November 30, 2010


Category: Economy — Cranky @

Yesterday I was at the supermarket contemplating the addition of self-checkout stands. These inventions allow a single attendant to service up to 10 stations at once. The stands were busy, with a small lineup waiting. That struck me as odd, because several traditional checkout stands were attended, but idle. One of the waiting checkout girls was looking at the new stands, and she wasn’t smiling.

I could practically hear her thoughts. Where was she going to work?

North America is learning efficiency in this crisis. We’re doing more with fewer people. When the economy rises from the dust, these leaner, more efficient companies are not going to go back to their former headcount. So sayeth some pretty big names in industry.

Now, some technologies make sense to develop. A competitive edge is a precious thing indeed, and any technology that improves your product is a good thing to have. But what do these self-checkout stands really offer? On the face of it, they would offer speedy checkout. That, however, is reduced by consumers being slow and clumsy with the system, and by false weighing issues that lead to “unexpected item in bagging area” delays. If the store simply manned all of the standard checkout stands they had built, checkout would be just as speedy.

Their best advantage is to the retailer. They can reduce headcount. But, again, where are all these people going to work? They can’t build these machines – they’re mostly built in Asia after the technology was sold to NCR and Fujitsu. A small number can learn to fix the machines, but most will have to move on.

I think a lot of people don’t realize just how many of those lost jobs aren’t equivalent to layoffs. They aren’t coming back – probably not ever. But what are these people to do?

Quite a few economists in the U.S. have concluded that unemployment might remain at 10% for up to 10 years. While 10% is clearly an understatement (or an outright lie), it might surprise you that I actually believe these economists to be correct. That’s worrisome, because the U.S. can’t afford to have even 10% of the workforce producing nothing, but consuming unemployment benefits or welfare for a decade.

Globalization is helping North America to create a massive lower class. It began when we started outsourcing our manufacturing. In my little isolated corner of the world we’re feeling the effects less radically. Our economy is heavily industrial in nature, and while demand for tradesmen ebbs and flows, it never really dies. We can afford the benefits for those who need them. We’re not the world at large, though, and I worry about all the people who work hard, but who are being “right-sized” out of a job.

Those checkout attendants work much harder than I do. Taking that job away is unfair, and counterproductive for society as a whole.


November 18, 2010

Why Can't We All Just Get Along?

Category: Religion — Cranky @

Today I read about Asia Bibi, a christian in Pakistan who is awaiting her fate. She has been condemned to death because she’s been accused of blasphemy.

Now I’m about to break my own rule. You can search my entire site, and you will not find naughty language. I keep it friendly here, so it’s with more than a little sadness that I resort to swearing for emphasis.

Religion has got to fucking go.

It’s religion that keeps a third of the world in the dark ages with respect to women’s rights. It’s religion that fuels hatred across the globe. Religion has passed the point where it is necessary or useful. It is not worth the price we pay for it. Why can’t we all just get along? Because religion explicitly prevents that.

It’s time for the world to put on our freaking big boy pants and evolve past the need for a mystical bed-time story. There’s no reason why we need religion to form a moral compass. I don’t believe in God, but I give to charity, sponsor a child, and do unto others as I would like them to do unto me. No ever-watchful, all-good, but still somehow perfectly willing to burn you for eternity God is required.

The charitable works done by religious groups don’t have to stop, they just need to recognize that God doesn’t need to be attached. There are plenty of secular organizations doing that kind of work.

God is a crutch. Religion is too expensive. Mankind can go without both, and be better for it.


November 5, 2010

Things Cranky Likes

Category: Life — Cranky @

1. How tiny dog’s legs move so fast when they’re walking

2. Separating egg whites from yolk

3. The skins of wasabe peas

4. Horseradish on steak

5. Feeling the ridges on a low E guitar string

6. Getting maximum speed out of a sports car

7. Peeling an orange in a single piece

8. Seeing through a complex problem and finding a simple solution

9. Ice water

10. When a girl snorts just a little when laughing