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An Honest Living (stevesalaita.com)
312 points by severine 64 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 199 comments



During and after college, I spent about four years working in a bakery. I pretty much ran the whole place - making the dough, creating the extra ingredients for pastries, running the cash register, talking to customers, and so on.

At the time, it didn't seem like a great job. But now, looking back after 5+ years of staring at a screen for 8 hours a day, I miss the physicality of being a baker. I hope the next computer revolution will untether computers from a sedentary work environment.


I will never get bored of the intellectual stimulace of my job, but yes, I did start to yearn for something more physical. Having kids pretty much solved that desire for me. I'm now a full time roboticist and a part time cook, people mover, negotiator, lab manager, construction foreman, fitness coach, gym spotter, goalie, wanderer, professional wrestler, cleaner, etc.

I'm surprised every week by what it's like to be a parent. I never expected it to round my life out in such a healthy way, both mentally and physically. Not just because I have offspring but because I'm doing a ton of things I haven't done in years, decades.


> Not just because I have offspring but because I'm doing a ton of things I haven't done in years, decades.

One of the great things in being a parent is that I can once more forget myself for hours when building snow castles or burrowing tunnels into a snow mountain at the end of the street, and no one bats an eye 'because kids'. Having kids also changes you in a way that you once more remember how awesome that was in the first place.


Right now I'm lounging in a tent filled with pillows and blankets, in the basement, snuggling with my son as we watch cartoons (StoryBots is a masterpiece).

There are effects of this morning routine, which I cannot directly explain, that make my upcoming work day so easy and productive.


Exactly that.

Being a parent also gives you a great excuse to finally buy that drone!


I... I can't even...

Frack, you're winning at parenting. I'm a dad and have never ever even once thought of it in those terms. I've never once thought, "thank goodness I'm a parent, it gives me something physical to do."


Agreed. This is a good mindset shift that I will definitely be using.


Thank you for this comment, I've forwarded it to some new parents in my life. It reminds me of this quote from Heinlein: “A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”


There are a lot of skills in that list that I don't find essential, and a number that my personal list would add, but it's still one of my favorite quotes of all time. I might even call it the motto of my life.


That's an amazing quote, and it will probably hold up for decades if not centuries.... except the "plan an invasion" part. Not sure how intrinsic that is to the nature of a balanced human life.


I loved that quote when I was a teenager, but over time I came to hate it. We can't master everything. We don't live long enough, and besides, the list of things to master grows superlinearly, which means mastering even one thing requires specialization.

One should absolutely have a diverse set of skills and interest and knowledge, but it's also important to pick one or two things to truly master.


It doesn’t say to master all those things...in fact that’s the opposite of his point, which is to be reasonably competent at a lot of things rather than being helpless without a specialist around. Heinlein’s characters are (sometimes hilariously) self-sufficient, but respectful of true expertise.


My perspective has been to be able to "speak the language". You may not be able to rebuild your engine, perform surgery, build your own PC, etc. But know enough that you can have a meaningful conversation with the experts.


Culturally, we are told to define ourselves by our jobs (what we do to provide money for our dependents or ourselves). We've lost the idea of vocation, and that vocation extends beyond the "9-to-5."

Parenting is absolutely a vocation, and your perspective toward it is quite refreshing.


That’s a pretty nice report on being a parent, quite inspiring… Thank you.


"I'm now a full time roboticist and a part time cook, people mover, negotiator, lab manager, construction foreman, fitness coach, gym spotter, goalie, wanderer, professional wrestler, cleaner, etc."

This reminds me of that write-up that tried to put a price on a stay-at-home parent by listing all the activities they do, looking at the price of a specialist, and adding it up. I'm bookmarking yours for future conversations like that since it's shorter, has more activities, and is more fun to read. :)


It's interesting you say that. My wife and I have made a very conscious decision about our income generation capabiltiy vs. being full-time parents.

She retired (at the old age of 29) to be a full-time mom. I found a job where I work 100% from home.

We have not attempted to quantify our decision. All we had to do was discuss it qualitatively and it was a no-brainer.

My oldest just turned 2, my youngest is almost 3 months. These are the greatest times of our lives. Why would I want to miss this for anything? No amount of money can replace these extra long mornings, lunchtime park/toboggan hill outings, and 4pm Mom-induced visits from my toddler who runs into my office, grabs my hand, and guides me to his building blocks.


I longed to be a scout 'back in the day', but it was beyond my family's means. Participating in the various camping, hiking, Pinewood Derby activities prompted by my son's participation in scouts is great for his confidence and enjoyment and for our time together, but it's adding something to my life that I never expected to have.


> I hope the next computer revolution will untether computers from a sedentary work environment.

I'll leave Bret Victor's website [0] here for anyone interested in continuing this train of thought. Most of his work posted there revolves around this in some way, but just to link to a specific presentation here's Humane Representation of Thought [1].

Bret Victor changed what I think of computation technology's progress and what I expect of it. I'd go as far as to say that his presentations are eye openers.

[0] http://worrydream.com/ [1] https://vimeo.com/115154289


Thanks for this! I had no idea who this person is, the MagicInk paper is a wonderful, animated piece of writing to be sure.


Matthew B. Crawford's "Shop Class for Soulcraft" and "The World Beyond Your Head" are excellent explorations of how manual work can change your outlook on the world.

I've recently become obsessed with woodworking videos on YouTube. I think watching Paul Sellers spend two hours making a drawer with hand tools has become for me a cathartic release of my frustrations at spending the day in front of a screen interacting with nothing physical except a keyboard.


Koreans watch others eating [1], westerners watch others doing manual labor. Welcome to the future!

https://gizmodo.com/you-can-pay-to-watch-strangers-eat-on-th...


Americans do both. I love homesteading, hunting, fishing, outdoors cooking and outdoors eating videos.


Huh. Just the other day I listened to this podcast https://www.npr.org/2019/02/05/691697963/close-enough-the-lu... which discusses this exact new wave of living vicariously. Woodworking videos is one of the examples in the show. I highly recommend listening to it.


I have ancestors who were bakers. Unfortunately flour dust in the air 24/7 can lead to asthma and COPD, so that part is not all roses.


I imagine that part could be mitigated nowadays with ventilation and HEPA filters, no?

As an aside, I'm floored by the wholesomeness of this whole thread. It's inspiring.


That's a good point, I guess I don't really know. We see with soldering stations that to really remove the hazard, the ventilation hood must flow very high rates of air and be very close to the work. However flour is not toxic the same way lead is, so maybe general filtration & ventilation would be sufficient.


Physicality is an amazing feeling. I think it's why so many programmers get into making stuff. When you usually spend weeks and weeks moving bits around, building even the smallest real thing can be immensely satisfying.


You describe the bakery well. It does sound enticing.

Ah, the smell of baking bread!


And once you are back to being a baker, you'll look at a cushy sedentary office job with rose colored glasses.

The grass is always greener.

It's like when you are living your boring monotonous day to day life, you can't wait to go on an adventurous vacation. Once you are on vacation, you can't wait to get back to the comforts of your home.

First world problems.


My favorite job ever, as far as the job itself, was working peon-tier helping to run a campground for a Summer. Only non-tech job I've ever had, had worked for years in tech before and years more after. Location was even pretty awful by outdoorsy standards, somewhere with mountains or... anything, really, would have been better still.

Too bad it paid, you know, a tenth of what I make programming.

It was great. No screens, just a normal-ass cash register to work from time to time. No sitting unless I wanted to, no meetings, golf cart to drive around once or twice a day. Firewood to carry. People to talk to. Plenty of time to read or write and no-one remotely interesting in claiming the copyright anything I did then, let alone during time I was off the clock. Pretty much nothing about the job was evil, while so many tech jobs are at least a little. None of that general soul-grime of corporate life.

I'd do that for a whole career if it paid anywhere near what software dev does. I'm only in software because 100% of the things I actually want to do pay half as well, at best, and some of them require a lot more up-front spending and time for education. Programming's great when I need to do it for a personal project. As a career, it blows, compensation aside. It's not even high status, for the most part, despite the comp.


I've said for years I'd love to work at Home Depot if they came up $100 an hour on the pay.


I'd too love to work at a place where I could be part of the 95th percentile moving wood around all day.


Or you won't. I traded my desk job for a more active one (my phone says I walked 10 miles at work on Friday), and I'm struggling to remember why I would ever have liked a desk job. (I got to move bits and pixels around in a computer, that nobody would ever see?) I'm loving it here.

