(In)Adequate Staffing In The Workplace

I think a lot about the way that workplaces are staffed. My previous job specifically hired people who hadn’t worked anywhere else and then basically ground then into dust for way too little pay, relying on quantity to make up for a lack of quality (specifically to rely on the quanitity of employees to make up for the lack of quality training they gave to those entry-level employees). Some people thrived in that environment and some people, myself included, did not because they didn’t fit in perfectly. My current job tends to work very hard to avoid getting rid of employees but seems to be struggling with figuring out how to retain employees, especially young-ish ones. At thirty one, I’m one of the youngest people on my team and, until this week, at almost six years, had worked at the company for the shortest amount of time. Throw in a bunch of horror stories about working at Amazon facilities, coffee shops, university systems (to name a few high-profile employers who have achieved a level of notoriety thanks to the recent surge of labor violations on their parts and the resulting union drives) and I’ve got a lot of different data about what it’s like to work for an employer that has staffing issues.

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“Vacation” Just Means You Have To Work More Later

It has been a week since my close scrapes with having my car run over by a truck, running out of gas on the highway, and having a mental breakdown at my workplace. I got some rest, tried to unwind, spent some time taking care of the issues I could resolve on my own, and now I’m back at work. It is, unfortunately, like I never left. Yesterday was so busy that I had a stress headache and an overstimulated migraine at the same time, and wound up spending my evening sitting in a comfortable position on my couch while drinking plenty of water with all the lights off except the dim light of my television and my always-on christmas lights. All of which normally helps but didn’t this time (probably because of how long the combo migrache had been going on), so I would up turning to painkillers and eventually those helped. Sleep eventually killed the lingering effects of the migrache so I was ready to tackle today. Except this horrible combination of brain pains is already back because today is busy as well and it’s not like I magically got used to my new underclothes in twenty-four hours.

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Pensive Rest

One of the best feelings in my life right now is waking up slowly. To be able to slowly swim to consciousness from the pure darkness of a dreamless sleep. To slowly resurface into the world around me as I slip free of a dream that has held me within its embrace through the night. To know it doesn’t matter when I’ve come to awareness because there is nothing going on that needs my time or attention until I’m ready to give it. Even when I haven’t slept enough to feel properly rested, it still feels comforting to know that I can take my time waking up or that I can just go back to sleep if I feel like it. Having that choice is a wonderful feeling.

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The Power of Plastic

Jordan swiped their card and stared at the terminal until they remembered swiping didn’t work anymore. “Sorry.”

“I forget all the time.” The teller shrugged. “Just tap it on the screen.”

Jordan did and the payment terminal beeped, finally taking their payment.

As their receipt printed, Jordan jerked their head toward the rest of the store. “Amazing this place still runs.”

“Sure.” The teller shrugged again. “Stock’s different, but we still sell stuff. Helps people focus, you know?”

Jordan nodded, taking their receipt.

“Still.” The teller sighed, staring at the doors out of the store, “beats slaving away out there.”

“Yeah.”

“You good with all that?”

“I think so.”

“I could call someone…”

“No, I’ve got it.” Jordan gave a half-hearted smile, shifted the bags around, and started walking toward the exit. “Have a nice day.”

“You too.”

Jordan slowed, carefully peering out the door. The blasted ruins of cars, melted asphalt, and red haze in the air were still present. Nothing moved but plants swaying in the breeze.

Confident they were safe, Jordan hitched their mask over their face and exited the airlock. They glanced around as they walked, watching for danger and a ride away from the burned-out husk of the city. When they spotted a buggy pulled by a balding donkey, they waved it down. The elderly driver stowed Jordna’s bags and patiently waited while they fumbled with the payment terminal.

As the machine beeped to denote a payment received, the old driver chuckled. “I always figured capitalism would fail when civilization did. Thought we’d be bartering by now.”

Jordan chuckled as they climbed into their seat, brushing their iron grey hair away from their mask. “Guess it just goes to show. Peace, health, and safety are things money can’t buy. For the everything left, there’s MasterCard.”

