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Published on May 10, 2017 23:18 • 5 views

September 30, 2016

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The Quest for Juice

The Quest for Juice by Jonathan-David Jackson

This was actually a pretty interesting book. It’s been three years since I wrote it, so I figured I’d read it and see how it is after all this time.

I felt sympathetic to the main character, Oscar, even early on when he’s actually killing people and beating others into a coma for no good reason. Maybe that’s because in some ways I wrote him like myself, or like people I know. (I’m not saying I did write him like myself or people I know, none of us are murderers. I’m just saying maybe we have a certain murdery quality that he shares.)

Even though I wrote the book, it was sometimes hard for me to tell whether Oscar was right or not, whether his medication was effective, who the bad guys were. I feel pleased with that, because it means the reader is really getting into Oscar’s head and experiencing what it might be like for him with his worries and doubts.

There are some pretty funny scenes, which mostly seem to involve animals. The possum burglary discussion, which includes characters named after my actual mother and father, is a good one, and later on, when Mr. Hodge the hedgehog gets involved there are several good scenes with him. The action scene with the robot cameras was great to read, and I think would be pretty sweet in a movie version. There are odd, interesting characters, like the County Clerk, that I still think about sometimes, and I wish that I hadn’t let Jim’s brother, Jacob, die, because I would like to have explored their relationship more in the other two books.

The book gets better the farther you read into it, and that’s because at the beginning of the book I had no idea what I was writing about. That fits well with a paranoid schizophrenic character, because it flits around like somebody with a disordered mind might. But anyway, when I started writing it, I intended to write a dystopian book, because I really liked those (the book didn’t go that way, though it kind of does in the next one), and that was literally my only idea, so I was casting about, stalling until I could think of what to write on the next page.

I have a sometimes meandering writing style, where I like to use words repetitively, use alliteration, avoid the topic at hand, and create long, German-style sentences where you’ve forgotten the point by the time you get to the period. I have fun with my writing, and I love playing with language, but sometimes I annoyed even myself with that. As far as I know, though, nobody else who’s read the book has said anything about that, so maybe it’s just me.

Since I wrote it, I’ve been unhappy with the beginning of the book, and intended to re-write it at some point. It used to make me feel cringey inside just thinking about other people reading the first few pages. Now that I’ve read it with some distance between myself and the original writing, though, I find that actually it’s not bad, and maybe I’ll leave it untouched.

About halfway through the book, I can tell that I had a much more solid idea of what I was writing, and the book is much more coherent, although still with plenty of things happening that would confound the expectations of most readers.

The end of the book is abrubt, and a whole new concept is suddenly introduced in just the last twenty pages or so, and that’s another thing I used to feel a bit ashamed of and like I might change. After reading it, though, I no longer feel that way. Is it a little sudden, but it’s not jarring, and it leaves plenty open for the sequel, The Quest for Truth. It’s sudden because I hadn’t actually planned to end the book there. I had no ideas at all for how the book would end, and had no plans to write a sequel, but when I wrote “I put my arm around Penelope, and we drove on,” I immediately knew that was the end of the book.

For my first book, it’s great. I know my writing gets better the more I write, so i’m really looking forward to reading the next two books once it’s been at least three years for each of them. I’m especially looking forward to more of Mr. Hodge.

I’m pleased that this book seems different from many other books. Unfortunately, it’s different enough that I still don’t know what genre to classify it in.

It’s difficult to give this book a star rating, because I’m harsh with my own work. I think it’s a sturdy three, and I can see how other people might give it a four. I am still pleasantly surprised that anybody ever likes it enough to give it a five, but they do!

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Published on September 30, 2016 03:22 • 23 views

June 24, 2016

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Everybody but me is stupid? That's exactly what I've always thought!

There are a bunch of articles around the internet implying that on the day of the EU referendum (link to read if you don’t know what that is), a significant proportion of UK voters were not even sure what the EU is. The articles are very convenient, because I for one love to be shocked at the ignorance of others.

Here’s one article, which is representative of the others I’ve seen: After Brexit Vote, Britain Asks Google: ‘What Is The EU?’

They’re all misleading. This one is particularly disappointing, because it’s from NPR, a news source I mostly trust.

It pretends to be saying something, without actually saying anything. What are the relative numbers? How many people made this search? It’s a 400% increase, but how many people is that? Nobody knows.

