Archive | December 2016

Poor planning and procrastination.

You guys ever experience friends who contact you last minute and ask if you are available that evening – these same friends who you haven’t seen in a year or two and would like to spend time with them but cannot understand why they are poor at planning and coordination? Well that seems to be the rule rather than the exception these days.

 

Yet it isn’t entirely their fault for poor planning; sure they have a habit of procrastination and a lack of concentration but society places quite a lot on their shoulders as young adults. Out there in the real world they are expected to work and succeed; success and the lack thereof is constantly shoved on one’s face while humility and being able to appreciate what one has in life is often cast aside in favour of endless consumption and greed. Sure it is nice to have a lot of money – mountains of it – but it is equally important to possess a sense of duty to a country, to remain loyal to one’s family (especially if one is a parent in the family), and to appreciate how fortunate we are to live in a part of the world that has not seen war for nearly 70 years (roughly from the end of the Second World War). Sure America has gone to fight in Korea (alongside Canada), Vietnam, and the Middle East, but the wars are far off in distant lands whereas here at home we are not experiencing things like being shelled every night, firebombing campaigns carried out by hordes of bombers that blacken the sky, or rationing which is the hardest of them all as some people who need more food are seldom given anymore due to government control on the ration quotas.

 

Yet we are getting off topic here, they are simply just busy and cannot concentrate on planning a get together; perhaps we the ones complaining ought to pitch in and offer up ideas, yet when we are shut out of the decision-making process or have no means of helping then it becomes a gong show.

 

Try not to get too upset if things do not pan out, after all we have gaming consoles and internet in today’s modern world to busy ourselves if things fail to turn into concrete results. Now if you will excuse me I have to return to Battlefield 1; some poor saps over in the corner need a good bayonet or two before they get the message that the capture point is mine. MINE!

 

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Oh dear lord we have a labour shortage – do something society!!!

Before I continue with this article, the title is sarcastic – no I don’t demand society automatically correct the labour shortage, but I have heard employers complain like this via newspapers and media outlets.

 

Earlier today (29 Dec 2016) I was reading up on various articles talking about the labour shortage; the usual areas of resource development and trades being cited alongside engineering and medical services being the most hard-hit by this supposed shortage. Now I say supposed because these companies complain and yet they are not willing to take action and hire people and train them on the job in order to develop the work force into what they need. Instead these people complain about how many arts and humanities degrees are floating around out there, while our school system from K to 12 consistently tells students to pursue their dreams.

 

Right first off this problem comes from both ends, and complaining about the work force that you so compliantly created is not going to solve the problem. Yes I hear you now: “IT’S NOT THE EMPLOYER’S RESPONSIBILITY TO TRAIN AND-” alright buddy I am going to stop you right there and say that it IS the responsibility of the employer who wants a specific set of skills and is unwilling to put in money to attain it.

 

Best example here, if the army wanted soldiers but wasn’t willing to train them, where will these supposed expert infantrymen come from? Another example, a family raising kids wants them to be successful in life but doesn’t take action to help better them via after school programs and tutoring and helping them with their homework to making sure they are not skipping class – can they say that they want something but not be willing to put in work to attain it? Finally what about the grown adult (best example I think), guy or girl complains about not having the latest cars but is unwilling to actually go out and find work and instead sits at home and smokes weed and eats up welfare – society pokes at these people (parents, welfare recipients) to go out there and do something, so why can’t they apply the same pressure to companies?

 

Everywhere I look I see: “needs X amount of years experience; entry level,” or “must have at least X amount of years of experience,” right well if you are not willing to hire and train people then you can go under – no one will cry for you except maybe your shareholders, but they can invest elsewhere. See the army does things right; it needs soldiers so it entices them to join with paid college, guaranteed work after schooling, on the job training, and a decent salary with benefits. You as a company that wants a certain quality worker must also be willing to make your own if looking for outside help fails to produce said employee. Did you think the settlers in Colonial America got to complain about a lack of skilled workers? I am pretty sure they just found a willing apprentice and trained them to eventually replace them or work alongside them – good luck sourcing from Europe at a time when sailing across the open seas could lead to death for the travelers due to disease and all sorts of fun stuff that happens in open waters.

