People here said — and I believe them to an extent, though I wish we had people in power who could think of non-statist solutions.  (Yes, I’m going to wish for the moon next) — that the economic recovery is neither instant nor sudden.  And yep, we all remember the problems in 1981, or at least those of us who are either old enough or have read up on it.

And they might be right, and the economy might recover, yet.  At least, I’m almost sure it will recover superficially and to a point, particularly if we remove the giant, inflated tick of Obamacare from its neck.

The problem is this: there are too many unknown unknowns on the way to prosperity or long lasting economic stability.

Let’s remember economics is just the term for a million small exchanges and a few big ones.  It’s — cough — what we call what we choose to do together.

The problem is that real economics — not the stuff the government thinks it can control.  It can’t really, you know, it can only impair or twist — are affected by all sorts of technological and international situations.

Some of the known unknowns I can foresee are stuff like:

The ability to work from home is eventually going to equalize compensation between high-pay/high-costs regions (like, say, all of the US by comparison to the rest of the wold) and low-pay/low cost regions.  How do high-cost regions live on low pay?

The ability to work from home/live anywhere will rearrange all our cities, our cultural institutions, our public institutions.

The ability for anyone to report the news will rearrange not just our perception of what is happening, but things like public relations, product recommendation and, well, everything pertaining to commerce.

Each of these, and about a dozen other things I can’t think of this early in the morning, have complications, ramifications, etc. which will all affect the economy in ways we can’t foresee.

Which is why the only way to survive the upcoming mess is to stay flexible.

How do you stay flexible?

Well, part of it is imagining things ahead of their happening.  Yesterday I was reading about airplane crashes (mostly because I’m a masochist) and one of the things they said is that most people find the chance of an air-crash so remote that they literally can’t imagine it, so they will sit, strapped in, in their crashed plane, until it blows up.  They said we have maybe 90 seconds to leave the plane, and most people don’t even try.

I think — no, I know — it is the same when an economy is changing too fast to be anticipated easily.

How do I know this?  I find I’m far less flexible in adapting to the changing publishing situation than my friends who were never traditionally published.  And my friends who were more successful than I in the old system and are now trying indie, have even more trouble adapting.

Why?  Because we were embedded in what we thought was a stable situation, and then things changed, unimaginably.

It’s the same thing with the rest of you and society at large.  Things are changing way too fast, and therefore we must be ready to jump before someone says frog.

I know that in Portugal when the economy fell apart, people made great fortunes from things you wouldn’t consider.  You know, like selling bread from the back of a van while all bakers were on strike.


1- Stay flexible.  Don’t say “nothing will ever happen to my situation.”  Imagine what could happen.

2- Don’t scare yourself.  The best case scenario and worst case scenario are rarely the most likely.  Also, you know, in those scenarios there’s usually nothing you can do.

3- Consider what you could do if not only your job, but all jobs like yours vanished/became very rare tomorrow.  (Journalists are facing this now.)  What could you do for money, with the skills you have.  (And don’t assume the society goes back to the 19th century!)

4 – Run scenarios in your mind, including the very unlikely. Those might never happen, but it keeps your mind flexible.

5- Most importantly, keep learning.  Learn how to do new things; learn new information; if all you can do is walk, walk a different way every morning.

6- Stay flexible.  Be ready to adapt.  The prize might not be to the smartest or to the swiftest, but it almost always is to those who best adapt.  Make sure you’re one of those.

258 thoughts on “Flexible

  1. > How do high-cost regions live on low pay?

    It’s called “poverty.” And there are many high-paying government jobs dependent on that poverty…

    1. But it’s fulfilling poverty as they get to be part of the cool gang in Manhattan or Silicon Valley. Many people will sacrifice pay for prestige. Of course, they turn around and whine about it which is annoying, but utterly predictable.

      1. Or pay for living in Florida. I have seen programming jobs that pay less in Florida than identical jobs in lower cost of living states. They are relying on “Miami” or wherever being part of your compensation.

        So, I’m in Atlanta 🙂

        1. I personally would demand higher wages if I had to live ANYWHERE in Florida. 🙂 I grew up in Atlanta and miss it dearly, but OTOH most of what I miss is gone regardless of whether or not I live there.

          Still got my Atlanta driving chops, though.

          1. Now I’m curious as to what you miss.

            I know a couple of three things I wish I’d been here for but I suspect I’m odd on at least two of them.

            1. Some things that closed (the Atlanta Toy Museum, and NO NOT THAT KIND) but also Fernbank Science Center, Stone Mountain Park and the laser show (though I imagine they don’t animate the Confederate generals any more*) the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, and Marietta Diner, which I highly recommend if you ever find yourself anywhere near it. I once got 36 hours of angelic behavior from my four-year-old by bribing her with a slice of cake from the Diner; it was literally almost as big as her head.

              *fun fact: my grandfather was friends with the stonemasons who worked on that project and once had lunch in Robert E. Lee’s ear.

              1. I have gotten carryout cake from the diner but have yet to dine it. It far and away has the longest wait I have seen a restaurant to have consistently. The only comparable place was Tapas in West Hartford where people would stand outside and wait in January in Connecticut (me being one).

                I just barely missed the grand era of the Atlanta drag clubs and wish I had not although they are trying to make a comeback. I also missed the glory days of the night clubs in Buckhead.

                Finally, I was 20 years too late for Kerry Wendell Thornley’s period of one of the old hippies handing out pamphlets in Little Five. Given how important his magnum opus has been in my life that is far and away the biggest regret.

                I have been to the Gardens but not the others on your list. I’m expecting the order to have Stone Mountain blasted by the SJWs like Taliban on ancient Buddhas any day now.

                1. I got raised pretty darn conservative (politically and religiously) and would’ve missed the clubs regardless. 🙂 At least I was of an age to enjoy Underground Atlanta in the brief renaissance between the mid-80s “you will get shot if you go there” and the mid-90s “you will get shot if you go there”.

                  My college roommate and I used to go down to Georgia Tech and troll for geeks. Good times. (we LIKED the geeks, and the feeling was mutual.)

                  1. Underground is on an upswing. I spent about 4 hours there last Friday at Hell in the Masquerade (which has moved all three levels to the Underground) at a goth dance night.

                    Was great to get out and dance although I’m a bit behind on the scene’s music given I was last on the radio about 8 years ago.

                    Lot of people went all out on makeup and clothing which is a good sign for the scene too. I even got called inspiring by two baby bats.

                    1. Ooooh. I’m probably 10 years behind on the music. I need to start listening to the podcasts and livestreams again, but I wandered from goth into EBM & futurepop, then off to epic, as I lost touch with my old dance crowd (and friends stopped clubbing often for things like work, mortgages, kids…)

                      Inspiring baby bats! Awesome! That’s a wonderful thing to do; the kids need good role models to look up to. 🙂

                    2. There was an interesting more industrial cover of “Voices Carry” I need to run down. I heard new to me Covenant and And One (when we walked in the DJ was spinning “Military Fashion Show”).

                      As for the baby bats when I had my radio show I used to say that elder goths don’t let angsty teenagers go emo…they belong to us.

                      Speaking of, have you see the goth episodes of South Park? The goth kids are spot on.

                    3. *snerks and shakes his head to think of me and Herb both running in the goth scene in different cities…

                    4. I’ve run in a lot of cities…which one you running in now?

                      And what is weird with either of us running in a goth scene?

                    5. Yeah, I wasn’t a huge fan of the new Covenant. The new Beborn Beton we got in 2015 was much better.

                      I was hoping we’d get another DCD soon after the reunion but I’m suspecting it was a one off. At least Qntal is putting out regular albums and I’ve enjoyed Mariko being with them.

                      Then again I have always been more ethereal and girly swirly than stompy.

                    6. And i am still crushed we haven’t heard anything from The Changelings in what, 15 years? I do both stompy and ethereal…

                    7. As I learned to my disappointment upon moving to Atlanta (where they were from) they broke up not long after the one album they did for Projekt.

                      They are how I got my wife into ethereal with their cover of “See Emily Play”.

                  2. Speaking of people still making music I just found out Inkubus Sukubus has been putting out an album every other year or so for a while including last year. Listening now.

          2. You crash in every rainstorm? I swear, a tiny bit of rain and someone lost it on 75 or 85

            1. The tiny bit of rain is the dangerous one. Doesn’t get enough to wash clean the accumulated oils and stuff.

    2. Rule of thumb, it doesn’t stay high cost long term. If there are reasons costs are higher, you either shift to something with greater profit or move. Farmers deal with this all the time, which is why agriculture has changed locally. Those who couldn’t shift to another crop had to do something else entirely.

      1. Depends on how long the Leviathan can prop it up. For instance, high minimum wage laws artificially prop up high COL locations.

    3. And to make it more fun, outsourcing of jobs to India and the like is makeing all of the US a “high-cost” region to live in compared to India, Argentina and a host of other outsourced ‘office worker’ labor. IT is already here. Heck look at Manpower, a employee staffing firm. They recently finished outsourcing their global IT operations right up to the last 6 people on the Org chart, the Chief Info Officer and 5 immediate flunkys. EVERYTHING ELSE is outsourced, INCLUDING all the middle management functions of all sorts. They have NO control over their own Global IT operations anymore. Sure the CIO sets some ‘direction’ and the like, but decisions that middle layers could and would make now have to go to the top.

  2. Saw the same article on plane crashes. My chances of dying are 10 percent higher as I always get a window seat.

    I run a very small business, so the concept of staying nimble in the wake of changes is inbred. During the meltdown in 2008, I told my girls that I wasn’t too big to fail – I was too small to fail because I had a family counting on me. Still here, still paranoid, still niimble. Pretty much treat the writing side of life the same way.

      1. Airports to avoid – two of the universally acknowledged most dangerous airports in the world are in Colorado, just ran across a reference this morning. Aspen/Pitkin and Telluride Regional.

          1. There is one, in Alaska, maybe the Aleutians, that is bounded by mountains on three sides. You either take off, come in to land, or crash. My father had been there in the service. Last year he met someone who had been at the same air strip, and they had much to talk about.

            1. My home town had its airport on the top of a mountain — extending the runway meant either lowering the airport or one [heck] of a lot of filling and compacting.

              It achieved a certain degree of notoriety thanks to the film We Are Marshall but pretty much every family in town had its stories of survived landings.

