Does Creating Employment Really Matter?

This post is a bit of a rant, and is a bit of a brain dump. You’ve been warned. I’ve been thinking about the changes we are experiencing in modern first-world countries especially. I have been keeping track of the basic income movement and I see a strange set of mental blockers in our culture that will make transitioning to a heavily automated society very difficult.

The first thing to note is that we, those of us in the US and Canada especially, are way too focused on job creation numbers. I see all kinds of reports about how many thousand new jobs are created. Canada’s job gains biggest in 7 months, buoyed by manufacturing:

Canada’s economy added 58,900 jobs in May, handily topping expectations and the biggest gain since October, helped by a surge in employment in the manufacturing sector, data from Statistics Canada showed on Friday.

The news media seem to think that if job creation goes up, we are creating a wealthier/better society. We’ve trapped ourselves into over valuing raw employment numbers without considering any of the other factors or variables that go into those new jobs. Are they jobs that we have people with the skills and abilities to fill? Are they jobs that will provide meaningful value to those that receive them? Are they jobs that pay well enough to allow those that get them the income to improve our society in a noticeable way?

These are questions that likely only someone like myself, currently gainfully employed, can consider. I doubt those that are unemployed or underemployed care how fulfilling a job is or if it pays them enough to be happy, when they are trying to find something that will let them put food in their stomachs or a roof over their head. I know that our world needs to change, and that with increased automation, we are entering the early stages of a transition to a world with fewer jobs. In the basic income circles, I see a great, though simplistic example of what’s broken in our society.

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. Create a fishing robot, and all mankind starve?

It seems ridiculous, but our society hasn’t had the foresight to work out what we will need to do in a world that automates us completely out of the tasks needed to create products that provide for our needs. How long until most companies replace their front-line human staff with machines?

But I’m sure they’ll still need staff to cook the food, right? Unless they buy a bunch of Momentum Machines robots to make the burgers. Or maybe corporations will skip single purpose hamburger making machines and go right to a general set of kitchen arms to do the cooking like shown in the below video.

Well, at least companies will have to hire chef’s to come up with the recipes, right? There is no way machines could figure out how to come up with new combinations of food for corporations to create marketing campaigns around.

Come on…Really!? Well, maybe I’ll go to a grocery store instead, that way I can get real food from real people.

Well, moving on from the automated take over of our society, there is something more important I’ve constantly wondered about: how can we, as human beings, be happy with even one percent of our country’s population being in poverty? When we look at job numbers and see that we only have a few percentage points of unemployment, how can anyone feel happy? Is it because we feel like it isn’t many people or because we compare ourselves against countries that are worse off, thus excusing our own issues?

Think about this: in 2011, the working-age population (those aged 15 to 64) represented 68.5% of the Canadian population1. Assuming that is still the case today in 2015 (or close to it). We are currently a population of thirty-six million people. That means around twenty-five million people are currently working age. Canada currently has an unemployment rate of around 6%2 or 1,500,000 people that are considered “unemployed”. That’s more people than the entire population of Ottawa, Ontario3 also known as Canada’s capital. This number doesn’t even include the people that have given up looking for a job, and there are reports that the true unemployment could be two or three times this number4. This number doesn’t include people that are underemployed, which could double this number again. This ends up being a great deal of people in a pretty horrible situation, all because we, as a country, haven’t come together like the generations before us to take care of a huge issue in our society: the quality of life of all our citizens.

Say we create jobs for all of these people, most of them will likely be minimum wage; which, while increasing slowly to be closer to a livable wage, still doesn’t go far enough in creating an economic ladder for people to climb. With the middle class being squeezed out of existence5, it is quickly becoming difficult to move up the corporate ladder in a way that can benefit a family, be meaningful for the worker, and improve what they can provide to society at large.

It is rare today that we see one parent being able to stay home due to the economic struggles of the family unit. A single person working a decent median income job can no longer afford all that their family needs without a second income. With the median income family earning $76,5506 and the average price of homes at $448,8627, I don’t find it surprising that both parents often need to work. This means that we’ve removed the opportunities that come with being able to have someone be at home and raise their children. We have created extra stress and anxiety into our society by pushing the needs of our family, our home, and ourselves to the time between arriving home after work and going to bed each evening. My wife and I don’t currently have children, but I do know that we often struggle finding enough time to do all the things we’d like to do with our families, friends and each other.

