Thoughts on the 5th of July

Because this is what I do these days, I was driving around the East Bay yesterday. Oakland, in particular, seems to have a custom in which not just a centralized organization sets off fireworks (though I imagine some do) but lots of people do. As I drove down the streets, I occasionally dodged explosives while others went off above my head.

Fireworks are a celebration of the war and imperialism in which this country was born and upon which it has existed for all but sixteen calendar years of its existence.[1]And so this celebration saddened me, even as people wished me—and I was compelled to wish in return—a “Happy Fourth.” Continue reading “Thoughts on the 5th of July”

  1. [1]David Benfell, “United States History of War,” May 24, 2015, https://parts-unknown.org/dokuwiki/doku.php?id=military:united_states_history_of_war&s[]=military&s[]=history

The Bill Cosby mistrial exposes the legal system as a fraud

When last I visited the case of Bill Cosby, I labeled him a rapist because there have been so many accusations and to view him otherwise is to diminish the accounts of so many women and to privilege instead the word of a single man.[1] I have had no reason to alter this view. As Jeannie Gersen puts it, Continue reading “The Bill Cosby mistrial exposes the legal system as a fraud”

My experience driving for Uber and Lyft

A couple people, knowing I drive for Uber and Lyft, have forwarded to me an article in the New York Times on the alleged psychological “tricks” that Uber and Lyft use to keep drivers on the road longer.

In my experience, Noam Scheiber’s article[1] seems a bit exaggerated. I have seen “forward dispatch,” in which I get the next ride even before I’ve finished one I’m on, and find this useful. I often see the alleged “hot” zones, where demand is supposedly high but which usually aren’t hot at all, and so I ignore them. Both Lyft and Uber do these things and it’s unfair to focus almost exclusively on Uber. Continue reading “My experience driving for Uber and Lyft”

  1. [1]Noam Scheiber, “How Uber Uses Psychological Tricks to Push Its Drivers’ Buttons,” New York Times, April 2, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/04/02/technology/uber-drivers-psychological-tricks.html

To my friends

Update, April 7, 2017: To put it mildly, the response to this has been disappointing. Very few even responded. And despite the fact that sixteen years of applying for jobs and posting my résumé on various job search sites has failed utterly, the only suggestion my so-called friends could come up with was to keep on applying. “It doesn’t work until it does,” said one. One complained that I was “going feral” as if that were a product of volition rather than circumstance. No one was willing to engage in a thoughtful conversation as to where someone with my talents might actually fit well in this fucked-up economy. No one was willing to engage with the problem that I might be homeless in my sixties—apparently that’s okay with them.

I have to reconcile myself to the facts 1) that I have very few real friends; and 2) that from a complexity theory standpoint, I have no niche in this ecosystem and cannot adapt to the ecosystem I am in, which lends support to a notion that I should move someplace else—if we could reasonably figure out where that someplace else is and if I could gain admittance to that someplace else. Which all pretty much amounts to a recognition of impending doom: My life will get very hard within a very few years and I will probably die much sooner than I would otherwise. All this with a Ph.D.


So on April Fools Day, Facebook wants me to create an event celebrating my birthday (on the 29th, a nice round four weeks away). But all I really want for my birthday is a real fucking job.

That goes against the grain nowadays. We’re supposed to celebrate the “freedom” of the “gig,” culminating with Uber and Lyft, in which I work every minute I can spare and put a horrendous amount of miles on my car every month for almost nothing. Really, almost nothing. I just filed my taxes (a thing I have to do to stay on an income-based repayment plan for my student loans), reporting an adjusted gross income of $335 for a little more than three months of effort. So far, in the first three months of this year, my spreadsheet shows an estimated loss of $101.32.

The reality is that the IRS allows a higher mileage cost than my actual cost of running my car and that difference is my actual margin. So far this year, in three months, I’ve actually made an estimated $1,691.73. Which may well prove illusory if the IRS is more right than I can presently calculate.

Worse, in order to keep even as minimally afloat as I have, I’ve had to take on debt (in addition to well over $300,000 in student loans). I can’t just quit.

It’s nice to get out of the house and the vast majority of people I encounter are nice. But this is no answer to a looming problem. Continue reading “To my friends”

Government, religion, and the poor

I’m not terribly fond of folks invoking unknowable deities to support their favored political positions. In fact, I’d rather folks not speak on behalf of deities at all. To do so seems to me to represent a being beyond our comprehension, who, for reasons that remain unfathomable to me, chooses not to represent him- or herself, and to do so thus seems to me to be inherently blasphemous. More prosaically, it’s an appeal to an authority whose very existence is to be accepted on faith. Continue reading “Government, religion, and the poor”