Category: Uncategorized

Artificial Intelligence? Dumb Move!

olivia_norton_kindred_al
Another reason why jobs will become scarcer, and poverty will increase. Source: National Post, Article About Investment in AI in the Spring 2017 Federal Budget.

Warning: Coarse Language

I’ve always said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was a bit of a space cadet when it came to running this country, but when I hear news about taxpayer dollars funding a national AI (Artificial Intelligence) research program, well, he’s boldly gone nuts.

According to the news article linked by this post, “In an effort to push Canada to the forefront of digital innovation, the federal government committed $125 million in Wednesday’s budget to create a Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy.”

You can’t make shit like this up. $125 million tax dollars….OUR money…is going to create a form of benign SkyNet.

I for one do NOT welcome neither our AI overlords nor the Liberal dimwits spending hard-earned Canadian tax dollars for this.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m big on technological innovation and research.  The problem I have is this should be done by private industry willing to pony up the capital and take the risk to pursue this. If anyone wants it, be a consumer and buy it.

I really must ask: what’s the ROI for this gamble? Are we sure we can make this work? Does anyone remember the endless promises being made and the research dollars being poured into making flying cars back in the 1970s? Do we have flying cars today? The only cars I see flying are the stunt car racers illegally breaking the law in Waterloo.

I’ll no doubt be told that this will create jobs and raise the standard of living for Canadians. What jobs exactly? The answer is right there in the article:  high-tech jobs. You know, those jobs that don’t have an entry level to start from, where you need to go to post-secondary education (which only the upper-middle class and the rich can afford) to get training for. What about those people who cannot afford post-secondary education? What about mature workers who are facing increasing restrictions on career change funding? What about those people who, quite frankly, are not tech savvy? What will happen to the jobs that category of people do which will be taken over by hardware and software?

What about affordable housing? $125 million could have gone towards making more units for single moms, the elderly, and the physically challenged who exist below the poverty line. What about programs that help get the homeless back to financial self reliance and self -sustainability? Has anyone forgotten we have people living in the street?

On the subject of raising the standard of living, when are we going to see more leisure time as a result of automation and the remote workplace? Oh wait, it went the other way, didn’t it? We are now working more hours and suffering a work-life imbalance. Your employer has given you the tools to use your smartphone and computer as a virtual workplace. All without getting overtime, I must point out.

Is this truly the start of a golden Age Of Prosperity, or is this going to be an “Age Of Austerity Version 2.0?” instead?

I guess robots and talking computers are more important than helping the more vulnerable members of society rejoin the ranks and share in this bright new future the Liberals are trying to build.

Thanks for reading!

David.

More For Less, Revisited.

ServiceGreeter
Sure. That sounds exactly what a service greeter does. Wash cars and moving vehicles to the service area. Got it.

It’s been over a month since I wrote, mostly because I’ve been very worried about my temporary lodgings. I was not sure if those who are supporting my rent would continue to do so after the end of September so I had to make arrangements to stay with other people, go back to couch surfing, or worse go back to sleeping on the buses and subways in Toronto.

I got a reprieve of sorts. It’s been extended to the end of December with planned discussions for extending it into the spring of 2017. That buys me a little time to get the word out about my chronic unemployment and my not-so-stable housing but that takes time, which is why I have not written much in this blog or even made a video on YouTube under my “David Needs A Job” channel.

While I’ll make a video tomorrow, I’ll update my blog status by revisiting a point I wrote about earlier. I just finished YABJS (Yet Another Boring Job Search) and came across more of the following “compressed description” jobs where the title no longer means what it says. An example of such a job I found today is in the image. Click it and read the description, then come back to this post.

When you see the title, “Service Greeter” and it’s at an auto service place, you would assume it’s like an appointment taker or reception position. It probably was a long time ago, judging from the line “welcoming and checking clients and their vehicles into the dealership”. It now has expanded to include the following, quoted:

  • “performing a quick walk-around of their vehicle,”
  • “moving vehicles in and out of our service drive,”
  • “running vehicles through our car wash.”