I am frustrated with how broken society feels, and I know I’m one of the lucky ones. I don’t think that creating new jobs is the answer that our society needs. I don’t think that raising minimum wage is going to fix the issues I’m seeing everywhere. I don’t think that the systems being put in place for “on-demand” jobs is going to fix society. I really believe that there needs to be a fundamental shift in how the resources of our country are divided up and that we, as a collective, find a better way to support all of those that have need of food and shelter just as we’ve attempted to do for life threatening medical issues. I don’t know the solution, and I don’t know how long until someone smart finds one, but I do believe that we are living in the generation of transition and that automation is going to kill job creation, so we need to start thinking past the next quarter.

Check out Futurology, Basic Income and Lost Generation on Reddit, and start getting informed. We have a limited amount of time to pressure our government to make huge changes in our society, or the lack of employment might become an issue for nearly all of us.

One Year with Annie

Yesterday, Annie and I had our one year anniversary. Being married to her for a year was pretty easy and it brought a lot of joy to my life. The only downside was that it passed so quickly but thankfully there are so many positive memories.

We spent the morning relaxing as Annie was dealing with the side effects of some medication she has been on. In the early afternoon, we went out and did some errands before having brunch. I had bacon and eggs, and Annie had french toast, bacon and strawberries. It was a nice way to kick off the afternoon.

We then went to some open houses, before going to Kitchener for supper at Casey’s. The Casey’s there was not as fancy as we were used to, but we enjoyed our meal and the time together.

I can’t explain how much I enjoy being with my wife. We spent the evening cuddling and watching Star Trek: The Next Generation before reading our wedding retrospective blog posts to each other. Before going to bed, we listened to our engagement story. It was a really nice day.

Today, I am heading to Colorado for the all-staff meet-up and I wish Annie was coming with me. I can’t wait to see her again Friday evening. I know I won’t sleep as well without her by my side.

Fiction Workshop at the University of Guelph

Today, I went to a session at the Fiction Workshop that was open to the public at the University of Guelph. I attended, Finding Your Voice, a three hour workshop led by Kathy Friedman.

We discussed the different ways that someone can explore and evolve their voice, through picking a subject, reflecting yourself in your writing, and trying to find ways to figure out both your audience, and your narrator. I had a great time at the session and got to do some writing exercises, so I’m going to post the results here for you all to read, and enjoy.

Voice Experiments: Exercise #2

Write a scene at a party from the perspective of a person in love waiting for his or her spouse to arrive. Do not mention the spouse. Then write the same scene from the perspective of a person who is trying to quit smoking. Do not mention smoking.

Try to change the style you use in each scene. Including word choice, sentence length, tone, and point of view. Remember that what people fail to observe ca be as revelatory as what they do notice.

Endlessly Waiting

Trays of food, some empty, and others not, were slowly packed up. The music was shut off, and Helen found herself smiling at the hosts as they continued to shuffle about, cleaning the garbage, and returning their house to its original, pristine state.
“Are you sure you don’t want any help with anything?” She said, hoping for a distraction.
John, the owner of the house, waved her off. “No, we are doing fine.”
Helen looked out the window. Headlights shone back, and her heart skipped a beat. For a moment, she perked up, before realizing it was just an ambulance rushing by. She couldn’t help but tap her feet. Her heavy boots created a dull thud as they tapped against the large rectangular mat, with its bright red, “welcome home” text. Echoes of the fight from the previous evening still lingered in her mind.
“We could drive you home.” John’s wife, Sarah, shouted from the kitchen, as she threw a pile of dishes in the sink.
“No, it’ll be fine, I’m sure.”
“He knows you are here, right?” Sarah said walking towards Helen, her arms now empty.
“Yes.”
“Was that an ambulance?”

Addicted Mind

I grabbed the garbage scattered around my house. I couldn’t wait until everyone had left. My hands continually shook, no matter what I did. Tearing into my nails with my teeth only seemed to remind me of what was missing from my mouth.
My mind tried to convince me that I was causing myself pain and anguish for nothing. I tried to push through, providing myself with positive affirmations. Unfortunately, my imagination, my addicted self, was just as intelligent and creative.
Each thought that I tried to focus on was ripped away with a negative slant. I couldn’t find anything that would make me feel better, and everything around me reminded me of what I was missing out on.
“This is all going to work out.” I tried to focus on the positive reason for my change. “Think of the money you’ll save.”
“You fool, you were happier, more productive. Remember how you used to feel?” My addicted self replied.
“I won’t stink anymore. I won’t have to go outside in the cold anymore.”
“You’ll miss out on all the conversations between your co-workers. You only got your raise because you knew what was happening in your department.”
“I’ll live longer.”
“You’ll enjoy that longer life less.”
“I’ll be healthier.”
“I’m sure you are giving yourself so many more years with that weight you’ve gained.”
On and on it went, the cycle was so exhausting, so infuriating. I just wanted to give in.