            2. Kodiak? There are a couple with mountain on three sides, but not many people go into the ones other than Kodiak. Dutch Harbor’s not mountain on three sides, but it SUCKS anyway (Windsocks at each end disagreeing 180 degrees from each other, blowing snow in June? Welcome to Dutch Harbor.) And Adak is just… well… Adak.

              1. I’ll have to ask my father. He never said, only that he hated flying in and out, and had to do so regularly. I do know he’s been all over Alaska, and loved the country. That one strip, though, he didn’t care for at all.

          2. Well, Telluride is almost on a mountain top. Field ends with a 1000 foot drop. No touch and go landings, you don’t make your first approach, bingo, go somewhere else to land.

          3. There used to be small strip on the east side of Cobb Mountain, north-ish of Calistoga, CA. It was part way up the mountain and fairly short. The only approach was directly toward the mountain, once on final you were completely committed, no way to abort.

            Departure, on the other hand, was relatively simple. You shortly ran out of runway, with the mountain falling away before you. You’d either be flying, or falling with style, very quickly. Don’t recall any accidents, but it was closed down years ago.

        1. Back when we lived in Denver, we had a weekly gathering of friends on Friday nights. One such Friday also happened to be Evil Rob’s birthday, so we planned to go… and had a horrible time getting to our usual coffeehouse because a couple of small airplanes had had a mid-air collision and dropped into that particular neighborhood.

          I later met a friend (from a different set of contacts) who lived in that area—though we were meeting in Sacramento—and she was talking about her friend who saw the plane auger down into the ground through her kitchen window. She was surprised that I believed her until I pointed out that I knew the day; most people thought she was making it up.

      1. Many years ago I flew JAL into Japan. When we landed in Tokyo they projected what looked like it was the view from a camera on the belly of the plane right up until just before we touched down. They did they same when I took a couple of hops within Japan. They did not do so when we were landing in Anchorage on the return.

      2. Aisle – getting up and moving once/hour is good for health, don’t like to climb over people

  3. Strange. I thought I got this via email from MadGeniusClub. [Evil Grin While Flying Away Very Very Fast]

  4. Ironically, the more successful a person is the less flexible they tend to be. There are exceptions, of course, but who abandons a successful strategy?

    Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams has been touting a different approach, one which he says Donald Trump exemplifies. I don’t know about it, myself, and am at an age where adapting to it seems improbable, but …

    WhenHub Hackathon – An Example of Systems over Goals
    Regular readers of this blog know that I wrote a book about the benefits of systems versus goals. You also might know that I cofounded a startup (WhenHub) using a systems business model approach. I’ll use this blog to keep you updated on how that works out compared to the traditional goal-oriented business model that almost all startups follow.

    A goal-oriented startup would have a specific customer and a specific product in mind. If that doesn’t work out, the startup might have enough cash left over for a pivot, or maybe two, to try again. But in each case, there is a specific goal. And the way startups work, the odds of any particular startup hitting its goal is dismal. That’s why WhenHub was designed from the ground-up to be a systems business model instead of a goal-focused model. The idea is to get something like a portfolio effect to increase the odds of at least one of the things we’re doing becoming a profitable line of business.


    … The way you know you have a good system is that you come out ahead even when you fail at whatever you’re doing. In the case of a hackathon, developers all over the world will be exposed to what WhenHub can do. If nothing comes out of the hackathon itself, we have still acquired real estate in the brains of hundreds of developers who are in this space. A year from now, one of them could use our API to create a billion-dollar application. Perhaps one or more developers will want to work for WhenHub in the future. Maybe a developer will mention WhenHub to a friend in an unrelated field, and that will be the connection that matters.

    In other words, WhenHub has literally thousands of ways to win with the hackathon and no real way to lose. We’ll raise awareness of the company with exactly the right kind of people no matter what comes out of the hackathon itself, and we will do it at a reasonable cost. That’s a good system – lots of ways to win, no way to lose.


    OTOH, Adams has declared himself, like Trump, a master persuader, so maybe I’m just falling for his line of bull. I confess I’ve never been terribly good at sales resistance. But their is an intuitive attraction to this which fits my own experience. (But then, I’m supposed to think so, right?)

    The trick, of course, is adapting this to your own business model. Good luck with that.

    1. > who abandons a successful strategy?

      Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between bad management and asset strippers…

      The founders of Motorola are probably spinning rapidly enough in their graves to be a useful power source.

  5. There’s a great video of the emergency evacuation test Airbus had to do to get regulatory approval for the A380. They need to evacuate a full (873 passengers, mixed sexes and ages) in under 90 seconds.

    It’s not a real example of how things would go in a crash, since the people aren’t panicking, etc. But it’s still a tough requirement.

    1. I also don’t see any children, or elderly (or other people with movement restrictions).

      OTOH, how many people have an “evacuation plan” for if and when they are in a car crash?

      1. In the US, child labor laws generally prohibit using minors (since there are almost certain to be injuries). Aircraft manufacturers are allowed to not use people over 60, since the risk of injury is higher (there are two age distributions that they can use — either 80% 21-50, 15% 51-59, 5% 60+, or 75% 18-50, 25% 51-60).

        And they use dolls for under 2 lap-children.

        See https://www.princeton.edu/~ota/disk1/1993/9306/930605.PDF and https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/14/appendix-J_to_part_25

        1. In the dim dawn of history, I studied aircraft engineering, and the instructor talked about the requirement to evacuate an airliner within a specified time. I heard that that the people who demonstrated this were typically employees of the manufacturer who were mostly paid to do other things, but volunteered to do the evacuation practices and demonstrations in order to get extra money.

          Such tests are not considered proof that the airplane can be evacuated in 90 seconds by the airline travelling public. Instead, it’s considered proof that the airplane is reasonably easy to get out of in a hurry. That accounts for the arbitrariness of the requirements.

        2. Oh, I know they couldn’t possibly include those groups – I wouldn’t qualify “certain” with an “almost” there.

          Just noting that the multiplying factor for a real world evacuation is very large, even in the unlikely event of no panic.

          Same thing with fire drills in office buildings – although in that case, you are usually not dealing with a random and ever-changing group of people.

          Question – does anyone know of a government that requires demonstrations of, say, an ability to quickly evacuate a shopping mall before the building is certified for use?

          1. Agreed — the factor is large. When I went down the slides (in a real evacuation) when I was 19, it took well over 5 minutes, and we had about 10 injured on a full DC-8 (about 250 people).

            But, in their test, they had only one injury on a full A380. So I suppose that testing a smaller aircraft like a 75 seat commuter jet, it’s possible that nobody would get injured.

          2. While an actual demonstration isn’t required per structure, that is one of the essential purposes of a fire marshal, and why their approval is required to open any public building in the USA. (You may have noted capacity limits on public buildings – those are capped by the fire marshal to ensure the ability of everyone to evacuate in case of a fire.)

            1. It’s another regulation need thing. Both number of exits and building area are the drivers there iirc. I know aircraft are also limited by quantity of exits. Iirc FAR 25 defines exit size and pax number for the various types. (Can’t remember specifics. Mine uses rockets for egress)

            2. … ensure the ability of everyone to evacuate in case of a fire.

              I am confident that, should somebody open fire, even the most constipated within will be able to evacuate.

          3. Question – does anyone know of a government that requires demonstrations of, say, an ability to quickly evacuate a shopping mall before the building is certified for use?

            They even post them in most places; everywhere has a fire exit map, and most places show the “max occupancy” one.

            1. A friend of mine called while standing out on the courthouse steps in San Diego. He had to appear in court, but the security goons wouldn’t let him in, claiming the building was at “maximum occupancy” and fire regulations prohibited any more people.

              As I recall, the presiding judge just shrugged and let his schedule slip another hour, no use going up against the Fire Department…

              1. Wow, either they really need to re-do the building, or there’s some other issues. Normal operation should NOT be hitting the “we cannot safely evacuate the building” caps!

                Hm… might be that they calculated the entire building as a single unit, that might do it, and I can even see that being reasonable if they have an EXTREMELY limited number of exits, but that really sounds like some sort of Dumb Lawyer Trick.

              2. Not that they’d be impressed enough to let it work, but — demand the security goons call their boss out; and when he comes out, point out there is now one less person in the building, and therefore room for YOU. and walk in, quickly.
                (Maybe could work in a story…)

      2. I do. Having an overactive imagination leads to lots of what-ifs. Cars, buses, airplanes, terrorist attacks (so unlikely in my tiny little town as to be laughable), my demise, my sweetie’s demise (haven’t shared that one with her), and so on. In my day job, I’m home inspector – I plan my falls from roofs, shocks from electrical panels, critters in crawlspaces.

        1. Oh, certainly, some of us are paranoid enough… Of course, thinking about what we would do when and if something happens means we also think a lot more on making them not happen. (Obviously doesn’t apply to air travel – unless you have your own plane, of course.)

      3. I do. I make sure I know who is sitting where, where the doors are, and I wear clothing that will keep me alive a while if I get dumped out in the weather. Because it would suck to freeze to death after surviving a plane crash.

        Car crashes? I have all the safety sh1t in my truck. Not fire truck level, but better than nothing.

        Stuff happens. Might happen to me. Best to be ready, eh?

    2. I got to go down the inflatable emergency slide on a 747 several times. It’s quite a ride.

      Besides being rather high, it goes more or less straight down, with an abrupt turn near the bottom. You leave the slide moving *fast*; the guys who had practiced it a lot managed a staggering sprint as they slowed down, ordinary schlubs like me slid or tumbled across the mats.

      The exercise mats were one thing; exiting onto concrete would have left a nice example of Honda rash.

  6. It’s always a good idea to be aware of your skills and abilities. You never know when things could go south, and some heretofore-marginal capability of yours could become a major contribution to your self-image and ability to support yourself and your family. I’ve worked in IT security for the past 8 years or so, but I know I can do event organizing, public speaking, vegetable gardening, singing, mild home repair, and a few other things that don’t occur to me just now. Everyone has a bunch of eclectic skills that they seldom think about. Thinking about them and being aware of them is likely to be valuable in the future, I think.

    1. Job hunters, along with being told “Network, network, network!” (Lotta help for us introverts, thanks) are also told to think in terms of “Transferable Skills” — what Adams calls your Talent Stack (not the vault where you pile your ancient Greek coinage). This is a set of skills and abilities that can be combined and recombined according to circumstances. It is helpful to think of these as broadly as you can and look for ways to capitalize on them in a variety of modes.