 

Oh and another funny bit to add to this here, in one article it was said that policing was facing a worker shortage in Calgary Alberta. Nonsense folks, utter nonsense; law enforcement facing a shortage of workers? I see no evidence supporting that claim! The Vancouver Police Department in Vancouver, Canada is so selective that when the RCMP takes in 2500 candidates a year they complain that they: “lowered standards.” What kind of garbage propaganda is this? Not enough recruits; buddy you are overflowing with applications and you just are not willing to train and grow new officers! You hire overseas British cops and go out of your way to ignore young men and women who can be the foundation of your police force – you toss away their applications or put them through endless deferments until they give up and look for work elsewhere (got a friend at the university of Ottawa studying law after he was deferred by New Westminster Police – figured that was the case as it has been two years since he applied).

 

Cops complaining they do not have enough recruits and companies complaining about the same thing: if you are not hiring then say so, if you are so cheap that you are unwilling to train people from the ground up then you can move over because overseas companies are more than happy to earn the money that you are throwing away by not having enough loyal employees to stick around with your company and grow within the organization. Enjoy your beer and weekends; it might be your last.

 

Right and one final note before we go; if the school system supposedly failed you so badly, then maybe it is time to STOP encouraging kids to pursue their dreams and instead aim towards work force participation – you know the usual: “do your part – join today” concept. Feeding people the same thing for 12 years and then telling them that it was all a lie now deal with it is never a good idea.

 

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Robots in fast food.

Hello folks;

 

Hope everyone had a good Christmas and boxing day; today we are here to talk about robots in fast food (and robots replacing jobs in general). Earlier in the day I found a video from IGN talking about how a lot of fast food start ups are using robots in place of humans to make food, with reports that Amazon is looking into using drones instead of people to deliver food, and that robots can already make ramen noodles and flip pizzas. Now this will make some people nervous as their jobs depend on said industries continuing to employ workers, while others see it as a positive step forward – I’m not so sure where I stand in all of this.

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When it comes to automation, robots have made manufacturing a lot more efficient so to speak, and have reduced the reliance on human labour while human workers have shifted to other forms of employment (willingly or not). Jobs like cleaning and so forth will still require humans to perform the labour, but a lot of assembly line work and repetitive work can be done by machines as they continue to improve and develop. Indeed I do feel for those who – while the jobs are at times low pay – wish to keep their jobs until they find something better. Lately with the way the economy is going, unskilled workers are finding it harder and harder to attain employment; even educated workers who went to university have to fall back on said jobs as employers within their fields of study do not wish to take a risk on a young worker who – while highly educated – has little real workplace experience (I am generalizing; this attitude may not be with all employers, but it sure seems to be the case based on what I have been through).

 

That coupled with jobs being outsourced (the ones that can anyways) to overseas offices where wages are lower means that the working folks will feel a squeeze in their earning capabilities which will in turn lead to economic stagnation as workers who feel squeezed will spend less, leading to stores (especially small businesses) to close their doors as they see a lack of customers spending money in their establishment. Some stores that rely on a niche market will even go faster in a worst case scenario as the workers who visit the stores now go less and less to save money – a lot of small stores offer niche services and those folks might be out of work if they cannot keep up with rent and business expenses.

 

Yet on the other hand we see jobs like manufacturing and flipping burgers and we think: “I don’t want to do this sort of work,” or “this is only temporary.” Coming from the employer’s perspective here for a minute, if a worker only views a job as temporary, that means that the cost associated with hiring a worker will go up and up for said business as employees often leave and need replacing. Now this added with some areas calling for higher minimum wages and you will see small stores who can only afford (small stores, not Walmart – don’t panic so quickly now) to pay a worker 10.50 an hour now has to shrink its work force and revert to the family running the shop. Summer job seekers from both university and high school will now have less and less opportunities to earn that tuition money forcing them to either give up on their education goals immediately, seek to enlist in the military (which is getting more selective as the demand for troops is shrinking), or rely on government loans which they may or may not return after they have graduated (several factors including inability to pay to outright leaving the country to dodge repaying the debt – money the taxpayer then has to shell out to enable the government to recover said loss).

