Hitler's Beneficiaries, by Götz Aly

As a US native who grew up before neighborhood commerce was decimated by automobile-oriented planning, big-box retail and Amazon, Stockholm sometimes feels like stepping back in time. Streets are filled with storefronts, from the center of town to the most sedate far-flung suburbs. Good shops are everywhere: Groceries, butchers, fish stores, bakeries, hardware stores, boutiques, bike shops, accordion palaces, pet emporiums, you name it. You can see and buy good things pretty much anywhere, and it's a joy (except that everything is so expensive). There are even lots of record stores, which I find perplexing given that almost everyone seems to be perpetually listening to Spotify with permanently affixed headphones. (Topic for another post)

There are bookstores! Big ones and small ones. Last weekend, Jonny and me happened upon the Antikvariat Hundörat used bookstore in Södermalm. The owner, Peter Bodén, protested that he was closing in 5 minutes. It was clear within seconds that Peter actually had no intent of closing at all, and that the hundörat (translation: dog ear) would stay open all night as long as we were looking. So, we bought a couple of books and extricated ourselves from the stacks to meet the rest of our crew for dinner.

Thus, on to the nominal topic of this post: 

Hitler's Beneficiaries: Plunder, Racial War, and the Nazi Welfare State. Götz Aly, 2005. 

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Welcome to Sweden

A little bit less than 3 months ago, I moved to Sweden, along with my family, all of us heading to a country known in the US, if it's known at all, for long winters, extreme day lengths, and for being a bogeyman of something described as 'socialism', which conjures up a combination of laziness, ennui, the nanny state, high taxes, and impending economic collapse as a result of high deficits.

One prior (summertime) visit to Sweden hinted at some other possibilities. The vast majority of the population appeared healthy, well-dressed, and reasonably happy -- noticeably different from the highly visible poverty and diversity in health and well-being visible in the US. Infrastructure everywhere was of high quality and well-tended. Stockholm seemed extraordinarily safe, and, as a parent, the high number of youngish, largish families who looked pretty un-stressed out was noticeable too. 

Not that everything here was an idyllic socialist wonderland -- indigent Roma people are everywhere, apparently completely unplugged from any support, assistance or safety net. Something that felt open and welcoming in the summer felt closed and stifled in the winter.

I had resolved to write regularly in Stockholm. The stresses of work and relocation have delayed that a bit. Unfortunately, I'm beyond the 'wonder' stage now, but I'm going to try and make up for some lost time. This is the introduction.


Is Amazon's Work Environment as Toxic as NYT Says?

The New York Times' says that Amazon's work culture is horribly Darwinian, it's a place where everyone cries and people get fired for dealing with their own health or family issues. Amazon cries foul, and the internet wants to know: Who's the liar?

My instinct here is that everyone is telling the truth as they see it.

Most of us are trained to suck it up. Our inner voice tells us that everyone at work has their own problems, no one has the time to deal with yours, and managers don't want to be bothered. It's hard to ask for help, and a well-paying, potentially exciting, fast-moving role in a highly competitive workplace is all the more reason to clam up and try to get through it until you just can't. People who are happy working at Amazon are likely to either have less strenuous outside-work needs, or have mastered the art of asking for help.

It's also likely that Amazon managers aren't evil people who derive glee from their reports missing their kids' ball games and their parents' funerals. But they also might not have the internal ability, maturity, or support to be the best people managers they can be in what is acknowledged to be a high pressure environment. 

It is the job of a manager to catch the subtle cues that something may be amiss with a colleague. But it's almost definitely easier to 'see no evil', at least in the short-run, and especially when you're at a company where people want to work, thus making employees relatively replaceable. Denial and self-deception are the tools of stressed out people everywhere.

Amazon's reputation in the industry is close to the portrayal in the NYT article, but the practices and underlying goals described therein are widespread in the tech world. Deeper and broader analysis of labor issues in the tech world is most welcome, and I for one would like to see more of this reporting.


#slack almost haiku 1

yes this is correct

and noted in one of the bugs

it does not accept the invite

i’m still not in IBM