Competing with the Third World – An American Coder’s Lament

As many of my readers may know, I’ve been seeing a bit of down time in my professional life lately. And like any professional looking for his next project, I’ve made my trade’s LinkedIn discussions a daily stop on my journey.

But something disturbing has happened in the couple of years since I last had this habit. Everybody seems to be talking about how wonderful it is to bypass professional developers, or failing that, to hire developers from third-world countries for $7/hour or less.

Twenty-five years ago, when I was living out of a step-van with no rent to pay (the only home I have ever owned debt-free), I was able to eke out a living on $7/hour. Things are different now. My rate is low – and we live frugally – by American standards, but it still takes about $2500/month for us to get by.

So I’ve grown more fed up with people on LinkedIn promoting $7/hour developers off-shore, and then seeing that multiple users clicked “like” on that promotion. When I criticize this practice, no one comes to my defense.

It’s enough to make me want to say “F**k it” and start driving a cab*. That’s how America loses the talent that it invested so much to develop. (*Never mind what the “sharing economy” is doing to that business.)

Anyway, I got set off again a day or two ago. Someone started an unrelated discussion on a technical issue on developing WordPress themes, and during the discussion it was revealed that this Canadian client had purchased the theme (likely unknowingly and indirectly) from a Turkish developer. I called him out and said he should be ashamed of himself for going offshore if a Canadian developer could do the work.

After someone pointed out that the poster was probably unaware the theme was developed off-shore, someone suggested I was a racist for saying, “I’m sure there are plenty of Canadian developers who would have eagerly taken on the work and done a far better job of it.” All right, maybe I could have said, “… and done as good or better job…”, but some people are overly eager to play the “racist” card (which to anyone who really knows me is laughable) when they’ve got nothin’ else.

But the person who said that went on to say he’s a Dutch person living in China and serving clients all over the world.

That set me off on a rant that I feel is too important to be limited to a remote corner of LinkedIn, so I will share it here with The Rest of the Class:

@[other user]: not racist at all, but…

As an American developer, I am struggling to find work while potential clients are hiring developers in third world countries for less than $7/hour… which is about half of what a full-time payroll worker needs to barely scrape by in this country, never mind what is fair for a highly skilled independent contractor.

I have turned down international work because I don’t want to be a hypocrite by being some other country’s cheap offshore labor. I tell these people to call me back if and only if there is no one in their home country that can do the work.

If you live in China, you should only work for the Chinese market. Canadian clients should hire Canadian developers, and Turkish developers should work for the Turkish market. Otherwise, we have a race to the bottom of pay scales while our neighbors are falling into destitution.

Maybe I could work for third-world wages if I had third-world expenses, but that’s not the case, and you all know that. And we have a web where every site is starting to look the same, because they’re all built on the same corner-cutting frameworks by the same third-world programmers.

If your neighbor is an unemployed carpenter, and you hire an immigrant from the other side of the world for 1/10 the local livable wage to build a deck, then your unemployed neighbor has every right to be pissed off at you. But that’s what clients are doing when they hire offshore developers when there are local developers that can do the work.

So yes, Piet, all of your clients SHOULD be ashamed of themselves, unless you’re leading them to think you’re somewhere other than China, in which case YOU should be ashamed of yourself.

It’s not a racist thing at all, it’s a Main Street thing (or “High Street” for those of you across the pond).

I read labels. I don’t buy imported produce unless it’s something that doesn’t grow in the US (bananas, for instance). I buy American clothing when I can find it, and used clothing when I can’t.

And before you all come down on me for typing on a Chinese laptop… American corporate greed has put “American made electronics” in the same category as “Wisconsin-grown mangoes.” A country that cannot produce its own clothing or electronics is not an independent country, but that’s another rant.

Trump: Defining the Size of the Republican A$$hole Caucus

As America’s quadrennial campaign circus heats up, pundits are tearing their hair out wondering how Donald Trump could be leading in the Republican primary polls while being such an a$$hole. I have a theory that (in my humble opinion, at least) makes a lot of sense.   Read on

A New Bridge… At Least Ten Years Too Late

I went to a ribbon cutting today. A new bridge for bicyclists and pedestrians finally opened on the north side of La Crosse, connecting neighborhoods on one side of a railroad yard with workplaces on the other. But this was a celebration that was many years overdue.


The new “Bud Hendrickson Bridge”, seen from its eastern approach, spans the BNSF rail yard to connect the north side of La Crosse to the the industrial park and a bike-friendly route to Onalaska.

Read on

Our Cat is a Basket Case

A few days ago, I found Gizmo taking a nap in a very odd position, and in a very odd place.

Nixon Memory Lane

This past weekend, we “celebrated” the 40th anniversary of the day Richard Nixon resigned as US president. The iconic image of that event was Nixon smiling and waving the “V-for-victory” sign (some of us knew it as the peace sign) over his head with both hands before ducking into the helicopter to be taken away from Washington for good.

