Easy and Hard


Recently Dan and I both ran into books and movies that made us grit our teeth, because in all of them, there was what I call ” magic wand” solutions.

One that the rest of the books were really good, and I actually read those but this one I couldn’t read dealt with the problem of homelessness.

I can’t tell you if this woman never actually bothered to google any homeless issues up on line, or if she never met a homeless person, or ever heard discussions between homeless people, (I did. I used to live downtown and walk across a park where they gathered), or has no friends in the professions — city planners, social workers, medical workers — who work with the homeless.  Or if she’s one of these people who only read and believe what fits her narrative.  What I do know is that the book — very successful, btw — was so silly it wasn’t even in the real world.

Her setup was something like this: you lose your job as an executive, and your wife divorces you, and the next week you’re living in a homeless camp, unless of course you get a good samaritan who gives you a job, and then you immediately become middle class again.

Head>desk.  You know what step she missed? METH.  Or some equally destructive illness or addiction.  Why? Because when you lose your job, you don’t lose all your abilities.

I have a friend who was laid off from his high paying job on his sixtieth birthday.  As Steve has alluded to in the comments here, this is increasingly more common. Partly because the companies can’t afford (okay, some can but are assholes, but don’t judge until you know what profit they have to make to keep solvent.  And remember that a lot of the investors are pension funds and people’s retirement money) to pay the increasingly higher old-age health care (and ironically — ? — the ACA by mandating a lot of crazy things that the clients can neither use nor want — for instance, our family with me who am post-menopausal and had an ovarectomy and hysterectomy and three males are all BY LAW covered for abortions.  Because, you know, the aliens could impregnate one of us. It also mandated a never-end of paperwork so doctors had to hire scribes to do it.  Older son worked as an ED scribe for over a year.Minimum wage, mostly would-be medical students getting help with their resume, but seriously, another expense.)  Weirdly, my friend didn’t roll over and become homeless.  He’s had his low points. He’s had his high points.  But his skills and abilities didn’t vanish with his job.  So, he’s writing, teaching and working on computers… as a contractor.

He doesn’t need a poliannish savior to give him a hand when he’ll automagically become respectable again, because he never stopped being respectable.

But over and over again, we see people writing characters that lose everything because of ‘greedy corporations’ and become entirely dependent on government services, until some sweet good samaritan believes in them, and then they’re fine.

Real social problems, be they homelessness or illegal immigration, be they child mortality, or the increasing of the dependent class, aren’t like that.

There is a strong component of real people who behave in the ways they want to.  And thinking they will be solved by just someone “being compassionate” either with government money or their own.

There have always been people who don’t thrive. The poor not only will always be with us, they have always been with us.  And even if our homeless are better off than the hard working middle class of the sixteenth or seventeenth century, yeah, they’re living directionless and pointless lives of self destruction, and destroying others on the way.

Part of this is because people aren’t all alike, and they don’t all prioritize the same things.  This seems to be something the social engineers can’t make themselves believe.  In a way they’re the ultimate narcissists.  Their imagine of the world is an immense mirror.  Since they don’t want to live in a certain way, no one does. Since they try to be productive, everyone does.  Etc.

But there are people who are perfectly happy living at the bottom of the ladder, and enjoy their addictions and their illusions.  Even in the strictest dictatorships, humans can always choose to self-destroy, to not behave as they want, etc.

Is this the only reason people fall?  Well, no.  One of the real contributors is the economy.  Now this is often caused by social engineers of one kind or another, the other being things like free trade that’s… um… not free on the other side.

Then there’s what I’ll call technological forces.  Whether we want to or not, the first world is going to hurt in the next fifty years, no matter what we do.

Why? the ability to work from a distance, and travel ability is going to equalize the world’s economics a lot.  If you can live in the middle of nowhere and make NYC money, why wouldn’t you.  But at the same time you don’t need NYC money, and someone who lives there will undercut you.  They just will.  Now go international on that.

Living standards and cost will equalize to some extent (the extent limited by being able to be secure, etc) which means the first world will hurt. Has to. It’s just what’s coming down the pike.

Plus tech isn’t done with us.  It will change. It will improve.  It will do things we can’t antecipate.

Will there be victims of this? there always is.

A lot of the people like my friend, who get fired because they’re 60, get despondent and broken and just sit around, living from social security and getting bitter.

And a lot of people will do that.  A lot of young people will do that, before ever working.  They’ll just sink under the waves.

What’s the difference? The picture in the head.  Is there hope for the future?

I get accused of being overoptimistic.  I’m not.  Some of my ideas of the future are horrible, and they could happen. They might even be the more likely.

And there’s things I can’t do no matter how much I try.  I’m not a world power.  Yeah, I know, I’m stompy, but not that stompy.  I’m just one person.  Each of you is just one person (all apologies to any hive beings reading this, but individuals are more likely.)

Also, we truly suck at organizing. Because the individualists failed to organize.  And the collectivists will get some wins in. You can’t stop it. You just can’t.


It’s all the individual.  You can choose to fall.  You can choose to rise.  You can choose to go down fighting.  Not even the greatest dictatorships of humanity managed to stop that.  In your head, you can always be free.  You can go down fighting.

You can create rather than destroy (even just self-destroy.)  You can build rather than wreck. You can pay your own way and that of your people, rather than become a dependent on the public purse or on charity.

It’s harder. Of course it’s harder. You can coast and indulge your pessimism and your inclinations.

Or you can choose to fight.  Fight for the non-dystopia future.  Fight with words and deeds (however small deeds.)  You can remain free.

This is not a story. A happy ending is not guaranteed. But neither is the bad ending.

You can’t control it, but you can make a difference.  Square your shoulders.  CHOOSE to not surrender.

Sure, it’s harder.  But in the long run it’s the only thing that will save civilization and humanity.

There is a time when you are so tired, so out of it, that stopping breathing is easier. Going under for the third time is easier.  You just let go and you die: in person or as a civilization, or as a nation.  It’s easy.

It’s also death. It’s the end.

Some people will choose it.  I won’t.  The waters are turbulent ahead, but I intend to keep above them, even if it’s “just” by floating in the grand piano.

I’ll take the hard way, thank you.  I’ll choose to continue fighting.

185 thoughts on “Easy and Hard

  1. Used to there were these people known as Editors and Producers who strove to ensure that the quality of the Art produced met minimal consumer expectations. Book editors told writers when a story element was lacking, film & TV producers similarly made suggestions to writers, actors and directors when their work seemed unpersuasive to audiences.

    Apparently there is a problem with what consumers are willing to accept.

    1. Schofield’s Law of Popular Culture; we remember the popular culture of reas past so fondly because, mercifully, we don’t actually remember all that much of it.

      Simply as an amature historian of popular culture I assure you, an absolute moutain range of drival has been published every single year since the end of the Victorian era, nor did it start then. In every genera, both fiction and non-fiction. Think Mickey Spillane is the lowest common denominator of Noir Detective? There has been Noir published that makes Spillane look like – words fail me – G. K. Chesterton. As Tarzan is a pale knockoff of Mowgli (as Kipling wrote once), there are knockoffs of Tarzan that make ERB seem erudite and subtle.

      Yes, editors once had more to do with the final form of a high end book than they do now. But trash has always been with us, and sometimes it has been lionized.

      1. Balderdash. I have it on the greatest authority that Professional Editors always ensure the absolute highest quality reading matter.

        Surely you do not mean to suggest that the Traditional Publishing Industry would fib?

  2. Some of my left leaning friends are absolutely convinced that being homeless, jobless, addicted, whatever the cause du jour, is caused solely by those evil corporate or church leaders just trying to steal make excessive amounts of money off the poor and middle class. Won’t provide abortion coverage for nuns? Evil Christian corporate/church dictators! Won’t make a cake/pizza/flower arrangement for a gay wedding? Evil Christian corporate dictators! Won’t accept undocumented and unvetted refuges from areas of the world where significant portions of the population want to see us dead? Evil Christian corporate dictators, maybe Evil Republican politicians beholden to the Evil corporate dictators! After awhile my head hurts. Especially when it’s pointed out that it’s the government that they so love that is getting in the way of ordinary people (sometimes even organized churches) helping these people.

    Make food and give it away? Need a commercial kitchen to do that. Lord forbid that someone buy (with their own money) several hundred hamburgers and hand them out to people for free. No, no, you need a permit for that, too. One of the churches we attended for a time chose as its mission auto repair. They have a bunch of guys there that like tinkering with old cars so they have a bunch of their own tools. They built a large garage on one corner of the property. And anyone that needs help with a vehicle they are willing to supply the tools and labor, the person just needs to pay for the parts. They provide gas vouchers as well. We donated one of our old cars when the clutch went out and they fixed it and gave it away to someone in need of a vehicle. What’s funny sad is that it’s actually cheaper for them to erect a garage and pay the utilities each month that it would be to get the kitchen certified so they can give away food.