This is speculation, but there was probably once a separate junior service position that did this a long time ago.

That was the past. The position is now a jack-of-all trades where the candidate would be asked to do a lot of things that used to be handled by two if not three people. While the only positive I see is that a benefits package is included as part of the position — benefits are becoming an endangered species in this Age Of Austerity and the jobless recovery — I would be interested in learning if the “competitive hourly wage” rose in direct proportion to the number of tasks added in the description as a result of the rightsizing.

I’d apply for the sake of answering that question, but I don’t have a driver’s license.

Thanks for reading.

David.

 

 

The School’s Out On This One.

BackToSchoolAlready
I received this ad in my Email on July 4th, 2016. Not August 4, bloody damn July!

Times are tough. I’ve explained this enough times to the point of being hoarse, but it’s not just me talking about this. Look at the tons of videos on YouTube from university students lamenting how post-secondary education has become a financial sham, from mature adults enraged about  ageism in hiring, and from activists sounding the alarm about the rise of corporate fascism transcending the authority of elected governments and the rights of individuals.

However, the real “meat and potatoes” clues are hidden in plain sight. Take for example the back-to-school ads.

Back in the day when I was but a lad, these ads came out around the second week of August, before the start of the Canadian National Exposition (CNE). As of this year, if Staples continues this trend, back-to-school promotions will begin before the little brats start their summer holidays!

Why now? Why so damn early?

Let’s get back to what I said before about these being a symptom of why times are tough. Again, when I was a lad, those back-to-school ads came out in August because that’s usually when parents get their kids ready for school. In those days, jobs were more plentiful and the terms “downsizing” and “austerity” were not in everyday conversation. Consumer confidence was also much higher so wallets were easier to open up for knapsacks, clothes, and supplies.

Flash forward to now, and it’s a meaner, leaner, and more worrisome time. It’s an employer’s market now, people are VERY frightened about the increased chance of losing their jobs, and that fear is translating into more conservative spending habits. More staycations. More budgeting. This new consumer market can be a real challenge for businesses selling products and services, and clearly the cuts to retail prices isn’t luring consumers in, so what-to-do?

Simple. Start the promotions earlier and run them longer. Businesses have to do this. It’s not going to be as easy to milk the back-to-school crowd these days so they have to work harder, longer, and yes, sadly, more in our faces.

This is why you are seeing back-to-school ads the moment people are heading to the cottage, the same reason why we now see Christmas ad promotions two weeks before Halloween (as opposed to the previous date of November 1st when I was a little tyke).

We may try our best to ignore these early ads, but never ignore the reason WHY they are happening in the first place.

As I said, times are tough and people need to realize this.

Thanks for reading!

David.

“Buy” The Numbers

jobs-fair-boardAccording to Statistics Canada, the employment scene is on the mend with the creation of 41,000 jobs, with 35,000 being full time positions.

I guess it’s time for me to stop with the end of the Age Of Austerity and the jobless recovery rants?

Think again. Let’s examine the numbers in more detail.

25,000 of the jobs were in health care. Unionized jobs spurred by increased government spending. Not increased by improving consumer confidence which drives the economy.

Again, understand what the unemployment rate means. It means, I quote, “The unemployment rate is the number of unemployed as a percentage of the labour force (employed and unemployed).” The total employed in Canada is 18,044,000 as of March 2016 from Statistic Canada and the labour participation rate, again from Statistics Canada, is only 65.9%.

Taking into considering the above numbers and percentages, a creation of 41,000 new jobs for a country with a population of 36,048,521 is not a strong increase. It’s anemic.

It’s also important to note that the unemployment rate for 2016 is still stubbornly high when compared to the previous years between 2013 and 2015, as pointed out by someone commenting on the article reporting the employment news. Moreover, Canada hasn’t always had this high an unemployment rate. When I was growing up, the unemployment rate in Canada hovered around 5% in the 1970s, and it was socially unacceptable to be out of work back in those days because it was easier to find a job. Now we have economists saying, “Oh! 41,000 jobs were created with an unemployment rate falling to 7.1%! By these numbers, we’re doing great!”

