Back to: Happy Christmas! Here is a flame war in a can | Forward to: What are the big issues of 2013 going to be?

Customer Satisfaction Survey

Dear X______,

Thank you for purchasing our premium product, the year 2012! As you know, 2012 has been a market leader, with more satisfied customers living the dream than any previous calendar year. Your 2012 is coming to an end shortly, and we hope you will choose to renew your subscription to the up-coming 2013 release! We can promise you lots of exciting new memories in 2013; we're sure you'll find Living The Year™ the most consistently fascinating and challenging Quality Experience℠ of a lifetime.

As a valued customer we cherish your continued brand loyalty. To help our products continue to engage with your needs, we would like to offer you the opportunity to participate in our on-going quality feedback program! Simply complete the free-form feedback box below with your gripes, groans, and happy memories from 2012, along with any suggestions you wish to make to ensure future years could better meet your needs, and our team of time elves will leap into action to ensure a better 2014 for all! FREE PRIZE DRAW: Entrants will be entered into a prize draw: the winner will receive a Surprise℠ free extra Year™ added to the end of their life! (offer invalid where prohibited by law: terms and conditions apply: winners will be registered at our Head Office but Surprise℠ award may not be disclosed to recipient prior to delivery.)

106 Comments

1:

I'm glad for this opportunity to provide some feedback. My experience with 2012 has been fairly mixed, and I look forward to improvements in the future:
First, the fit was surprisingly good, considering I purchased it off the rack. It was a little snug around the crotch, but that's probably more a function of my... well, I shouldn't brag. Suffice to say I was quite satisfied with the fit.

Unfortunately, it made a rather disturbing noise when I accelerated over 50mph, and the paint chipped off at the slightest provocation.

This was more than compensated for by a rich chocolate flavor and good head. The nose had some flowery notes that aren't quite my taste, but I could definitely tell that high quality malt was used. It pairs well with German sausages.

I would rate my experience as Moderately Satisfied.

I would not recommend 2012 to my friends or family. I choose not to subscribe to your mailing list. I am not interested in special offers about 2013, 2014 or other as-yet-unnamed future products.

2:

I'd prefer to have the comments in the mailing list... It was much easier to follow discussions (and boy, they were interesting as much as the originating postings)... Oh well... I'm sure I'm in the minority.

3:

So mail the mailing list already! Nobody's forcing you not to use it ...

4:

General health: Better. Sleep apnoea diagnosis I could have used a decade ago, but now that measures are being taken, major health KPIs are up across the board.

Romantic Relationship dynamics: better than previous years. Sharing a timezone this time definitely helps! I also approve of a girlfriend who buys me books and lapsang souchong for Christmas.

Cancer: Seriously? I know I'm playing life on a pretty high difficulty level, but did there have to be so many malignant lumps in people I love this year? Cancer is totally overpowered, and I look forward to that being tuned down in later patches.

Work: Career meaning, good. Remuneration, administrivia and ongoing post-quake logistics effects, in need of improvement. I know I have an incredibly common name, but I'm getting kind of tired of getting important documents lost in the system. (Any system.) Rates of experience gain and skill progression felt good this year, though.

Infrastructure: On the mend. Thanks for dialling back the major earthquakes after the last couple of years - they definitely start to lose their novelty impact after a while (no pun intended), and I already have enough PTSD multipliers to factor in.

Common tags for 2012: challenging, interesting, endurance, tea, sleep, paperwork, love.

5:

Are we discussing writing, economics or politics here in this review?
As the results have been decidedly mixed, with the future prospects looking to diverge strongly, according to the road less taken in the very near future, especially for those living in, or directly economically liked to the US section of the market.
Looking back over 2012:
Writing: - excellent, with good future prospects, as OGH seems to imply, provided he can stand the pace (!)
Other publications seem to be doing well also, so good past & a good prospect for the future - in this filed I would certainly subscribe for future offers & opportunities.
Economics: - has improved a lot in the past year, but there has been a lot of putting off of the evil day, & inappropriate solution have been applied. The future prospects are looking very grim indeed, unless certain players, both political & economic get their respective acts together very quickly.
If it is possible to take a hadged bet on this one, I might, or I might stand aside.
Which leads us to the politics.
The prospects of a financial disaster in the USSA, because of political shirtsightedness and selfish grandstanding are getting close, with frightening speed. The political fall-out from such a collapse (for such it would be) are very difficult to predict.
As for this side of the pond, I predicta another year of kicking th can down the road, on just about every political and economic issue ... it won't start to fall apart until 2014, at which point, things are going to become interesting, for Chinese values of that word.

However, I wish to enter the FREE PRIZE DRAW in all categories.

6:

I am very disapppinted in 2012 and wish to registrer for a refund. Deapite the rosy pre-release promises 2012 was off to a disastrous start, with a close relative diagnosed with a fatal disease. We spent much of the year in a statre of near-panic, with intrusive and painful medical treatments intended to either increasebthe dismal chancfes or at least prolong the inevitable.

It is true that the developers of 2012 finaly addressed this serious bug: a round of extensive surgery disclosed that the case was far less serious than everybody had BG elievfed, and the relative is now expected to recover fully. Nevertheless, the bug fix came only late in the year and can not make up for the many months of misery preceeding the fix. At the very least I expect a fresh new copy of 2013 to be delivered at no cost by way of recompense.

7:

On the plus side: Lots of excellent reading was accomplished (Most notably Redshirts and The Quantum Thief), Romney defeated, the GOP in disarray; On the minus side: Obama still not a Democrat, way too many guns, and a pinched sciatic nerve that had me in the emergency room.

Onward to 2013!

8:

^^ That was me...stoopid Yahoo account doesn't know my name after all these years. Put that in the minus column.

9:

I am disappointed to learn that, after only 12 months use, I am expected to replace 2012 with 2013. I strongly feel that this sort of built-in obsolescence is exactly the problem with so-called consumer durables.

10:

Since I upgraded this Year to Retired (tm), I am quite satisfied with the improvement. After the upgrade 2012 was more consistent and much easier to operate than the older models ever were, though I sense a certain sluggishness setting in. I have yet to really become acquainted with all the new features, and find myself, like other users before me, comparing this radical change to the earliest, groundbreaking Years when they were so new and exciting.

I have signed up for automatic payments, so I will be getting Years as long as you have them, though I have heard disturbing rumors of a planned discontinuation at an unspecified date. Also, other users have complained of declining quality over the course of the series, which disturbs me. I hope this problem is solved soon.

I came back from my last deployment, completed the retirement process, made lots of improcvements to my house (built a new garage myself) and planted chestnut seedlings both in the yard and on my 45 acres in the country. The deer from the adjacent Wildlife Protection Area ate the seedlings, so I will have to put up a tall fence come spring. Joined the local UU congregation, volunteered for them a lot by helping out with building maintenance, and suddently got drafted to be on the congregation board. Hope this new minister gets better--his sermons are interesting and enlightening but there's a certain lack of passion. Got my old mercury amalgam fillings replaced with composite. Started running 6 miles a day, but kept gaining weight anyway, and cut back lately due to the snow. Hope to get back into that and also go hiking in the Adirondacks and maybe get a canoe to mess around on Lake Ontario. Tried to create a computer game in Lua, but when it got too complex it got really slow. Maybe I'll have another go at that. Tried to spend all my money because I anticipate a severe economic downturn with massive inflation used to get out of it. Too late to get on the gold train, so I'm getting stuff. Filling my big house with goods. Everything I could ever need for the rest of my life. Including books. Lots of books. They work without electricity you know. Though I have got the generator bicycle.

11:

Quite frankly, I was uncertain whether I would renew my subscription for another year. I was very satisified with the majority of this years issues, until October. That was one was rather unpleasant, with only a single story that was overlong. Fortunately the following issues were an improvement, and continue to show the same quality I have come to expect over the past four decades.

And, as I have missed the Cancel By date of December 21st, I am happy to renew my subscription for the coming year.

12:

Dear parent global corp:

While I have so far been satisfied with your product 2012, I refuse to purchase Beta products and so I am only a recent adopter. As such, I can hardly render a fair judgment after only a few weeks of use of 2012. Further, I am a resident of the US North East, and I hear from early adopters in my area that there may be a great deal of local instability of your product due to a bug known as "Hurricane Sandy". Finally, popup ads have informed me that the local OS administrative daemon "POTUS" is apparently undergoing a cyclical review in a few months. Again, early adopter have told me that roughly half of all users are extremely angry with that outcome.

Given all of this, I will wait until my upgrade to 2013 to render a full & fair judgment on 2012.

