Friday, April 02, 2004


Yes, friends: nuts for your truck! I nearly drove off the road when I first saw these in action. The eight-inch, gold-plated ones are for the terminally insecure.


I've got "My Back Pages" (the Joan Osborne and Jackson Browne live version) playing on repeat.


My laptop has been broken for six or seven weeks. But now, via the magic of eBay, I have a new power/sound card. Via the magic of having unemployed techie friends, I also have someone who is fixing the laptop for a price I can afford. I am very grateful to Bob, who is also an accomplished artist.


OK, time to switch to Ringo Starr singing "It Don't Come Easy."


Unfortunately, everybody in Silicon Valley has dozens of unemployed techie friends. Here are some cheering statistics from a regional economist:

  • 18% of all Silicon Valley jobs have been lost since 2000

  • Tech jobs are down 25% from peak

  • Per capita income dropped 7.4% in one year

  • Job growth was flat in the fourth quarter of 2003 (still down 3.8% for year); tech jobs are still dropping

Most estimates show that 200,000 jobs evaporated between 2001 and 2003. The Silicon Valley workforce is 1.5 million people. Do the math, friends.

Beyond the scary numbers there are some hopeful indicators. Traffic congestion is getting worse, always a sign that more people are working. Some friends who have been out of work for years are finding jobs. I had an encouraging interview at a San Francisco publishing company. I'm also doing some freelance work.


In totally unrelated but very good news, Sonja is getting spectacular grades in college. It's not just the A's that make us all glow with pride -- it's the ferociously researched, elegantly structured papers she has been writing, the new information she has been sharing with us. And just think what a joy she must be for her professors. When I was teaching, nothing thrilled me more than a student thirsty for knowledge. I'd love to see her go to law school -- she has exactly that sort of logical mind. One of the very few advantages of unemployment is that I get to spend more time with her, since we're both home in the daytime.

Also, Michele's contract has been extended through the end of September, and Paul is very happy with his job, which allows him to use his chemistry background. Now if I can just find work. . . .


I'm writing again. Not just putting words on paper in dribs and drabs, but working hard on a novel. (Dreaming about it, even. This is a good thing.) I can only hope this is the final chunk of the long writer's block that started in November 1997. At first I couldn't even sign my own name. Then I was able to write on assignment for work (though that took sweat and suffering, too). Then I was able to keep this blog. NaNoWriMo 2002 freed me -- I finished 50,000 words in a month. But I still hadn't (and haven't) finished that novel, nor the one I did for NaNoWriMo 2003. Something has been keeping me from the final steps of finishing, rereading, and submitting the work.

Now I am substantially reworking the 2003 Nano book, writing 5 pages a day of fresh material, as well as editing and reshaping what's there. I hate writing rough drafts, which is what Nano forces; when I'm all the way back, I suspect I'll return to my usual habits.

I've also been reading a lot of new books -- running through the Collected Works of John M. Ford, author extraordinaire, plus picking up various other goodies along the way. And rereading, after 30 years,Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy. My God. They are good -- far better than I remembered, cleaner prose and no condescension in the tone. But, as someone said, a novel is a mirror -- if an ass looks in the mirror, you can't expect an angel to look out.


My Eczema Beast arrived -- a small stuffed animal with a nasty scowl and crinkled red fur. It's free from a drug company, promoting their new ointment for moderate to severe eczema.


I've also been wrestling with a few lions. One was Gabriel, Spawn of Satan. The other day I put on elbow-length leather gauntlets and held the beast while Sonja tried out a new device to comb through the knotted fur on her belly. Gabriel was not pleased, but neither of us ended up with scars, and we did comb out a kitten-sized heap of loose fur. It's a start. If she just wouldn't bother to grow a four-inch-thick double coat for these California winters, we'd all be happier. Back home she didn't knot up like this -- the cold weather kept her natural oil glands flowing. Maybe I need to give her kitty fur-conditioning treatments.


Our strawberry plants are in bloom.

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