        1. The only one I know is “be known for being d***ed good about doing what you’re asked, and going above and beyond.”

          My husband gets teased a little about making people look bad because he will frequently forget to stop for lunch when he’s working– but none of the gov’t unions he’s required to be in are quite as bad as Target, so that just means that when he applies for a different job, and they talk to his current boss, the asker gets raves about dedication and eye for detail and such.

          One of his prize possessions is a challenge coin– SecDef. ❤

      1. When the dot-com bubble burst in 2001, after a lot of fruitless job searching, I heard from the sales-rep of the tester we were using at my former job. This turned into a consulting/programming gig that lasted 10 fairly prosperous months. The client went toes-up, but I had enough money to get our house ready to sell so we could escape from California.

        The moral, such as it is: networks happen, and openings can occur in the strangest ways. Just making a few friends/acquaintances outside your immediate circle can help.

        1. The only two times in my life I have been unemployed for an extended time are when I had no aquaintences otherwise I was only out of work as long as I wished.
          Of course, now, I am over 50, and still I think getting work, even up here, would be fairly easy. If nothing else, the other company on this property would likely live to have me (@ likely half my current wage). It has always been the odd network and aquaintences that got me work ASAP.

        2. I got a steady consulting gig one time because when they first saw me, I was wearing a nice shirt and a tie…

          1. Yeah – for interviews, don’t underdress, but also don’t overdress the person who will be your bosses’ boss.

            1. Perhaps not, but that’s not easy to plan for.

              It would be easier in the interview to “dress down” by taking off your suit-coat than to “get into a better suit” at the interview. 😉

              1. PS, I’ve often said at the interview “looks like I overdressed” when it is obvious that the interviewers are dressed causally.

                Mind you, I failed at interviews but don’t think “how I dressed” was a factor.

      2. One of the smartest things the Navy did during the post Cold War draw down was require separation classes. There was a great deal of discussion of “Transferable Skills”. There were also programs to get apprentice hours in trades based on your MOS. One of my biggest mistakes was being so focused on college that I didn’t see the value of doing that just in case.

        They also explained very well why vets are preferred hires using sick call as an example.

        1. There were also programs to get apprentice hours in trades based on your MOS.

          They managed to screw that up– required that you get the paperwork done while you’re in.

          They did do really well in giving college credits, though.

    2. Have been trying to think of options, other than heading to the woods to trap (bit old for that). One of them is brush making. The other is soap. Both would have to be boutique type sales on something like EBay. The problem with soap would be testing for free lye and I doubt my wife would want me to use her large crock pot.

      Can weave cane bottom chairs, but there doesn’t seem to be much of a market for that, unless I want to go whole hog and make reproductions of common chairs. That’s something I’ve never tried.

      1. Think about things you enjoy doing, things you’re good at doing, whether or not you consider them marketable skills. For example, it’s likely everyone posting here enjoys reading. Now, is there some way to make reading into a job? Well, there’s research, where you read with an eye toward finding specific bits of information; there’s audiobooks, where you read aloud for others to enjoy; there’s proofreading, where you read to find grammatical and spelling errors; etc.

        We all have skills that we don’t realize. You just have to get creative in recognizing them.

      2. IIRC the test for free lye is to touch the bar to your tongue. If it zaps or burns you, you’ve got free lye. If you only taste salt, it’s completely saponified.

        1. That’s the home/cottage soap maker test. Given the amount of hot sauce I’ve eaten, that might not be reliable in my case. Think the big soap companies doe some sort of tritation to determine free lye.

          There’s online soap calculators that let you check your recipe, and superfatting the recipe a bit just to make sure. Have looked into the hot process just to make sure. There’s a number of things I’d like to try, including seeing if one of those plastic liners would work in a used crock pot. Have already worked out things like forms.

          Why soap? A wild idea from reading an old book of formulas and a suspicion. It’s fascinating stuff. The public domain books note varying type of fatty acid and type of base (KOH or NaOH) give the soap different properties.

          1. My mother does a bit of soap making, which is where I get all of my information.

            Plant oils will give you an off-white soap, whereas lard will give you a bright white soap – nearly as bright as if you’d added the titanium whatever that the commercial soaps use.

            The best lard to use, apparently, is the “leaf lard” from around the kidneys, and that can be rendered at home in a crock pot. (If you have a butcher shop nearby that needs to get rid of the stuff…)

            I forget which fat makes harder soap though.

            The chemistry of home soap making could probably keep a person busy for years just with the experimentation.

            1. Technically, the grease from browning beef is tallow, something I’ve considered collecting if I do this.

              Hmm . . . . Feather Blade. Shaving enthusiast?

      3. Can weave cane bottom chairs, but there doesn’t seem to be much of a market for that, unless I want to go whole hog and make reproductions of common chairs. That’s something I’ve never tried.

        Have you ever tried it with, oh, cotton twine? “Upcycling” old chairs like that might work.

        1. Actually, yes, but it was when I was a boy. Wasn’t pleased with the results. Have also seen it done with cloth strips, but it didn’t hold up. The chair I did was to duplicate the original weave. It was my grandmother’s rocker.

          1. My grandfather replaced one with a basic net-weave rawhide for a kid’s chair– it’s still in use, 40-ish years later.

          2. *thinks* Did the cotton thread have too much give?

            Maybe that tiny paracord that’s sold in craft shops would work.

            For that matter, I’d probably buy a bench with normal paracord for the seat!

            1. One of the BSA Basket Weaving requirements is to “weave a chair.” (When I was a camp counselor, there were all of *two* requirements. I think there’s three now, with “figuring out what could be dangerous about this badge” being one. This is also known as The Easiest Merit Badge.) There’s a simple continuous cord style that we used, and we used retired climbing cord so that it could be done fast and then unwoven for the next kid.

              I think normal paracord would be pretty comfortable.

            2. Back then, one of my favorite toys was a ball of cotton twine, later becoming a spool of cotton twine. I don’t remember why I tried it on the chair bottom. Maybe it was from seeing something similar done on a bed without box springs. It was a square weave. The end result didn’t look so good, and end up getting slack. Didn’t take long for me to cut it off. My father later made a wooden seat for that chair.

              What I didn’t know then was something called rush seating is about the same, but does better. I think it’s a combination of the type of material and the diameter of it. There’s a really good pattern that can be done in rush, but I’d have to study it.

              There is something like you’re describing in Danish Modern – I think. Might be wrong.

              1. Just remembered: Instead of winding the twine around and around the side spindles, I tied each individually. That made it looser than it might have been otherwise. The cotton twine still stretched to where there was a risk of falling through, even with a cushion.

                Danish modern does use paper cord. A quick check shows chairs done with paracord. I don’t know how stretchy paracord is, but maybe a replacement for rush and paper cord?

                Now I’m thinking about a paracord hammock.

    3. One of the joys of missions is that you are going to get a chance to do a lot of different jobs that you had no idea you could or would ever do.
      During my near 20 years, I’ve done construction, mechanic work, plumbing, electrical, grounds, run heavy equipment, and designed buildings and houses. I’ve managed a guest house, been a loadmaster for various aircraft, bought supplies for people out in the bush. I’m now doing logistics & customs for my organization, and assisting another 10 with theirs, plus running the insurance desk. And there’s the stuff like medevac coordination, which is rare, but urgent.

  7. Flexibility usually requires an ability to think outside the box (or cubical for many of us.) It also requires that we be willing to toss the “I’m too good to do such-and-such” mentality. And it may well require you to down-size your living space. i.e move to a smaller, cheaper home or apartment. Which may mean you have to store (unlikely due to expense) or get rid of material belongings you’ve accumulated over the years.

    If you own rural property, you have several options. Raise food; organic vegetables and small food animals like poultry, goats, etc. If you have more space, then raising larger animals for milk and meat might work. Tree farming: maple syrup, lumber (specialty woods), firewood, Christmas trees, nuts, fruit. Mining, quarrying, sand and gravel, bottled water, souvenir rocks. Solar-electric energy generation, small scale hydro-electric generation. Keep in mind that the tyrannical nanny state wants full approval over any use you make of your property; even if it has zero impact on your neighbors. That might count as working from home, but I think that might be a stretch.

    Most people will always need services. Any kind of repairs: carpentry, masonry, automotive, well drilling, small appliance, plumbing come to mind, electrical and communication wiring or wireless networking. Personal services such as athletic coach or trainer, landscaping, tax assistant, physical or mental therapist, grocery shopper, or consultant on things you actually know about. Again, that damn tyrannical nanny state is going to often require you to have certificates or licenses to do these things as a business. Unless you’re doing a home business where people travel to you, you’re not going to be able to work from home. And people are likely to pay a bit more for services that you bring to them.

    You might not be able to start a business in any of those things, but you may be able to get a job as a worker for someone else doing them.

    Robert A. Heinlein (PBUH) probably said it best. “A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, con a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”

    I’ve done all but two of those things so far. And I’m working on trying to write a sonnet to bring the list down to one.

    1. (or cubical for many of us.)

      My cubicle isn’t cubical. It’s more of a parallelepiped.

    2. One of my “wouldn’t it be great” ideas was to found a HS built on combining that list with a classical education a la St. Johns university centered on reading classic texts in all fields, not just literature.

      The oddest idea, I think, was to make freshman/sophomore gym be the classical pentathlon and junior/senior the modern pentathlon which both fit under fight efficiently.

    3. I have been trying to launch a small business, and am rapidly moving even further to the right than I already was. *fume*

        1. Um, lemonade progressing to jam, it looks like. It’s oddly embarrassing for me, having been raised where REAL artists sold crafts and the nobodies sold food, but I seem to be very good at combining flavors inventively and having them work. I’ve been doing stuff for family and church consumption with flavorings out of my herb garden, and the notion of expanding has been very much on my mind lately.

          Enter food regulations, which are rapidly becoming my bugbear. I’m looking into renting a commercial kitchen, but I’m loathe to drop the money without stock on hand to sell, and I can’t get the stock to sell without the bells-and-whistles kitchen to satisfy the regulators. *fume*

          I do freelance writing, freelance editing, jewelry-making and garden up a storm, but I feel much more secure with multiple income streams, plus I *like* playing with my food. Fingers are crossed. Eyes, too, after slogging through the Department of Agriculture website…

          1. Enter food regulations, which are rapidly becoming my bugbear. I’m looking into renting a commercial kitchen, but I’m loathe to drop the money without stock on hand to sell, and I can’t get the stock to sell without the bells-and-whistles kitchen to satisfy the regulators. *fume*

            This. The last time I looked there were all sorts of regulations for cosmetics, but not for soap. So, if someone was making soap, the last thing they wanted to do was to claim cosmetic properties.

