Category Archives: Rant

All Industries are Dying – Learn a Practical Skill

It has been a while, y’all.  I just dusted this blog off and found that I have a few unpublished posts, so…  Maybe I’ll get back into it?  But let’s start off with something everybody is already aware of:

I know I’m crazy.

If you know me, you probably put me on the same shelf as the guys with tinfoil hats who are locked in winnebagos listening for signs of intelligent life through static from the stars.  (I mean the literal cosmic stars, not the static heard from the reality show kind.  We know we’ll never find intelligent life amongst those folks.)

But a time is coming, and it’s already here, where your job will be replaced by a robot.

I don’t even care what you do.  You could have some amazing specialized skills or simply flipping burgers, but I’m here to warn you: you’re not that special.

Don’t believe me?  Talk to the guys in the video rental industry.  Or in fast food.  Or appliance repair, magazine publishing, record stores, and even computer programming.

I’m a computer programmer by trade – I have almost two decades of work history that led me to becoming the CTO of a tech startup for a year.  I left the company after I completed version 1.0, and instead of immediately jumping into another programming position, I decided to pause and reflect.  I released a book, recorded some music, wrote songs, wrote two more novels (this one and this one), and am still trying to figure out what I’d like the next 5-10 years to look like.  (I did go back to a programming gig for the next six years, but have quit in order to redirect once again.)

Why?  Because even programming isn’t necessarily a sure-fire life-long career.  I’m very well-versed in a number of languages that the much of the tech empire is built on.  But that’s constantly changing.  Even though currently about 80% of the websites on the interwebs are running on PHP (something I’m quite fluent in), the real truth is that most of those sites are on WordPress or other frameworks.  The wonderful thing about WordPress (and their competition) is that it’s completely free.

The terrible thing about WordPress – for developers like me – is that it’s completely free.

I’m not knocking WordPress.  Well, not entirely.  Ok, actually, I am.  There are mountains of security flaws and vulnerabilities.  Basically every WordPress site I’ve ever worked with has been hacked (including this one).  I use it for this blog and suggest it for other instances where a client doesn’t need robust nerdy functionality.  But, where I used to be a golden child who waltzed in a room, fixed a crippling bug in 20 minutes, then rode off into the sunset like a mysterious hero (“Who was that masked programmer?”) – eventually my clients only pinged me occasionally because they couldn’t find the right plugin to install.

I know I’m being a little overdramatic (I’m a programmer, that’s what we do); there will always be some jobs for programmers.  But like most other industries, programmers compete with their own automation.  We’ve built the machines that will eventually overthrow us.  At my most recent job, I replaced a ton of terrible, manual systems with automation – and two months after my exit, they’re all still running with basically no human intervention.

Our society has become very focused on paychecks, which has funneled us into whatever the most in-demand job is of the day.  And that’s not necessarily good.  In twenty years, there’s a good chance that there will not be a single job opening for SEO Guru or Burger Flipper alike.

All this to say, I think everyone should learn a skill.  Not a this-is-the-next-big-thing skill, but something old.  Vintage, as the kids might say.  One that doesn’t necessarily bring a bigger paycheck, but one that lessens the bills you have to pay out and maybe feeds you without punching a clock.

You’ve heard it said that “a penny saved is a penny earned” – or have you?  Is that wisdom that was lost in a pre-digital period?  The point of it (I think) is that if you decide to refrain from spending your penny on something, it’s a lot like earning that penny all over again.  But, technically you already paid taxes on it, so it’s almost like earning two pennies.  And I heard a guy on TLC’s Extreme Cheapskates say something like “a penny found is better better than a penny earned because you never had to pay taxes on it.”  And it was a reality show, so you know it’s solid truth.

What I’m trying to get at has both right now and future implications – and I actually originally wrote this blog several years ago, before inflation hit a 40-year high (which, let’s be honest, is not due to gas prices).  Here are a few options:

