Sunday, April 07, 2013

Lost Jobs and No Path Back

Our world is too efficient. Business can run better with automation than with human beings. The more we automate, the more the rich get richer and rest are abandon. Never in history has this trend been more exaggerated than today. There are too many of us on the planet to all be included in the fabric of this industrialized culture. Automation has adjusted the formula.

Money is paramount. If you don't have cash flow you are dropped from society. Most people don't like to conform or be told they have to do something and rebel against this pressure. A hundred years ago you could easily survive because the world was agrarian. Everybody lived on a farm. You could survive by growing your own food, travel about on a horse, and you didn't need much money to get along. You were in charge of your own personal empire. Those were the days of the rugged individual. Today, if you don't have cash or credit, you are outside looking in and probably are on some sort of welfare program provided by the rest of us through taxes. Today we are all glued together in a social structure whether we like it or not. People are dependent on businesses owned by someone else. That stresses people to the brink of disaster when they lose their job. You are suddenly thrown off the carousel  We are ever getting closer to a world dominated by machines, not humans. The answer is to start thinking like a machine.

When you're in your fifties and lose a job nowadays, there are thousands of young people available to fill your position when the business climate returns and companies need to hire back to start growing again. We have a surplus of talent building up of college graduates from around the world eager to take your place. What was once the Third World is becoming the competition, since the knowledge of the educated person is globally available and widely understood due to the connectivity provided by the electronic ether. There is not a location on the face of the earth you can't take a university level course from a major educational institution even in a tent in Outer Mongolia. In countries like India, they graduate hundreds of thousands of technically trained people each year compared to the US, where maybe we might get into tens of thousands. That mass of college graduates quickly turn into PhDs. In America we depend on getting the job first with a bachelor degree  and working on further education on a ad hoc basis.  When you lose your job, there are people from around the world standing in the employment lines usually in front of you not behind you.  Many of them are better prepared through higher education. In America we tend to feel we deserve to get a job, that jobs are automatic especially if you have a degree. That day is long gone. You have to fight for a position, elbowing the competition out of the way. There isn't much sympathy if you don't find work. It's becoming too common.

So what's the average guy suppose to do? If your average, you're probably in trouble. If you're lucky enough to have a job, make it stick. Work hard to keep it. If you lose your job, you should have spent a lot of your casual time trending where job opportunities are going and have become familiar with what the shifting prerequisites are. You can't start figuring this out when you're on the run - no time. The folks that track this sort of statistics are telling us professionals are changing jobs every five years on average just to stay in the running. So many are always looking for the trends and jumping to catch them. You have to target a position you can qualify for or get on a program that leads to a position. Just going to a night college assuming that a degree, any degree is the ticket, doesn't work. Most schools are behind in their curriculum or way off target in the first place. You have to find a company you want to work for and learn what it is they do and how they do it. Then you have to align yourself with the skills they want. The next step is critical. You have to find someone inside that company to champion you, be your sponsor. Resumes are nothing more than fodder for the recycling bin. The reason is they are all written to impress in a Hollywood style that prevents them from actually providing a human resources managers anything to gauge whether you are who you say you are.

One trend that has had an impact is video interviews placed on YouTube. That is your best resume. You answer your own questions in a compelling manner. You don't even have to set up a two-person fake interview scenario. Just talk to the camera. HR gets to read your body language, see your face, and get a real feeling of who you are before they waste their time calling you in for the "real" interview.

If you find that computer technology is the basis of a new job, you can't learn this stuff overnight. Therein lies the largest hurdle to jump. Most jobs have shifted to a higher level of computer skills to fill, even your old job. Times they are a-changing and so did your old job. How do you become a computer whiz overnight? You can't. Learning how to program a computer, operate a numerical automated machine, how to build robots that work to the level of sophistication of today's machines takes years of training.

The writing on the wall is it would be best that your hobbies include learning how computers are built, programmed, and used. Have an understanding of the vast array of applications that have become commonplace like Photoshop, InDesign, database applications, website development, networking fundamentals. Become a powerhouse of how to design, develop, and produce projects using these skills. If you really get good at it, then when you lose that job, start your own company to supply a critical need to some other company or the one you just left. You are now older, more mature, and have the best opportunity to be an individual.

The future individual empire will only be realized by a person that can out wit a machine.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Air is Fresh with Popery

What will be the new world odor? Will doctrines, practices, and rituals of the past be ironed, starched, and ready for the prom? It's interesting to watch the Vatican stage. I've never seen anything so gay. No wonder it's so difficult for them to deal with their brothers in robes. The masses only see the glory of God. The Swiss Guard uniforms suggest a party at Elton John's.

I have to thank the Germans for not killing Martin Luther. I think the revelation of the Protestant movement at least allowed straights to come out of the closet. 

