A bit of Kafka for the 21st century:
What could be better than that?
A bit of Kafka for the 21st century:
What could be better than that?
Most of my commuting in D.C. is done on the bicycle. I can get from home to work faster on a bicycle than I can taking the metro. And my bike path for the most part is in dedicated lanes.
But I have ridden a bike in the Netherlands and it is so much safer there than it is in the U.S. And that’s because of the design of the dedicated lanes.
I would much rather ride in Amsterdam than anywhere in America because the Dutch city planners understand bike safety. If you look at the number of bikes on the road there, you see that the Dutch don’t even worry about getting run over by some yahoo in an Escalade who thinks its his “God Given Right” to run a bicyclist off of the road.
I definitely feel that way in D.C…. and New York … and Louisville … and (name your city).
Dave Coplin, the chief envisioning officer at Microsoft (yeah, I don’t believe that title either), talks here about flexible working, which translates to not working in the office. He says it benefits workers. They don’t have to go into an oppressive office, they can do their jobs wherever the technology takes them, and they will be able to contribute more economically to their respective communities by spending their dollars where they live.
So why does that last part raise red flags for me?
Yes, with the today’s technology, we’re on call 24 hours a day. Coplin says in the “Star Trek” part of the illustration that people complain about getting e-mails from work on their days off, and dismisses the complaint by saying it’s the employee’s fault for looking at work e-mail on his or her day off. Okay, I don’t think the chief envisioning officer would necessarily be called at home on his day off if a server goes down, or if some huge business deal materializes, but there are plenty of other workers (and I’ve been one of them) who end up on the hot seat if the boss can’t get them in the event of an emergency.
But even that doesn’t really bother me that much.
My question is: Who exactly benefits if a corporation decides that the new work model will be “flexible work?” I mean, if it’s a corporate decision, doesn’t that tell you the company is doing what it’s decided is best for the company, not necessarily what’s best for the worker?
Maybe I’m overthinking this, but anyone who’s worked for a company that has an IT department knows that when your computer crashes, the IT people who used to be on the next floor aren’t there anymore. You have to call someone off site. And anyone who’s gotten a call from a telemarketer or calls a company for tech support knows that the accent on the other end of the phone isn’t always from the American Southwest but from Southwest Asia.
The day an American conglomerate decides that flexible work or remote work or working from home, or whatever you want to call it, is the official policy, somewhere in the company strategy, there’s going to be a proposal to move jobs offshore, because, as our chief envisioning officer says:
For the average knowledge worker, you don’t have to be in a specific location, a specific point in time, to access specific services. You have all the tools that you need … in your pocket or in your bag, and you can work from anywhere.
Anywhere means “ANYWHERE.” You don’t have to be in a specific city, or state, or region. You can be anywhere on the planet.
And if your saying you’re safe because you work for an American conglomerate, you probably should kiss your job goodbye. Because there is no such thing as an American conglomerate. Conglomerates are global. Microsoft has offices all over the world. So it could one day look at worker salaries at a global level, figure that it could pay a chief envisioning officer in India a modest salary by U.S. standards, which would be a fortune by South Asian standards, and get the same quality of work at a lower price. This video, in a way, proves how easy it is to work from anywhere in the world. Microsoft is on the West Coast. Coplin’s accent is found on the European west coast. And the illustration of the commute. That’s not Washington state. That’s the London Underground.
Your tax returns can be done in South America. (Because I worked abroad, some of my tax returns are still being done in Europe.) Your newspaper editing can be done in any part of the world that has a strong English speaking population. (A lot of news organizations have editing operations that aren’t in the cities, the states or the countries their subscribers are in.) The animation of a movie can be done in Japan or Korea (Next time you to a science fiction blockbuster, look at the names in the end credits of the people who worked on the CGI.).
Job competition is a global matter now. Blue collar manufacturing jobs that used to build the American middle class are now in the developing word. The jobs that Dave Coplin talks about are white collar jobs. Those are now just barely sustaining the American middle class, but they can just as well be done where labor is cheap.
I’m not saying that bad from a global perspective. Higher paying jobs throughout the world will bring a lot of countries out of poverty. Look at the economic growth in China and India. That means more people worldwide have more money to buy more stuff. But that also means that those jobs don’t have to be on our shores.
The only jobs that are safe for now are service-sector jobs, where people have to deal face to face with people. But, as I noted a couple of posts back, those jobs are going to be done by robots.
Oh, and for the record, I’m one of those people who can work from anywhere, and I wouldn’t mind having a flexible work setup. My family lives in one city and I work in another, hundreds of miles away. I can do my job from home in either city.
But, just on a gut level, I really need to be in the same room with the people I’m working with. But I’m from a generation that didn’t have chief envisioning officers.
Max Fischer over at the Washington Post’s Worldviews has a post up on 40 maps that explain the world.
This one is my favorite:
That was a scary spread of red.
This is supposed to be a happy game-show story:
Should I break it to her that she’s not going to keep the car? I mean, she looks so happy.