13:

I was disappointed with 2012. It did not in the least resemble the premium product I ordered. Its functionality was so reduced that I had to reinstall it several times simply to get any productivity out of it at all, and it required a number of expensive consultations with an outside expert to get it working. Since I run a non-standard system, this is to be expected, but 2012 was buggier than usual, and the new features mostly did not work.

In addition, 2012 had a serious bug with respect to spam suppression. No matter where I turned, I got unwanted spam from political sources of all stripes, and the messaging invaded every electronic medium I have access too. While I expect this in even-numbered years, it being a notorious bug in the year system, 2012 marked a massive uptick in the amount of noise over useful information. In past even-numbered year releases, the spam problem usually abated near the end of the year, but in 2012 it has not. Please re-install earlier model spam filters, as the one provided by your subcontractor (I believe they call themselves US Supreme, or something like that) was a total failure.

Overall, I hope that your next release, 2013, will mark a return to older versions like 2011 or even 2009. The highly visible developers' squabbles appearing on the news media fill me with concern, but as a cockeyed optimist, I remain hopeful.

14:

My review for the product "year 2012" will be mixed. Having been a devoted customer of the "hard science career" line of your products up to a PhD, I choose to order my copy of "2012" with an upgrade to post-doc position in another European country, with the understanding that furthering my scientific activities would yield opportunities that would more than make up for the significant drop in salary, removal from loved ones, and various inconveniences.

As it happened, the workplace appeared unpleasant to the point of downright danger (leaks in office compounded with non-standard and insecure electric installations). The decrease in salary was aggravated by a combination of unfavourable cases (high taxes for cross-country living) and downright disfunctions (impossibility to obtain administrative papers for European compatibility for health insurance that forced me to pay for two insurances simultaneously).

Because I had no relatives in the country and did not have an open-ended contract, the only appartment I managed to rent turned out to provide a limited amount of hot water, very insufficient insulation, and no heating at all. This setting, in one of the coldest winters recorded in 30 years, not only forced me to practically live in my sleeping bag, but yielded temperatures under 10oC that caused an episode of clinical hypothermia. Not directly related, there were two distinct episodes where Second War bombs were discovered nearby, one of which forced me to evacuate. In the 21st century in one of the richest countries in Europe, these Siege of Sarajevo-like conditions are unacceptable.

By the end of the year, my work had come to fruition and an article was written and accepted for publication in the proceedings of an international conference. I had to include two co-authors whose contribution to the article was so thin that they litterally learnt of its existence when I informed them that it had been accepted. Naturally these co-authors tasked me to give the talk on the work, although it was against my inclination and although I was not in their employ any more by then (in contrast, all of them hold permanent positions). Because of administrative difficulties at the consulate of the Third-World country in which the conference took place, I was unable to secure a visa and had to cancel the travel. In spite of the cancellation, the fees for the conference and hotel were charged on my personal bank account. By then I was unemployed and had no revenue whatsoever, as my situation with respect to my country of residence was being examined.

(To add insult to injury, in a widely publicised case, one of the most proeminent figures in my field was found to be a fraud who invented the figures of his experiments. By the time the case went public, the man had resigned his academic position and accepted a lucrative offer in the private sector.)

In summary, year 2012 has seen me consenting considerable sacrifices in terms of finance and living standard, and failed to provide the benefits it promised in exchange. Considering the high price tag that the previous years (necessary to obtain this edition) carried, I consider the 2012 performance unacceptable.

It is worth noting that users of previous editions (1965-1970 in particular) seem to have had very different experiences and provide reviews and user advices that prove completely at odd with my experience. However, their copies of 2012 appear to mostly be updated editions of 1980, rather than the newer version to which I was treated. It seems that when one considers the core of the new features and leaves the cosmetic bells and wistles aside, the new editions are not necessary improvements over those of 40 years ago. I would dismiss this impression as me having had the misfortune of one particularly bad copy, but I see with dismay that my case is not exceptional (in particular the political and civil right atmosphere disapoints me). And this is in a rich European country, with a particularly favourable socio-economic background; I shudder to think of people in less fortunate environments.

To conclude, will I purchase the 2013 edition? Certainly, as (in spite of all) my health and social environment remain excellent; also, let's face it, you have a bit of a captive audience there, apart from the most resolute of your detractors. But I will probably not continue with this line of models, especially since doing so would mean either another year of the same kind as 2012, or subscribing to programmes that would almost entirely remove my social safety net. Would I recommand this year to my friends? Certainly not, and I would probably have considered other models in your line for the previous editions had I known what lied ahead.


15:

Four Stars.
Delivered on time, although the courier chose to leave it round the back, having thrown the item over the gate.

2012 was on the heavy side, which was nice. I liked the touches of chartreuse round the rim. The first couple of months were a grind but once we got past the second spinal fusion attempt and the main plot kicked in, things evened out some and it's been quite pleasant since.

As long as the current release standards are maintained, I would consider continuing the use of the product. 2013 will hopefully include the beta for '14 which is apparently going to be a doozy.

Please enter me for the draw.

16:

No, I am unhappy with the 2012 product as it was far from the promised trouble-free functionality. Unless I get a deep discount for the 2013 model, I will defect to a competing supplier.

17:

2012: Could have been worse.

18:

2012 came with the advertised number of seconds, and while I was entirely successful in using it to become one year older, I should point out to other customers that many of the depicted uses on the promotional material - health, wealth, happiness - do not come in the package, and in fact installing these features is entirely non-obvious to the non-professional handyman.

I found that to maintain acceptable levels of meaning and purpose, I had to maintain a careful schedule of, amongst other things;
- nature contact (hillwalks)
- intellectual stimulation (e.g. excellent Science Fiction)
- romantic companionship (I have a compatible older model)

Other aspects, like 'wealth', encountered a counterintuitive compatibility issue, where experience increasing beyond some threshold of years made wealth harder to attach (I must have the older type of fittings).

Also, for such a popular product, there is a surprising lack of coherent HOWTOs of effective use, even though the documentation is fairly minimal.

19:

cahth3iK @ 14
Err ... which country (no other information, for confidentiality reasons, please) so that we can avoid similar problems?

To which I may add, that my personal take on the "2012" product was: ... Accptable, - just.
Slight improvement over the preceding two versions, & definitely better than '09 which was so bad, that we wondered if we were going to avoid bakruptcy, so costly was the running of that extremely faulty edition - huge outgoings & very little coming in.
We shall see what the new version brings, but my long-term prognostications for the following two iterations are not so good - see my earlier comments @ 5.

20:

D.J.P. O'Kane here: as 2012 draws to a close, I find myself reflecting on the sage words of Mr. Darwin:

Our voyage having come to an end, I will take a short retrospect of the advantages and disadvantages, the pains and pleasures, of our five years’ wandering. If a person should ask my advice before undertaking a long voyage, my answer would depend upon his possessing a decided taste for some branch of knowledge, which could by such means be improved. No doubt it is a high to behold various countries, and the many races of mankind, but the pleasures gained at the time do not counterbalance the evils. It is necessary to look forward to a harvest, however distant it may be, when some fruit will be reaped, some good effected. (Darwin, Charles, 1989 (1839), Voyage of the Beagle, edited and abridged with an introduction by Janet Browne and Michael Neve, Penguin Books, London, England; 372)

21:

Instead of "offer valid" shouldn't it be:

(offer *VOID* where prohibited by law: terms and conditions apply: winners will be registered at our Head Office but Surprise℠ award may not be disclosed to recipient prior to delivery.)

Just a little detail to fix unless you want people to do something prohibited by law, which definitely has its own invitation to pretend to Occupy Charlie's blog kind of charm.

Personally, I plan to use the hacked and reverse engineered freeware version for 2013. The documentation is spotty though and largely anecdotal. The economic interface tends to generate repeated fines and error messages and is crashy when used with the official economic expansion modules. That could be a feature not a bug though as gift economy and grow your own workarounds offer creative challenges for the experimentally inspired.

22:

Greg. Tingey @ 14.

Let us say that the housing is typical of many a European country on the Mediterrean (the Swedes properly heat and insulate their houses, they are not demented and they clearly need it).

The administrative problems are what you might expect when you go from one country to another. You'll always end up needing a bank account to rent a place, and an address to open an account. People have had these problems for decades and nobody ever solves them. What is really infuriating is the lack of specific support for academics. The normal world is not made for academics (they relocate constantly, they live on the cheap, they rent things that others buy, they have no open-end contracts, no credit lines, etc.); the normal world is not made for soldiers either, but the military takes care of them; academics have little support.

The credit card thing is typical of academia in general, I'm afraid. In many countries, labs will not have credit cards and in practice you'll end up lending your own money at a zero-percent interest rate to a large academic institution. Going into debts because somebody charges me for cancelled reservations and registrations is a first, however.