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Truth Verses Opinion

Journalism used to be about exposing truth. Now it is all about creating perception of what might be true to sway opinion. This is the very heart of deception. It's no wonder youth has a difficult time understanding the world around them. They get no accurate frames of reference. They have to navigate difficult waters with only opinions to guide them.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Why Haven't You Published?

Someone asked me why I hadn't published lately. As for this old word jockey, I've given up on the published work as a pointless way to communicate. By the time print oozes from the distributor's massive pipeline, the reader has tapped out countless topics like mine on their iPads and digested the summaries, gone on twenty virtual dates by exchanging genitalia photographs, and submitted at least a hundred Tweets to where the only word left to say on the subject was just broadcast to the world by a viral YouTube video. The next wave of conscious opinion is already on the wire.

You know your work is passe when all the late, late show hosts have already told jokes about you three nights in a row. What we have to do is have instantaneous electronic communication where the words never leave their ones-and-zeros state. Every iPhone lites up with "urgent email" the very second your brainwaves rattle in your head, and an RSS feed hits the telecommunications network into everyone's hand with a smart phone in it.

I get depressed whenever I do a Google search to see if anyone has anything published on a "fresh" idea I had only to find thousands of references with extensive bibliographies to boot. I'm fresh out of material which to think with. We are all carbon copies of our past. The future is already in franchise. The best you can do is open a boutique of old ideas and add rickrack to edges.

That's why I just build robots with my grandson and wait for the specter of death to knock on the front door.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Hallowed Halls of Congress

Here we are on Hallow’s Eve, not the one where children seek candy, but the one where adults cast ballots like so many ninja star-daggers. Maybe the Mayan’s were right and their calendar not so accurate. They missed the End by 46 days. It matters not who is the President, because the job is a trophy position. What matters is in the dark shadows deep within the houses of Congress. The divisions of those who call themselves conservative and those that call themselves liberal have exposed the inner core of humanity and its worst behavior. What we see is, yes there are ultimately only two types of people in the world; those that are creative and need liberation to function and those that aren’t that get what they want by manipulating talent to make money. Both ends of the spectrum are idealistically based. The Right justified by God and the Left justified by equality. Both require compassion to exist together. The only difference between the gangs on the streets like the Bloods and the Cripps and the men in Congress is the ones in Washington wear suits. The same hate is on their faces. Maybe less tattoos.

I just witnessed a moderate quit the Senate today on a news show. He tried for 18 years to bring sanity to the work of Congress and got booed out of a job, pushed in fact. He became an untouchable within the culture of hatred found on the Hill. It brings to mind when must the next Civil War occur in America? We watch the Arab Spring conflicts, but we didn’t learn. We watch most of the world sliding into the fundamental groups of conservatives that have theirs and the liberals that need to be free to breath and are not so motivated to take candy from the baby.

The preacher describes choice as being either good or evil, but a more easily understood description might be decisions that are either constructive or destructive. We all make choices to move down the road. We have taken the fork toward destructive and have embraced it. Taking the constructive road requires understanding and compromise of these two polar extremes that are part of human nature. But the moderate in the middle has become the target not the negotiator.

High do we rise above this petty behavior and face each other as grownups? We expect our children to have understanding and compassion – right? We won’t tolerate bullies on campus, but we promote them in the adult world. Good guys come in last was the mantra in the 80s and was put on paper in this century as creed. The sociopathic behavior can be enhanced by computer systems that watch and pounce on opportunity, search for weakness in competitors. Mathematical precision can be applied to take advantage of those not aware they have been targeted. In fact, military terms are used daily to describe business practices. It’s amusing and we tend to think it is just a style, a figure of speech. Not when it is actually being practiced. I remind you of the moderates being pushed out of Congress. It has become just another reality show where the ones that don’t benefit the tribe get voted off the island.

Conservatives don’t need taxation and abhor it. Why, because they know how to make money. They don’t like money being taken from them. It throws off the bottom line. Liberals don’t know how to make money, but are rather good at using it to fund programs that benefit the masses. It’s always been that way. And to do it, they need taxation. We have driven up the cost of making money to a frenzied high with our dependency on high tech, expensive, support systems. We have displaced face-to-face discussion with telecommunicated policies. We have armies of lawyers on both sides to get the opinions and practices on paper to become the rule of law and the most clever of these procedures is to push aside laws that were once there to protect each other for laws that swing favor to select groups. We have used our own whip to beat ourselves into economic slavery. Slight tweaks in choices product billion dollar swings. No wonder conservative are edgy. On the other hand, in what was the richest country in the world, millions can’t see a doctor or have seen there job shipped overseas. They depend on the conservative side to provide for them a means to keep their lives together. The conservative side doesn’t need them anymore, because they can find cheaper replacements elsewhere to cover the massive costs of keeping this precarious system functioning. Both have valid concerns and thus can justify the anger and hatred that has developed as a result. What is not being seen is that both sides share the same bed and bathwater. It is self-destructive to continue down this path.

