We realize that "it could be worse" is small comfort to someone who spends their workday staring at the clock and fantasizing about taking a shit on the boss' desk. But, unfortunately, that's the best we can do. So, the next time you're having a bad day, remember that you could be clocking in as a ...
We are living in a glorious era in which even the most diseased human mind now has a platform from which to broadcast itself to the globe. Show us a site that allows the public to upload content, and we'll show you a site that quickly fills with videos of torture, mutilation, and child pornography. The more naive souls among you might think we're exaggerating -- after all, when do you ever run into that stuff on Facebook or YouTube? But the reason you don't is because there are rooms full of people whose job it is to scour those sites for depraved content and delete it. All day, every day.
See, there's no software algorithm that can detect nightmarish depravity and just flag it automatically (if there was, it would have gained sentience and become a serial killer by now). Thus, there are real jobs like Internet Child Abuse Moderator that have to be done by actual humans, and it's just as horrific as it sounds.
It's actually the law: In 2008 the government started requiring tech companies to scrub their own platforms for illegal content, which meant hiring people to sit and watch children being raped and murdered for hour after hour, day after day. How in the hell would they even recruit people for a job like that, since anyone too eager to do it probably owns a toolshed full of corpses? In some cases, you can just get assigned to it, whether you like it or not.
That's why former members of Microsoft's online safety team Henry Soto and Greg Blauert are suing the company, claiming that their untold hours spent staring at "indescribable sexual assaults," "horrible brutality," and "murder and child abuse" have stricken them with a case of PTSD so severe that they now can't touch a computer without triggering a panic attack. To be fair to Microsoft, the company did offer counseling and strongly encouraged both men to alleviate the stress by taking smoke breaks (because future emphysema is a small price to pay for today's continued sanity) or playing video games ... after which, Blauert says his supervisors dinged him for "lack of production and too much time playing video games." We wish we were making that up.
Speaking of "Why in the hell haven't they found a better way to do this?" jobs, let's talk about antivenom, the stuff you'll need if you spend an afternoon tormenting the wrong kind of snake. To make antivenom, you have to start with venom (which, by the way, actually has a bunch of other medical uses) and collecting it comes down to people like Jim Harrison, using what's left of their goddamned hands.
Harrison is the director of the Kentucky Reptile Zoo, the largest venom producer in Kentucky and one of only a handful of such facilities in the United States. Considering the fact that he extracts venom from up to 1,000 lethal snakes each week -- a process that involves grabbing said snakes by the head and squeezing them over a funnel -- his track record of having been bitten 19 times doesn't seem so bad.
Until, that is, you take a look at his severely damaged fingers, withered and shortened by his years milking such ludicrously deadly snakes as cobras, copperheads, rattlesnakes, and horned vipers. The one exception is his right index finger, which he lost for a different reason. We'll give you a few seconds to guess how, before we tell you that it was from getting smashed in a weight machine ... while he was doing kickboxer training. Yes, really.
In the interest of providing contrast, we should note that scientists across the pond at Venomtech Ltd extract venom from such creepy crawlies as tarantulas, scorpions, centipedes, and cobras via a process of zoning them out on gaseous anesthetic before applying a mild electric shock to make them lose control of their venom bladders. While inarguably safer for the scientists' continued ability to raise their pinkies at tea, it comes with the downside of being even more embarrassing for the creatures being milked.
Every dog owner has watched their pet turn its nose up at the wrong brand of dog food, and then spend the rest of the afternoon lustily licking insects, muddy shoes, turds of every variety, and the buttholes from whence said turds were squeezed. But, because little Fido T. Asseater magically develops a sophisticated palate at dinner time, pet food manufacturers have to make sure their product tastes good. But how, exactly, are we to know? Why, somebody's got to taste that shit, of course!
Somebody like Philip Wells, head taster for UK-based pet food brand Lily's Kitchen. Wells -- who says he actually quite likes the food but admits to preferring the dry kibble over the wet stuff -- uses his very own taste buds to measure the quality of the company's product and provide guidance on perfecting their recipes.