            1. I’ve been trying to figure out my local soap regulations, but is all seems to be a circular loop of Official Institution A saying to ask Official Institution B, and Institution B saying to ask Institution A -.-‘

              1. Ah. That’s when you ignore them both, and go about your business until someone objects, at which point you send them to OI A who sends them to OA B….

                Because I guarantee you that if you ever pin one of them down to an answer, the answer will be “no.”

          2. I’m sure you’ve already done this. but check with your local farmer’s market, and your local co-op extension agent that works with the farmer’s market. Because they’re good for “Here’s how X, W, and T are doing it,” and “Under regulation 243.6 sub paragraph (a) you don’t need to do that in cases A-C as long as you label with the following verbiage…”

            Also, catering is an intermediate step I’ve known several people to do: some churches / VFW halls / Rotary clubs have commercial kitchens and will rent them out for use at very reasonable rates, as long as you bring in all your stuff, and clean up after you’re done. So they’ll build capital by catering a wedding, or reunion, etc – renting the kitchen after they have contract and downpayment in hand.

            Not that I’ve sat through powerpoint slides of “how to market yourself at a farmer’s market; stall presentation and sales pitch” because a friend wanted company, oh, no… *looks innocent*

            1. Even California gets things right sometimes; a couple of years ago, they passed a regulation that exempted “boutique” producers from some of the extensive food requirements, so that a person who did a couple of rounds of jam making could sell them at a farmer’s market without having to prove use of a commercial kitchen. I don’t know the limits or parameters, since it was just a side note for me, but I second the idea of checking with the farmer’s market runners to see what they require.

          3. Lefty and former Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern went into the hotel business for a short bit after he left politics. He later wrote of the experience in a WSJ column. He noted that after having done so, he had an entirely new perspective on all of the regulations that he’d happily passed while working in DC. The experience wasn’t enough to make him a conservative, by any means. But he wasn’t nearly as in favor of government meddling afterwards as he’d been before.

    4. “Raise food; ”

      Last year, when we had our drought after a mild winter, you could not walk into a garden place and say the word “chipmunk” without being inundated by agreement about how the animals were wrecking havoc on gardens.

      Remember you have to be flexible enough to handle crop failure.

          1. I took a pulse electric fence charger, insulators, and strung them just as low as I could to the ground. It was a bear to keep from getting grounded out, but it did the trick.

            Oh, why a pulse? Because I once saw a cat killed when it bit down on a steady electric fence. Poor thing couldn’t let go. It was at a neighbors, and I never forgot it.

      1. Flexibility means coming up with a killer recipe for hot roasted chipmunks.

        Hey, if you can pay big bucks for spicy chicken wings, chipmunks should be a snap.

        1. But can hot roasted chipmunks induce labor?

          Moms say this type of pizza is guaranteed to induce labor
          Pregnant and past your due date? Try hitting up Hawthorne’s New York Pizza & Bar in Charlotte, N.C. According to locals, the restaurant’s signature Buffalo Wing Pizza has the power to induce labor.

          Made with buffalo sauce, chicken and mozzarella cheese, the Buffalo Wing Pizza — or “the inducer,” as patrons now call it — has gained an odd reputation for sending soon-to-be moms straight to the delivery room. In fact, the owner of the Hawthorne’s chain, Michael Adams, claims that several different women have vouched for the pizza’s powers since the restaurant’s very first instance of buffalo-induced labor.
          [END EXCERPT]

          Now, if you can set up a food cart offering hot roasted chipmunks on a stick, well, I’d bet even Cut Me Own Throat Dibbler would go for those.

  8. Already in worst case scenario– not sure I can imagine much better to be honest. I am trying to write… then I have thyroid cancer… then I have gout (or maybe turf toe… not sure). All of it is painful… and I don’t see a way out.

    1. Like kidney stones, gout is one of those things that seems vaguely humorous until you have your first bout of it…

      The scary part is, nobody seems to know what causes either condition. Well, more precisely, a lot of people “know”, but their conclusions are often contradictory…

      1. I’ve been exercising the ankle and keeping the big toe and joint immobile. The pain is less and I am feeling better– plus some good things happened today… which I had been hoping would happen … but seemed to NOT be in the works.

        As for the toe… I am sure there is damage. I’ll have to have it looked at… what I am doing is temporary… and yes… the doctors contradict themselves. In my case– it has to do with I broke that toe (and possibly the joint) and I didn’t go to the doctor. Now when my kidneys and liver become draggy… it drops it down into that joint… So pain. I think I’ll have to get that toe fixed… maybe after I get the thyroid fixed. *sigh

        1. My doctor assures me that the next time I have a flare-up of gout she can treat it very simply and easily. I will probably let her try that before I take the Chinese cleaver and remove the offensive joint.

            1. It annoys me only mildly that I cannot think of a single cocktail that uses cherries as garnish … well, not a single one other than Shirley Temples which is sorta not the purpose.

              I suspect that Cherry Brandy, Cherry Kijafa, Cherry Heering, Cherry Schnapps and the like are not medicinally advised? Back when I entertained strange brews (before it became fashionably boutique) I was fond of a Belgian cherry lambic branded Mort Subite (Sudden Death) and now that I think on it I never had problems with gout back then.

            2. Seconding the cherry recommendation. My father and his sister are both prone to gout and scarf down tart cherries when they suspect it’s coming on. It makes a noticeable difference as far as I can see.

              1. 3rd vote in favor of cherries – 4oz of tart cherry juice a day keeps my gout away. A little expensive, since I avoid “reconstituted from frozen”, but worth it.

          1. I think it isn’t as simple as gout… that ball joint is damaged. I found a splint and put it on for the night– no pain except itching *sigh Can’t use it with my shoes so I have it stabilized another way.

  9. “The ability to work from home/live anywhere will rearrange all our cities, our cultural institutions, our public institutions.”

    I will actually disagree with this quite vehemently, out of personal experience. For a while in a previous career I wound up working from home, and was perfectly technologically capable of doing my job well. I still grabbed the first chance I could, after a few years of this, to switch careers and get a job in a traditional external office, for two reasons that I do not think any technology can fix: 1) I could not stand the solitude that emails and phone calls could not alleviate; and 2) I could not stand the inevitable blurring of the boundary between workplace and home, and the consequent inability to maintain a work-life balance, that occurred when workplace and home were the same physical location. (It is worth noting that my wife, also a full-time at-home writer, will quite often still take her laptop down to a local coffee shop and work there, simply so that she can get away from all the distractions of our house.)

    People forget that our cities and cultural/public institutions take the shape they do not just because of technical or practical requirements but because of human requirements. The vast majority of people still need to regularly interact with other real people, face-to-face, to maintain any level of psychic contentment; the psychological ill effects of being unable to do so are very well documented. As a result I have always been reflexively skeptical of any imagined technological transformation allowing this to be avoided.

    1. Addressing point #1, I would welcome the insulation from distraction by others and find email a very courteous means of interaction at the convenience of each participant, one which permits opportunity for thoughtful reflection upon what one is actually saying.

      OTOH, when there are many participants in an email discussion there will inevitably be those replying late in the chain to items already resolved (for certain values of resolution) so group meetings have their place.

      I also recall many articles about Tech companies doing away with cubicles to encourage interaction and creativity (although the financial analyst in me notes that doiing so also saves on partitions.)

      1. I worked for a few companies in semiconductors, in a variety of workspace setups. What worked for me was a largish cube with a handful of people in them. I hated the one-man cube, and the wide-open plan was too distracting, but the middle was fine. For me. YMMV.

        1. Over my multiple decade internment in semiconductors as I recall it the Standard Cube went from 8’x12′ with 6′ walls (managers got 8’x14′ with extra room for a couple chairs) to 8’x8’x6′ when I last was laid off. I understand now the standard is 8’x8’x4′ or even smaller, spending all day staring across at your co-internees, and some places just have tables with no walls at all.

          I can (barely) see that working for coding or design jobs, with headphones and a good tunnel-vision capability, but my last gig was in product marketing and we were on the phone all the time. As it was the louder phone-callers drove everyone else nuts.

          Nowadays (in a completely different industry) I work from home, and the only downside is the standard home distractions. But I absolutely love not having to lauch out into Silicon Valley traffic every day. And the “can live anywhere” aspect is very high on our minds, as it would be great to get away from the congested masses if we can.

          And as to transferable skills, I was astonished at how much of a tech guru my various messings around in Excel over the years had placed me in a less-tech-savvy industry: For me, pivot tables were kinda cheating, and writing non-complex SQL queries was slightly advanced but nothing compared to, say, writing HDL code to program FPGAs. But where I am now in the healthcare management world, pivot tables are mysterious and powerful arcana, and SQL queries are apparently knowledge that is only exposed to the high annointed, and then only after careful vetting and testing for worthiness.

          Bottom line: You can never tell until you try.

      2. For general mucking about, no problem. But people talking or music playing are far too distracting to debug or program.

        1. Another interesting example of mileage varying; I actually find music in the background helps me when I’m programming, as it keeps me focused on what I’m doing.

          1. and I find music in the office or shop distracting – if I have time for a second line of attention, I want it to be on what I’m interested in, not someone else’s music choices.

        2. My original job was product engineering with test programming as a secondary role. A good part of the PE job was working with other people. Over the years, it pretty much swapped, and the heavy program/debugging work was done on the test floor, with enough thumps and hissing from the machines to act as a white noise filter. I don’t recall if there was a radio in the test area. It might not have been forbidden, but it wasn’t encouraged. Nobody played music in the bullpen.

          If I’m doing work in the barn/shop, I’ll have some music on, unless it’s really critical work. However, it’s my choice. PDQ Bach is good for dull repetitive work…

    2. I had a friend some years ago who worked from home and dealt with the same home/office blurring problem you mention. His solution was to get ready for work at the same time every morning, then go out and walk around the block. He was “leaving home” and “arriving at work.” When he finished for the day he’d walk around the block again, “leaving work” and “arriving at home.” Admittedly, he didn’t have kids to distract him “at work,” but this exercise helped him make the psychological separation between work and home.

        1. Couldn’t say. The concept was mildly interesting as a point of conversation, but not enough so that we got into the details of how it worked.