So on November 7 will our country pull together or pull apart. If we go, the world tumbles. We were all worried what the Mayan’s were thinking was the earth itself breaking apart and spinning off into oblivion. We don’t give them enough credit for understanding conservative and liberal thinking people. I feel sure they went down this same path, spurred by the nature of their humanity. So what did they do about it? Hmm, they don’t exist anymore.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Mind Over Metal

Hmm. Rethinking old age...? It is frightening to realized us carbon forms are really a jelly mess of hairs and bumps. Machines are so much more clean and functional. I get depressed thinking how everything around me that's electronic or mechanical is better looking, doesn't age, and stares at me with condescending amber and green LEDs, judging me.

When I first noticed my hair falling out, I didn't pay it much mind. It became a headline in my bathroom mirror when I noticed that the hair left was starting to look like a badly weeded garden. It wouldn't comb right, pieces stuck up at odd angles, and patches were forming. People would tease me about comb-overs. With what, I would belt out. Thin skin that has ripples, biceps that are bygones, blue patches of lost veins that look like they just came loose inside. And yet the machines are bright and shiny as ever. I may have myself stuffed just to show them up.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

From the Trenches

Focusing the eyepiece on my writer’s periscope from my protective bunker, I see the survivors of publishing past scurrying around, some still standing, some fallen. The electronic frenzy of our times is felt like taser hits as frequent and disruptive as a summer lightning storm in Phoenix. What is a writer to do?

It was what, less than six years ago, when one approached an agent via bond typing paper carefully crafted from assessing dozens of examples from experts on how to approach an agent without getting bit. The mortality rate for virgin authors was enormous. The selection process was a derivative of smoke filled meetings with publishers behind the scenes in private retreats or luncheons in four-star restaurants off 59th Street and Broadway in New York City. You had to know somebody or be somebody to ever be taken seriously and for good reason. The investment cycle in an author is a high risk adventure of ever seeing any ROI.

Then the elusive butterfly settled on the flower, soon delivering the caterpillar that would eat up too much of the profits — self-published books from PODs. It sounded like evil alien species oozing from cracks in the system, spilling out of their pods and into the mainstream, the stream the elite publishers on the East Coast drank from. The water now being polluted caused and uproar. Condemnations, allegation of foul play, some well justified, as the con-men came out of the woodwork promising the Moon to every sucker that answered their e-mail or advertisement in a writers magazine. Junk bonds and junk books were partners of the same ilk.

The determination of the average writer to get a book in hand was well underestimated by the Big Six in New York. The idea of unedited, poorly printed books making a mockery of the glitterati of the literary world was too much to bear. The system broke down. But how?

Electronic everything. Printing became a digital process. The book-copy manuscript was not script boxes filled with sparsely worded, double spaced airy fluff so editors had enough margin to write copious critiques in red, badgering the writer, no shaping the writer into a corporate puppet. E-mailing agents came in the night. It’s easier, less expensive, and once in Adobe Acrobat could be dispersed to editor aides and professional eyes to peruse and comment without one single piece of paper being generated to later have to shred. But you had to be of a newer generation, someone savvy to the ways of technology. That was not in any resume of the typical publisher.

The writers themselves banished the shoddy self-publishing scams after many a bank account was raided and sunk costs took their dreams to the bottom. Soon more electronic cycle-riding demons with skulls on fire came into view.

Digital processes are an abstraction of tiny circuits that just switch on or off. What they represent is up to the fantasies of the designer, the programmer, the one with the vision. In the publishing world, the idea of electronic books was born. Google tried to digitize all the books of value in the world and store them in a database that could be searched by anyone much like their world maps that span the globe. You can even drive an imaginary airplane through the Himalaya or across the Dead Sea. It’s just data.

Most books are only words, some pictures, many elaborate works of art, but groups of people around the world focused on the core of how to digitize a book and came to create a set of rules that define the EPUB format, which is a shell game if you know what it is really down inside. But any book can be stuffed inside, distributed anywhere in the world in seconds, and the cost is pennies verses thousands of dollars. Money is a force of nature. The potential difference between pennies and stacks of currency causes paradigm shift. When things cost very little to produce, are in the confines of a computer screen or Smart-Phone makes backing multi-million dollar Big Box Bookstore chains a waste of money. Things have changed.

The publishing industry has been routed. The players scattered, running for their economic lives. Herein lies the future of today’s tech-savvy author. The playing field has been leveled, in fact, ground to a fine polish. Now instead of hack, ghetto-hoods getting into your bank account, grinning greed on the face of corporate giants like Amazon are marching over the horizon bent on taking out the opposition—Big Easy in New York. How to court a venture capitalist is now becoming another task like finding a publicist or marketing manager.

Successful writing draws the money makers. It has never been easier to grab a gold ring and take the ride, but becoming aware of the rules of the game has never been so important. Why, because from my bunker in the trenches, the wars have just begun. Keep your head down and identify the enemy soon enough to hit their delete button before they hack into your personal savings. We all live behind the glass screen of the computer now.