Stardew Valley Lets You (Metaphorically) Kill An Effigy Of Capitalism And I Just Think That’s Neat

I played a LOT of Stardew Valley last year. I got into playing it on the Switch with a friend of mine, but I’d bounced off the game a few times on the PC previously so I expected to only enjoy playing it as a means of socializing with a friend who lived far away. After all, I hadn’t disliked the game, I’d just gotten distracted and busy with other things. Playing with someone made it a lot more enjoyable, thanks to the potential for splitting up the daily tasks, but I’ll admit I struggled with how quickly the days pass when you can’t stop the clock during dialogues, cutscenes, or even the moments of transition between screens. Fishing also becomes nearly impossible because of how quickly the clock moves when you’re catching a single fish.

Eventually, I got tired of asking my friend questions about the game, of always feeling behind and uncertain of what I should be doing or preparing for in the coming days of the game. I decided to try playing solo again, in order to figure out how the game works, improve my farming efficiency, and really dig into the systems of the game on a deeper level than I could during multiplayer. Which is a great way to play the game if you understand the systems or are willing to let yourself be carried by your other player(s), but it’s not great for learning how the game works at any kind of speed since it doesn’t let you stop and think without the day passing you by. I figured I’d get maybe a year into my singleplayer game’s calendar and then fall off again. Instead, I wound up doing an entire year in the two weeks before I played with my friend again and then turned our fun, relaxed farm into an efficient, artisanal-goods-producing machine. Which was, you know, still fun. Just also incredibly profitable in a snowballing kind of way.

After getting into year three of my solo file, I fell off the game. There was still stuff to do, but I was working on increasing my understanding, efficiency, and planning. I was still experimenting with how to automate things, how to get enough of the resources I needed for stuff, and finding new things to explore in the wider world of Stardew Valley. I didn’t really get bored so much as the easy work was finished and I decided I needed a break because my nights were filled with hazy dreams about watering cans, tile selection for tool usage, and the constant grind of swapping out things being processed as they finished. If I ever go back to the game for solo play (which I probably will do, thanks to the expansive nature of the game and the creator’s penchant for continuing to release new content), I’ll probably start over and use what I’ve learned from my solo game to get optimal efficiency in my first year so I can knock out all the achievement type stuff right away and focus on the exploration, fighting, and end-game aspects. And the island. I never quite made it there, though I was right on the cusp when I fell off.

My friend and I don’t play much anymore. A mixture of increasingly busy schedules, her recent homeownership, our stress levels, and just a level of distraction with other things means we haven’t played in more months than I can easily recall. I’ve talked with other people about getting a multiplayer Stardew Vallet game set up, but it never seems to pan out. It seems like it has been difficult to find time to do such things with people lately, as everyone tries to fill out their schedules to either take advantage of the looser restrictions or fill up their evenings with entertainment as they continue to isolate from the on-going pandemic.

Which is too bad, because I could really use the escape the game offers. After all, the idea of leaving an office job behind in order to go live in a quiet little town full of interesting people who all seem receptive to newcomers (with a couple exceptions) and live off the land is incredibly appealing to me. I’d love to just check out of capitalism entirely, but the game is actually pretty reliant on capitalism since you gotta sell all your farm goods for money if you want to make any kind of advancements in the game. There’s no real bartering or community supply options.

Which, honestly, is pretty good for a video game, you know? That its only major failing is that you can’t destroy capitalism. You can destroy an effigy of capitalism though, so that’s neat. I ALWAYS pick that option. I couldn’t stand to play the game knowing I’d sold out a local community to a faceless, shitty corportation if I somehow went that route. Too real.

Out, Damned Spotify!

After a few years of being a subscriber to Spotify, I’ve decided to cancel my subscription. Beyond the general controversy of the day, Spotify’s decision to publish and promote a pretty terrible person despite their purpoted misinformation rules, they’ve never been terribly good to musicians. I’ve been vaguely aware that streaming via Spotify was never a lucrative deal for most of the musicians, which is why I’ve always made efforts to use Spotify only as a vehicle for finding and easily accessing music while supporting the artist more directly through other platforms, but the whole Joe Rogan controversy has brought a lot of other problems with Spotify into the limelight and I can no longer give them money without betraying my conscience.

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A Very Satisfying Game

I love a good survival/building game. Played a lot of Ark when it first came out (even ran a server for half a year), I’m constantly going back to Minecraft, I’ve gotten a lot of fun out of Raft, and Valheim was a great diversion for a while and continues to be with each major update they put out. These days, I’ve started getting into SatisFactory which seems less focused on the survival thing and more focused on the endless production thing. I don’t need to gather food (though food-like things can be used to make stuff that isn’t food), monitor my energy, or even be too wary of natural predators. I can just endlessly pursue production and efficiency.