Overall, my grudge is not so much with the countries involved (even though some administrations were downright disfunctional), and is more with academia in general, where thirty-somethings live year to year on low wages, have to relocate regularly (with removal to loved ones and relocating costs that eat up your savings), and sustain enormous peer pressure with no serious perspective of achieving permanent positions to conduct research, *while it was not so for the previous generations that presently hold tenure*. Many a professor of today would never have achieved tenure in the current conditions (they admit as much when poked).

With the current system, after many years of brutish work that must also look shiny, a handful of golden boys/girls get the "tenure track", whereby they are removed from actual research and forced to seek funding while exploiting post-docs and grad students for 4 or 5 years, with the prospect of maybe getting the tenure or maybe not (enjoy 2010 at the University of Alabama in Huntsville). This encourages antisocial behaviour like fraud, which not only discredits science and sets it back, but is also a testimony that more deserving people have been personally wounded in their careers. Note that scientific fraud is not a symptom of incompetence (you have to know what to invent to achieve success), but of psychopathic tendencies; it's clever people gone rogue, like some of the banksters who've treated us to the subprime bubble.

As a society, we keep telling little kids to do good at school, telling youngs that hard work and intellectual prowess are rewarded, using education rates as a measure of our overall success; yet we are creating armies of vastly over-educated cheap labour with no prospect of a stable life, an insecure financial situation, and difficult affective and social lives.


23:

Or, as a grad student I knew back in the late 1990s put it: if they ever find a good cure for obsessive-compulsive disorder, the population of grad students will drop by 90% or more.

Seriously, the academic system has been broken at least a decade, and while some of my friends have made tenure, many more have not (including me). Given the massive changes sweeping academia, what with funding cuts, the proliferation of free online classes, and so forth, I'd suggest only those with good support networks and lots of family funding go into academia. In other words, it's getting more the way it was back in the 1920s. The middle class need not apply for professorships, and scholarship will become the purview of the well-off and those who can manage lifelong vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience.

24:

Of course, you decide to replace 2012 just as my warranty expires.

You must be following the Apple model. 2012 has given me a whole host of problems; knee replacement, Romney (although that ended better than I thought it would), Republicans still gumming up the works. Now, just as it seemed that the troubles with 2012 were over, you have given me a fiscal cliff similar to that which Thelma and Louise found.

So, I hereby demand a full refund on 2012.

25:

v.2012 had a lot of bugs that will hopefully be fixed in the 2013 service pack upgrade. For instance:

I was never able to open the Employment app at all and my wife could only get it to open part of the time until this week. I finally had to download and install a third party fix called Career Change to get it to even start to work.

The Baby expansion pack was installed successfully and I understand a nine month compile schedule is standard, but it still takes way too long to load. Your technicians assure me that upgrading to v.2013 before compiling is complete will not have any effect, though the program runs so slowly, we won't know if the finished product will be market testable for 18 more years!

As usual the in-law plugins were a fucking mess. I'm constantly having to ignore popups from these, and the messages are mostly incomprehensible.

On the plus side, your media services were impeccable. The quality of content varied, of course but the a la carte service was a definite improvement over previous years.

Productivity apps were also much improved, allowing me to produce a novella and revised short novel on a timely schedule, though this may have been a side effect of Employment not running at all, allowing more run time on the creative apps. We'll see if it holds steady in v.2013.

26:

... academia in general, where thirty-somethings live year to year on low wages, have to relocate regularly (with removal to loved ones and relocating costs that eat up your savings), and sustain enormous peer pressure with no serious perspective of achieving permanent positions to conduct research, ...

When I left academia, it would have been "relocate every other year" and not a lot of income in the first place until (and if) one gained a professorship. That was in 1994.

27:

@ 22
Italy or France, then?
Given the ability NOT to get proper residence-papers I'd guess the latter.
Surely not CERN?
??

Rick @ 24
No you won't get a refund, but you just might get a free 2013 to go along with!

28:

The employment module has crashed again, and the mental health care module takes so long to load I've forgotten what I was going to do with it. Isn't this tying up your server resources? The 'live with your parents' module works fine.
2/5 stars, could have been a better year.

29:

I had an good year, but it could have been better. If there were an alternate supplier I would consider them carefully, but as far as I can tell you have a monopoly. It seems that you have no incentive for product improvement.

Oh wait. I just read the the small print in the 2012 contract. YOU expect the users to do all the product improvement themselves?

30:

2012, well...

My copy was too cluttered and confused and busy while at the same time not offering a lot of sense of achievement.

I guess I enjoyed the few occasions enough where the game became worthwhile to play the next version. More plot oriented tasks and less grinding for mere coin would definitely improve the experience though.

Others' copies of 2012 have been exciting in not very pleasant ways; I'll note that compared to that, the "a bit dull" my copy displayed is preferrable. Still better would be a few nice easter eggs in the upgrade, and a revival of fairness as one of the scoring values in the game. Looking forward to your patches.

31:

Dear Producers.

So, 2012 was your making? Most impressive, if it had not been for the consistent and at times obtrusive fuck-ups related to keeping my mediastreams non-parallell to me i wouldn't have believed that this could be "wrought" by an entity in the first place. (Matter of fact i still harbour my doubts, but letting my doubts go completely wouldn't be sporting...)

The first thing that struck me with your 2012(TM) product was that it rehashed a whole lot of old science fiction stories. At times i couldn't really be sure if i was reading about president Obomi in Zanzibar or following my old friend Sun Boy from Cordwainer Smiths time. Honestly, are you reusing scripts that often just to get a headline in the news? I mean, it's difficult to compete with Justin Biebers allure, but you might try with some novelties for once. (Oh but you had those!)

Variations on themes, that is what you are about aren't you? Good old yearmakers. Please remember that variations are all good and dandy, but unless you provide some novel material, humanity might fall into a nietzscheian obsession with the return of the eternal same, and we all know how that turned out.

I'd call this an improvement on the famed 2008(TM) when you decided that all the year needed was a reissue of Blazing Saddles. Fair enough, it was a good movie, and we still love it, but Obama is spending his bloody good time setting up that faux village that the evil bankers and odd sorts are supposed to hullobalooba about, isn't he? Oh wait....

As always i'm just waiting for this to collapse into Lukuss, and luckily, it didn't happen this year either, thanks for that. It's going to be horrible, but we'll persevere.

Which brings me back to another theme.....

Can you please get it into your head that Socialism in One Country does not work? We have it here in Norway, and we're scared the fuck out of how the rest of the world is acting! Could your next update (2013(TM)2014(TM)) please contain bugfixes that enable us to own vital resources and infrastructure collectively on a global level? That would be neat-o! There is room for competition, and that room is in the non-vital services, let it thrive there and wither elsewhere.

Sincerely
A concerned and recklessly unanonymous Norwegian.

32:

Regarding the nature of contemporary academic careers: a few years ago I was teaching in. . . let's say somewhere in the English-speaking world.

One of my TAs - who was definite PhD material - told me that she was going to scratch her plans to take up doctoral studies, and have kids with her husband instead. She told me this, apparently, because of watching how I was wandering alone through the silent spaces between the stars. . .


As for those of you who've got bugs in your employment apps, keep plugging away at it and something will turn up. Just remember to grit teeth, and remember that you've committed no crime, regardless of what they insinuate down at the dole office.

33:

@27: Italy or France, or Greece, Spain or Portugal... But one of these, yes. :)

France is amazing in the respect of residence papers. One of my friends, who is a professor there, recently had a post-doc turn down her position because her husband could not obtain a visa to live with her. Another friend of mine worked with an Iranian in the same situation; the prefecture demanded the original of their marriage certificate, which they duly misfiled and lost. She decided to quit and vowed never to set a foot in this "crazy country". Now, I think that France has a lot to contribute to the world, and that the English and French worlds should interact more. But when an *Iranian* thinks your bureaucracy is mad, it's time to take serious notice. These prefectures end up implementing a de facto bureaucratic appartheid against populations unpopular with society at large; I have heard (though not witnessed) about people queuing for several *days* at these prefectures, just to talk to an employee (who can easily tell you to come back with another paper).

@23: the worse thing is that the system itself is not that much broken. Sure enough, you have more or less palatable flavours, like "I'm going to promote the chap from the lab over the newcomer with a better CV" or "work yourself to death and we'll consider your application", but the intensity of the madness is only proportional to the pressure, and that is only caused by too many people and insufficient resources. Science is glamourous and simply attracts too many people, and we might be too far on the surve of diminishing returns. Since the funding of science is also a sort of economic ballast that gets cut whenever times get hard, we end up like piranhas in a drying puddle. It's not that ressources are badly managed, it's that there are no ressources to manage in the first place.

