Working Out The World


My love and I were reminiscing things we did in elementary school for reasons we couldn’t figure. I don’t mean stuff like declaring someone who was busy with not playing kickball “The Kissing Bandit”. I mean stuff that doesn’t make sense, like the time my class got taken to the Garden State Arts Center and was taught how to clap with our hands curled. I guess we did other stuff there too, but the cupped hands was the lesson that stuck.

But the thing we shared was the class exercise thing about telling everyone else what our parents did for a living. I realize now I don’t know what the project was supposed to prove. That we could ask our parents what they did for a living, I guess. Maybe be able to tell our peers that our parents are shift supervisors. As skills I suppose that’s up there with cursive and being able to name vice-presidents who resigned, since you can test it. I don’t know how the teacher’s supposed to know if the kid was right, though.

But adult jobs are baffling concepts for a kid, anyway. What do adults need supervision for? They’re adults. Kids need supervision, because if you tell a kid, “stand right here, by the school bus stop, for five minutes and don’t wander away”, there’s an excellent chance before you even get to the second comma they’ve wandered off and got a beehive stuck in a nostril. All a kid knows is that their parents go months without unintentionally ingesting beehives, or they would know if they asked their parents.

For that matter, what’s a job to a kid? It’s just a place adults go to become tired and unhappy somehow. There are maybe five adult jobs a kid understands. There’s being an astronaut, there’s fighting stuff (fires, supervillains, crime, wrestlers [other]), there’s being a nurse, there’s being a teacher, and there’s driving a snowplow. Everything else is a bit shaky. For example, when I was a kid all I quite grasped about my father’s job was that he worked in a chemical factory in the parts that normally didn’t explode. He had to go in for eight or sometimes sixteen-hours shifts and I understood that most of the time things didn’t explode. But that leaves a gap in the imagination about just how he filled his working days. Come in, check that things hadn’t exploded, sure, and then it’s four hours, 56 minutes until lunch.

A kid might understand what someone in a service job does, because they could see a person bringing them food or taking clothes to clean or so. It’s why someone would be hired that’s the mystery, because getting that service means giving someone else money. Money’s hard stuff to come by, what with birthday cards arriving only for a one- or two-week stretch of the year, and maybe a bonus at Christmas if they’re lucky. The tooth fairy can help cover a little capital shortage, but that’s too erratic stuff for a real economy.

But non-service jobs are harder to understand. What is an office job anymore except fiddling with a computer? And a computer job is a matter of pressing buttons so that electrons will go into different places than they otherwise might have. A bad day at that sort of job is one where the electrons have come back for later review. On a good day the electrons all go somewhere you don’t have to think about them again. But the electrons aren’t getting anything out of this. They’re not happy, or sad, or anything at all based on where they’re sent. And they’re not the one getting paid for it anyway. They’d be fine if we just left them alone. All we do by getting involved in their fates is make ourselves unhappy but paid, and we get tired along the way.

The jobs might be leaving us alone soon anyway. Capitalism interprets a salary as a constant drain of capital, and does its level best to eliminate that. For service jobs this means doing less service, making the customers unhappy and making the remaining staff tired and unhappy. For office jobs this means never getting electrons to where they’re supposed to be, because otherwise you’d be an obvious mark for layoffs.

I know my father eventually moved to a job as an ISO 9000 consultant. In that role he ordered companies to put together a list of every word they had ever used for everything they had ever done. Then they put that into a cross-referenced volume of every document every word had ever appeared in. By the time that was done, the company might qualify for a certificate. Or my father had to explain what they had to do again, using different words and Happy Meal toys to get the point across. As a kid, I’d have been better off if he just told me he taught companies how to clap. Sometimes he probably did.

My January 2014 Popularity Contest


Since it’s a new month and all that, let me look back at how successful it was in terms of being read. According to WordPress for January 2014, I had 337 views — up from 301 in December 2013 — but only 153 unique visitors — down from 168 — which has this silver lining: the number of pages each visitor looked at, on average, rose from 1.79 to 2.20. That’s heartening, because I like to think they’re not just reading the spaces and the paragraph breaks, as there’s not enough of that to be a fifth of a page. There’ve ben only two months where I had a higher views-per-visitor ratio, and this puts me even with February 2013, when I started, which is about what I should have expected.