    I’m convinced more and more that most of the problems in this country are caused (at their roots) by the interference of government. Get the government out of our lives and the vast majority of us will be better off.

    1. Get the government out of our lives and the vast majority of us will be better off.

      This is, of course, impossible: Government is simply what we choose to do together, so if together we choose to strangle all sense of community and fellowship out of our society, well, who are we as individuals to questions that universal cumminutarian choice?

      Report to your community reeducation center immediately, Comrade.

        1. Let’s be reasonable. The reason why even bad governments last for a long time is that they restrict the number of people trying to exploit you. Strong custom may substitute, but it has problems of its own.

          1. “Prudence indeed would dictate that governments long established shold not be changed for light or transient causes…”

    2. There was a bit of FB Virtue Signaling memeage going around about how the Ebil Food Corporations were evil because they didn’t give food to the pore & starving. I pointed out that most grocery chains (including Walt-Mart) did donate large amounts of food to various food banks. If they didn’t, it’s because the damned government forbade them to.
      One of the things I do over the summer is volunteer at a church food bank, and heavens knows we give enough away- usually a 20′ refrigerated box truck worth on a daily basis.

      1. Additionally:

        When we hit a tight spot, I make a point to hit the bakery overstock outlets.
        This is the stuff where they sell the bread that they made based on guessing how much bread the stores would sell–but they stores didn’t need that much, so they didnt’ take that much, so here is bread that goes bad in a week that needs to sell.

        I’ll spend twenty bucks and walk our with 20 loaves of bread, which isn’t as good after being frozen but is good enough for us.

        1. Depends on the bread. Brands that don’t freeze well I don’t buy. Only way to find which freeze well and which don’t out is trial and error….

          1. Taste matters a lot, too.

            This is a big thing in our family because, roughly speaking, Elf can’t stand slow cooked meats.
            So 90% of my recipes are out on teh basis of taste…..

    3. There was a case of the “we won’t let you help” recently, and I remember being struck by the justification: the main problem the homeless face is not lack of calories. Therefore, the “official services” offer food as a carrot in order to get them in the door and to the things they really need; if people are just giving sandwiches out on the street, suddenly that strategy doesn’t work.

      I’m torn by the idea. On the one hand, I do agree that they’re right, and most of the “homeless” really need either a kick in the pants or a bed in a hospital. On the other hand, there seems something downright evil about the arrogance that says, “Only WE can help the poor right, and we will punish you if you try to help them without our permission.”

      1. And the govt services that those laws are arguably there to protect tend to have motives not necessarily conducive to solving problems of homelessness.

            1. Dumpster fire behind a slaughterhouse, near an ammonia works.

              I simply cannot get out of my head the thought that all this rage is encouraged by the Democrat Party elite, not to drag down Trump (though if that happened it would please them) but to distract the rank and file from the plain fact that Shrillary’s loss is entirely the fault of Shrillary and her Party Elite pals.

              I don’t think they are aiming on Democrat victory in 2020 (though they would accept it if it came). I think they are aiming to keep their elite positions by focusing their base on something OTHER than how royally they screwed the pooch.

              1. I think they are aiming to keep their elite positions by focusing their base on something OTHER than how royally they screwed the pooch.

                This. I mean, Warren’s attempts to be appealing to the younger generation might win her a few voters; and the whining that it’s unfair that Occasional Cortex can’t run for presidency yet is fascinating in the multi-car versus train and lots of dead bodies way. I’m thinking though that’s not the only thing they’re distracting people from however (how many of them REALLY take Cortex seriously, let’s be honest, or use her as a dowsing rod for how many dumb people are out there?) and am very, very wary of what else they are using the screeching mimis to distract from.

                1. There’s also plenty in Obumbles’ record they need to distract people from. The man had damned few ideas, and most of them stank after three weeks, no matter how shiny they looked when new. Also, after all the schweaming they did about Bush’s Wars, Jug Ears seemed determined to involve us in every Middle Eastern piss-up going,mwhenther he had any idea of what do to about it or not (and he usually didn’t).

              2. I think they are banking on the media ginning up hatred of Trump and letting them walk to victory. Especially if they find good retail politicians. Same tactic as the mids.

          1. That kind of article enrages me.

            “Hey, I’m a supervisor, and these folks per me do absolutely NOTHING worth of doing, but here let me yell about how they’re evil and I’m some kind of F*ing saint for saying hurt everybody until they go away.”

            No, that’s just being lazy.

            Incidentally, he’s full of shit on the process thing. Process may be used by jerks, but the process is there to avoid the basic screwups that happen in ANY big group. He’s conflating process with abuse of process– abuse of process which it is his legal and contractual duty to identify and punish.


            Basically, it’s avoiding a tough job.

            My first duty station, we had a guy who signed up as a civi calibration technician after they got rid of the military ones, to save money.

            He flunked the electronic calibration portion, but passed the physical. (Torque wrenches, not multimeters.)
            Wer’e 99% sure it was on purpose, assuming he wasn’t a liar in addition to being a fraud.

            First office head dealt with it by having him do all the physically…which took like one or two hours a day. Of an 8 hour billed day.

            Second, was pissed. Eventually got angry enough to look up actual regulations, and figured out he’d be falsifying his time cards because he left at like 9:30 for “lunch” and came back at 2, then left at 3 or so, while recording that he took 30 minutes for lunch and left at the end of the workday.

            Reported it. WAs told he needed documentation.

            Spent the next six months documenting, with evidence, every violation.

            Jack*** got fired real quick, for cause.

            Similarly, most of the ape-*** insane women I was around in the navy had TONS of cause for discharge– but nobody wanted to DO it.

            1. Eased one out with a “General Discharge” under Honorable Conditions. She should never had made it through boot camp. At my final duty station I ended up with all the misfits and/or people waiting to be discharged for various reasons. Had to get 8 hours a day of work out of them. Didn’t have to be heavy or arduous, or in some cases, even useful, but 8 hours a day. I was her 4th stop on the base. Went to her previous supervisor, a Senior Chief, and asked exactly what happened. (I knew there was an incident- but didn’t know the details.) Wrote up a Special Eval handed it to the Senior Chief and said to her, “Why don’t you submit this?” since she had witnessed it- not me. Next day the admin officer called me in and complimented me on the eval I wrote. Never did find out how he knew it was me…

              I needed someone in the office to answer phones when neither I or my one permanent assistant wasn’t there. She did a great job of that for the 5 weeks I had her before her discharge came through. She was actually a good worker- at doing routine things routinely. Break the routine, and well, yeah, she couldn’t handle that. Really, REALLY, REALLY couldn’t handle it. Didn’t think she should be punished for the things she did- since it was obvious she was completely unsuited for the military. But she had to go, and documenting things, well actually, just one thing, was enough to do it.

              1. First one I met in the Navy.

                NEver should’ve been accepted. Hard core insane.

                Through bootcamp. Nuts.

                Through A school. Nuts.

                FINALLY discharged in C-school as nuts because she stopped bathing, started wearing a Lady Godiva wig and tried to saw through her veins with shards from a broken mirror.


                A plastic Barbie doll mirror.

                Managed, after several hours, to make her arm red.

            2. The various bureaucracies have had since The reform of Civil Service toward the end of the 19th Century* to develop ways to insultate themselves from changing administrations and the sporadic attempts of Congress to rein them in. It is virtually impossible to fire anyone in Federal Civil Service without proving actual criminal behavior, and even then it’s hard. If I’m reading this right, the author is supposedly an Administration appointee. The System has built itself up over more than a century to make it next to impossible,for such people to change anything,mor exert much control. This is simply what bureaucracies DO.

              Should he be fighting the good fight instead of advocating catastrophic measures? I’m not by any means sure. It may well be that, with the rot that has clearly set in, catastrophic measures are not only called for but the only ones that might work.

              *Aside; the reform was necessary, but all human systems calcify.

      2. I cannot begin to estimate the number of tales I’ve read about church-run shelters being shut down by the Authorities for insisting their clientele listen to a sermon as part of their dining experience.

        Of course, such incidents rarely address Marxist lectures that accompany the meals in government-sponsored facilities.

          1. Happily, my circumstances have never yet been so strapped that I had to resort to such dining option, so I’ve no first-hand testimony to the assertion. But the real question is: Does the suggestion strain credulity?

    4. But if people rely on each other, what need do they have for BUREAUCRATS? Won’t someone please think of the bureaucrats?

    5. That’s a really good idea, actually. There are a fair number of food banks and similar things where people can get help, but I suspect the need for them would likely be reduced if more practical assistance things such as auto repair were more prevalent.

      I was actually contemplating recently a medical charity that did things like pay insurance premiums for “maintenance” healthcare, or similar. That idea was prompted by WriterinBlack”s blog post on health insurance, in fact.

      1. I have often looked at the vast sums of money spent lobbying for various policies — universal health insurance or government paid for abortions — and wondered if their lobbying money wouldn’t be better spent simply paying for those desired goals.