 

Then there are those who view these jobs as beneath them, and are not concerned to see them go. Honestly in a sane persons mind yes it is true, they would not spend their time working at a fast food joint until they retire – the pay and benefits is nothing compared to other jobs out there like trades, military, and so forth. This cycle of relying on cheap labour for cheap goods can only continue if the cheap labour is eventually replaced with machines which will keep costs down and thus enable people to spend more of their earnings. Whenever I see those specialty shops that sell 50.00 bars of soap, I turn to my nearest supermarket and get a bottle of body wash for about 12.00; anyone can do that math here but it is this mindset of quality and cost that keeps the stores constantly competing for our dollar and at the lowest possible value. Cheap boots and shoes would not be possible without either automation or overseas markets, and while it may seem disturbing that we rely on cheap labour overseas to pay for our shoes, understand that even this little amount of money helps economies elsewhere where investment is almost non-existent, and where without even these cheap labour jobs their people would suffer due to a lack of employment.

 

It is easy for us to examine things from our perspective, but looking at it from the other side of the fence at places like Vietnam and Cambodia and you see that people over there were poor farmers for a long time until a factory entered the area to provide work. Sure it isn’t as meaningful as a university prof or programmer, but over time jobs like IT and so on end up in the area where people who get a taste of an industrialized world seek to better their children who in turn may be granted an opportunity to get an education thanks to the tax dollars earned by the government who can then send people to school to get trained. This cycle may seem strange and unfair, but it is the only way for some parts of the world to really enter the modern world and pick themselves up out of the dirt (mind you government corruption in some of these places will keep them poor, but let us be optimistic here).

 

Now all of what I said is all well and fun, but what about the reality many workers face here in North America? Indeed low wage jobs will disappear, but not all of them, and certainly not at the rate our fantasies tell us. Understand that we watch a lot of movies and shows, and this builds a rather unrealistic image in our minds of how things are when compared to what they really are like; some jobs may go, while others will stay. Ultimately skilled cooks in restaurants and so forth will not disappear whereas small shops and food carts might seek to help out their small staff with robots who will not replace, but offer assistance to high workloads. Total replacement is not realistic, because if that were the case then we will have to live in a world where none of us are employed except for PH.D specialists, and eventually the AI will replace them or their consulting work will be shipped overseas, leaving the work force of North America with a massive 80% unemployment number, and to which our government and society will just have to live with as machines continue to replace more and more at the cost of people.

 

Really though it is up to you how you interpret how things will go in the future; I like to think that while some jobs might disappear, to say that total automation (everything, EVERYTHING – including managers) will come about and that we will all wind up sitting on the grass starving while robots essentially replace us in society as a whole is a bit of a stretch. However robots are coming, and some people will feel the effects. One final note before I end it here for today, manufacturing still employs workers – the robots need maintenance work, and they can only do basic assembly work. The more complex, skilled labour work in work shops will still require people, just not as many as 1945 when machines were little more than metal powered by electricity.

 

 

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The Man in the High Castle Season 2.

(Attention, spoilers ahead.)

 

Well that is season 2 over and done with, and what an experience it was from the very start. Picking up where season 1 left off, we have Juliana fleeing to the Reich after the resistance tries to kill her, we have Jon Smith (everyone’s favourite American Nazi who is shown to have been former US army later on in the season; briefly mind you) trying to hide his son’s condition and keep his family whole, and we have Frank going all rebel-like and looking to strike back at the Japanese whenever he gets the chance (and feeling fresh when he does).

