Monday, June 29, 2015

Supreme Courtship

Last week was momentous for a number of reasons, many of them having to do with the U.S. Supreme Court, affectionately known as SCOTUS. Just a few of the Court’s stunning decisions were:
  1. The government is allowed to make it easier for poor people to buy health insurance.
  2. Housing practices can be discriminatory even if the landlords didn’t write a letter to The New York Times saying: “I’m gonna commit discrimination!”
  3. Two people can get married even if they have the same pee-pee parts.
In addition, conservatives discovered that giving up the Confederate flag is all it takes to appease gun control advocates for a while. Now they’ll have to devise more symbols to renounce.

Meanwhile, the Republican field grows ever wider and weirder. The GOP, that for years tried to recreate Reagan’s winning strategy of having an actor portray an intelligent, caring person, no longer seem to see the need for that.

Now if we can just get some action on climate change, we might survive long enough to enjoy all this grooviness.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Friday, June 19, 2015


In this country, biking is not just about riding a bicycle. It’s a state of mind. And a fairly complex one at that.

First, biking is about independence. There’s a tremendous sense of empowerment that comes with the ability to jump on a bike and, with no gas or oil or electricity, or even roads, to go almost anywhere. Under your own power. And even a moderately competent person can maintain a bike. That’s liberation, with just a hint of self-righteous smugness.

There’s also an element of subversiveness to biking. Let’s face it. Unlike much of the rest of the world, in this country, biking is something of an act of defiance. It’s a way of thumbing your nose1 not only at the hordes of people bumbling around in cars and SUVs, but at the energy companies that are the very fabric of our country. It’s a way of just saying “no” to the industries and market forces that want you to knuckle under and behave like everyone else.

And still, in addition to all the health benefits and stress reduction and environmental benefits to biking, there’s also a strong sense of community. Bikers are a kind of tribe, perhaps because of that shared sense of independence and subversiveness. Boston has a lot of bike-oriented events, including bike breakfasts, commuter convoys, cycle celebrations and other alliterative activities. And at all of these, you see hundreds of strangers come together, talking about their latest traffic nightmare or the latest gear they’ve started using or the best route from A to B. That’s powerful. That shared sense of identity as bikers helps to form some very strong bonds.

Of course, there are still assholes. You always get those.

1Does anyone still do that?

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Good Job Hunting

Having just completed (successfully!) a fairly extensive job hunt, I feel obliged to report on the situation.

I set out to find a position with the title UI Designer. In today’s market, UI Designer really means UI Developer, which really means Web Developer, which, in turn, means Whatever We Have For You To Do Doer.1

To begin, I carefully considered all the factors that contribute to job satisfaction or dissatisfaction. They are, in order or priority:
  1. Good coffee
  2. Interesting work
  3. Compensation and benefits
  4. Reasonably quiet, comfortable work environment
  5. Laudable enterprise goals and ethics
  6. Did I mention coffee?
With this list in mind, I began my search. I determined that the best job search engine was, except for, which is actually the best except for One key feature of is that it allows current and former employees to write reviews of a company, so you can read the scathing opinions of disgruntled exes who either left or were laid off or fired. This may or may not help you assess the company, but it’s an entertaining distraction.

Once you’ve narrowed down the options, you can apply online to these companies, using one or another automatic resume blocking service. These sites allow you to upload your carefully formatted resume, and then completely re-type it into various form fields. Be careful with these forms. If the job requires, for example, 8 years of experience with JavaScript, and you’ve had 7 years and 10 months, your application will be electronically shredded.

The surprise ending, though, is that the whole list of job satisfaction points that I so carefully compiled means nothing. Well, ok, not the coffee. But really, job satisfaction has little or nothing to do with office space or even compensation and benefits.

It’s really about challenge and accomplishment. You’ve got to have both of these. And in the right proportions. Too much challenge and you just feel frustrated all the time. Too much accomplishment is boring. The perfect balance is given by:

where A is some number having something to do with accomplishment, and C is some number having to do with … well, you get the idea. The point is that you need both. And you have to make it happen. Any job can start out great, but over time, as your skills and interests evolve, you’ll find ways to get involved in different things and grow into new roles.

And if you get stuck in a situation where you can’t do that … well, that’s why I started searching.

1Note that anything that could be construed as vaguely critical in this post emphatically does not apply to my current employer. My current employer is perfect!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Who's Hotter?

... or ...
... or ...

Monday, June 1, 2015

How Things Stand

Those of you who have been following this blog for a while, either willingly or because you’ve been unable to discover the secret method of unsubscribing, may have noticed a sharp decline in the frequency of posts over the past few months. There are several reasons for this:
  1. There’s actually been a sharp decline in the frequency of posts over the past few months.
  2. Since roughly February 6 at 2:47 PM, I have been besieged by issues, both personal and professional1, that have sucked up my time as if it were green tea flavored bubble tea.2
  3. The world, in general, isn’t funny anymore.
Let me elaborate on this last point. Global funniness reached its peak in 1949, when post-war euphoria combined with technological breakthroughs to create the air age, precursor to the space age. By the mid- to late 1950’s, however, a lot of returning Korean War veterans donned suits, assumed aliases and became part of the commercio-industrial complex known as Madison Avenue (or Madison Ave., for short). These suito-businessmen ushered in an era of … um, business, which, as we all know, is not funny.

Funniness enjoyed a brief resurgence in the late 1960’s, when people were high enough to laugh at anything, but Nixon, Agnew, Ford and the rest of them quickly put an end to that.

However, the major issue is not one of humor desensitization. Rather, real life has become so absurd as to render humor superfluous. Consider, for example, Senator Ted Cruz’s pleas for federal aid for flood-stricken Texas, after condemning similar aid programs for hurricane ravaged areas in the Northeast. Or the fact that the gray lady herself, The New York Times, devoted half the front (Web) page to the arrests of a bunch of corrupt soccer executives. Or the fact that soccer has executives.

As Dr. Warren Edelman, fictitious Professor of Sociology at Columbia University, has said, “Many a joke is spoken in jest.” Truer words were never spoken.3

1Despite the millions of dollars that I earn from speaking engagements and the sales of TechCurmudgeon merchandise, I continue to hold a day job to maintain the appearance of normalcy.

2My time is, in fact, taro flavored bubble tea.

3In fact, these words may never have been spoken.