Why would a person suggest to another that if they can't be happy where they are, they wouldn't be happy anywhere? Is "a sedentary office job" the summit of all work for all people? Do we not accept that people can have preferences?

I'm going to start a dating website called "The grass is always greener". Customers get matched with one person, ever.


Maybe we shouldn't spend all our lives doing just one type of job and change careers. But then, it takes a long time to get good at something, so changing careers every 5 (or x) years is also not that good an option.


That is an interesting idea. But like you said, it takes time for you to get good at your job and more importantly, it takes time for you to increase you earnings. I don't know how feasible it would be for a senior developer making $200K per year to start off as an electrician's apprentice at $50K per year. Especially when you have a mortgage and family to provide for.

The only way your idea would work if somehow work and income were divorced from each other. That seems rather utopian than practical. Maybe if you were wealthy enough, you could try out multiple careers. Or maybe wait til retirement though that also seems impractical.


I suppose it all depends on what an individual wants to optimize for. If one wants to optimize their life for happiness, then changing careers is an option even if it means less money. But if one wants to optimize for money/title etc (which is what most people do, right or wrong) then it is better to stick to one career and get as good at it as possible.


Or if one lived more modestly. If the person making $200k/year lives on $100k/year and saves the rest, they'd still need to cut back a bit to drop to $50k/year, but not nearly so much.

Mortgage and family would make that more difficult, but from my perspective ($80k/year, single, and quite comfortably not spending even half of that), $200k/year certainly sounds "wealthy enough" to me.


Honestly, I have no idea why anyone posts anything on Twitter beyond cat and dog pics. It's simply impossible to tweet any nuanced position. Yet people continue to try. It's possible to support Israel, Palestine, 2-state solutions, etc. and not be an antisemite. It's damn hard to say that in less than 200 characters.

From what I know of Salaita he was convicted of free-thought. Labeled an anti-semite. And the rest is history.


Antisemite means "opposing people of Semitic ethnicity". Surprisingly Arabs are also Semitic people. Therefore whichever side you pick you can't be antisemitic by definition.You can be anti Zionist and oppose people based on thier actions and ideas, not their ethnicity. I saw many people using this nonsense argument that according to a paper written by some people the definition of anti Semitism is opposing Israel. This is falsely accusing people who criticize Israel and labeling them as racist.


That's the etymology of the two roots of the word, but it's not the English definition which specifically refers to discrimination against Jews. The word is from a German term which was created by an antisemite in order to make his hate speech sound more reasonable.

I say this in no way to discredit your argument against the conflation of anti-Zionism with antisemitism. It's possible to be critical of Zionism without being antisemitic.


Salaita might have strong family history reasons for not having a particularly nuanced take on Israel, but I'm not sure character limits are the main factor driving tweets suggesting the Israeli ambassador takes sexual pleasure in seeing pictures of dead kids...

It's not exactly as if Israel and its actions are seldom criticised on campuses, or indeed on academics' Twitter accounts.


> It's not exactly as if Israel and its actions are seldom criticised on campuses, or indeed on academics' Twitter accounts.

But that's the thing. Any criticism of Israel requires a 2-page disclaimer in order to make it perfectly clear your criticisms do not in anyway support antisemitism. I have not found a clear criticism of Israel on Twitter that did not require, at least, 10 additional tweets.

It's a poor medium for any academic to use. I fail to understand why he would in the first place. Intellectual debates are quite dry and nuanced. 2 things that microblogs do really poorly.


One can find statements criticising Israeli policy that do not need a disclaimer or any other sort of qualification to determine that they are not anti-Semitic (and in many cases highly unlikely to be motivated by anti-Semitism) by typing 'Israel', 'Israeli' or 'Netanyahu' into Twitter's search box. Of course, it's also not difficult to find statements that are probably or unambiguously anti-Semitic using the same search terms...

For all Twitter's shortcoming as a means for making nuanced arguments and the sensitivities of commenting on things Israelis and Palestinians have done without being accused of rationalising the excesses of the other side, it's not exactly difficult to convey dismay over a particular attack, disgust with an Israeli policy, support for Palestinian statehood or opposition to a statement made by an Israeli in 140 characters without blood libels, gloating about Israeli kids going missing or rants about a concept of 'Zionism' that owe more to the 'Protocols' than reality. Indeed enforced brevity would tend to lead one towards not including that sort of extraneous anti-Semitic sentiment.

Sure, Twitter is an utterly terrible medium for making carefully reasoned arguments about how to reconcile conflicts and redress grievances, but on the other hand it's a fantastic medium to rant and have the "I was misinterpreted" defence if anyone ever suggests your abusiveness towards the other side of the debate goes too far. Academics are certainly not immune to enjoying a rant about their enemies.


So why would criticisms against Israel always require careful and complicated disclaimers (which might still not be enough to save you from being immediately labeled as "anti-Semite", while many other totally uninformed nonsense float freely on Twitter? What he said on Twitter was definitely largely reasonable and anti-Semitism is being branded about freely, being institutionalized as a universal tool, to silence any critics of Israel.


I agree with the first part, Twitter is a bad idea for anyone who deals in complexity.

A teacher's job is to inform. They should inspire us to rise above our base instincts and investigate issues further.

Compressing ideas into vulgar soundbites (the point of Twitter) is something teachers should be helping us avoid, not participating in. I don't think he should have been fired, but anyone who made the bumper sticker tweet below definitely doesn't deserve to be rewarded with tenure so they can become immune from criticism.

>> Zionists: transforming "antisemitism" from something horrible into something honorable since 1948.#Gaza #FreePalestine


While I find what happened to him to be disgusting, I think you CAN do better nuance in 140 characters than call people who support X (Israel in this case) "awful human beings".

But again, such an outburst shouldn't be cause for exclusion, nor strong evidence for anti-semitism.


I know, the quintessence of this article isn't about "quitting your job and do sth. totally different", but...

From time to time, I feel like that. Just leave software dev behind, and become a truck driver.


No offense intended here. I have a commercial drivers license and have put a bit of time in driving a truck as a summer job after high school. It sucks. Society basically treats trucks as outcast from the nicer places of our communities. Truck stops are full of chemicals and unhealthy food and anything nicer is barely reachable when you are 75 feet long. 8 hours of coding with the chance of running at the end of the day is much better. I also did a bit of paid software dev after high school, looking at screens isn’t the best, but the freedom to integrate with society is well worth it. (I ended up studying mechanical engineering in college and will graduate in May)


I don't know. I've been in software development professionally for over a decade now, and there are days when the money doesn't seem worth it and I look at construction workers with envy.


You have a fair and understandable point. Here’s my perspective as someone who has been proximate to both industries.

My parents ran a construction company. One day a guy showed up for his first day of work. By virtue of the project’s schedule at that point, a trench needed to be dug 3ft wide by 5ft deep by 20 ft long. There were buried utilies nearby, thus machinery would have been risky. Therefore on Chuck’s first day of work he dug a tench by hand in the 100+ degree sun(By virtue of necessity).

That’s a pretty anecdotal, albiet harsh, case. If you’re smart about riding the ups and downs you can make decent money, but as an industry it’s pretty hard on its workers. I have friends who work construction to make money during college. While I am worried someone moved the AC from 68->72, they are breaking their backs pouring cement and consuming illicit drugs to block the back pain.


A temporary escape from what you might have been a little burnt out from could be nice. Wanting to turn that into a new permanent new profession would be quite ridiculous.


I don't believe this is specific to software dev. I postulate that this feeling of yours is the route cause of what we call the midlife crisis.

When you are young, you have all the possibilities of what to do with your life. Methaphorically all the open doors of possibility. But as you progress with your life you have to make decisions about what do you want to do, and as you walk through some doors you close most other doors.

For example by choosing to become a software dev, you most certainly wont become a doctor, lawyer, cook, house builder or truck driver, although all these options were open to you a couple of years back, now those doors are mostly closed.

And it is this feeling of lost possibilities that you might be feeling.


Having just turned 30, this resonates with me too well. Seeing it on paper helps a bit, but it still sucks.

Along the lines of what others have said in this thread, I hate. Hate. Hate. Sitting at a desk for my job and staring into a little box. It just seems hysterical that we will likely spend most of our working lives staring at little boxes with lots of text and images on them. This isn’t the real world. It’s all just conjured up on a screen for profit and entertainment. Computers have taken over our lives and seem to be replacing even social interaction for some people. I’m sick of it. And as soon as you turn <device> off, it doesn’t F*ing matter anymore.