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Now the story goes even further into the world in which the Man in the High Castle is set; we see Juliana explore the Reich and the society that was built after the war in which America lost, and we see Japan’s more brutal side as it works to exterminate the resistance within its territories with brute force. Season 1 made me feel that the Japanese were not too bad as a ruling faction within the universe (naturally the Nazis are a bit more outward with their views, and very liberal with their use of force). Yet season 2 we find that the Japanese really disregard American lives – their subject’s lives – as they are willing to transport radioactive products on civilian buses, and round up random (yes, random) Americans to shoot as reprisals for the killings of their servicemen.

 

Season 2 we are introduced to a Japanese-American woman who grew up in a US concentration camp similar to how our universe did it during the war. However despite the fact that the US rounded up her family because they were of Japanese descent and placed them in camps she fights for the resistance – she fights for an abstract ideal known as freedom. Other rebels treat her well, but Frank is stuck between his hate for the Japanese, and his desire to do good for the sake of all (being a rebel against an oppressive regime can be seen as doing good by some). Frank shows signs of confusion because in his mind all Japanese fight for the Empire, yet it was explained that the Japanese who emmigrated to America were seen as traitors to the Empire, and undesired by the Americans (though publicly they would not say that as the Japanese became the: “Master Race” after winning the war alongside the Nazis – they rule their territory accordingly).

 

Yet while the story explored deeper into the Pacific States it also explored the American Reich in the same fashion; we see the racial policies of the Nazis influence the US as the swastika is plastered everywhere in the Reich from telephone dials to the usual signs and billboards to church lighting. Even within Jon’s seemingly beautiful suburban home we see the women of the Reich deal with the pressure of being racially pure, having the duty to bear children, and in essence being forced to live with the rules set forth by the Reich all while mixing that typical consumerism that America is known for during the late 50s to early 60s. This blend often feels weird as one can be immersed in the world and only realize it isn’t the one they knew when the Nazi emblems and arm bands begin to appear as the cameras focus in from a blurry state for the purpose of cinematic experience.

 

Now for you veteran viewers you might be wondering why I haven’t mentioned Joe Blake in the story – rest assured he is present and accounted for in the story. Joe finds out that he was a product of a Nazi birth experiment and is taken to Berlin where he remains for the rest of the season living the high life before being arrested by Jon Smith because his father was a traitor to the Reich. This is also where we are introduced to: “Nazi Hippies,” young affluent German youth who grew up under the regime but have developed a subculture of peace and change alongside a reverence for nature and all within it (they take drugs and sleep with one another liberally).

 

Speaking of drugs, apparently weed is legal in the Pacific States; called Box-o-smiles, you see the antique shop owner and Frank’s friend smoke up a couple of joints after witnessing the Yakuza boss who they owed money to gunned down by the Japanese authorities for spying for the Nazis. Now the Nazis do not allow weed, but apparently military-grade LSD is easy to obtain for well-connected youth, so we witness Joe join them in one of their parties and take the drug to experiment and experience something different (it was weird watching this; military-grade LSD for the Nazis, and weed for the Japanese – weird).

 

Overall season 2 of Man in the High Castle was great, and I hope that season 3 is confirmed soon for I would like to further explore this series and really dive into the universe that the book first introduced (the show is based off a book by the same name). Anyways folks that’s all for this post – thanks for reading and we’ll see you next time.

 

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No, Conscription will not help.

Some people write comments just to make others annoyed, others cannot see the other side’s arguments. Sometimes whenever I browse through various videos I come across a comment or two that makes me raise an eyebrow: “conscription should come back.” These sort of comments are almost in line with: “oh you can’t beat your kid anymore so society is SOL,” or “oh they don’t make em like they used to.” Really now, is forcing people to fight a solution to the military’s manpower shortage? Clearly these folks have never heard of press gangs in the 17th to 19th centuries where they just rounded up children and drunks and forced them to fight in the army that assigned them to press gang people – sounds like conscription, does it not?