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Video Games or Vacations

It is incredibly difficult for me to plan and then take a good vacation. Specifically, I mean that I have never once taken a proper “leave my common sphere of activity” style vacation that wasn’t to a lake house owned by my grandparents since I left for college. Well, I recently had one exception to that, which was a camping trip with some friends, but a crown I’d just gotten not long before the trip broke on the first day and left me feeling pretty awful for the whole weekend so I’m not counting that due to the lack of actual relaxation or rest that one single moment caused.

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Saturday Afternoon Musing

You even wonder how much better the environment would be doing without all the crap people mail you in order to entice you to get a credit card, take out a small loans, refinance student loans, apply to committees, or help fund organizations that somehow got your home address but not your phone number? Sure, the relative cost to the company sending the junk mail isn’t very high because paper is still pretty cheap and I’m guessing they’ve got some way to save on postage for bulk mailings because stamps are fairly cheap for inter-US mail, but that stuff has to add up eventually. The same thing applies for environmental impact. Sure, it is a lot easier to measure the impact of ten thousand sheets of paper instead of just the five that went into making the advert for a credit card with outrageous terms hidden deep inside the fine print, but it still adds up eventually. Especially when you take into account how often they send them.

Its like budgeting. Sure, finding a way to save five cents per day on something you’re paying for every day isn’t a whole lot, but that’s a dollar fifty in a month and a little over eighteen bucks a year. Over the decade I’m probably going to be paying off my student loans, that’s over one hundred eighty dollars. And that’s from a single five cents saved. Throw in the other dozen places I can do the same thing and suddenly that’s gone from one hundred eighty to almost two thousand, two hundred. One on its own doesn’t add up to much over time, but all together they do.

Given that a credit card company can send two thousand offers before it hits the magical ten thousand measurement mark, it seems like it’d take a lot of people to really make any kind of impact. But it isn’t just one per person. It’s two per person per month. Sure, the customer list is probably smaller than I think it us, but that’s twenty-four a year for me. suddenly, you only need eighty-four people to pass the measurement mark and I’m willing to bet there are at least that many people getting them in my neighborhood. Throw in the fact that I’ve got four loan companies, five credit card offers, three places I actually bank with/have loans with/had a credit card with at one point, and don’t forget all the places I have memberships that could be upgrade to include a credit card. In total, I probably get some fifty pieces of junk mail a month that I need to sort through for personal information, shred, and then dispose of, which all adds to the environmental toll. Suddenly, it’s starting to feel like I’ve dealing with ten thousand sheets of paper on my own. All without even getting into the “or current resident” crap that just goes straight into the recycling bin.

What a waste! The most frustrating part for me is that I’ve opted into the paperless option for every single one of my accounts and banks and service providers of every kind, but I still keep getting shit sent to me. It’s incredibly frustrating. I’m literally never going to do anything but dispose of this shit for me and nothing I’ve attempted to get them to stop has worked. I’m just going to keep getting this shit no matter where I go because there’s always someone new sending me junk mail as soon as I finally get one of the others to stop.

It just seems like such an inefficient, wasteful system whose only end is going to come when we all get neural uplinks and they can beam the credit card and personal loan offers directly into our brain. Except it probably won’t because junk mail also infects the internet and we still get it in our mailboxes as well. There’s no escape. We’re awash in a papery nightmare of unceasing advertisements for everything from solicitations for a local dentist’s office to a forms asking if we’d like to upgrade our credit card from platinum plan A to electrum plan B that gives us a slightly higher interested rate but also gives us an extra percent cash back on miscellaneous purchases that are almost never what we need to buy until right after the promotion has ended.

Capitalism in the US sucks a lot of the time, because people have found a way to use it that helps them succeed at the expense of either the environment or a bunch of other people, but this is a way that it sucks all of the time. It produces a ton of useless waste for no other reason than to grease the cogs of the money machine in order to turn an ever higher profit from quarter to quarter.

What a waste. I’m going to go for a walk in the sunlight now and calm down from this rant. Have a good day.

A Day in the Life of a Twenty-Something

You wake up at a variety of times on any given day, but you went to bed early yesterday and slept until 9. With over 9 hours of sleep, you feel more refreshed and ready than you’ve felt in weeks. Your back kind of aches, but you know it’s a sign that you slept well and it’ll eventually disappear when you can afford a new mattress. Specifically, a mattress that wasn’t bought of the cheap end of the discount rack. Content that your morning will be quiet, you grab you phone off of your nightstand and review the notifications.