I bet nearly every intellectual profession now is dominated by computer-based work. And it sucks because the old jobs - bakers, builders, mechanics, etc. - don’t pay nearly as much as the jobs that any 22 year old making shitty web apps with React can get paid. Am I flippant? Yes. Do I know where to go from here? Nope.


> This isn’t the real world. It’s all just conjured up on a screen for profit and entertainment.

One of the reasons I love embedded SW development is this right here. I know that it's basically just in my head, but it's so much more satisfying for me to work on a medical device SW or a harvester control system than, I dunno, some random ToDo app.

One could call embedded dev the sweet spot between the real world (as you put it) and the abstract world of pure software.


Embedded dev here. I also love this profession but seeing the huge gap of perks between us and app kiddies(remote work opportunities, higher wages, more days off, free meals, modern offices in nice cities) makes me depressed. That's why I'm actively trying to move to BackEnd/Fullstack.


How is embedded development WRT requirements and process?

I've had this theory for some time that a number of dev's frustrations are rooted in the fact that what they're doing isn't anything close to real engineering. That for a great many of their jobs, quality is not really a priority because what they're creating could just as easily be gone or reworked tomorrow.

So I've wondered if I'm on to something, do things get better the farther down the dev stack you go? Because, much like building a physical structure once that hardware ships the software is doing it's intended, required job. Sure, there can be firmware patches in the same way a building needs maintenance but it's not like management is going to recall the coffee makers because they think they should now tweet when your coffee was made.


That depends the most on what you work on. Of course there is an abundance of embedded shops that do the kind of development that gets tweeted by @internetofshit

On the other hand, things like heavy machinery control systems are usually in somewhere in the middle: the machines themselves are burdened by all kinds of regulations, and the machines can kill a dozen people easily by accident if something goes catastrophically wrong, so it would definitely suck to "move fast and break things". Also, like you mentioned, software updates are few and far between.

Then there's medical and aviation and friends, where you have MISRA-C and the like. Very process-y, if you like that.

Basically, work on SW for tangible things, and pick your poison regarding how much requirements and process you want. I'd say that on a very broad average, things do get more strict going farther down the stack, if for no other reason than that if the lowest level code does not work reliably, then nothing else usually won't either.


Isn't embedded largely going away ?


I think there are two concurrent forces at play pulling in a opposite directions.

On one hand, the higher end of the embedded world can be replaced by a powerful CPU that can run Linux, and there is not much differences between embedded vs non embedded there. This is the "easy" but not cheap solution.

On the other hand, as always more sensors are needed, and as objects are more connected than ever, the density of micro controller running on a given device is exploding (from automotive to various medical devices).

So all in all, I am not sure that embedded is decreasing.


Don't forget per-unit savings at scale. That's the main reason 8-16 bitters (a) still exist at all and (b) sell for over a billion dollars a year. The 32-bit RISC chips on modern nodes are starting to eat into them. Yet, there will always be companies willing to use a tinier, weaker, or just weirder device to increase per-unit profits.

Heck, there's even still a market for 4-bit chips used by the likes of Gillette:

http://www.embeddedinsights.com/channels/2010/12/10/consider...


Yeah. If you can save 5 cents on the part cost, and you're going to sell 100 million of them, it's worth it (for the company) to burn a few person-years of engineering time dealing with the limitations of the chip (provided it's at least barely adequate for the task).


Yeah, exactly. And automotive itself is kind of just the tip of the iceberg (although admittedly huge by volume).

My current company is working with heavy machinery manufacturers, and the industry is years behind consumer automotive. There's a similar kind of explosion in the amount of small intelligent modules waiting to happen.


It really is a question of your willingness to accept a lower wage for work you want to do. I am 34 and have been doing web development professionally since I was 19. I have always and still do love it.

I suspect that is at least partially due to the fact that I have consistently accepted lower pay to work at small businesses and nonprofits. I currently work for the local PBS affiliate and absolutely love the environment, people, and challenges there.

But, I do also worry about how that will affect me and my family long term. Will my wife and I be able to support our children well? Will we be able to retire comfortably? Etc. I’m certainly still making a very comfortable wage compared to many other professions, but I have turned down salaraies 25+% higher than my current one from much larger corporate organizations. Will I regret that in 20 years?


Run some savings calculations, check the kids’ savings, live debt free, top of emergency funds, should be ok. Regretting anything is a waste of time and energy because you just never know where life might have taken you had you made the other choice. Say you accepted the larger pay job but the work environment was poor and you brought work problems home, which then affects marriage and you divorce and lose your kids. Hypothetical sure, but millions of these types of scenarios could play out from a single choice. It’s best not to live in regrets and accept everything as is. Ultimately we have control momentarily and can steer our ship any which way we like but the sea is full of icebergs.


> Regretting anything is a waste of time and energy because you just never know where life might have taken you had you made the other choice.

Wise words written.

I "regret" - at the ripe old age of 45+ - having not gone on to get an advanced degree. I was lazy; I know that now. It was not because of inability.

But I make a comfortable living as an SE, have no children, have a good amount of savings, and I am debt free (other than a mortgage, which doesn't count - especially since my house is now worth double of what I paid for it 15+ years ago - plus having equity, etc).

So - since actually pursuing a degree (something I have considered) would likely not improve my salary prospects much, and would only put me further in debt - I instead occasionally spend time involving myself in MOOCs (so far all of them in the AI/ML space).

I try not to dwell on that "regret"; as you have said, life could have turned out so much differently and I would likely have other "regrets" instead.

Instead, I do what I can to continue my educational self-improvement in other ways (MOOCs being one small part), and focus instead upon my life's successes and everyday enjoyments, which are honestly more than enough for me.


I don't think feeling the job "isn't real" is the actual underlying reason you hate your job. Most likely you're a bit burnt out or having a mid-life symptom. By your definition is baking real, since it uses all sorts of processed agricultural products and sophisticated machinery? Maybe let's all go back to live in caves, make stone tools by hand and hunt animals? Programming is very "real" in that it powers up all the infrastructures that make the modern society run. Software developers are called "engineers" for a reason. I'm not sure there's much that can get more "real" than engineering. It certainly is much better than being a salesman or something if you want to look it this way.


I’ve had this battle with myself and my purpose for as long as I remember. I even try to convince myself that somehow what I do improves lives but frankly I could give a shit. I am not talking as a privileged white male although that’s who I am, I grew up in poverty and know what hunger feels like and know what hard work is having done a fair bit of manual labor. At the end of the day I have to look at the broad picture and say to myself “well if I didn’t do it, someone may not have had a pleasant time when they were trying to do X on this website, I helped make their experience less stressful”. I realize that experience is just encouraging consumption or lining pockets of rich fat cats but I don’t know how else to feel good about myself. I really shouldn’t. There are times where I envy real jobs, but the. I look at how real jobs treat people and I have to be thankful for the situation I’m in. Who gets to work from home on their terms, their time and not have to put up with asshole bosses? Who gets to chose when they work? Not many people. Do I deserve it? Probably not, but I figured out that life is but a set of constraints on an otherwise limitless mind. You can do anything you want and yet people don’t. I’m always amazed at the power that is choice and which is easily available to most people in most circumstances, they just make the wrong choices or conjure up reasons why something can’t be or must be this way only. I think about these things all the time- like what if I decide this right now instead of that - where will life take me? The number of possibilities is mind boggling. Sorry for ranting, I’m not really sure where this is going. Well, I am staring at a screen :(


I felt the same way. I actually used the similar words to describe my office workplace "nothing real happens here". I quit though and thank god, it was miserable. You're absolutely right that people aren't meant to sit and stare at screens all day.


Isn't that always the tradeoff - job which is satisfying pays less than job which is less satisfying?

If it felt good and paid more, it would be too easy.


Don't think that makes much sense. Some jobs requiring long hours do of course pay more partly due to that, e.g. lawyers and investment bankers. But if you ask construction workers whether they'd like to stop their job and have a higher-paying office job, the vast majority would say it's a no-brainer. Most jobs pay more because they are harder to carry out, not because they are more of a torture. Simple market mechanisms.


You could just accept a lower wage...


Totally agree, and am inclined to agree it may be the root cause of many a midlife crisis.

I could go back to uni, take on a ton of debt, and after retraining find few want a late fifties junior. Chances are I'd never pay off the student debts before retirement either, unless I get really lucky. A direct into the job route will probably meet just as much resistance to a mid fifties starter. Foreign Legion, Police and Air Force all think I'm too old now.

That smell is from all those burnt bridges.