 

Military life is hard, and it won’t get any easier unless you strip away everything except for drill and weapons handling (even tossing out fitness tests in the process). Soldiers must be motivated to fight, and in professional armies people sign up to fight rather than being told by lottery number or some government-planned scheme: “hey, you need to fight now – get used to it.” When you make it mandatory for all to sign up, you are going to be dealing with poor morale, disinterested recruits, and your trainers will turn into babysitters who have to deal with people who just don’t want to be there, but unlike professional armies where you can discharge them you have to keep them there for however many years they have to serve according to law.

 

Then there are unpopular wars and protests; people dislike something, they will say something (well, in a society where the government doesn’t shoot their own people that is). Remember Vietnam, Algeria, and so on where conscript armies were sent in to fight unpopular wars? Sure you do, pop culture will never let us forget those conflicts nor allow us to ignore it even if we wanted to; unpopular wars coupled with unmotivated recruits equals high casualty rates. Now if you are about to say: “they will stop dying when they take it seriously,” just remember that uprisings and overthrows can happen – how bloody they get will depend on how cooperative the government is in working with the public’s demands.

 

Finally, a professional army will always spend their time in professional development; conscripts on the other hand could end up painting rocks like in the old days when there were no tasks to complete. Sure they may work on their soldier skills, but will they take it seriously especially when the vast majority of them are interested in looking for better paying work outside of the armed forces? Non-commissioned officers are also wasted as they become taskmasters who supervise work groups rather than do what professional NCOs do – develop their skills and improve their effectiveness on the battlefield.

 

Arm-chair generals need to calm down; like the situation with RTS games and the belief that totalitarian governments work, conscription may only work on paper, but when you force a body of people to fight an unpopular war (or fight in general) you will have to live with a poor quality military that is a huge drain on the national budget, and a population that is increasingly unproductive due to a lack of economic growth thanks to unavailable workers which then translates to businesses moving abroad which leads to workers unemployed when they finish their obligations because they were unavailable to begin with – from there it goes further down hill because your military has no money from the economy to pay for it. The economic value of the worker is lost because the jobs aren’t there or they were injured and cannot work – throwing them aside in order to save money will only increase the unpopularity of your conscription scheme.

 

Try training a single Terran Marine with no minerals – you’ll eat a Zerg rush sooner than you will win the match.

 

 

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New keyboard with a smaller shift key… The Coffee Break 13 Dec 2016.

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New machine, and with that comes new tools to use – with that also comes adjustments to new designs. Yes indeed folks I am talking about the smaller Shift-key which is critical for Capitalizing letters, and the button that took its place (the \ key – weird).

 

I dare say that yesterday when I was making up my mind to adopt a new machine to the arsenal that I found the new shift-key design a bit distasteful. Sure I appreciate a larger laptop, more space and the works. Yet what I found myself wondering was whether or not the shift key was too small for regular use, or whether or not I had to use my right hand where the shift-key was larger by comparison. Today I am writing this piece from the new machine while the old machine just sits off to my left, and thus far as long as I slow down a bit to adjust to the new machine’s keyboard layout things seem to work fine. Similar to my old machine, spaced-out keys are a common feature on this new Asus laptop, and it seems to be working well in Windows 10 – working well so far that is, fingers crossed.

 

Keyboard designs seem to have changed in six years since I bought my machine (oh yes folks, six years I have used the same laptop which still runs windows 7), and it just feels different. The shift-key to my left hand isn’t too far off, and it works about as well as one might expect from a machine with this design. Stubborn though I may be when it comes to older models, this new laptop is thus far working out splendidly.

 

Now is this the reason for a lack of content as of late? Sure, but then there is the holiday season and all the weird traditions that come with it – plus there is also the fact that I am dug in on Battlefield 1 and am pouring hours into it in order to get the fullest experience out of the game. The game is fun, and it will continue to be fun so long as the connection is good and the ammo is plentiful. Anyways I am off for the day, thanks for reading and I shall see you next time.

 

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Total control in games does not work in reality.