It says there’s a 680% increase in people from London wanting to move to Gibralter, but are we really expected to believe that there are enormous masses of people suddenly going to move from the financial center of the world to a barren island less than 7 square kilometers where the primary economic driver is people coming to look at a big rock? In reality, it’s more like last week there was 1 person who wanted to move there, this week there are around 7 people. But “less people than you can see if you look out your window during the day want to move to Gibralter” is a boring headline. It’s a bit long too, let’s just make it “BRITAIN MOVES TO BIG ROCK.”

And it's not even as big as this monkey.

And it’s not even as big as this monkey.

Who are the people making these searches? Nobody knows. More importantly, news sites don’t care. They could be among the 14 million registered voters who didn’t vote, because they realized they didn’t know enough about it, didn’t really care, or were too busy searching things on the internet. They could also be among the 4 million immigrants who can’t vote, or the hundreds of thousands of tourists wondering what all the fuss is about. And then they could be among the 12 million minors who also can’t vote but might still take an interest in the issue and therefore search “What is the EU?”

Google Trends is just a toy, not something that should be used as the sole source for a news story. It’s very easy to misuse and misunderstand, like so:

Uncle Karl? No, that can't be it...

Uncle Karl, is that you?

Going by that, people in the UK didn’t even know what the UK was on referendum day, and since we can see back for a year, they’ve never known! Nothing to do with the referendum at all – it’s just an enormous steady stream of people having no idea where they live. According to this, more people seem to know what the EU is than what the UK is. Even on the day of the referendum, there were still more people wondering what country they lived in than what international body they were a part of.


The article makes a half-sentence reference to the fact that the search for “what is the EU” was dwarfed by searches for “referendum results”, but dwarfed by how much? It doesn’t say, so I had to look for the facts myself. Oh, no big deal, looks like it’s only dwarfed by more than 10,000%, so much so that the line for “what is the EU” looks like the EKG reading for a day-old corpse.


Looks like only my great-great-grandfather - who died of congestive heart failure 70 years ago - is unsure what the UK is.

Apparently only my great-great-grandfather – who died of congestive heart failure 70 years ago – is unsure what the EU is.

That’s a lot of people, right? With a little playing around, I was able to find something that people were even more interested in than the EU referendum results.

How can you think of sex at a time like this?

How can you think of sex at a time like this?

Since that’s about 230% of the EU referendum results search, and we’ve now got a good idea that there is a ridiculous amount of people living in the UK by searching more than just a few intentionally misleading terms, we can then conclude that, at worst, no more than .003% of UK voters (or 1 out of every 33,000 people) is unsure of what the EU and the UK are. The real answer is, in fact, much much lower than that because this doesn’t take into account such people as those who don’t use google, don’t use computers, or simply search using different terms. but I’m not a mathematician or statistician*, so I’m not going to pretend to be one, unlike the various news outlets “reporting” this and pretending to be journalists.

Somebody remind me how following the news is somehow supposed to keep you well-informed. Without it, at least we wouldn’t have our heads constantly filled with BS like this.


*I’m really not! All numbers here are roughly precise.

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Published on June 24, 2016 22:28 • 37 views

May 27, 2016

Send to Kindle (Source: Wikimedia)

This is you ten years from now. (Source: Wikimedia)

I hope you like to read about self driving cars, because I like to write about them. Hopefully I’ll get to do that for a few years before they learn how to write about themselves. Self-driving cars are going to change everything, with effects far beyond just the experience for the driver; they’re going to change it soon, and here’s how.

I’ve heard plenty of people say that we’re decades away from fully autonomous self-driving cars. But let’s take a look at some of the things that are happening right now. You can already buy cars with limited self-driving features (such as the ability to stay in a lane, stay at a constant speed, and stay a certain distance from the car in front of you). Trucks can travel in a convoy, with only the lead truck having a driver to control where they go. Finally, far from being decades away, Google’s self-driving cars, while not available for sale, are already fully autonomous. The self-driving revolution is only going to pick up speed, as there are at least thirty large companies working on self-driving cars, including the world’s largest automakers such as Ford, GM, Nissan, Honda, Toyota, and Volkswagen.

What will change for the experience of driving (or riding, as it’ll be) when all cars are automated? Absolutely everything.

It’s going to be a lot more comfortable. Something as simple as cruise control already makes a long journey more pleasant, since you don’t have to have your foot constantly adjusting speed. Now imagine you don’t have to use your hands, either. You can sit back and relax, watching the scenery.

