"When I was young, we had to cook our food over an open fire while fending off all manner of dangerous animals. It really sucks that people can use ovens now and live in houses."
"Lucky. I had to absorb particles through my cellular membrane."
"Ah, the good ole days… I remember those delicious amino acids…"
"You were lucky. We didn’t have membranes, or organelles. We just had naked RNA floating about in a lipid bilayer, desperately cranking away at the enzyme mill. You young’uns with your amino acids and peptide chains don’t even know how hard it was before protein was invented."
"Don’t make me laugh! You don’t know how hard it can be to wait for the energy which makes a quantum leap possible, you fancy multi-molecular structures."
"Pish posh. You atomic structures don’t know how good you have it, all spread out over a huge universe. Back in my day, we were all jammed in to the same cosmic egg, just waiting for the big bang. Infinite particles of matter and energy, and from a personal space perspective we made Tokyo look like Greenland."
"Matter? Energy? Ooh la-di-dah, Mr. "existence" over here!"
"Einstein asked me to tell you to stop repeating yourself."
"God called. He said get on with it."
It wasn’t a luxury at the time. It was a necessity. I couldn’t compete with H1B workers. I couldn’t convince an Indian hiring manager to consider hiring me instead of his brother in law from Bangalore. Skills don’t matter. Competence doesn’t matter. Even price doesn’t matter that much. And too much experience only means you’re too old. It’s discrimination pure and simple. Everyone I knew was in the same boat so my networks made no difference.
By the time they started hiring American citizens again the point was moot. My resume didn’t have enough work experience with the very latest fad technologies. My age was against me. And I was already well up the learning curve of being an independent. And we all know as soon as there are more visas the American programmers will be out on the street again.
If a client needs a job done I can get it done and get it done well for less time and money than it would take corporate America. And I won’t rip him off or jerk him around like some guy in Russia will probably do. Both sides win and there’s no middleman.
The corporate world is poison. There’s no upside to it, none at all. It used to be it offered steady work while it was undermining your soul. Now that it no longer offers steady work there’s nothing at all on the plus side of the ledger.
I won’t ever hire another technical person as an employee. I don’t want to be in employer-employee relationship with anyone who is my intellectual equal. If I need one I’ll partner with one or do a joint venture.
If I wanted to boss underlings around and toady up to weaselly arseholes in expensive suits I’d have gone into management many years ago. I had the chance in 1994 but I just couldn’t stomach it. I decided to keep my basic decency. I paid a steep price for that for a while there but I think I came out ahead in the end.
I don’t need to grow into a big concern. I don’t need to be a big shot. All I need is to make a living, keep my self respect and be on good terms with my fellow man.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
After learning my flight was detained 4 hours,
I heard the announcement:
If anyone in the vicinity of gate 4-A understands any Arabic,
Please come to the gate immediately.
Well—one pauses these days. Gate 4-A was my own gate. I went there.
An older woman in full traditional Palestinian dress,
Just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing loudly.
Help, said the flight service person. Talk to her. What is her
Problem? we told her the flight was going to be four hours late and she
I put my arm around her and spoke to her haltingly.
Shu dow-a, shu- biduck habibti, stani stani schway, min fadlick,
Sho bit se-wee?
The minute she heard any words she knew—however poorly used—
She stopped crying.
She thought our flight had been canceled entirely.
She needed to be in El Paso for some major medical treatment the
Following day. I said no, no, we’re fine, you’ll get there, just late,
Who is picking you up? Let’s call him and tell him.
We called her son and I spoke with him in English.
I told him I would stay with his mother till we got on the plane and
Would ride next to her—Southwest.
She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just for the fun of it.
Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while in Arabic and
Found out of course they had ten shared friends.
Then I thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian
Poets I know and let them chat with her. This all took up about 2 hours.
She was laughing a lot by then. Telling about her life. Answering
She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool cookies—little powdered
Sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and nuts—out of her bag—
And was offering them to all the women at the gate.
To my amazement, not a single woman declined one. It was like a
Sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the traveler from California,
The lovely woman from Laredo—we were all covered with the same
Powdered sugar. And smiling. There are no better cookies.
And then the airline broke out the free beverages from huge coolers—
Non-alcoholic—and the two little girls for our flight, one African
American, one Mexican American—ran around serving us all apple juice
And lemonade and they were covered with powdered sugar too.
And I noticed my new best friend—by now we were holding hands—
Had a potted plant poking out of her bag, some medicinal thing,
With green furry leaves. Such an old country traveling tradition. Always
Carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.
And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and thought,
This is the world I want to live in. The shared world.
Not a single person in this gate—once the crying of confusion stopped
—has seemed apprehensive about any other person.
They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other women too.
This can still happen anywhere.
Not everything is lost.
"I was walking along the bank of a stream when I saw a mother otter with her cubs. A very endearing sight, and as I watched, the mother otter dived into the water and came up with a plump salmon, which she subdued and dragged on to a half-submerged log. As she ate it, while of course it was still alive, the body split and I remember to this day the sweet pinkness of its roes as they spilled out, much to the delight of the baby otters who scrambled over themselves to feed on the delicacy. One of nature’s wonders: mother and children dining upon mother and children. And that’s when I first learned about evil. It is built in to the very nature of the universe. If there is any kind of supreme being, I told myself, it is up to all of us to become his moral superior."
… So you have 3 cookies, and you want to divide them equally between 4 people. Because there are more people than cookies, nobody gets a cookie and you’ve got a remainder of 3 cookies for yourself. :)
…At which point the other three people jump you and take your cookies.
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