        1. You’d think. But then you don’t get the “activist high” of “consciousness raising”. Who cares about actually doing something when you can be SEEN Doing Something ™?

        2. Oh, hell, in most cases the money would be better spent if they hired a helicopter, converted the entire sum into $5s, and scattered it over the inner cities.

        3. Back during the Great Recession Bailout I kept thinking that it would probably be more effective just passing those billions on to the people with the housing loan troubles. You know, keep people in their houses and the banks still get paid.

          1. You know, keep people in their houses and the banks still get paid.

            Nyah, that could never work.

    6. What’s funny sad is that it’s actually cheaper for them to erect a garage and pay the utilities each month that it would be to get the kitchen certified so they can give away food.

      This one, I can actually justify.

      If a repair goes wrong, it kills MAYBE ten people. If they hit a bus.

      If a tiny feed the hungry– say, 300 people– operation goes wrong, it can kill hundreds.

      And it’s not a straight one to one on this, either– the longer a thing goes on, the more like it is to have health issues; so the “Hey we do an Ash Wednesday pancake feed” feeding of 1k is a lot less dangerous per person than the “soup for the poor” every weekend that only feeds 50 folks, exactly because it avoids the shortcut temptation.

  3. OMG, that picture – it is like a procedurally generated, post industrial, post apocalyptic wasteland. (Not to be confused with a teenage wasteland, those are typically generated by The Who.)

    1. I was interested to watch a documentary on the making of WHO’S NEXT, in which Townsend said that he wrote ‘Baba O’Riley’ (AKA Teenage Wasteland) in reaction to and rejection of the LSD scene. He tried LSD and H*A*T*E*D it.

  4. I am reliably informed that interventions to simply get homeless folks out from under the bridges into shelters when it’s going to dip below freezing overnight (rare enough, but it does happen in the winter in CA) often are countered by the homeless themselves with “But they will tell me what to do in the shelter – out here I can do what I choose.”

    1. The biggest complaint I’ve heard from the homeless is that the shelters won’t let them bring in their drugs/alcohol. The biggest compliant they tell the bleeding hearts is that the shelters won’t let them bring in their pets. (Pets are lucrative; people will donate to feed an animal when they won’t donate to keep a wino in booze, or addict in heroin. Even though it comes out to the same thing, all too often.)

      1. Amarillo has a semi-official “low barrier” shelter for those who won’t give up booze/drugs/dogs. It only opens in really bad weather. The rest of the time, the people stay on the streets since they won’t go to the shelters with “requirements.” The city has tried to force people off the streets when it gets below 20F, and activists sued.

        If the city lets people stay out and freeze to death, then they will get sued by the same activists. The city and TXDot finally had to drive a large group of “homeless”* out of an encampment because the bridge had to be torn down and rebuilt, and no one wanted chunks of concrete falling onto the tents and shacks. The residents complained, but did agree that being crushed wasn’t what they wanted to do, either.

        *Irony quotes because if you have a very nice tent, stove, bicycle, and have lived somewhere for over six months, that’s your home.

        1. The city (and the idiot courts) should have told the activists “OK, we’ll leave them out to freeze, and since you believe so passionately in their right to do so, we’re going to handcuff you to homeless persons and allow you to freeze, too.”


        1. I’ve heard of people locally who’d hit multiple food bank distribution sites so they’d have enough money for their horses and other animals. It got to be enough of a problem that the local food bank clamped down and are requiring ID to get food.

    2. Insty just pointed to a bill in Oregon that will mandate rent control statewide. That’ll fix things right. /sarc

      The people doing a TDY at Kingsley Field (F15C training base) will get screwed, though to the Portlandian’s pushing this, that’s probably a feature. OTOH, it’ll make it a lot harder for people to live in Portland, and that’s a feature!

      1. Like all rent control, it will help the ones already renting assuming there are antieviction methods and once people start moving more high class condos will be available for sale to the rich.

        1. Rent control has contributed to burned out shells of buildings in NYC. These places become places to make drugs etc. A lot of homeless are mentally ill folks who don’t have capacity to live on their own. When ( I think in the ’70s) some bad living conditions in some mental asylums came to light most of them shut down. And so you have mentally ill homeless. Many of the people in this subgroup can function in a structured institution but not on the streets.

          1. Don’t worry, Mayor Bill deBlasio has a solution. The city will just seize apartments if the city doesn’t like how the apartment building is being maintained. Nothing could possibly go wrong with such a noble, socialistic plan, could it?

            (Excuse me, I need to go find something to loosen my tongue. It got stuck to me cheek.)

            1. Meanwhile the worst run apartments with the worst conditions in NYC are the ones run by NYC. They have outright lied to the Feds about stuff like lead paint, inspections, etc., and yet because they are Democrats, don’t get indicted, or arrested and put in solitary confinement for months in order to coerce “confessions”

              1. Yes, but just imagine how badly run those apartments would be if operated by private slumlords!!!

                After all, all services are provided by city-certified union operators, none of those cut-rate scabs who expect to get wealthy by providing service for their pay are allowed into the NYCHA buildings. When your building’s heat goes out during a cold wave, think how comforting must be the reassurance that it is going to be serviced by union members according to union work regulations.

        2. It’s supposed to have non-eviction for non-approved reasons, but with a 15 year-or-younger building exemption to rent raises. I predict a huge cluster-fornication, like most of what’s coming out of Salem right now. Sigh.

    3. If by “reliably” you mean “both mainstream journalists and the hobby dudes going out to check up on it, interviewing street people,” then me, too.

  5. One thing I heard a while ago, may have even read it on a government website, that the definition of homeless includes people living with other relatives or with friends, even if only temporarily. As long as you don’t have a permanent address you count as homeless. So the numbers of homeless count the students who have to find stop gap housing between semesters when they are kicked out for cleaning or if their new contracts don’t line up properly. It includes people who are about to close on a house but something delayed them so they are staying with someone or in a hotel temporarily. And any number of other scenarios where someone is actually adequately housed.

    It does also include the druggies, the mentally I’ll and the truly down and out too, but according to the news the numbers are entirely made up of those in their cars or in the tent cities or wrapped up in blankets huddled over vents. And they are mostly there due to evil corporate, religious, or government (R-only at fault) policies.

    1. > definition of homeless includes people living with other relatives or with friends, even if only temporarily.

      “We have to justify our appropriations! Quick, think of something to pump up our numbers!”

      “How about we add the transient hotel, bus stop, and airport populations?”

      “You’re getting a bonus at the end of the year!”

      1. Yes. And this sort of thing is rampant.

        The official Federal definition of “poverty” is the lowest 20% of incomes. In other words, if I live on a cul-de-sac with five houses, and I have a 2,000 square foot home with a Ford in the driveway while my four neighbors have 4,000 square foot homes with a Ferarri in the driveway, I’m poor. Which is NOT the case. I have a roof over my head, food in my belly, and a way to get to my work. I am NOT poor.

        “Poverty” needs to have a definition measured in square feet of living space, calories of food per day, and so on. Something objective.

      1. Every time I’ve PCSed, by that definition. Although I suppose technically my home of record address would count.

        1. For those with a clearance:

          “Homeless” has an even stricter standard than the clearance residency standard does.

          You can put the address of “crashed on my bro’s couch” for a security clearance.

    2. The kids and I moved in with my parents until my husband stopped being bounced around for schools during the Big Move. (He went down to Texas for two months, then school for several months, then got back, then fought with the realtor to persuade her we really did want a house that wasn’t walking distance to clubs…..)

      Figured out eventually we were technically homeless– no contract, no home.

  6. Back in 2002, the corporation I had worked for for 15 years decided that all their copy editing could be outsourced overseas. They were willing to have me as a freelancer for a couple of “boutique” journals (a “boutique” journal is one who editor wants it copy edited by a native English speaker), but not as an employee. So I got in touch with various contacts, and since then I’ve been supporting myself as a freelance copy editor. It’s been a bit tight financially at times, but I’ve never been dependent on charity or welfare.

    Much more recently, I lost one of my big regular clients for copy editing. I tracked down the Web site of the American Association of University Presses, identified all the ones that published journals, and sent them query e-mails. That got me two new clients, and now I fairly consistently have as much work as I can fit into my schedule. Oh, and my contact for that big regular client came back to me with an entirely different journal that now provides me with work nearly every week, because I’d established a record of consistent work.

    I don’t know that everyone could do this sort of thing. But I do see that I could have fallen into despair at either point, and decided that pursuing work was too hard—and my life now would be vastly worse.

  7. Lots and lots of high-skill electrical engineers got riffed back in the depths of the Obama Great Recession here in Silicon Valley, and plenty of those were a bit older. There are ways to play the California State unemployment system to extend unemployment benefits, and the word went around on the best way to do that, and on how to file for CA state disability using things that cannot be confirmed by test (back pain is one, anxiety another).

