The Hungry Writer

An unemployed writer keeping sane during The Depression II.

Posts Tagged ‘layoffs’

Potpourri

Posted by The eDater on February 12, 2009

Power off.

Power off.

Well, during the Movement Hiatus, plenty of fun unemployment stats.

AT&T will soon face strikes from up to 20,000 workers. Jobless claims dip ever-so-slightly, while those living on bennies (like me) are at a record high. Work-at-home scams are hitting their boom days (and admit it, my fellow Jobless Naughts – late in the latest of evenings, alone with your pitiable pile of possible jobs, knowing full well these are scams – you still secretly want to try them out, just in case. I know you have. I’ve even considered “researching” some of these things, figuring I could write an article about the scams. But secretly, you hope to strike that gold.

(Resist! Take it from a former-and-still-sometime copywriter – these guys aren’t even very good at the junk they put out – but when folks’re scared enough, they’re easily persuadable. Just breath deep, friends. Much better. Digression paused.)

The always-popular human interest look at the Depression is up and running. And I’m seeing all sorts of useful anecdotal evidence, of which more later.

But to me, one of the biggest pieces of news this week came from Pioneer. Not only are they laying off 10,000 – they’re halting production of their flat-screen HDTVs. Why does that one really strike me? Well, not only did Pioneer make one of the better HDTVs, but they were pretty popular. Like, the leading seller not that long ago. Recently, not as high as Sony or Panasonic – but still one of the first five firms you’d think of for HDTVs.

And Panasonic’s high-end model, the Kuro, was generally regarded as the best mass-produced HDTV. A true cut above. It was the one I’d targeted for the day after it rains gold. In most business climates, The Best Product will always have a small but significant niche. Not today. No one’s willing to pay the premium anymore, not even the wealthy or the technophiles. Bad times. (Tho for the record, if you have the means – get a Kuro during the blowout sales. They’re amazing TVs, won’t give you trouble, and should go for a song now. I wish I wish I could do this.)

Additionally, Pioneer doesn’t have too many other high-volume consumer electronics that it excels in. Name one. Sure, it makes CD players, a few things for home theaters and car audio… but this felt an awful lot like the beginning of the end for them. Of course, another business facing extinction doesn’t make many ripples these days… but as we move further back up the supply chain, this Depression just proves itself more than a minor correction.

Observed signs: on the way to LA, there were no lines at the security gates. Most people brought food with. No middle seats sat in for most of the two-part flight. My friend stars in a show on an HBO project – well, it was an HBO project. They just sold off the whole section, firing almost everyone in the process. The office – shared with Yahoo! – was, predictably, huge and empty. Literally, hundreds of empty chairs lining bare cubicles, or filling empty offices. The few who remained all had that pained look of the recently-jilted, jittery laughs and gallows humor mixed with a strained stressed look.

Except for the actors, of course. They’re used to this kind of thing. And their show had made the cut, along with one other. At least, until the buyer goes under themselves.

Degrees of Desperation watch: I just came quite close to accepting a job writing 5-10 hours a week, for about $50 a month. A joke, right? But hey, it’d be writing at least, with a remote chance of getting a buncha page views and maybe almost earning a fifth of a real salary if everything broke right and I far exceeded my hours requirements.

To be clear, I’m not taking it. But I did seriously consider it. Might as well get paid a little something, right? Yaha.

Although, the freelance projects are starting to come along, and pay nearly half a salary given a smooth process (bumpy process would take around 3-5 times as long, really cutting into the money-per-hour).

Righto, more about LA shall follow – I think the constant blue sky would get to me for a full year, but for two weeks in a grey winter, wow – but for the moment, let’s freelance.

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News From the line.

Posted by The eDater on February 4, 2009

I'll take my computer, thank you very much.

I'll take my computer, thank you very much.

The line is growing – an estimated 522,000 last January, according to ADP. And that number, of course, won’t have any of February cuts – like the 15,000 Panasonic just announced (half in Japan). Thank goodness we don’t have to stand in the cold, but can apply and submit our unemployment from the comfort of a good coffeeshop, for instance – or lying in bed. Yeah internet!

In other news, Obama has proposed limiting executive pay to $500,000 for any company that accepts TARP help. I think this is a great move – if only because the bonuses that have still been handed out are one of the biggest PR disasters of this whole mess. I see folks get apopleptic over that.

Of course, poor Obama has been under attack from every angle already, and this is no different. Forbes fears the compensation cap will cause some banks to forego TARP payouts. You know what? This is ridiculous on the face of it. Drive away talent? Where to? It seems like rags such as Forbes still don’t get it – THERE ARE NO JOBS. Anyone who has a job is counting their lucky stars, and waiting for the axe. Anyone think they’re such a whiz kid they’ll get snatched up by another company in the especially-beat financial industry? Kudos, kid, good luck. You’ll need it.

