathroom, torn out and rebuilt hardscaping, and in general labored like a .. laborer .. all while allegedly on vacation.

    I get bored, I can only take so much walking on the beach or hiking in the mountains, and .. I see errors. Things done adequately, but not well.


    p.s. none of this has anything to do with my day job .. I’m a sysadmin and SAN architect .. so I suppose you could say my vacations are getting away from my day job .. but they seem, often, to be finding *another* job rather than …. doing nothing.

  26. Sarah -> “I hear so many people say “I was working, then my job went away, and I didn’t know how to do anything else” and I wonder if that’s true,”

    Taken literally, it’s almost certainly not. Taken the way it was probably meant, though, it probably is — because what was probably meant is more along the lines of “I didn’t know how to do anything else *that anyone would pay me to do*.” Which is exactly the position I find myself in: I can do lots of things very well, but I can’t find anyone who will pay me a living wage to do any of them.

    Oh, and “If you look hard enough you can always find something” is a CROCK, people. Try getting a position in retail, or any “unskilled” field, when you’re in your mid-forties, have never been anything but a computer geek, don’t have any social skills, don’t have any sales skills, would hate every second of working a sales job with an intensity for which there are no words in the English language, and aren’t a good enough liar to lie successfully about any of those things.

    1. There is a lot of retail which is not sales per se: food service or grocery clerking, for example. Those are both honorable professions which don’t involve lying to people, and delivering pizza can involve solving the traffic algorithm of the local city. I pretty much guarantee that these fields are always hiring in any $sufficiently_large_metro_area, and have room for folks in their (whatever) age. I speak from years of experience doing this myself and from hiring others into it. Now, it doesn’t pay as well as most computer jobs (which is why I quit to become an engineer – I liked making pizza more).

      1. Grocery clerk also tends to allow more strangeness– my mom taught me to always look for the checkout (usually lady) with the oddest features, because they’ll have the best personality, best service and just be FUN to be around.

        In practice: if you can make smalltalk for one minute, and be polite, you’re golden.

        I did fast food clerking; I actually got tips, and not just from the nice Norwegian tourists.

      2. I think that the lying comes in during the job interview… “Yes… I Looooovve working retail!”

        I did “stock room” at a store and it’s not so bad. I don’t mind customers either. I’d be happy to help people all day long. What got me most about retail was that I’m ADD and having to straighten shelves and tidy the store was truly unpleasant (this might not have been a problem in a store that had a place for each item but our inventory was so fluid that we just had to decide.) What they call “merchandising” is really and honestly difficult for me.

    2. Learning to interview well can vastly improve your chances. I had an advantage in that I went through something like 100 interviews over a 15 year period during a time when all you had to do was show up enough times and you would get SOMETHING. That lent itself to learning how to interview well, simply to cut down the number of interviews before getting a position. Still, there are resources out there, and it is a learnable skill.

      Not that it’s a guarantee, but it does help. And yes, some jobs can really suck, but it’s amazing what one can put up with for at least a short time while looking for something else.

      Incidentally, what city are you in? Maybe someone has a suggestion. Also, what type of computer geek? SysAdmin, Hardware, DBA, Programmer?

      1. Wayne, this is the heap of lemons that I currently inhabit:

        I live in southern NH. Geektype = “Programmer.” Here is a *partial* list of things I can do well enough to draw compliments:

        Analyze a problem
        Design a program to solve it
        Interact well with users (IOW, persuade them to tell me what they really NEED, as well as what they THINK they need)
        Write programs in any of several languages
        Write technical documents (system specs, etc.)
        Write nontechnical documents (user guides, etc.)
        Manage a software-development project properly
        Write HTML/CSS and/or Javascript cold, without using a WYSIWYG editor
        Take good pictures (film or digital), with literally any camera you can put in my hands
        Edit pictures in Photoshop
        Design simple business cards, brochures, ad posters
        Design simple T-shirts
        Identify many birds, some insects, a few flowers, many animals
        Teach other people how to identify birds, insects, flowers, animals


        * the programming languages I’m best with are obsolete and not used anymore. I know other languages but don’t have any work experience with them, so I can wave goodbye to any programming job
        * I have no degree or paid experience in “graphic arts” so I can wave good-bye to any job in designing graphics
        * I’m overweight and out of shape, so wave goodbye to anything physical
        * none of the other things could possibly provide me with enough money to live on

        I did manage one interview for a tech-writing job, but that was three weeks ago and I’ve heard nothing more about it.

