learning

Brain on fire.

I went to a job interview yesterday. This is still a fairly novel experience for me; I don’t suppose I’ve been to more than a half-dozen of these in my life. I applied for the job because my savings are getting low, and because I was curious; curious about the “real job” market, curious about what “they” pay, and curious about how I really felt about working for anyone else besides myself.
The interview went fine; I’m on the short-list, and expecting a call-back. I think it’s unlikely that I’ll take the job if its offered to me. Partly it’s because the job offers too many hours for too little pay. Partly it’s because of the reaction of the interviewers (considering me to be clearly over-qualified). Partly it’s because, if I turn this down, I’ll be starting over from zero once again.
There’s something delightful and liberating about having nothing. Being at zero makes it hard to hide from yourself. It’s a position in life that emphasizes possibility and potential over security and complacency. Sometimes nothing is the only thing that really lights a fire under my ass. I went to the Caribbean with nothing, and it worked out okay. I came back to the States with nothing, and it worked out well. I came to this town a little over a year ago with two bags and the clothes on my back, and now I’m marketable and equipped.
I don’t have payments to make, a mortgage to pay, kids to support, or any other expensive habits. My rent is very reasonable, my car is cheap, and I enjoy the support of a great partner, community, and adopted extended family. Generally, I work at the work I want to do, and work the hours I want to work. No, it’s not steady, but there’s nothing else in my life that requires that steady, reliable (low) paycheque.
So I’m staying at zero. I have skill, ability, and knowledge to market. I do not need to take whatever is available to me; I will create what others wish was available to them.
Perhaps I’ll be really truly broke in another month. There’s always the chance that I’ll lose everything. Again. I’m ready, I’ve been there before.
I know I’ll land on my feet no matter what.

browsing

As much as I enjoy and use Google services, I’ve found myself engaged in a gentle resistance against all Google, all the time. So it was with just a little quiet sigh of resignation that I installed Google’s new Chrome web-browser on my machine.

I’ve been using Firefox user since 3.0. I flirted with Opera for awhile, back in my Windoze days, but got hooked by the speed gains of Firefox 3.5, as well as the great add-on collection and support. IE finally has picked up a few of the features of both these other browsers, but now that I’ve become a Linuxophile, all closed-source Microsoft crap has been banned from my pc.
But on to Chrome. After a day of browsing and testing, Chrome is looking… fast! The interface is very minimalist, but most all the features are still there, even if a few of them are buried. Even with a few extensions (google voice and gmail checkers, adblock), the browser window is a very lithe affair. The “omnibar” (combined search and address bar) works well enough, but it’s not obvious what service you’re using to search with; Google is the default, of course, but I find myself preferring Firefox’s discrete search box with its obvious selection of search engines.
The big deal about Chrome is still the speed. On my machine, it benchmarks 80%-300% better than Firefox. With HTML5 video fully-enabled, youTube, vimeo, etc., show blazing smooth lag-free playback, although I do note a touch more pixelation. But that speed! My box is no powerhouse, but Chrome and public DNS make for a seriously snappy browsing experience.
I am, however, noticing a little trouble here and there. For instance, my WP admin page shows a few render goofs, minor mangled buttons, etc. Also, the trade-off for Chrome’s multi-threaded approach seems to be a slightly greater static memory usage and a tendency to keep the CPU at full-blaze. Not enough to fail on, but evidence that Chrome is still very much a bleeding-edge browser, based on truly new technologies.
Firefox, for me, is not usurped, just shuffled a bit to the side; I’ll still be using Firefox for critical work, content creation, and alongside other CPU-intensive tasks. But it’s that raw speed, combined with the uncluttered interface and large viewing pane, that may well keep me using Chrome for casual browsing.

The single most stressful issue in my life right now has got to be the process of getting paid. As more and more of my work falls into the “self-employed” category, the billing and payment process is becoming both more important and more difficult.

The first issue is with charging my work out at a rate that both satisfies my need for income with my desire to charge no more than I would want to pay for such work myself. Coming from the point of view of someone who can readily accomplish most any task I set myself too, I find it very difficult to charge money for that which comes easily to me. The attitude I find myself up against is one of “If I can do this, then anyone can do it, and if anyone can do it, it can’t be worth that much, right?”.
I also find it very difficult to justify charging out for work that I might otherwise do for free, as in the case of a helping hand for friends or family.
When friends try to assure me that I’m only charging what is fair and expected for such work, I find myself feeling suspicious of their words, feeling like they’re only supporting some sort of self-perpetuating capitalist greed.
On top of all this maelstrom of internal debate, I’m also finding it very difficult to discover exactly how much is standard for the work I do. Income, especially among the self-employed, feels like a very touchy subject; nobody really wants to discuss exactly how much they make. This is especially true amongst different tradespeople on the same jobsite! What discoveries I’ve made suggest that my own current rate is low to middling, even though it often feels like a phenomenal amount to me.

When I’m preparing a bill, I find myself invariably filled with dread of the moment of presentation; that first reaction from a client can really break me! Even when paid a fixed price or working against an agreed-upon amount, I almost always feel guilty about accepting payment for anything short of some prolonged and/or herculean physical effort.
About the only time I can gladly accept payment is when there is some sort of disconnect between the amount billed out and the amount paid out (as when an employer charges out labour, then pays out their employee some percentage), or when the person I’m billing is truly and properly so rich that whatever I’m charging is but a drop in the bucket.
Of course, there are always those rare (and hopefully, brief) situations where I’m charging out time to some disgusting asshole or greedy prick for whom I have no respect, and have neither intention nor desire to continue working for. Those jerks I will gladly charge as much as I can squeeze out of them, in the unusual occasion I get stuck with such a one.

In the meantime, I keep on working, stressing, and trying to find that “just right” balanced rate; one that is fair for the work done, and alarms neither my clients nor myself.

digital reality

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