    When things first started to improve a lot of those folks found they were up against the latest young import green-card EE imports from the subcontinent, and thus being told they were “overqualified”. Some got discouraged and stopped looking, stretching their seperation packages with the disability payments. Some got jobs at Home Depot. I’m sure there are cases of folks in that boat falling overboard into drink or drugs and find themselves living under an overpass. But most tech folks basically waited it out.

    And these days the post-Obama boom has tech companies desperately looking for skilled engineers, to the point that they are (gasp) actually willing to hire engineers over 45. I, a former manager and technical marketing dude, am getting regular cold-pings from recruiters for deep engineering jobs here in the valley, and I am nowhere listed as “looking” – I’m happy I changed industries so I’m not on the Silicon-Valley-Tech-Rollercoaster any longer.

    But right now, I find it hard to believe that anyone who can hold a job cannot find one.

    Finding someplace you can afford to live is another story – lots and lots of folks are living in RVs parked on residential streets, moving every 71.5 hours to keep from getting cited, becuase rents are crazy.

    But conflating that problem with the self-medicating mentally ill fellow living under a bridge is a major part of the problem doing anything about “the homeless”.

    1. not long after Katrina, Houston had an evac due to another ‘cane, and guys were calling the Mark Davis Show (then still on WBAP Dallas) with tales of leaving NOLA, then Houston, and really needing work, and most, after saying their profession, got numerous offers for interviews from businesses. Except welders. They got numerous “Get in here and start working TODAY!” offers. Others went back to Houston because even after Katrina and its influx of displaced, one really had to not want to work to not get hired.
      Sadly for Houston, A LOT of the NOLA trash was what came over and they do not want to work . . . well at legal endeavors . . . Crime jumped

      1. they do not want to work . . . well at legal endeavors . . . Crime jumped

        There are many advantages to a life of crime. You are generally your own boss (even if working as a contractor) and can largely set your own hours. The job requirements are not strenuous, with plenty of on-the-job training opportunities. There is even a government provided retirement plan with generous benefits (for certain values of generous.)

        Of course, as John Dortmunder could attest, working conditions and reliable co-workers can cause complications beyond expectations — but that is the case with any form of free-lance contracting.

        1. well, the wrong customers can be really terminal for business. a few found that out early on, shot while trying to shuffle off with an old man’s items and goods while said old man was in residence. Family was unhappy to learn that, even in Leftoid Houston, the law enforcement response was “Good Shootin’ Tex”

          ot, according to the silly WP bell up there in the right corner, you haven’t commented on this. I’m sure some day, it’ll let me know you’ve made merry with my wordage.

          1. That would be because the local law enforcement had realized that the Katrina refugees “weren’t from around here.” Apparently it really bothered them (as documented by one of the local news rags) when cops would pull up on a group of these people openly trading drugs and weapons….. and the refugees wouldn’t even react… until they were highly offended that the Houston cops weren’t as “flexible” as the N’Awlins PD and would actually arrest them for their normal business practices…..

    2. Yes. I’ve slowly been getting my name added to the “Please don’t call” because my resume is on job boards that were merged into newer job boards; don’t know all the places after 17 years. Not to mention Linked In. For awhile I had recruiters sending out emails for positions two or three times a week.

      Even asking them to “stop, I’m retired” didn’t discourage them. Even with “remove me from contacts.” So far “stop, I’m retired, haven’t coded in over 5 years” seems to be working.

      Don’t get me wrong. It is flattering after all this time. Have no desire to get sucked back in.

      1. Just after I left the Navy in about ’07, I got a flood of pings…. to work in ***** countries that consider women to be sub-human.

        AKA, “Hey, come be human trafficking fodder!”

        No, no, AND F YOU, NO!

        1. Back in the 1990s, the multinational I was working for at the time was advertising positions over in the Kuwait / SA area. Really good pay and full bennies…… “we’ll train you”….. to work on clearing the minefields still around from Gulf War I.

          Now, I was young and stupid…… but I’d played enough Minesweeper to understand that this was a sucker’s game. 😎

          1. It actually paid almost insanely high, in the early 2ks to be a programmer in one of the arab countries, but Dan got the offer, and we turned it over with the tip of our foot, and he said something like “You know, if I weren’t married and we didn’t have little kids.” and I said “yeah”. Because we didn’t want to be apart that long, and you know? Not a good place for women and children. Sure, they were offering something insane like half a mil, but it was two years of our life.
            Someone we later met took something like that and then bought a B& B near us with the money, but they didn’t have kids. She basically was under house arrest for two years. He wasn’t much better off. It was not an enjoyable time for either.

  8. Even in Trading Places, Dan Akroyd’s commodities trader had to be set up by the Duke brothers and railroaded in order to lose his home that quickly (which was apparently not “his home” but a company perk, which if anything is a warning against state ownership of people’s homes).

    1. It was a common thing for managers and agents of music groups to do. The members of Black Sabbath and Bad Company, just for examples, found out that the mansions and sports cars they thought were theirs actually belonged to their agents, and that their investment portfolios were mostly imaginary.

      “I gotta tell ya, enough dope and jet lag, and you can put anything over on those kids…”

        1. Years ago C was telling me about some incident of that sort, and I said to her, “So it’s a law of nature that bands get fucked by their agents?” and she basically said yes.

          1. Aaron Neville’s “gold Record” for “Tell It Like It Is” is a store-bought LP his friends spray painted because the real one was kept by management.
            Linda Ronstadt made sure he got one for her cover.
            I’ve met him a few times. Very nice man.
            Unless you screw him over. Though, now he and his brothers are less likely to break your legs for it.

          2. Music companies and agents used to be among the worst at taking advantage of the musicians they nominally worked for. The first band that actually fought back, and had a huge impact on how tours are done and who gets the money was Led Zeppelin.

  9. Substance abuse is a mental health problem.

    It is very difficult to help someone else with a mental health problem if they are unwilling to be compliant and cooperative. It may even require desire and gumption on their part.

    I can see losing a high paying job, in part due to a mental health condition that wasn’t being managed well enough. I can see a process of being helped to learn to manage the condition enough to function in society again. I couldn’t write it, because I know enough to tell good from bad, and I’d need to do far more work than any creative interest of mine justifies. The Mormans in decades past had a reputation for running a good and tough method of charitable intervention. When one’s mental health situation is so badly managed that one is in very bad trouble, changing it to something that can support middle class adult functioning is a long difficult challenge.

    In a lot of fiction, there are various shorthands for intervention in a difficult situation. Read correctly, often there is implied prior observation of the situation. Someone from a highly mobile mutually alien society reading that stuff is not going to realize how obvious it may have been that the decisions were based on years of previous observation. The sort of person inclined to ‘throw money at it’ ‘charity’ is going to notice the actions, not the careful analysis before hand, and not the careful followup after ward.

    1. Mental Health problems – yes, and these days, if you have a loved one who is mentally ill, and who refuses treatment, often the only way to get them any help is for them to get arrested, which means their behavior has to deteriorate so much that they’re a public nuisance (I’ve been through this with a relative).

      A friend’s SO is a nurse, and every so often, they drive around Houston checking out the homeless population, and get the worst of them into a psych hospital – if someone has reached the point where they can’t take care of themselves, this is considered “a danger to one’s self,” it doesn’t have to be suicidal.

      Of course (and yes, I’ve seen this directly, too), treatment too often means shoot them up with Haldol, and then kick them back onto the street after 4 weeks. (Word of advise: if you ever get committed to a psych hospital, no matter how much you think you shouldn’t be there and no matter how pissed off you are, cooperate with the doctors, be pleasant, talk to people, or they’ll just hold you down and shoot drugs into you, and, believe me, Haldol can turn you into a zombie, and it takes months to wear off.)

      1. “Word of advise: if you ever get committed to a psych hospital, no matter how much you think you shouldn’t be there and no matter how pissed off you are, cooperate with the doctors, be pleasant, talk to people, or they’ll just hold you down and shoot drugs into you, and, believe me, Haldol can turn you into a zombie, and it takes months to wear off.)”

        In other words, submit, slave. How dare you question your masters!

        1. be nice, until you do get out, then be not nice in a very polite way and sue the snot outta them for false imprisonment. Used to know a crazy guy who wasn’t nice until he was drugged (but then they knew what to give him though), and after treatment and getting out, sued those in any way close to involved with committing him, and got rather large settlements.
          Trust me, this guy needed to be put away from time to time.

        2. More like, don’t give them a reason to think the people who want you in the psych hospital are right. Prove to the staff that you’re sane by behaving like a sane person.

          Or in the case of a relative who did need psychiatric help, but who we didn’t want shot up with Haldol, she was still rude and refused to talk to anyone, or be reasonable in any way, and yeah, got shot up with Haldol. I teased her about it afterward – she turned what was supposed to be an overnight observation into a 4 week stay (she laughed and agreed with me).

    2. It is as if people read Pohl & Kornbluth’s Gladiator-At-Law without realizing it was a) satirical b) Science Fiction and c) a novel.

