Friday Five

This is a very blog-like thing for me to do, but I thought I should try it once. Here are the answers to today’s Friday Five:

1. What is your current occupation? Is this what you chose to be doing at this point in your life? Why or why not?

Aside from writing fiction (which pays nothing), my occupation is technical writer. This wasn’t something I planned from childhood, or even studied from college. I spent most of my college years trying to finish a computer science degree, so I could either program or be a consultant. Neither of these were working for me, but I was spending a lot of time around computers, consulting, and working on my own projects. So I finished a general studies degree, and right when the Internet market was coming to a froth (1995), a friend of mine got me a job as a tech writer. I’d done some writing at that point, knowledge base articles and training materials, so when I started my first full-time job, I picked it up quickly. It’s seven years later, and I suddenly realize I have a career.

2. If time/talent/money were no object, what would your dream occupation be?

That’s a no-brainer: I’d write fiction full-time. I guess if I had Ross Perot’s bank account, I might do some part-time stuff like arbitrage, or real estate development. If it was a serious amount of cash, I’d pull a Howard Hughes, move to Vegas, and start buying casinos. But mostly, I’d write.

3. What did/do your parents do for a living? Has this had any influence on your career choices?

My dad still works in the same factory where he got a job after finishing the Air Force about thirty years ago. My mom didn’t work until after their divorce, then went through a bunch of different jobs, first working as a cook, then getting into interior decorating and sales. Neither of my parents went to college, and they barely scraped by at their jobs as we were kids, so there was a huge emphasis on us going to school and making it. I think the biggest influence on my career was that I got involved with computers from a very early age because of them; I got sent to a computer camp one summer, they got me a Commodore 64, and I was in a gifted program that had some of the first Apple II computers I’d ever seen. That got me infatuated with computers early, and when I got around PCs in high school and later VAXes in college, I immediately spent all of my time dicking around with them. My parents never told me “you will study this” or anything, and I’m not sure they even know what I do for a living, but their constant pressure kept me from, say, quitting high school and touring with the Grateful Dead instead of going to college.

4. Have you ever had to choose between having a career and having a family?

No. I think my lack of a family has to do with other deep-seated psychological issues, and not my career. It would be relatively easy for me to balance a wife and kids with my current schedule, but it’s not going to happen any time soon.

5. In your opinion, what is the easiest job in the world? What is the hardest? Why?

For me, an easy job would be one that involves work, but not very hard work, and enough mental stimulation to keep things going. I think if I was the guy at a really big Vegas casino that was host to the ultra-high rollers, that might be cool. Like when a billionaire shows up, and you go “Good evening Mr. Smith, good to see you again. We’re booked solid, but I can get you the Presidential suite…” Lots of good stories, you always make people happy, and there’s no heavy lifting involved. Or I think being a Playboy photographer might be pretty easy, although I’m sure there’s a lot of work involved in getting the right results.

Hardest job, I could think of many. I couldn’t be an air traffic controller, where you need to be constantly stressed out. I wouldn’t want to be a stunt man or a professional wrestler, where you have to time everything perfectly and really do everything right, or you could accidentally ram a steel pole through your face, or fall off of a bridge. I also don’t think I could deal with any job that involved killing animals, like in a slaughterhouse or at a vet.

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