The economy wants me to be evil or useless

I’ve been encouraged to apply for this job at UCAR in the research applications group.  It would involve managing real-time meteorological data for the FAA.  Ingest.  Re-organize.  Excrete.  Databases and GIS.  Systems integration.  Source control.  I’m probably qualified for it.  It would probably pay well.  It would be a ten minute bike ride from downtown, with good healthcare and retirement benefits.  Except.  But.  However.

I’m not inspired.  Flying is already ridiculously safe.  We shouldn’t be putting any resources into trying to make it safer.  They’d be better deployed in the service of bikes and pedestrians.  Flying is unethical.  It’s not something everyone can do.  It’s one of the forbidden things.  It represents a large chunk of the average American’s power consumption.  It enables crappy, distributed, wandering social circles with no cohesion.  Long distance families.  The ghosts of friendships past.  It’s wonderful too of course, for crossing oceans and exploring far off lands, but it doesn’t really get used for that much.  It’s business trips and package tours.  Six nights and seven days, all inclusive.  Someone should start a black-market cruise line.  Cushy container living.  Oakland-Singapore in 3 weeks.  Unlimited checked baggage, but you better bring a book.  Or ten.  Plus food, water, and oxygen.  They already provide power hookups for the refrigerated boxes.  Surely this is a deviant economic opportunity.

But maybe I could move into something else at UCAR.  Eventually.  Soon?  Are they really going to start a climate adaptation group?  Who pays for that?  The re-insurance industry?  Or would I end up bugging out and biking to Argentina once I had a psychological cash pad.  Not that there’d be anything wrong with that.  From my point of view anyway.

Why do there seem to be so many more opportunities to do useless or evil things, and get rewarded handsomely for it?  Are they buying off your conscience?  If it was good, would you have to be paid to do it?  Is that really the economy we’ve built?  I don’t want to believe it.  I don’t believe it.  But it takes some will.

Benevolent bicycle propagandist?  How well does that pay?  Open source transit software developer?  Energy efficiency modeler?  GE pays negative $2.3 billion in taxes while the Federal government kills every PACE program in the country.

The NSIDC data monkey job finally got filled.  Or deleted.  I didn’t really want to watch the icecaps melt anyway.  Not even in a professional capacity.  Meanwhile I submitted a paper to JGR Planets for publication on… whatever.  All the NASA flagship missions got canceled de-funded anyway.  So good to know I’m not the only one who doesn’t care.

Will Bryan really head off on his round the world tour come summer?  If someone asked me to roll south under my own power into Old New Spain, would I really say no?

By Zane Selvans

A former space explorer, now marooned on a beautiful, dying world.

5 replies on “The economy wants me to be evil or useless”

Yeah, this is what I was complaining about the other day when I was bitching about cash-starved nonprofits vs. corporations.

I went for the compromise of doing something useless for as long as I could stand it and saving the good wages, then switching to nonprofit wages once I was sure my retirement was secured by the useless-work savings. Those years of uselessness were tough. Sometimes it occurred to me that having a conscience is a luxury – I wasn’t starving in Africa or in a burqa in Afghanistan, so I had the energy available to desire more meaning in my life. But that didn’t really make the useless years any easier.

I made a similar compromise as Ann while paying my way through school. I was pretty happy and felt very lucky after graduating to have found a full time job that was not only financially rewarding, but fun, interesting, and semi-purposeful. I just wish that I could have managed to keep at it long enough to retire permanently after. Instead, I’ll someday have to make a similar choice to the one you are facing. I suspect that my own options will be much more limited to yours since I’ve been out of the industry for so long. Once you are out and over a certain age, you don’t really ever get welcomed back. Not sure that I really want to go that way, anyway. But, on the other hand, if I spend so much time and effort at a job, it would be nice if it was at least somewhat financially rewarding (along with fun and interesting and not evil).

Would you gain any skills or free training in this less desirable job that could translate to you doing something more meaningful and interesting in the future? It might be worth contemplating a job that would clearly give you a step up towards a future goal…..

Have you thought about applying for grant money to do bicycle advocacy or counts? Looks like Bikes Belong sometimes hands out grants.

I loathe the thought of doing another stint of working in preparation for something else. Grad school felt like that for the last 4 of 7 years, and it was a kind of self-inflicted psychological torture. Burning through my finite brain cycles. Eventually, it just ends up being working in preparation for dying.

I have been thinking about applying to Bikes Belong actually. I talked to Krista last week about the possibility of building a crowd-sourced mobile device based bike/ped counting system, and she seemed enthusiastic. I need to write up a 1-2 page pitch and go talk to to Tim Blumenthal.

I went to the Boulder Green Drinks last night too (Kira dragged me out kicking and screaming… well, almost), and talked to a few people. It was a weird (well, maybe normal for Boulder) mix of wingnuts and legitimate entrepreneurial types. Easy to get boxed in by the wingnuts. Hard to actively walk away to find the next real person to talk to. But anyway, iSupportU, the little bike-based IT support company down the alleyway from me is moving into new, larger digs on Pearl and expanding their business. It turns out they also do IT infrastructure consulting for local businesses, and they’re growing. They’re having a grand opening party on Friday and I’m definitely going to go talk about what kind of skills they’re looking for. If nothing else it would be great to be involved in a small and emphatically local business scene.

Heh, thanks! I’ll keep that in mind if I fork up my repair again. 🙂 Working for small, new companies can be really, really fun and exciting. I hope you two are a good match for each other!!

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