Yet 40s and 50s are when many decide they've had enough and want something more fulfilling, find limited choice, and end up with a self employed micro business. I suspect this is not what they wished for in many cases, but just what's left.


Interesting point of view, in most of Europe you'd not get in debt at all for that. Finding a job as a beginner would be as hard though.

In the age of Internet though, it's never too hard to learn something new for free.

Also, you can still try another occupation during the week-ends. You get to learn and experience something new while volunteering or making additional money, and after all you either see that your existing job is better, or that you want to make a change, being trained and knowledgeable of why you want to switch.


I'm in the UK, so £27k for a three year degree, and cost of living and any commitments for the period. It becomes a huge gamble, even if you don't need to debt fund it, if you are coming back into the workplace with only 10 or 15 years to run.

When I look at friends who got out of tech, which is now more of them than didn't, I see age taking away choices. Switch before 40s, a fully new career on the back of a degree or training to become whatever seems possible. Leave it later in 40s and 50s and it seems there's fewer choices and far more frustration around it, and the odd mid life crisis.


None of those doors are closed. Its just people become financially and time constrained. Usually by starting a family not by writing software.


You become time-constrained by the very virtue of living. As a 40+ noob, you're worth much less for an employer than a 22-25 noob. You have about the same experience, but younger noobs have more energy, less health problems, much less expectations, much lower costs of living. Also, at 40, you're supposed to be halfway through your expected career; deviating from a standard life looks weird, and from what I can tell, most entry-level jobs don't like weird.

Such is the job market.


Well, some doors are closed forever.

With 32, I'm too old to become a police officer in most states in my country, for instance.


Can only become a police officer if there is still time to indoctrinate you while you are impressionable?

Clearly it’s not because of job requirements, since we have 50 year old officers...


I've sometimes thought about this in terms of being in the military, or what it would take for being involved in one of the "TLAs" - so to speak.

At 45+ years of age, all of those doors are permanently closed to me.

I do think that my thinking on them all is more that of the "romantic notions" of those careers; the reality of them is probably nowhere near as exciting, adventurous, or maybe even as worthwhile, as I might imagine them to have potentially been.


Police work has a hidden deal. First 20 years you are shit posted, getting clubbered by Antifa and rightwingers on demonstrations or shot at in some ghetto. The rest of your time you get an office job to limp towards pension.


Or just responding to domestic disputes all night.


If you are in IT you are likely too smart to be a cop


Where I'm from, the basic police education is a three year bachelor's degree with admittance rate of about 7% of applicants.


Supreme court ruled you can be too smart to be a cop

As a note I think that rate of acceptance is too high. Way too many are getting past the psyche tests and running around bullying society

https://www.globalresearch.ca/us-court-ruled-you-can-be-too-...


Canada (well, Ontario Provincial Police at least) is similar. My brother had a 4 year degree in Criminology and Kinesiology, 7 years+ as a Canadian Armed Forces reservist (including running courses at the Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston) and he didn't get through at least his first application.

It definitely varies.


I didn't say they close because of writing software. They close because of living your life.


Also known as the alienation of labour.


I went skiing with my family recently. As a gimmick we went to a nearby barn where they had a carpenter’s shop. At first I was reluctant to go. But then I got into kind of a flow when I was working on the woods, grinding. I started sweating. There I felt for the first time: we are not made to sit in front of a screen for 8 hrs. At least for some days in the week I’d love to do some physical labor.


That's what million of years of evolution engineered us for.

Obesity epidemic, bad posture and other current issues are a reminder that our current lifestyle is way out of control. Technology evolved much faster than our bodies during the last 200-300 years. It's all fun and games when we're young but when we'll hit 40-50 we'll feel it.

If you don't actively try to exercise you can go literal months during which your physical activity will be: get out of bed, open a few doors, sit in a car, open a few doors, sit all day, open a few doors, sit in car, open a few doors, lay in bed.

That's killing us mentally and physically.


I agree. I think there is one important difference between working out and physical labor: you create. This feel way more satisfying


It doesn't feel right to imagine that 50,000 years ago, humans laboured hard in the natural environment.

Apart from walking to plants and water sources and running after animals, and play/fighting, what exercise-like work would have been done or needed on a daily or weekly basis?


There is a middle ground between "labouring hard" and not doing anything remotely strenuous during your average week.

That's amplified by our new calorie dense diets that were not available before. We can argue all day long, facts are there, obesity rates are going up every year, lifestyle related cancer too, and that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Damn, most of my colleagues can't run 5km (without time restriction).


Food preparation and collection could be very labor intensive, i.e. digging out roots with improvised tools.


I drifted about 2 years ago from white collar / "creative" work to forest maintenance. Not tree logging, but taking care of growing forest and planting trees. I'm in Eastern Europe, so the plan was to spend the warm season entirely outdoors and focus on "mental" work during winter when the available forestry jobs are not to my liking. (I've developed tinnitus -- constant ringing in my ears --, so I decided not to work with gas-powered brush cutters or other kinds of machinery any more. Luckily a fraction of forest maintaining can still be done using hand tools, mostly swedish or brush axes, but scythes also work well.)

I'm currently mostly at home with kids, but the general feeling is that I just would not want to work indoors any more. For my preferred hand labour the wages are tiny around here (IMHO not so when you're OK working with brush cutters, although some might disagree with that). But the mental and physical balance I get from being in the forest every day, rain or shine, tends to outweigh that. So as a parent it's surely a complicated decision as to what to do after we send our youngest off to kindergarten.

In particular, planting trees or cleaning treelings from weeds using a scythe could be a damn perfect job for every physically fit loner-introvert.

Here's a movie about tree planting in Canada (where this is a huge industry, isn't it?):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QxR02N-Sauk&t=870s

And here's an inspiring guy, forest keeper, scythe mowing enthusiast and witty documentary film maker Simon from the UK. Yep, I want to be just like him when I grow up. If you're interested in traditional tools and manual labour in the wilderness, be sure to check out his entire Youtube channel. Great movies about scythe mower vs tractor competition etc. :)

https://youtu.be/yvRJAtPWBCY?t=307

Ah, wonderful things, considering the current shitty-dirty-snowy March-like weather in Estonia.


Tree planting in western canada is the complete opposite of office work. Instead of too little exercise, you'll have a broken body. From what I've heard, it's brutal work where you're paid by the tree and not by the hour. Not my cup of tea.


Yes, I suppose one gets paid by the tree pretty much everywhere. Many planters do say that after max 7-8 seasons you're broken. But -- to me, many of them seem to take this work too seriously. If you're paid by plant, why not take it _a little_ easier?

I've only planted in Estonia thus far and survived well, though. I seem to have suitable bodily proportions for the job, but it also comes down to planting ergonomically as wisely as you can right from the start. In particular, learning to use both of your hands and legs equally (plant "ambidextrously" as they call it). See this thread from replant.ca, an awesome resource for tree planters in Canada: http://www.replant.ca/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?t=65984

But, sure, it is tough work to the point of not being sensible to many.


> At least for some days in the week I’d love to do some physical labor.

So what's stopping you from doing this on the weekend?

Set up a home workshop, or find somebody or someplace (a maker's shop or a hacker space?) who has such tools available.

If you don't own a home, let me tell ya that if you want a lot of physical labor, maintenance on a home is where it is at, every weekend if you want it.


>> From time to time, I feel like that. Just leave software dev behind, and become a truck driver.

I have the exact thoughts sometimes. And I ask myself why truck driver.

Maybe it represents the opposite of software career.

More work in real world vs virtual.

Be outside vs stuck in cubicle.

Perceived freedom and independence vs managing self / team / customer.

Work is restricted to a day vs work piling up.

Not carrying the work home vs being switched on always.

Less expectation vs imposter syndrome

casual interactions vs formal communication

Truck driving as a career has its own challenges. But my mind perceives it to be a better choice. Grass always looks greener on the other side.


> Less expectation vs imposter syndrome

Try watching some videos of reversing semis. Then try reversing with a trailer.

My dad’s cousin was a truck driver. I once saw him reverse a car with a trailer at full speed for 200 meters. Dead straight. Trailer never even twitch.

It was the most impressive feat of hand-eye coordination I’ve seen my whole life.


Try backing up an articulated-hitch wagon with a tractor, to mate with an auger! 6" tolerance and you can't see anything back there.

It's amazing what humans can learn to do


And I ask myself why truck driver.

If you are very visual-spatial, passively taking in scenery while driving feeds the same need as website design, basically.