Anyway, the most popular articles of the past thirty days haven’t included any of the silent movies or S J Perelman bits, which is a bit heartening. The top of them — there was a four-way tie for fourth place — comes to:

  1. Poising For Success, for which I might have accidentally optimized my search engineness.
  2. Giving The People What They Want, my yielding to the fact that Kinks allusions and lists of countries are well-liked, and you all thought I was kidding.
  3. I Dance Horribly, a confession.
  4. Unbeknownst, about a word I thought had fallen out of use, and which hasn’t, and boy do people like reading about that fact.
  5. Why It Is Known As Frontier Airlines, which is probably popular because I was venting my frustration at the airline.
  6. The Mysteries Of Modern Recording, about trying to figure out how this weird Hanna-Barbera record could have existed.
  7. Statistics Saturday, again, giving in to how lists of stuff are popular and see if they’re not.

The countries sending me the most readers this time around were the United States (261), Canada (19), and the United Kingdom (11). There were only five countries sending me a lone reader: Chile, Indonesia, Malaysia, Morocco, and the United Arab Emirates. None of them were on the roster of single-visitor countries last time, so I’m working my way through the world, eventually. I should get souvenirs.

It didn’t make the monthly top roster, but for a short while this week How I Started Consulting was one of the top-articles-of-the-last-day (or however it is they judge the things on the sidebar there), and I looked at it and realized I had forgotten it entirely and was pretty amused by the thing, so let me throw that in as something I liked and maybe you will too if you haven’t seen it already.

Marvels of Science Fiction


I really like there’s this streak of science fiction stories where the protagonist can be dropped down on some planet, discover that the tippity top ultra super duper secret organization he works for went and stopped being organized while he was in transit, and so he sets out and by page 188 has overthrown the local government and set himself up in charge of the liberation of society from whatever the organization was sending him out over for. (I think there should be some more prepositions at the end there; please season to taste.) This is all starting without any contacts, no money, and no possessions but the clothes he’s wearing and maybe a return ticket good for being stuffed into a sack of space-rocket mail and pitched overboard somewhere near another planet. And here I can’t figure out how to network my way into a couple days of consulting on stuff, even though the competent people in my family can barely send out a snarky tweet without getting an offer for a two-week cross-country trip and four-star hotel lodging in exchange for a ten-minute talk. I just marvel at it.

The tippety top ultra super duper secret organizations are pretty lucky their trained secret agent protagonists spend most of their time taking over the space colonies instead of taking over tippety top ultra super duper secret organizations, come to think of it.

Where Has My Buzz Gone


I finally learned why it’s been so hard building any kind of buzz for my little humor blog here. Buzz is an essential component of building a blog that doesn’t peter out after a couple of months and become a series of “Sorry I haven’t been writing more but I’m going to get back into it now” messages at 78-week intervals.

It turns out — and I had no idea — that one of the key ingredients of buzz is molybdenum. Can you believe that I haven’t had any since I did the big apartment-cleaning ahead of moving out of my grad school apartment? I feel like an utter fool carrying on, and it’s only been the supportive phone calls of Pablo Bascur, the founder and CEO of the Chilean molybdenum consulting firm MolyExp, that’s kept me going. “It’s all right,” he’s explained, “Nobody ever tells you these things, and any responsible blogging platform should when you sign up.” Thanks, Pablo. Friends forever.

He couldn’t set me up with any right away, because of futures exchanges, but he did point out they expect there to be a tolerable surplus of molybdenum production this year as the word appears in more spelling bees.

Hype, meanwhile, looks to be in plenty supply as its most critical ingredient — nickel — continues record production levels. So I’ve got that right at least.

Molybdenum, man. I just … well, again, thanks, Pablo. I just have to tailor my writing to my molybdenum needs is all.

How I Started Consulting


So I realized I could use a little more income, at least for a couple of months. My first instinct naturally was to set a little money trap on the lawn, but our pet rabbit said I looked like an idiot holding a string tied to a stick that propped open a little box and that anyway I didn’t even know how to bait a money trap. I thought seat cushions would do it for sure, but all I did get were the peanut sprinkles from the tops of doughnuts. This lead me to the alternative route of consulting.

Consulting, I learned from my father, is pretty sweet work. The core of it is to find a company that wants to do a thing, walk around their offices while wearing a suit and nodding grimly, and then handing out a thick set of binders and tell them to go ahead with whatever they wanted to do, and then submit an invoice. It’s a toss-up which is the harder part, the nodding grimly or the suit-wearing, because I have these weird mutant feet that curve way too far to fit in any shoes. If I fit my heels into the shoe heels, my toes rip through the front of the shoes, and vice-versa; I’ve lost many heels to a stubborn shoe. The last comfortable pair of dress shoes I had featured a little sidecar shoe for my heels, causing people to stare at my feet and then sidle away. This was fine when I was someplace as an employee and not responsible for my presence or appearance, but it won’t do when I’m representing myself. I set out wearing the shoe boxes as camouflage.

Continue reading “How I Started Consulting”

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