Another New Apartment

Written February 8th So Annie and I are moving again. The process of moving so often has definitely taken its toll on me. We are moving from Georgetown to Guelph. I’ll be around another half an hour to forty-five minutes away from my Kingston and Ottawa family and friends, but this apartment provides Annie and I with everything we need.

It is a two bedroom, plus den condo apartment that we are renting. It comes with in-suite laundry, dishwasher, and an underground parking spot. It has an elevator so that Annie’s mom can live with us without issue. It has enough space where we can feel comfortable, but not so much that maintaining it will seem overwhelming. It is also brand new. No one else has lived here before. Annie has been enjoying that fact immensely.

Having a great place to move into doesn’t fix the issues with moving out of the old place though. Today, I was expecting Bell to come and set-up Internet at the new apartment. Why am I going with Bell after having enjoyed Distributel so much? Well, the building we are moving into are fibre buildings, and it goes right into the unit. Apparently, Bell made a deal with the condos to have exclusivity for a period of time so that it was worth their time to set-up the infrastructure. As far as I know, you can also get Rogers here, but since my cell phone is currently with Bell, I went with them to get a few extra dollars off in a bundle deal.

Annie and I “camped” out at our new apartment so I could be here for our 8AM to 10AM window for the Bell technician to start doing the installation. At 9:45AM, Bell called and let me know they weren’t coming today, but that they could come tomorrow. Unfortunately, I can’t stay here and work from our new apartment yet as my desktop computer is in Georgetown, and I can’t trust that they won’t move the appointment again. On top of all of that, Annie had already left for Church in Georgetown, so I’m stuck, in Guelph, alone, until she is able to get back to me this afternoon. So I called Bell, and let them know how displeased I am. I asked them to move the appointment to next weekend. and guess when the only open spot is? The same time as this weekend. So I’ll miss Church again with Annie, and they better not move the appointment again.

Hopefully, by the time they come, we will have most of our Guelph apartment set-up. On Saturday, Annie and I did a small load of stuff from the storage unit and our apartment, and I quickly realized I have some kind of stress disorder from all the moves I’ve done, and I almost broke down. My poor wife, I was so angry, so frustrated, and there wasn’t anything she could do to help me. I quickly realized that maybe hiring professional movers is the smart choice, both for my emotional state, and my marriage.

I’ve sent out requests for quote to a bunch of BBB listed moving companies in the area in hopes of finding someone that is dependable, high quality but doesn’t break the bank. This move is costing a small fortune, but it had to be done.

Update on February 9th: Of course, once I got the quotes back, the range was from $950 to over $1600 for the move, so I don’t think that’ll work. Annie and I are back to our other plan, which is to rent a trailer or U-Haul and hopefully that’ll work out okay if we can get enough people to help…

Short Story: Safer at Home – Page 1

“The long road of man to get to this point is an achievement that will change humanity forever.”
Sean was speaking to the computer again, narrating everything. The flurry of activity occurring around me was loud, but not enough to drown out his voice. I tried to keep my cool, but there was something about the way he spoke that made me just want to slap him. “Do you really have to do that?”
An engineer laughed as he clipped my helmet into place.
“I could do it after we lift off if that would make you feel better.”
“Sir?” I responded back, waiting for him to clue in on his oversight.
“Right. I can do it later, sir.”
The sarcasm in his voice only served to irritate me more. I turned my attention to performing my final checks. With the engineers leaving the small arrow tip shaped pod, I locked the doors behind them.
“Three minutes until launch.” A body-less voice stated in a forceful timbre.
I couldn’t help but feel a surge of excitement and anxiety in equal measure as a countdown update was broadcast. I had been training to go to space my entire life, struggling as every possible barrier was dropped in my way.
“A wave of tension fills the Renaissance as we get ready to launch.”
“Sean! Shut up!” Rhea shouted both through the comm system in her suit, and through her open visor.
Everyone in the crew, save Sean, laughed loudly. The tension Sean referenced cleared out, and an intangible change occurred. I felt as though we instantly refocused on the serious mission ahead of us. I pushed down the visor on my helmet, sealing myself in. Status checks happened in a timely manner and as the countdown reached its final seconds, there was nothing stopping us.
“Ten, nine…”
I couldn’t help but think of the seven scrubbed attempts to launch and the heightened anticipation before the frustrating delays.
“Six, five…”
A deep rumbling shimmied up the rocket, through my chair, and into my helmet. It all felt unreal, like a dream I was going to wake up from any second. I tapped my console, giving the all clear, double checking the pressure in the fuel system, and performing one last battery check.
“Two, one.”
The acceleration is unlike anything I can fully explain. The entire front of my body felt like it had hit a brick wall, my brain felt like it was bouncing around in my skull. I was pressed deep within my seat, it was uncomfortable, but not so painful that I wanted it to stop. The simulations, and preparation are nothing like the real thing, even the rocket sleds that we had tested in didn’t really compare to the real experience of fighting Earth’s gravity with huge controlled explosions pushing a small pod into orbit.
It lasted for several minutes as I watched the blue sky above me slowly shift from a bright blue to a deep rich blue before darkening. Rhea had been to space before, but Sean, Leonard, Kyle and I had never experienced something so transcendent. I couldn’t help but let a few, less than professional, gasps slip out, and over the internal communication system.
“Everything okay?” Rhea asked on a private channel.
“It is truly more beautiful than I could have imagined.”
Growing up in a city, I had only seen the full beauty of the night sky on trips between cities. Until I was ten years old, I had assumed there weren’t more than a few dozen stars. I remember seeing thousands of them litter the night sky with their beauty, and feeling as though I had been cheated up until that point. I had always known I wanted to go to space, but I didn’t realize how much there was to see. Being outside of the most dense part of the Earth’s atmosphere provided me with the same experience. The thousands of stars were joined by millions more, and the universe seemed infinite.
“It only gets better.” She responded, a smile in her tone.