My cousin is a truck driver. It's mainly a miserable existence, sleeping in the cab on long haul jobs across the Great Plains. He sees his family every other week. For him it's just enough better than his previous job, which was getting shot at in Afghanistan. His dead buddies are tattooed on his arm as a reminder. If you can do what you do, and chose to drive a truck instead, I suspect he would question your judgement.


I was addressing (one factor in) why programmers might fantasize about trucking when they are feeling fed up. Presumably, if they are fantasizing about getting a commercial driver's license and driving a truck, they already drive a car. So some part of their brain likely recognizes that driving is a passive means to meet visual-spatial needs that are likely being met with more effort in some sense currently.

I'm not a programmer. I also no longer drive. I gave up my car more than a decade ago and my driver's license more than five years ago.

I'm just someone who has thought a lot about how brain wiring impacts personal preferences and life choices. I enjoy discussing that when opportunity arises.


Truck driving is a poor example/choice. You spend a lot of time sitting and a lot of time alone. Humans weren't made for that either. Outdoors, human contact, movement.


My buddy was VP Engineering at an innovative software company (neural solutions to industrial control problems). Quit and opened a falafel restaurant, never been happier.


Can anyone that has been in the industry for a significant period of time comment on this feeling?

I'm 5 years deep professionally, 15 years as a hobby, and no longer enjoying software, at least in it's form consumed by a customer.

Similar to a sibling poster, I'm envious of the landscaper, school teacher, or electrician.

Has anyone left software and felt better off for it, or regretted it?

Interested to hear any anecdotes or insight.


I remember the moment I hit this. I was developing a desktop app in C#, using Entity Framework (v1), and I had just had the realisation that lazy loading in EF didn't, and the bugs I was seeing in my application were because I hadn't checked whether EF had actually loaded the data (and loaded it myself if it hadn't).

I lost it. I was done. That was it. I couldn't get past the lies (the documentation was outright lying about this behaviour). My entire career had been in the Windows stack, almost 20 years from VB3 to C#, but I was done. I loved coding, but this... this was bullshit... this had to change.

The next day I installed Linux and started again, learning web development properly and eventually finding Go, which I still code in to this day. I have never touched C#, or developed anything on Windows, since that day (roughly 8 years ago now).

I was freelancing, and doing OK at it, and that was hard, but I picked up some JS work and some prototype work for local startups (and tried a few of my own). I joined all the meetups and made friends who I could ask questions of.

Now I'm pretty much back to where I left off, and much happier for it.

I know that most people wouldn't consider this to be a "career change" story - after all I stayed a software developer. But I did have to throw most of what I knew out of the window(s) and start again from scratch, and which was hard but incredibly enjoyable. I fell in love with coding again, and it took me years to rebuild my career on my terms again.

I don't know what your circumstances are, but if you're burned out from 5 years of professional development, maybe try changing what you hate about it?


Stress comes from (the feeling of) responsibility you can't control.

So I think it's not about what you hate but about what you can't control.

Maybe you did not hate Windows, C# and EF, but when it turns out to be a big stress factor it can be good to swap and take control again.


When my grandfather died a few years back, I went to the funeral and one night sat at a table with all the men of my family as we went around lamenting about how we'll miss him and what he wanted out of life. I am the first in my family to go to college, went straight out of HS. Every other member of my family has been extremely blue collar. Miners and factory workers, for generations that's how it was. I wanted something different out of life, and they found happiness doing what they did. it was ultimately more of a means to an end for them. They wanted to provide for their family and the work let them do that.

When the conversation came to me, I didn't know what to say. Here were men who spent 14-16 hrs a day in some of the worst conditions, and that's when they weren't on strike-- there I was, the guy who gets to work from home and sits at a desk all day. Its hard to think of a place where you could feel more alone than at a table with family who share nothing in common with you but DNA.

I love what I do. Well what hasn't been whittled away in the name of efficiency or productivity, but I would consider giving it all up.


Yes, I know the feeling. My guess is that it’s lack of agency (if I’m using the word correctly.)

Basically as an engineer you put some creative effort - or at least try to - in what you do thinking it’s some sort of one-of-a-kind artifact, and therefore touch your aesthetic sense.

Management doesn’t give 2 f*cks, they’re just into producing output (not necessarily profit) and CYA, and they’re hell bent into turning you into a predictable blue-collar. It’s not because they’re evil, in a corporate org eventually everyone’s purpose gets optimized away.

We’re lucky the software factory model crashed and burned in the ‘00 but we’re still craftsmen (and women), so we need to think like one.

Become a contractor, do what you’re asked for with the best of your skill but that’s it. Don’t let that “mission”, “purpose”, “we’re a family” rhetoric fool you. Build a wall between yourself and them . Be a carpenter, make it flat and level, invoice and bye.


One of my hobby is doing small improvements around the house. I really enjoy the work that a electrician or carpenter or landscaper does. I fancy myself running one of those businesses but in reality I know the job can be grueling as you get older and the pay is not always great. Also due to major health issues, I think a desk job is the best for me. I think in reality as a developer if you get bored you should change employers and work on different problems.


Same, or possibly more extreme. I've renovated most of the rooms in my house which were in a bad state of repair. I've installed a new kitchen. Just got to finish the bathrooms.

I do find that spending a weekend putting up plasterboard or tearing out a fireplace gives one a new appreciation for the mental challenges of coding.


It's funny, but growing up as a shut-in kid into a career in software development, I think working at a desk is one of the worst parts about it.


Please do consider that school teachers have unappreciated jobs while they work with insufficient resources to build the future of our socieities. Just imagine "classroom control" for classrooms at different age-groups. If you feel jaded/worn-out/burnt-out by the software field, though teaching can be rewarding, please do try and understand what it entails before getting into it.

Perhaps you already know all this and in that case please forgive my unsolicited advice.


I'd agree here. My wife was a teacher (teacher of the year in her second year, promoted to admin in her last) but left after 8 years. Why? The depressing realities of the state of the teaching profession - she decided she wanted to leave it behind to work with me in software and is much happier.


Graduated in 2011 with degrees in CS and mechanical engineering. Did 1.5 years working on an iPhone app startup in SF, which shut down/failed. Grew frustrated with SF hype and wanted to work with my hands again, took a risk and moved to work at a drone startup in small town in the desert Southwest, turning down software jobs. Turned down a Google software offer a bit later as well. Two years in, the drone startup was bought by Google. Almost 5 years since then, and I'm still doing mechanical engineering, have done a bit of code relevant to my role but nothing in production. Very much lucky, but also glad I left software and get to use my hands as much as I love to. Sometimes I toy with code a bit.

Not a landscaper, school teacher, or electrician, but that's my anecdote for you.


After similar time in the industry (programmed for ~7 years professionally, 17 as hobby), I share your feeling. I had two big realizations that make me dislike my occupation.

1) Programming as a lone skill is essentially meaningless, in the same way being a master at using hammers is meaningless. The skill has to be applied to some domain in order to became useful for people. A hammer skill + steelworking skill = forging stuff. A hammer skill + carpentry skills = making furniture. Similarly, programming + medical knowledge = improving people's health by software. Programming + orbital mechanics knowledge = making space ships go where they need to. Etc.

(And by knowledge/skills I really mean knowledge + experience + being recognized in the community of practitioners.)

I remember when I first started to learn to program, I felt I can do anything with that skill. Only lately I come to realize that I can't do shit with that skill alone, and maybe I should've picked a different major.

2) Building things for sale != building things that're useful. There is a correlation between marketability and usefulness, but it's generally weak. At high level, there's plenty of ways to boost sales other than delivering actual value in exchange for money. Products that win tend not to be the best at their stated purpose; they're the ones best marketed. On low level, I see constant pressure towards reducing functionality, reducing interoperability, dumbing down the UI, which all makes software less useful, but better at making first impression and/or hooking people up.

I'm not likely to leave software, but right now, I'm focusing on acquiring knowledge, experience and contacts in other areas, so that I could do something with software that I also find worthwhile, instead of just settling on fighting to avoid jobs that are about maintaining the adtech machinery.


A thought: your job is too divorced from the reason you are interested in technology in the first place.

For me, technology is attractive because I see its potential too improve lives, to remove tedium, to entertain, to teach, and to empower. But that isn't what the tech industry is about. I hesitate to say that it was different when I was growing up only because I'm aware of the rose-colored glasses through which we are prone to viewing our childhood.

The tech industry isn't about empowering people, it's about addicting people, selling them crap they don't need, un-informing them, constraining them, and turning them into cattle for advertisers. And it isn't just the industry. Even many open source developers have a culture of viewing people as mere animals to be herded.