THIS IS NOT GREAT. We have young people trying to find work while facing near-unattainable tuition costs. We have the homeless living on the streets in a country that has a reputation of being prosperous for all yet homes — an essential — are priced like a luxury item and require two incomes to afford a mortgage. We have people working many part time jobs, or in a single job that does not match their career path, yet both situations are classified as normal employment. We have offshoring of Canadian jobs in the name of keeping payroll costs down, which means employees are being regarded in the same light as an office consumable.

By these numbers? Don’t buy it. Percentages are made up representations of sample data. They could mean anything.

Thanks for reading.

David.

Selective Compassion

Pixton_Comic_Selective_Compassion_by_MogCanada
A social commentary comic done on Pixton about how selective we are when showing compassion. On a related point, I’m thinking of taking the Pixton business option and make comics for money instead of using the free service.

I had to wait a while until after the Christmas holiday before writing this topic. It’s quite sensitive and I know I’m going to get heck from at least one person for posting this.

Canada has pledged to accept 25,000 Syrian refugees as part of a humanitarian effort to deal with the crisis in that troubled region of the world. Of that total, according to CTV News Kitchener, 1150 will settle in the Region of Waterloo.

Keep that point in mind while I quote the following from the Homeless Hub, an organization pledged to find solutions for the homeless:

“In the State of Homelessness in Canada 2013 report, it was estimated that at least 200,000 Canadians access homeless emergency services or sleep outside in a given year. The actual number is potentially much higher, given that many people who become homeless live with friends or relatives, and do not come into contact with emergency shelters. Recent data from a March 2013 Ipsos Reid poll suggests that as many as 1.3 million Canadians have experienced homelessness or extremely insecure housing at some point during the past five years.”

Again, from the Homeless Hub, a report on the number of homeless living in the Region Of Waterloo:

No. of individuals estimated to be living in emergency shelters: 3,492 (est. for 2013)

I have checked other sources for the number of homeless people in Waterloo Region and have found comparable if not higher numbers.

The media blares about the crisis of Syrian refugees — who are not citizens of Canada and have not contributed to our social safety net — and runs feel-good stories about residents raising funds and opening their doors to them. All three levels of government, including Waterloo Region and the cities that make up that region, have ensured these refugees have a place to stay and even work waiting for them. At the same time, the call to address the homeless issue — which is higher in number than the refugee total on both the national and local scene — is met with the sound of crickets chirping on a quiet summer night. The respective city councils of Waterloo, Cambridge, and especially Kitchener are guilty of cutting funding for emergency shelters for the homeless to go to on cold winter nights. The federal government continues to cut funding to social programs and the provinces (particularly Ontario) have been placing additional restrictions on back-to-work programs like Second Career.

This is confusing to me. The homeless are citizens who once contributed to this country’s prosperity. They might be your parent, sibling, friend, or co-worker. They worked, paid taxes, obeyed the law and were good Canadians. When they, like me, hit on rough times and ask for a hand up (not hand out) to get back on the road to self-reliance, the response is indifference. Actually it’s more than that. It’s outright scorn.

We can thank our conditioning for that. How many times have you heard of the expression, “Don’t be a lazy bum” or “Oh, I’m doing nothing, just bumming around the house”.  How many times have you seen how homeless people are portrayed on your favourite TV series or movie? Do you remember that scene in the first “Back To The Future” movie where Marty McFly returns to the present in a flash of light, waking up a bum who then slurrs, “Cahreeezy druwk dwiver” before nodding back to sleep on his park bench? Pretty darn funny, huh? I remember laughing at that along with the audience when I was an usher at a movie theatre where that movie was shown.

I don’t particularly find that funny now, but a change of perspective and fortune can do that to you.

That’s selective compassion right there. Show the government a picture of a dead child on a beach and everyone from the Prime Minister to the everyday Jane/Joe will open their wallets and pitch in to help. Show a picture of a homeless man on a park bench and all three levels of government will say, “no money” and the everyday person will say, “wow, hope that’s not near where I live! Lazy bum!”.

