Seth Godin wrote on the removal of stock quotes from newspapers, because everyone who cares gets that information online. He titled the post "Classified are next" and asked when was the last time you looked something up in the classifieds of your newspaper? My answer: maybe a week ago. I spend all day online, and I don't buy a lot, but when I pick up a paper, I look at two sections.

First, I flip to the opinion page because it gives me a quick idea of 1) what issues local people care about, 2) what the mainstream (newspaper) positions are on the issues, and 3) what the alternative (write-in) positions are. This is all helpful for me because I don't understand people, but I fake it because people don't like people who don't understand people.

I suspect this has something to do with a vague suspicion that there isn't as much common to humanity as we like to imagine, hence mythology like the Matrix and Battlestar Galactica.

Okay, tangent time. A while back Shelley Powers wrote something about Battlestar Galactica, and in the comments I mentioned that I had no idea what was going on, and then Dave Rogers gave me an excellent summary of the show, and I wrote I’ve seen the show a few times before, but it never seemed as interesting as this was.

And I really thought Shelley and Dave were just making it sound more interesting than it really was because they were so into it. I've since watched the show from beginning to frustrating to-be-continued, and in the process realized that when Shelley and Dave were writing about Battlestar Galactica, the show I was thinking of was actually Babylon 5.

That's a clue to my general ignorance of TV in general, and SciFi specifically. But I really like Battlestar Galactica, and only wish that the plot itself didn't seem to preclude a long run.

Now then, back to the newspaper... the second (and generally last) thing I read is the classifieds, because local classifieds are often cheaper than eBay, because either the seller doesn't realize the actual market value, or shipping is prohibitively expensive, or they just want to get rid of something quickly and not worry about it.

For all of these reasons, free pianos will always show up in local publications. Because I want a free piano, I will always read the classifieds of the local paper. And because I and people like me are reading them, the classifieds will always be a good place to sell things. And because classifieds bring in revenue on both ends, they will last forever, or at least as long as local newspapers last.

Seth is wrong; classifieds are not next. Maybe TV listings are next. Or are they already gone? Then maybe movie listings. Hard to say, as I don't actually look at newspapers much. But something very timely, unpaid, and easily transferable to another medium will be next to leave the newspaper. Hmm... news is next? Maybe. A newspaper is one of the last places I'd look for news these days.

 

Last month I tried to write about the potential problems with making decisions to hedge against the future. Joel Spolsky did this a lot better today in Set Your Priorities:

In fact when I thought about this later, I realized that for a long time, I had been doing dumb shit (that's a technical term) simply because I figured that eventually it would have to get done, so I might as well do it now.

That's exactly what I've been doing, only not so much with software as with life. I'm not saying I've been making a lot of bad decisions, but I think maybe making good decisions for bad reasons.

 

This morning I did a bit of rubbernecking at a disaster of a post on MetaFilter. The post, since deleted, managed to violate multiple style guidelines in addition to supporting a moral framework that makes me ashamed to be human. The argument goes something like this: 1) poor people are lazy and 2) lazy people deserve to die.

Amidst various suggestions that this may be the worst post to ever disgrace MetaFilter (not without much competition), there was an interesting comment by delmoi, who wrote Anyway, the problem with poor people is that they're not lazy enough. Seriously. They work long hours at shit jobs to provide food for their kids and they're too proud to take advantage of government programs because it's 'un-American'.

So I had laziness in mind as I rode my bike past a couple school kids. I started thinking about the future and how the kids were probably looking at me thinking how odd it is to ride a bike to work, yet I expect it will be much more common for their generation. And that's when I realized that I ride my bike to work because I'm lazy.

It's not the kind of laziness we commonly think of, sitting on the couch watching TV eating potato chips (though I do some of that too). It's a pre-emptive laziness, a programmer's laziness. And it's not just my bike riding that demonstrates this. Nearly everything I do is a hedge against the future.

I expect gas to be prohibitively expensive, so I bought a bike to prepare myself. I don't expect the world can keep up current meat consumption, so I became vegetarian to prepare myself. I think we're moving towards an economy of ideas, and away from agriculture, manufacturing, and service. So I'm a programmer to prepare myself. I expect a future with less wealth for everyone, so I'm frugal to prepare myself. I'm basically living in the future I expect.

Which makes me wonder what good all this preparedness is doing me. I wonder if I wouldn't be better off spending more time thinking about the present and less thinking about the future.