        1. Being a boundary layer between techies and management is a valuable and salable skill. It sounds like you probably have the “soft” part already- that you know how to speak to management.

          In my world ($very_large_telecom) we have folks with that type of skillset running projects or working as group managers.

          If you want, hit me at my username at the free email service provided by yahoo! and we can brainstorm in some more detail.

        2. 1. masgramandou is right!

          2. I don’t know if the following is a fit. It is strictly fyi:

          3. For a product manager slot in Burlington, MA—a bit of a hike for you, but probably doable—go here and type 23326 into the “Search by Job ID” box. The job has been posted for two months, so they may be having trouble filling it…or they may have unrealistic expectations.

          3. I do not recommend Sungard as an employer, but it sounds like you need a paycheck.

          4. Of course, like most job leads even in normal times, this one has a low probability of success. It’s your call whether the probability is too low to pursue. Good luck.

        3. Sounds like we have a lot in common. Several things – if you know a current computer language well, put it on your resume, even if you have not used it professionally. You look very forward thinking if you can say “My job did not require (for example) Ruby on Rails but I was interested enough to learn it for some personal projects.” This is impressive and implies initiative. Also, I have friends who are earning decent supplemental income from small e-books on technical subjects. One has written several (20 pages or so) on glass fusing projects; one has written several on dog training. They bring in about $300 a month according to the dog trainer. Perhaps a small e-book or two on the plants and birds of your part of New Hampshire?

        4. wolfwalker, I advise you to make a portfolio that you can metaphorically wave under people’s noses. At least half of the portfolio should showcase skills you’d be happy to focus on in the next few years of your career.

          If you think you can do the things you list, you probably can. But it’s not a 100% chance, maybe more like 80%; people can get confused or outright fool themselves. And when you are describing your ability to a potential employer, from his point of view it might be rather less than a 50% chance that you can actually do what you claim. Not only do some people fool themselves, but some people who aren’t fooling themselves cheerfully lie to others. And part of the friction in looking for a job is caused by how people with such problems can be seriously overrepresented among the people who are looking for work. (For many anecdotes and much pondering about how this plays out in computer programming, ask a web search engine about “fizzbuzz”. If you can look at things from an employer’s point of view and spend 20% of your job-hunting time accumulating a suitable portfolio, within a month you should be able to be considerably more convincing than a 45-minute fizzbuzz test.)

          E.g., make a website which showcases your HTML/CSS/Photoshop skills, and connect it loosely to something which demonstrates one of the other marketing-related skills, perhaps a pair of logo t-shirts. If you want to make it more realistic, either arrange for it to be official support for a sizable local volunteer effort, or offer to do it at a steep discount for the most serious business(es) you can convince. (“I have decided that I want about a dozen high-quality web pages for my jobhunting portfolio. If I make half a dozen of them for you, would you pay me $RIDICULOUSLYLOWPRICE for them?” Don’t forget to expect a lot of rejections. Consider it a learning experience.) Or for another theme, contribute some code patches and good-quality documents (e.g. HOWTO document(s) or a manual chapter) to a reasonably useful open-source software project.

          (If you are up for hardcore programming work, the open-source portfolio can be a solid fix for “I know other languages but don’t have any work experience with them.” Admittedly, to be convincing about a language that you have no experience in will probably take considerably more than the 40 hours I was contemplating above. However, much of that time will be useful learning, and even 500 hours should be cheaper than going back to school. If you get up to speed in a useful language and make a hard-core patch or three to an industrial-strength open-source project — miscellaneous famous examples are Linux, Blender, and Apache, and a newer more obscure one that I happen to be impressed with at the moment is Mitsuba — some of the more clueful employers will pay attention. I’ve read thousands of pages of mailing lists and IRC discussion for open-source projects and “I do good work for this open source project but I just can’t seem to find a programming job” is not the kind of thing that I read very often, nor even if I try to read between the lines.)

          It also helps — both in order to find a job and in order to get good pay and good conditions for it — if you can move to where many of the jobs are. This is common knowledge and common sense, of course, but people don’t always appreciate how big the effect can be.

        5. There’s a couple places like http://www.rent-acoder.com/. Once you’ve gotten a handle on the language go there and bid low. You’re goal at that point isn’t to make money, but to generate experience.