Earlier today I was watching a video done by a channel that specializes in military history and I stumbled upon one video that made an interesting point in regards to games and warfare, namely total control. Now I myself do play Real Time Strategy titles (RTS) and have a misconception that total control works more efficiently than – say – a democratic institution where responsibilities are delegated and where independent thought is promoted.

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In the video they talk about how video games give players total control, and thus victory or defeat is dependent upon the player’s ability to control all aspects of the field and units. Games like Starcraft 2 the soldiers in the game will follow your orders blindly and disregard personal safety; contrast that to reality where an order is given to a unit to take a village, and from there one of two things can happen: (1) either it is like Napoleonic warfare in that the army moves however many steps the commander deems is needed, and fires when the commander orders it, or (2) the NCO (Non-Commissioned Officer) or the officer in charge will lead the unit in via the best possible route and tackle the problem with the outcome of achieving the objective while minimizing casualties.

 

Casualties; in games they seldom portray wounded or missing-in-action soldiers. Units undergoing production (training) are translated into exact seconds as to when that unit will be ready for action in a game. Now in reality training time can vary, and usually a good basically-trained soldier without taking on trade (job)-specific training is about 10 to 13 weeks if they pass all the requirements (no injuries, pass fitness tests, weapons handling, and so on). That sort of data when given over to a commander in reality would mean that he/she has to work with whatever forces are available (already trained) at that moment – relying on units in training is not feasible.

 

Now the general statement can be made: “why not just draft (round up people and arm them for war – no training)?” Imagine not knowing how to clean, maintain, or even use a rifle; the only knowledge you have is from a 30 second video or briefing. Now imagine holding onto that rifle with ammunition; you are not used to the weight, you haven’t exercised in months (or even years), and you have not eaten any food yet and are cold and wet. Sounds like fun? Okay, then throw in a well-trained enemy who knows how to flank, who can work a knife expertly as to kill you without breaking too many ribs, and is coming over supported by armoured vehicles while you only have some 25 men/women with rifles – are you going to hold the line? There is no dramatic music to rouse you, nor is there an excellent speech about death or glory in this circumstance – there is only the natural human instinct of fight or flight.

 

This is the reality of warfare when compared to gaming; people differ from unit to unit, and a lot of aspects of warfare are left out of the picture. Indeed games like Starcraft, Warhammer 40,000 Dawn of War, and so on give a false impression that total control by a single leader works perfectly when in reality a lot of dictatorships are characterized by corruption, brutal use of force, and suppression of ideas that can benefit people if put into action but are rejected because the leader only wants their ideas to be made into reality. This is probably the reason why a lot of people out there might view (MIGHT – not assuming that they will, just they “might”) dictatorships are more efficient than democracies, when in reality the thought process and decision-making that goes into governing and planning takes time – one just happens to suppress different viewpoints on how to tackle a problem, while the other gives room for people to think creatively and promotes cooperation rather than submission and obedience.

 

Ultimately the game is meant to be fun, and in order to achieve this objective total control is given over to the player. Should a unit lose contact with the player, or refuse to carry out an order the player will get frustrated with the game and simply stop playing it – they want total control and predictability in a game, rather than what would happen in reality in that units can lose contact, get overrun without the commander noticing, desert, retreat without permission, or simply surrender to the enemy. Then of course there are factors like feeding the troops, giving them time off and so on – would you like it if you were drafted into the army, not fed and ordered into battle with summer clothes in the middle of December? No you wouldn’t, and you would probably – at that point – view the country to which you are part of as an incompetent, overbearing beast that needs to change.

 

Total control in reality will eventually lead to change; how violent and bloody it gets will be dependent upon the leader and their willingness to cooperate with others. When in these circumstances the reality will feel a lot more painful than a video game where you could just type: “GG” and quit (or ragequit – still quitting just in a fit of rage). Things will slump downhill in those situations, and it will take a very long time to return to normal, and to regain prosperity.

 

Now folks if you would like to view the video that inspired this piece, I will link it below; don’t forget to check out the Patreon page, and we’ll see you next time.

 

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What computer games get “wrong” about war: