Archive for the ‘Personal Philosophy’ Category

Mechanization and Automation

June 23, 2017

I have heard far too many reports about how many jobs will be “lost” to machines in the near future.  These reports, some of which come from automation magazines, all have one thing in common:  the end of the world will occur as we will all become unemployed and homeless because of automation.  Figures and years range from 50-70% of jobs in the next 10 years will be replaced by automation.  I am not referencing this garbage, just know that these articles exist.  A quick Google search will get you plenty of fodder.

Part of being a human being is improving our world and making our lives easier.  During the dark ages, people worked and had zero leisure time.  Everything was about survival, and survival meant doing everything in-house.  All food was grown, all clothes made, and all home repairs done by the members of the household.  For their endless days of hard, manual labor, life expectancy was in the 40’s, and conditions were awful.

We have increased our abilities through invention and creativity.  In the strictest sense, we have no collective knowledge, but we do get to benefit from the development of others through free trade.  I don’t have to develop the air conditioner that is currently protecting me from 104 F temperatures outside.  Someone else did that, and I paid them money for it.

Through this combination of invention, creativity, and free trade, we went through the scientific and industrial revolutions which improved our lives significantly.  150 years ago, “Go west, young man,” meant walking away from your family forever and traveling by wagon, foot, or horse across the wild unknown.  Many did not survive.  When I went west in 2005, my parents were a mere three hour flight away.  FLIGHT.

In electronics, Moore proposed that the number of transistors on a single chip would double every 18 months.  It has been called “Moore’s law”, and has pretty much held true for the last 30 years.  If we are developing computing power that doubles every 18 months (not quite, but transistors are a proxy for this), then why do we expect our lives to be as they were 50 years ago.

Perhaps the days of working 40 hour work weeks are about done.  Many places have made the switch to 32 hour work weeks.  Are 20 hour work weeks in our future?

But what about the lost revenue?  What about the lost jobs?

As an undergraduate, I lost a job to automation.  I used to check student ID’s at one of the dorms at night.  I would stay up all night and just look at student IDs.  Eventually, a card swipe was installed on the building, and I was no longer needed for that role.  So what?  I found other work.

Jobs go away.   If our world is changing so quickly that Moore’s Law is followed, why do we go about employment the same way as our parents and grandparents did?

Fifteen years ago, there was no such thing as a “social media expert,” “Uber driver,” or grocery picker for curbside delivery.  100 years ago, there was someone who jammed wooden stakes into the wheels of the ore cars to slow them down.

The authors of these articles, and those who worry about their jobs being replaced by automation are short-sighted.  What job will these folks have?  I don’t know.  I know there are still problems in the world that need to be solved, and that those solutions will involve people at all skill levels.  I do know that those who resist change will be left behind.

If your job can be replaced by a machine…it should be!  And, it is happening, whether you adapt to a new job, or not!




For Show

June 15, 2017

I have a friend from high school.  We were great friends back in those days, and her and I even dated off an on for a while.  Now, I struggle to find time to meet with her and her husband, and when I do, I find myself having very little to talk about.

Jealousy, no.  It has more to do with how time passes and how people’s priorities change.  When we were in high school, we laughed and joked and played and had a great time.  Now, we find we have very little in common.  While she talks about her big house and wine tasting and other fancy things, I really have not much to say.  When I talk about working with students, gardening, and spending time on the road, she has nothing to say.

She did say to me, years ago, “What will people at your ten year reunion say?”  For years, that stuck with me, because I didn’t care what they said, and I certainly wasn’t going out of my way to attend the reunion in the first place.

While this blog is not designed to give life advice, it is designed to dive into my personal philosophies.

Sometimes, the best thing you can do is to do nothing for show.  Part of the way through my undergraduate education, I lost all of my friends.  My college relationship fell apart, and my friends were not supportive of me.  While they did not side with my ex, they associated with her much more closely, as they all did similar things.  I was totally alone.

