grandmother of this grove
I follow turkey feathers and deer scat to your doorstep,
a wall of weeping tendrils quietly crying
somber celebration of Spring.
Snows have vanished, revealing secrets
left by raptors roosting in your tangled arms
twiggy chambers criss-crossing
dissecting spaces warm and inviting.
Thimbles of fur scattered about
and the remains of feathery feasts
Last Year’s cicada skin somehow preserved
under your permanent security.
I cautiously invade your sacred circle
as intruder asking permission to enter,
to run hands over smooth bark,
to contemplate lazy streams of slow-moving sap.
I place a finger
gently collecting a single drop of your golden juice
dabbing on wrists a sticky forest perfume.
Soft spiked arms hug my shoulders
a green shawl draped heavy across my chest.
I’ve waited for this embrace.
You give me everything by caring not,
Nature’s apathy my deep comfort.
With the wind you respond
infinite hands reaching to the sky:
“Stand up, dear one, and love with all your heart.”
WHAT VEGANS EAT ON BIKE TOUR
When I started eating vegan meals one year ago, I started fielding questions vegans attract constantly: “How do you get your protein?” and “How can you sustain the energy you need with just vegetables?” and “OMG RLY YOU DON’T EAT CHEESE AND YOU LIVE IN WISCONSIN?” Stuff like that. Thank goodness my beau James, a seasoned vegan with strong arguments, handed me his copy of Becoming Vegan by Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina, a veritable vegan bible delving deeply into the nutritional sciences. Being also an avid bike tourist, James was able to guide me as we packed food for my first vegan bike tour this past year.
Before I get too far into this posting, I want to note that I do not label myself “vegan;” I do consume hunted and gathered meats several times a year, as well as eggs from the rescued backyard chickens I help maintain. I do not consume animal product whose origins I do not intimately understand and participate in. I share this disclaimer for those who know me and could be sensitive about my use of the term.
Back to mid-winter wanderlusting over summer bike tours….
James and I completed a 360-mile tour through southwestern Wisconsin last fall. I called it the “Euglena Tour” because the shape of our route’s loop resembled that of the microscopic, single-celled flagellate. James described it as the more mundane “Peanut.” At any rate, I started learning about touring-while-vegan leading up to this ride, as James and I had taken several overnight trips throughout the summer. Pre-vegan, I often relied on dense salty snacks like jerky to get me through a bonk while touring, or blocks of cheese to fill my tummy with fatty goodness. The occasional diner breakfasts of buttermilk pancakes or tavern dinners of juicy cheeseburgers would provide sustenance and relief from having to prepare my own meals over camp stove. Needless to say, there would be no mental-health ice cream breaks from here on out, or at least a lot fewer of them, as vegan ice cream is hard to come by outside of the city.
So what were my new staples as far as snacks, bonk-relief, and hearty, lightweight, packable meals on the road?
Enter Field Roast vegan meats. Yes, please enter those directly into my mouth. James turned me on to the Field Roast brand early in our relationship, and their grain-based vegan meats have been a key part of our bike travels. Although not the easiest product to find on the road, and certainly not the most affordable, their franks and brats offer dense protein and easy digestibility to our hungry biker bellies. They’re also compact and can last a few days unrefrigerated (against the company’s suggestions, by the way). We’re lucky to live in a part of the U.S. where packs of hippies have started health food cooperatives in small towns throughout the countryside, so James and I were able to restock our Field Roast supply at least once during our 9 days of travel.
Other important snacks I’ve found helpful for my own carbohydrate-centric diet include vegan energy bars, sesame sticks, apples, and dark chocolate, all of which I’ve toured with regularly in the past. Bagels or flour tortillas with peanut butter make great carb-heavy snacks or entire meals when paired with other foods.
Restaurants are often able to accommodate a vegan diet. For breakfast, even small-town diners in Wisconsin will whip up hashbrowns with extra veggies. Slushies make a great alternative to ice cream on-the-road and can be found virtually everywhere. For me, being able to sit down to a hot meal you didn’t cook is an important part of maintaining good spirits on tour. I often experience anxiety around ordering vegan foods in a strange place, so I’m particularly thankful to tour with an experienced vegan who holds no shame in asking about meat- and dairy-free options.
I invite you to peruse our vegan meal plan from our 2015 Euglena Tour, as I collected this data for a reason (beyond my own weird obsession with recording such things—what can I say, there is still some scientist left in me). You’ll note that many of these foods can be found at regular grocery stores and gas station convenience stores (both of which we shopped at), not just specialty health food cooperatives. Many thanks to James who cooked 95% of our meals, which may explain some of our odd food combinations!
Day 1 biked 45 miles
Lunch: cucumber slices and vegan franks in flour tortillas; garlic sesame sticks; cherry Slushie
Dinner: spaghetti with onion, bell pepper, peanut butter, and sesame oil; apple
Snack: muffins our housemate made for our trip ❤
Day 2 biked 62 miles
Breakfast: oatmeal with raisins, coconut, and cinnamon; apple; coffee
Lunch: cucumber slices and vegan franks in flour tortillas; garlic sesame sticks; kombucha
Dinner: vegan mac ‘n’ cheese; fresh carrots with peanut butter
Snacks: trail mix (nuts, seeds, and dried fruits); Clif Bar
Day 3 biked 55 miles
Breakfast (small-town diner): hashbrowns with vegetables and salsa; sourdough toast; coffee
Lunch: bagels; trail mix; apple with peanut butter
Dinner: vegan chili dogs (buns, kraut, chili beans, vegan franks); tortilla chips; beer
Day 4 hiked 3 miles (no biking – State Park time!)
Breakfast: oatmeal with raisins, coconut, and cinnamon; coffee
Lunch: ramen noodles with seasoning; fresh carrots
Dinner: spaghetti with tomato sauce
Snacks: apple; Raw Revolution bar; tortilla chips and bean dip
Day 5 biked 60 miles
Breakfast: vegan frank; peanut butter in flour tortilla; carrots; coffee
Lunch (from food co-op): pre-cooked tofu on fresh rolls; pineapple
Dinner: tofu, vegan brats, kraut, and avocado on flour tortillas; banana chips
Snacks: Clif Bar; Larabar; sesame sticks; apple; trail mix; date rolls
Day 6 biked 38 miles
Breakfast: bagels with peanut butter; apple; trail mix; coffee
Lunch: vegan brats on flour tortilla; apple with peanut butter; trail mix
Dinner: spaghetti with a roasted eggplant mix; chorizo seitan with broccoli
Snacks: vegan lattes; tortilla chips and salsa; beer
Magical Dessert: hot cocoa a friend made from scratch in Guatemala!
Day 7 biked 43 miles
Breakfast: oatmeal with apple and peanut butter; tortilla chips; coffee
Lunch: vegan dogs on buns with avacado; bananas
Dinner: macaroni with tomato sauce; fresh cucumber
Snacks: sesame sticks; Larabar; tortillas; vegan franks on buns; coffee; beer
Day 8 hiked 4 miles (no biking – State Park time!)
Breakfast: oatmeal with apple and peanut butter; vegan dog on bun; coffee
Lunch: tortillas with refried beans, cucumber, and sriracha sauce
Dinner: spaghetti with ramen seasoning and sriracha sauce
Snacks: Larabars; soda
Day 9 biked 52 miles
Breakfast: oatmeal with apple and peanut butter; coffee
Lunch (small-town pub): walnut burgers with lots of fixin’s; sweet potato tots; fries; coffee; beer
Snack: Clif Bar
These meal plans work well for any kind of travel, not just bike travel. We’ve used similar meal plans while staying at hotels during nerd conventions, for example, where there may be a lack of affordable vegan options and little downtime to do food runs. I’m happy to report to the skeptics that I’ve stayed healthy, full, and energized with these simple meals, many thanks to Field Roast dogs, flour tortillas, and peanut butter. I’ll even thank carrots, which I do not like much, because they are such a travel-friendly vegetable option.
What are your go-to vegan travel foods? How do you eat healthy on the road? Any tips and tricks from fellow vegan bike tourists? Please share in the comments below!
BUNNY LOVE: WHAT MY HOUSE RABBIT TEACHES ME ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS
BUNNY LOVE: WHAT MY HOUSE RABBIT TEACHES ME ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS
Adoption Day Portrait by my human
I’m a real sucker for weirdos, both human and non-human. Last April, I arrived at the Humane Society’s rabbit adoption center thinking, “alright, this time, I’m going to adopt a ‘normal’ rabbit.*” After eight years with persnickety rabbits and two difficult years of lagomorphic elder care, I wanted an “easy” bun, a bun to snuggle on my lap, to offer affectionate licks, and to relax upon being picked up. I was shown such a rabbit, a soft gray buck that lay docile in his cage staring up at me with big black eyes.
But I was distracted. A large black bunny was going nuts in the exercise area, digging potential escape routes and sassily kicking up her heels. “She doesn’t get along with other bunnies; I don’t think she’ll ever be bonded,” the volunteer warned me. Diamond Diva had been overlooked for most of a year at the center, with a brief adoption failed due to her aggression towards other animals. This fierce beast was smart, the only bun at the center who could solve a wooden puzzle that rewarded treats. She was a weirdo disconnected from her warren. Intelligent, active, independent… it was love at first sight, no questions asked.
I get myself into these kinds of relationships often. The challenging, exhilarating ones. The ones that push growth through conflict and compromise. Perhaps I subconsciously seek them out, looking for my next puzzle to piece together, striving for solutions to a happy life. At any rate, when I adopted Major Kira Nerys Diamond Diva, I didn’t realize that I was bringing a new mentor into my life, a fuzzy cotton-tailed teacher to remind me how to act with love and respect.
As I was preparing for bunny (which involved months of fancy hutch-building!), I was falling in love with a new human in my life. Having come out of two serial monogamous relationships, I was enthusiastic about my new human’s interest in an open relationship. I had spent most of my twenties in polyamorous partnerships (or destroying monogamous ones before identifying my poly needs), so I was ready to get back on track. However, those three-ish years of monogamy confused my internal wiring. Because friends, family, and lovers saw me as a mainstream, monogamous heterosexual, I internalized the roles of Girlfriend and Future Wife, and all of the assumptions that go along with those identities. I started to see the harmful effects of these mainstream stereotypes in my new human relationship that was supposed to be autonomous, celebratory, and respectful. Much of our mutual pain was a result of insecurities relating to relationships and self. I felt overbearing, greedy, and hysterical as I tried to replicate what a mainstream, big-R Relationship was supposed to look like, even as I preached alternative lifestyles. These forced expectations were not welcome on behalf of my human.
In my recovering from monogamy, it took a rabbit to identify the reasons why the new human and I weren’t getting along. In my relationship with my rabbit, I do not identify us as Owner and Pet. We are co-conspirators; I tend to her needs as she communicates them to me, and through her I gain insight, accomplishment, and a really cute bunny to ogle across the room. I don’t look at her as if she owes me anything; she is a free agent. Some days, Kira is outright miserable: nipping at my clothes, growling at my approaching hands, and staying as far away from me as possible. But other days she binkies with joy to see me, nudges my feet for attention, and does her tooth-grinding purr as she settles in for a good petting. It’s me she looks to when frightened, me she seems to trust most in her world. Kira was not always this way. Over the period of a year, she slowly, cautiously warmed up to me in ways I never expected, and our relationship is still developing. How did I create an environment for us to grow in this way? Through respecting her boundaries, giving her what she asks for within my own limits, and being patient. It hit me hard when I realized that I was not doing the same for my human.
My human and I broke up one year into our Relationship. Breaking up was the best thing for us; I feel immensely closer to him since. From an outsider’s perspective, we still act like a Couple, and often do Couple-y things together: smooching, crying on each others’ shoulders, or going on dates. But escaping that mold of Boyfriend-and-Girlfriend made all the difference when it came to the conflicts that constantly strained our partnership. Since the breakup, we have reset our relationship the way we had wanted it in the first place, built on a foundation of mutual respect and interdependent autonomy. This partnership is somehow easier to navigate without defined terms to describe it.
Like Owner and Pet, the title of Couple is loaded with expectations I am not actually interested in living up to. At this point in my life, I don’t want to get married, I don’t want kids, and I don’t want to feel obligated to a partner’s family or vice versa. I don’t want it to be assumed that a partner and I will share a bed every night, or that we’ll spend our mutual days off together. And I don’t want to be asked in small-talk banter, “So how’s your human doing?” assuming I’m in constant communication with them. The Couple title seemed too much for me to navigate when talking with friends, family, and coworkers who are more conservative or mainstream. The power of this one word, this one concept, seemed to negate my experiences past, present, and future.
What I do want is intimacy, security, and support, and all of these things need not come from a single person. I wish to foster these conditions using all of my relationships, not only lovers, but friends, family, housemates, coworkers, and animal familiars. I want to establish relationships based on particular shared visions with individuals, not governed by what the latest TV dramas, blog articles, or dreamy Instagram photos assume I should be doing at 31 years old.
As with my bunny, I am very close to my human. I strive to treat him as I do with any other animal companion: to give him space when he needs it, to give him special treats, to enjoy the experiences we share together, and to celebrate interests of his that lay outside of our relationship. There is little obligation beyond basic care and respect, and this seems to work well for my bunny, my human, and myself. Through ensuring their general comfort, I’ve found confidence in communicating my own needs to them. In house rabbit care, there are times I need to invade Kira’s space to clean up messes. She is upset, but this assertion on my part leaves us both in a healthier, safer space. I can only hope that the times I’ve brought conflict to my human will prepare us for healthier, safer spaces into the future, for as long as we keep our un-Coupled conspiracy active.
Major Kira Nerys Diamond Diva
* We all know “normal” is a construct that doesn’t actually exist, right?
А. С. Пушкин. Сказка о золотом петушке
О ЗОЛОТОМ ПЕТУШКЕ
Негде, в тридевятом царстве,
В тридесятом государстве,
Жил-был славный царь Дадон.
С молоду был грозен он
И соседям то и дело
Наносил обиды смело;
Но под старость захотел
Отдохнуть от ратных дел
И покой себе устроить.
Тут соседи беспокоить
Стали старого царя,
Страшный вред ему творя.
Чтоб концы своих владений
Охранять от нападений,
Должен был он содержать
Воеводы не дремали,
Но никак не успевали:
Ждут, бывало, с юга, глядь, —
Ан с востока лезет рать.
Справят здесь, — лихие гости
Идут от моря. Со злости
Инда плакал царь Дадон,
Инда забывал и сон.
Что и жизнь в такой тревоге!
Вот он с просьбой о помоге
Обратился к мудрецу,
Звездочету и скопцу.
Шлет за ним гонца с поклоном.
Вот мудрец перед Дадоном
Стал и вынул из мешка
«Посади ты эту птицу, —
Молвил он царю, — на спицу;
Петушок мой золотой
Будет верный сторож твой:
Коль кругом всё будет мирно,
Так сидеть он будет смирно;
Но лишь чуть со стороны
Ожидать тебе войны,
Иль набега силы бранной,
Иль другой беды незваной,
Вмиг тогда мой петушок
Закричит и встрепенется
И в то место обернется».
Царь скопца благодарит,
Горы золота сулит.
«За такое одолженье, —
Говорит он в восхищенье, —
Волю первую твою
Я исполню, как мою».
Петушок с высокой спицы
Стал стеречь его границы.
Чуть опасность где видна,
Верный сторож как со сна
К той сторонке обернется
И кричит: «Кири-ку-ку.
Царствуй, лежа на боку!»
И соседи присмирели,
Воевать уже не смели:
Таковой им царь Дадон
Дал отпор со всех сторон!
Год, другой проходит мирно;
Петушок сидит всё смирно.
Вот однажды царь Дадон
Страшным шумом пробужден:
«Царь ты наш! отец народа! —
Возглашает воевода, —
Государь! проснись! беда!»
— Что такое, господа? —
Говорит Дадон, зевая: —
А?.. Кто там?.. беда какая? —
«Петушок опять кричит;
Страх и шум во всей столице».
Царь к окошку, — ан на спице,
Видит, бьется петушок,
Обратившись на восток.
Медлить нечего: «Скорее!
Люди, на́ конь! Эй, живее!»
Царь к востоку войско шлет,
Старший сын его ведет.
Шум утих, и царь забылся.
Вот проходит восемь дней,
А от войска нет вестей;
Было ль, не было ль сраженья, —
Нет Дадону донесенья.
Петушок кричит опять.
Кличет царь другую рать;
Сына он теперь меньшого
Шлет на выручку большого;
Петушок опять утих.
Снова вести нет от них!
Снова восемь дней проходят;
Люди в страхе дни проводят;
Петушок кричит опять,
Царь скликает третью рать
И ведет ее к востоку, —
Сам не зная, быть ли проку.
Войска идут день и ночь;
Им становится невмочь.
Ни побоища, ни стана,
Ни надгробного кургана
Не встречает царь Дадон.
«Что за чудо?» — мыслит он.
Вот осьмой уж день проходит,
Войско в горы царь приводит
И промеж высоких гор
Видит шелковый шатёр.
Всё в безмолвии чудесном
Вкруг шатра; в ущелье тесном
Рать побитая лежит.
Царь Дадон к шатру спешит...
Что за страшная картина!
Перед ним его два сына
Без шеломов и без лат
Оба мертвые лежат,
Меч вонзивши друг во друга.
Бродят кони их средь луга,
По притоптанной траве,
По кровавой мураве...
Царь завыл: «Ох дети, дети!
Горе мне! попались в сети
Оба наши сокола!
Горе! смерть моя пришла».
Все завыли за Дадоном,
Застонала тяжким стоном
Глубь долин, и сердце гор
Потряслося. Вдруг шатёр
Распахнулся... и девица,
Вся сияя как заря,
Тихо встретила царя.
Как пред солнцем птица ночи,
Царь умолк, ей глядя в очи,
И забыл он перед ней
Смерть обоих сыновей.