My First Real Taste of Project Management: Gif the Halls

I’ve been wanting to learn how to run projects and I recent had an experience that I want to share.

I’ve done some project management previously, but never at the caliber required by my position at 10up. I was recently given the leadership role on a project with WPEngine called Gif the Halls. They came to us with the idea, and asked us to build them a website that would allow for the submission of holiday card text, a way to project the text onto the side of a building, and the record people seeing the projected text. It sounds simple on the surface but required a great deal more work than even I thought.

In the end, I didn’t successfully lead the project from beginning to end. I needed my boss, Dana to step in and help me and Vasken, a VP level staff member, to also jump in and take over pieces of the puzzle. It was disheartening to feel like I had failed in accomplishing my goal, but I’m so grateful for their support. I knew I wasn’t quite ready to lead a project, but I was very excited at the opportunity, and I learned a great deal from my experience that will stand me in good stead the next time I’m given such an opportunity.

I also owe a huge debt to the team that I work with as they put in ridiculous hours developing pieces that were forgotten about at the eleventh hour of the project. We worked through our Christmas holidays to make the project as successful as possible, and I think what we did accomplish was monumental.

There were moments of hilarious revelation as we realized that we had a person in China controlling a digital SLR in California, while working with a team member in Germany, watched by myself in Ontario, Canada and my boss in Florida. Just so very crazy, but exciting and part of what makes working remotely so interesting and engaging.

I’m spending a great deal of time reflecting on the choices I made, and what I could have done better. I am looking forward to the team involved getting together for a meeting and really dissecting this project so that I can continue to learn more and become a better project manager. My goal with working at 10up is to lead a team, and I feel like this experience has helped me get closer to that goal.

In the end, I hope most people that saw the exhibit, and participated in the project are happy with the outcome. I wish it could have all worked perfectly, but it was much more complicated than it seems on the surface, and I know that my team engineered the best solution that we could come up with.

If you want to read a bit more about the project, check out the blog post that was put up on the 10up corporate blog: Gif the Halls: Holiday Cards Gone Wild (Thanks Jake for helping me with it!)

Short Story: Ownership Papers

BODY ID: CAN-MD1182-KON
RECIPIENT ID: USA-FJ0270-MFL

Welcome to your new body. The previous owner spent thirty-two years in this body, and while it was not always well taken care of, I am sure you will find it to your satisfaction. Before you begin, there are a few things you should know.

You are now male. This might be a bit confusing at first, but you will acclimate quickly. You selected on your rebirth card that the gender of the donor body didn’t matter to you, and hopefully you will enjoy this change. There are some simple pleasures to being male. Please let us know if you would like more details or instruction relating to this change in gender.

You are also now six feet and one inch tall. The perspective of the world around you will have changed slightly. An increase in six or more inches has previously been shown to be disorienting to those taking on new bodies. Please take your time over the next few days, and explore around you. Dust hiding on top of surfaces that you have never seen before might be surprising.

The body you have entered weighs two hundred and eighty pounds. This is obese, but with your history of physical fitness, we are confident that you can fix this over the next few years. Just be aware that your new body will not initially be as athletic as you are used to. Take your time and provide it with plenty of rest between physical activities.

