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February 2010 Archives

A man who claims to be the head of the Aryan Nations says he wants to move their national headquarters into my little hometown in Eastern Oregon. This is alarming news, because we don't care to have organized crime, hatred, and intolerance invade our little community. He thinks we share his values and won't mind.

The Aryan Nations and related groups have been chronic thorns in the sides of the residents of Northern Idaho for decades. Oregon's own history is scarred by these groups; for one example, back in the 1920s the Ku Klux Klan had great influence in the state legislature, and to this day we're still finding their messes and cleaning them up.

But even though we are a rural area that has been especially hard-hit by the recession, we have some powerful tools that our predecessors did not have. Like Facebook.

We're All Makers

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I worry that modern Americans have lost both manual skills and the curiosity to explore how things work. I probably worry too much, but look how computers have progressed: from a text command prompt, to all kinds of rich GUis, to smartphones and PDAs, culminating in the iPad. The iPad doesn't even use a keyboard, all you do is grunt and point.

That's an exaggeration to be sure, because better tools are always good things. Still, there are two words in common usage that grate like fingernails on a blackboard: consume and consumer, and the especially odious consuming content. Fifteen years ago grumpy old geekbeards were muttering dark warnings about turning computers into televisions, and here we are. All of these fabulous advances, these wonderful high-tech power tools that make it possible for individuals to create things that used to be just for well-funded professionals, are being relentlessly pushed into functioning as fancier TVs.

This article by David Needle, Slight Increase in IT Salaries a Ray of Hope is a much-needed bit of encouragement. He writes:

"Computer Economics found that IT organizations plan to increase operational budgets by a median of 1.8 percent in 2010, and that more than a third are planning to increase staff, restoring some of the positions shed over the past two years."

I know that for a lot of my friends, the best news is the part about hiring more staff. They've been over-stretched for a long time now, trying to do too much work with too few staff. The prospect of having a saner work schedule is going to make a lot of people happier. Having a sane work schedule is difficult enough, as tech culture seems to view that with disdain, and would rather say silly slogans like "Work smarter, not harder!" and "Don't let your work drive your life, let your life drive your work!" Which are code for "We own you."

Keep in mind there are wage and hour laws, and in most states they have real teeth. Salaried workers are protected too, and any expectation of massive unpaid overtime for salaried workers is most likely outside the law.