And any bank or financial firm with an executive team so greedy they can’t curtail their pay for a year or two – I don’t want ’em. Let it fail. Let it die. They’ll get exactly what they deserve, if they just can’t bear to earn a mere $500,000 in ’09. Are these ‘responsible’ journals just trying to argue for argument’s sake, or do they actually believe this horseshit they’re trying to foist on the public?

Oh, and an aside about poor Obama, because it looks to me like he’s gonna take it on the chin for the next four years, as this crisis isn’t causing generous moods. The appointees, with their owed taxes – yes, that’s ugly. Bad fortune that that happened, and quite possibly bad screening. Not good at all.

But most people I hear are talking about some sort of double-standard – that if Bush had appointees with similar problems, he’d be hammered up and down the court.

Two problems I have with that. One, people are thinking of Bush at the end of eight years, compared with about 2 weeks of Obama. Of course there’d be less patience with an old prez than a new one – Bush’s patience would have been used up years ago.

But the bigger problem is, Bush had appointees with much worse sins – and he got, if anything, less flak than Obama. I’m thinking most explicitly about former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who – at the time of his appointment – had already penned a legal defense of torture, and had acted as Bush’s personal attorney and White House counsel (setting up the conflict-of-interest problems that predictably surfaced later).

Those things, to me, are a whole lot more worrying than some back taxes owed. And there were some folks that gave voice to their displeasure – but the outcry wasn’t so great that Gonzales withdrew his name, as Daschle has.

This whole “liberal media bias” is the greatest hoax the GOP has ever commited – gotta respect it, but I wish folks were aware of the amount of manipulation that goes into it. I’m not saying the media is GOP-biased either – just that it’s easily batted around, and the GOP is better at it.

That might change with Obama as well – but for now, there’ll be plenty of other meaningless lumps that’ll get in the way of real policy reforms. And that, friends, is the sign of a system so broken, it must soon die.

Let’s hope we’re not there quite yet.

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Anecdotes of the abyss.

Posted by The eDater on February 3, 2009

Did you hear about...?

Did you hear about...?

So my sister goes to her book club, and during the discussion, they make a startling discovery: Every single one of them has a brother who was just laid off.

My Dad, meanwhile, is enjoying the reports of a co-worker’s son. This guy was a high-powered hedge fund type, making 500K a year, something like that. Of course, he’s been let go. And since his layoff, he’s encountered the same broken record I have: Sorry, we’re not hiring. It’s hardly worth trying for the next few months.

Or, as Planet Money reported in their anecdotes of the crisis, some folks aren’t flushing like they used to. One family used to lay two scoops of sawdust in their compost toilet to “flush”: now, they’re rationing down to one. The reason? All the carpenters who used to happily provide the scrap wood, they’re not working. There’s no furniture being made – so no sawdust as a byproduct – so, better get used to that smell.

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Don’t you dare cough near me.

Posted by The eDater on January 30, 2009

Just, Step, Back.

Just, Step, Back.

It’s been a morning of paperwork for you favorite unemployed author. Two days ago was the Blizzard Drive, yesterday the Great Unpacking, so today only made sense as a time to Tackle the Mail.

The good news – soon, I’ll receive my severance, various new checks will be deposited and accessible, and my tight living quarters will breath just a little more freely.

The bad news – it’s unreal what they want for COBRA! I mean, when I was living abroad, and I got this crazy expensive insurance that covers you in every part of the world for every possible situation or malady – that was just over half what COBRA was asking.

Needless to say, an able-bodied, able-minded lad like myself with time to kill wasn’t just going to take the easy way, not when he could probably find some insurance for, at least, that half-price premium.

I did one better, friends. I’m at one-third the COBRA cost. For better coverage. Really makes you wonder, what do we have COBRA for, anyway? Other than for a few pre-existers who wouldn’t be able to get coverage otherwise (and the fact that they couldn’t get coverage any other way is, well, indefensible).

Of course, while my apps are being processed (one for the real deal, one for short-term coverage while waiting on the real deal), take your sick, your tired and your weary and lock ’em in the next room.

Meanwhile, for those of you who couldn’t bare to peak the news this morning… Japan joins the recession march, our GDP falls at a 3.8% annual rate (and people are ecstatic it wasn’t worse!), and Davos starts to come ’round to my way of thinking.

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Defending your life.

Posted by The eDater on January 29, 2009

Like this, but the pasta's fattening.

