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Clock Cycles

(Sep 1st, 2015 at 10:16:27 PM)
As a child I toiled
over crude oil icons
of pencils and trash bins,
buttons and menus.

I tripped over
the new tools of the trade,
the fonts and mice and trackpads,
when my time was expendable.

I had time to waste
as a child. Time to spend
on games and gifs
and girls I'd never meet or ever see.

I had a calculator that did calculus,
and I taught it to do more.
my first lessons in programming
were BASIC.

I didn't drink coffee
until after learning Java
and it has bought me the time
to wake up at my own pace.

I'm paid an engineer's wage
to whittle away work.
Automation is the name of game
when the workforce is expendable.

People taught tasks
performed mechanically
can't carry their weight—
it's hard to stay up-to-date

when you're competing with software.
And where do they go
when they can't pay for their homes?
Are they really so expendable?

They're over-educated and under-prepared;
most college degrees are participation awards.
I hope you had a good time—
I learned a lot during mine.

I learned that flip flops
aren't just on feet,
And the ambiguity
of words like "free."

I logged into a terminal
with more directories than I could imagine
and I explored them, one by one.
I had that time to spare.

"You can do whatever you want."
I recall that mantra
preached by parents and teachers
preached like infomercial features.

The American dream is spending years
crafting the perfect tale
building characters with brilliant minds
and the worst of drinking problems.

It's creating a world of ace mechanics
working with steam power and hydrogen balloons
because Edison killed an extra elephant
and seeing a paycheck in the mailbox each week.

If only the world were in need of more authors,
more drawings of anthropomorphic chimeras,
more young psychologists without a research background.
Then we could all just "get a degree."

Thousands have been told they can have a seat
at a table that can fit only so many chairs.
Doing what you love is great
if you don't need to make a living.

But are our dreams expendable?
are we destined to divert energy
into another's tasks, like power transformers
forcing electricity through the empty air?

Are some of us destined
to expend years of our lives
serving sandwiches and chips to well-offs
who put the receipts in expense sheets?

It's expensive, this life. This pain. Working
in the afternoons while your children
learn life lessons from drugged out neighbors
because real day-care costs too much.

How much does a dollar cost?
How long can a dream be deferred?
How little does one have to have before
Doing whatever you want isn't worth it?

Maybe keyboards and servers
are the machinery of today
and we're all still factory workers
hoping the union will work us out a better deal.

Maybe we're miners, with black lungs
and dirt on our faces and hands,
weary of the imminent collapse.
Let's hope our 401k's beat inflation.

Mine will, I'm sure. Plus I've got a full match
and an IRA I'm filling with some extra cash.
What's the catch? All I did
was love something that's profitable.

What I need to know is:
How much is forty hours
of someone's time really worth?
I hope it's at least a week's rent,

a week's food, and a utility bill.
Maybe a little extra for an ice cream
and a savings installment for car maintenance.
Maybe enough to afford a day off once in a while.

When I do my job well, someone's salary
might end up in company savings
Or an executive's bonus. My pat on the back
could mean a jump in unemployment numbers.

But these jobs should be automated!
Aren't we past these menial desk jobs
copying data from one screen to another?
Some of these jobs should never have existed!

The results of impossible timelines crafted
by overly ambitious managers with their eyes
on a better title, a bigger desk,
and a long list of potential subordinates.

I'm just fixing the mistakes they made,
building better systems that will make things easier
for the few remaining cubicle occupants.
Right? Isn't that what I should tell myself?

Buggy websites and old hardware,
that's what's expendable. But those systems
have users, experts of bad technology,
and I get paid to supplant them both.