Maybe if we renamed the homeless “economic refugees”, they would get the same sort of help the political ones receive now.

Thanks for reading!

David.

Let’s Talk, Once More.

Typical Mood In The Morning
My regular state of mind in the mornings before starting my job search. Picture taken by David Gay, with permission to use provided credit is given to the author.

Wednesday January 27th, 2016 was Bell Let’s Talk Day, where once again awareness is being raised about mental illness and depression. I was going to write something completely different in today’s blog post than what I have posted here, but something caught my eye during a Google search on the subject of depression.

I stumbled on someone named kwtechguy on Reddit asking people how to help get me out of the situation I’m in now.

I think I know who kwtechguy is, but I won’t say who I think it is in case I’m wrong. Regardless of who he is, bless him for trying to help me get back to financial self-reliance and independence. Anyone who steps up to the plate on my behalf has my gratitude and thanks.

In addition to his efforts, what also got my attention was a comment he made that reads as follows:

“His blog is an interesting, although depressing, read”

It is a depressing read. It’s about a situation no one wants to find themselves in, but like cancer, a bad slip or fall, or a really awkward dinner date, it’s not something one can prevent from happening. It’s also depressing because the author — me — is very depressed and with good reason. My future is uncertain as a 51 (52 in June!) year old man trying to find a job. I have strained relations with family and friends, and I’m trying to balance a personal budget with a scant flow of income which is as difficult as herding cats.

I wake up every morning not wanting to get out of bed because my job search is not only tedious, it’s disheartening. I go to bed not in the best of moods. Happiness is a fleeting concept and too much unhappiness over time can lead you down a path that makes logical sense yet is terrifyingly wrong. On November 24th, 2014, that path took me to a point in my life I’ve only been to once and hope I never go again.

Before I continue, I delayed releasing this blog post because of what I’m about to share. It will probably not sit well with some people I know once they read it, but since most of them are already mad at me, I can’t possibly do anything more to worsen the relationship. More importantly, this blog has always been about sharing my experiences and struggles of trying to find work in this Age of Austerity and a jobless recovery. Leaving it out would have done what this blog stands for a great disservice.

I was staying at my aunt’s place in Toronto as part of my couch-surfing. I woke up that Monday morning after having a very unsettling dream. I had breakfast, brushed my teeth and showered, got dressed and with laptop and a bundle of newspapers crossed the street to the local McDonald’s to begin my job search at around 7:30 a.m while sipping on a large cup of coffee.

And I wasn’t myself.

I applied to jobs in Toronto through Simply Hired, TorontoJobShop, Indeed, Monster, and Workopolis, as well as the local island jobsites run by companies like Best Buy, Futureshop, TD Canada Trust, and Sobey’s. I was going to write a blog post about the difference between those who had things and those who could not afford to, but wasn’t up to it.

Because I wasn’t myself.

I wrote a few Emails and made some phone calls to some friends and former co-workers about my situation, reminding them that I’m still actively looking for work. Two of my friends asked how I was doing and I lied by replying that everything was fine.

Because it wasn’t: I wasn’t myself.

After checking for any job fairs and workshops scheduled over the coming weeks, I started packing up my things. I pitched the newspapers in the recycle bin after making sure I got the company name and telephone number of some places I contacted about an opening. My unfinished cup of coffee, still two-thirds full, was cold and I poured it down the liquid catch in the pop-machine. Usually I always finish my coffee and ask for a free refill.

Not today. I wasn’t myself.

I wasn’t myself. God damn it, I was not myself and it was really bothering me. What’s going on? I was going to return to my aunt’s place and read a book she loaned me from her personal library but I couldn’t.

This — not myself thing— had to be settled.

I went to Blantyre Park, which was not too far from my aunt’s place. I’m pacing while trying to wrap my head around what I was experiencing, trying to get a handle on it. After about a half-hour of mulling I finally figured it out. It terrified me.

