Joining the 'regular-income challenged'

A couple of weeks ago Bob Lewis announced in his column that he was laid off . Well, move over, Bob. Not only have I joined you in the ranks, but it all went down exactly the way you described.

A couple of weeks ago Bob Lewis announced in his column that he was laid off (aka downsized, riffed, cost-synergised, liberated from the shackles of financial security, add your favourite insincere equivalent of "spoot-canned" here). Well, move over, Bob. Not only have I joined you in the ranks, but it all went down exactly the way you described.

No comments on my contributions, good or bad. Here's what you have to sign if you want a severance package. If you have any questions, call. Goodbye.

It's like the 10 commandments of HR now begin with Miranda. Thou shalt not say anything because anything thou sayest can and will be used against thee and thine ass (as in donkey, of course) in a court of law.

Unlike you, Bob, I didn't have a bourbon. I prefer Courvoisier over bourbon, and I save it for happy occasions. But hey, I'm as vulnerable to stress as the next guy. I simply leaned on a Xanax and a prayer instead.

Like you, Bob, I immediately looked for the bright side. It was fun working on nonprofit projects as an "artist in residence" paid by Caldera International. But it's also a relief to know that I am now free to say whatever I like in this column about Linux distributions. It has been a major annoyance having to dance around the topic of Linux distributions for the past year to avoid the conflict of interest, especially because I dance with two left feet.

It may be true that being downsized is the best thing that can happen to folks like us, Bob, but I'm not sure I want to hang out my own shingle. I've done it before, so it isn't the intimidating thought it once was. But neither is it an exciting adventure anymore. I gave it up more than a decade ago to take a full-time job because I was tired of managing so many details and working outrageous hours.

You need either a knack for business or someone to manage your affairs if you're going to work for yourself. Pardon my immodesty, but I know that I'm extremely talented in many ways. But I also know that I'm the world's worst businessman.

My business skills rank somewhere below those of an asthmatic Chihuahua. (I was going to say French sewer rat, but then I realised that I know of several successful businessmen who could easily pass for French sewer rats.)

On the other hand, the alternative hasn't lived up to its promises, either. It turns out I was rather naive to think that a full-time job meant 40-hour work weeks.

These days "exempt" status means, "We expect you to live, eat, and breathe your work, but we're exempt from having to compensate you for it." I really began to understand what full-time meant when an employer let me work at home, yet I still never saw my family.

Regardless, I've been scouring the classified ads under B for beach bum and there never seem to be any openings. I guess it's one of those careers with low turnover rates. So I may have to work for myself after all. We'll see how it turns out. I'm optimistic because, like I said in a previous column, a slow economy is actually the best money-making environment for open-source companies such as, well, oh never mind.

But don't worry. I promise to be more subtle about such things in future columns.

Nick is the founding editor of LinuxWorld and VarLinux.org. Reach him at nicholas@petreley.com.

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