business


338.5 Microeconomics
669.143 Scrap metal

I’m still collecting aluminum cans, which are never in short supply on these streets, and taking them to a redemption center for cash. It’s really a firsthand way to see how the economy is tanking. The first time I went there, they gave me about 50 cents a pound. The next time, I got about 40 cents per pound. Today, I gave them 16 pounds and got $4 back.

So I probably made back what it cost cost me to drive down there. On the plus side, the place has, as I have said, some interesting things to look at. There is the aforementioned beer can pyramid. Today, they also had a knight’s helmet sitting there on a folding chair, and other interesting discarded metalworks.

The Kinzie Industrial Corridor is not far from there. Obviously, I’m not the first person to realize the area’s photographic potential, but I plan to put my own spin on it one of these days.

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636.7 Dogs
331.7 Work

My time as a professional dog walker has nearly ended. Two nights ago at around 8:00 p.m., I received a call from a client informing me that his dog has a new collar, and he wanted to make sure I knew how to use it. I calmly told him I was familiar with the model he described before hanging up and throwing the phone across the toom.

I gave my notice today, somewhat warily, as I am not sure how long my book researching gig will last. But then again, who knows how long any job will last? I have said it before, but it bears repeating, the days of cradle-to-grave employment security are gone. We will not see their like ever again. Some of you, perhaps many of you, will say I sound like a broken record, but there is always somone out there who doesn’t know this. What always takes even me by surprise is just how much work it takes to find work, more so now that even the mighty city of Chicago is half a billion dollars in the red.

Regardless of the seriousness of the economic situation, the rules (I would hope) are always the same, and this is something I always mysteriously forget until someone gives me a dope slap: it’s a numbers game. Call, call, call. Network, network, network. Tell everyone you know you’re looking for work. Today, I magically remembered that elusive dictum and began my carpet-bombing campaign. A friend in New York may have something for me. An old boss gave me some tips. Hopefully, some people who have interviewed me recently will call me back to tell me how I did. And maybe, on my 100th call, someone will offer me something I haven’t seen in four years: a real job, with all the trimmings, benefits and paid vacation, retirement and dental. Does anyone remember those things?

And now, if you want to see some really good writing, surf on over to this page. Ya done good, Harvey.

636.7 Dogs

Shortly after moving to Chicago last month, I took a job with one of the many dogwalking services here in the city. I hate it. I admire the people who can make a living at it, but I’m not one of them. My boss has told me so several times, probably without meaning to. He has said several times he wants me to be more outgoing. I have spent most of my life feeling miserable about not being the kind of person who lights up a room. Only in the past few years have I found books and Web sites that have made me feel that how I am — quiet, shy, introspective, whatever you want to call it — is perfectly normal and acceptable. And now this yutz wants to make me feel bad about it all over again. Tomorrow, when I give my two-weeks’ notice, I’m going to tell him exactly that, in addition to the fact that this job makes absolutely no economic sense.

And I am also doing research on smiling — something I’ve been criticized for not doing often enough. If anyone has told you you need to smile more, I’d like to hear about it. I’ll be posting some excerpts from some of the previous research I’ve seen on this topic. I had to cut it off at 800 hits.

Lots of good news items yesterday:

Internet Archive wins Patriot Act law suit

Inside the Library of Congress

Despite proven return on investment, libraries still face budget cuts

Ban ‘Second Life,’ Congressman says

Same-sex penguin story leads ‘challenged’ book list

Clintons hold up release of more documents

Another book of crazy library stories

Looks like two more entertainment venues here in Maynard have hit the chopping block. First, the Sit ‘n’ Bull Pub closed its doors last year, though Ted still owns the place and hasn’t given up on it just yet. A few weeks ago, CD Willy’s called it quits. The sign in the window has “50% off” crossed out and “75% off” in its place. They’l be out of here at the end of the month. And the other day, I saw a “For Rent” sign in the window of AssabetStrings.com. I thought that guy had a pretty good business plan—buy guitars off eBay, recondition them and sell them up. Except that probably no one’s buying guitars right now.

I don’t know how or why Bear Stearns fucked up. My sense is that this is another example of a company lying through its teeth, or not checking to see whether other people are lying through their teeth, before throwing unimaginable amounts of other peoples’ money down a bottomless rat hole, like Enron or WorldCom. Does anyone remember them? So my question is, when a company is “too big” or “too interconnected with too many other key players in the American economy” to be allowed to fail, does that make them more or less likely to behave responsibly? Human nature being what it is, my guess is “less likely.” This is similar to the situation I witnessed growing up in D.C., when diplomats could act like assholes behind the wheel—driving drunk, destroying property, killing, maiming and injuring innocent bystanders and racking up thousands of dollars in unpaid parking or speeding tickets—without worrying about prosecution, because of fears that pursuing charges might spark an international incident. More than once, I heard arrogant, sharply dressed men in expensive sports car with those prized red, white and blue tags shout at a cop, “I have diplomatic immunity! Fuck you!”

So is that what we have here, the business world’s equivalent of diplomatic immunity—”economic immunity”? Listening to the calm, measured tones of the talking headless on NPR’s Talk of the Nation just now, I couldn’t help but think that they were sent out by the People Who Run Things to just sort of placate, pacify, confuse and otherwise condescend to the rabble to avoid anyone fomenting some sort of insurrection. But even if the great mass of Americans weren’t so complacent, who would be the target of our wrath? Lawrence Kudlow? He hasn’t worked at BS for 14 years. And what would be our rallying cry? “No more . . . um, bad . . . um . . . investments . . . yeah . . . . By the time we peons figure out what Bear Stearns got away with, they will have changed their M.O. and found new ways to fuck us all up the ass without fear of any consequences whatsoever.