The "vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience" phrase is excellent, I've heard something very similar but not quite as well put. We'd say that the life of a scientist combines the stable life of the military, the serenity of the trader and the wages of a McJob, for the school years of a surgeon and the social consideration of a waste collector.


34:

Dear Mr Gstoltz6,

We have read your concerns about 2012. Whilst these have been received too late for inclusion in 2013, we are instigating a programme to have them included in 2014 or possibly 2015, probably initially in Scotland, which after the other Scandinavian and Baltic Sea nations is, of course, one of your nearest neighbour nations,

Yours Sincerely,

2012 Product Support Team

35:

A mixed bag. Although 2012 offered me a number of worthwhile experiences, I found I was not able to enjoy them all due to their simultaneous or near-simultaneous occurrence. I would appreciate better spacing in the future, or the atemporality upgrade. And although this is not exactly 2012's problem, I didn't have enough Money or Vigor to participate in all the experiences in 2012 that interested me.

The year did give me some interesting new opportunities and avoided any major setbacks, so on a personal level, I mark down 2012 in the plus column. However, this came at some cost, as I found after experiencing 2012 that I was a year older.

Also, I found that the hot days were all piled up during one part of the year, the cold parts during another. In the interest of variety, I might suggest interspersing hot with cold, and for the temperature extremes to be less extreme.

36:

but the intensity of the madness is only proportional to the pressure, and that is only caused by too many people and insufficient resources. Science is glamourous and simply attracts too many people, and we might be too far on the surve of diminishing returns. Since the funding of science is also a sort of economic ballast that gets cut whenever times get hard, we end up like piranhas in a drying puddle.

It doesn't help any that young people are encouraged by all sorts of authority figures to go into the STEM fields because "Employers can't find enough trained people to fill the available positions". Of course, what they really mean is "Employers can't find enough trained people to fill the available positions for the wages they want to pay".

Is this a deliberate policy? Why, no, 'course not. Whatever gave you that idea?

37:

I guess, from my end, there are a couple of points:

One is to prospective grad students. What really matters, when getting into academia, aren't things like talent, it's connections and money. I don't mean that it's who you know and bribe, although knowing the right people is key. It's just that grad school is often a hellishly lonely and poor existence, and you will (most likely) suffer quite a lot, both for good reasons and pointlessly. You're also going through this at a time when the last of your grandparents are likely to die off, and your parents, aunts, and uncles may suffer some serious health scares and/or die themselves, just due to age. It helps to have every socialbuffer you can to deal with all this, because your going to fray your support net simply by going to grad school. Yes, grad students support each other a lot, but it helps to have someone outside, too. Marrying another grad student is a great idea, assuming, of course, you can both get jobs in the same city when you graduate. If not, you may well get divorced on graduation. Marrying a doctor or other health professional is preferable, because they can often move. Of course, you know what medical residency is like...

That's the input side of it. As noted above, academia is very much like the Amazon, where the water drops and the fish kill each other while the suffocate. When it's bad. And sometimes it floods too, although that's happening less often.

Problem is, most academic departments have been in a long decline since the late 1990s, and I think the smart people realized this long ago and left (cf Gates, Jobs, Zuckerman, et al.). The kind of vicious in-fighting that characterizes most of academia leaves a population of scarred survivors, not necessarily good scholars, and that's too bad.

38:

I have given this year four stars. However I must protest the pricing structure that means the electronic version of the year cost more than the paperback.

Due to lack of funds I will not be purchasing the Pro edition of 2013. I have found an open-source alternative which does many of the same jobs although it does lack drivers for some fundamental physical laws.

Does anyone know how to dual-boot my existence so I can install the Home version of 2013 for playing games? I've had bad experiences with virtualisation so I'd like to avoid going that route.

I did appreciate the easter egg feature (it popped up around April 8th) and hope it'll be in future releases.

39:

Dear Mr Strummist,

The pricing structure to which you refer is the responsibility of Ganges-Brahmaputra SA, rather than being a matter which we at Antipope Products have any direct control over.

Regarding your inquiry about dual-booting your existence, I would suggest that you format your hard drive, then install first Windows 7, then Linux. Now use a partition manager to create a data partition. You should now be able to install the W7 version of 2013 using the data partition as its data store, and the freeware Linux version. The 2 versions are file compatible with each other.

I trust that this meets your requirements.

Yours Sincerely,

2012 Product Support Team

40:

That's sort of right, something I observed years ago, but it's a but more complex than that...
After observing the travails of a PhD qualified friend, as well as my own, it's not simply pay; there's quite a few well paid jobs in sciences in the UK.
The problem is made up of several things, such as companies not knowing who or what they are looking for, or having an overly restrictive idea of what they want, thus my friend has been knocked back for a job he could undoubtedly do, and they are still advertising it.
The companies are also unable to grasp that people with the correct training and experience aren't lying around waiting to be employed. Because many companies don't train their staff properly any more, instead finding it cheaper to poach them from someone who has, and because the technical jobs market is so fragmented and varied, they just can't find the precise lot of skills they want because there aren't more than 15 people in the entire UK who have experience of X, Y and Z and a PhD. And 14 out of the 15 are happily employed already.

Which translates into "We can't get enough skilled workers, it's all the fault of those pesky students" when it filters through to the media, instead of "The pool of skilled people is small beacuse of the fragmenting of the market, greater specialisation meaning fewer and fewer people who have the right skills and lack of on the job training".


I have to say the tongue in cheek reviews of the year on here are very good.

41:

There are some other problems, too.

One is that hiring is mediated through HR departments and recruitment agencies, who basically filter on keywords -- they don't have any insight into the specialities the candidates trained in, so they have no idea whether skill X implies an ability to pick up/cross-train in skill Y in a week or in two years.

And another big problem is ageism. The traditional job for life/employment ladder model of a career implied regular pay rises, which in turn implied that older workers were more expensive. Add a lot of low-level propaganda to the effect that science, engineering and IT are developing rapidly, and potential employers on the managerial side get the idea that older candidates are (a) more expensive, and (b) likely to be out of date in their skills and inflexible.

42:

Overall, I would rate 2012 better than the previous release (2011), but not by much. The updated employment module (which I still haven't been able to get to function - it keeps talking about wetware incompatibilities) has provided a mild improvement to our finances, but not to the extent that was anticipated. In general terms, the media interface has continued to degrade here (it might be worth paying more attention to the Australian media drivers). In particular, it might be worth seeing whether there's something that can be done about the ABC feed - I suspect it's getting garbled along the way, since it comes out looking and sounding very much like a straight feed from News Limited.

The politics subroutines appear to be functioning just fine, but I wasn't impressed with the Opposition plug-in, which appears to be providing a lot of knocking, banging and whining noises, but no real performance improvements. Indeed, some of the problems with this plug-in appear to be verging on the edge of being breaches of the applicable laws. I'm awaiting further bug-testing from our government provider, as they say one of their developers is working with the appropriate legal persons to determine the nature of the issue.

It also appears that there are significant issues with the weather processing subroutines - on at least two occasions this household has been hit by storm-related damage, and there was the massive episode of storm damage which hit a huge number of users in the North-Eastern United States. As a suggestion, while a breeze is fine, the general understanding of the term "breeze" doesn't include wind speeds of over 100km/h; also, while lakes are all very nice to look at, air drop over a wide area is not the most optimal delivery method for same.

I'm hoping these have been repaired in the 2013 release, although I'm not hopeful, particularly when there are large chunks of the development team going public with their view that these aren't bugs, they're features. Unfortunately, in order to remain compatible with the wider business world, I am required to upgrade to 2013 at the beginning of the calendar year, otherwise I'd be sticking with 2012 until you'd released 2013 Service Pack 2.

43:

Professor Archie Roy is dead alas.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-20858029

This may not mean much to some of you, but is a real downer for an end to 2012 for others of us, notably if you're Scottish, attended or worked at The Uni, an SF fan or worked in Astronomy or paranormal research.

44:

Dear Ms Megpie71,

We here at Antipope Products understand your issues with both the Media interface and the Politics Opposition plugin. Indeed, we have similar issues to the ones that you express with these modules. However, do we understand you correctly, that you have a functioning Politics Government Plugin? If so, please send your CV to our CEO, Mr Charles Stross, with a covering letter explaining your methodologies for installing a functioning Politics Government. On receipt of these items, we should be able to supply a hot patch which will cure your issues with the Employment module.

Yours Sincerely,

2012 Product Support Team

45:

Well, the Politics Government plugin appears to be functioning just fine, despite the current installation technically running very close to the hardware limitations of the OS. It currently requires only a little more actual hardware space than the Opposition plugin, but appears to be functioning much more effectively, delivering a regular legislative throughput.