  27. I must be an odd-ball. If not for the problems of money and insurance, involuntary full-time writer was not that bad a position. To be sure, I read a lot of non-fiction. The delight of being a writer is that it’s all research.

  28. “It’s good not to be old at fifty.”

    I was old at 53. At 54, I’m not.

    The difference is that I read Gary Taubes.

  29. Yesterday, I made a comment which was rather rude, after someone said he wouldn’t be able to work any of the entry-level jobs he’s seen. This hit one of my hot buttons, because someone I went to college with is now on disability, essentially because he can’t do what he’s told. He found a psychologist to decide he had a disability, when he’s perfectly able to work. It makes me see red, because now he’s living better than I am, in most respects. He has a newer computer, he smokes (I never have, but it’s an example of his disposable income), he used to have something like 5 large (50-75 gallon) aquariums, and other things.

    Damn, now I’m pounding the keyboard. I’ll have to take a deep breath.

    1. My sympathies. I once joined a start-up run by a “visionary genius”. My share would likely have put me firmly into the notorious 1%. The v.g. ran the company into the ground and walked away unharmed.

      The hardest thing to accept was that the guy manifestly was extremely gifted & entirely capable of making the thing fly, if not for his…psychological makeup. If I may presume to state a caveat: it took me a looong time to get over a crippling resentment. Years later, it remains prudent not to dwell on the experience.

      Yeats is not spot on, but in the ballpark:

      To a Friend Whose Work Has Come to Nothing

      Now all the truth is out,
      Be secret and take defeat
      From any brazen throat,
      For how can you compete,
      Being honor bred, with one
      Who were it proved he lies
      Were neither shamed in his own
      Nor in his neighbors’ eyes;
      Bred to a harder thing
      Than Triumph, turn away
      And like a laughing string
      Whereon mad fingers play
      Amid a place of stone,
      Be secret and exult,
      Because of all things known
      That is most difficult.

  30. If only somebody would pay me to build and fly model airplanes…

    The former Senior Warden at our church used to manage a hardware store here. He agreed that with a day or two of orientation, I could do any job in the place. He told me that I was un-hireable for Corporate reasons, such as age (over 60), lack of recent employment history, overqualified/unqualified, lack of documents, und so weiter.

    1. P.s. Jobs I’ve had (not an exhaustive list): chainsaw repairman, dishwasher, waiter, line cook, surveyor’s rod man, general flunky and crate builder in a machine shop, centerless grinder operator in said machine shop, laborer for a tree service firm, desk clerk at a motel, taking concrete samples for an engineering services firm, co-op at MSFC with some of the original Space Nazis, desk clerk in college dorm, warehouse ape in Dad’s furniture store.

      Anything but retail sales.

      At almost all of those jobs, I just walked in and asked if they needed help, or a neighbor or friend introduced me to the boss. A bit of talk, and a handshake, and I was hired. Some of them, after I’d been there a while, would ask me to fill out an application for the files.

      Try doing that these days.

      1. I just noticed: Almost all of those jobs required me to use both my hands, and my head to solve problems, the jobs I liked, anyway. They were also shower-after-work jobs, not shower-before-work jobs. The only one I was fired from was the machine shop job. The boss said that my work was excellent, he’d give me a glowingly positive reference, but that I just didn’t fit in socially. The usual Aspie firing statement.

      2. I’ve gotten merchandising work that way. People knew I was between work, asked me to show up at the store the next day, someone there would have me fill out paperwork on my break. Apparently, I have something of a reputation and far too many people have my phone number.

        1. I’m pretty much guaranteed that if I am out of work, I can get a job at the pharmacy I currently visit. The head pharmacist has already offered – she said I was there as much as she was, so I might as well. I just wouldn’t have enough time to take care of things at home.

    2. I too am in my sixties and identify with your concerns. Worry gnaws at me.

      However, someone who went through the mill and came out the other side wrote to the effect that If you wonder if you have enough creative talent, chances are you do.

      I take refuge in that indicator, but it’s an indicator, not a guarantee.