Like this, but the pasta's fattening.

It’s perhaps the most dreaded aspect of unemployment. We can all do without the money, you can get used to homelessness, and health insurance is over-rated for all those with intact achilles tendons.

But, in a society where what you do is often who you are, an unemployed shlub faces the withering cross-examination sooner or later. Prepare as you might, it takes saintly patience – and faith – to escape this well-meaning attack.

And I don’t claim to have either.

It hasn’t really begun yet – my grandmother isn’t in town, after all – but the set-up is there. First, suggest gaining some skills. Throw some job leads out there which have absolutely nothing to do with your experience, interests, or aptitudes. Tell stories of someone getting lucky and imply that should be you. Suggest random careers that graze an interest – but, but, they pay pretty well. Ain’t that enough?

Sooner or later it may be – but the worried closest often descend the Degrees of Desperation faster than the subject. After all, it’s just a job title to most of them. Only to you will it be your life – or a huge mass of hours therein.

And refuse these suggestions at your peril – you’re unemployed, after all! I’m not sure unemployed folks really get that big a say, do they? Beggars and choosers and all – right?

In the depression, one of the commonest complaints wasn’t the hunger – it was the feeling of impotence. The inability to provide. You’re going to feel this at some point, if the jobless state lasts long enough.

And in this market, it will.

And when that feeling comes – well, you’ll be ready to do anything.

So, how should you defend your life? In my opinion – don’t. Take all the suggestions. Act on a defensible number. Re-examine your inner kernel often enough you can hold it steady, but no need to mention it. Just graciously accept everything coming in, almost apologetically – too bad you’ve created this uncomfortable social situation, sorry, but I sure do appreciate you braving it to help.

And then do what you want, anyway. Often, what you want and what is offered will cross over – and then, if haven’t been too busy defending yourself, you’ll hear it and run.

Now, see if you can get all those emotions and contradictory ideas to work together – without snapping once, without doubting once. Saintly indeed.

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Oops.

Posted by The eDater on January 29, 2009

Originally written Tuesday evening, somehow this entry never got published. Consequently, Wednesday night’s entry might have seemed a bit confusing. For those who care, here is what was meant to precede it…

Apps Today: 1

Projects worked on: 1

So this was a fairly slow day, mostly because I’ve been busy packing and saying goodbyes. Tomorrow, I begin the trek down south, to the home of parents.

Now, there are some who would call this trip foolhardy – not for its destination, but it’s timing. The entire east coast is going to be blanketed by a major storm, and I’m virtually guaranteed to be driving through snow, ice, and rain, progressively. A 7-8 hour trip will likely take me 10-12.

And you know what? That’s just the way I like it.

Like a babe escaping the birth canal, I seek out strong demarcation between sections of life. Driving through a storm – the stress, the sweat, the heightened sense of danger and the alertness that brings – perfect. Call me crazy – others certainly have – but I’d prefer my changes come with dramatic exits and entrances. Loved when I left Japan in a blizzard, and arrived in Thailand breathing deep the humid curry. That’s what it should always be.

Now, as for going to live with the parents – well, this is what I joked about as failure back in salad days. 30 and back at the old homestead. Always good for a laugh – if a nervous one from the owners of that home.

But hey, it’s a depression! Kerouac wrote his best work sequestered at home! And, of course, against all odds, I’ll be the one to get a job soon. So, no shame in a couple of months.

And if it’s a couple years, I won’t be alone living at the old home. At least I like my family – I know a few who will suffer much when their time comes.

Anyway, tomorrow may be slow – lots of driving. But I’ll update as soon as I’m able.

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My. God.

Posted by The eDater on January 29, 2009

It was worse than this. Much. Worse.

It was worse than this. Much. Worse.

Ok, not to bellyache, but I must bellyache. 10 hours of hell, I say. Saying goodbye to puppies sucks, sympathetic eyes from postal employees asking why you’re quitting the PO Box sucks, and most especially, 4 hours of snow and then freezing rain really really sucks. I can’t believe the semis that just keep going 70 even as most of us were fishtailing nearly sideways down the road. I had to stop about five times to scrape ice off my wipers, just to have a prayer of seeing anything. My favorite moments – other than sliding in slush – were definitely said semis zooming by, spraying not water but some solid muck onto the windshield, the wipers struggling to even move, and me, blind, just hoping that I’m still going straight, that nothing got in front of me, and that I can resist the screaming urge to slam my brakes and skid into the Jersey wall or the ditch.

The next 6 hours were a more normal sort of driving hell – pouring rain, dark streets with black ice here and there, and northeast corridor traffic. All in all, whitest knuckles I’ve ever had – but that’s what I asked for, isn’t it?