Admittedly, some of the output isn't strictly desirable (for example, the reduced payments to sole parents whose youngest child is over the age of 5; and the rather severe issues with supporting the addition of foreign cultural drivers via traditional methods - or in other words, the whole mess with asylum seekers arriving by boat being sent off to Nauru) but most of the time these outputs can be attributed to interference from the noise of the Opposition plugin. There does appear to be some effort at sanitising the input received from the Opposition plugin occurring, although this does seem irregular at times.

(Translation: the .au government is working just fine, and pushing through a nice regular legislative throughput, despite the actions of the Federal Opposition over here. I still think people who have a Liberal party MP should be entitled to ask for the taxes that went toward said MP's salary to be handed back.)

46:

We've also got similar issues with Politics Government modules (see recent discussion of "hot" water in the "happy Christmas" thread, the recent decision that if you're in receipt of state benefits you're not allowed to have friends who live more than about an hour's travel away...) but these appear to be due in part to the malfunctionings of the Media module.

47:

Score for the 2012 WOW factor in science fiction - 1 star.

Score for 2012 mix and match factor in science fiction - 5 stars.

Says it al, doesn't it?

... andI'm still sputtering about the engineering in one popular science fiction novel published this year (not Charlie's I hasten to add before he kicks me off his blog)... Ouch!

48:

Para 4 - Some of us like bad engineering, if only for the comedy value. As long as $author has a back catalogue, I say "publish madam, and be d@mned"! I did, on reading a piece of aledged Steampunk meets Holmesiana.

49:

2012 was just as bad as 2011 for the same reasons, all having to do with the results of WWII which were caused by the previous war, WWI.

So, please send your time elves back in time to shoot full of arrows all those evil German reactionaries of about 100 years ago, so that Rosa Luxemburg can become chancellor and prevent WWI with the help of Jean Jaures. I mean, why bother sending time elves back to shoot Hitler full of arrows when you can go just a few decades back and settle everything more efficiently.

Oh, and send elf archer girls to do the job, because there aren't enough pretty girls in the beginning of the 20th century.

http://pontus997.deviantart.com/art/Elf-Girl-Wallpaper-147980860

Thanks!

50:

Ref the link, if that's your own DA and you want another follower, note me (paws4thot here, DA, SATW and various other places) and I'll follow you once I'm back on my regular machine.

51:

guthrie @ 40
TELL ME ABOUT IT!
Being then full-time-unemployed, I went and did an Engineering MSc at age 47 ... I am now 66, & 67 in two weeks time. I have NEVER used that qualification.
Meanwhile...: "We can't get the trained staff" - [ LIARS ]
Something seriously worng in the works somewhere ....
& Charlie @ 41
...& if you are OVER (horror!) 40 years old, you can bloody forget it, anyway. Yes, the Human Remains Depts, have a lot to answer for: "Something lingering, with boiling oil in it" comes to mind - I wonder why?

paws @ 44
May I, in the southern section of the UK second your requests to the "Antipope" organisation/conglomerate/trust/corporation for a speedy update to the "Politics" plug-in. We certainly need an upgrade & soon.
I suspect that Mr Stross, in Scotland needs one too, but that, provided it works well, it can wait until the NEXT issue (2014) before the system fragments?

52:

Thank you for contacting me.
2012 has been surprisingly improved over its already quite serviceable predecessors. The upgrades to the House and the Job apps were subtle but pleasant (although I'm still optimizing them) while your tech's suggestion to activate the Exercise function continues to enhance my overall satisfaction with your products.

However, as a former software tester, I cannot help but note some issues that may affect other users of your fine product.

1. I understand that it's an inevitable part of the core structure of your product, but could you do something about the Global Warming bug? It's now affecting a shockingly large number of users, and accelerating quickly. I expect it will lead to significant user attrition within my subscription period.

2. Have you considered refactoring the Politics module? Its core code dates to before the Stone Age, and there appear to be some significant priority-inversion issues. Also, the paranoia bug that Richard Hofstadter pointed out nearly 50 Years ago has been giving the US trouble again.

3. Finally, I know that the Luck module has functioned quite well for improving overall user engagement, but could you consider tweaking the spawn function so that unskilled or confused users are more likely to encounter in-universe help rather than deadly machines like cars or firearms?

Regards,
  AaronB
  User #3669039813

53:

That's sort of right, something I observed years ago, but it's a but more complex than that...


In the trivial sense, yes, it is more complicated than that, and yes, you point out some valid complications. But in the contextual sense, no, it's not really all that complicated. See, what you're talking about are second-order effects at best. The big, whopping first-order effect is . . . pay. From NakedCapitalism:

At Mechanical Devices, which supplies parts for earthmovers and other heavy equipment to manufacturers such as Caterpillar Inc., part owner Mark Sperry says he has been looking for $13-an-hour machinists since early this year. The lack of workers is “the key limitation to the growth of our business and to meeting our customers’ expectations,” says Mr. Sperry. He estimates the company could immediately boost sales by as much as 20% if it could find the 40 workers it needs.

Full time is approximately 2000 hours/year, so this guy wants to offer skilled machinists $26 K/year. That's peanuts. Read the article, it's a good one, and by no means an isolated data point. Heck, you have employers wanting to pay new hires $12/hour to operate highly complex machinery, and they think that's 'good money' (for a non-managerial untermenschen, it hardly needs be said), managers saying that they can't train workers because it's 'not their core competency' or 'too expensive' - that one really got me, when one interviewee claimed that it was so expensive to train employees that he'd go out of business if he did so. And yet he wanted to pay them less than $30 K/year. Presumably part of that would go to paying off the student loans they had to take out to get all that training that was too expensive for him to afford.

I'm sorry, you got me wound up there :-( Anyway, yeah, in a better time, what you mention would be relevant. But it's not now, not particularly.

54:

@53: "this guy wants to offer skilled machinists $26 K/year. That's peanuts."

As a post-doc researcher, I was paid about that (for a fixed-term contract, which I always think should yield a precarity bonus).

55:

You know what really struck me as the most significant development in 2012 (in the U.S. at least)? It was that for the first time in living memory the one-percenters felt bold enough and secure enough in their position to openly demand that the help to be cheap, skilled, and servile.

I said what I always do in these circumstances: pick any two. funny thing, though they're cutting their own throats in the long term (and everyone else's in the short term), the Jaahb Creatuhs really do seem to prefer cheap, unskilled labor that's properly grateful to the Master Class for having any Usian employment at all as opposed to the other two alternatives.

Though they do insist on handing out H1b visas like they were free campaign buttons . . .

56:

Though they do insist on handing out H1b visas like they were free campaign buttons . . .

If you enter the USA on an H1-B you'd better be servile (as well as cheap and skilled): you're basically there on the say-so of your employer, until they get bored with you.

This isn't to say I don't know anyone who's done it (I'll be at a pub later this evening with a friend from Edinburgh who's working for Facebook in SF -- presumably on an H1-B) but let's just say it seems structured to keep the people who use them on a choke-chain. You can apply for a green card (permanent resident status) while on an H1-B but need to have a permanent job, and it can take quite a few years to get there: in the meantime, you'd better tug that forelock.

57:
If you enter the USA on an H1-B you'd better be servile (as well as cheap and skilled): you're basically there on the say-so of your employer, until they get bored with you.

Yes, that's what that little dig at the Eloi was meant to imply ;-) Now, I don't know how it goes with the rest of the world with this cheap/skilled/servile thing, nor how active and coordinated the elites are at importing talent from developing countries, but surely there isn't any good way for this to end, is there? What would the end state be if just the U.S. did it? What would the end state be if most every first world country tried to do this?

58:

I'm pleased to have a chance to provide feedback.

The 2012 model was far from user-friendly, and my experience was mixed at best. Having said that, it has definitely been a premium product compared with the utter awfulness of the buggy 2011 version, which kept crashing and produced very little satisfaction.

I had some strikingly similar experiences with those first raised by Cahth3iK @14 and picked up by subsequent reviewers, now that I finally have post-PhD employment. My own cross-European experience has been between two northern countries wth a reputation for being wealthy and (more or less) well-run. It just seems to be standard that one has to pay twice for health insurance and be subject to high(er) taxes, as a price for having the temerity to make use of the rights afforded EU citizens (otherwise known as being part of the mobile labour market, following employment opportunities that don't exist where one lives). And don't get me started on the effect it has on my ability to exercise my formal democratic rights (no taxation without representation, anyone?).

