Four O`Clock in the Morning

30 October 2011

Last month, on a fine late-summer’s night, I awoke for the Three O`Clock Pee (a life-long ritual).  Then after tossing and turning for almost forty-five minutes, I decided to get up.  I put on my robe and slippers, planning to go to the kitchen for some peanut butter on toast.  But I stopped – a light breeze was coming in the sliding glass door, which I always keep slightly ajar.

Remembering it had been years since I was outside in the wee small hours, I slid the door all the way open and stepped out onto the upper deck.  Gad; I’d forgotten what it was like.  On this night, a waning moon hung in the sky above the Cascades and stringy, broken clouds were scattered about the sky, some hiding the moon now and then.  The marvelous air, cleared of the day’s effluvia and pregnant with the dews and damps made one eager to breath deeply.

And let’s not forget the wonderful silence.   The greasy a-holes with un-muffled Harley-Davidsons were holed up in their pestilent hovels, humping their mommas. The local semis were parked and silent.  Delivery vans and trash collectors had not yet gotten on the road.  The only thing I heard was an owl hooting away; it seemed to be about three houses down, perched high in one of Amy’s maples.  I’ve lived here for twenty years and this was the first time I heard one.  Oh, and I also heard some Coyotes yipping in the distance.  They must have run some poor creature to earth and were reveling in their kill.

I unfolded one of the deck chairs and, in robe and slippers, sat.  Lord of all I surveyed.

Most neighbors below us on the cul-de-sac leave on a porch light or two so it wasn’t completely dark.  With their lights, plus the moon, stars and clouds, this night-time vista was surprisingly different from that seen in the day.

I sat for close to an hour, enjoying this unique experience and was getting a bit dozy when our friend’s rooster sound off.  That meant the sun would shortly appear and spoil the ambiance, so I went back inside, got in bed, punched-up the pillow and went to sleep.

That night was pure magic.  Why I don’t go out at night more often, I’ll never know.

-Merlin-


Why They Can’t Find Anybody

13 October 2011

You hear it on the news all the time: American businesses must, just MUST, hire foreigners to come over here to do technical jobs (or send the jobs to them) because, darn it all, we lazy, ignorant, stupid Americans just don’t have “skills” as do the Indians (dot, not feather), Pakies, Ruskies and whatnot.  Businesses whine and wring their hands that we, their countrymen, just can’t cut the mustard.

Rubbish.

In looking through the want ads today, I came across an IT job hereabouts.  The job wanted the applicant to be a team player, have good communications skills, smell nice, be trustworthy, loyal and kind, yack, yack, yack — the standard boilerplate.  Near the bottom I found the technical qualifications for this job.  I copied and pasted the following directly from the ad:  “Must have experience with Oracle, Tuxedo, SQL, Unix shells, C, C++, HP-UX, Java, and XML. Must have experience with telecommunications software development”.  Oh, really?  This mix of “skills” will be about as scarce as hen’s teeth — especially the last one, the telecommunications software development.

With this ad’s mix of requirements, you might find a half dozen people in the country, Indian or American, who fit the bill.  Most programmers spend their entire careers working with just two, perhaps three, of these, not all ten.  To be sure, most programmers will have looked over someone’s shoulder and taken a squint at the others, but to have any meaningful experience with all ten means being in post-grad for ten years.

Not finding anyone who meets these unrealistic standards, this company won’t hire anyone.

This employer simply wants too much; it’s not looking for a human being, it’s looking for a superhero from the funny papers.  It’s like the spinster who never married because she never found a suitable candidate.  All she was asking is that he look like George Clooney or JFK, cook like Escoffier, be as rich as Warren Buffet. be as good in bed as a French cocksman, have the compassion of Mother Teresa, the brains of Einstein, the wisdom of the Dali Lama, plus the wit and humor of David Letterman or Jay Leno.  Oh, and he has to know how to fix leaking toilets.

The business running this ad will not find anyone until it cleans up its shop by consolidating languages, thereby eliminating half of the “requirements”. But of course, it won’t, so with today’s puppy-like worship of Indians, it will bring a few over here.  In short order, the employer will find the Indians don’t have all those skills either — the job broker in India will have shined him on.  In addition, the Indians won’t be able to speak and understand the American language and so make a hash of the project.  The code will be late, over-budget, and full of bugs.

You just watch.

-Merlin-


A Writing “Platform”.

10 October 2011

So. Another neologism as come to blight the world: Writing platform.  According to the cognoscenti, it’s something a writer must “build” before even begging to think about, someday, possibly, maybe typing the first letter of  . . .  what?  Well, a book, a  magazine article, a piece on someone else’s website, a letter-to-the-editor, an ad for the Little Nickle . . . even graffiti in a shithouse stall.  The “platform” is an evanescent thing built of websites, blogs (like this one, I guess), meetings and convocations, flacks and hacks, book readings, soirees, and standing on the corner like a Hare Krishna handing business cards to all passers-by.  And hope like hell someone — anyone — pays attention to you.

Once you’ve worked on your “platform” for years and years and have “made a name for yourself,” you are in a position to approach an agent (hopefully, it has a platform of its own) who will deign to approach publishers with your stuff.  Of course, you must stand the costs up-front costs of your platform all on your own.  Figure $50,000.  Personally, having sold stuff for over forty years, I can tell you this “platform” will be as productive as an Amway distributorship.

But perhaps my harsh judgement is premature.  Flogging my stuff on my wee little platform has paid off: I put the books in Amazon’s Kindle library and, whaddya know, I made over sixty bucks!

Break out the booze!

-Merlin-


The Crown Vic

1 October 2011

The old Crown Vic,
She ain’t what she used to be
    Ain’t what she used to be
    Ain’t what she used to be
The old Crown Vic,
She ain’t what she used to be
    Twenty-two years ago.

That said, I washed her and put her up for sale on Craigslist at the bargain basement price of $500.  So far, one interested party.

The washing was an ordeal if ever there were one.  Almost three years of grime, mold and mildew.  It took a half quart of Greased Lightening to even make a dent (remember, I haven’t washed it since I got it back in 2008).  But now she glistens.  She’ll make a fine addition to Jay Leno’s collection.  Or maybe to Freddy Kruger’s.  Whatever.

-Merlin-