What I was experiencing was shock at the subconscious computation, which manifested itself in that dream I had, that I didn’t want to go on anymore. My brain was trying to alert me that my depression from being out of work for so long and not having money was out of control. The problem was it could not quantify that warning into something I could understand. I mean, how could I understand it? We’re talking about wanting to end my life. That’s not me.

Rational people who are well-adjusted do not think about not wanting to go on any more. I needed help. I went to my smartphone to bring up a snapshot of a CrisisLink ad taken at the Victoria Park subway station because it had the number. Don’t ask me why I took the picture, I still do not know why I did to this day but I must have thought it was a good idea (it clearly was in hindsight).

I tried to dial the number only to drop the damn smartphone on the grass because my hands were shaking. I tried again and waited for a few minutes before a pleasant sounding female voice asked if this was an emergency call. I said that it was not and tried my best to explain my morning and the conclusion I reached standing in Blantyre Park.

The female voice told me that it was fortunate I was able to realize there was a problem and call for help. She then started talking to me in a non-preachy and sympathetic manner to help put things in perspective. After 23 minutes she asked if I was all right, and I said I felt better. She asked if I needed someone to call me back to see how I was doing, and I said, no, I was okay. I just needed to talk to someone.

I really did. I needed that talk to help steer myself off the path I was heading for, a re-computation of the computation I had done in my mind previously. To this day I never had a reason to call CrisisLink again and hopefully I won’t need to. Just in case, though, I did jot down a list of distress numbers to call in the Waterloo Region area.

This is why depression is a serious issue and why it’s important to talk about it. When it runs out of control and you do not see what it does to you, it can muck up your mind.

Being depressed is not a choice. it’s a disorder that needs to be treated through social reform and appropriate funding.

Once again, let’s talk.

Thanks for reading!

David.

Numbers Don’t Lie

jobs-fair-board
Canada sheds 35,700 jobs in November, unemployment rate up to 7.1% Job losses were bigger than economists had been expecting Source: CBC News Dec 04, 2015 12:57 PM ET

I’m not surprised some who have either read my blog or viewed my videos on my GoFundMe initiative would write that things are getting better, since economists reported Canada’s economy has stopped shrinking.

These people really need to read the business section of the news more.

Canada lost 35,700 jobs in November: apparently the public sector hiring for the previous month of October, 2015 was a temporary boost from the last federal election.

Alberta, which was supposed to be the golden child of the post-2009 recession recovery — where jobs were plentiful and oil prices were seen as the economic counterbalance to Ontario’s “have-not status” — now has an unemployment rate at a five-year high.  Saskatchewan and British Columbia, provinces employment assistance specialists and some of my readership tell me to move to in order to find work, are also experiencing an increase in unemployment.  Ontario’s unemployment rate is still stubbornly high at 6.8%. Thank you, Premier Wynne and the Liberal Party for that. Your government policies that hiked the cost of electricity in this province are the reason why businesses do not want to invest here and hire people.

Examining the charts and numbers more closely, the actual growth in our economy was a measly 2.3%. For a country the size of Canada, that’s peanuts. The supposed bright spot of 36,000 full-time workers being hired is not in long-term sustainable jobs but retail and service sector jobs: jobs that do not guarantee career growth and the income increases that comes with it.

According to StatsCan, “in November, the number of employees declined by 41,000 in the private sector, and by 21,000 in the public sector. On the other hand, the number of self-employed increased by 26,000”. That’s not reassuring news for those people who do not have the business smarts and the capital to go it alone (such as Yours Truly).

The most alarming aspect of the news is when you compare the current national unemployment rate of November 2015 (7.1%) with the unemployment rate back at the end of 2010 (8.1%). Despite all the talk about economic recovery and jobs being created, the unemployment rate fell (in net) only one percentage point over the past five years. This is the end result of all that money spent on employment assistance and stimulus programs. Perhaps it is time to review a proposal suggested by many (which I wrote about) about guaranteed income.

The numbers don’t lie. It’s proof we live in an Age of Austerity and the jobless recovery.

Thanks for reading!

David