It’s at times like these that I like to read the work of my all-time favorite Nixonologist, who – as Rolling Stone magazine’s representative on the White House press corps – was watching from the Rose Garden as the helicopter flew away.

I felt sorry for him. He hit his head. Right after he did this thing [makes the v-for-victory sign] at the helicopter door, he turned and lashed his head on the top of the rounded door, staggered sideways, and he was so  — in some jurisdictions we might have called it “luded out” — he was tranquilized. There’s a civilized word for it: sedated. He was almost led up the stairs. Yeah, I felt sorry for him. Can you imagine that ride west? Jesus Christ, they flew to Andrews Air Force Base, I guess, on the helicopter, and then they had like a six-hour flight to San Clemente. Whew. That must have been a really dark flight.

From interview by Matthew Hahn in The Atlantic

I didn’t watch the resignation speech on TV but I heard it on the radio. I was working that night, making popcorn and pizza and filling sodas at a drive-in theatre near my home town. I brought my radio to work, which was frowned upon but tolerated for this special occasion. I don’t know if I really remember or if I just want to remember that the first song the DJ played after the speech was “Kings”, from Steely Dan’s album Can’t Buy a Thrill. (“We’ve seen the last of good King Richard…”)

So anyway, this weekend I was passed a link to Nixon’s obit, which I found quite entertaining, but I knew there had to be something that was written on the occasion of the resignation. It took some digging to find a full copy of “Fear and Loathing in Limbo: The Scum Also Rises.” That was too much to read, but I did read the introduction, which is mostly a rant of anger and frustration. After having just submitted a 15,000-word piece on Nixon’s resignation, Thompson was informed that “Ford pardoned the bastard.”

Hunter Thompson and Richard Nixon were more than professional adversaries.. the way Thompson tells it, they were mortal enemies. But given a common interest, mortal enemies can become the best of friends, and for Thompson and Nixon that interest was football. Thompson was the only person on the press corps who could talk football, and Nixon knew it; and he would often seek him out when he wanted to talk football instead of politics. Thompson once wrote, “the only thing Nixon was honest about was football.”

The closest I ever came to Nixon was as a hitchhiker in the early 80’s. Running out of energy late one night on a trip from LA to San Diego, I was stuck in San Clemente and rolled out my sleeping bag in the bushes outside the gate to Nixon’s compound, where I slept soundly until the sprinklers woke me up at 5am.

Double Rainbow Over purplearth


When the sun came out during a rain shower, we knew there had to be a rainbow someplace.

This image is a three-frame composite, looking east from our back yard this afternoon.

We didn’t notice the faint outer rainbow until we looked at the pictures.

After a week of rain, this was a good sign going into the weekend.

The Bridge Gallery

The Falls Bridge crosses the Schuylkill River in Fairmount Park, Philadelphia.

A newspaper we read online occasionally puts out a call for photos on a particular theme.

One such “assignment” was for “The World’s Best Bridges”, and it was enough to motivate me to dig thru our bridge pictures. The assignment description said that they weren’t looking for “iconic” bridges (though we have some of them, too), but for those that “make the business of crossing … an experience unlike any other.” I take that to mean “quirky”, and quirky is what we do. Read on

Twenty Years Ago Today

RoZ and I on our first “date”, October 1, 1993…

Obbie and RoZ take a little boat ride on a lake outside Kansas City, MO on October 1, 1993.

Obbie and RoZ take a little boat ride on a lake outside Kansas City, MO on October 1, 1993.

While living in Philadelphia, I used some vacation time to visit some friends in Kansas City. I stayed with a couple who took me to an event the night before, which was where I met RoZ for the first time.

On our first full day together, the four of us (five actually, as they had a toddler that came along) took a drive into the country, where we found a couple of boats available for paddling around.

We’re still as happy as we were that day, even though we’ve never been in a rowboat since.

Class Reunions – Who Got Fat, Bald and Divorced

About the time I started high school, my father was planning to attend his twenty-year class reunion, and my mother had two things to say about these affairs. First was that people go to them “to find out who got fat, who got bald, and who got divorced.” A rather cynical outlook, I thought. But as I’ve grown older, it makes more sense, and says a lot in a small number of words.

The other thing was that “everybody just breaks off into the same little cliques that they were in during high school.” That seems natural to me, as we would want to first connect with those we spent the most time with. Regardless, I’ve been told that each reunion gets a bit less cliquey.

At any rate, early this summer I received an invitation to the latest decennial gathering. I can recite a lot of really good reasons that I never go, most having something to do with cost and logistics of getting there and back. But in reality, I have to admit that a class reunion is not something that I get excited about.

Read on

Turtle Gallery – Western Wisconsin

We live in an area with a lot of turtle habitat, much of which is criss-crossed by our favorite hiking and biking trails. On top of that, RoZ regards herself as a turtle person.

So we seem to get a lot of turtles jumping in front of our lenses, ranging from the size of a half-dollar to the size of a substantial foot-stool.

See an awesome 9-image gallery of turtles after the jump… Read on