Gone will be the rage-inducing power of traffic jams. When you don’t have to worry about it, what does it matter if the car in front of you keeps stopping and starting? Just drink some water. Read the paper. Look at the clouds. Do your work, if you’re that kind of person.

Of course, traffic jams themselves will be gone. Traffic jams are caused by drivers operating independently of each other, all going at different speeds, each stopping at different times, nobody knowing what the intentions of the other driver are. Self-driving cars will be able to communicate instantly with all other cars around them. A car at the front of a line of forty cars can stop, and instantly every other car will stop. When it starts again, all other cars can start at the same time, forever banishing the experience of each driver taking two seconds to realize the one in front has started.

Stopping at all during a journey could be eliminated, since connected cars could smoothly travel around each other without the need for traffic lights or stop signs.

With a self-driving car, you won’t need a steering wheel or pedals, so you’ll have more room. Perhaps the dash will have a computer or TV built in instead, or for those of us who like writing, maybe it’ll be a writing desk.

Self-driving cars also won’t even need seats, because nobody needs to be sat upright watching the road. There could be self-driving cars which have a bed in place of the four seats, so you could get in at night, go to sleep, and wake up in the morning having gone 500 miles.

Mercedes concept showing seats in a car facing each other for talking or dining. (Source: Gizmag)

Mercedes concept showing seats in a car facing each other for talking or dining.
(Source: Gizmag)

Watching the scenery is one of the best parts of riding in a car, but a self-driving car doesn’t technically even need windows. You could have the windshield as a TV, or the windows could be made to turn opaque so you could sleep during the day or have privacy.

Car ownership will be only for car enthusiasts, if those will still even exist.

Right now, cars are sitting idle 90% of the time. Think about it: you sleep eight hours of the day. You work eight hours of the day. A couple more hours you watch TV or browse Facebook. The average motorist drives for just 45 minutes a day. Yet, those 45 minutes a day may cost you hundreds of dollars a month in insurance, lease payments, and – depending on where you live – parking fees.

Imagine, instead, that each city or state (or perhaps organizations like Uber, taxi associations, AAA or your employer) had a fleet of cars, and you could pay a fee to have access to them, much lower than what you’d pay on your own. Using an app (or something else in the future, who knows) you can say when you want a car to pick you up, and where you want it to drop you off. You won’t need to worry about finding a parking place, because the car can drop you off and find one for you. When it comes time to pick you up, or as you approach the door to leave, the car could pick you up right where it dropped you off. During work, or during the night, that same car can be ferrying other passengers or packages while you have no need for it. This more efficient use of cars means less cars will need to be manufactured, and our natural resources can be preserved.

Self-driving cars are efficient in another way too, which is in their use of fuel. Their driving patterns are better than a human’s, and they can follow more closely behind other cars because they can break more quickly. They don’t need as many safety features, so they will be lighter and will take less fuel to move. The car could be matched to every trip. If you’re only one person, a large vehicle wouldn’t come to pick you up. Perhaps one-person vehicles will be made for people on their own, saving space, materials, and fuel. Some estimates put the fuel savings as high as 70% (this article is a very interesting examination of the subject, and goes into a lot of detail, including some possible negative effects).

In a self-driving car, nobody knows you're a dog. (Source: Car and Driver)

In a self-driving car, nobody knows you’re a dog.
(Source: Car and Driver)

An interesting thing to consider about self-driving cars is that they don’t actually need a person in them at all. You could send a car to do an errand for you, such as pick up your dry-cleaning or take something to the post office. It’s so difficult to get things done for people who work full time, but self-driving cars will really lower the burden of errands that people have.

Driving will be the safest form of transport – safer than walking.

There are 30,000 deaths in car accidents along with more than 2 million injuries in the US every year, and 1.3 million deaths (!!) across the world. Self driving cars will save all of those people.

90% of accidents are caused by human error. Properly designed, a computer cannot make an error. When is the last time your calculator gave you the wrong answer, for example? 60% of accidents with teen drivers are caused by distraction. Again, a computer cannot be distracted.

A human can only look in one direction at a time. A self-driving car can see in front of, behind, and on both sides (in a human driver’s blind spots) all at the same time. Some of the self-driving systems being developed use radar and infrared cameras, meaning that a self-driving car can see through bushes, around corners, even above its roof. Driving at night is more dangerous for a human, but with these technologies it will be exactly as safe as driving in the day.