However, that was when I gave up trying to be cool.  I rediscovered all of my childhood interests and pursued all of them.  I won’t say what they are, as I do want to maintain some degree of anonymity on this blog, and they are very specific, unique hobbies.  Some of them have had a giant impact on my career, and are continuing to open new doors for me.

It was way better than doing things for show.

Thank you for reading my rant…er, um, post.

The Gig Economy

May 12, 2017

In my parents’ day, a “good job” meant stability and working at the same place from the time you left your education until the time you retired.  Things were predictable, secure and safe.  One would perform a similar task (even in white-collar work) at the same time, in the same place.  In exchange for this task, this person would be compensated either hourly or yearly.

While there are some merits to this system, it no longer works quite the same as it did back then.  Today, companies change constantly.  The company you worked for five years ago probably changed names.  Sometimes, they split apart.  Sometimes, they merge.

Also, as we become more affluent, as a society, and more tasks become automated, more tasks can be done remotely.  Because of this, more workers can perform tasks from home, commuting on public transportation, or even while waiting in line at the grocery store.

Also, there is the issue of “dead-time” at work.  One of the most boring times at a job is when someone is between projects, but must maintain “butt-in-seat” time for a salaried job, or risk losing money by not clocking hours during an hourly job.  This is horribly inefficient.  We try to make manufacturing “just-in-time” so that product doesn’t sit in a warehouse.  Why should labor be different?

Some things will never move from shift work, and I am glad of that.  When my house is on fire, I am glad that there is a firefighter standing by, waiting for the call.  However, does a software engineer need to do this?

Really, the so-called “Gig-Economy” forces us to constantly innovate.  We have to develop new skills, and always look for the next thing.  Stagnation has no place in this economy.

In electronics, there is the concept of Moore’s Law, where the number of transistors on a computer chip doubles every 18 months in an exponential growth pattern.   Perhaps an exponential growth “Moore’s Law” accompanies us human beings.  A few generations ago, most people took their father’s profession, with very little change.  In the previous generation, people went to college and found a career.  Perhaps now, we all have many, smaller duration jobs.  Who knows what our kids will have.

And, ultimately, it is happening, like it or not.

Thank you for reading my post.


Why Baseball is Awesome

November 4, 2016

Baseball is a great sport.  I enjoyed the last game of the World Series, even though my team lost.

The neat part about baseball is while you are on defense, you learn the power of teamwork towards a common goal.  However, defense doesn’t win the game by itself.

Once on offense, you must stand alone, against nine defensive players. Nobody can help you.

It is the ultimate combination between teamwork and individual achievement.

Thank you for reading my post.

The Racism of White Privilege

February 12, 2016

I am so sick of hearing about “privilege.”  And, of course, nobody cares, because I am a fat, white, cis-gendered, straight guy from a nuclear family.

The notion of privilege is rooted in determinism; where one’s entire being is set in stone by their birth conditions or conditions out of his or her control.   It is to give up on the idea that one controls his or her own future, and says to this person that to try to change one’s circumstances is useless.

Advocates of “privilege” point to mounds of statistics where all manner of people are divided into non-essentials (race, gender, sexuality, birth circumstances, etc.) and the economic and society status of each group.

This is detrimental to those of the “underprivileged” group.  It preaches the clear message that there is no escape; no matter how hard you work, it will never be as good as having been born differently.  Why work to improve your circumstances?  It won’t matter anyhow.  Furthermore, it teaches the underprivileged group to devalue the privileged group, increasing the social divide between these groups.

It is also detrimental to those of the “privileged” group.  First, it is detrimental because even the privileged group did not decide their birth circumstances.  A white person can no more “decide” to be white than a black person can “decide” to be black.  Second, it degrades those who are perceived as privileged, but perhaps aren’t.

Those advocates can say that the value of a person is not to be judged by non-essentials.  Great, I agree.  However, in the very next breath, the mention of “privilege” says, “because you are (white, straight, cis-gendered, male, etc.), you have it easier, and I can tell this because of non-essentials.”