И она перед Дадоном
Улыбнулась — и с поклоном
Его за руку взяла
И в шатер свой увела.
Там за стол его сажала,
Всяким яством угощала;
На парчовую кровать.
И потом, неделю ровно,
Покорясь ей безусловно,
Пировал у ней Дадон
Наконец и в путь обратный
Со своею силой ратной
И с девицей молодой
Царь отправился домой.
Перед ним молва бежала,
Быль и небыль разглашала.
Под столицей, близ ворот,
С шумом встретил их народ, —
Все бегут за колесницей,
За Дадоном и царицей;
Всех приветствует Дадон...
Вдруг в толпе увидел он,
В сарачинской шапке белой,
Весь как лебедь поседелый,
Старый друг его, скопец.
«А, здорово, мой отец, —
Молвил царь ему, — что скажешь?
Подь поближе! Что прикажешь?»
— Царь! — ответствует мудрец, —
Помнишь? за мою услугу
Обещался мне, как другу,
Волю первую мою
Ты исполнить, как свою.
Подари ж ты мне девицу,
Шамаханскую царицу. —
Крайне царь был изумлён.
«Что ты? — старцу молвил он, —
Или бес в тебя ввернулся,
Или ты с ума рехнулся?
Что ты в голову забрал?
Я, конечно, обещал,
Но всему же есть граница.
И зачем тебе девица?
Полно, знаешь ли кто я?
Попроси ты от меня
Хоть казну, хоть чин боярской,
Хоть коня с конюшни царской,
Хоть пол-царства моего».
— Не хочу я ничего!
Подари ты мне девицу,
Шамаханскую царицу, —
Говорит мудрец в ответ.
Плюнул царь: «Так лих же: нет!
Ничего ты не получишь.
Сам себя ты, грешник, мучишь;
Убирайся, цел пока;
Старичок хотел заспорить,
Но с иным накладно вздорить;
Царь хватил его жезлом
По лбу; тот упал ничком,
Да и дух вон. — Вся столица
Содрогнулась, а девица —
Хи-хи-хи! да ха-ха-ха!
Не боится, знать, греха.
Царь, хоть был встревожен сильно,
Усмехнулся ей умильно.
Вот — въезжает в город он...
Вдруг раздался легкой звон,
И в глазах у всей столицы
Петушок спорхнул со спицы,
К колеснице полетел
И царю на темя сел,
Встрепенулся, клюнул в темя
И взвился... и в то же время
С колесницы пал Дадон —
Охнул раз, — и умер он.
А царица вдруг пропала,
Будто вовсе не бывало.
Сказка ложь, да в ней намек!
Добрым молодцам урок.
Why 95 Percent of Software Engineers Lose Nothing By Unionizing
Why 95 Percent of Software Engineers Lose Nothing By Unionizing
MAY 31, 2018 BY MICHAELOCHURCH
Should software engineers unionize?
I can’t give a simple answer to this. There are advantages and disadvantages to enrolling in a collective bargaining arrangement. If the disadvantages didn’t exist, or weren’t considerable in some situations, everyone would unionize. So, we need to take both sides seriously.
The upshots of collective bargaining are: better compensation on average, better job security, better working conditions, and more protection against managerial adversity. There are a lot of improvements to employment that can only be made with collective negotiation. An individual employee who requested guaranteed severance, the right to appeal performance reviews, transparency in reference-checking and internal transfer, and waiving of onerous (and effectively nonconsensual) but common terms in contracts– e.g., mandatory arbitration provisions, non-competition and non-solicitation agreements, anti-moonlighting provisions– would be laughed out of the building. No individual can negotiate against these terms– it is, for example, embarrassing for an individual to discuss what rights she has if a manager gives a negative performance review– but unions can.
So what are the downsides of unionization? Possible losses of autonomy. Often, an increase in bureaucracy (but most often a tolerable one). Union dues, though usually those are minimal in comparison to the wage gains the unions achieve. Possible declines in upper-tier salaries as compensation moves toward the middle– however, not all unions regulate compensation; for example, unions for athletes, actors, and screenwriters do not seem to have this problem.
There are a small number individuals in software who would not benefit from unions, and there are a few firms (mostly small, or outside of the for-profit sector) that do not need them.
To wit, if you’re a high-frequency trader making $1 million per year, you probably do not need a union– free agency is working well for you– and you may not want one.
And, if you work in a federally-funded research lab that pays for your graduate education, and that allows you to publish papers, attend conferences, and perform original research on working time, then you probably don’t need a union.