      1. I have a schedule, and I keep to it – there is the time for cruising the internet, at about 6:30 when Larry-Bird starts getting noisy, then for walking the doggles, working at household and garden stuff – then lunch just before noon – and the rest of the day until 5 or 6 split between the Tiny Publishing Bidness and my own stuff until about 6 PM.
        Yeah, I know – sport of lazy in some respects. But I keep to it.
        My model is HH Munro, AKA Saki, who only spent about half of his day writing – but was ferociously disciplined about it.

    3. My husband has been working from home for quite some time now. We relocated to another city because he has one of those jobs that he can do from anywhere. The new office doesn’t have space for him right now. They will soon, probably. He finds he’s more productive at home. He works in the home office and no one bothers him when he’s at work. My father-in-law sleeps during the day because he works nights. His grandmother never comes out of her room, really. I also keep to myself. He is on the phone all day just like he is at the office. His team is spread all over the country. Now, granted, that’s a highly unusual situation. But it illustrates how, with the right job, it can be done successfully at home. Plus, we save on the gas for the coming long commute and he gets lunch every day because I bring it to him.

      1. Oh, that it can be done successfully by some people in some times and places I freely admit. That it can be done successfully on an indefinite basis by enough people to “reshape our society” is the thing I still don’t buy. Yes, people’s mileages vary, but they vary within parameters, and most people fall squarely in the middle of that variance.

        Humans need real-life community, and I simply don’t see technology ever changing that. Even in pastoral communities where people lived in families on widely separated farms, central markets still formed, and even the Vikings had their regular Althings. I sometimes think this is one of the places where being an Odd (to use Sarah’s term) torpedoes us; many Odds can, in fact, manage with much less real-time contact than most people, and Odds talking to Odds can sometimes forget how the Even-tempered majority think.

        1. What end case of “reshape” are you arguing against? What end case of “reshape” is Sarah arguing for?

          Given the last 60 years has seen a mass migration of people to the urban areas, as centralized industrial production and knowledge work, combined with increased mechanization in the mining and agricultural sectors, has left very little work and dying towns in the hinterlands… the potential future extrapolated by progressives is that the future has everyone living in stack-a-prole apartments, with no need for cars in crowded urban environments.

          However, the heavy taxes and toxic environments of cities has also driven the suburban movement, of people who came to the cities creating the greater metropolis by moving out to where their kids can play safely and their wives not be mugged while grocery shopping. The end case posited there is for a great metropolitan sprawl that is a solid NYC-Atlanta corridor, while the western states are denuded of population except the far left coast.

          If I understand correctly, you’re positing an end case where everyone is sitting at a home office and not talking to each other, and stating that this won’t work because most humans need group structure, and someone’s still got to fix the power lines and serve the coffee.

          That’s true, but that’s not what Sarah is positing as her end case.

          Sarah is positing that decentralized knowledge work, coupled with micro-manufacturing advances and internet shopping, allows movement much further outward, from suburb to exurb all the way back to rural towns. Not that the drain wouldn’t happen, but that the migration would work both ways. And if the money starts flowing out to workers in small towns, then they will be able to thrive, even if major cities continue to decline.

          This isn’t about everyone having a telecommuting job; it’s about Peter writing books and thus able to buy groceries, haircuts, lawn treatment, random home improvement stuff, and kolaches locally from our small-town stores (with the occasional foray into nearby small city for Big Box Store selection when that’s still more convenient than Amazon.) Ten years ago, most of the money from his books would have stayed with the publisher in NYC, but these days, other than the vendor’s cut, it comes to Tiny Town Texas. Nor does an editor, cover designer, or cover artist have to be in NYC to get commissions and consult with the publisher; email is fine!

          Yes, authors are an edge case. But when it’s authors, cover artists, cover designers, editors, copyeditors, call centers, ebay vendors, etsy vendors, coders, seamstresses, tailors, cobblers, and many other professions that used to require centralization – these are all people who can live out in exurbs or rural town now. As the money that used to flow to a city flows instead out to a small town and enriches the local economy there, they’ve changed the shape of the overall economy. (To some extent, this even covers agricultural. Twenty years ago, if I wanted sourwood honey outside of North Carolina, I might be able to get it in a specialized shop in Chicago, NYC, or D.C. Today, I just go to Killerbeeshoney.com and other than the chunk of money for shipping, it all goes to the guy who tends the apiary.)

          1. This. Plus my husband who worked in an office with 30 some people in the early eighties, now mostly works at home, with occasional office meetings — he is in touch with his work group constantly by text and video.
            H*ll I’m no longer the solitary writer. My “office mates” just happen to live all over from TX to OZ. But if I need a ten minute brainstorming session, I can contact one of them either text or voice and go “Argh, this is not gelling.”

                1. Do not think for a moment I jest about such a thing:

                  Digital dominatrix doesn’t need to humiliate her slaves in-person
                  The services offered by financial dominatrixes are complex to say the least.

                  Olivia said one of the most basic is “ignoring” — a service where clients pay for access to her webcam so they can watch her buy herself gifts online with their credit card.

                  “A client will pay me to have a session where I sit around and ignore him, usually I’ll be on the phone to girlfriends talking about ‘pathetic beta males’,” she told news.com.au.

                  “I think the appeal here is clients want to be powerless against an attractive woman.”

                  From here, things get a little kinkier with Olivia using blackmail to extort her clients — only it’s not as nefarious at it sounds.

                  “This is where a client will organise to be consensually ‘blackmailed’ into performing sex acts or paying money,” she said.
                  [END EXCERPT]

                  Insert Joey Bishop-type joke about most guys having to marry a gold-digger to get that kind of treatment.

                  Eschewing link to Jerry Reed’s hit single, “She Got The Goldmine (I Got The Shaft)”

                  They give her the goldmine (She got the goldmine)
                  They give me the shaft (I got the shaft)
                  They said they’re splittin it all down the middle,
                  But she got the better half
                  But it all sounds mighty funny
                  But it hurts too much to laugh
                  She got the goldmine
                  I got the shaft

                  1. I was laughing more at the idea that Skype was the start of online BDSM…they are often the butt of jokes among people actually out in the scene and online only types generally get a rude awakening when they do finally come out.

                    1. yup… people like to pretend there was no online real-time chat before Skype (or yahoo im or AOL IM or ICQ depending on their entry point to the internet)

          2. There is an article I posted on Mad Genius yesterday that I’ll repost here regarding news and media generally.


            The point of the article is the Media Bubble, but the interesting thing is the geolocation data they’re using. The interesting bit is that since 2008, the media has been shedding jobs across the USA, and concentrating the remaining jobs in the Coastal Enclaves, aka the deepest blue counties, aka the Clinton Archipelago.

            Leaving aside the politics, what is interesting is the shrinking geographic distribution of the jobs. Despite the internet and working from home, these media jobs, including on-line media, are concentrating in NYC, Seattle and LA/San Francisco. There’s virtually nothing going on anywhere else.

            One thing the article reveals is, no wonder the media is an echo chamber. But the other, more interesting thing is, we have no idea what’s going on. Economic forces are driving huge changes in people’s physical locations, and there’s no clear reason why that I can see.

          3. “This isn’t about everyone having a telecommuting job….”

            No, but it is about people becoming independent operators and self-driving, self-overseeing economic agents to a much greater degree than they currently are, and in practice I think the merely economic incentives to such a modus vivendi may not be enough. Put simply, I just don’t know if there are enough people out there cut out to be their own boss that the decentralized economy being envisioned here can develop as fully as might be technologically possible. We centralized for profound psychological reasons as well as economic ones.

            (I have the same reflex skepticism of advocacy for libertarian societies, for largely the same reason: any design for society that rests on requiring that people behave better — more morally or altruistically, more rationally, more energetically and independently — than they currently do tends not to have a track record of success.)

              1. Of course I do — I’ve been a contract employee myself more than once — but how much of the incentive towards contract employees is driven by artificial government pressure away from making traditional corporate employment economically viable? And how many contractors work as contractors out of sincere preference for that mode of doing business, rather than inability, in that artificially distorted marketplace, to secure something more stable and consistent?

          4. Interesting (to me, anyway) slight tangent:

            In the postwar period (’50s-60s) urban expansion was Urban Growth, which was a good thing expressing the health of the community. Then in the ’70’-’80s urban expansion became Urban Sprawl, which was a bad thing negatively affecting the environment and dissipating the community.

    4. Even the office is changing. A coworking space opened down the street.

      I agree with both your points, btw, but I suspect the traditional single company office will be gradually replaced by community center/coffee shop style environments (or outgrowths of them who shape I can’t currently imagine).

        1. Well, that the traditional office may change I can certainly buy. That most people will still want and prefer to congregate face to face in groups to work, even when they don’t logistically “have” to, is the thing I don’t see changing.

          1. …different strokes for different folks… and for different job requirements. I suppose the more jobs trend toward individual-contributors, the more work environments will evolve to match peoples’ social needs.

          2. I think the key changes will be:

            1. People will not congregate to work with their specific coworkers which is a huge change over all of human history. The ability to choose to work at an “office” that is shared with friends who are a therapist, a healthcare analyst, an embedded systems programmer, and HR outsourcing expert.

            2. The “office” will be less formal.

            3. Office mates will be from a specific pool but the daily subset will vary more than now.

            1. Of course it is; I’ve seen some of those changes myself — but the thing is, I hated those changes for reasons having nothing to do with their economic feasibility, and went back to the old workplace model the minute I could. And I doubt I’m the only person to have this reaction. (Nor did I have that opinion of it going in, by the way; when I first switched to telecommuting I embraced it enthusiastically for all the reasons everybody regularly advocates it — I learned to hate it for reasons nobody warned me about, which is why I like to repeat that warning whenever I can.)

              All I’m saying is that if I’m correct in this doubt — if this preference for centralization is more fundamental, and more common, than seems here to be being assumed — this change may not go as far or be as widespread as many anticipate. I believe basic human nature is reliably consistent and that economy influences us somewhat less than we might think — the person who most famously assumed that everything about our behaviour could be reduced to economic incentives was, after all, Marx, and we all know how much codswallop he was full of.

    5. They have what are sort of rent-an-office type places for just that kind of stuff– they advertise on the “it is a nice looking place to meet customers,” but it also has good internet, secretaries, etc.

  10. We’re primates. When we fall, we clutch whatever is in our hands, or grab something. We haven’t lost the instinct, just transferred it to clutching the job, the career, the publisher . . .