One big difference with Cahth3iK's experience seems to be that I like my (ongoing) place of employment (my office doesn't leak, for one). Still, whether I will be able to persist in this career – my second, so far – is an open question. This is a non-trivial issue for me, as I'm very close to that magic 40 mark that HR people seem to sneer at. My experience so far is in broad agreement with the other reviewers who have commented on difficulties with the academic system. As someone who enjoys the teaching side, I particularly note the destructive pressure of the publish-or-perish mentality that will surely lead to disaster. I fear that Mr Stross may well be right in his prediction of a Big Tertiary Education Bubble (cf. Rule 34). Echoing heteromeles @ 23, I am fortunate indeed to have a partner who earns (just) enough to support us, and who encourages me to pursue this hobby of mine.

In sum, I'm reasonably pleased with the 2012 model, coloured as I am by the 2011 experience. I'm happy to continue with this particular model for 2013. Thereafter, we'll have to see.


Finally, a note to OGH: thank you for a generally excellent line in blog postings. They have contributed to my quality of life in this and previous years.

59:

As a post-doc researcher, I was paid about [$26K]

OK, but a postdoc is basically just two more years of graduate school. You're already used to cheap living, and there's an expectation (not always fulfilled) that you'll have a better job in two years or so. It's rather different when your pay used to be twice or three times as much, you may have teenage children, and there's no path upward.

On the other hand, the employers have at least some point. Competition is severe in most markets; if labor is too expensive the products can become uncompetitive and the business can fail. All indications are that highly overpaid executives are a much bigger part of the overall problem, though.

60:

2012 was the first full year in which I was not homeless since my nervous breakdown in late 2010. Additionally, I wrote a book, which is in its final phase of polish. All in all, a good year.

61:

My 2012 experience was, as always superb. Fortunately for me, I chose the "White Western Male Heterosexual" version several decades ago. This model is famous for it's lack of bugs and I am as always grateful for getting to avoid the bugs and annoyances other models have to deal with.

Renumeration continues to lag behind expected, and both lack of multiplayer capability and decent loot drops is frustrating.

Still, at least there aren't any more saber toothed tigers.

62:

Destination Girl: Grats on non homelessness!
...I'm new to this place, am I supposed to say that kind of thing?

63:

I have no problem with bad engineering in a story EXCEPT when it gives the expectation of being realisable and realistic. Nor do I get overly upset about the odd blunder in a book (we are human after all... at least I think so...), but this one book.... shudder...

64:

@59: "there's an expectation (not always fulfilled) that you'll have a better job in two years or so."

For so high values of "not always" that "expectation" is beginning to drop seriously.

I firmly do think that a skilled technician is worth their pay and I abhorre the notion that academics are inherently worth more because they are upper class while technicians are lower class (something that the previous generation constantly insinuated). Technicians contribute tremendously to society; in contrast, certain academics have a tendency to intellectual masturbation of no social interest whatsoever while expecting a high standard of living in recognition of their years of study or diplomas. From the point of view of society, these people are not so much investment as a luxury. Extrapolating a little bit upon this, one could well posit that simply having a job one likes is something one has to pay for.

But right now, I am mourning my dream of fitting in the middle class, and I feel cheated.

As to "On the other hand, the employers have at least some point. Competition is severe in most markets", you are very right, but the fact that competition-based threats are ubiquitous and that they take such a toll on people's standards of living reminds me of Dickens, Zola or Jules Valles. At least, way more that of the rosy world that previous generations rant about.

65:

PS: About that CERN thing: if you had poor insulation and no heating at CERN in winter, you wouldn't have temperatures below 10 C, you would freeze to death. It's way colder there.

Plus, CERN employees enjoy high wages and have no taxes to pay, and they get to live in geek Neverland. Nice job if you can get it.

PPS: Reading destinationgirl's blog (my hat to you), there are things to which I can relate. I suppose it comes down to the feeling of betrayal felt by the street-unwise, former A-student, when confronted to the contrast between what they live, and what they were promised and what the baby boomers got.

66:

Most people normally wouldn't (just grin to themselves as being pleased for the poster), but you've not done anything actually wrong. I mean, I wouldn't even post this if you hadn't explicitly asked the question.

67:

That's fair yes. The things that make me mutter tend to be truly bad research (like "How do you tell a black house from a white house in the Hebrides? Black houses don't have chimneys and white houses do." There is no difference in the architecture, roof etc except for that. A 1920s 4 room bungalow is neither a black house nor a white house, even if does have open fireplaces) Sorry - wildly off-topic.

68:

@53: Who is that Caterpillar suppliers' competitors? If the supplier goes under, Caterpillar is getting those parts somewhere else. Those competitors may have enough machinists at or around $13/hr. If he's rational, the competition is probably what constrains him on the wages.

@54: Apples & Oranges.

69:

If he's rational, the competition is probably what constrains him on the wages.

"Rational" in a local, short-term context.

In the longer term, right now we live in a global "free trade" regime that allows capital to seek labour at the lowest price available worldwide. Labour, of course, is not free to seek work at the highest wage on offer worldwide -- the anti-immigration laws have more or less gone global. (With a lot of indirect encouragement from certain lobbyists who stand to profit thereby.)

Consequently, wages are in a global race to the bottom; Caterpillar's suppliers are in competition with the products of cheap labour in China or India or (in future) wherever wages are low and skills are in supply.

Eventually the developed world parts suppliers will either go bust, or render their local work force unable to live (which will in turn contribute to them going bust). So it's not a "rational" policy in the long term -- it's unsustainable. And in the very long term, wages will be deflated world-wide until they can go no further, and along the way the market for Caterpillar's products will die because nobody's got any money to buy them with ... unless there's a change in the way we trade globally.

Welcome to the crisis of capitalism, brought about by ultra-cheap transport and blinkered short-termism (and a good deal of capitalist venom directed at the very workers who the system depends on).

70:

But right now, I am mourning my dream of fitting in the middle class, and I feel cheated.

I know the feeling. I got my Ph.D. in 1999, and after a few year-long stretches of unemployment, I'm heading back to school in a few days to study accounting. This was not the original plan.

71:

I suspect, without a massive change in governance, we'll always have some tension between employers wanting people to work cheaply and employees wanting to be paid better.

For small values of "some" and by implication fairly small differences between what the employers want to pay and what the employees desire to be paid I'm not even sure that's not a good thing.

In today's world mind you, there is no way they can be described as small by anyone who doesn't have enough money to never need to work again.

I think we also need to have a long, hard look at our value system. According to a report I read today, there are 1,500 bankers in the UK who earned more than £1M last year. By comparison, Director General of the BBC (who runs one of the largest organisations in the country, receives about £650,000) and the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police (runs the police in Greater London, for ~20% of the UK's population) earns about £260,000. Nurses, teachers, post-docs (and lecturers and professors) and more are paid really very poorly. Medical doctors are paid pretty well (it varies a bit but around £100,000 is not that uncommon). The Prime Minister gets a nice £142,000.

I don't quite know what the solutions are, but something to rebalance the values we put on the jobs strikes me as pretty much essential, and soon. Personally I'm seeing more and more things in favour of a maximum wage although I understand there are all kinds of problems. And a living minimum wage too.

72:

Re: the year 2012

Not a great year, or even a good one. Declines in annual quality over the past decade make the lack of accessible archives a very poor choice; the ability to re-experience the best moments of 1988 or 1995 would add considerable value to the product.

This year's biggest bug was the American Politics plugin, which consumed vast system resources to little ultimate effect and generated huge amounts of meaningless spam.

Good year for movies, though.

73:

Charlie @ 69
And, of course, the other problem that sometimes happens with "cheap" products from globalised production - you go to a supposedly cheaper source & then the quality crashes.
This is precisely what has happened to the London Taxi (ignoring its polluting & old design of diesel engine & no plans to go hybrid - I kid you not) their new Chinese owners decided that the steering boxes were too expensive - which they were [but consider the heav requirements for such acomponent in such a vehicle - they have to be robust] so they went to another supplier (one of "their own" in fact) for significant cost savings - for about a year, until all the new type of 'boxes started to fail.
Oops.

74:

>>>Labour, of course, is not free to seek work at the highest wage on offer worldwide

Do you think it would make the situation better if labour had complete freedom of movement? In the short term, I imagine ~50 million Chinese moving to USA will be quite a shock.

75:

You are labour.

I am labour.

Anyone who isn't part of the 0.1% is labour.

How do you feel about not being allowed to move freely and seek the best rewards for your work?

Now apply the golden rule: "do not do unto others what you yourself would find repugnant if it were done unto you."

76:

According to a report I read today, there are 1,500 bankers in the UK who earned more than £1M last year.