On the surface, I am of the most privileged class.  My parents helped me afford college.  I was never hungry.  I was fortunate.  However, I have never NOT held a job.  I have worked multiple jobs at a time since I had my first work permit.  During my college days, I often went to school full time during the day, and then worked full time during the nights and weekends.  I didn’t have a cell phone until I graduated college in 2005.  Every internship and every opportunity was one that I made.  Yes, I made them.  They did not exist before I showed up and made it work.  I fell asleep with a textbook on my chest almost every single night starting my sophomore year.  I never cheated on a single assignment; every F was mine, as was every A.  Most of my lunch breaks at work were spent writing essays or working through math or physics problems.   I went to only a handful of football games (even though my school had a very good football team) and only a few parties.  I don’t drink, and never have.

And for all my hard work, all of the countless hours awake, all of the assignments, time spent studying, the balancing of jobs and work- is all lost every time someone brings up my race, gender, family background or some other nonessential.  It’s a way of dismissing the effort I’ve put into making my life the way it is.

Is it fair to assume that classes are magically easier because a person is Asian?  Isn’t that just an ugly stereotype?  Why then, is it acceptable to assume that because I am white, that college was easy?  Why then, is it acceptable to assume that if I get lower grades than an “underprivileged” counterpart, that I must be lazy?

This is also not to downplay what work an underprivileged student experiences.  I have known plenty of single mothers who work miracles every day to succeed at college while raising their children.  I know plenty of people from varying ethnic backgrounds who had neither the resources nor the mentors to succeed at college- and did anyway.

All I am asking is the recognition that each person is an individual, complete with their own struggles and hardships.  Instead of pointing the finger at “who has it easiest,” why don’t we instead work together to understand what struggles we each have?  Instead of demanding that the “privileged” service the “underprivileged” or vice versa, why don’t we spend our time dealing with what is possible in each others’ lives and how to make it so?

Thank you for reading my post.

From Freedom to Slavery, by Gerry Spence

January 22, 2016

This book was most disappointing.  The title sounded promising, and Gerry Spence was the defense attorney for Randy Weaver.  For those of you who do not know, Randy Weaver was the separatist involved in the Ruby Ridge incident, which left his son, wife, and at least one federal officer dead, all over a shotgun barrel that was 1/4″ too short and a rescheduled trial.  During this trial, the FBI admitted to manufacturing evidence, withholding evidence, and shooting an unarmed woman while she held a baby.

There was plenty of abuses of power to write about during this trial.  However, only two chapters dealt with the trial.  The rest of the book was a long political rant about “Freedom from” which, by the way, is not really freedom.  He speaks of the “Tyranny of the Media” and the “Tyranny of Maleness” and several other topics where the end result is that capitalism is an evil religion.

Throughout the book he refers to corporations as “the New King” and says how man is enslaved to them, even though corporations are not real.  He proposes,instead that “the people” run everything; the media should be controlled by “the people.”  Which people?  Anyone claiming to be the people, I guess.  He gives examples such as “Black people” and “the teachers’ unions.”  Anyone claiming to speak for more than themselves.

He also has one chapter (“Tyranny of Viewpoint”) where he argues that trees and animals get to have a say in the way government is run, just like corporations do.

He claims that the free-market is a religion, one that enslaves everyone and convinces them that they are free.  What anti-technology, anti-capitalists have in common is their need-based standard of values.  Rather than swapping value for value, they believe that need IS the standard of value, and that by simply needing something, it should appear.

An infant can do this; a baby has no choice, and lives by the graces of his or her parents.  In this case, the value that is swapped is love and care from the parents for the happiness that the child brings, and will continue to bring in the future.  Those who believe in a need-based system of values expect to be cared for like infants for the rest of their lives.  However, as an infant swaps some value for value, a crackhead may not.  A thief, a drunkard, a bum, they may not.  We are expected to care for them anyway, and give them whatever they need.