If you’re a Principal Engineer at a “Big N” technology company, making $500,000 per year, who picks and chooses his projects– you’ve never even heard of Jira– and wakes up every morning excited to implement the ideas he dreamt about over night… you may not need a union.
If your boss is personally invested in your career, so much so that the only thing that could prevent you from making senior management within 5 years would be to commit some grievous crime… then you might not want to unionize.
If you’re anyone else– if you’re part of that other 95+ percent, probably 99+ percent; the IT peons– then, chances are, you lose nothing by unionizing.
For example: if you have to justify weeks or days of your working time; if you work on Jira tickets rather than choosing and defining your own projects; if you know for sure that you’re never going to be promoted; if your work is business-driven and you have little or no working time to spend on your own technical interests… then you are hopelessly nuts if you are not in favor of unionization.
Here’s why I say that. If you’re the typical, low-status, open-plan programmer, forced to interview for his own job every morning in “Daily Scrum”, then all the bad things that unions can bring have already happened at your job. Whatever negatives unions might bring– bureaucracy, reduced autonomy, lower status of the profession– have already occurred and are therefore moot.
Is there a risk that a union will introduce bureaucracy and reduce worker autonomy? Yes; sometimes that happens. But, engineers under Jira, Scrum, and Agile (technological surveillance) already have so little autonomy that there’s nothing to lose.
Might a union will create an adversarial climate between management and the work force? Sure. But, most software engineers are low-status workers whose jobs their bosses would gladly ship overseas, and who live under the surveillance described above. They’ll be fired as soon as their performance dips, or a cheaper worker comes on the market, or they piss the wrong person off. The adversarial climate exists. Again, nothing to lose.
Do unions tend to pull compensation toward the middle (or, more accurately, the upper middle)? Of course, they do. Software engineers making $500,000 per year might not see a use for unions. That said, any engineer who works on “user stories” is highly unlikely to be anywhere close to that number, and within her current company, never will be. The same applies: nothing to lose.
What do unions do? For good and bad, they commoditize work. The technician, artisan, or engineer, once a union comes in, is no longer fully a creative, unique, lover-of-the-trade (amateur, in the original sense) valued for his intangible, cultural, and long-term (looking back and forward) importance to the organization. Nope, he’s a worker, selling time or labor for money. If both you and your employer believe your work is not a commodity– this attitude still exists in some corners of academia, and in some government agencies– then you might not want to involve a union, since unions are designed to negotiate commodity work.
Let’s be honest, though. If you’re the typical software engineer, then your work has already been commoditized. Your bosses are comparing your salaries to those in countries where drinking water is a luxury. Commoditizing your work is, quite often, your employer’s job. Middle managers are there to reduce risk, and that includes diminishing reliance on singular, high-value individuals. Running a company, if possible, on “commodity” (average) talent isn’t good for us highly-capable people; but it is, when possible, good middle management.
Chances are, you don’t get to pick and choose your projects because “product managers” have better ideas than you (so says the company) about how you should spend your time. You’re told that “story points” and “velocity” aren’t used as performance measures, but when times get tough, they very much are. Open your eyes; when middle managers say that Agile is there to “spot impediments”, what they mean is that it makes it easier and quicker for them to fire people.
A union will also commoditize your work– this lies behind all the objections to them– but it will try to do so in a fair way. Most employers– in private-sector technology, the vast majority of them– will commoditize your work just as readily, but in an unfair way. Which one wins? I think it’s obvious.
If you’ve been indoctrinated, you might think that unions are only valuable for the stragglers and the unambitious, and that the services they offer to workers are useless to average, but less high, performers. False. “I’ve never been fired,” you say. “I could get another job next week,” you say. “The working world is just,” you say.
Most people hope never to face managerial adversity. I have, so I know how it works. When it develops, things start happening fast. The worker is usually unprepared. In fact, he’s at a disadvantage. The manager has the right to use “working time” to wage the political fight– because “managing people out” is literally part of his job– while the worker has to sustain a 40-hour effort in addition to playing the political side-game of fighting the adversity or PIP. It’s the sort of ugly, brutal fight that managers understand from experience (although even most managers dislike the process) and, because they choose the time and place of each confrontation, have every advantage possible. The worker thinks it’s a “catch up” meeting because that’s what the calendar says. A stranger from HR is there: it’s an ambush. Two witnesses against one, and because corporate fascism-lite is under-regulated in our country, the employee does not have the right to an attorney, nor to remain silent.
What might be able to counterbalance such disadvantages? Oh, right. A union.
What, though, if you’re happy with your compensation and don’t consider yourself a low performer? Do you still need a union?