I have extreme difficulty in actually believing this. I can believe that that number of bankers were paid stupid money, but don't believe that they did anything which added sufficient value to justify their pay. (If bank1 doesn't pay me this much then bank2 will is not a justification)

77:

I think there's a reasonable chance of Chinese organised labour raising out living standards within then next 10 or 20 years - China's gdp per capita is now over 8000 dollars, only a little under 1/4 Britains, and it wouldn't take them all that long to quadruple their gdp at current rates of growth.

78:

>>>You are labour.
>>>I am labour.
>>>Anyone who isn't part of the 0.1% is labour.

What percent are you in GLOBALLY?

Here, use this:
http://www.globalrichlist.com/

79:

There are a couple of issues with this over-simplification.

1) Quality. Chinese who can afford it would rather buy American products, especially baby furniture and baby food, because our labeling regulations mean they know what they're getting, unlike Chinese regulations. Things can be too cheap. The key metric here is value for money, and beyond a certain point, you can't get that with an untrained, poverty-level work force.

2) Market. This is even more important. For example, if no one but a few landlords can afford to buy homes, the huge US home industry grinds to a halt, which means that all the production industries (such as Caterpillar) can't sell their building equipment. These second-order corporate losses destroy corporate bottom lines all over the world.

More generally, and this is critical, if wages are so low that no one can afford to buy what you're making, you go out of business! A lot of companies have realized this. While I think there's always going to be starvation labor, especially for things like clothes and work on mega-farms, I seriously doubt we're going to see a global race to the bottom in all markets, simply because the companies doing it will lose all their customers by doing so.

Even now, American manufacturers, while they don't employ a lot of people, are enormously productive, and they are paying good wages for the people they do employ. These master machinists are there to keep the robots working to proper specs, and that's a job that can't be automated.

80:

@69 (oh, that's OGH)
"Welcome to the crisis of capitalism"

I don't think capitalism is really to blame, except in that it is an "ism". Problems are being created not by the function of market systems so much as the application of them too broadly. There's this mystical faith that since markets do some things automatically and efficiently therefore they do all things automatically and efficiently. Unlike a car driven by a human, a wagon pulled by a horse does not run off cliffs or into a tree, so lets count on our horse drawn wagons to take us home without direction and then do the laundry. They're more likely to wander off the road and start eating grass.

It's Caterpillar's main job to concern itself with profits for Caterpillar. The mystical belief that this will produce utopia (the place where all that deserving money gets justice) without further input is what causes a problem, it is relying on Caterpillar to do things (concern itself with global concerns) which are not rightly its core competency. If government policies were not so often based on (really rationalized by) this mysticism the situation might be better.

But don't you think that capital seeking the cheapest labor will evantually create a situation where labor can seek the best wages? I mean, think of the call centers in a previous thread. It doesn't matter that call center workers are in India. Eventually there will be so many competing telemarketing companies trying to get Indians to work for them that it will be like global job hunting, for that field, right there in Calcutta. For whatever can't be done that way, such as anything related to a specific place (such as a university or a farm), capital does its best to import cheap labor then also, like with those visas they were talking about up in this thread, or illegal migrant workers in the southern (allright, entire) US.

Wages ARE rising in previously exploited countries, sort of a spreading out effect. Not a mountain and a valley, just low hills everywhere. Maybe its a race to see if the good trends(globalizecd job market) get there before the bad trends (general wage decline). But the fixed object is natural resources, and solutions there are the kinds capitalisim will almost certainly not solve until it is too late. (Sometimes capitalism operates to calculate what needs to be done by using human pain as a signal to determine "demand.")

81:

I think you're partly right; the issue is that businesses are indulging in rent-seeking sociopathic behaviours and forgetting that their first responsibilities are survival, and providing a reasonable return for all stake-holders, rather than maximising the short-term returns for their boards and shareholders.

82:

Theoretically, a business is in the business of making stuff that it can sell, and make profit doing so.

Creating justice and setting proper limits to businesses and such (and e.g. deciding that some things, like eg making water available, should not be subject to seeking profit) is what politics should be good for.

It would be nice if most politicians didn't act as if the business of politics was to gain them money and power.

A persistent misfeature of monkey brains (and of 2012), I believe.

83:

We're in complete agreement; would you like to come for a virtual drink with me?

84:

Sadly the 2000 series of products has not really lived up to the excessive hype many users have attached to them , and 2012 has had the same deficiencies common to those produced since the ill-fated 2001 model, excessive rights management, frequent denial of service, inadequate distribution of resources.

A service introduced with the lifetime of the product known as "Olympics" which while outwardly successful, left this user feeling strangely hollow.

Towards the end of the year an attempt was made to alter the management structure for 2013, but the services of "POTUS Obama" were retained. Alas not all shareholders were consulted, I was among those left out.

Excessive moisture has badly affected the smooth operation of 2012, particular in UK regions.

Alas, major qualitative improvements promised with the forthcoming 2013 upgrade are unlikely to be realised, and any improvements are likely to be user-generated.

I'm sure if more people were given access to the production process, 2013 and 2014 could be better tailored to the individual users requirements.

85:

Do you not believe the reported numbers? Or do you not believe they're worth what they were (reportedly) paid?

The former... I think it's probably accurate. I do find myself wondering what anyone does to justify being paid £1M - and I'm sure that bankers by my scale of values don't do anything worth that. The £100k ball park for a doctor sounds reasonable. £260k for the Met Commissioner doesn't seem outrageous. £650k for the DG seems like too much to me, but not crazily over the top. He (and hopefully she for the next one) has a large amount of responsibility and pretty much touches everyone's life in the UK and quite a proportion of the world after all and, as the current one has shown, can be required to fall very swiftly on a sword.

Is making magic money and every now and again completely fucking the first world's economy and being bailed out by a decade of economic misery for everyone else really good grounds for being paid over £1M? It seems a lot of people think so.

86:

Actually one of the things against older workers is that they want to keep or maintain their current salary, when a new employer won't pay that. I see that quite a lot, unfortunately -- with candidates for HR jobs...

Part of it also has to do with industry, some industries just pay more than others. For example pharmaceutical companies pay almost every type of employee more than they will get in other industries. Which hurts them if they decide they want to switch industries -- or are forced to given the layoff cycles.

87:

Tim@77: I remember when Japan was about to swamp us by virtue of their superior economic growth, and before that the Stalinist USSR. It didn't happen. Countries starting to industrialize from a primitive baseline always grow very rapidly at first, but it tends to level off.

RD@80: Some schools of thought hold that unregulated capitalism is self-liquidating; i.e. that in the absence of government intervention, competitive markets tend to concentrate wealth in fewer and fewer hands. Eventually this results in a system with a few plutocrats running monopolies and impoverished masses. Argentina is the textbook example. This sort of thinking motivated the Sherman Antitrust Act and other progressive legislation of a century ago.

88:

Jay @ 87 (& CHarlie) True
& yet ... Taleb ntes that of the approx 1955 top 500 in the USA only about 35-35 are left, now.
The others have all failed, or shrunk, & we have a very different top 500.
What bothers people (including you & me) is that the behaviour of shafting their employees does NOT seem to change.
Errr .....

89:

I think one of the big changes of the past half century is that, because senior management tends to hop between companies more, there's a lot less reluctance on management's part to risk the company. Managers who worked their way up the ladder at a single company were fairly loyal to the company. The current batch seems to treat companies the way most people treat buses; who cares if it crashes right after you get off, as long as you can get onto the next one?

90:

Started out rough but with a nice adrenaline rush which took the edge off. Seugwayed into a renewed love story which had too cool off while a sudden twist in the career department took over.

Things were exciting then calmed down just in time for the holidays only to be blown out of the water as a new plot development slapped me in the face and turned everything a shade of blue. A very boyish blue. Have no idea what to expect from 2013.

Would like to be able to push the sleep button more often if possible. Where do I fill out the paperwork for that?

91:

Thanks for the congrats. I'm pretty fond of having my own roof. It's a vast improvement from sleeping on a moldy couch in a record store.

92:

Yes, exactly. It was a bitter pill to swallow and I was very angry for a while. I felt like so much of what I'd been taught about the world was a lie that for a while I didn't know if anything I had been taught was right. For example, why *can't* I be willfully cruel to people? That lesion was a little awkward to re-learn. I think that this disillusionment and feeling of betrayal might become one of the more common coming-of-age experiences for our generation (at least for those of us who grew up white and middle class and are thus pre-disposed to believing some of the fairy tales we grew up with about how society works).

93:

My issue is Para1, Sentence2 - I do not believe that they do anything which adds sufficient value to justify their salary. Let's say that they cost the company three times their salary (conservative but within the usual limits on "cost of employment"). This means that, just to earn back their cost of employment, they must realise Three Million Pounds of extra profit for the company.

Most banking transactions are paid for by commissions of 0% to 3% of Transaction'Amount. Let's take 2% as an easy to work with figure in that range.

This gives us the need for them to generate 3E6 * 50 Pounds, or One Hundred and Fifty Million Pounds of extra business in order to generate sufficient profit just to pay their salary, before the bank actually makes any extra profit.

94:

Ah, now that I certainly agree with.

I also wonder... let's say a brilliant person actually makes £150M+ profits. Are they more likely from 1 person on £1M/year or 10 on £100k?

Certainly anyone who makes less isn't worth it in pure money terms but I wonder how much that actually matters to the bankers. In fact it ought to be one of their major concerns, being bankers. But how much are the salaries based on pissing contests and bragging? If you're starting a pharmaceutical ethical testing company, having Ben Goldacre on your board of directors (if you're the UK at least) is probably worth his weight in pound coins, if not gold. I don't know the name of the bankers making that much but I suspect a similar process inflates salaries.

95:

Even within banking (include stock-broking as a "banking activity), those sorts of figures can be occasionally justified, if $person moving from bank1 to bank2 results in $big_client moving their business to follow that person. The number of people involved make it pretty clear that this is nothing but a "mine is bigger than yours" contest.

96:

"I said what I always do in these circumstances: pick any two. funny thing, though they're cutting their own throats in the long term (and everyone else's in the short term), the Jaahb Creatuhs really do seem to prefer cheap, unskilled labor that's properly grateful to the Master Class for having any Usian employment at all as opposed to the other two alternatives."

What frightens me is that I don't think that they are cutting their own throats. Highly concentrated power can sustain itself quite nicely, and the bulk of the population in the dveloped world still has a way to fall/be pushed.

97:

@69 Charlie - are we actually seeing a drop in real terms wages? They may not be going up in the uk, but they're rising rapidly elsewhere, the net outflow of money to labour could be rising, it might even be rising as a percentage of world gdp, and we wouldn't know.

@87 Jay - rapidly industrialising power may only grow quickly until they trail off, but they trail off at relatively high levels of personal wealth, which will remove the downwards pressure on wages.

98:

Tim@97: There's always India, Brazil, and Nigeria. We won't run out of cheap labor in the foreseeable future.

99:

The forseeable future can be a long time.

100:

OK, for the next half-century at least, then.

101:

Overall, I liked 2012. It worked well, fit nicely, the color and material were first rate.

However, I do think the renewal notice format needs a little work. Most products of this sort have nagging emails starting around a month before the due date. With 2012, on Dec 28th what I got was Heart Attack®, followed by an offer to start 2013 with Cardiac Catheterization and the extra value Stent™.

I mean, while I appreciate the upgrade, I think a slightly more user-friendly renewal notification would do more for customer loyalty.

As for the new 2013; I didn't realize that there would be compatibility issues with my present desktop environment. I hope you realize that I had been a regular user of Tobacco®, Saturated Fats® and Coffee©, which I find are incompatible with 2013. Had I known, I would have migrated my files over the last few years to the new format. Now, I need to scramble to change over.

102:

Dear Mr? capewaterrat,

Our apologies about the delayed notification of the end of 2012. We had thought that the end of the Mayan Long Date Cycle calendar would substitute for the usual e-mail notifications. It appears that we were mistaken in this, not least because sales of new Mayan Long Date Cycle calendars have failed to meet expectations.

With regard to your file migration, we hope that the upgrade in Available_Disposable_Income that is associated with discontinuing the use of Tobacco® will compensate for any inconvenience which that might have caused.
We are also pleased to advise you that you can reduce your use of Saturated Fats® by grilling or barbecueing rather than frying most Meats and switching to Scottish style shallow frying, which typically requires about 1tsp of vegetable oil to fry 1lb of mushrooms.
There is no definite replacement for Coffee© ; However, some users have reported that they find Decaffinated_Coffee© to be an acceptable substitute.

Additionally, the likelihood of further occurences of Heart Attack® can be reduced by using the free Walking module for about 30 minutes most days.

We trust that the foregoing is of assistance to you in enjoying 2013 and many more years to come.

Yours Sincerely,

2012 Product Support Team

103:

Dear Sirs,

First, I'd like to thank you for getting back to me so quickly. That kind of support is one of the reasons I've been using your products since the rollout of 1954.

Rather than 'Mr.', I generally am referred to by my job title. In the US that's 'Cap'n', though I'm given to understand that in most of the UK the equivalent title is 'Skipper', except for Scotland where it's 'That auld eedjit in the wee boat'.

In any event, our IT people have decided to discontinue regular use of Meats® and go over to our own in-house product Seafood®. The OS compatibility issues are surprisingly far less than we had anticipated. Seafood® is a robust and versatile companion product for your 2013 which we plan on releasing to distributors and wholesale vendors soon.

Also, the IT department advises me that instead of using the Walking module, they had planned on implementing RowingShell© with 2012. Unfortunately, they discovered that there are problems: RowingShell© doesn't run well on a floppy disk drive legacy system. The IT department is working with hardware support to upgrade the disk and we hope to be using RowingShell© with the new 2013.

This has been a little tricky, as the original hardware manufacturer went out of business some time ago. Hardware support is now provided by a third party and would have been cost prohibitive in most of the US, but when we originally got the mainframe the procurement department insisted on the Massachusetts™ lifetime warranty package which the third party hardware people have been honoring.

On the upside, it turns out that we can still use Coffee© with our current hardware. It seems that the overclocking issues we had were due to mid level management, as usual. Rather than using Coffee© as a lubricant and starting fluid, as it clearly says in the manual, they were using it as a fuel. Hardware support had some sharp words for them and has started retraining sessions.

Again, thanks for your prompt reply. So far the new 2013 is working out well for us. What's more, it seems to integrate well with the beta version of the latest Girlfriend® suite ( HotBlonde 5.0)which we have great hopes for.

104:

Dear Captain capewaterrat,

"Yon auld eejit in the wee boat" is normally only used in cases where the vessel is positively known to be crewed by at most 2 people. In this case "auld eejit" refers to the older crew member, irrespective of their age relative to the speaker. Captain is normally reserved for formal communications with a vessel commander who holds a master's certificate for the relevant class of vessel. Skipper is used in less formal (eg messroom) communications with an individual entitled to be addressed as Captain.

Seafood® is an entirely acceptable replacement for the Meats® class within the Protein library. You may also wish to experiment with the use of the Pulses class (main member sub-classes Beans and Lentils). This is best done by either reducing use of the Meats® and Seafood® classes and substituting the Pulses class for Starchy_Carbohydrates on these occasions, or eliminating the Meats® and Seafood® classes from the meal. Some users report that they can achieve a satisfactory diet eating exclusively from the Pulses, Vegetables and Starchy_Carbohydrates classes, but other report that "they never feel full" when they attempt this.

RowingShell© is normally only recommended to users who live on or near a lake or sea coast; obviously, this will apply to most users in Massachusetts.

You are correct that Coffee© is primarily intended for use during the Today'Boot_up phase of any period of 24 hours. Its over-use outside this period can lead to involuntary and unstable over-clocking and/or Headaches®

I am pleased that Girlfriend'HotBlonde seems to work for you. I have never used this module, preferring Girlfriend'Husky_Voiced_Brunette, but we're all individuals!

Kind Regards,

2012 Product Support Team

105:

Dear paws & capewaterrat @ 103/104
Indeed, pulses, beans, peas, lentils are entirely satisfactory as food/fuel midules for humans, and some of us have experimented very successfully (dependant upon current edition's "Weather™" of course) in hacking the production processes & manufacturing our own for greater variety.
However, there is a significant safety-hazard resulting from either over-use of these magnificent products or of combination ("Superadditivity") with another popular module.
Taking the second hazard first, combination of "Pulses" with any significant quantity of Beer® can result in this hazard being manifest.
Ditto, as stated above w.r.t. over-consumption.
The waste gases produced may endanger the planetry biosphere through greenhouse gas emissions, & furthermore, in close quarters, may be in violation of international treaties specifically those referring to poison-gas attacks.

You are advised to proceed with caution in the uses of this model, and you should be OK.

106:

Ah- considering the common diet of the region, that goes a long way towards explaining http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asian_brown_cloud . In a more Western context, with the addition of Cider©, the effects could only be worse.

Bad enough that I'm frequently implementing the Cider©, Oysters® and WildMushrooms3™ modules together. Still, given adequate facilities and grant funding, the biofuel possibilities are considerable.....

Specials

Merchandise

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on December 28, 2012 11:18 AM.

Happy Christmas! Here is a flame war in a can was the previous entry in this blog.

What are the big issues of 2013 going to be? is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Search this blog

Propaganda