You know you're a whiner when your four-year-old calls you out on it. Around lunchtime yesterday, our oldest chirps up, completely innocently and matter-of-factly, "Daddy, what were you whining about this morning?"
As usual, she was right. I had been moaning about our New York Times carrier's strange conception of "home" delivery. It seems this unseen person, who graces our street in the wee small hours each morning, feels that his or her duty is adequately discharged if the paper makes it as far as the public sidewalk. Now that is a good 20 feet from the front door, and on a rainy, cold morning such as the one we had here yesterday, that's a long way to go to get your Nicholas Kristof. So I let out my little complaint over my hurried breakfast, secure in the belief that nobody really paid much attention to it -- that it didn't have any real impact on anyone, other than my letting off a little steam.
Yeah, I whine. That's no news to regular readers here. But the last few weeks, I have felt particular justification for my self-pity. Lately I'm grinding out work day, night, and in between. Great stuff, but too much of it. It's a self-inflicted condition, of course. I've got what could pass for the easiest gig in the world, but I say yes to one extra thing, and then another, and then another, until it's too big a pile. I'm still learning how to say no after all these years. Or as one lawyer friend of mine once put it, "If you were a girl, you'd be pregnant all the time."
Years ago I roomed with a graduate student from Japan. He was studying physics while I was teaching law, and we were both in major production mode. When we would head back to the shop after dinner to pull an all-nighter or near-all-nighter, we used to kid each other about karoshi, the real-life Japanese problem of death from overwork. Neither one of us actually got close to that demise, but it felt like it at times.
Anyway, under the present circumstances, I just barely managed to get in a perfunctory mention of my sponsor, Marqui, Saturday night, and although that's all I'm bound to do to get them to pay me for the week, I usually try to do something more. I did get to playing with their "dabble mode" software again for just a little while today, and what can I say? It looks as though it will deliver on the promises made in their online demo. If I were running a company that had a website to which many of my minions were contributing, and if I needed to post information quickly in a number of different formats (press releases, e-mail, electronic newsletter, blog, etc.), it would be nice to have a toy like that to streamline matters.
Now, are there other products and providers that will do the same thing? I have no personal knowledge one way or the other. It isn't my bag. Having wrangled a little with the technical side of my website for the first time in a long time late last week, however, I know how dependent I am on Movable Type, the blogging software I use. You get the hang of that after a while, and it sure comes in handy when weird things happen over at your internet host.
So many people's occupations and pastimes are becoming captives, or at least functions, of their software. It's influencing not just the way we do things, but also what we believe we are capable of doing -- what we are daring enough to take on. When I think about what I can do on my blog, I'm automatically thinking in terms of how to do it in MT. If MT won't cut it, I won't do it. Live presentation? PowerPoint's always hovering over the planning process. Images? Photoshop. And on goes the list.
Twenty years ago, this all was fantasy -- outrageous fantasy. There was that Charlie Chaplin commercial on the Super Bowl, and we all said, Huh? What a flop that's going to be. What are we all, nerds? Pass the Doritos. Now look.
It's fun brooding about, and playing in, cyberworld. You wonder how the history books are going to talk about computers 10, 20, 100 years from now. But it ain't all fun. Nope, there's also a lot of work to get done inside this box, as well as in the older world of flesh, blood, speech, hearing, gesture and sight.
So enough with the Marqui for another week. Back to karoshi.