  11. Airplane crashes are unlikely, true, but think of “car entry into water” crashes, and the unnecessary death rate from that. There’s apparently a whole file of 911 calls from people inside submerged vehicles that invariably end badly, because the first thing you need to do if your car enters the water is get out of the damned car. They recommend through the window, and to have a rescue tool in order to break the window as needed, since the force of the water will hold the door shut.

    That scenario is nightmarish for me, since I have kids (one of whom is completely strapped in, and none of them swims very well.) But you can bet I rehearse the steps mentally a LOT, especially when I’m having to drive over or alongside rivers.

    Anyway. Most people don’t think of exit strategies in case of emergency. You never know when you’re going to have to employ them—heck, my older siblings once dealt with a toaster fire with my parents out of the house (by putting on oven mitts and throwing the toaster on the driveway.) Plan ahead just a little bit and you will be able to move when other folk are still in stasis.

    1. So, the good news on that particular “nightmare scenario” is that, generally speaking, cars float a long time before they sink, so you should have time to free the children before you open or break the window. With old “crank-down” windows, it was easy: get everything together, gather yourself, roll down the window, and go out. With electric ones, there’s still a chance the electrical system will work long enough to roll down the window: there’s actually a lot of energy in that battery, and it takes a while to discharge it, even when shorted. In case it doesn’t work, or stops halfway down, you should have either one of those “All purpose car escape tools,” or, my personal recommendation, an Automatic Center Hole Punch, where you just have to push it against the corner of the glass to break it, and don’t have to worry about swinging it like a hammer.

      My source of expertise: growing up the son of a Police Diver who pulled thousands of cars out of canals over the course of his career.

      1. “A long time” has been defined as about a minute by the folk putting out self-rescue videos. Which is actually pretty long, but when there’s three kids it panics me a bit.

    2. King Kenny Roberts I think, was once asked how he managed to survive a rather spectacular high speed crash (@ Daytona, iirc) and he said ” practice”. Certainly he didn’t go out and​ practice motorcycle crashes at near 200mph?
      No, he explained he thought about what to do in different situations to help prevent injury, and thought them through to when his body stopped. When he did have a crash on the banking, he already knew what he was going to do.

    3. My dearly departed brother-in-law died in one of those types of car accidents. She was able to get his finance out through the window but he couldn’t get out of his seat belt and drown. We all now carry those tools that break the glass and cut the seat belt. Seat belts are surprisingly difficult to cut. I couldn’t get my son out of his car seat on the old style seat. I was late for work so I grabbed scissors and cut through it. The cutting is what made me late because it took forever.

      Anyway, everyone get one of those tools. They can literally save your life and they’re not that expensive.

      1. As a general rule I recommend EMT scissors over the seat belt tool (although I have friends with both) as they are more useful in general IMHO.

      2. Serrated blades work well for that. A good argument to carry a knife with a pocket clip. Anything hard and pointy should be able to shatter safety glass if you can put the force behind it. Those tactical pens have just that sort of implement.

        1. For a while, local laws made it possible to carry a gun, but knives, pointy objects, a clublike objects were severely restricted.

          I could knock out a window with a gun, but I’d be reminded of Larry Wall’s comment about beating someone to death with a loaded Uzi…

          1. Oh, it’s easy to get creative and stay within the letter of the law. With safety glass you want a point to concentrate the force so that it will shatter. I’d hate to try it with an ink pen but I’d give it a go if necessary. Have also heard about using the part of a belt buckle that goes through the hole. I’m supposing you wrap the belt about your hand first to protect it and to secure the point.

      3. My (teenaged) niece managed to get bound up in the seatbelt in such a way that my sister had to cut it to get her out. Thankfully, it wasn’t a hazardous situation, but we keep serrated lock blades in the cars for such possibilities.

    4. Mythbusters did a show on this specifically for that reason… and Adam totally choked up later, when they got word that they had saved a lady’s life with that show.

      Totally awesome.

    5. The crash into water scenario is one of my bigger nightmares. I don’t like windows that are electrically controlled because of this, because I don’t know if they will open. I prefer the crank handle windows because of the possibility of the window controls shorting out.

  12. The easiest way to stay flexible is to have very little debt. Then your monthly outgo can be painfully trimmed to the bone, without losing a car or house. Owning, free and clear, a house is nice, so long as you can pay the property taxes and insurance. And utilities are really nice! And food. Must not forget food.

    Renting gives you instant flexibility to downsize or go where the jobs are. And a smaller place equals lower utility bills.

    Depressions are great . . . if you’ve got a job and/or money. Try to be the one with the money. At my age, the thought of living without AC, and putting in a really big vegetable garden does not thrill me. I hope it never gets that bad.

    And of course, these days, if you’ve dodged the job loss, the government will raise your taxes to pay their own salaries and pass a bit on to the less fortunate.

    1. Working on the debt-free thing for the last couple of years. The last biggie is to pay off the mortgage – three more years. Then I can live very comfortably on the pension, the income stream from writing, and from the Tiny Publishing Bidness.

    2. Now own my house, and in a few weeks, will got a ” break even” point of I quit. I have enough in my retirement to cover my debt to the employer, and the penalty to the IRS. Not that not being at the point would prevent me walking away

      1. Congrats! My father tells me work gets a whole lot more fun when you only do it because you want to, not you have to. (I don’t think he’ll ever retire; he’s having far too much.)

        We have the mortgage and my student loans to go, but we’re working on it!

        1. Someone said to me once — retirement means that you can do the work that you WANT to to, rather than the work that you HAVE to do. I’ll be doing the work that I want to do until shortly before they carry me out on a stretcher – as my late business partner did. And when I am carried out – my daughter will carry on.

        2. Well, I’m often “this Close” ***holds fingers up —>][ <—-*** to quitting because how bad managment is up here, so I doubt I'll ever have fun, but I do like doing what I do. Just need to be able to do it without the morons messing things up.
          One good thing about the move is housing here is odd. Places can be dirt cheap, but rents are high (with a govt contract ship builder on the river, there is a lot of rather high paid long term temp population) but livable houses (some even with current residents either renting, or selling to retire, or due to job loss etc) can be had for less than $30,000 easily … and even lower if you time it right or get lucky. 2 sold on the Wisconsin side for $19,000 not long after I got mine. I paid 23,000, for mine, and it had come on the market a few days before I left to come up here to find housing. The rental I got lucky on too (and was one house I considered buying and likely would have but the mortgage company wouldn't lend me that little. It was under $60,000). It was on Craigs list two days before I snagged it at below market, no contract.
          Then the middle (say, 50-100,000) is fairly full too, with houses just a bit batter cared for. Often Acreage. Then it jumps. There's not a ton of McMansions developments here. Builders are a bit crazy on labor, with rates at $165.00 per SQ/FT for a new build, "nothing special … what? You want a foundation too? That'll be extra." being common. so newer construction tends to be very custom, and usually large, or on the lake/river.

    3. It’s not just that you have little debt. It’s that you’ve adjusted your expenses to live on your income rather than go into debt. That’s good, too.

    4. The ability to rent is sometimes strained. We bought our house at a point where it would have actually cost more to rent, though I will point out that we’re in an area with badly skewed housing. (The city experienced incredibly rapid growth during the housing bubble, and people don’t build rental space in a bubble.) And of course I have plenty of friends with the “move now” rental horror stories (not just our hostess.) The main thing is, of course, to make sure your ability to sell is not undercut by falling house prices.

      If we had to sell at this moment, we’d actually be in really good shape aside from the physical part of moving. Houses around here are mostly on the market for less than a week.

  13. You know that old saying about the buggy whip makers when cars come into fashion? I once found the website of a former buggy whip manufacturer—when cars started becoming popular, they looked around for a place to use the skill set and then started braiding high-test sport fishing line. So—what will the buggy whip makers do? Adapt or die, just like everyone else.

    1. The “buggy whip” thing was intelligently critiqued by the late Dr Michael Hammer:

      Every MBA knows the story about the company that failed because it thought of itself as being in the buggy-whip business when it should have seen itself in the transportation business. In fact this old chesnut entirely misses the point. Strategy is not primarily about markets, either the narrow market for buggy whips or the broader one for transporation. Indeed a company that made and sold whips was highly unlikely to be positioned for manufacturing automobiles. What would have enabled it to succeed in a world of internal combustion engines? The company that sold buggy whips should have asked itself what it did best, at what processes it excelled. Perhaps its real strength lay in its leather fabrication processes, or in its process of filling orders from a network of independent small manufacturers, or in its product development process. Its future was more likely to lie with leather gloves or bags than with metal chassis. What a company does is central to deciding what it is, and where and how it should compete.

        1. Great movie. Although the idea that the *lawyer* came up with the idea that saved the company (wire for air bags) exemplifies Hollywood prejudices about who the good guys are. And the fact that the old-line CEO *didn’t* seem to have made any efforts to explore new markets indicated that things did need to be shaken up, and maybe he needed to go away.

          1. When my husband described the movie to me… well, when I watched it, I was *amazed* at how poorly the company owner came off. He always ignored his daughter’s aevice, never lost a chance to be dumb…

            Bill says it was probably necessary to make him overblown dumb to give Garfield *any* room to come off well to the audience, given the biases anyone would come in with. Given all the reviews who feel the movie failed because they didn’t play up how obviously evil Garfield was, play him up into a full-blown parody of Reagan-Era greed… I have to assume he’s got a point.

            1. Oh, the entire point of that movie was business people bad be they the corporate raider or ignorant CEO. However, it did have some good bits including the raider’s big speech about creative destruction and the denouncement. Wasn’t sure how that got by.

              1. I really didn’t see it that way. I thought that part of the point was to redeem the concept of this particular Designated Bad Guy, to turn the Pure Small Town Businessman/Evil Big Corporation on its head. After all… he was *right*. And it wasn’t a coincidence.

                Granted, I didn’t see it t8l 2015, so I could be missing things. But I really didn’t think they were playing Garfield as bad–just playing with the perception.

  14. The thing to remember about the economy is that it can improve in general while things can get worse locally. I grew up beside a town that simply was no longer there. I only learned of it from warnings never to go to a certain area because of the abandoned wells. There were only trees where that town stood, trees and the wells. That town, like all towns, lives and died through economics. Other towns prospered but it no longer exists.

    You can say it died because of lack of flexibility, and that’s absolutely true. it’s happened over and over again, and is happening now. Towns and cities that aren’t flexible die when their principle industries go away. Those that are continue to thrive.