And I spent most of that time listening to Buddhist teachings from Alan Watts, keeping the rage at bay. I thought numerous times, if I must die today, at least I’ll be thinking right thoughts as it happens. And with the strange challenge I gave myself and the sense of accomplishment now, I feel great having done it. Not that I’m dying to do it again.

And now I’m in Baltimore – where the drivers floor it when they hit a patch of ice, and lock their wheels thinking that’ll stop them. People here should never go out in the snow.

But parents had a waiting meal, and all sorts of ideas for graduate study. This should be fun. I must fight regression tooth and nail.

For obvious reasons, I haven’t been watching the news of the day especially closely. You’ve heard about the vote by now, I’m sure, and most of you probably know about the lack of world growth and the prospect of 51 million jobs gone by the end of the year.

But what’s this? I want my mail, everyday! Well, many (founding libertarians) think we should do away with the postal service anyway – especially with the online and the paperless only growing over the years – so this might be a step in the right direction, I suppose.

Now, to sleep the sleep of the warrior.

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70,000

Posted by The eDater on January 26, 2009

One of 70,000

One of 70,000

That’s how many job cuts were announced today. It’s a pretty big number. Of course, some people are still just blaming the mood.

Me, I’m more scared of this guy.

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Another happy day done.

Posted by The eDater on January 26, 2009

Apps today: 1

Projects worked on: 2

WHAM is right baby!

WHAM is right baby!

Y’know, this job search is very enlightening. All the pundits talking about the economy really should take a moment to pretend they’re unemployed, and see what a job search looks like today.

The anecdote I use to explain it to friends involves Craigslist. You see, I love New York. I’d really like to live there.

So, every day, I’m checking the New York writers and editors jobs page on Craigslist. (I check elsewhere too, of course – but this anecdote is limited in scope.) Last time I was searching for work, if you visited the site around noon, the first page (100 posts) were all from that day, with a good bit of the second page also filled. All from that morning.

Now, you go, and the first page goes back a week or more. Take today – it was a Monday, a pretty big hiring day. Definitely above average – 14 posts.

Of those 14, one was glorified spam, trying to get folks to sign up for a website. Three were for translators. Five were for low-paying or no-paying internships. Seven were actually for some kind of real job – and only one of those in any way fit my skill set.

That’s for all of New York – and of course, there’s something like twice the number of folks actively searching now compared with a couple years ago. At least.

I sometimes consider starting a pool. We could call it Degrees of Desperation.

Family and friends could bet how long it takes me to lower my standards – with multiple winners. Say, how long before I stop trying just for jobs I’d like, and start applying to anything where I might have a chance. How long before I give up my favorite destinations, and start applying to any and every corner of the globe. (Ironically, I’d do better outside America given my work history, but I’m not ready to break my ma’s heart again, not just yet.) How long to forget my industry, and start applying entry level elsewhere. How long to go from skilled to unskilled. And don’t forget, I know there’s a bunch more unemployed just lurking, waiting to join the search. Delay too long, and those Starbucks jobs could be gone before I’ve gotten to the lowest level of desperation!

That would make for a very hungry writer.

I’m convinced, with all the variables, this would be quite an exciting pool. If you want to start it up in the comments, I just want to say – I can be bribed. Easily.

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An efficient bugger

Posted by The eDater on January 26, 2009

The breakfast, lunch, and dinner of losers.

The breakfast, lunch, and dinner of losers.

So, with my move down to the ‘jobs’ in the city coming in a scant 2 or 3 days, I’ve been trying to clean out my cupboard. And to be honest, I’m getting really tired of mac n’ cheese and pasta. But still, it feels rather nice to eat a food supply down to nothing. There’s a perverse sense of accomplishment. Rather like using every part of a carcass – those deer antlers bumped against each other to attract other deer to the fighting, knives made from the bones, rope from the tendons… yes, I’m comparing the slurping of cereal to the efficiency of hunter-gatherers. And I’m not backing down either.

And each bite of ramen is already bought and paid for – sustenance for free! Or for a sunk cost, which is more or less the same.

As I savor my shrimp-flavored powder, not quite dissolved, here’s a nice roundup of tech recession news, courtesy of Engadget. They’re reporting a rumored number of 16,000 cuts at IBM, which, if true, is a really big number. Because after all, IBM is one of the few companies that beat earnings estimates recently, along with Apple and a very few others. Maybe that’s why it’s only 16,000 – which would be about 4% of IBM’s workforce, a relatively small percentage compared with, oh, everyone else wielding an axe.

Posted in depression, economy, sustenance | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »