Month: September 2014

Pennies From Heaven

Perhaps our parents were wrong: money might not grow on trees, but it could be freely given. Image and linked story article belong to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the authors mentioned in the link.

In my past posts on this blog and also on my video series on YouTube, I’ve argued that getting people back to work was far more than just keeping a roof over one’s head and food on the table. I’ve also stated that the unemployed make really lousy consumers. This means they will be hoarding every penny left to their name, spending only when necessary. No vacation trips, no eating out at nice restaurants, no big ticket purchases like that plasma TV or car. If consumers don’t buy, companies can’t sell. Companies cant’t sell, they don’t make money, which means they go out of business or lay off staff. This in turn results in more unemployed people who won’t buy, and the feedback loop continues. It could be successfully argued that jobs and business are symbiotically linked. One cannot exist without the other.

The unemployment situation in this country is far more than a social issue. It’s a national crisis, but it’s a tough problem to fix, because the economy is anemic and companies are not hiring. An obvious solution would be to lower the corporate tax rate and offer tax credits to companies that hire people, but some might say, “that’s just giving our hard earned tax dollars away to corporations”.

All right then, so we don’t give the money to corporations. What about social services? Bah! We already give a ton of tax dollars to welfare offices and employment assistance centers, an industry based on the misfortune of those living in poverty if not outright homeless. So far those services are not giving us the return we pay as deductions off our paycheques. I can tell you as a job seeker I am less than satisfied with the services I’ve paid for over the years. Maybe that money should go somewhere else. According to the following article, that somewhere is basically everyone.

At first glance, it sounds insane. Give everyone free money, no strings attached? Crazy talk! But as the expression goes, it’s so crazy it just might work.

Think about it. Instead of dumping money into a bloated government bureaucracy that costs hundreds of millions of dollars (if not billions) per year yet produces little results, eliminate the middleman and put it in our pockets. What would each person do with the money? It’s fair to argue that some might just blow it on drugs or booze and end up killing themselves, but it was not the money that killed them: those people self-destructed. Others might put it toward rent and food, and not have to worry about getting sick from not eating properly or from exposure to the elements. Accumulated over time, that money could be spent to start a business or go back to school, which would lead to a more comfortable standard of living. From that, expect healthy consumerism to follow: vacations, TVs, computers, cars, boats, eating out. Increased consumerism means business growth, which equals more jobs created and less reliance on this stipend.

The domino effect that comes from everyone suddenly having this money is easy to see. No need for student loans. No more old-age pensions. Reduced medical costs. More tax revenue to pay for services like roads, hospitals, the electrical grid, sanitation, education, law enforcement, the military. All from this crazy idea of simply giving away free money.

It does sound crazy, but to quote Albert Einstein, the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. We’ve lived under the concept of a welfare state for decades here in Canada. Do any of you see any change in the fortunes of those who are trying to keep afloat in this Age of Austerity and the jobless recovery?

We’d be crazy not to at least consider alternatives that might work. This idea could be the solution.

Thanks for reading!

David

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Couched Intentions

CouchSurfing Ad
My ad on Couchsurfing. Property of David Alan Gay with permission to use provided credit is given to the author.

I’m not a mayoralty candidate in the municipal elections, but I feel I’ve been canvassing like one for the past few weeks.

I’ve been calling up friends, family members and even former co-workers to ask if I can stay with them while I continue my job search. If you’ve been following my blog, I mentioned I’m losing one of the places I’ve been staying at as a base of operations. If this is your first time here, click the link for a recap.

The responses I’ve received have been varied: some offered a few days here and there for me to stay. To those people I say thank you for helping me during this trying time of my life. Others have given me reasonable and understandable explanations why they could not accede to my request, and I accept that with no hard feelings and will ask someone else down the list.

The problem that I face now is that I’ve run out of people to ask. That’s it. There’s no one left, at least those I know of.

Before I left Kitchener, I created a profile on a site called http://CouchSurfing.org. I created the profile as a fall-back in case I ran out of places to stay, and it looks like it’s going to be needed. The site is about envisioning “a world made better by travel and travel made richer by connection. Couchsurfers share their lives with the people they encounter, fostering cultural exchange and mutual respect”. In simpler terms, people host others for a few days, while exchanging values, stories and experiences in the process.

I can get behind this. We now live in a world that encourages a “me first” mentality where everyone else is an opponent, while looking down at (if not ignoring) those who are in danger of falling through the cracks. I much rather live in a world where everyone works together for a better society.