All organs are in relatively good shape. The body you now inhabit did not drink much alcohol and does not smoke. Your new body also has never had any broken bones. You may feel some aches and pains in the wrists, knees and back, but this is likely due to the original owner sitting for far too long. Up to this point, the career path of your new body was focused on office work, and you may notice minor calluses on your finger tips. Compared to most men of this age, your hands are soft and smooth.

As a youth, and teen, your new body had pneumonia more than half a dozen times. This means that your new body is prone to respiratory issues, and it is recommended that you continue to live away from major pollution zones.

You have likely noticed by now that your eyesight is not as good as it was before. You require prescription glasses, but your eyesight does qualify for laser eye correction surgery, and if you would like to take advantage of a special offer we have, please feel free to contact us.

Overall, we hope that you enjoy your new body, and take full advantage of the second change you have been given. If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Please keep these papers on file, as they include details relating to your ownership of this body.

Short Story: Transfer

They told me that I would feel better, but I knew that they were wrong. Watching the man who killed my wife get hooked into the glowing red and blue machine that would kill him wasn’t bringing me any satisfaction. There was no forgiveness on his face, no remorse. He knew what he had done, and his only frustration was that he had been caught.

“So you understand what will happen next, right?”

A warm, but slightly clammy hand rested on my shoulder, her index finger grazed my neck and sent a shiver down my spine. “Yes. I do.”

I looked at the nurse, she was a few inches shorter than me, wearing light blue medical scrubs. She stood with me, in the sterile and clinical room. We watched side by side as Samuel Jennings was strapped down. The metal clasps dug into his skin as the attendants pulled them tight. There was a disconnect between what was happening and what I felt. It was as though I was watching the entire situation unfold from outside of my body.

“Once they flip that switch, his life force will be drained before it is transferred to you.” Continue reading

10upcanada

10up is Hiring

While I’ve only been working here for a few months now, I’m happy to report that the company is a great fit for me, and I’ve been told that we are hiring for many positions, so I am doing all I can to make sure those that know me or read this site know about the openings we have.

I am a Project Manager, and as far as I know, we are looking for more people able to do what I do. Can you organize projects, make sure people stay on task, report to clients your progress, and otherwise support a team of developers through creating websites? Then apply today!

We have lots of openings for Web Engineers and Senior Web Engineers. If you are a full stack web developer with PHP experience, and knowledge of WordPress, then you owe it to yourself to apply. We have a wide variety of projects, and are looking for people that are able to work from home and work on any sized project.

It is a great company, with many awesome perks, not to mention you might just get to work with me, and how cool would that be? Contact me and I can help with introductions. If you’d like more information, please contact me, and I can fill you in with more details.

You can contact me via comments on this site, or via the contact page on this site. I’d love to see more Canadians represented at 10up!

Helping Manage a Pod Meetup

At 10up, where I work, teams are called pods and the pod that I belong to is called Voltron. Voltron recently had its pod meetup in Toronto, and I helped organize the events of the visit of around seven people coming from various parts of the world.

I am hoping that for our next meetup in about a year we will go somewhere a bit more exciting for me, but that remains to be seen.

I can definitely say that helping organize such an event was outside of my normal skill set and I found it a bit uncomfortable to do, but I’d like to think that things all worked out well. It helped that most of the time everyone was around, we were attending WordCamp Toronto, an event focused on the software that 10up uses to power the websites it develops and supports.

IMG_3544

It also helped that my wife came to the weekend events, and it meant that our team had a second vehicle (a co-worker drove up from New York) and that I had an expert on Toronto available, since Georgetown is not Toronto.

I really enjoyed meeting all the people I work with on a daily basis in person, and learning more about who they are as people. It is amazing how little social interaction we had before the pod meetup. Since then, we seem to all be communicating a bit more effectively, and socializing a bit more here and there, though it is hard to keep up the momentum from the meetup.

One thing of note was that the first day we were to get together was on my 32nd birthday, on November 14th. I hadn’t really brought it up as I don’t get too excited about my birthdays, so it was really awesome that my boss brought out a cake at Swiss Chalet for us all to enjoy. It was awesome to celebrate with my wife and co-workers.

i-nNJ3d9C-X2On Monday, the 17th of November, we went to the ROM, did a brewery tour, went through PATH to the Eaton Centre, ate at some nice restaurants and capped it all off with a visit to the CN Tower, where we ate in the 360 restaurant and stood on the glass floor.

Once home from the events of the long weekend of socializing, I quickly wrote up everything from the event and posted it to our company’s internal blog, crafting the longest blog post about any pod’s meetup thus far, and probably including the most pictures as well, something I’m extremely proud of.

I really enjoyed myself, and can’t express how much I appreciated 10up footing the bill for me to really interact with my team.

Did I mention that we are hiring?