Sunday, January 23, 2011

Two steps forward, three steps back

I lost my job before I even had it.

In the space between my acceptance of the offer and the start date, the company was sold and all new hires (meaning me, since there are only 2 staff members in Australia) were put on indefinite hold.

The strange thing is, I can't say I'm surprised. The boss was pretty flaky, like a freshly baked croissant. Every interaction I had with him had something weird going on.

Not that he's alone: I am amazed at the number of employers who tell me they'll call me two days after the interview... and I never hear from them again. Would it kill them to pick up the phone and say, "Never mind, we're not interested after all?" Even worse is when I hear from a different recruiter that they're still trying to fill the same position... months after they didn't call me back. You know, if they had hired me, instead of still looking for a employee they'd have their problem solved by now.

But that's only half the companies. The other half are perfectly reasonable. I just wish I could figure out which ones are the flakes before the interview, instead of after.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Another American

I met another American today. We needed new keys cut for the Toyota, but the locksmith couldn't come to us. We had to go to his house because the software he had to use only ran on an XP computer, and he only had Windows 7 in his van.

Yes, that's right, his van was not compatible with Windows XP. I could almost give Microsoft a pass on this (who expects automobiles to be a standard peripheral?), but I won't, because I hate them that much.

Anyway, she had finally gotten her work permit, and with a little embarrassment admitted she had started her career at the bottom, as a Department Store greeter... for $21 an hour.

Meanwhile, I'm taking a pay cut to write software that makes expensive equipment not blow up.

This whole egalitarian thing is a lot easier to swallow in theory than it is in fact. I mean, it's all well and good to say that all people are equal and work is work, but when you say I don't deserve a TV that's 3 times as large as everyone else's, then it gets personal.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Another day, another stack of cash spent

Here's my latest purchase in preparation for work:

Since I'll be spending at least an hour a day in the car, no matter what job I get, I wanted a car I actually fit in. And Sara wanted dual air bags. Like I'm not enough of a gasbag for her!

The thing that makes it Australian is this:

That's an LPG cylinder. Liquid Propane Gas stores less energy than petrol (as it is so quaintly called here), so you get about 80% of the work out of a liter. But a liter of LPG costs half as a much as a liter of petrol. So I expect to save $1,000 a year just on fuel costs.

All for the trivial inconvenience of having a huge bottle of explosive gas in my boot.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A tough act to follow

Sara's book has been nominated for the Philip K. Dick award!

Philip K. Dick award Nominees announced

This is one of the most prestigious awards in the industry. Just being on the short list is a real achievement. I'm very happy for her, even if she did wake me up early to brag about it.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The End is Nigh!

The end has arrived. This eschalotical event is heralded by the unthinkable:

Sara and I got cellphones.

I don't understand the whole obsession with phones. We decided how much we needed to spend (29$ a month), then picked a carrier we trusted (Virgin). After that we had like 2 choices in phones. So really, the huge galaxy of different models did not impact our decision at all. I gather that's not the normal way to do it?

We are now struggling to master these perfidious new devices. The first step was inserting the sim card. We had to call tech support. Apparently the little snap-frame in the corner is for memory cards; the sim goes in a nigh-invisible slot above the obvious connection.

I managed to take a picture of one of the phones and email it to myself, so that's something. And we picked out wallpapers and ringtones from the defaults provided (though I've already forgotten what they sound like). On the other hand, the dang thing just made some kind of new sound, and I have no idea what it meant. If this is my last post, it means Mossad found me...

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The event has finally occurred...

I met another American!

He was a young kid from SoCal working in a cell phone store. Didn't have a chance to talk long, but I had enough time to complain about how everything costs twice as much here.

He said, "Ya, but you get paid twice as much!"

I shook my head and said, "Not at the high end."

He was quite surprised, but then so was I.

We were in the cell phone store because we need phones now. We were also car shopping and looking for a place to rent in earnest. I finally got a job offer. The salary is not what I was hoping for, but it's enough to live off of, and I might be able to fix it later. It's in a small shop (by small I mean I am the 3rd guy!), so it's a chance to do really put my own stamp on the software, which is always more satisfying than writing one cog of a hundred-thousand part machine.

Anyway, I start in a week and a half, so we're rushing around trying to restart our interrupted lives. It turns out used cars are not actually that cheap. Dang it.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

What hath we wrought?

We have created a monster. The baby has learned to crawl.

Now if you plop her down in a corner, expecting her to be there when you get back, you will be dismayed. The little monster scoots everywhere, picks up everything, and puts it in her mouth. Do you have any idea what this does to electrical circuitry?

We have had to resort to bars to keep the creature confined. Its caterwauling, however, has only become more agonizing. I suspect some kind of frequency distribution targeted to the human nervous system. The creature waits for the most unexpected times - say, 4:00 AM - before cutting loose with its auditory assault.

