From: my inner geek (
Date: Thu Jan 11 2001 - 12:48:13 MST

BRAIN TEASER: What would "hardness and surveillance" have to do with nanotech and cryonics?

Dear Extropians:

I have been thinking a lot lately about "institutions." Which reminds me of the term "institutional momentum" which I first heard in Engines of Creation.

My mother and I have some genes in common.

Monday - thru - Friday, she wakes up at about 5am and sits in front of a make-up mirror puting on her make-up.

Around 7pm, she begins frantically running around the house looking for various things: her purse, cell phone, paperwork.

At about 7:30 she leaves for her job at Boeing, where she enters Software Problem Reports into a database (about one a month).

Most of the time, she surfs the web and files her nails.

Our house is very cluttered, as she has way too many clothes for the amount of storage space. She also is obsessed with lipstick, and has a collection of about 40 or so various shades.

I mentioned to her that if I was at work where she works, I'd probably just create a web-based form so the programmers on her project (IUS: inertial upper stage) would be able to enter their own software problem reports. Unfortunately, there wouldn't be much left for her to do.

When I was a young kid, her job a Boeing was ferociously important to her, as she was a military brat and it was her first real job. She needed the money after the divorce to pay the rent and take care of my brother and I.

She ended up getting transferred from Vandenberg Air Force base, where she worked in "hardness and surveillance", to Seattle, where she worked with engineers who put satellites into the proper orbit. My brother and I stayed in California, with my dad.\david_m

She was alone up in Seattle, and was naturally quite depressed and loney. She amused herself by participating in various self-help workshops (Context Seminars, Gestalt retreats to Hawaii), and by participating in the Boeing Psychic Club.

We'd see her for 6 weeks each summer, in Seattle.

In October of 1998, I got kicked out of my apartment for making too much noise late at night (I was learning about electrostatic charge by rotating a Chinese Medicine Ball inside a Wooden Bowl). I'd smoke a little doobie and sit on the floor all night rotating the ball.


Anyway, I love my mother.

She has a nice smile, but she's been having trouble maintaining that smile, lately. "You put me through hell," she says, referring to the two-weeks I spent confined in Western State Hospital as a result of the 24-Hour Fitness Supplements/DejaVu nightclub trial.

Anyway, anytime I criticize Boeing as being a "tyrannical bureacracy", she says "Shut Up! My job's done a lot for you. Boeing paid for your braces. Boeing bought your clothes. Boeing pays [my half of] the rent."

Yeah, I guess she's right.

So if I were working there, would I "automate" her job and give her a pink slip (or golden handshake), or would I just be cordial and try to politely look the other way as she surfs the web all day between e-mails gossiping about the cat-fights between secretaries. She's also obsessed with making it to the next "Sim" in Sunnyvale, where she normally makes the coffee.

Anyway, since I love her and realize she's been doing this almost 30 years and doesn't have a lot of initiative left (on the surface), it would present quite a "Catch 22 (my jersey number in pee-wee footbal league)".

Then I realized something: she's probably just like all the "government workers" that are effected by downsizing of the government.

When I think about all the government bureacracies in school districts, courts, city, county and state government... it's basically a lot of people in a similar situation: file clerks when are running out of paper and things to do.

Best solution, I think, would be to just keep paying her the normal salary, but tell her to please go home and play so she's out of the way of the engineers and not slowing things down. Funny how such a simple business decision would actually improve the efficiency of the Software Engineers who launch our spy satellites.

Just a thought...

Anyway, she makes it out of the office sometime before 5:30 every day, and manages to tolerate the hour commute back home, where she does her nails and watches tv.

On weekends, she normally sleeps in until around 1:30 or so, then lollygags around the house saying she can't go out because she's "got a lot to do, like clean up her room and sort out the shed." She's been saying the same thing for about 2 years.

Last week month she was going through my things and found about 1/2 of a joint. (It was the first I'd had in about 18 months, and costed $100). She flushed it down the toilet when I was asleep. A few days ago, she called my psychiatrist to tell him that I was smoking with my meds when I wasn't supposed to be, and suggested that maybe I spend a few days in the hospital.

Having just spent 14 days in a hospital (at a cost to the state of $330/day), I thought a voucher system might be better.

I could have spent the money on a trib to Club-Med in Mexico, or maybe a week or so in Amsterdam.

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