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Sunday, January 3, 2010

A Muse Yourself

Life begins at forty I have heard, but I could be mistaken. Maybe it was "life begins at fired". Both these occurred within about three weeks of each other so my actual delivery date is ambiguous. As far as work is concerned, I can't say I'm really "missing" it. I graduated with a romantic desire to work in some new green technology. My enthusiasm collided with a faltering economy and I ended up working for a Dutch software company writing code to simulate oil field production. OK, I did it for the money. Somewhere between graduating and the job that would kill my passion, someone told me that true responsibility lied in a steady paycheck, health insurance (see Flu as a pre-existing condition), and giving up my bicycle as transportation for a car. I became a proper consuming, polluting, and productive member of society. This is what happens when you do not follow your muse.
First, what exactly is your muse? What they don't tell you is that there are more than one. There are, in fact, nine muses according to the Greeks or Romans. Your choices range from Calliope (epic poetry) to Melpomene (tragedy) and variations in-between possibly involving dancing or playing the flute. I believe we could create more modern versions of these muses such as: Blogonia (politics), Yogaerpe (holistic health), or Ployspamnia (web development). We may even create hybrid muses for specific interests, such as: Thaliablogonia (political humor). One kind of muse you will not find is one centered around social stability or the pursuit of money which brings me back to my last employment.
My boss decided to task me with scheduling lunch hour lectures. My co-workers grew to hate me as my task turned into cajoling them into standing in front of the entire company and talking instead of eating. The upshot was we could talk about anything we wanted with special butt kissing points awarded to anyone who could make our miserable job look exciting. My own lecture was on the compelling topic of "peak oil". For those who are unaware of what this means, it's when the easy oil is taped out and the remaining oil fields become economically unfeasible to develop (think tar sands). The term develop is actually a misnomer. oil is not developed but removed from the ground and replaced with seawater, but developed sounds more creative and innovative. The United States hit peak oil back in the mid seventies. That's why we import so much now. Anyhow, my lecture, complete with graphs and figures, comes to an end and all I see are stunned co-workers and supervisors. "So what you are saying Charley is we are in a dying business?" I hate to give happy go lucky geeks bad news but I thought it might be important. To the main boss this was almost treason. Lectures were meant to raise moral, rally the troops, and to develop a sense of guilt and servitude toward the company. Whatever reason my boss had for terminating my contract doesn't really matter. The point is that I am free. I can only blame myself if I get into another working situation that drains the hemoglobin from my vitals. I might do better becoming a carbon neutral street performer or following the muse of Ecobuskina .


  1. Hilarious!

    If your boss had been smart he would have promoted you with a commensurate raise.

  2. I've been doing some research on clean, alternative energy recently. Check out Sapphire Energy. They got $100 mill from one of Bill Gates' foundations in 2008. They just received $104 mill in grants and guaranteed loans from the feds in the American Renewal and Reinvestment Act in December. Fuel from algae. They're based in San Diego, but they have one operation on the West Mesa outside of ABQ and are opening a main plant, I think, in Columbus, NM. Carbon-based fuel IS a dying industry unless they innovate. IBM had to move from typewriters to computers, and did. The hubris of carbon-based fuel companies is staggering.

  3. God that sounds familiar. I think I'm on the same path as you, only I got fired a year ago. Me, I was product manager leading a team of software engineers writing GPS software.

    Can't say I miss it at all. But eventually I suppose I will miss the money. I remember being upset as I cleaned out my dilbert-cube. But then, 15 minutes later I was driving down the highway with the sunroof down and good music on the stereo and I realized that this was the most pleasant weekday morning I'd spent in months!

    Enjoying not working greatly, although I suppose at some point I'll miss the money. Probably should sell the car with the nice sunroof now. :)

    So, here's the big question. As formerly employed left-leaning software geeks, what could we possibly do together to both sustain ourselves in this world when the unemployment $ run out, and also to help make this world a better place.

    That's what I want out of my next job. To be working either for myself or with/together/for people I like. And to be doing something that makes the world better?

    And I'm guessing that the people with money aren't likely to just hand me this, and its probably too big to do by myself. Thus, the thought of the day for me as I read this is to wonder what we, and others in a similar situation, as I'm sure us leftists caught the worse of the layoffs, can do to band together and create something.


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