Saying “I don’t need a union because I’m a high performer” is like saying “I don’t need to know about self-defense, because I’m so good-looking no one would ever attack me.” Real talk: that meth-addicted, drunk scumbag does not care one whit for your pretty face, buddy. Run if you at all can; avoid the fight if he’ll listen to reason; but, defend yourself if you must.
Have you, dear reader, been in a street fight? I don’t mean a boxing match, a prize fight where there are still rules, or a childhood or middle-school fight that ends once one person has won. I’m talking about a real adult fistfight– also known as: for the attacker, an assault; for the defender, a self-defense situation– where multiple assailants, deadly weapons, and continued (and possibly lethal) violence after defeat are serious possibilities? I, personally, have not.
Most people haven’t. I’ve studied combat enough to know that most people (including, quite possibly, me) have no idea what the fuck to do when such a situation emerges. Many victims freeze. Given that an average street fight is over in about ten seconds– after that point, it’s more of a one-sided beatdown of the loser– that’s deadly. But it’s something that untrained humans are not well-equipped to handle.
Even people with excellent self-defense training avoid street fights– there are too many bad things that can happen, and nothing good. Sometimes, they lose. Why? Because their training, mostly oriented around friendly sparring, has them primed to stop short of hurting the assailant. That’s noble, but against someone who will bite and eye-gouge and resort to murder, this is a disadvantage.
What sorts of people are experienced with street fights (not sparring)? Criminals, reprobates, psychopaths…. Thugs. They’ve been in a few. Pain that would stall or incapacitate the uninitiated (that is, most of us) doesn’t faze them; they may be on drugs. They’ll do anything to win. They’ve stomped on necks and heads; they’ve pulled knives and guns; they’ve possibly committed sexual assaults against their victims. They know and choose the venue. They select the target and the time. They may have friends waiting to get in on the action. They may have weapons. They know almost everything about the situation they’re about the enter and, most of the time, their target knows nothing.
The odds for an untrained defender, in an unanticipated self-defense situation, are extremely poor.
It’s the same in the corporate world, when it comes to managerial adversity. Most workers think they’re decent performers– and, quite often, they are– and when they’re hit out of the blue with a PIP, they don’t know what’s going on. Was it a performance problem? Often, no. Perhaps the manager found a 2013 blog post and disliked the employee’s political views or religion. Perhaps, as is usual in private-sector technology, the company dishonestly represented a layoff as a rash of performance-based firings. Perhaps the employee is working in good faith, but performing poorly for reasons that aren’t her fault: poor project/person fit, or life events like health issues, sick parents, or divorce. Perhaps some stranger three levels up made the call, to free up a spot for his nephew, and the hapless middle manager got stuck doing the paperwork.
The corporate world is a might-makes-right system where there is no sense of ethics. There is no line between abuse of power and power as those on top see it; what we plebeians call “abuse”, they call “power”; what use would power have, they ask, if there were rules put on it?
People suffer all sorts of career punishments– PIPs, firings, bad references, damaged reputations– for reasons that aren’t their fault. The idea that only bad workers end up in this situation is analogous to the idea that the only people who can be assaulted on the streets are those who asked for it.
As in a street fight, the odds are overwhelmingly bad for an employee under managerial adversity. The other side has more information, more power, and more experience. Management and HR have done this before. The worker? It’s likely her first or second time.
In a non-union, private-sector organization like the typical technology company, to be an employee is to walk down the streets, alone, at 2:30 in the morning.
For everything one can learn in a self-defense class– proper fighting techniques improve one’s chances from impossible to merely undesirable– the best defense is to avoid dangerous places altogether. In the corporate world, that’s not possible. This is a country where at-will employment is the law of the land, so every time and every place is dangerous. Every street should be considered a slum; it’s always 2:30 in the morning.
If one must go into a dangerous place, what’s the best means of defense? The same rules that apply in bear country: don’t go alone. Wild animals rarely attack humans in groups, and criminals tend to be similar. But the corporate system is designed to isolate those it wishes to target. In the meetings that unfold under managerial adversity, the boss can bring in whoever he wants– HR, higher-level bosses, “Scrum Masters” and miscellaneous enforcers, even his 9-year-old son to laugh at the poor worker– while the target can bring in… only himself.
I do not intend to peddle illusions. Unions aren’t perfect. They aren’t good in all situations. However, most of private-sector technology needs them. Why? Because they allow the worker to exercise his right not to go alone. The HR tactics (e.g., stack ranking, performance surveillance, constructive dismissal) that are so common in technology companies to have become accepted practices would simply not survive under a decent union.