      Current process of losing one’s mortgaged house requires persistent effort over several months. It isn’t as if banks want to own real estate, after all.

      1. We bought our house in Longview for $65k, in 1980. 1985, when timber was really getting hit, force transfer out of town. With $200k to $300k homes in our neighborhood, same size, if lousy lots, going for half or less, no way were we selling. Instead we turned it into a rental (something I will never, ever, do again). Made out okay once we turned it over to a management company. Had to make the house & rent payment, but at least we were getting something back on the house. Sold it 4 years later after houses started selling again; did not make any money on it, but didn’t lose any either.

        Yes. Someone losing their house, was really not qualified in the first place, or they really “worked” at it to lose it. ** exceptions may apply ** Banks have got to know that if they foreclose, the property they are getting isn’t going to be the same house they lent money on, & worth penny’s on the dollar.

        1. mine was a walk away. If I wasn’t in a rush for it (I hadn’t found a rental yet either) I’d have bid far less than the $23,000 I put in. It went from BO to HUD. The lender had loaned a rather large amount over the worth for what ever reason, and the family grew out of it, and the guy worked for a place notorious for layoffs, and they just stopped paying and moved out eventually.

  10. When I was still trying to find the door into the Ivory Tower, I had a paid research job, then substitute taught, then part-time taught and write. Now I part-time teach and write, and do a few other things on the side. But I never sat on my hands and bewailed that fate had kicked my plans to the kerb.

    1. One thing about successful people is that many of them have failed, and some of them have failed multiple times- often times it’s not their fault.
      But, they get back up, learn from their mistakes, and keep going.

      1. Yup, lots of successful people have stories of falling down, and getting back up, multiple times. A trip down, and then a trip back up.
        The secret to their success is making sure it’s an even number of trips.

        1. Success requires risk assessment, risk evaluation and risk taking. If there is zero risk, there is zero possibility of reward/success. The left teaches that there should never be risk and that all should be rewarded equally and have equal success. This is not possible, and they have filled many millions of graves while trying to impose the impossible.

        2. America used to have a vibrant mythos centered on folk like Ray Kroc and Harlan Sanders – people who worked hard to overcome challenges and build commercial empires. There was even a comic strip character — Daddy Warbucks — who personified the idea that being knocked down was not the same as being knocked out.

          Such histories are now derided by the cognoscenti as “Horatio Alger Stories”.– although one might note that the cognoscenti are all atop the heap and have vested interest in keeping competition down.

        3. Well, n+1, I suspect. “Fall down eight times, get up nine”, sort of thing.
          This is one of the things that MOST profoundly irritates me about the current victim culture. EVERY “success” book I have ever read touts persistence, individual responsibility, filling a need or niche, and solving an problem that someone else has, as the keys to success. Yet “historically oppressed persons” are consistently told that nothing they do will help them succeed, so why try? Drives me bugnuts.

        4. Back when startups still seemed attractive (i.e. before I worked at one) I read that the number one predictor of an individual starting a successful startup company was the number of unsuccessful startups that the individual had previously started up – a higher number of failed startups meant the next one was more likely to succeed.

          So, basically, times at bat.

          And if you keep going up to bat, you’ll likely stop when you succeed (or go again and succeed again) – just like since you stop looking for your car keys when you find them, so they are always in the last place you look.

          1. “Back when startups still seemed attractive (i.e. before I worked at one)”

            Almost worked for one. Started as contractor, didn’t get paid; … did eventually, but it took a couple of years. They didn’t make it.

            Only worked for one company, not a start up, that gave stock options to engineering employees, one of the few, other than the owners, who made decent money when company sold. Everyone made some, but at the time I was hired was one of the few times the stock had dropped down. I mean, good money to me. Not even hundred thousand, let alone millions.

            1. One of the few things I miss from working in the Silicon Valley Tech Industries are the two pretty much universal practices of granting stock options as part of any level comp package and running employee stock purchase plans. I think both are a brilliant way of getting even the most non-team-player employee to feel they have a stake in the company’s success. There’s not much downside if structured properly – the company just issue a few more shares of stock to cover both plans. And doing so while a company is still private is, while more complicated, pretty straightforward too.

              I’m now working for folks who built their resumes in the health care world, where such a thing is unheard of, so to the mention of either stock options or a stock purchase plan, one gets a very blank look.

  11. A thing I’ve noticed about most terminal losers in the USA is that they just cannot cannot recognize and seize opportunity when it’s given to them, for whatever frustrating reasons.
    Offer them a job, and they’ll not show up after a few days. Give them money for rent or groceries, and they blow it on drugs & booze. Offer to train them on how to do something productive, and they never get around to coming around. As my elders would say, some people are just plain sorry and no account.

    1. Run-DMC “:got this” many years ago, as far as individual effort and choices even in “Hard Times”:

      1. And this, also from Run-DMC “It’s Like That”

        “You should have gone to school, you could’ve learned a trade But you laid in the bed where the bums have laid Now all the time you’re crying that you’re underpaid It’s like that (what?) and that’s the way it is”

    2. There are people who get themselves hired, then get themselves fired quickly so they can get unemployment. A friend who’s a manager at a bookstore runs into this one a lot with new hires. And I actually knew someone who never stated they were doing this, but every time I talked to him, it was always, Oh, I started this job, but they were just awful there” so he was back on unemployment yet again. (One of his common complaints were that they were making him do menial tasks that he felt he shouldn’t have to do, because they were beneath him.)

    3. This reminds me of the parable of the rowboat:

      A very religious man was once caught in rising floodwaters. He climbed onto the roof of his house and trusted God to rescue him. A neighbour came by in a canoe and said, “The waters will soon be above your house. Hop in and we’ll paddle to safety.”

      “No thanks” replied the religious man. “I’ve prayed to God and I’m sure he will save me”

      A short time later the police came by in a boat. “The waters will soon be above your house. Hop in and we’ll take you to safety.”

      “No thanks” replied the religious man. “I’ve prayed to God and I’m sure he will save me”

      A little time later a rescue services helicopter hovered overhead, let down a rope ladder and said. “The waters will soon be above your house. Climb the ladder and we’ll fly you to safety.”

      “No thanks” replied the religious man. “I’ve prayed to God and I’m sure he will save me”

      All this time the floodwaters continued to rise, until soon they reached above the roof and the religious man drowned. When he arrived at heaven he demanded an audience with God. Ushered into God’s throne room he said, “Lord, why am I here in heaven? I prayed for you to save me, I trusted you to save me from that flood.”

      “Yes you did my child” replied the Lord. “And I sent you a canoe, a boat and a helicopter. But you never got in.”

  12. Several years back there was a TV movie about a “family” who became homeless.

    The makers of the movie made One Big Mistake (that jumps out for intelligent viewers).

    The man who “lost his job and his home” had a relative (IIRC a brother) who offered the family a place to stay.

    The Idiot Man couldn’t stand the thought of living in his brother’s home so him & his family had to go live on the street.

    Any intelligent viewer would have said “You Idiot! You Have A Place To Go!”. 😦

    Note, I swallowed my pride between jobs and went home to my parents. I didn’t like it but it was better than trying to live under an overpass.

    1. So his big mistakes were 1.) Not being able to swallow his pride and Do The Right Thing for himself and his family, and 2.) Creating and nurturing a family that wouldn’t stand up to him and to make him Do Thing Hard Thing.

      Got it.

      1. 3) Married a woman too stupid to leave him and to take her kids to her brother-in-law’s home (or one of her relatives’ home). 😉

        1. “She went and lived with her mother” is a sign of Big Trouble not JUST because women are horrible evil nasty whatever is cool this week.

  13. “Her setup was something like this: you lose your job as an executive, and your wife divorces you, and the next week you’re living in a homeless camp, unless of course you get a good samaritan who gives you a job, and then you immediately become middle class again.”

    When you believe people are stupid, and only succeed because of luck, circumstance or patronage, then a fall from the corner office to under a bridge seems reasonable. The executive didn’t -deserve- the corner office, he just sat in it. His unsupported level of society is under the bridge.

    Lets call it the “You didn’t build that!” theory of human life. We’re all one missed White Privilege check from the gutter.

    These are the same writers who think all humans are one bad day away from “snapping” and murdering a mall full of nuns with a hatchet. One bad day, people.

    To which I generally scream “PROJECTION!!!” as I hurl the offending book into the circular file.

    Important safety tip, never throw at the wall, because drywall repair is tedious. Throw at the steel garbage can. It can take a hit. ~:D

    1. > When you believe people are stupid, and only succeed because of luck, circumstance or patronage,

      Hey, not *everyone* works at a major publisher or in academia…

      1. There’s this belief among academics and other Lefty idiots that humans are interchangeable widgets. All the same. The difference between the successful corner office dude and the street bum, according to these retards, is either plain luck or some kind of cheating. That can be family influence, The Patriarchy, dirty dealing, etc. Nobody ever got anywhere without being Eeevile(tm).

