Remote work vs the costs of commuting

Another reason to favor remote work is that the alternative – commuting – is expensive in every possible way. And the bulk of commuting costs are borne by employees. 

The purely economic costs are easy enough to quantify: individual commuters must spend money on cars – very expensive items that may be used for only two trips a day, the rest of the time uselessly parked – with all their attendant costs and fuel, or public transport. Infrastructure must be built and maintained. There are environmental costs. And so on. Some companies offer commuter benefits to help defray these monetary costs, but these don’t help with the considerable personal costs of commuting.

Facebook’s Prineville Data Center

I like big server rooms, I cannot lie. One of the things Dan Maslowski showed me on my first tour of Sun’s Broomfield campus in 2007 was the server room – an entire floor of a large building, chock full of Sun hardware, with thousands of fans whirring and lights blinking (data centers are LOUD). I was enthralled, and continued to be every time I got near big hardware in my subsequent career.

Designer colors

There are decades-long trends in interior decor, including the colors favored. If you were in the US in the late 1970s – early 80s, you probably remember shag carpeting and wallpaper, often in shades of avocado, orange, and rust. You probably also at some point rented an apartment with a bathroom done in black and white tiles with pink fixtures. No matter how strange or hideous those colors look to us now, at some point they were decided upon by professional designers. I learned about this at one of the many temp jobs I took in Washington DC in 1986 when I began my working life post-college.

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The Efficiency Expert

When we lived in Bangkok during my childhood, my mother taught English as a second language at a language school for adults. One year, the teachers staged a Christmas play. I suppose that they did this partly to celebrate the holiday and give the students exposure to Western holiday traditions, but also because the students didn’t have many opportunities to hear English spoken. (This was well before videotapes. There was only one TV channel in Thailand at the time, which only ran a few hours of programming per week in English, and not many English-language movies were shown at Thai cinemas.)

The play, called “Santa and the Efficiency Expert,” was probably from a book of material considered suitable for children. The story takes place at Santa’s workshop at the North Pole, when someone decides that Santa’s operation is too old-fashioned, and brings in a ruthless efficiency expert to modernize it. The efficiency expert is accompanied by his wife (played by my mother), an even less sympathetic character. 

Into Africa: Desktop publishing goes to Cameroon

Below is a piece published in Ventura Professional magazine (for users of Ventura Publisher software) around September, 1988. I was horrified that the magazine added cartoons of monkeys unloading a boat in a jungle, a giraffe, and a crocodile. I sent copies of the article to my students in Buea because I thought they’d like to see their names and accomplishments mentioned in print, but I apologized to them for the images. The photos above were not included in the article. – at the state of printing technology at the time, line art was a far cheaper option for the magazine.

Interesting aside: My writing style really hasn’t changed in 33 years.

Into Africa

Have Desktop Publishing, will travel? This lady does, and did from, as the movies used to say, darkest Africa to the snows of Kilimanjaro!

by Deirdré Straughan

What did I do on my summer vacation? Well, I spent most of August in Buea, Cameroon (West Africa), installing a desktop publishing system at the Pan African Institute for Development. PAID is one of four regional institutions which develop and conduct a variety of training programs for public and private sector participants from all over Africa. All such institutions generate a lot of paper, particularly in the form of training manuals. The World Bank’s Economic Development Institute saw that desktop publishing could be valuable to PAID and similar institutions, and asked us to install a system at Buea as a pilot project.