    So it was that while the rest of the nation prospered, that town didn’t, and some never experienced a post war World War II boom. While I’m seeing, from the aforementioned Utility Locate Tickets, indications of an improving economy, that doesn’t mean that ever town in the state will be lifted out of economic doldrums.

  15. One possible approach would be to get a job with the Federal government:

    CBO: Federal Employees Are Still Overcompensated
    In a report released yesterday, the CBO concludes that federal employees receive total wages and benefits that average 17 percent above what comparably skilled workers earn in large private-sector firms. The federal premium comes from slightly higher salaries — about 3 percent higher than the private sector, on average — coupled with massively higher benefits, which average 47 percent above private-sector levels.

    All that and job security too!

    1. Don’t dare tell any federal employee that they are making more than a civilian doing the same thing. They will tell you that you are a big fat liar and that they sacrifice a lot to work for the government and that they deserve more money because it is so expensive to live in the DC area.

      1. The high cost of living in the DC/NoVa area can be easily solved.
        Just relocate a lot of jobs to the new Attu Island Federal Office Park.

        1. I understand there is an extensive yet unoccupied federal facility in San Francisco bay, perhaps we could relocate many of these public employees to that?

      2. *wry* You need to talk to more federal workers who are in jobs that don’t have a civilian equivalent….

        And at the end, while it’s a really good job, you’re working for the gov’t. That causes a lot of pain.

        1. Short version: from talking with my father in law, the only way you could duplicate the “working for the feds” experience is to work for a trust-fund baby couple who have mood disorders and are only married because they must be to keep the regular income. A normal business would have fewer contradictions, and probably go out of business.

          Related evidence: grazing permits in Washington are as a matter of fact delayed right now– as in those who have bought them cannot use the land– but all the paperwork says that they’re approved and issued. The poor SOB at the lowest level has to deal with telling the folks who’ve paid….
          Not sure what shenanigans are going on.

          1. As I’m sure you remember hearing in the Navy: “Choose your rate choose your fate”.

            Years ago they all could have chosen the private sector.

            1. *snickers*
              Oh, HerbN, given the actual people involved… that is really funnier than I could explain, even if I could explain all the details.

              Short version: most of them HAVE worked private, and public, in a wide range of jobs. They only take the gov’t jobs when the pay is HIGH ENOUGH to make up for, well, working for the gov’t.

              And for my husband– I think a grand total of one of his jobs has existed, private sector. And that’s based on assuming even Blackwater or whatever scary thing they’re called this week has boring jobs, too.

              There are a lot of people who do the stuff that government is supposed to do– including the stuff that only gov’t does. Doesn’t make the supervisors any less crazy and unpredictable, and of course we all know the boss can both take you for granted and be outraged you even exist. *gestures around at all the citizens, which are after all the boss*

  16. This is all true. Add: I’m pushing 60. Like my knees and back, I’m getting less flexible as time goes on.

    Starting a year or 2 ago, retirement became an actual thing, not just something that happens to other people sometimes. My current job is very nice, economically (after decades of hand-to-mouth), so it is beyond tempting to imagine that, if I could just keep it going for another 7 years, I’m golden!

    Realistically, I’d bet that’s unlikely to happen. And the skillset at my current job is a) very valuable, and b) very unusual. I don’t know of anywhere else that could use that particular set. I’ve spent much of the last 15 years unable to answer in a thousand words of less what it is I actually do. It’s not like being a top-notch programmer, where there are a million places to look for a job, you can go indie or corporate or even start your own company. I’ve yet to come up with a way to find another job or otherwise support my family that isn’t, frankly, terrifying. Gotta work on plan b.

    1. as implied, when you talk about being able to describe what you do: creating an “elevator talk” about yourself can be hard to develop, but is important. Not just for networking/first stage of interviewing, but also for boiling your skills down to generalities, not limited by all the details, so you can really think about flexibility and alternatives.

  17. In 1981 I lived in Detroit, where the economic downturn was a full-on Depression, IMHO. The weird thing was that so many laid-off auto workers were told they didn’t have to take any job making less money, which was only about keeping the unemployment checks coming. Somehow a lot of people took that to mean that because they had made X dollars an hour at the previous job, that was what their labor was worth, and any lesser wage was an insult. Why they didn’t realize there were no jobs outside the auto industry paying what they made at Ford or wherever, I’ve never understood.

    At the time, one of our neighbors was a floor sweeper who made $25 an hour + benefits. (Outstanding money for the time, a respectable wage even today here in AZ.) He’d never had any other job, and went to GM right out of high school. Like so many others, he expected to retire from GM as his dad and uncles did. He could have gotten another job doing the same thing, but not at that pay rate. Five years later, when we moved to Arizona, he was still waiting for that nonexistent job.

    He wasn’t just an outlier. An appreciable percentage of the laid-off autoworkers never worked again. Some of them, I’m sure, didn’t have any skills outside what they did on the line. That was the real tragedy.

    The only people that came out of it OK were those who ignored the union’s suggestion to wait until the economy improved, when they would get their old jobs back. Most people either learned new skills or took jobs doing something else, but almost nobody we knew ever got back to the same income level.

    1. The unions did odd things with the workers that caused it to pay not to move to greener pastures. The govt buyout killed some of that, but the mentality stays.

  18. How do you stay flexible?

    Personally I’m relying on diversity:

    1. I am working to expand my programming knowledge and ability (about 70% of my current job and two of my prior careers).
    2. I am working to expand my knowledge of finance (about 20% of my current job) and one of two places with formal schooling in the pipeline.
    3. I am working to expand my ability in applied mathematics (about 10% of my current job) including both numerical methods and statistical methods. It is also an area I’m seeking formal schooling.
    4. I am working on getting my mechanical and welding skills back up to speed after letting them atrophy to a degree when I left the service. I lack to the tools to do the same with my, admittedly limited even back then, machinist skills.
    5. I am seriously working on writing to the point of joining RWA (based on several recommendations), working hard on a “butt in chair” habit, and studying writing (both by reading books on it and trying to take books I enjoy apart). My goal here is to be in a place to have a second income stream that could become a primary in 113 months.
    6. I have taken up woodworking.
    7. I am getting familiar with making money from my music.
    8. As an extension of 6 & 8 I am bumping up my handyman skills. I am probably better at it than my father at this point and he was typical of his generation (Silents) I think. That puts me far ahead of much of my generation and the one after.

    I doubt #4, 6, 7, and 8 would ever become a primary economic means and are as much a hobby as anything. However, I am making sure that I am useful enough for low end barter economy if needed on them. I have also used #8 when discussing possible service dates.

    If pushed I’d say I’ll probably be a programmer until I die but more scientific than building YAWA but I’m really pushing to make writing an option in the medium term. Indy and a couple of external events rewakened that old dream.

  19. Speaking of flexibility and seizing opportunities, has anyone else noticed the looming Hollywood writer’s strike? If it goes like the last one did, lots of consumers will be looking for fictional entertainment soon and willing to try new things out of desperation. Hint hint.

  20. Golly, where’ve I read this ere now?

    ESPN Firing Over A Hundred Employees Today
    For several years I have been writing on this site about the coming business implosion at ESPN. Today, with the announcement that over 100 on air talent at ESPN were being let go, many will finally come to realize what Outkick readers have read here for the past several years — ESPN’s business model is fundamentally broken and there is no saving it. The continuing collapse of ESPN is the biggest story in sports — the sub-prime mortgage crisis with bouncing balls.

    I don’t say that to gloat over ESPN employees who lost their jobs today — many of them are outstanding people who regularly read this site or listen to our Outkick broadcasts, some of them are also good friends — and I know exactly how they feel today because I have been fired before in sports media too. Six years ago I, along with the entire staff, was fired from FanHouse. That firing is what led me to found Outkick. I decided on that day that I would never allow anyone else to control my success or failure in this business. I took a risk and started Outkick and it has been the best business decision I ever made. It’s a cliche, but when one door closes another door really does open. That goes for anyone who loses a job for any reason, it sucks, but it doesn’t define you.

    The people being fired at ESPN today aren’t being fired because they are bad at their jobs, they’re being fired because ESPN’s business is collapsing. That collapse has been aided by ESPN’s absurd decision to turn into MSESPN, a left wing sports network, but that’s more a symptom of the collapse than it is a cause of the collapse. ESPN’s business is collapsing and the network is desperately trying to find a way to stay above water. You know how a drowning person flails in the water before slipping under? ESPN’s left wing shift is that flailing. They think going left wing will save them. The reality is the opposite, ESPN going left wing was like giving a drowning person a big rock to hold and thinking it would keep them from drowning. Instead, it just made them sink even faster.

    That’s why ratings are down 16% this year compared to last year and viewers are abandoning the network in droves.

    Middle America wants to pop a beer and listen to sports talk, they don’t want to be lectured about why Caitlyn Jenner is a hero, Michael Sam is the new Jackie Robinson of sports, and Colin Kaepernick is the Rosa Parks of football. ESPN made the mistake of trying to make liberal social media losers happy and as a result lost millions of viewers.


    The simple truth of the matter is this — ESPN spent way too much on sports rights just as its cable and satellite subscriptions began to collapse. On track for $8 billion in programming costs in 2017, ESPN will rack up its 15 millionth lost subscriber since 2011. Every single day so far in 2017 over 10,000 people have left ESPN. The numbers are astonishing and the collapse is rapid. All those lost subscribers add up to big money — that’s over $1.3 billion a year in money that comes off ESPN’s books every year. And ESPN is on the hook for billions and billions a year for all the years ahead. That’s guaranteed payments to leagues that ESPN can’t escape no matter how many employees it fires.


    The collapse of the cable bundle is a huge story that will impact every cable channel, but ESPN stands to lose more by itself than 100 other cable channels combined. That’s because ESPN standing alone costs more than 100 channels on many cable and satellite packages. ESPN by itself costs nearly five times the second most expensive channel on cable. ESPN’s in infinitely worse shape than any other cable network out there too because it makes more than any other channel off the current business model and because those channels don’t have the billions in fixed costs that ESPN does.


    Cutting the cord to the cable bundle not only saves you money, it hurts those who deplore you.

    1. “Cutting the cord to the cable bundle not only saves you money, it hurts those who deplore you.”

      Indeed. It also helps you save liver cells and improves your mental health. No more drinking and screaming in rage at the TV. ~:) So much winning!

  21. People here said — and I believe them to an extent, though I wish we had people in power who could think of non-statist solutions. (Yes, I’m going to wish for the moon next)

    Why not both? Free State of Luna! TANSTAAFL

    1. We evil rich capitalists desire the Moon so we can use it to throw rocks down on the poor people of Earth. Just ask Brianna Wu.