        They don’t understand (or refuse to admit) that there’s an -inherent- difference between success and failure. Corner office dude can lose it all, repeatedly, but unless circumstance or enemy action breaks his body and spirit, he will keep coming back. He’s never going to be a street bum unless an external force destroys him.

        Furthermore, street bum guy is -abnormal-. He’s got a pre-existing condition, most commonly drug addiction and/or serious mental illness. Just a crappy upbringing/circumstance isn’t enough to make an otherwise healthy human into a street bum.

        1. There’s this belief among academics and other Lefty idiots that other humans are interchangeable widgets.


          Such people never contemplate the suggestion that they are interchangeable widgets even though their output is so predictable it is only a matter of time until there is an AI NY Times OpEd app commercially available.

        2. I heard of a guy who read Barbara Ehrenreich’s book Nickeled and Dimed and got annoyed by the many things she did wrong as she tried to make it look like minimum-wage jobs weren’t enough to support an individual in America.* (I remember that one of them was sleeping in motels instead of getting a cheap apartment. I rather suspect that another one was doing her experiment in NYC, but don’t quote me on that since I don’t recall the book all that well.) So he did an experiment: he made a list of twenty or so cities, and decided that he’d pick one at random, get on a train or Greyhound bus, and show up in his chosen city with just $25 in his pocket and the clothes on his back. His goal: within one year, he should have: a) a place to live, b) a job, and c) a car that could get him from a) to b) repeatedly without breaking down.

          He started out, IIRC, by going to every manual-labor job he could find advertised and saying, “I don’t know anything about your job, but I’m willing to learn, and I promise I’ll show up every day, on time, sober and ready to work.” He got a job within days, and had an apartment and a car well before his self-imposed twelve-month deadline.

          Someone will probably remember that guy’s name and help me find his book again.

          * Yes, a minimum-wage job can’t support a family of four, but: a) it’s not supposed to, and b) that’s a totally different argument.

          1. I recall some argument about how much per meal or day or something one got with food stamps and how hard it was, and moron congress critters buying say boiled eggs and organic fruit by the piece, at convenience stores or Whole Foods. When the biggest health issue of the “poor” is obesity, you ain’t got poor.

            1. Oh, gads.

              Eggs jumped massively in price, so I now buy them in bulk.

              The place that sells them best is Shamrock restaurant supply, so I hit them when I’min the area and get 15 doz eggs for I think $16. Might be $17.

              Vs chicken for $2/lb or beef for shoot-me-now. (Pork is *** random.)

              I feed a family of 8 (one nursing, three preschool, to be fair) for less than foodstamps.

              1. Quiches and souffles, a lot of them with cheap additions (hotdogs, tuna, frozen veg) were our mainstay, three times a week for five years, when we were paying off the debt from Robert (18k, because we had emergency caeserean with three doctors, under COBRA) and the move (10k) and Dan’s being unemployed because he had to quit to look after me while I was on bed rest (7k or so) and saving for a house.

              2. Boeuf is damned high up here, but the local grocer has a burger mix that runs rather cheap (has pork mixed in) (was on sale a bit ago for under $2/#) Pork yeah was up and down and up, and didn’t bother looking because it had zero fat.
                Have not done chook for a while. Need to do a chicken and wild rice soup soon though.

          2. Scratch Beginnings.

            I read only part of it, but one thing he did that she didn’t was talk to poor people about sage things to do when poor.

            I remember an online discussion where she was savaged for insisting on a fully furnished apartment, instead of an unfurnished one and a sleeping bag. And not even trying a thrift store.

    2. That’s because Liberals really DO succeed because of luck. If you look at their ringleaders, they almost all inherited position and wealth.

      And if Congressional leftists are a good example, temper tantrums are commonplace.

      1. That, and it also explains why the entertainment industry and academia tilt left as well. They know how much depended on luck for them, and so, humans being prone to generalize from their own experience, they assume everything else is like that.

  14. I was laid off in 2001 for the Dot Com Bubble Burst, and though everybody eventually got laid off (the business unit got sold and shipped overseas), the older engineers got RIFFed first. Did a lot of interviews (most just after 9/11, so the environment was tough), sent out a shitload of resumes, and eventually found a good paying consulting gig. When the client went under, the consulting operation closed, and I took the earnings to finish the house remodel and got the hell out of California. Retired at 50, and we stretched savings until we could collect on IRAs and eventually Social Security.

    We’re too far from town for a casual job at Home Depot to be financially viable, but we knew what we needed to do to make the place suit us. Now that the budget is healthy, we can do projects that are “we’d like to when we can afford it”, though that still involves a lot of sweat and/or brainpower equity. I’m spending $X dollars on a solar system for the well/pumphouse, and even if we could find a contractor who’d touch the project, that would have been 4X or so. Solar contractors did a lot of similar work when subsidies were there and ranchers were putting grid tie systems in place like mad. No subsidy, no interest from the remaining contractor. OTOH, it’s not my first solar system (my 4th, though this is the biggest), and I know how to pass building inspections. Not doing it as a business, but it’s a nice skill to have.

    1. “Dot Com Bubble Burst” …

      Yes. Been there done that. Two very different careers. Don’t know if sticking with the Forest Service would have made a difference VS the timber job we took out of college. Doubt it. Don’t have names, but more than one antidote at seminars where now computer programmers were formally in the Timber industry. I know dislocated workers employment sure pushed computer related fields. The job that went down in ’96, was timber company but I was writing software solutions for the division. Part of the shut down deal was education for those to switch fields or to “update” skills. Education had to be either a trade, or 2-year associates, max. Then there was me. Already HAD 3 degrees (two B.S. & one AA), two of which were in the highly needed computers. I did get two seminars & travel paid, out of it; which did get me my next job, so no complaints. But fast forward another 6 years, a computer company goes down. Nothing was available to the employees riffed from there other than unemployment, because everyone was in a highly wanted industry …

      Yes, uh, try again. I took 17 months to find another job. I know of one who took almost 5 years to find a job (that he had his own 60 acres of timber land to manage & log helped, but he was not happy to have to harvest early in the timber cycle). Multiple employees who never did.

      Second time around my skill set wasn’t “cutting edge” but was current. Including development tools that had just been released & hand held solution development (Intermec/Symbol type data collectors, like you see being carried in stores). Didn’t matter. I was over 45 which was a problem. Plus, the gate keepers were looking for developers with 5 years on the “current” tool; something that hadn’t been out in beta for more than 18 months, let alone released.

      1. 5 years on the “current” tool

        That sets off my ‘hmm’ senses. Either it’s an excuse to go with Mumbai Contract Programmers, or else somebody’s buddy. I’d put incompetence way down on the list for that kind of crap.

        I was doing test programming, so it was dependent on which machines/systems I was working with. Separate programming bits was incidental to the main task, and nobody cared that I was doing it in Perl or C (or my favorite plotting program, PlotMTV, now long obsolete). Refreshing, really. Results first, then eventually a bit of process.

        1. It has been a standard HR schtick since the early 90s, in my personal experience. You can’t get a resume past HR to someone qualified to understand it unless it checks all the tickboxes.

          Back then, they could probably claim they had no idea software versions didn’t work like that. Now, with practically everyone familiar with computers, even if they’re little ones they carry in their pocket, that dog won’t hunt.

          1. Worse I ran into this was ’02 through ’03. It was either that or age. Probably both.

            I know I got lucky in ’90 with first job after finishing the Computer Science degree & waiting 6 months to even start looking for work; seemed like a good idea to wait to look for work after graduation after our son was born a week after my last final (no I did NOT walk graduation). Lucky: Ad for the job “Forestry company needs application software programmer. Desired Forestry & Computer Science degrees & 5 years experience in each field …” Jumps up & down waving hands & resume. Plus they moved the location of the job from the coast to the valley. They admitted later that they never expected someone to meet those qualifications. PLUS, my immediate supervisor was a forestry class year behind me (he knew who I was when he met me, not like there were a lot of females in either class …).

      1. One of the companies I was talking to was based near Boston. They lost people that day, and pretty well shut down hiring for the duration. (Not sure when they picked up; I was working starting that December.)

  15. I couldn’t find any sort of full-rime regular job when I retired from the military – and believe me, I tried, was qualified for a lot of things, and San Antonio is a town well-disposed towards the military (although I think a retiree pension underwrites a lot of jobs that would pay more, anywhere else) and I was sending out the resume and interviewing all over the place …
    I did a retail sales job for three months, then went on to patch together four different part-time jobs, and now and again some voice work. Retail sales, a weekend shift at the classical radio station, delivering a weekly newspaper, and data entry for a local firm which sold classical music CDs. Appeared at the local bank branch with five different corporate paychecks, and the teller says, “Ma’am, is there a place in town that you don’t work for?”
    Also worked at a corporate phone bank for a year – about six months longer than the average for one of those places. After I gave notice and quit (to be a partner in the Teeny Publishing Bidness) I got a good few checks from them for all the paid hours and days off that I never took. Give them credit – it was a crummy job, and I had pretty well written off those paid hours/days – but the place did honestly by me.