  31. Sounds like I’m the one person here who doesn’t particularly work. For the value of exchanging labor for money, anyway. I had one of those mind numbing retail jobs in college for a summer, before that (and after, and during) taught music lessons, including a setting where I was technically working for a school district, but really it was just teaching group lessons without the hassle of collecting money from students or the ability to fire them, and of course played the occasional wedding or banquet.
    But, there’s a garden, there’s chickens, there’s children (home schooled), there’s Dad, there’s mending-that-never-ends . . . I’m never not doing something. Computer time is when Baby Girl’s nursing.
    If we won the lottery, I’d keep on. With more travel and maybe a cleaning service, and a van that isn’t old enough to drive itself. And seeing a lot more of Husband. Of course, we’d have to waste money on lottery tickets first.

    1. You’re providing value for your family. If you didn’t do those things, you would have to pay for them. Just because you’re not doing something that produces a product or service for an outside agency (an employer or else customers), doesn’t mean you’re not doing valuable work.

      1. Thank you.

        I’m a housewife, raising three kids, and even though I do the books that show we can’t afford for me to work (child care for ONE kid would wipe out anything I’d make, even if I took a goodness awful 12h/day job as my field was offering when I first checked)… it’s good to hear someone else say “yes, you provide value.”

        1. I remember those days. Society devalues mothers and homemakers as much as fathers. It’s like they don’t want us to raise our own kids. (And we did the same calculations.)

        2. Where I grew up, my mother was unusual for working outside the home. Good thing she did, though, as my dad didn’t value his work enough, and barely made enough to cover his expenses and have a few dollars spending money. My mother made twice the money he did in fewer hours per week.

          Most of my friends’ mothers stayed home.

          1. At least two and a half generations back (I’m not sure about mom’s mom’s mom, or dad’s mom’s dad, but the former let her daughter go from Kansas to Oregon totally alone to be a court scribe, and the latter was the daughter of a guy who’s dad got kicked out of three countries and who married either an Indian or a half-indian, then put at least two of his sons into the new field of “electronics”) all the ladies either had formal outside-of-housework jobs, or ruled with an iron hand.

            It’s a little odd when being a housewife is transgressing on tradition….

            1. Mom ran a farm and a house while her first husband farmed and later drove truck. When she got her 4 kids mostly raised and she wound up divorced, she went and got her teaching degree and started teaching Junior High School, until she married my Dad. She then quit and raised me, her red-headed step son. When I was big enough she started teaching again
              Foxifier, what you do is important and means an awful lot to your kids.

        3. Good grief, of course you do. Abundant value. Indispensable value. Until your latest post, I took that as too obvious to speak up about.

          Thank you for your service.

        4. I’m the son and husband of stay-at-home mothers. I wish I could tell you how valuable your work is, but I can’t. I just don’t have the words to describe it. My life is so much enriched by the sacrifices my wife and my mother have made for their families that I get choked up thinking about it*. I’m sure that your work is just as precious to your husband and children, even if they might not always recognize it or know how to express it.

          * My emotional reaction may have something to do with it being two o’clock in the morning and my wife and kids being 700 miles away. Get a bucket, I’m pretty sappy right now… 🙂

  32. Oh, geez, I guess I came across defensive or something. Sorry.
    I’m trying–badly–to say that even if one doesn’t have money worries, some folks just do stuff. If you’re one who does stuff, even if you end up not needing to work/not able to do your usual work, you’ll still find work that needs doing.

  33. I’ve done the menial jobs, I’ve held 2-3 jobs at one time before, I take occasional shifts from a merchandising company when they ask me…but I can’t do retail anymore. I just can’t. I made the decision that I’d let my family adopt my kids and I would live on the street before I took another retail job. I’ve been spit on, assaulted, robbed and nearly bled to death because my supervisor wouldn’t let me seek medical attention in the middle of my only shift that week.

    I actually know a few grocery store that are hiring, I have good rapport with the managers and I want to apply… and had to go and vomit. I came back to my computer and wrote 5000 words on a new book before I stopped shaking.

    I will work my ass off for myself but there are certain jobs I will not do. Hell, I’d even get my teaching license and go to war with the high schoolers in an attempt to make them decently literate before I’d go back to retail.

    1. Oh, retail. Shudder. The closest I came to it was waiting tables and desk-clerking. My Dad was a retail guy. I was out in the front of his store from time to time and got to observe. There is no way I could ever do that.

      Also, that description of the perfect woman in the book of Proverbs is an exact description of my Mom.

      Now, my Dad… Let me just say they got the accent wrong in that movie they made of “Death of A Salesman”. Willie Loman speaks with a Piedmont Georgia accent.