  22. I would never wish for the moon because it would likely arrive in a sudden and unexpected fashion….

    1. Remembering the Larry Niven book where the Wizards wanted to “pull down the Moon” in order to raise Earth’s level of magic energy? 😉

  23. Okay, caught up and everything. I remember realizing that getting a school to retirement one job was a myth back in my late teens early twenties. Even the few institutions that did offers such opportunities were places I would never want to work (turned out later that they didn’t want my “kind”). I have learned to adapt, learned to work, and learned to move on. Things have gotten a little awkward for me now so I have to flex again. Hopefully I will remain flexible enough for the next twenty years or so that require it.

  24. (Yes, I’m going to wish for the moon next)
    To: Dona Sarah The Magnificent and Terrible
    From: Intragalactic Parcel Service
    Re: Delivery Attempt and Instructions Needed

    Dear Sarah,

    This is to inform you that your moon is ready for delivery – We attempted delivery this morning, but we ran into a problem. During our delivery attempt we noticed your home planet already has a “natural” satellite of approximately the same size as the one you ordered, and our delivery entity could not determine a stable orbit where we could leave your new one.

    Please advise where you would like your new moon delivered.

    We await your royal reply with enhanced customer service awareness.

    IPS Fulfillment

  25. It always boggles my mind when I read of foreign countries where a segment of the population goes on strike and things fall apart. Whenever there is a strike here, things may slow down (depending on the particular strike) but it seems like there are always a dozen people ready to step in to fill the void left by the strike. Maybe it’s because unions aren’t really strong here (at least in my lifetime), or maybe it’s just people here see an opportunity and jump on it with both feet. Maybe it’s just that our country is so big that it’s nearly impossible to get a nationwide strike going.

  26. Flexibility. Argh.

    I am probably the most flexible mo-fo out there. I’ve done every job, worked for every company, lived all over Canada and the US, chased the brass ring for forty years. Caught it too.

    Two keys to my success. First, never give up, never surrender. I’ve -wanted- to give up and die a few times, but I never did.

    Second, I decided at a fairly young age that there’s nothing I can’t do. Be it loudspeaker design or house painting, I’ll have a go. If I can’t figure it out sooner or later, there’s damn few who can.

    Everything else is just work and being honest with people.

  27. So, I tried to post a version of this earlier, but it seems to have disappeared into the ether, so here’s as close as I can get to what I originally wrote (and I’m pretty sure it was better the first time, so any flaws in the argument or the construction thereof are WordPress’ fault, not mine. WordPress delenda est):

    “The ability to work from home is eventually going to equalize compensation between high-pay/high-costs regions (like, say, all of the US by comparison to the rest of the world) and low-pay/low cost regions. How do high-cost regions live on low pay?”

    I absolutely agree to the overall thrust of this article: that flexibility will be key going forward. I do, however, wish to slightly dispute this particular point, especially with regard to the US vs Rest of the World wage question, and I’m actually going to use the preceding article, “Walls, Liberty and Trust” as a partial explanation of why.

    One of the points the hard-core anti free trade zealots don’t realize (and, no, I’m not blindly in favor of free trade either) is that lower wages don’t automatically mean higher profits. If a worker makes 1/4 the pay, but is 1/10th as productive, is the company really saving money? Many companies that have offshored their labor have come to realize that they’re not, and are now pulling some of that labor back to the US.

    Call centers are an excellent example. Many companies moved their customer service and tech support centers overseas to take advantage of the lower wages (and taxes). After some years of experience, many of them learned that, yes, the per-hour rate is lower, but communications difficulties, lack of creativity, and increased need for management involvement, coupled with lower customer satisfaction, has made it more expensive to hire “cheaper” labor.

    As has been discussed in many articles by our esteemed hostess, America was largely founded by those who left (or were kicked out of) other parts of the world for being too Odd. This has influenced our culture, our founding documents, and our national character, such that we have much higher proportions of creative, problem-solving, flexible thinkers and workers than do most other nations. Consequently, I would not be at all surprised if there weren’t something analogous to the post-WWII boom, where all nations’ economies were damaged by the war, but ours was the least damaged, so we skyrocketed while others slowly crawled out of the mire.

    Yes, our economy is much more heavily fettered with nonsense, and our culture has been undermined far more than it was in the late 40’s/early 50’s, but most other nations out there are still worse in both respects. With very few exceptions, most things that hurt us are going to hurt the rest of the world more, so we’re more likely to ride the wave than be crushed by it.

    So, to sum up, I agree that flexibility will become more important as we go forward. I agree that the Underminers have done quite a number on our country, but I still think the USA is better positioned to deal with that reality than most, if not all, of the rest of the world.

    As always, YMMV, not available in all states (I’m looking at you Massachusetts and California…)

  28. The ability to work from home/live anywhere will rearrange all our cities, our cultural institutions, our public institutions.

    Two stories from The House Hunt:
    One: second realtor got quite huffy at Elfie Dear because he kept asking to look at houses where “your wife won’t have anything to do.” As in, it was more than two blocks to shopping or clubbing.
    Got VERY pissy when she tried to guilt him into “but what if someone comes while you’re at work” for a place in basically the suburbs and he said something to the effect of him pitying any idiot who showed up with malice at my house, and couldn’t understand why we were more interested in having a yard and decent internet than TV.

    listening to a radio show about home values, and the guy professed himself confused on it, but assured the readers it was true, a “good” internet speed increased your home’s value by at least three K. (He then went on to explain what the various speeds meant in terms of what you could do.)

    Several of the houses we looked at, we ruled out because they had bad internet. We WANTED to get one on the same side as our nearest relate, but…oh well. GOOD INTERNET! WHOOT!

    1. Yes! I may live in tiny rural town Texas, but I have good internet!

      …as for TV, we kept meaning to install it. We got all the bookcases in and organized right away, of course. And the internet up and running. We finally gave away the TV, which is sad, because I did like watching BBC Earth on it. Guess we’ll have to get another one sometime, maybe, because it’s just not the same watching on a monitor. But now we have more free space in the garage!

      1. We set ours up before we set up our computers– Elf and I have (ancient but functional) laptops, but the kids’ computer attaches to the TV. And the playstation, need that to stream Netflix. (TNG is surprisingly good, if you don’t watch it as hard scifi on either the science or socio-econimic front; remembering why I love most of the characters, and what exactly made me want to thump Riker….)

        1. Things that still bug me about TNG: Everyone listens to jazz, and Rock is presented as cacophonus noise that they hate.

          one of the funniest moments in Star Trek Beyond was when they start playing Beastie Boys and Doctor McCoy says “Who is playing classical music?!?”

      2. I just pulled some more runs of CAT6 in the Project House yesterday.

        Both the solar controller and the fancy Japanese air conditioner speak Ethernet. The cheap Chinese generator is deaf, but its eventual replacement might not be, so might as well provide for that too. The security system is networked. And while there’s a phone drop in the bathroom, might as well provide for VOIP at least…

        I might regret it eventually, but I only pulled fiber from the utility drop to the equipment closet. Hey, it’s a 550-square-foot single-bedroom house in a poor neighborhood; no need to go overboard…

    2. This is something I should investigate. Not sure we’re getting the expected performance w/cable internet, not sure if the alternatives locally are better.

  29. Nassim Nicholas Taleb wrote a book-length version of your post: ANTIFRAGILE. The style is rather in-your-face at times, but his way of looking at it is quite interesting.

  30. *SIgh* I was just offered a job. It would be job #3, and would mean the end of singing with choirs for a while, as well as of a lot of my exercise opportunities (is an evenings and some weekends job). I’ve been flopping back and forth on it, because I’m not certain I can handle the additional stress load. BUT it is an opportunity, and the $$ could be decent if I take a full work load. I’m still drawing up my pros/cons list.

      1. Exactly. And it could easily expand to eat my writing time, provided the demand is what the head-hunter-type who contacted me says it is.

  31. “I find I’m far less flexible in adapting to the changing publishing situation than my friends who were never traditionally published.”

    I dunno. I’m very impressed by the when-the-rights-revert-republish-as-an-ebook gimmick; I’m hooked on the Dyce Dare novels*. The ability to revive out-of-print oldies but goodies may be a lucrative adaptation for you “old school” writers.

    * We DO expect an 800-page Dyce Dare magnum opus, suitable for adaptation to the screen (ooh! ooh! a Netflix series!) , sometime in the next decade,

  32. About one this morning I finally put a finger on something that was nagging at the back of my mind…. it was about 1:20 AM (my activity tracker says I fell asleep at 1:30, and last time I did the “aarrgh still awake look at the clock” thing it was 1:1something) so I don’t remember exactly what I was mulling over. But I do remember thinking I needed to try to share it….

    The “life/work balance” being a matter of having a work place.

    That is… really, really strange, historically speaking. Heck, even office folks take work home, unless they’re really basic paper pushers. (even high security guys will carry it in their heads)

    My parents have been ranchers all my life– when something needs doing, YOU GO.
    It’s Easter Sunday? Does a hell of a lot of good to that ewe who will DIE if you do not do an emergency c-section on the poor thing, get into something that you don’t mind afterbirth and blood on. It’s 10:30PM on a Thursday? Well, a bull was just hit by a car, you have to get over there, put him down, and then salvage the meat so it’s not a total loss. (Man, do you find out who your real friends are. Also, we had a literal ton of very flavorful ground beef. Idiot that hit the bull was not killed, but did fracture the bull’s leg so he couldn’t have possibly healed enough to mount a cow again.)

    Those mildly amusing/obnoxious “Moms can’t take sick days” commercials for flu meds are a shorter and more direct version. It is not normal to be able to just stop working after 8 hours.

    Expect a return of Sabbath observations, and a VIOLENT swing-back on manners/what is acceptable to ask of employees, or there’s going to be subsidiarity enforced by “people who work for supervisors too far away burn out horribly.”

    1. Story on the bull:
      The guy who hit him was busy leaning out the window, flipping off the car who’d flashed headlights to warn said idiot about HUGE FREAKING ANIMAL IN MIDDLE OF ROAD AROUND CORNER…. (is about a quarter mile past a sign that says “LOOK OUT FOR ANIMALS ON THE ROAD” and said idiot is actually related to people who have cattle in the area, to the point of using it as a pretty much constant trump card)

Comments are closed.