You can't connect what you're building with real tangible benefit on the world. It is meaningless.


I left to teach English in Japan when I was 39. Originally I planned to stay for 1 year, but I ended up staying for 5. I wouldn't have gone back to programming except that my wife wanted to live in an English speaking country for a while and I figured it would be a good short term gig :-) Now I'm back, I guess.... (it's been 6 years since then) though working remotely in Japan at the moment.

In the past I have also taken sabbaticals. Probably about the same time as you, I quit my job (it was a terrible job) and decided not to get another one until I understood what I wanted. I knew I was unhappy for a long time, so I saved up for this event. After I quit my job, I ended up writing free software every day. I loved it. "I am a programmer after all", I thought. And then I went back into the industry with a renewed vigour.

I wrote this years later: http://mikekchar.github.io/portfolio//UsefulAndBeneficial

It might be useful to you. To give you a more concrete impression, I used to get caught up doing things that I thought were important (like trying not to let the company I was working for die a horrible death). After I quit my job I realised that there were things about my job that I hated. They were things like chasing people about following process, trying to get my idiot boss to do his job, etc, etc. Some of these things were in my job description (I was in charge of the software process for a group of about 60 people). But the most interesting thing was that if I looked at all the things I hated doing, they matched up exactly with all the things that other people hated me doing.

Then I looked at the things I liked doing. Programming. Well, pretty much it. I hated endless "discussions" about what technology to use or how we should do things, etc, etc. I just liked writing code and solving problems. And then I realised that if I picked some code that nobody else wanted to touch (because it stank to high heaven), I could do anything I wanted and everybody would be ecstatic.

So I tried it in my next job. I put my head down and just wrote code. I declined to offer any opinions on anything I wasn't actually working on. I just wrote (as it turned out) a shit-ton of code. And they loved me, of course. In fact, my boss loved me so much he started to privately ask for my opinions about stuff. So I cautiously told him and he went away and tried it for me. It turned out to be successful. "Oh... That's why you want a manager", I thought. "Someone who is good at not getting into arguments and persuading people and doesn't mind spending their whole day in meetings".

Anyway, from there it was pretty good. But I have to say that I loved quitting my job in the end. I even emailed RMS and said, "I now understand what you meant when you wrote, 'Not everybody needs to be a professional programmer'". Because you really, really don't. When I was teaching, I wrote so much more code for myself than I ever did when I was a programmer. If you really want to be a programmer -- a free programmer, then write free software. You can be a landscaper, school teacher, electrician or even a waiter and write free software. That's what freedom means.

Being a programmer is a job. It's a good job (kinda boring and you have to get good at those interpersonal skills, but at least you aren't hauling nuclear waste around). You don't have to do it, though. You can do any job. All jobs suck in different ways and are good in different ways. But you have a choice. You have freedom and that's a massive blessing.

These days I wonder about staying in this field. I like my boss quite a lot (amazing guy). I like my colleagues quite a lot. I like my work... kinda... I'd rather be doing my own thing, but it's still kind of fun. I like my situation. I don't get paid anywhere near what I would in the SV or the like, but it's still multiples of working as an assistant language teacher. I'm still not sure, though. Who knows what the future will bring.


How Starbucks Saved My Life [1] is a good read along those lines, although it's highly dependent on how much sympathy you feel for the author and his responsibility for his circumstances. I think there's a universal appeal, especially for knowledge workers, in the fantasy of living a simple life and doing tangible work with immediate benefits.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/dp/B000WCWUVS/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?...


Yes: there’s a guy who comes to the office once a week to water the plants. I regard him enviously as I’m knee-deep in a stack trace or combing logs related to a bug report.


Haha we have the same thing. Guy is so fit, has a great haircut, and an Apple Watch. He seems like the most content man in the world.

This is in Australia where tradespeople often do quite well so it's not uncommon.


My wife did this job - "office plant watering".

It really isn't as great as it sounds or looks. The pay is about what you'd expect (ie - tiny).

Lugging around jugs of water, trying to find a nearby working (and accessible) hose bib to fill them, or having to carry your own water in your vehicle (and hoping nothing leaks)...it was grueling work for her.

The upside was you didn't have to talk to many people, not even your employer. She did the work, logged the time, and got paid. But the physical stress was insane, and has left her with more than a few issues (back and joint pain).

I look at software engineering differently; when I'm down in the weeds, yeah it sucks - but I know that things could be much worse for me, for much less pay, and what I am experiencing really isn't that big of a deal.

I get paid a lot of money for doing something that I find very easy to do; something that is almost second nature for me (I've been programming in some form or another for about 35 years, since I was a kid). I enjoy going into my work, I don't dread it. Many, many people would love to have that. I enjoy the fact that I do.

I wish more could say the same about their own work.


I love software and always will, but I don't think it's the kind of job you can stagnate in happily. Like any creative endeavor. I think everyone has periods where they take a step back from code for a while, if not entirely.


Programming is a weird kind of job. Imagine what you can do, all the possibilities. You can create something worth billions in your mind alone.

On the other hand you are spending your life putting out fires. Software breaks. It always does. You day by day job is finding the flaw in the system. Not to mention that you will program other peoples requirements not the fun stuff one does at home.

I started doing this with people. Debugging people. It is not fun and has started to make my life not as pleasant as it used to be.


You can create something worth billions in your mind alone.

No you can't. Every billion dollar product, or even million dollar product, is the result of a team of people doing many more things than writing code.


Yes you can, and there are examples.


An example is not a proof that you "can" in general, because there could also be a large amount of luck involved.


I think what you're saying is that an example is not generally proof that just anyone can. It goes a long way in disproving that its impossible, however. There could be a large amount of luck involved in everything and we just don't know it.


Another way to look at it, is as a scientific experiment, which is by definition falsifiable. "X became a multi-billionaire by using only skills" is hardly a falsifiable statement.


Of course you can. Found the company and stay at top of the food chain: Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, Zuckerberg, just to name a few.


That isn't creating it on your own.


I've also thought about this many times. By coincidence, my closest friends all told about similar thoughts at a gathering recently. It was interesting to hear what people wanted to do, if they wanted to change from their, now established careers.

I myself would take on metalworking and/or blacksmithing. I like the idea of working with milling, threading and cutting metals as well as welding.

I also think that it is very easy to be romantic about these things. It is probably better to understand how you could turn some of these things into hobbies and then get a bit of both worlds.


> I like the idea of working with milling, threading and cutting metals as well as welding.

I do this as a part of one of my hobbies (robotics).

It's really not that fun: It's dirty, smelly, hot, and sometimes can be dangerous. You will get cut. You will get gouged. You will bleed. You will be burned. Not always, but it will happen occasionally. Ideally, that's all the worst that will happen.

I've never worked with a metal lathe; I haven't had the need to yet. But I do have access to one. That is the one of a metal shop's tools which you need to be very respectful and mindful about being around and working with. Depending on the size of the machine (the one I have access to isn't very large), it can do everything from maim you severely, to killing you - and it won't care. It'll barely even slow down.

Not trying to scare you about metal working, but realize it isn't roses, either. It can be very satisfying to make something out of metal and know you did that. But you need to understand what the price can be - even if you are careful and wearing all the necessary safety equipment.

Oh - and never wear gloves or rings (or necklaces, ties, long hair, etc) around things like mills or lathes - really bad to do should things go wrong.

But do wear heavy boots, denim jeans (and all natural fiber clothing period), and gloves (plus other PPE like goggles, face shield, etc) when grinding, cutting, or welding - sparks and molten slag/metal are not fun when they hit bare skin (or burn thru your sneakers - ask me how I know).


Isn't metalworking pretty lucrative? I think generally you can setup a shop and make a good living.


Based on my small sample of friends: no, it's really not.

It used to be, but these days there's too many other options for cheap and strong materials, and places and methods to get parts made. There's definitely ways to position yourself to make good money, especially if you have connections and experience, but it's certainly not as simple as "set up a shop and make a good living".


If you can get contract jobs for aerospace, petroleum etc. then yes. For example, short order prototyping in aerospace and repairs in petroleum. Kind of like getting a programming related job, it takes some networking and reputation. Custom work for cars/motorcycles can also be good with networking and reputation. Other than that, it's basically being the cheap mechanic that can fabricate new parts instead of buying them. Which is not good in the good-vs-evil sense, but not so lucrative.