I have a lot to share with my potential hosts, not just through common interests but also because of my 50 years of life experiences. I grew up in a time period where there was no access to the Internet, no mobile communications, and in an economy that was a lot better than it is now. On top of that, my job search that has been ongoing since the start of 2010 has been both a life-changer and a personal rebuilding process.

On the other side of the equation, I can benefit from hearing an alternative point of view based on a cultural or generational perspective. As Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once said, “there is nothing insignificant in the world. It all depends on the point of view.”

I cleaned up my profile a little to make it sound less needy-for-a-place-to-sleep and posted a few notices asking for hosts to stay with. I also contacted a few potential hosts, but I’ve been declined so far. I understand their initial caution since they do not know me from Adam, nor about my past as a responsible law-abiding citizen who wants to meet people to share experiences. That has not dissuaded me from my goal. and that is to broaden both my horizons in life experiences as well as offer more choices to stay while I continue the job search.

Thanks for reading!

David

P.S. If you are capable of offering a few days a month for me to stay in either Toronto, Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge, or Elmira (all in the province of Ontario, Canada), feel free to contact me.

Head In The Cloud’s

20140826__165609_Android
Welcome to the Chrome Age: my new Chromebook. Picture taken by David Gay, with permission to use provided credit is given to the author.

If my friend sticks to her current moving schedule, I have 2 months left to find new places to couch-surf. The type and number of places I end up staying at will affect what I can carry with me and how much. If I have to hop a lot from place to place, then the best I can carry is about a week’s worth of clothing and supplies. My current laptop, a Lenovo Thinkpad running Ubuntu, will not work under these circumstances. It has served me well in my job search, but it’s too heavy and awkward to lug around. A lighter alternative is required that I could carry at the drop of a hat. The problem, however, was that most of the notebook and laptop brands were out of my budget — except for one.

Enter the Chromebook. An example of a thin-client, produced by Google, this type of notebook uses the cloud to store most of its user data, and runs on the ChromeOS operating system, which is a Linux-based and requires the user to work most of the time from inside a browser. At a back-to-school bargain at around $250 (Canadian), was it worth it?

Well, first the pros: It’s very light, thin and has nice large keys for my clumsy sausage fingers. The 11.6 inch screen is very easy to read, and the fully charged battery gives between 6 and 7 hours of off-outlet use. The boot-up time is very fast. Instead of traditional function keys that represent a feature (brightness, volume, etc) that you have to remember, there are a row of keys that explicitly state the above functions. You work with apps, not programs and the Chromebook comes preloaded with apps like the Chrome browser, Gmail, Google Docs (documents), Google Sheets (spreadsheets), Google Slides (presentations), Google Drive, Google+, YouTube and more. If you want to install more apps, Google Play is the place to get them. The Chrome browser uses the Pepper-based Flash plug-in so if you like Farmville, Criminal Case, Trainstation or any other Flash-based games, fear not, the Chromebook can handle it very well. This particular Chromebook (HP) uses a dual-core Samsung processor.

It has its limitations, though. The amount of RAM and file storage on the Chromebook is quite small: it only has 2 gigabytes of RAM and 16 gigabytes of local storage, both using flash drive technology.  The Chromebook is designed to allow the user to create, store, and manipulate data on the cloud courtesy of Google Drive, not locally. While Google claims any stored data is both secure and always easily accessible, and you get 100 gigabytes of additional storage free for two years on top of the additional 15 gigabytes a new Google account is allocated, you are very dependent on a constant Internet connection. The Chromebook can operate in offline mode, but in that mode you have to work with is the base 16 gigabytes of storage. You can use USB flash drives to increase offline storage, but those are not directly synchable with Google Drive. You’ll need to drag and drop there, which on a Chromebook is murder to do since there are no mouse buttons on the track-pad. To emulate a specific mouseclick, you need to tap the pad with one, two, or three fingers. I’m very computer-savvy, yet found the group finger taps hard to do, so I decided to use a portable mouse instead.

The bottom line? If you want a very affordable laptop that is great for working on the cloud and for websurfing, has a fast boot-up time and a long battery time, the Chromebook is perfect for you. However, if you are comfortable with Windows and how a mouse traditionally handles under that operating system, enjoy the wide variety of Microsoft games and applications, and need a lot of offline hard drive storage, perhaps you may want to try putting more money towards a standard notebook, laptop, or ultrabook. In my case, the Chromebook will serve me well as an important part of my mobile life and job search strategy.

Thanks for reading.

David