Since regulations require that all meat used in pet food be "derived from animals passed as fit for human consumption," the demands of the job might not seem so crazy -- unless, that is, you dig into the word "derived." The meat component in dog food is made from scraps left over from slaughterhouses, expired meat from grocery stores, roadkill, and (in some cases) even euthanized pets from animal shelters. They grind it all up into a paste, cook it to kill the bacteria, and mix it with a bunch of filler to turn it into pet food.
Of course, the fact that an adequately qualified kibble cruncher can earn upwards of $60,000 per year goes a long way towards counteracting the gross-out factor. Though it seems like you're going to spend a quarter of that on mouthwash alone.
Musician handily tops Actor and Writer in the list of top-three careers that make parents groan, "Have a backup plan, we want to turn your bedroom into a den." And those parents aren't wrong. But if you're not one to mind having your very soul twisted into something resembling an existential churro, then music thanatology might just be your bag.
What the hell is music thanatology?
Well, it's a pretty simple in concept: A music thanatologist -- armed with a harp because that's the dyingest of musical instruments -- holds a bedside vigil with a terminal patient, playing a soothing soundtrack to accompany their final hours of life. It might sound like new-age hippie bullshit, but it's a legitimate subspecialty within the field of palliative care, requiring hundreds of hours of internships in hospitals and hospices to achieve certification.
If that sounds like an awful lot of training, that's because there's more to it than simply providing a moving, live rendition of Music To Die By. The aforementioned soundtrack is "delivered to support the process that is taking place within and around the patient. Musical elements such as rhythm, pacing, volume, and tone are tailored, or prescribed, live at the bedside, and the delivery changes constantly in attentive response to the patient."
In other words, a skilled music thanatologist studies physical cues from the dying patient -- breathing, eye movements, otherworldly moaning -- and adjusts the music accordingly, syncing with and calming the patient straight on through to the other side. Then he or she attends regular group-therapy sessions with other music thanatologists because holy shit, that sounds like the most depressing thing ever.
No matter how sophisticated the sensors or simulations, at some point a real human being has to be the first one to climb inside a new, dangerous machine and intentionally crash that sucker. If you're the type who enjoys the thought of taunting the Grim Reaper in exchange for a paycheck, you'll always have work.
For example, following World War II, the invention of steadily more souped-up airplanes presented a quandary: It was believed the extreme upper limit of human tolerance was 18 Gs, so a pilot bailing out of a damaged aircraft at speeds approaching the sound barrier was effectively a death sentence. Or was it?
Air Force flight surgeon John Paul Stapp knew there was only one way to find out. To do so, Stapp strapped himself onto a rocket-powered sled cleverly dubbed the Sonic Wind No. 1 and, in a series of increasingly insane tests in which he accelerated to speeds of up to Mach 0.9 before screeching to a halt so sudden that it burst every last motherfucking blood vessel in his eyeballs, proved that the human body could, in fact, withstand upwards of 40 Gs. Or at least it could if it was the clearly superhuman body of John Paul Stapp.
If it sounds like the stunt of a bygone era, let us introduce you to Rusty Haight, aka the Human Crash Dummy.
As the Director of the Collision Safety Institute, Haight has personally driven in more than 900 crash tests, because sometimes a non-meat-based crash dummy just isn't goddamned good enough. While he's never approached speeds measured in Machs, he has slammed into other vehicles at speeds of up to 55 miles per hour -- and he's done it hundreds of times, with little more than the occasional bump or bruise to show for it.
That's because he's able to combine his vast crash experience with a hefty dash of physics wizardry to predict the exact outcome of each crash and plan accordingly. In other words, if the guys from MythBusters had a baby with Luke Cage, and said baby was prone to reckless driving, that baby would be Rusty Haight. Okay, we realize we accidentally made this particular job sound awesome, but it's probably one of those things better admired from afar.
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What the Hell Did I Just Read: A Novel of Cosmic Horror, the third book in David Wong's John Dies at the End series, is available now!