  • Instead of going out to eat every day, learn how to cook.  In the right now, you save money on the food.  But in the future, you learn a lot and actually get to see what goes in your food, which can lead to a much healthier lifestyle.
  • Grow a garden – in the ground or with a grow lamp in your kitchen.  You’ll literally have some free food, but you’ll also have the skill of knowing how to make some free food for the rest of your life.  If you have no space, buy a mushroom farm and put it in an unused corner.
  • If you have a yard (and you don’t have a mean landlord or overbearing HOA), get a chicken.  Hens are quieter than most neighborhood dogs, less pretentious than cats, and if you let them “free range” (meaning they can run around a spacious yard rather than being confined to a tiny cage) they can get a lot of their food on their own from bugs and vegetation.  You’ll get eggs frequently (many hens lay about an egg a day), and when they stop laying they’ll end up in your crockpot if you’re not too emotionally attached.  And if you also have her paired with a rooster, you’ll have an endless supply of future chicken nuggets.  Food that makes food.
  • Learn how to can and preserve food.  You’ll be able to buy food in bulk, so that you can keep eating from the same grocery trip even if your paycheck didn’t come this week.  And when you buy in bulk, you can save a lot over time.
  • Trade other people’s food for something you do/have/make that they don’t.  Learn to make soap, repair drywall, or rebuild a transmission.  Honestly, most people don’t have many practical skills, so just about anything will be worth something.

Again, if you know me, you know that my desire for amassing these skills is a little more…precautionary.  With all of the chaos in the world, I’m not positive that the neighborhood store will always have a cheap-ish gallon of milk, or that gas prices won’t skyrocket further to the point of preventing us from driving there.  We have a fairly fragile economy, built on the assumption that we can always ship fruits and vegetables from California to Maine, while our great-grandparents were used to simply going outside for their next meal.  Best case scenario, maybe nothing will change, and you’ll just have a quirky talent to talk about at a dinner party or networking event.

But if you do what I advise, you’ll be a bit more ready when the robots come for you.

Rant: Why “Emissions Inspection” Has Nothing To Do With Clean Air, and Everything To Do With Government Corruption

I just failed “vehicle emissions inspection” on my 2000 Blazer.  What is Emissions Inspection, you might ask?


Under the Clean Air Act (1990), states are required to implement vehicle emission inspection programs in metropolitan areas whose air quality does not meet federal standards.

Some states have opted out – and all of them should.  Here’s why:

If your vehicle is pre-1975, you’re exempt


Wait…  So, if you’re driving a truck that was built before companies added counter-pollution measures, you don’t have to get tested.  You could be commuting in a 1970 VW van that leaves a smoke trail rivaling a crop duster, but that doesn’t matter.  Don’t misunderstand me – I don’t think that they should have to get an inspection, because I believe that no one should get an inspection.  This segment of vehicles is the very reason a law like this exists – but it is saved with a broad stroke of policy.  Thus, the law has nothing to do with clean air.

If your vehicle is 1975-1995, they test what is coming out of your tailpipe


I mean, if there is any true test of what a car emits, I’d say vehicular colonoscopy would be the way to go.  The only real problem with that is that it would be fairly easy to fake.  All an offender would have to do is redirect the emissions, or at least disburse them so that only a portion reach the tail pipe.  Heck – if your car is in bad enough shape, it’ll do it for you!  A few simple cracks in your exhaust, and voila!  You’ve got yourself a non-polluting golden chariot.  A better test would be to seal the vehicle in a room with multiple sensors, and let it run for an extending period of time.  But I’m definitely not requesting that.

Oh, and there’s also a visual inspection of the gas cap.  Because biased human eyes are the best way to tell if a gas tank is sealed up tight.

If your vehicle is post-1996, they simply query your computer


Here’s where my problem occurred.  I have a problem with my transmission, which meant that my service engine soon light came on.  I’d often heard that if your engine light was on, you would fail an inspection no matter the reason for the light.  My transmission slipping, though definitely not giving me a perfectly smooth ride, doesn’t shelf me in with those nasty pre-75’ers, or those pesky pre-1995’ers!  If you took an an apples to apples comparison, my Blazer would still emit far less than those.  Again – not saying I can’t improve it – but I’m simply arguing that this testing standard doesn’t actually look for emissions.  A better test would still be the equivalent of a rectal thermometer.

Supposedly, if I spend over $200 trying to fix the problem, I get an automatic pass.  I can’t confirm that, as I’ve only heard it from friends of friends of friends.  But if it’s true…

Semis are exempt


Whaaa?  I don’t know how many times I’ve seen a semi, driving down the road, all of a sudden belch out black smoke for a few seconds.  Obviously, that’s not a special air freshener…  Once again – I’m not out to pummel tractor-trailers into submission – they guzzle tremendous amounts of diesel in the name of keeping America running, and kudos to them for it.  But – wouldn’t you say that’s where a lot of our transportation pollution comes from?   The cabs fit in a weight class (over 10,500lbs) that simply doesn’t need to be tested.  Perhaps I should add a few tons to my Blazer, then I wouldn’t need to get an ok from the gov to keep driving, amiright?