As I mentioned before, self-driving cars will be able to communicate with each other, meaning if a car half a mile away sees a tree falling across the road at night, it can alert every other car nearby so that they know not to go there.

These are just the technologies that we have now. What might come in the future? Human driving capabilities are fixed. We’re just as good at driving as we were a hundred years ago, Self-driving cars, on the other hand, are better than they were a year ago, much better than they were ten years ago, and will soon be a thousand times beyond what humans can hope to achieve.

Unfortunately for driving enthusiasts, once it becomes clear how much safer self-driving cars are than human drivers (potentially 100% safer), manual cars will become illegal on public roads, or will require heavy training and licensing and prohibitively expensive insurance.

Truck driving is the most dangerous profession in America, but it’s about to become the safest. In fact, it’s about to disappear as a profession entirely.

Self-driving cars will create massive unemployment and change our economy, our society, and our whole world.

Truck drivers can only drive a certain amount of hours in the day. They’re limited by law, but also by their humanity – people need sleep. Machines don’t need sleep, and they don’t make mistakes, and they don’t need the average $40,000 a year salary that truckers get. The incentive for trucking companies to get rid of drivers is enormous, and that industry is going to be the first to adopt this technology in a big way.

Truck driving is one of the largest professions in America, with more than three and a half million drivers. They’re all going to become unemployed. But it’s not just truck drivers. Self-driving cars are also going to take out delivery drivers, taxi drivers, chauffeurs, and any other job that involves primarily sitting behind a wheel, along with the automobile insurance and collision repair industries. Altogether, we’re looking at greater than 5% of the work force.

That’s just the drivers, though. With self-driving cars, we can say goodbye to truckstops, the majority of gas stations, mechanics, and tens of thousands of restaurants and hotels. Altogether, the number of people unemployed by self-driving cars could pass ten million. I’m not an expert, but I know the effect doesn’t stop there, because so many unemployed people will be a drag on the economy.

Here’s where it gets most interesting for me, and passes into pure speculation. Why am I most interested by pure speculation? I wonder…

I'm going to ask my self-driving car to go to the city on the left. Hopefully it listens. (Source: Unknown)

I’m going to ask my self-driving car to go to the city on the left. Hopefully it listens.
(Source: Unknown)

Anyway, it’s not just cars that are becoming automated. The factories that make cars are automated. Fast food cashiers are becoming automated. Incredibly, half of all jobs are at risk of being automated within the next twenty years. What is a society with such high unemployment going to look like? Ideas about what it means to be a productive member of society are going to have to change. Work is going to change – will it even exist as we know it today? How will people get money? Will money even exist? Are we self-driving ourselves towards a dystopian future where we live in the street and beg for scraps thrown from the windows of our masters, the cars? Or are we cruising smoothly towards a glorious utopia where our environment is preserved, resources are more fairly shared, and I can finally nap while my car’s going 90MPH? I don’t have the answers to these questions, and neither does anyone else – but the questions are coming, whether we know how to answer them or not.

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Published on May 27, 2016 16:33 • 17 views

February 24, 2016

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“Who, me?”

Time wakes you up in the morning. Time puts you to bed at night. Time whips you while you work, telling you that you must do it faster, must get it done sooner. While you sip a cup of hot chocolate, time blows the cream off the top and tells you to hurry up, there are things to be done! When you are satisfied with your life, and are perhaps gently stroking a cat, time tells you that it will all end you when you least expect it, so don’t get too relaxed.

As nearly as I can tell from my time as a biologist at the British Museum of Natural History*, humans are the only creature afflicted by time. Certainly all animals move through time, but only humans know it.

A chipmunk, for example, does not know that it has about 4 years to live. It gathers acorns and burrows in the ground and gets fat in the winter, not because there’s any rush, not because it is aware time is running out, not because it knows months are passing, but just because that’s what chipmunks do.

A human, on the other hand, knows that (if it’s very lucky, lives in a first world country, and doesn’t upset anybody too badly) it will survive to roughly 85 years of age. If a human wants to get things done, it must get them done in that time. If it does something unproductive, it knows that is wasted time. If it spends the years from 15 to 20 playing videogames, it will forever hate itself for not curing cancer instead. (Trust me, I know.) You can’t spend much time doing things considered unproductive, because you know time is limited.