I’m just going with the odds here. I was on a game show once. Won a significant chunk of money and a trip to Europe. I also had to pay taxes on the winnings. Federal tax, taxes to the state I lived in, and California taxes, because that’s where the show was taped.
Now, for argument’s sake, I’m guessing the taxes all together are going to be AT THE VERY LEAST 30 percent of the total, so somewhere in the vicinity of $60,000.
She doesn’t have that kind of money. She said so. Remember when she turned over the first card and got $4,000, and she yelled to her significant other in the audience, “$4,000 is a lot of money.” Yes, when you don’t have a lot of money, $4,000 is a lot of money.
And $60,000 is a lot more money. I’m not going out on a limb here when I say she doesn’t have $60,000 laying around to pay the taxes on $170,000. The $10,000 in cash she won isn’t going to cover it.
So, she won’t keep the car. She’ll probably turn it over to an Audi dealer, who will take it off her hands for far less than the retail price, because as an owner, she now makes it a used car (pre-owned as they say in the classy television ads). And I’m not a tax lawyer here, but she still did get $170,000 from “The Price Is Right.” That’s income. Income is taxed. She still owes about $60,000. All told, she might walk away with cash in the low five figures. But nowhere near this “Price Is Right” moment. Maybe “The Price Is Right” folks have this all figured out and they’ll offer her a cash deal that covers everything. I doubt it, though.
I guess this dose of reality makes me the grinch who stole “The Price Is Right.” But I didn’t steal it. The tax man did. And the folks on “The Price Is Right” know this is going to happen. They also know this is great television. That means higher ratings. That means they can charge more for ads. You know, like giving Audi this six-minute ad for a car that’s never going to go to the contestant who won it.
Oh, you thought Audi gave “The Price Is Right” the car, or the show bought the car from Audi? No, this is product placement. The car will be back in the showroom next week. No cost to Audi. No cost to “The Price Is Right.” A $60,000 cost for the poor lady who’s having the happiest moment of her life.
(By the way, I did pay the taxes on my game-show winnings. Spent Easter in the sun in southwestern Europe. It was very nice.)
I was over at BlacktopXchange, the sports blog, and saw this video:
Very touching. There are lots of YouTube postings of soldiers making surprise returns home. But this had deeper meaning for me.
I’m now spending my time between Washington and Louisville. But see the football field in this video: Our house was less than 1,000 yards from it when we lived in Belgium. That’s on the campus of the International School of Brussels in the Watermael-Boitsfort commune. We literally lived right next door to the campus for six years. And I mean literally in the literal sense.
See that guy on the left in the black outfit at the 1:10 mark? That’s the ISB athletic director Jason Baseden. That building behind him? That’s where our son went to middle school and high school.
Our son didn’t play football at the school, much to the disappointment of parents on the football team. (He was big enough to play tight end.) His sports were cross country, volleyball, basketball and track. He played baseball with the kids in the local league, not with the school. His heart was in basketball, and we told him the downside of playing football was if he got hurt, he wouldn’t recover in time for hoops season.
And he had a rewarding high school sports career. He played basketball through middle school and high school. His under-14 middle-school team came in second place in the European championship in Frankfurt. His high-school basketball team won the European championship for his division in his senior year at the Hague. His volleyball team placed third in the European championships in his junior year in Brussels, and then went to the Hague the following year and came in second, where he got an honorable mention for the all-star team.
ISB had an extensive sports program. Practically everything your kid would want to play. And the kids who participated in sports, boys and girls, traveled all through Europe. As parents, we got to see high school gyms in Germany, England, the Netherlands, France, Austria and Greece. And our son got to countries were weren’t able to get to because I had to work.
Just so you know, ISB is hosting Bitburg, high school at the military base in Germany, in this video. The only time I’d hear of Bitburg before we went to Europe was when Ronald Reagan went to the Nazi military cemetery and when the Ramones released the album “Bonzo goes to Bitburg.”
ISB football and basketball regularly competed against the high schools at the military bases. We held our own pretty well, all things considered, given that the military kids considered our athletes as the rich diplomats’ kids.
So seeing this video is a reunion for me as well. Of all the places I’ve lived, Brussels was my favorite. I flashed back on obsessing over high school sports, going to the football games on this field.
Anyway, I saw the video, and now I’m homesick.
Oh, you didn’t understand that. That’s because the pope is from Argentina and speaks Spanish. You know, the language that the America firsters don’t want anybody using in the country, even though it’s the world’s fourth most used language. (All right, the order of the most used languages is Cantonese, English, Hindi-Urdu and Spanish. But the argument can be made that English and Spanish are the first and second global languages because they’re actually used all over the world.)
Anyway. Recycling is good. The pope says so. In Spanish (he speaks Italian and German as well. English, nope).
Does it matter? I don’t want to bother with “selfie gate.”
Because this is who the woman was:
It’s a world leader. They’re sitting at a memorial service that took about four hours in which people were dancing and singing and had a good time.
So are they supposed to put on a “serious face” when everybody else was having a good time.
Well, except for Michelle. (She kind of did look pissed in all the photos I saw during this sequence. And hubby and wife did swap seats, eventually.)