More disturbing, just yesterday it learned to hide under a blanket. When we expressed surprise at its sudden return to visibility, it cackled with unabashed evil glee. Does this sudden ability with subterfuge harken a more dangerous future? I shudder to think of the creature developing sufficient intellect to utilize weapons, but my co-conspirator in this research is dismissive of my fears. And perhaps she is right - the monster's claws, when applied to unprotected skin, are sufficiently painful. I have considered only approaching when suitably armored, but my partner assures me this will only display weakness, an admission I concede we dare not make.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

How can you tell if you live in a banana republic?

When this is the local news, you might have to think about it:

Sheriff Dupnik also made a passionate plea for cooler heads to prevail in political debate, decrying the vitriolic tone of some talk radio hosts.

When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government. The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous. And, unfortunately, Arizona I think has become sort of the Capital. We have become the Mecca for prejudice and bigotry.

Dupnik later added that such "vitriol might be free speech, but it's not without consequences."

Sheriff: Shooter in custody, seeking person of interest

My condolences to the families of the slain and wounded.

It would be nice to think that somewhere, someone might think about dialing back the rhetoric, but I can't think that because I am not delusional.

Suffice to say I am glad to be here, and not there. But I am very sad to be thusly made glad.

Friday, January 7, 2011

The difference between here and there

Here, Julia Guillard doesn't believe in God:

FAINE: Do you believe in God?

PM: No, I don't Jon, I'm not a religious person.

PM tells it as she sees it on the God issue

There, Bill O'Reilly doesn't believe in the moon:

“I’ll tell you why [religion is] not a scam, in my opinion,” he told Silverman. “Tide goes in, tide goes out. Never a miscommunication. You can’t explain that. You can’t explain why the tide goes in.”

Bill O'Reilly on Science: You Can't Explain the Tides

Well, then. I guess I'll stop nit-picking the flaws in my new homeland.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A simple solution

Astonishing idea: to beat back poverty, pay the poor.

Yes, it looks like the dreaded "wealth distribution" that every red-blooded American knows is just a bus stop on the way to full-fledged socialism and the loss of gun rights. And of course, the logical conclusion that giving money to poor people will make them less poor is difficult for many political idealogues to grasp.

However, there is a deeper effect to these programs: keeping kids healthy and in school. Once upon a time in America, this was called "investing in the future." We've stopped talking about that; I guess an educated populace doesn't produce a good quarterly return.

Here in Australia, the effect is even deeper. I took two nephews to a movie the other day ($61 for 3 tickets, 3 sodas, and a popcorn!) and while I was moaning about the price, I mentioned to the ticket girl that in America she would be making $7.50 an hour. She blanched and told me what she gets paid here: $18 an hour.

$18 an hour to sell tickets. By definition, unskilled labor. Now it's true everything here costs twice as much, so she isn't that much better off than a minimum-wage worker in America, save for health care, 4 weeks vacation, and guaranteed university access. But it's also true that people at my end of the pay scale make about the same as they do in the USA (or perhaps %20 more). What this means is that the economic disparity is less than in the USA.

And that's a good thing. Just lowering economic disparity is shown to relieve all sorts of social ills and pressures. Like crime. Amazing that these free-market mavens want to let the free market set prices for labor, and then are surprised that so many people choose to enter the self-employment market as burglars and smugglers.

I confess I had a moment of culture shock when I realized my skills were only worth 3x as much as an unskilled laborer's, instead of 6x as much. And there are many, many cracks in my socialist paradise: dental care is not free, every single one of my nieces and nephews go to private schools (as do 25% of this state's children), the housing tax policy makes no sense, gambling winnings are tax free (because the state owns all the gambling concessions!), and so on. It's no Socialist's paradise; the place is shot through with political compromise and free-market mechanisms. It's not like, say, Sweden.

But what it is, is working. The minimum wage here is $15 a hour, so that ticket seller is actually making more than minimum wage. So the government is no longer the absolute floor in the market for wages. People aren't getting paid by government fiat; rather, the government is creating a particular type of society by choosing a particular economic policy.

But there I go again, assuming that the goal of public policy is to produce effects, rather than to display loyalty to an ideology.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The life-cycle of a political activist

I don't really want to do partisan politics on this blog, but this item falls under the heading Philosophy. Or irony, which is often much the same.

A woman who feels that government is too intrusive and politicians are meddlesome busybodies (or just plain evil) decides to become an activist to save America. She joins the Tea Party. She quits her job at a florist to be a full-time volunteer. She has considerable success due to her hard work, skill, and unwavering faith in the righteousness of her cause. And finally, this lovely caterpillar earns her wings.

That's right, she gets a new job... working for a politician.

Tea Party activist

I'm not objecting to how this story unfolds. After all, I think government should be comprised of intelligent, hard-working people who believe they can and should make a difference.

I'm just amused by the lack of recognition of fundamental hypocrisy. Wait, no, amused is not really the right word...