Sometimes I meet a cat in the street and pet it for a minute or two, but I must move on at last, because there’s no time to just lie in the middle of the road stroking something from a different species. Yet, do any of the important things I must inevitably rush to ever give me as much joy as petting a cat?

If you work, as no inconsiderable number of people do, and are married, as some of that number are, and have children, which becomes likely with enough sleeping in the same  bed, you must choose, in the evenings, whether you will sleep or have sex. You know there isn’t enough time for both. And so you must sacrifice your sex life or your actual life, because of time, because you know it’s coming, because you must get up in the morning, because there’s an alarm, because there’s work, and because the accuracy of timekeeping means everyone else knows those same things too and you have no choice.

Clocks were created to be a tool, to help us mark time, to bend time to our will. Instead, time has become our master. Our lives are sliced into neat little sections by watches, clocks, calendars, appointments, meetings, bells, planners and alarms. We must do certain things, and we must do them in this section of time, otherwise the whole system will be thrown out of order. Like no other human invention, time has made us its slave, and has integrated itself so into our world that we have no hope of ever throwing off the yoke.

Take time to imagine a world without time. What would you do, if there was no rush? If an alarm didn’t tell you when, what time would you wake up in the morning? What would you do with no knowledge of your own mortality, with no keeping track of birthdays, if you didn’t know whether your age was 25 or 45 or 65? What inconsequential things would fill your life? I, for one, would spend more time petting cats. What would you pet?

*This is a lie. I don’t even know where that museum is. Well, I know it’s in Britain. I didn’t have time to find out more.


For further reading, I recommend “Repent, Harlequin!” Said the Ticktockman, an 11-page short story about time which you can read just by clicking that link.

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Published on February 24, 2016 06:14 • 11 views

February 23, 2016

Send to Kindle (Source: Tom Gauld)

(Source: Tom Gauld)

It’s fair to say that political parties hate their opposite. Liberals think conservatives are mean and stupid. Conservatives think liberals are spineless and stupid. Both sides can’t be right, and in fact I think both sides are wrong.

Politics are broken in some way. You only need to have the misfortune to wander into the comments section of any politics-related website to see what I mean. I have read comments suggesting that President Obama is an agent of Al-Qaeda, and that he is a homosexual and his wife is actually a transgender man. When it was President Bush, there were equally as many comments from the other side suggesting such things as him having been personally responsible for 9/11 and that he only had a grade school education. People from one side will excuse “their” guy from something they were crucifying the other guy for in the previous election.

On any one article you can scroll for pages and pages, with each side shouting their message at the other, and nothing happening except each side becoming more firmly convinced they are right and that the other side are wrong, and in addition are idiots.

It breaks my heart to see this happening. How can two people truly work for the good of their country if they fundamentally disagree on what that good is, and on top of that think the other person is actively working against their country?

Roughly 40% of America is Republican. Roughly 40% of America is Democratic. (source) To liberals and conservatives both: surely 130 million on the other side who disagree with you are not simply stupid. At least some of them must have thought long and hard about their beliefs and come to a reasoned conclusion. And some on your side have done that too. So why have you arrived at different places, after careful thought?

Every idea a person has exists for a reason. We do not come out of the womb with our beliefs already inside us. They’re based on many things, such as experiences we’ve had, our education, books we’ve read and people we’ve known. Think of someone you disagree with. Now try to think of why they think that. Ask yourself if you wouldn’t think the same as them if you’d been through the same things.

I don’t actually know how to get past this. I’ve tried. Still, when I hear someone say that the right solution to the war in Iraq would have been to drop nuclear bombs on Baghdad, I can’t help but wonder how that person and me could ever come to an agreement on the subject, standing so far apart as we do.  And perhaps they think the same of me when I disagree. And yet, there must be a way. We are all human, made of flesh and filled with blood.

How can we work towards understanding each other? I know that it can’t come from a place of hate. It can’t be done with insults. My liberal friends on Facebook mock conservative presidential candidates. My conservative friends mock liberal candidates. Nobody praises the other side for anything, ever. Nothing can be healed that way, if you only look for the bad and ignore the good. We’re so concerned with scoring points against the other side that we’ve forgotten we’re all on the same side.