A few texts from your friends who wake up early or stay up late, the usual plethora of social media updates, and a message from your parents about Christmas plans are all that great you. No application updates happened over night and none of your passive games have anything to report. You set your phone aside for a moment to rub your eyes  and turn on your lamp. After you eyes have lost some of their crusty feeling, you open the social media account of your choice, looking for updates from friends or the latest news on your interests.

Instead, all you can find is people screaming out about the latest tragedy perpetrated by your government. Maybe there’s some news about the latest disaster to happen exactly as the protesters predicted it would and the corporations swore it wouldn’t. Perhaps there is some heartening news about the investigations into corruption at the highest levels of your government, but that is almost always tempered by the commentary from a few trusted analysts that there has been solid enough evidence to prosecute for months now and the ruling party has so far refused to do so. Instead, the heads of your government are intent on pushing laws through the legislative bodies without giving anyone a chance to read them or without even fully understanding them. Gone are the days of your childhood, when it seemed like everyone worked together to do the right thing. The stories your parents told you of sensibility, logic, and justice ruling at the end of the day are no longer relevant. Now, everything is “us or them” and no one is willing to reach across the aisle to actually try to understand.

You close your social media application without ever looking up your friends or for developments in your hobbies or interests. Instead, you put your phone aside and open a book, play a video game, or fire up Netflix. You disengage not because you don’t care, but because you care and there’s too much for you to care about. Ten minutes of browsing has left you almost as tired as you were the night before. At least you managed to avoid finding any articles written by previous generations about how your generation has ruined the country or will soon ruin it. That much irony in the morning isn’t good for anyone’s health.

After a suitable amount of time, you finally haul yourself to your feet and start getting ready for the day. Some kind of food is consumed, nothing terribly interesting but enough to keep your body functioning, and the usual hygiene routines are observed. Perhaps a little more quickly than you would like, but water is a finite resource and not free. Neither is the electricity used to heat your water or power your stove. After you’ve finished the more pleasant parts of your day, you clench your jaw and make yourself attend to your bills. It is early in the month, and most of them come due over the next two weeks, carefully staggered so you can make sure they all post to your account before the next one is due. It wouldn’t be good to get overdrawn again. Once a year is more than enough.

Bills paid, almost happily because it means you’ve got more than enough money to pay them all sitting in your account, you start reviewing your Christmas gift list. You’d like to buy presents for a lot of people, but you’re not sure you can afford to. If you bought everything from Amazon, you probably could, but you just read an article the night before about how the warehouse employees are collapsing on the job and that the CEO finally passed the 100 billions net-worth mark. The idea of that much difference between the people who actually do the work for a company and the person who sits on the top of the human pyramid sickens you.

You still buy several gifts from Amazon, though, as you go about acquiring Christmas presents. There’s just nowhere else that can get them to you in time, much less actually has what you want. Most places that might have been able to do that at one point have buckled under Amazon’s greater financial weight. Just like the local post office that’s been marking packages as delivered because they don’t have the staff to deliver everything on Amazon’s promised day. They need to cheat so that they’re not penalized for failing to make good on the contracts their superiors have signed with the cross-industry giant that is Amazon.

Christmas attended to, you settle in for the remainder of your evening, alternating between reading, watching TV, or maybe attending to a creative project or two. Even though you’ve made effort to avoid it for just one day, the raging inferno of inequality and corruption has leaked into your life through your friends and through the constant awareness that you are a part of the industrial machine driving your country and your world toward ruin. The only way you could avoid being a part of it is by abandoning modern life entirely and taking up life as a sustenance farmer.

Unfortunately, you can’t do that, as appealing as it sounds at times. Your debt, accrued at the behest of your parents, older relatives, and role models, must be paid back. If it is not paid back by you, then it will burden your parents who, while much better off than you, are still trying to get their financial future back in order after the bubble burst last decade. You know what its like to feel the weight of that debt hanging around your neck, changing the way you make every decision. You wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

Instead, you eat a quiet dinner of something simple and filling, go back to your Netflix subscription and watch it until you feel sufficiently removed from your problems to go to bed. After preparing for bed, you lay back and feel the steel springs shift and twang as you stir beneath the covers. Eventually, you fall asleep after consoling yourself with the thought that maybe tomorrow will be better.