      1. Dude. It sounds like PTSD, not just “I don’t work retail.” And little wonder, if you almost bled to death on the job.

        I never had a serious problem myself, but it is hard work to keep an eye on people, help them, deal with their complaints, keep their kids amused, sell, ring up long lines of folks, etc., etc.

  34. I was unemployed for a year and a half, more or less. During that time, I moved down to my fiance, helped him through cardiac rehab, packed and moved our combined household to our current state, married my love, commuted back and forth to Alaska to finish rebuilding my plane, and flew it down. About two weeks after I got here, the job search paid off, and now I don’t fly nearly often enough.

    And I was still climbing the walls with not enough to do.

    I have met several retired men in Alaska who immediately half-move to the airport, working on and flying planes all day. As one put it, “Two weeks after retirement, my wife looked at me over a cup of coffee and said ‘I married you til death do us part, not for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Go find something to do!’ So I’m fixing airplanes.”

  35. I did a few odd jobs in college, the biggest of them being I drove a Yellow Cab in Philly in the late 80’s, which was an education in itself. Yet at the same time I’d been a co-op student writing assembly code for radar subsystems at RCA. That kept me in the computer industry even though I didn’t get my degree (I finished in “International Area Studies” with a focus on Japanese language and I never used any of it.) And as typical for the industry, I bounced around finding anew gig every two years or so. The longest was about 4.5 years at Claris (Apple’s software subsidiary) where thanks to Steve Jobs, I did NOT get rich off of Apple stock. (Look up the value of 1000 shares today and weep with me). But I failed to make the transition to OSX, and was working for Palm when the Tech Crash killed most of the industry and my career.

    I didn’t have a REAL job for 5 and a half years after that. I tried to start a woodworking business, which at least kept me busy, and I built a few robots under contract, but I was two mortgage payments away from utter bankruptcy when I swallowed my pride and took a job assembling office furniture (And merchandizing office supply stores’ furniture sections) and I actually did well and enjoyed it. I was very independent, and got to drive all over the place, and make people happy.

    But as the economy tanked, people stopped buying office furniture, and what they did buy was cheaper and didn’t pay as well, and so for the first time I willingly left a job and went to work for the Big Airplane Company in Everett, where I hope I can retire from in another 15-20 years.

  36. I have never understood the people that have to have a job to stave off boredom. Of course they are always the ones that think you have to have a job to, because, “You need something to do, what are you going to do if you aren’t working?”

    Believe me if I didn’t work a single day, I could keep myself busy for the next couple of years just finishing the projects I’ve started and not finished. That is without even starting any new projects.

  37. My Dad is going to be 89 in a month, He still takes one or two services a week (he’s a priest so that would be work for him, but he volunteers and doesn’t get paid 🙂 ) and keeps bees and translates obscure greek orthodox writings into English. His strongly held view is that if he didn’t do that he’d turn into a vegetable and die.

    Me I’m more of the lazy sort – work for a couple of hours a day sounds ideal. Though I suspect that if I were to become unemployed I’d start writing books and stuff and probably run some kind of publishing website and all sorts of other things that would actually mean I was about as busy as I am now

      1. he published St Symeon the New theologian’s Epistles and in theory you can buy it at amazon. What he’s doing now is some group collaborative project run by the University of Belfast(?) and I think they are gradually being published

  38. Ms. Hoyt: A suggestion for your sons. I saw this linked on Instapundit last year. A man remarked that getting a CDL is a good way for a young person without much experience to get a decent paying job. Not all trucking is long haul. Local companies are always looking for part timers. The pay is usally good and often the hours are very flex.

    1. Not while carrying a full load in college. They’re both trying to write (well, one of them is making money off it) and start other ventures as well.

  39. At 52, I’ve decided I need another skill to fall back on, either in case of future unemployment or to supplement retirement. After contemplating my (hah!) spare time, (sob!) financial resources, and what skills appear to be in demand for the foreseeable future, I’ve decided to start training toward an NRA instructor’s certification. It’s a useful field that actually IS being stimulated. Reminds me a little of the computer industry when I was starting out 30 years ago 🙂

    1. It has been argued, with a certain degree of reasonableness, that Barack Obama is the best salesman the firearms industry (and related fields, such as manufacturers of ammunition, after-market gunsmiths, trainers, holster-makers, etc) has ever had. 🙂

      1. But how many of those want training and how many of them already know everything there is to know about gun fighting?


        1. Bah. Stupid word press eating stuff that predates HTML by a generation.

  40. Catching up on my blog reading today and glad I did. This is so spot on for me. When I got laid off and found myself out of work for the first time since I was 15, I found out that I not only wasn’t my job, but I hated not having a job.