We must realize that at our cores, we all have the same basic desires. We all want what’s best for our country. We all want happiness, for ourselves and for our children. We want peace, we want security. (Additionally, I want spaghetti.) We want to be liked, to be appreciated, to be comfortable. I have desires. Like Chappie, I have fears. (Let me just interrupt myself briefly to say that Chappie is one of my favorite movies ever. I don’t have the space to explain why, though; maybe next time.)

If we can realize these things about those we disagree with, maybe we can take further steps to realize that their views are also legitimate, that they hold them for a reason, and we can try to understand instead of shouting.

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Published on February 23, 2016 09:16 • 14 views

December 10, 2015

Send to Kindle Why not just say this guy delivers the presents? Look, kids: the real Santa. (Source: Flickr)

Why not just say this guy delivers the presents? Look, kids: the real Santa. (Source: Flickr)

Santa might seem like harmless fun (he’s certainly jolly), but I think he’s actually bad. Bad for your, bad for your kids, bad for the parent-child relationship.

Lying to children is bad. That seems like something we can all agree on. Perhaps a case can be made for some protective lies, like saying “He died in his sleep” about the child’s pet dog, when really you know what happened is that it was hit by a car and dragged its intestines for a hundred yards before collapsing in a pool of its own blood. But for some reason, when it comes to Santa, we’re fine with the lies. We expect our children to trust us, but how can you really trust someone who has lied to you for years? As children get older, they listen to their parents less and less, and we assume that’s just natural, but perhaps it’s simply the obvious result of years of lies about the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, and Santa.

In nearly all other cases, we tell our kids the truth. We don’t tell them that the Sun goes around the Earth, even though it would certainly be more special if we were the center of the universe. If you really wanted it to be special, you could tell the child the Sun went around them, and them alone, so that it’s lucky for the rest of us they happen to live on Earth so we get it going around us too and powering our entire planet. No, we tell them the plain facts and abandon the magic: Earth goes around the Sun.

If apparently rational adults insist that Santa, who you can’t see, is real, it opens the door for things such as monsters, which you also can’t see – and how will you convince them that monsters are fake, but Santa is real, when you know that both are fake? Not that Santa is really any better than the bogeyman. He watches your child while she sleeps? Come on. He knows everything she does? He’s coming to town? This is much worse than a monster that lives under the bed; at least that monster isn’t keeping a list of everything bad you’ve ever done.

Santa is a magical thing for your child to believe in, something special, something perhaps better than everyday life, but surely the reality is better: you work hard, 40 hours a week, every week, and you put a good chunk of one week’s pay towards getting your child gifts it wants at Christmas (Some of you spend more, and I’m not judging you. Actually, I am judging you. Spend less.) You could spend that money on retirement or drugs, but you’re spending it on your child. Isn’t that better than Santa? He doesn’t work at all, except for one day a year (elves make all the presents, he just eats cookies), and you can hardly call it work when it’s magical. He certainly doesn’t care about your children. You do, but he gets the credit.

They don’t even have to be thankful to Santa, since he’s magical. He’s essentially a force of nature, and a child wouldn’t thank it anymore than it would thank the rain for flooding half of England this past week. Santa teaches children to be ungrateful. And not just to you, but to a whole host of people behind that present: the inventor, the manufacturer, the marketer, the shipper, the warehouser, the checkout clerk. None of those people exist in the child’s mind, even though they actually do exist.

The Santa-related traditions should be replaced. Leaving milk and cookies out for Santa would become ‘leaving milk and cookies out for your parents.’ Your parents are doing all the work anyway (and they’re actually going to be the ones eating the cookies and drinking the milk so you can think it was Santa doing it), they should get the treats.

Hmm. Now I’ve made it sound as if the sole reason I’ve written this is so I can get cookies.

It’s not.

*shifty eyes*

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Published on December 10, 2015 09:40 • 18 views

November 4, 2015

Send to Kindle (Source: Jenni C)

(Source: Jenni C)

So, you need a job. What do you do? First, you spend days, weeks, or months looking for a job. You try to find a job that matches your skills, because what a waste it is to you personally and to the national economy if you are overqualified for a job (which also then prevents someone perfectly qualified for that job from getting it). Once you’ve found a suitable job and have tailored your resume to suit, then you find out that they have an electronic application form online and you have to take all the info from your resume and spend an hour manually typing it in. Of course, this all assumes that  you have the luxury of looking for a job that fits with your skills, instead of being like most people and simply having to get a job – any job – because you have bills to pay and will be homeless and then dead if you don’t get one.