We've all been there. I would bet that after a year of sitting in traffic, getting cut off by people texting and having to hold your pee for 6 hours for less pay that software will look pretty amazing. I think that is why it is so important for everyone to have a hobby that is not software. We all need a break from life and something to look forward to. Most devs would be happier if they just treat work as work. Turn off email and slack and all the other nonsense when you aren't at work. It can wait until tomorrow. Spend your free time taking care of you.


As an employed SE (been at it for 25+ years), I actually enjoy programming at home. But the key is not doing it with the idea that I will make money from what I am working on, or attempting it as some kind of "side gig". My programming at home is strictly either for my own edification, to solve a problem or provide a solution for a personal need I have, or to simply have some "fun time" playing with code and my computer.

For physical stuff, I also play around with hobby-level robotics - which can be anything from small desktop junk and soldering, to building much larger contraptions at my friend's home metalworking shop (he has the tools and space I don't).

There doesn't have to be a reason or "need" to turn it off at the end of the day, unless you really don't enjoy it - but I would question why you are doing a job you don't enjoy (yes, I know this is something many people struggle with; most jobs aren't enjoyable - but creative jobs should be enjoyable, at least that's a hope - then again, I've heard of people being software engineers, good at their work, who absolutely hated it, but did it only for the money).


Please not a truck driver. I get what you mean, but truck drivers are a terrible example because they are often (literally) criminally overworked.


Ha! You're talking to software professionals here.


This story is becoming too familiar. The extent to which our freedom of speech is being limited today is frightening. It's clear to me that universities are no longer a place for intellectuals and free-thinkers to question the rationality of society. People are being fired for writing emotional tweets. Are we that sensitive, scared, and close-minded? Is this sustainable?


This reminds me of Chomsky's critiques of universities' treatment of anti-war and anti Israeli scholarship. I recall him particularly defending Norman Finkelstein: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norman_Finkelstein#Tenure_deni...


Society has always had their stupid taboos. People were being arrested for saying "fuck" and obscenity laws are a clear rationalization of Common Law norms in naked defiance of the plain text of the first ammendment.

It isn't a legal issue now so much as a social issue. Even if there were strong employment protection laws enforcibility would make it difficult to prove.

Such stupidity is unfortunately sustainable even though it is far from wise. Unfortunately good management and sense is often fragile despite being ideal.


> our freedom of speech is being limited

We have the same freedom of speech that we've always had.

> Are we that sensitive, scared, and close-minded?

The online community seems to be. Good thing it's just a very vocal minority.

> Is this sustainable?

Online: yes. IRL: it wouldn't be, but that's why it doesn't spill out into real life that often, and when it does, it's discouraged.


> Good thing it's just a vocal minority.

Are you being sarcastic? The "very vocal minority" has seemingly limitless power to ruin people's lives over words they don't like. Businesses are forced to close, professors are forced to resign. We're passed the point of being able to say "it's just the internet," and it's time we all acknowledged that.


The four highest officials in Virginia just brazened out being in blackface, Steve King still has a job, and the president is... well I won’t go into it. I think you might need to recalibrate your sense of these things.


It's interesting that you only mentioned politicians and not any of the businesses or professors who have been ruined, like I said in my comment. When an internet mob comes for a politician, a political mob fights back. Most people don't have that luxury.


Our freedom of speech is limited in the sense that its expression carries a greater risk. If people are apprehensive about sharing a frank opinion, if the risk is losing a career or family, the corollary is fewer opinions being shared and a smaller social discourse.


Yes, there is still a First Amendment and its protections are still quite robust.

But the same culture of freedom of speech that "we've always had?" Decidedly not. And without that culture, the First Amendment will wither and become eviscerated over time.


Society was never rational. I like to think Universities are a place to explore ideas that improve society and connect like-minded human beings. They exist to enhance our understanding of ... everything, including society :)


That'll be $200,000


Yeah... the ideal purpose of universities and the way they have grown almost tumor like administrative arms, which seem to only take resources and not advance anything meaningful is sad.


Uh oh, I remember the story of this guy, it’s also linked in the blog article itself:

https://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/13/world/middleeast/professo...


Well I havn't changed career but after graduation I did start doing my hobby half-time so to speak and it atleast filled the physical world need I believe. Rampt up my BJJ, and to a lesser extend Judo, from 1-2 times a week to 4-6 times a week training so that the club was basically my second home, also started competing actively during three-four years.

These days I'm dialing down on it, back to around three times a week. Started doing Cuban Salsa a year ago because of my current girlfriend, who also goes to BJJ with me. Changed job from an e-commerce which I worked for the first four years to an IT-consultant firm where I'm currently at my third assignment, changing things up. Negotiated to have two months service leave during the summer the last two years where I try to travel.

So I guess what I'm trying to say is that you don't need to change occupation, you do hobbies and try to renegotiate your conditions.


This is a combination of thoughtful takes on being a school bus driver, quite an interesting topic in itself (how do you deal with the kids, traffic, etc.) and reinventing yourself in middle age in a job far afield.

It also contains reminiscence and opinions of Salaita on the controversy that cost him his promised job.

This second topic is a complicated one, I suggest before being quick to to decide that he was booted off wrongly for a "thought crime" or rightly because he's an ardent anti-semite one should get familiar with the controversy. At a high-level you can read:

  * The Wikipedia article on the controversy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steven_Salaita_controversy
  * The NYT article from 2014: https://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/13/world/middleeast/professors-angry-tweets-on-gaza-cost-him-a-job.html
  * Chicago Tribune article from 2017: https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/commentary/ct-steve-salaita-academia-exit-perspec-0728-jm-20170727-story.html
From there on, if the general topic piques your interest, you can branch off on one or many of the following topics, among others:

  * Role of Hamas and other organizations in Middle East
  * What is free speech - start with pg's essay : http://www.paulgraham.com/say.html
  * Role of twitter (and other social media in polarization of contemporary societies): E.g. is this a new thing or does it have analogues in history, e.g. French revolutionary pamphlets (if you're in Chicago, you can see the collection in Newberry https://www.newberry.org/french-pamphlets)
  * Jews and the Civil Right Movement in the US, how these two got disconnected, you can start with https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African_American%E2%80%93Jewish_relations, then check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_York_City_teachers%27_strike_of_1968 and the book *Ungovernable City* which covers the strike in detail
  * The relationship between the Left and Jewish Community: Whoa, this is a huge topic, New Yorker just recently covered it https://www.newyorker.com/news/the-new-yorker-interview/looking-at-anti-semitism-on-the-left-and-the-right-an-interview-with-deborah-e-lipstadt
  * Is it all about the Benjamins? Just this month US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar had to publicly apologize for *her* tweets https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/feb/11/ilhan-omar-antisemitic-tweets-house-democrats-apology


This is a great piece. I'll highlight this as the reason I didn't go into government and corporate R&D:

"there’s something profoundly liberating about leaving academe, whereupon you are no longer obliged to give a shit about fashionable thinkers, network at the planet’s most boring parties, or quantify self-worth for scurrilous committees (and whereupon you are free to ignore the latest same-old controversy), for even when you know at the time that the place is toxic, only after you exit (spiritually, not physically) and write an essay or read a novel or complete some other task without considering its relevance to the fascist gods of assessment, or its irrelevance to a gang of cynical senior colleagues, do you realize exactly how insidious and pervasive is the industry’s culture of social control."