    1. Appeared at the local bank branch with five different corporate paychecks, and the teller says, “Ma’am, is there a place in town that you don’t work for?”

      The bank?

  16. You’re forgetting the Trump effect.

    As Hillary told us, repeatedly, totally unbiased and rilly troooly smaht people looked at the plans and said her ideas would CREATE ten million jobs, while Bad Orange ideas would DESTROY three million jobs.

    Those thirteen million jobs would have ended homelessness right there!

    And it must be true because all of the rilly trooly smaht people on the news tell me “It should be better.”

    1. The moron at work was whining about his 401(k) taking a hit since November.
      Hmm, hey big Dem Hillary supporter, what happened this past November?
      Same guy, who, after Election 2016, stated “Well there goes the economy and my 401k!”

      1. This is why you MUST play the long game. If the market is down, buy! Don’t sell and lock in the loss, ride it out and shovel more cash in if you can afford it.

        1. One of my better deeds was to convince a 20 year old co-worker to start a 401(k) (easier with the owner matching up to 5% “Hey ‘Free Money’ for you”) and told him “As long as you can keep the dems from stealing it from you, you’ll thank me years from now.” He married at 21, and his wife has one as well.He didn’t pay much attention to it until I used mine to buy a house, and he was about to get his severance from the location closing, so he was looking at roll-over/roll-into IRA paperwork. “You were right, I hope the next place I work has one too.”

          1. Next generation on my side of the family, our son, & nieces, have all had their IRA’s & Roth’s started with their first pay checks, before they were out of HS. Each has started their 401(k)’s as they became eligible. No options, no excuses. That is what the 6 of us as parents decreed.

            Us parents, no, did not start that early. Wasn’t available that early. But all of us started with maximum contributions when each were available. Can’t spend money you ain’t got your hands on. We never drew on it, no matter how bad things got. Yes, we are now. But not until 59 1/2.

        2. I remember when IBM dropped by half. Hubby bought more. Right now (have no clue what IBM is worth) our current holdings base cost is about $19/stock … doesn’t count the dividends & the calls hubby has sold on the stocks.

          1. Way back when, some time around the mid 80’s or so, a friend offered to get me on where he worked. I passed because I really dislike large companies (and my experiences since have done little to assuage that) but if I had, put up with what appears to be slightly less corporate stupidity than the average (which often was the stupid union’s stupidity, not the company’s), and wasn’t totally stupid with my spending, I’d very much be retired now. The company was Southwest Airlines, and although not the optimal period for hiring on (explain in a bit) I would’ve been well and truly set by the time I was in my late 30’s, with any time after 45 or so being gravy and padding the nest. Now, if I had hired on as soon as they showed in New Orleans, I’d have been on the end of those that by the late 90’s were edging close to paper millionaires. SWA, especially back then, tossed out stocks to employees for bonuses and then went through several splits that made many very well off bag tossers. They have people who “work” there who give away all their time except that needed to be considered an employee just for the benefits. SWA got the contract changed to make them actually have to work so many hours a year for them to be considered actual employees, but when I started at the airport in 88, there were people who never were there. One lady I saw once in the 6 years. Her hubby also worked there, and they “Buddy Bid” shifts. One bid day shift, the other a second, and there was an hour overlap allowed, and he worked both shifts. Because they were married, for some reason they were able to continue the her not actually working thing. She worked as a teacher during the day,
            My buddy was one of those who coulda been retired, but his wife was constitutionally unable to not max out a credit card. Twice, after getting all her cards from her, paying off the major bills, and getting back to black ink, the someone somewhere would offer her a card to go with his, and suddenly he was unable to pay for something while on the road (he tended to do trouble shooting and helped at other locations for the extra money SWA paid for doing that), have to finish what he was doing for SWA, get home, cut the card, and stay at home for a while to guard her while trying to get the bills back down. Finally he got to where he only worked like that if he could drive to the airport, get on a flight and go to the place they needed him and fly home after the end of his shift so he could be at home and keep her from getting any more credit cards.
            It was odd. Give her $500 in twenties, and she’d take a month to spend it. Give her a $500 credit card, and she’d try to buy $600 worth of stuff with it.
            Well, that was a wordy bit of prattling on.
            Monster!! I blame Monster Energy drinks

            1. A friend’s spouse started gambling, cleaned out their retirement accounts, and the first thing he knew was when checks started to bounce. He took her car keys so she couldn’t get to the casino, went on an austerity program that would have made Dave Ramsey blanch, and at the end of the month, was further behind than when he started.

              Turned out the casinos had buses they sent around to pick up “patrons”, and would help them fill out credit card applications…

              That marriage didn’t last…

              1. Co-worker ran into similar problem, only it was different spending habits. He was, she wasn’t. Spawned a discussion at work about co-mingling of funds in to one common account. Out of a dozen of us, only two of us had accounts that would be considered “common”. Everyone else each partner had their own account, then there was a household (regardless of whose name it was in) account both contributed to based on their criteria, to pay house, etc. Nobody shared credit cards, so if you ran up yours, you paid it off; you got into trouble, you were on your own. Not sure how that all impacted common property. Before the month was out there was one of us who had common accounts with their partner. FYI. Her spouse was not happy with the change, but it saved her later in the divorce. It was very clear what debts were clearly his. She got the house & his creditors couldn’t force a sale to pay off his debts … helped that they had toddler triplets.

                1. State laws vary quite a bit on that sort of thing.

                  I’m told that “gambling addiction” is a legitimate mental illness, but nobody *made* them gamble, or forced them to continue.

                  It’s like the people who make a sober, informed decision to snort cocaine or inject heroin. The sympathy bucket is dry there, too.

                  1. It helps that Oregon is not a common property state. You can keep marital assets & debt separate. The rules make it really easy to mess up that separation, but you can do it. Ultimately that is what she did. Then when the divorce actually hit, the only property they had in common was the house, & they had no or little equity in it (hadn’t had it long). Given she had sole custody of the three toddlers, he signed the house over to her, nothing his creditors could do about it.

                1. In some jurisdictions I believe debt liability is automatically joint unless one party has published an “I am no longer liable for the debts of my spouse, [Name Here].” declaration.

                  1. On further consideration, I think the proper phrasing is “debts and obligations” — not merely debts alone.

        3. That”s what I tell all my young Sailors. So what if the prices of shares went down? Are you planning to sell them right now? Is the number of shares you own reduced at all? Then stay IN IT. Buy more shares (of index funds, for preference) while they’re cheap!

      2. Hell. We’re living off our ex-401(k)s. We’ve haven’t used any of our principle out of either of our accounts, have made a little, even under Obama. Made A LOT more than we’ve used since President Trump was elected. Didn’t change how it was invested.

        1. One reason I decided to go with the loan was mine was preforming but not well. I was gonna pay that back at a higher interest than it was gathering by performance.
          What is funny about the moron, also is I think he was trying to play it up with added risk after he realized Trump’s Bump was longer term, likely to try to retire a touch early (we can only hope he leaves soon) but then worked hard last fall to get dems elected to congress and the state gov’t in WI. Real bright fella. Whines the min-wage needs to be at least $15/hr, hates it when you point out everywhere that happens unemployment goes up, and less jobs are available.

  17. Listened to a talk from a professional knife fighter (yes there are such things) once, and he noted that some people will survive a knife wound to the gut and others will die from losing a finger. He said the difference was the mind-frame of the wounded.

    1. He said the difference was the mind-frame of the wounded.

      I would think the microbial environment of the knife blade might have something to do with it.

      But it is beyond question that the fragility or resilience of the wounded has a function in it.

      1. Heh. What used to be the “Command Assessment Team” in the Navy, charged with assessing the command climate and morale of its members, is now called the “Command Resiliency Team”. Because we’re all supposed to be tough and resilient, and have that mindset. I keep wanting to tell them that saying so doesn’t make it so.

      2. From watching folks on cancer– mindset does have a lot to do with it.

        Some relatives considered “the C word” to be a death sentence, so we made sure they didn’t know, they lived for DECADES when others died months after hearing “the C word.”

        Which meant when my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, HER main thing was making sure nobody else knew she had it, so THEY wouldn’t think she would die…..

        (She is fine.)

        1. I had to look up/ask my parents about my family tree and what people died of, one time. There was… an unsettling amount of cancer.

          There was also a little girl who survived it because her mother insisted on tracking down someone who could try that newfangled experimental radiation therapy she’d heard about.

          (I’m glad your mother is fine!)