Alright, so you’re not homeless or dead (or at least not dead, since you’re still reading this). You wait weeks, because hundreds of other people have applied for the same job and the company has an application deadline and then has to sort through all the applications. If you’re like most applicants for most jobs, you don’t get any kind of response. If you’re lucky, you get a response telling you that you haven’t been granted an interview. If you’re a little lucky and a little unlucky, they invite you for an interview. While you wait, though, if you’re sensible, you apply for more jobs. If you get one of the earlier jobs you applied for, then of course the later job applications were a waste of time, but it’d be silly not to waste that time.

Now you’ve got an interview. You’ll sit in a little room while someone asks you idiotic questions like “Why did you choose this company?” and you’ll both pretend like as if your answer isn’t “Because I need a job so I can get money in order to buy food for my family so I don’t have to eat my children.” Even if you’re not completely suited to the job, at this point you’ll lie because this job is all that stands between you and poverty. You know that, and the interviewer knows that, because they once were interviewed for their own job. But they interview you, and they interview everyone else, and they come up with results. Of course, the results don’t actually tell the company anything useful, because interviews aren’t a good measure of future job performance.

Weeks more will pass. You again have to decide whether just to wait or to apply for more jobs. If you apply for more jobs, perhaps it will be wasted time for you and the companies you apply to, because maybe you’ll get the job you were interviewed for. But if you don’t apply for more jobs, maybe you won’t get the interview job and then you’ve wasted time you could have spent applying for jobs.

Out of all the people who apply for a job, only one will be selected for the position. That means every other person interviewed (and for some jobs there are thousands) wasted their time applying for the job. It also means that the interviewer wasted their time looking through applications and interviewing all the other people. Further, the company wasted its money paying the interviewer. If a hundred people apply for a job and spend, say, 30 minutes on the application, that’s 49.5 hours wasted (99 x 30 minutes). If 10 of them get interviews that take an hour, that’s 18 hours wasted (9 hours for the interviewees + 9 hours for the interviewer). There is additional time wasted when you consider an HR department looking through applications, but we’re already at almost 80 hours wasted, or two work-weeks wasted for just one standard job to be filled. Multiply this by the tens of millions of job applications made every year, and it’s easy to see that the waste in hours and money is stupendous.

Instead of this wasteful and frankly insulting system, there should be something like a national database of jobs and job seekers. Each job seeker would have an assessment to find out their skills and qualifications, which would then be entered in the database. Additional information could go along with it, things like how far a person is willing to travel for a job, what their minimum wage desired is, if there are specific companies they would prefer to work for, etc.

Whenever a company wants to hire someone, they could just enter the details of the job into the database. If it finds a match, a call/email is automatically sent to that person to let them know. If they like the sound of it (and they should, since it matches what they said they want), perhaps they can spend a day at the company to see if the environment and tasks are suitable for them. If a match isn’t found, the company can decide if they want to widen the search parameters or leave the position unfilled for the moment. Either way, nobody’s time gets wasted. As a country we save hundreds of millions of hours and billions of dollars. And we also save our dignity, since we don’t have to go through the ludicrous job application/interview process ever again.

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Published on November 04, 2015 11:51 • 18 views

October 18, 2015

Send to Kindle None of this is as stressful as holding your child on your feet all winter while you don't eat anything and your wife has gone off to hunt in the frigid Arctic waters where killer whales and sea lions may eat her at any moment, but still. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

None of the things in this post are as stressful as holding your child (as an egg) on your feet all winter while you don’t eat anything and your wife has gone off to hunt in the frigid Arctic waters where killer whales and sea lions may eat her at any moment, but still. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Parenting can probably not be totally free of stress and responsibilities. Human young take a very long time to fully mature compared to other animals, so there is some responsibility inherent in being a parent. However, I think there are many ways that humans have created unneccessary stress and responsibilities for parents.

Take the common complain from parents about being a taxi. The internal combustion engine wasn’t invented until last century. Prior to that it was impossible to be a taxi for your kids. There was nowhere that you could take your kids that they couldn’t go themselves, unless they were too young to walk.

Before the last few centuries, nearly everyone lived in small towns of less than 300 people. Almost all of those people would be related by blood or marriage. This meant there was no need to worry about strangers. You knew every person your child was likely to come into contact with, and most of those people would be relatives.

