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Dayjobs and Dystopias | Gimme Schalter No. 21

Gimme Schalter
Dayjobs and Dystopias | Gimme Schalter No. 21
By Ty Schalter • Issue #21 • View online
This week I went back to the office for the first time in 21 months.
All I was doing was picking up a new laptop—but it might not be long before I have to go back there to regularly do, you know, work. I swung by my desk, just to see the state of the place, and found a couple of friends waiting for me:

Mai and Trunks, standing guard
Mai and Trunks, standing guard
Back in November 2012, I walked out of my previous cubicle thinking I thought I would never set foot in one again. But as Facebook’s pivot-to-video fraud drained almost every job and dollar from the digital-media economy, I realized the sheen of being able to call myself a “full-time writer” wasn’t worth working every waking second for half as much money as my family needed.
As an Xennial raised on 80s childrens’ media, I rarely hesitate to be true to myself. But when I went back to the rat race, I didn’t add any personal touches to my work area. My old cube was piled high with pictures of my kids, NFL swag, and a Final Fantasy IX wall scroll, but for some reason I didn’t want any pieces of flair in my new one.
I think withholding that bit of myself let me pretend this was all a temporary arrangement—I hadn’t failed at professional writing, I’d merely taken on a different kind of freelance client! It was just another gig! Sure, it happened to require that I drive in to an office building and work there from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, but…
This continued until two Christmases ago, when my wife and I filled up our kids’ stockings with anime merch from one of those mall stores. You know, one of those mall stores. We’d recently completed family watch-throughs of “Dragon Ball Z” and “Dragon Ball Super,” and I decided to get a couple of figurines for myself: Future Mai and Future Trunks.
In the show, the characters hail from a desolate future where The Good Guys Lost. Mai is the leader of Earth’s small resistance, and Trunks is one of the few good guys with superhuman powers left. But Trunks goes back in time to A) help the good guys not-lose, ensuring at least some timeline gets a happy future, and B) bring the good guys forward to help the Resistance. And then, well, it gets complicated.
But the point is, they’re really cute together:
Dragon Ball Super - Future Trunks & Future Mai
Dragon Ball Super - Future Trunks & Future Mai
For a couple of months, they were cute together on my desk.
I was scared that someone might notice. I wanted people to notice. I didn’t want to tell people I liked weird nerd things. I was pretty sure they already thought I was a weird nerd. I didn’t mind my co-workers knowing a little more about me. Did I mind admitting they were, in fact, my co-workers?
And then we had a couple of really tense meetings. And then I took my laptop home.
And I stayed there.
It wasn’t until last Christmas, and another trip to the dork store, that I remembered I’d left my two little dystopian alt-timeline guardians at my desk. At work. Protecting my stuff in a dark and abandoned cubicle farm full of disused, powered-down technology while a global pandemic killed millions. Physically located where I’d be in the happier timeline where the Obama Administration’s pandemic playbook was followed by the second Clinton Administration, but actually existing in the desolate landscape created by the natural course of history.
Any rich geniuses wanna send their superkid back to 2016 to campaign for Hillary?
Any rich geniuses wanna send their superkid back to 2016 to campaign for Hillary?
Working from home is perfect for me: I’m maximally flexible, maximally productive, able to be there for my family whenever they need me and not forced to waste time, money, or fossil fuels preparing for and traveling to an office. After working virutally for six years, going back to an office was hard. After going virtual again, I absolutely do not want to go back again.
But seeing my little Trunks and Mai again was a reminder that even though the office won’t be home, I can safely be myself wherever I’m at—and whatever I’m doing to pay the bills.
Everything Awesome
People who actually use guns as tools—i.e., people who actually have need of them—have always understood and respected their power, have always encouraged responsible gun ownership. At one time, that’s what the NRA was for.
Bruenig gave us a powerful, personal example of that—and in the process, threw a bit of shade toward purported Christians who would use the birth of the Christ as a backdrop for some unhinged family gun maximalism.
There’s nothing I like better than way, way, way too much well-educated thought being applied to common life touchstones. Except, possibly, when an example of such—like this Twitter thread taxonomizing Yankee Candle scents by how far removed from reality they are—feels genuinely enlightening.
I didn’t know of Alex before this, but from their Twitter and TikTok they appear to be a very smart person who likes quizzes and video games. Anyway, read the thread:
Alex McMillan
Level 2: The scent represents a physical object in a specific state, where the aroma represented is not necessarily that of the object, but rather representative of that object's state (in this case, the clean-ness is the smell, not the cotton) https://t.co/PVDHZJTjUk
There have been effective reports, even effective visualizations, of our world’s breathtaking economic stratification, before. There’s even been videos explaining how things were much worse than we thought, and getting worse, before!
But Kaplan and Kiersz did a great job writing up the methods and conclusions of the 2022 World Inequality Report, which seems to be an unprecedentedly well-researched slam dunk on the persistent, self-serving myths spouted by rich conservatives who serve much richer masters.
Lopatto has been doing incredible work on the Elizabeth Holmes fraud trial, covering everything in real time on Twitter. Her research-backed commentary has been must-follow stuff for anyone with any interest in the Theranos case. Which, rightfully, is a lot of people.
Wrapping all that work, all that mess, into one tidy, punchy feature article requires a different set of skills—and Lopatto has them, too, giving us all a polished, balanced look at what happened when a notorious shapeshifter was held under a spotlight and sworn to tell the truth.
#TyNoWriPro
On Wedesday evening, my wife and I got our third Pfizer shot. Thursday, I was mostly just running a little slow, but my wife was laid. out.
Late Thursday night, I congratulated myself on having managed to escape without too many symptoms—and then I woke up in the middle of the night, drenched in sweat and chilled to the bone. I had not escaped, and I wasn’t much use to anyone on Friday.
This is why Gimme Schalter published two days past my “target” time of mid-morning Thursday, and it’s also partly why I didn’t make much progress in drafting A&A this week. But the other part is that I spent all #NaNoWriMo on my own writing instead of reading some of my critique partners’, and now I’m cranking through one CP’s revised novel while getting ready to dive into another’s novel excerpt.
These are not excuses, per se, because helping my CPs improve their work helps me as much as it helps them—and of course, the quid-pro-quo of critique swapping has already helped me refocus A&A, and will come in handy later.
This weekend and next week? WORDCOUNT.
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Ty Schalter

The latest thoughts, hottest takes, and coolest work of Ty Schalter, a professional writer & talker (@FiveThirtyEight, @ThreeOutPod). Lots of sports, geeky stuff, social commentary and more.

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