The average non-managerial white-collar worker has never been in the street fight of managerial adversity. Unions have. They know exactly what to do– and what not to do– when a situation turns nasty. Fights, albeit for the side of good, are much of what they do.
Again, if you’re in that elite cadre of software programmers who get to work on whatever they want, who find $400/hour consulting work just by asking for it in a tweet, and whose bosses see them as future leaders of the company… then you’re probably not reading my blog for career advice. On the other hand, if you’re in that other 95-plus (to be honest, it’s probably 99-plus) percent, you should unionize. All the bureaucracy and commoditization that you fear might come from a union is already around you; you can’t make it go away, so the best thing to do is to make it fair.
How To Find New Music
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Jan 20 - 10 min read
This is a guest post by Henry Garrett - Henry is a software engineer by day (and sometimes by night), and co-founder of Album Daily Newsletter. He has always been fascinated by the power of music. He calls himself a music ‘researcher’, someone who constantly is looking for his next favorite artist/song. You can find him on twitter @garretthenrym or through Album Daily.
I’m going to paint a picture for you, and let’s see if you have run into it before. You listen to an artist you like on Spotify or Apple Music, let’s say Jack Johnson. After listening, you want to find more music you like, so you try out their algorithm-based recommendations. What does it recommend? More Jack Johnson albums, and one, or if you’re lucky, 2-3, similar artists. Great! Somewhere to start, so you try some of them out.
Now, every time you go back to that app, you get the same recommendations. In the same genre. From the same artists. Over. And. Over. And. Over.
Has this ever happened to you? For me, it was a daily occurrence. I got extremely frustrated by this. Just because I like one genre doesn’t mean I only want to listen to that genre. This led me to pursue other avenues to find music, and kickstarted a life-long hobby of music discovery. So, I’m going to share with you a couple ways that I find music, in the hopes that it can help you find some new tunes.
Before we get started, I need to define the two types of “new” music. This is important, because while some of the discovery techniques overlap, they are largely different. These categories are
Newly released music
Music that is new to me (or you!)
Newly Released Music
Let’s start with the easy one, newly released music. The majority of the music industry follows a pretty rigid release schedule, with Friday as the designated weekly release day. Up until July 2015, it used to be Tuesdays, but the industry heads got together and decided “New Music Friday” sounds way better (I don’t blame them).
So how do you find albums that are scheduled to be released? Well, you can follow your favorite artists or record labels on social media, as they are sure to be promoting their work. However, I find it better to check in with Consequence of Sound as they aggregate the upcoming album releases extremely well. This link is bookmarked in my browser, and I check it throughout the week to see what I can look forward to that Friday.
Music New to Me
Now on to the tough category, music that is new to me (or you!). Here are some of the techniques I use, or places I look.
I find Reddit vital for music discovery, due to the simple fact that it is other people sharing the music they like. Chances are you won’t like every song someone recommends (I certainly don’t), but the more you explore and learn, the more you will find. Here are a few of the best subreddits to find music:
This one is probably the most obvious, but underutilized method in my opinion. Without a doubt, some of the best music I have ever found was on a recommendation from a friend or family member. For example, I never knew my father-in-law was into music, until I asked him, “What do you like to listen to?”. He proceeded to share with me some of the lesser known musical acts from the ‘60’s and ‘70’s that have become some of my all-time favorites. Without a doubt, there is no way I would have found those artists without striking up a conversation with him.
Music Streaming Apps
Yes, I know I was dogging on Spotify and Apple Music earlier, but they do have their place. In order to utilize them effectively, you must understand how the algorithms work. These algorithms filter based on many categories, but the most heavily weighted are popularity, genre, and peer habits. For example, if you are listening to Ed Sheeran, an algorithm would most likely recommend Taylor Swift, Shawn Mendes, or One Direction; not the 18-year-old British up-and-comer who sounds just like Sheeran. This is a manifestation of popularity and genre bias, which can be great if that is what you are expecting. Usually, these algorithms will keep you in a comfort zone, which has its place for those of us who desire that.
Okay, I admit it, this is a shameless plug. But I created Album Daily to tackle this exact issue of algorithmic music discovery. If you decide to subscribe to one of our two newsletters, distributed daily or weekly, you will be introduced to many different genres and artists. I, along with my wife and co-founder Paige, spend hours and hours combing through music to highlight what we believe our audience will love, from all areas of the music industry.
Well there it is, some interesting ways to find newly released music, and music that is new to you. I hope the tactics in this article will help you expand your musical tastes and find your new favorite songs. Let me know on Twitter how you find new music! Happy listening ✌🏼