    I tried running my own business, but while I learned a lot I was not able to ramp it up enough to support my family. I can’t express how grateful I was when I got a job managing a 7-11. Yes, a job I had once thought beneath me was salvation for my family. My wife, with a BS in Physics, went back to work and the only thing she could find was stocking shelves at Target. And as much as I hated working 60-80 hours a week, it was better than sitting at home sending resumes into the black hole. 7-11 and Target kept the roof over our heads. We finally got better jobs, and have had our ups and downs since then, but doing anything is better than doing nothing.

    I am getting that reinforced again as I sit at home, fighting cancer. I was diagnosed and was too sick to work for several months. The chemo worked, I got better, and went back to work. It felt great to do something. The chemo has stopped working and I got worse and couldn’t work again. They are trying different things, but I’m not able to maintain a job, and the meds limit what I can do even at home. While working long shifts it’s nice to think about having a few days to sit and do nothing. In reality it’s not fun at all, and when it continues and I have no choice about it, it sucks. It was great a couple weeks ago when I read a manuscript for a friend, looking for typos. It gave me a sense of purpose and accomplishment.

    1. I remember my time with pneumonia and how I much I hated that I couldn’t even read. I feel for you. But hey, if you want to look for typos… we’ll talk 😉

      1. Mrs. DuToit mentioned once on her old blog, that when she was pregnant one time, her mind got so messed up that she lost the ability to read for a while.

        1. this never happened, but while pregnant with second son, I was in this happy bubble, so I couldn’t concentrate on anything. I was dumb and happy. (Not fat, though. Lost 30 lbs with that kid, and if I hadn’t had pneumonia after that and taken meds that packed on the pounds, I’d be back to my pre-kids figure.)

    2. I’m sorry.

      My mom went through breast cancer, and she swore that one to three days after chemo was the worst– that’s when it really started to hit. If it’s bad enough that you feel sick in the first place….ugh.

      1. Sorry to hear about the cancer and the chemo– The first year of chemo for me (IV Cytoxan), I would vomit the entire day 24 hours after the infusion. Get well–

  41. I’m disabled, staying at home, and boredom is my biggest struggle. I can’t work, I have problems walking, sitting, lifting, using my hands, and I often need care, but I can’t stand to do nothing. I do our (my husband and I) paperwork, make all phone calls, pay bills, track the budget, write, draw, read, and I do my best at chores, even silly things like sweeping the floors and leaving little piles that I mark with shoes for my husband to pick up when he gets home since I can’t do that part. Laundry’s good too. I can’t load the washer or dryer, but I can empty the dryer and fold things and put them away. On good days I visit my dad and keep him company while he works. (He’s the only one in the office, and he gets lonely.) Usually, I sit and write or revise or even proof read things my friends send me for this or that while I’m there. Or check my email and read blogs, but I feel guilty if I do that for too long.

    Anything to avoid doing nothing. If I don’t get something worthwhile done each day I’m miserable and depressed. It’s bad enough relying on others for help; I don’t need to feel my life is pointless too.

  42. Currently my father-in-law is suffering from slowly-progressing Type-II Diabetes. For some time, he was able to serve a part-time mission helping people use online genealogical software, but due to the progression of the disease, he had to resign several months ago. I have suspected that his disease would progress faster if we couldn’t find work for him…yet I’m at a loss as to what that work might be!

    So far, however, he’s been able to hold his own, even though he’s been having problems with his leg, and has had a close call recently. Hopefully my wife and I will be able to come up with something that will keep him busy!

    In addition to my father-in-law, I have a couple of brothers with mental disabilities that make them difficult to employ, and a sister who is schizophrenic, who (although she is taking disability) is also trying to take classes, in part, as an effort to combat voices. Their circumstances have convinced me that there’s a certain value in trying to find “employment” for those who have issues, even if circumstances prevent them from doing much…

    1. Just from when I was ill/recovering for most of a year — being able to do work ANY work is worth it. It boosts your morale, which in turn helps your healing or at least slows the degeneration.

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