And my biggest beef…

It forces thousands of cars in metropolitan areas to idle, emitting needless pollution


I waited in a line of at least 50 cars for about an hour (the line was out to the middle of the road before turning in), and the two options were to cut off your vehicle and start it every few minutes, or just sit idling.  Naturally, everyone left them running.  And I don’t think it would actually help pollute less if they did the ol’ start/stop method.  But my point is that – to avoid traffic pollution – they are creating hubs of traffic jams for solid 8-hour days.  Traffic jams that would simply not exist if there were no emissions testing.  Sure – people might still be driving during that time – but it’s an hour (plus travel to and from) of extra pollution that every vehicle in a metropolitan area has to cough up.  (pun intended)

Ok, so it’s completely inefficient – but how is it government corruption?

This is where the crazy conspiracy theory David comes into play.

Sure, you could say that, even though it’s not productive in any other way, emissions testing creates jobs.  There were at least 6 “technicians” working there while I was there, who I’m assuming just make minimum wage, or thereabouts.  For the sake of ease, let’s say they make $10/hour, and the test itself costs $10.  That means that, as long as they have one car per hour, they’re paying their own salary.  But it doesn’t take an hour – it’s only a 5 minute process, so they might get through 10 in an hour, which equates to $100; minus $10 for the tech, and the company nets $90 per tech.  With I’d say an average of 3 techs working throughout the month (I went on the last day of the month, so they had more schmucks like myself and more techs than normal), the company itself makes a monthly $518,400 (90/hour*3 techs*8 hours*20 business days in a month*12 months).

Hmm…  That’s good money.  And that’s only one testing station.  I might be off a bit (they actually operate 11 hours a day, plus saturdays, but the volume probably evens out), but since there are a few testing stations in my county, which means it’s possibly a $1.5 million generator.  I assume that the company that does this is owned by a politician’s brother-in-law or campaign contributor.  What other reasons would they have to create a needless law that requires an extra $10 tax on vehicle renewals anyhow?  I’m not going to go into any sort of “keeping tabs on citizens” (they track your milage, and you have to get out of your vehicle while they get in there to do their tests, etc), because I don’t really think that’s going on.  But if I were a bit crazier…

What about you?  Is there anyone else that thinks this is a big pile of trash covered in political spray paint?  Or is everyone else happy to pay them to tell us that our cars are acceptable in their sight?

Never Moving Fast Enough

I’m in a hurry to get things done
I rush and rush until life’s no fun
All I really gotta do is live and die, but
I’m in a hurry and don’t know why
-Alabama, I’m In a Hurry (and Don’t Know Why)

It’s been almost a year since we moved out of our last home, and the renovation process for our new home is at 7+ months.  (Technically 9+ if you count the time trying to get permits.  And I count that time.)  I’ve been crazy busy for much of that time, but some of it, I just feel busy.  Not having a TV back in our house helps not waste time, but I still feel like time is just slipping away.

Unfortunately, I feel like our current culture is all about busy-ness and “progress.”  If someone isn’t running in a tizzy – if they’re relaxed – then we assume they have no aspirations, and they’re probably lazy.

Or maybe I’m just speaking from my own perspective, and no one else feels that way.

I’m trying to constantly step back and look at what is absolutely necessary and what is optional.  It’s absolutely necessary to eat.  If you don’t, the result is death.  It’s optional, however, to respond to texts and emails within 5 minutes.  If you don’t, the result is…  Well – nothing.  Someone might email you again.

My hope is that I’ll be able to live off grid in order to not be constantly trying to keep up with the Jonses.  If I have no required expenses (besides property taxes, grrrr) because I generate my own power, pull water from my own well, and grow all of my own food, then I don’t need a huge salary or bank account.  If you have a paid off mortgage, you can live on way less.

In trying to slow down, I’m stressed because the process is taking too long!  A year after moving out of our last house, I assumed that we’d be settled, and we’d be ready for our garden and already be grabbing eggs from our chickens.  Those things are not even close at this point (Though I do have bee hives!  But no bees yet…).  But – in light of the intention for getting off grid, I’m trying to be comfortable in the process instead of wishing for some tomorrow where all my stuff is done.  Because all my stuff will never be done.

I’m definitely not saying that I want to be at a place where I have no ambition, and that I’m going to sit on my front porch in my underwear drinking piña coladas all day – not that I won’t ever do that.  But rather than I’d like to be at a point where I can be still.  Especially because it’s in those moments that I realize that God is holding the entire world together, not me.  And that’s a good feeling.