As late as 1910, 80% of Americans were involved in agriculture. For most people, there was no concern about whether their child would find a job, because the answer to what job they would have was immediately apparent: for boys, a farmer. For girls, a farmer’s wife. The situation now is better in many ways, since farming can be very hard work and stifling to human creativity, but it is also worse in many ways. We definitely have more worries about our children’s future job prospects.

Because we have worries about their future jobs, we also worry about their education. We worry about their grades in school. We worry about how they will pay for college. Widespread public education simply not exist before the 1800s, meaning that every single stress about grades, homework, school supplies, dress codes, teachers, school events, prom, and whatever else to do with school, also did not exist.

There was no need to worry about what to do with your kids while you were at work (who will care for them? is this childcare center acceptable? are the people who work there pedophiles?) since most people were farmers, so their children also worked on the farm. Children shared the responsibilities of their parents, both working together for the prosperity of each other. This ties in with the earlier worries about children being prepared for jobs, because if they’re working with you on the farm, they’re being prepared all through childhold for working on their own farm as an adult. What’s more, without the pull of time-suck videogames and trash media, your children would *want* to help you, because your work is interesting compared to how they regularly spend their time.

Junk food is a recent invention. You didn’t have to worry about what kids were eating, because they were eating the same food as you, most likely food that you grew on your own farm.

All forms of media are recent inventions, so now we have to worry about what our kids are watching and listening to. What’s more, with headphones, smartphones, and the internet, we now have less idea what they’re listening to or watching than at any time in the history of media, which only causes more worry. When you go to watch a movie together, you have to think “Is this movie appropriate for my child?” These are additional responsiblities, stresses, and worries. If your school is anything like the one my kids go to, you’ve had pamphlets, websites, and books about internet safety. Without the internet, those concerns could not exist.

Advertising is another recent invention. It’s there on your TV, on the computer, on your phone, in newspapers, in magazines, on buses, on billboards, in public bathrooms, and I’m sure many other places I can’t think of. This means that your kids now want things they wouldn’t otherwise want. That means you now have to tell them no when you otherwise would not have. What’s more, most of the things you’re having to tell them no about did not exist until recently. In my experience, (and certainly I am but one person, so your experience may be different) forbidding someone from doing or getting something they really want to do is very, very stressful.

Of course, if you go back even farther, then human life involved very few things indeed: eating, sleeping, sex, hunting, foraging, playing, talking (probably a few others, but you get the idea), and older kids could be involved in them most of the time.

In some ways, things are better – we didn’t have to worry about what our kids were reading 200 years ago, but only because everybody was illiterate, and we didn’t have to worry about vaccinating our kids because we didn’t even know what disease was – but in most ways that things are different, they’ve created new stresses and responsibilities for parents.

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Published on October 18, 2015 08:30 • 13 views

October 14, 2015

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_45550314_currencies_226x170I recently read an article titled “They used to love shopping and selfies, now they’re jihadi brides”, written about teenage girls who had gone to join Isis. Not that I think Isis is necessarily better than shopping and selfies (personally I enjoy buying a pair of pants much more than beheading someone), but I don’t think it’s hard to see how someone (i.e. a teenager) who is looking for meaning in life is absolutely not going to find it in the prevailing messages our culture gives.

They see people working themselves to death just so they can buy more things that they’re not really happy with. In school, they’re told an education is important not so you become a better person, not so you can improve the world, but only so that you can then get a job (the higher paying the better), which you can use to get money and buy stuff.

People who have higher materialistic values are less happy day-to-day, and it’s not surprising. Anybody reading this knows that things don’t make you happy. Relationships make you happy. Activities with intrinsic value make you happy. Helping others makes you happy. Petting cats makes you happy. Buying things, long term, does not and cannot make you happy. And yet, that’s what our entire country is focused on.  Everywhere around me, on TV, in movies, in books, on the radio, in newspapers, in your town center, lining every street, in politics, the messages are the same. Money and what you can buy with it are what’s important.

For a person looking for a meaning in life, someone who has been failed by what our culture puts up as important, Isis could provide a meaning, could make you feel a part of something bigger, could make you feel like you’re doing something. I don’t think being part of something like Isis is the way to find meaning in your life, but some people who are desperately seeking meaning will find it in ways like that.

The way to stop people being influenced by horrible ideologies like that of Isis is to offer them something better. Are we doing that?

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Published on October 14, 2015 06:52 • 18 views