Their claim is that they deserve freedom; freedoms that do not exist.  “Freedom from hunger” or “freedom from cold.”  At whose expense?  Food must come from somewhere.  Somewhere, someone has to labor for that food.  If this person is not willing to give it freely, how does it get distributed such that everyone is “free from hunger?”  I’ll tell you how- force.

Overall, this book was terrible.  I finished it out of determination for completion, and for no other reason.

Thank you for reading my post, and don’t bother with reading this book.  I give it two middle fingers up.

Walmart and the Press

June 25, 2014

I have no idea if is real or not, but I certainly hope it is.

The author of the original article demonstrates how badly “the rich” and “the corporations” are portrayed in the mainstream media.

Part of the problem is Warren Buffet’s statement on how his secretary pays more taxes than he does.  Actually, this is a mistake. His secretary pays a higher PERCENTAGE of his income than he does.  Don’t kid yourself into thinking his poor little secretary pays more actual dollars to the taxman.   Somehow this misconception has been overlooked in the mainstream media.

Actually, these articles are all wrong.  It is not the duty of the rich or any for-profit organization to create jobs or decrease the gap between the rich and poor. Their only duty is to make money, and there is nothing wrong with that.  Who are you to micro-manage their payroll?   Who are you to decide how much workers “should” be paid for the jobs that need to be done?  

If you are the one offering the job, you have the right to set how much you pay for the job.  If nobody signs up to do it, you’ll either have to pay better, or do the job yourself.  There is nothing wrong with that.  

More on “The Poor”

June 24, 2014

I made the mistake of reading CNN this morning.  My eyes were unfortunately drawn to this article.

I hate these articles. I hate everything about them. They try to show how tough it is for the poor in hopes that you will blame the rich. Not to pick on these folks, as I have not lived in their shoes directly. I am going to point out that either the victim mentality is terrible, or CNN has crappy writers who are not really pulling out their stories. Let’s take a look at the nine victims (one of which is from the town where I live):

1. “She takes two buses to get to work — a trip that takes more than an hour each way — and considers herself lucky if she gets 30 hours of work a week.” My commute is an hour and a half drive one way. Or, if I don’t feel like driving, I can take two buses and a train for a one way commute of three hours.

2. “‘I was almost better off before the raise,’ she said. She has since found a job paying $20 an hour, but making ends meet still isn’t easy.” Killer. You make $2.50 more an hour than me, and I hold a master’s degree in engineering, and you are complaining that it’s still too hard.

3. “I go out and volunteer with [nonprofit advocacy group] OurDC — we fight for things like minimum wage [increases] and try to get some of these Congress people to do something, because you can’t live off $8 or $9 an hour.” Broke, near homeless, “applying for jobs”, but plenty of time to protest the minimum wage you aren’t receiving (because you’re not working). If she wins, and minimum wage increases, her cost of living will go up, but not her fixed income. Wonder if she knows that…

4. “Andrew doesn’t get to see his wife or son after 9 p.m. each night. This puts a strain on Kristen, since their son suffers from severe attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and she could use Andrew’s help putting him to bed.” For real? My girlfriend and I bounced between the night shifts (every night, one of us was at the factory) and we saw each other practically none. Oh yeah, and our son has ADHD and Asperger Syndrome. Try harder, obvious troll.

5. “they were also finally able to move out of their mice-infested house into a Section 8 home that costs them only $30 per month in rent (though that will increase now that they both found work).” Wait….. $30 a month for housing? Where is the rest of your money going? The quote also exemplifies the problem stated earlier- you are punished for working more. Now that these poor folks have found work and made themselves productive members of society, they’ll pay more for the same house as someone who does nothing all day.

6. “…with the hope of achieving the ‘American Dream’ and finding a better way to support her mother and two children.
But the only jobs she has been able to find have paid minimum wage.” What do you bring to the table? A desire to achieve the “American Dream?” That is not a marketable skill. No fair saying you should be paid more without any marketable skill. The article goes on to say that she’s worked 13 years in the same position. If you are skilled- leave. Find some place that will appreciate your skill. If you are not up-skilling, don’t expect a bigger paycheck.