    2. “Looks like I’ve lost, but since defense isn’t a priority now, I’m taking you to Hell with me…”

  18. Dr. Pournelle convinced me to that unlimited free trade wasn’t worth it…in particular, trade with non-peer states. All First World states have similar overhead costs. The Third World – much cheaper. Meaning they can underbid some tasks. And the sad truth is that there are people working middle-class jobs who are working at full intellectual capacity – they can’t be retrained for something higher on the food chain. Others who are too old to be economically retrained – If you’re over 50, the return on investment would have to be pretty high.

    Having said that, I’ll give a word of advice – keep your nose clean enough to get and keep a security clearance. That goes triple if you write software. Foreign nationals can’t work on classified materials, which includes a truckload of military software.

    1. > return on investment

      For whom?

      People tend not to stay in the same job more than a few years; they move up, move on, or get “downsized.”

      1. Hubby worked the same job in 4 locations for the same employer for 33 years. Longview, Eugene, Randle, Eugene. He survived one major downsize & a couple of smaller ones. Company RIF from 179 to 30 or 50, depending on micro swing of economy.

        I worked for 6 employers for 37 years in 2 locations. Longview & Eugene. I was downsized from all but the last one. The way things are looking, if I hadn’t retired, I’d been downsized from the last one about now.

  19. Found this at the NY Post today and it seems more than a trifle relevant:

    The high price of refusing to face facts about the homeless
    ast month, the downtown San Diego franchise of the Burgerim restaurant chain closed its doors, contending that chaotic conditions caused by large numbers of homeless people in and around nearby Horton Plaza Park had driven customers away and made it impossible to operate. The shuttering of the Burgerim location was a warning signal to the San Diego business community — and to city hall, too.

    Burgerim would not be leaving quietly. The franchisee, backed by parent company Burgerim USA, intended to sue in state court, claiming that neither its landlord nor the city of San Diego had lived up to their responsibilities to keep the city’s historic Gaslamp Quarter clean and suitable for business.

    Burgerim’s legal action will be of special interest to members of the multibillion-dollar homelessness industry nationwide. Despite the many billions spent on homelessness, however, the problem is getting worse, especially in California.

    Along with homeless encampments come deadly outbreaks of hepatitis A, typhus and other communicable diseases, driven by attending drug addiction. Some parts of the city are littered with syringes. A desperate San Diego now steam cleans its streets and sidewalks.


    Will Burgerim’s lawsuit have any effect on this complex, expensive and apparently intractable social issue? Can retail and restaurant tenants really use the courts to force landlords and municipal governments to protect them against a problem no one seems able to solve?

    Absolutely, says Niv Davidovich, a lawyer for Burgerim. “There is ample case law that will allow the Burgerim lawsuit to move forward,” he maintains. “Landlords and the city are responsible for reasonably maintaining the common areas of any commercial property.”

    Whatever the fate of Burgerim’s lawsuit, it’s difficult to foresee how legal action will affect the homelessness crisis long term. If held liable for problems caused by people over whom they have no control, private landlords at least have the option of going out of business — a nightmare scenario that has already destroyed large sections of urban America. But what about municipal government? Can the law force cities to end or control homelessness?

    For decades it’s been an open secret that “homeless” is, for the most part, a euphemism for chronic afflictions that have proven very difficult to treat. The overwhelming majority of homeless people end up on the streets either because they are mentally ill, or because they engage in self-destructive behaviors, or because they live in a cruelly compassionate “non-judgmental” society that no ­longer grants itself the moral authority to distinguish between illness and health.

    In the mid-1980s, when I worked in New York’s City Hall, Mayor Ed Koch commissioned a detailed study of the city’s single homeless men. I no longer have the report, but I recall its main conclusions, which divided this population into five main groups.


    The remaining segment — roughly 10 percent of the homeless — were simply down on their luck. They had lost a job, they had been burned out of their apartment building or they had seen a marriage break up. They needed a helping hand to get back on their feet.

    The report concluded that only this last 10 percent of the homeless population could be helped in any meaningful way, an observation that sheds light on why, despite billions in spending and hundreds of social programs, homelessness and the chaos it creates has reached the crisis point in cities and states across the country.

    1. contending that chaotic conditions caused by large numbers of homeless people in and around nearby Horton Plaza Park had driven customers away and made it impossible to operate.

      We’ve put off both going down to talk to our House rep and going to the Bishop’s homeschool mass and potluck because the area simply isn’t safe.
      K, it’s safer than going into Juarez. Newsflash, “Hey not as dangerous as the place with more than a hundred recorded murders this year” isn’t really tempting when compared to the larger city that, as a record high in recorded history, hit fifty…for the whole year.

  20. Geoarbitrage is a big topic of discussion in the FIRE (financial independence: retire early) community, but it really only works for people whose career enables location independence and there are plenty of careers and jobs that really really don’t. Even “telehealth” won’t substitute for an actual office visit, for the foreseeable future. There will still need to be central repositories of goods (fulfillment by Amazon warehouses, eg) somewhere. And they will likely need to be guarded, as well.

    I was in a discussion earlier today about printed or vat meat products, and how they may be required/useful for space travel. Yet their different taste/texture/amino acid profile and availability will affect consumption patterns, and how that will affect explorers (and their “toxic masculinity” 🙂 ).

    People will always find a way to change new technology towards their own ends, regardless of the intentions of said tech’s creators. It is a conflict trope that always irritates me in shows/movies when creators want to “protect” their invention from military use or exploitation. Never going to happen.

    1. “It is a conflict trope that always irritates me in shows/movies when creators want to “protect” their invention from military use or exploitation. Never going to happen.”

      However, the creators can often influence *which* country’s military will exploit their inventions. Imagine if Hans Ohain, the German jet engine pioneer, had defected to Britain in, say, 1938. Collaboration between Ohain and Whittle might well have resulted in production quantities of an effective jet fighter, early enough to shorten the war significantly.

      1. To be honest, the delay in British development comes down to one or two people in the air corps who either didn’t like the idea of jet engines or disliked Whittle personally.

        He was far ahead of everyone at the beginning, but HM Government wasn’t really interested, and no private firm was willing to make the financial commitment necessary.

        On the other hand, almost all the early successful jet engines, including the US and Soviet ones, were either licensed from or ripoffs of Rolls-Royce designs, which were based on Whittle’s work.

      2. Or imagine if the Bolsheviks had forced Igor Sikorsky to flee Russia, and he came to the United States and developed aircraft and helicopters. Oh, wait, currently in that reality. Sorry, Mondays can be so confusing.

  21. Her setup was something like this: you lose your job as an executive, and your wife divorces you, and the next week you’re living in a homeless camp, unless of course you get a good Samaritan who gives you a job, and then you immediately become middle class again.

    Part of this is (deliberate?) conflation in terms– I was homeless for 6-9 months when Elf moved across country to the new job and we were with my folks. “Homeless” meaning roughly “has no claim to a living place that wouldn’t require court argument.” (Existing contract, basically. Not a bad metric for emergency planning, stupid for figuring “folks who need help NOW!”)

    We were at the same time middle class and homeless.

    Way to poison the brand…..

    1. Technically I was “homeless” for about 6 weeks summer ’77. Had a physical address (folk’s home), just where I was working didn’t have anything to rent reasonably close to district offices. They did have an old bunkhouse, which was technically condemned. But they let crew members use it for a week or two at a time. So, two weeks there, then tented it in someone’s back yard, then when their well started to go, moved back into the bunkhouse, for another two weeks; technically living out of the car. Finally one of the locals offered me a room for rent. The next summer I switched districts where I could commute from college housing.

      Then technically, by definition, hubby was “homeless” for 17 months. Transferred to “middle of nowhere” where living in the 27′ travel trailer was a better option (bigger, nicer, safer) than the few rentals that were (are?) available. The apartments that were “under renovation” … gee wonder why with large creek about 10′ from the back of them … really?

  22. “We grow strong when old men plant trees in whose shade they shall never rest,” to poorly paraphrase a bad paraphrase of an ancient Roman line.

    Doing stuff because it does good even though it won’t help YOU any being a norm makes for a strong society.

  23. Sarah, i cant read yiur article at PJM “When Everything is Political”

    Cant read the article. Washington Congratulations! pops up and hijacks browser. I open new window, log on Instapundit, scroll down fnd PJM article link, visit site, read 2 sentences and

    Washington Congratulations! pops up and hijacks browser 2nd time. I open new window, log on Instapundit, scroll down fnd PJM article link, visit site, read 2 sentences and

    Washington Congratulations! pops up and hijacks browser for 3rd time. I open new window, log on Instapundit, scroll down fnd. PJM article link, visit site, read 2 sentences and

    Washington Congratulations! pops up and hijacks browser 4th time and i quit.

    This is new phone, full antivirus protection, full adblock. Has not happened on any site but PJM.

    Could you reposf yiur article here so people like me can read it?

    1. I can repost it after I think a week. Not right now. Do me a favor, though. email me that to scifihoyt at gmail dot com. I need to send this to our tech dept. It’s an attack, in case you wonder, and it’s not the first. On the site, not your phone.

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