I already saw it from the outside. Being an independent researcher's main drawback is you might not make any money. We usually do it as a hobby on top of a full-time job. Having less attention, both for help and promotion, is next one. The wins are that you can do whatever you want, however you want, write it the way you like, and enjoy it as it was meant to be enjoyed. I'm probably about to transition into paid research and/or product development soon. I did thoroughly enjoy throwing my mind at hard problems for years without feeling the pressure to think and do things I didn't want to. And the parties I threw or attended weren't boring. :)


```whereupon you are no longer obliged to give a shit about fashionable thinkers, network at the planet’s most boring parties, or quantify self-worth for scurrilous committees (and whereupon you are free to ignore the latest same-old controversy), for even when you know at the time that the place is toxic ``` Same goes for most SW-dev houses/companies.

What's your field of research btw? And how do you manage to muster energy for it _on_top_ of a full time job?


High-assurance security:

https://dwheeler.com/essays/high-assurance-floss.html

The INFOSEC field was invented by people doing such things, they solved many root issues back in 1970's-1990's, were ignored, mainstream reinvents stuff at a trickle, and niche in CompSci and government doing high-assurance are gettimg more results than ever. I stay promoting it since our critical systems and infrastructure being bulletproof is unserved need. I also design ways to approximate it at lower cost and talent required.

And it's really draining. I just do it since it's both an interesting subject that's also a social need. Seemed like right thing to do.


Give HN an article about a guy being squeezed out of his job for thought-crime, and what do we do with that?

Bitch about our own gilded cages for not giving us enough exercise, of course.

That's how we roll baby!


I like your post. Let me shoulder some of your downvotes.


Ha! Love it!


> About halfway to the lot, a ribbon of cobalt rises on the horizon; when it’s cloudy, a common occurrence in the mid-Atlantic, the darkness stays pure. The spectrum of color will change with the seasons, but now it is winter and the sun comes slowly, if it appears at all.

Ugh, I'm so sick of these flowery long form articles. I had to scan through ten long paragraphs just to find what the article is about.


I think it would be reasonable to include a note in the HN guidelines about not complaining about "magazine-style" writing like this. I see it over and over here, and it's really boring and trite at this point. Many people don't like more expressive forms of writing, especially the HN crowd, but it's a legitimate style which many people enjoy. Why can't people just ignore (or even flag) and move on?

Actually, maybe the guidelines do eschew this complaint:

Please don't post shallow dismissals, especially of other people's work. A good critical comment teaches us something.


I agree about long-form articles, but this isn’t an article, it’s a personal essay.


Instead of clicking back I just started scanning the start of each paragraph until I found the one that would have been the intro in a news-style article and then I realized that the author had helpfully provided a demarcation using asterisks.

That being said after explaining that he was groomed early for academia but then fired, he sort of wanders off again before really explaining how/why and that was where I gave up.


I read that first sentence, saw how long the scroll bar was, and clicked back. I like long form but not with this junk wasting space.


This article reminds me of the first time I had to get a class C (commercial) truck license. I work as a diesel engine mechanic, and in order to test our work, or diagnose problems, sometimes we drive the trucks themselves. Ive driven school buses before.

School buses are the black sheep of heavy duty trucks. they need a pretty good duty cycle on the engine, and cant cost much because cash strapped states rarely chip in for stuff like tinted windows or turbos. Durability takes precedence over performance, so you have a 26,000lb vehicle up to 45ft long built on a lowest-bidder chassis. Brakes are commonly "whatever" and its somewhat rare to see jake style engine braking provided. there are no luxuries like low air alarms, TPMS, or over-angle alarms for hills so you need to be a damn good driver considering youve got up to 90 screaming kids as your cargo.

they are miserable in corners, and because the rear axle is fixed the offset considerably affects your turning radius. Id rather park a 53' commercial diesel than try to back a schoolbus into a spot.

TL;DR: Steve picked easily the hardest truck to drive in my opinion, other than a tanker.


I've always thought that it was almost impossible to be fired if you were tenured. But, after reading this article, I got the impression that a tenured position is a precarious one at best, that requires slavish devotion to politics to avoid getting fired. Am I missing something here?


They hired him to be a tenured professor, but fired him before he started his job and argued that he wasn't hired yet in the first place. The lawsuit & settlement was about that.


I worked retail, later I worked in factories. I almost had my hand torn off in a machine once. I dislocated my shoulder keeping a pallet from landing on a coworker. I passed out due to exhaustion and heat unloading trucks. I had customers punch me and spit on me working at a gas station. I mopped up piss and blood and tamped down dumpsters with my own feet.

Blue collar work is brutal beyond belief and I don’t plan to go back if I can do anything to keep from doing so.


One thing not noted in the article is the psychological toll working a job like bus driver takes if its the peak of your professional life.

Its slightly demeaning for people with well respected jobs that are intellectually demanding to step down from their position and enjoy the simplicity and directness of a job like bus driver. They will not have the weight of inadequacy that most people in low skill occupations carry.


The line that expressed the author's opinion most clearly to me was this:

> Public discourse doesn’t exist in a free market.

I read the article as an indictment of capitalist forces, which pressure people into conformity as a path towards, ironically, (economic) freedom.

The author is fighting and is in conflict. I wonder, though, if there is another way, so that freedom doesn't have to come through either blind conformity or "me against the world" conflict. There are a lot of things in our world and our culture which I don't like, yet isn't recognizing my powerless to change the world to my liking an equally valid path to freedom?


"Zionists: transforming anti-semitism from something horrible into something honorable since 1948."

From: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steven_Salaita_controversy


A charitable interpretation of that quotation is that Zionists have transformed the definition of anti-semitism from something truly horrible (bigotry) to something the author finds honorable (criticism of Israeli government policies).


Lots of mentions of quitting to become a truck driver. Perhaps some people should research becoming an airline pilot. The hours and travel are similar to that of a truck driver but you’re staying in hotels, have access to healthier food, and work in a generally more comfortable environment.

Upfront investment and low starting pay are the main hurtles. The job itself is very rewarding in my opinion but you will need to spend 3-5 years at the bottom rungs before you start seeing financial upside. Having been in this career for some time now I know I would never even think to look back at life in a cubicle.


For every positive story about being an airline pilot you can find one warning to stay far away.

I have a CPMEL/IA and graduated Riddle (and even did a stint as ATC) but have switched to software engineering.

The grass is not always greener.


I truly believe some people just aren’t cut out for it. 99% of people I’ve worked with that had a ‘horrific’ career complained mostly of the time away from home and schedule. It leads them to hopping around airlines trying to find the best setup and never really gaining any kind of seniority so they can get that sweet schedule. It’s fine that some people aren’t up for it but they definitely should not be in this career if they can’t handle being on the road.

I would imagine trucking is similar in that regard. Don’t make the jump if you don’t truly want to live on the road.

The other 1% were truly unlucky from mergers, bankruptcies, or furloughs. I imagine that happens in nearly any industry given enough time.


There are also age limits on that career, right?


Mandatory retirement at 65. So I suppose you wouldn’t want to get started any later than 55 or so.

The company I worked for previously hired a 64 year old. He had always dreamed of being an airline pilot and went ahead and made it happen for a year.


I’ve never seen our intrepid free speech crusaders bring up Mr. Salaita.


[flagged]


$600k, half of which probably disappeared into taxes, and his career is shot.

The subtitle mentions that he was a tenured professor, so he's not feigning simplicity either.


Wikipedia: In response to the university's actions, a group of over 40 Jewish faculty and students at the university signed a letter to Chancellor Wise and the board, protesting what they consider an unjustified conflation of "criticism of the Israeli state with anti-Semitism."


I'm pleasantly surprised that he got such a settlement.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steven_Salaita_controversy


https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2015/08/10/u-illinois-re...

some administrators had hidden some emails about the case - so the university had to settle.


I find myself much easier to be a principled individual with $800K in the bank account than without. Give the man a break.


I find myself much easier to be a principled individual with $800K in the bank account than without.

Isn't that exactly what 'superconformist said?


Don't be silly, "just a simple man" is clearly meant to be sarcastic.


the worst tldr i've read in a while.


I read a large chunk of it, and I didn't notice anything about asettlement -- this definitely puts a VERY different perspective on it.


The author provided a link in the article for the reasoning why he got fired. That link contained the controversial tweets about Israel and Gaza.


[flagged]


Where are those statements? From the NYT article, I just see tweets about Israel and Zionists. Also the tweet, "I refuse to conceptualize #Israel/#Palestine as Jewish-Arab acrimony. I am in solidarity with many Jews and in disagreement with many Arabs.".


Interesting. Good to know that he supports some minorities.

Shame that he continues to be anti-Semitic in his tweets.


Is he against all Jews or just opposes Israel policy?

I ask this because pretty much anyone who criticizes Israel is now labeled anti-Semitic


From reading the NYTimes article [1] it seems clear he’s anti Israel/occupation/bombing and not anti semitic. The pro Israel groups that sought to oppose him getting the job didn’t try to argue that he was anti semitic either, just that he wasn’t ‘civil’ on his Twitter feed.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/13/world/middleeast/professo...


That’s not true and that’s not what he did.

1) you can criticize Israel all day on campus, no one will stop you.

2) you shouldn’t promote mass murder on campus, which is what SS did. Saying the population deserves mass murder because they’re evil is what he did. Fortunately that was deemed beyond the pale.


A brief read of the tweets included in the article he links to regarding his firing gives me the impression that it's the latter. In fact there is one tweet of his which references exactly your point about the deliberate confusion of anti-Semitism and legitimate criticism of Israeli policy.

Can't say I've looked into it extensively though.


"You may be too refined to say it, but I'm not: I wish all the fucking West Bank settlers would go missing."

"Zionists: transforming anti-semitism from something horrible into something honorable since 1948."

From: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steven_Salaita_controversy




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