7. “…earns a mere $18,000 a year. Her husband, meanwhile, makes about $45,000 as a construction manager.” “They currently have about $11,000 in student loan debt.” Super. I have $35,000 in student loan debt, my girlfriend has another $12,000, and they make about $15,000 more than we do a year. Oh, but I bet all three kids have smart phones, and I bet they have cable/satellite TV. We don’t. We don’t drink, either. My car has 319,000 miles on it, and my girlfriends is a “baby” with only 150,000 and no air conditioning. We spend money on vacations- vacations that we can do on the cheap. When we are bored, we go to our bookshelf and select a book.

8. “But working and going to school means that she’s out of the house for 17 hours a day several times a week.” Tragic, I know. Except for two years, I was out of the house 24 hours a day every Wednesday (at two different jobs, while going to school), and would have been out for more (15.5 hours every day), except that I found it was cheaper to stay with my brother (out of my house 24 hours a day, 3 days a week) than to commute. Also, complain to some soldiers who are out of their house for 24 hours a day for their deployments. I’m sure they’ll agree you need more money to be a hotel security guard.

9. “He says he’s scared to ask for a raise because he’s worried that they will let him go and find someone else willing to take the low wage.” Too scared to talk to his boss, but not too scared to protest for higher minimum wage (the photo used for this article is him doing so), or to go on national news and complain about it.

In spite of what you may think, this article is not set up to shred these folks- I am merely highlighting that these difficulties can be overcome. None of this is easy, but the sooner everyone drops the “victim” mentality that is brought about by reports like this, the sooner EVERYONE can view their life something to be cherished and improved, instead of waiting for someone else to make it better.

We could think of our lives the same way: Asperger/ADHD child born to us when we were 20 years old, took out too many loans, working long hours for minimum pay, health troubles (girlfriend and son allergic to wheat, soy, milk, potato, and a dozen common ingredients in all prepackaged food, I have a thyroid disorder, rheumatoid arthritis and diagnosed narcolepsy).

Instead of playing the victim, we organized. For a while, we lived on $30 a week for all groceries. No TV, old cars that we used infrequently to save gas, etc. We grew vegetables to supplement our grocery budget- but frozen vegetables are cheap. We cowboy’d/cowgirl’d up. We skilled up. We learned and educated up. We saw opportunities when others saw problems. We lived within our means.

Stop being a victim. It will never, ever benefit you. Every time you hear sad music in your head about your current situation, tell it to stop!

…On Being Overweight and Working Out

March 11, 2014

This blogger is offensive, but so what? He went “blah blah blah” about some stuff he didn’t understand (what it is like to be overweight).

His mistake was that he did not treat each person as an individual- he lumped all fat people into a stereotypical TV watching, junk food eating, lazy bum, but concerned about looking good. He certainly isn’t the first person to do this, and he certainly won’t be the last. We have all failed to treat each person as an individual at some point, be it based on their race, gender, sexuality, accent, weight, political party, whatever- at least this guy thought he was being nice.

Many of you have seen the post in your Facebook news feed that speaks of a blogger “encouraging” an overweight person to keep running. If not, you can read it here.

Plenty of people were offended by this message.

It would be easy to get mad at him; but why bother? Look at it from his perspective- the world of overweight is so foreign to him, and he tried to reach out and encourage someone. Being from a world that does not understand “overweight”- he probably didn’t even realize he was being offensive.

Those of us who are comfortable with our weight (in spite of what the federal government BMI says)- think about what it must be like to worry about what others think of you all the time. If you are overweight- you’ve lived in a world that disapproves of you, and have struggled through it, no worse for wear. This guy has never had that experience. He spends a significant part of his life working out to keep others from thinking poorly of him! His friends may not be his friends if he’d gain weight. Those of us who are overweight, we know friendship. It’s a sad way to live- living for the opinion of others, and what we can take from this is to not live our lives that way.