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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Hard times

It is no secret that 72 Land has been pretty quiet over the last summer. To some extent this is just down to the usual causes: decent weather, other interests, competing priorities. But the bald fact is that the Land is going through a fairly difficult stretch. I am well into my third year of unemployment, barring a few temp positions. Unemployment payments are long gone. We have learned more than I ever cared to know about not spending any discretionary money. But we are still under water, and the details of managing that are many and oppressive.

My last contract as an IT Project Manager ended at Christmas of 2009. I imagine we all remember what a mess the economy was back then. Well, it has not improved much in the intervening time period. Yes, the unemployment rate went from 11% to 8%, but much of that was because of the weird way the feds measure unemployment. They don't consider how many people are unemployed, they consider how many people are drawing unemployment payments. Once your benefits expire, as mine did, you are no longer counted as unemployed, and the rate goes down! But that does not mean the number of people working has increased. And I hate their terminology for this: we are those who have "stopped looking". Nobody has stopped anything; we're just no longer drawing unemployment.

We have struggled along on my wife's salary, but the truth is that she makes 45% of what I typically do. So when I went jobless, we lost roughly 60% of our disposable income. Think about that for a second. Her income covers about 85% of the monthly recurring bills, but then you have to add food, fuel, medical expenses (copays and RXs), and any other unanticipated expense. And what happens when the car needs repair?

Long gone are the days of books, magazines, vacations, or stash expansion. Much the exact opposite in fact. I've been trying to sell things via ebay to help make ends come a bit closer together, and to try and feel a bit less useless in keeping us solvent. That is a painful process. It's like selling your kids (though in my experience kids tend to generate spending rather than profits...) At first it was things I probably wasn't going to build anyway: the odd 1:32 kit, a few 1:48 examples left over from The Supply Depot stock, some armor that I had amassed in the 30 years I have been modelling. But as the crisis continues the cuts get closer to the bone. The KMC 727 is gone, the Fliegerhorst G-38 is gone, my selection of Hasegawa Beaufighters is up for bid, my complete 20-volume set of Classic Publications Luftwaffe Colours / Jagdwaffe books is gone. And the bloodletting looks to continue for the foreseeable future. But it is never quite enough.

Oh, I do still do interviews. Second, even third interviews (where you have to figure that they are evaluating finalists). But no offers. I even apply for stuff I am massively overqualified for, like data entry or retail positions. But those employers don't want to waste time and money training someone who will likely bolt as soon as the economy improves. And be fair, they are probably right.

I'm far from alone. You can hear the cry on various boards, forums, or discussion groups. There are a lot of people, experienced professionals, unable to find work. Like an ebay sale, getting a job is a two-party transaction. If one party doesn't agree, for any conceivable reason, it will not happen. This is not a political discussion, but we live in a very business-unfriendly environment right now, and businesses will not expand when they are feeling pressured.

Not to bring everyone down, but I thought it was incumbent on me to give some insight as to why you weren't getting the every-other-day posts that I was managing for a while. There are just many days where I can't conjure the enthusiasm to stick plastic bits together, even though as a hobby, it is supposed to relieve stress rather than perpetuate it. But sometimes you just get a visit from Churchill's black dog, and the production line stops.

But let's end on a brighter note. On Sunday night I actually got the airbrush out for a short painting session. And I seem to be on the verge of finishing a decal job. No one is going to confuse it with a contest winner, but against all odds, I may actually finish a model this summer. 


  1. Kevin,
    my wife got laid off this summer...the lack of finance is/will be hard to live with and I'll certainly have to cut back on my discretionary spending. But I really am starting to envy her all her 'free' time. If there's one thing I find about this hobby is that it can be totally absorbing, forget your day-to-day concerns absorbing - you really do get fully immersed in a project.. but then you know that.

  2. That has been one of the really disturbing aspects of this situation. I'm pretty good at compartmentalizing life - work stays with work, hobby with hobby. But with this long crisis, it really has affected my ability to focus on things that should relieve the strain. When you can't summon the enthusiasm to do something fun.... Well, that's when you know your system is broken.

  3. I think you have to set out to do something every day, no matter what is it, get in that garage and work for an hour or so, even when you don't 'feel' like doing it. On the other hand having so many projects on the go at once can't help I think, because the achievement of the 'finish' should ideally be spread out a regular intervals..

  4. All true, though when you start forcing yourself to do a leisure activity, you run the risk of turning it into work! I do tend to have a lot of projects on the boil at once, but it does at least have the advantage of giving you lots of flexibility on where you want to concentrate. If you tend to get hung up in painting, it is good to have some projects in the construction phase so you don't have to paint until you're ready.