In the absence of annoyances

Today’s weather in Lawrence would play well in Portland: approaching 30° Centigrade, with a deep blue sky and humidity that — for a pleasant change — isn’t oppressive. The best part is that this weather’s supposed to hold until the weekend.

I needed to attend a lunchtime event by way of pinning down a personal reference for a job I’d like to get, and thence rode a blue box out to the ass end of West Lawrence, by way of getting my electricity and gas bills paid. I spent an awful lot of time outdoors this afternoon, comparatively at least. (And the sooner I quit smoking, the better.)

This would be a good time to point out to the skeptics that I lack the privilege to drive only because I’ve never exercised it — not because I’ve ever had it revoked. The assumption people made when I lived in North San Diego County… ran to the latter.

Between the weather and the waiting I couldn’t help but ask: what is it exactly that keeps me in my apartment and at my desk when I could be out in the world? I would cross paths with new people, and chip away at my crappy physical condition a little. I used to step out all the time. What changed?

How many “agains” before you stop trying again?

When I last spent several days out of the apartment the impulse arose from necessity. My Internet connection went wonky and couldn’t be repaired for upwards of a week. I went to my favorite working spot every day, six days a week, until my service was restored, in spite of downpours and the aforementioned oppressive humidity. Near the end of the second day of that sojourn I realized that I’d been out amongst people for ten hours, but had barely talked to a soul — and when I put out a call on Twitter for company, all I got in reply were crickets.

If that’s what I can count on when I make a point of spending a day out in the world, I’ll save my folks’ money and stay in. Gawd.

As I hinted last week, experiences like that beg an investigation of what (apart from being a jaded sonofabitch) I do to bring those crickets on myself.

What I want from stepping out

Sometimes — very rarely actually — my goal in stepping out is basic. I need to buy something, or pay for something, or I want to dash out for a beer and bounce back home.

I drink at home rarely, and alone never.

I don’t actually want for much at home, especially if I’m paying to have food delivered. The only five things I can’t get at home are:

Regarding the air conditioning, I have west-facing windows. Nothing I can do during the summer months will keep the temperature in this living room below 80°F. between the hours of 5PM and 1AM.

Of those five things, the only one I crave regularly is the company of other people.

Water, water everywhere

It’s a challenge for me to get past what I see when I step out: I’ve chosen my causes, I’ve chosen my career, I don’t travel much, and and I’m not a student. It really feels like I have next to nothing in common with most of the people I see when I’m out.

In my browser right now, I see an article that offers this quote:

“…Texting is not only the preferred but expected method [emphasis mine] of communication compared to phone and email [among college students].”

…I’ve long since lost count of the number of times I’ve given up in frustration because someone was so glued to their fucking telephone that there was no hope of holding an actual conversation.

I could work on ways to put myself in front of my own age cohort, but in this town they’re all married and parenting. Last I checked, married couples with children tended to gravitate toward… other married couples with children. (In other words, not me.)

…I need to adapt. Where the hell do I start? Is it even worth it? I see myself getting a cellphone as soon as I can afford it, albeit under strenuous protest. How do I alter my expectations?

Argh. Blah. Mumble.

Music

Rilo Kiley, “The Good That Won’t Come Out”
@amazon
@allmusic

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Beyond These Four Walls

Beyond These Four Walls —by Ben Henick, 29 June 2010

All journal entries

  1. Talking About the Weather
  2. To the Rafters?
  3. Coming of Age with Killer Apps
  4. Race to the Bottom
  5. Meditations on Decay
  6. Net Neutrality, or the Lack Thereof
  7. Three Problems
  8. Post Mortem of a Book Project
  9. The Egg and the Chicken
  10. Yellow Dog
  11. Digging Through the Clutter
  12. Lessons from Mom
  13. Being Careful What You Wish For
  14. Out on a Limb
  15. Beliefs, No. 1
  16. Like a Chimney
  17. Does Not Compute
  18. Past Trends, Future Results
  19. Beyond These Four Walls
  20. Competence, Confidence, and Reality
  21. Anesthesia
  22. King of the Mountain
  23. “A Deer in the Headlights”

Disclaimer: This is definitely self-indulgent. If you don’t like it, read somebody else.

This nook of the Internet is my antidote for Twitter. ©2010 Ben Henick, all rights reserved.

Job, or hell?

Yesterday I happened on two links. (Good grief, I love the Web.) The first is an e-mail alideshow of sorts aimed at the guts of some hypocrite named Spencer, the author’s (erstwhile imaginary) boss. The second is an article in Slate discussing the (un-) desirability of low- to mid-level service jobs.

…And then there’s the story of the flight attendant who on Monday found a spectacular way to say “take this job and shove it” after being verbally assaulted at length by a passenger.

All three pieces are a kick. Reading them in rapid succession, as I did yesterday afternoon, is a kick in the guts. The article about jobs-in-general particularly evoked from me a visceral response.

Rich get richer, poor get poorer

The sense of entitlement to profit that I raised a few days ago is evident in every talk about compensation I’ve heard about, or participated in, in the past several years. It seems to me like the vast majority want labor for the cheapest they can possibly obtain, while remaining content to throw handfuls of money at senior management and holders of equity — even ones who, as it turns out, contribute little or nothing.

It always seems like the same old story: hire somebody with the basic minimum of proven ability in order to get away with paying them as little as possible, train them up to the minimum needed by the organization, fire the ones who don’t take comfortably to that scheme at the instant they’re identified, and work the others to the bone until they burn out.

I believe that on some level, most people recognize that this is going on. However, I struggle to understand why. It seems axiomatic to me that people who feel valued will work harder, yet the trend moves toward every possible effort to remind people that they’re replaceable and ought to get the best out of things while they can.

Compassion vs. sociopathy

The only fact that adequately explains this prevailing state of affairs is broad, unwitting subscription to the system cobbled together from the amoral rants of a mildly nutty Russian emigré. On balance that would not be so bad, except that like that ethos’ nemeses — Communism and Christianity — “Objectivism” works a hell of a lot better in theory than in practice.

I see two deep flaws with this ethos, deepening my my confusion. First, we can’t all be Howard Roark; lots of us lack the temperament requisite to that outcome. As much to the point, if we all could have and act upon that power, civilization as we know it would rapidly descend into barbarism. One man’s clear thinker is another’s cold-hearted sonofabitch, and the latter type is awfully good at inducing conflict.

Second, human beings possess and act upon compassion compulsively; the ones who habitually refuse or fail to do so are (rightly) called sociopaths. We all recognize that the chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and communities tend to raise the minimum when given the chance. Cutting loose that weak link instead… goes a bit far.

Meritocracy

The happy finish of the labor market’s neo-Nietzchean race to the botom can be found in two virtues that are compatible with all of the belief systems in play: honesty and fidelity.

As it stands, the realities of social (im-) mobility leave some with first-class tickets, and consign the rest to steerage barring both outstanding luck and superlative effort. Furthermore, there are no guarantees that anyone who manages to climb their way out of steerage won’t be shoved back down by some vindictive asshole.

Rewarding honesty and fidelity in the workplace — and penalizing those who lie, cheat, and habitually cover their asses — would go a long way toward making the labor market a better place for everybody.

We have the technological capacity to discover and promote out of steerage quickly the ones who’ve earned it, as a matter of course. We can do the reverse for those who feel most inclined to rest on their laurels. Why don’t we?

Music

Hey Lewis & The News, “Workin’ for a Livin’”
@amazon
@allmusic