Wrapped In My National Flag

Now and then my memory for one reason or another goes back to something that happened to me a couple of decades ago as I was spending seven months backpacking overland and water through India.


The previous day I had booked myself on a slow moving four day boat trip through Kerala’s backwaters from Cochin to Quilon. and at eight AM I was picked up at my hotel by a mini van half full of European travelers. As was most always the case in my time traveling through India, the other foreigners were all very friendly, open, and welcoming to one another. We introduced ourselves as we continued onwards to pick up more travelers.

I find that the harder to travel a country is, the closer fellow adventurers seem to get with one another, maybe it is some sort of survival mechanism, and this part of India was indeed a very hard place to travel in.

As the van continued to pick people up, each new member was happily greeted. At one part during the trip as the van was getting full of people and bags, a couple of us had to move into the back area of the van, behind the last seat on the floor, and the bags were piled up in front of us. Everything was going routinely on schedule until the next pickup at another hotel.


Mistakes Happen

For some reason this middle aged couple who we came to pick up, found the task of giving the bags to the driver and sitting down in their eagerly awaiting seats, too difficult for them. They were very upset about something, I am not sure if they expected a limousine, or helicopter for the price they paid, but they did not seem to be satisfied with the van. They were busy arguing about the money they paid, and that the van was late, not just with the driver but one of the hotel employees as well. I would assume they had the same ticket we all had, with the price of about forty dollars, for the entire four day trip including a place to sleep and the boat, stamped right on the ticket.

They were arguing in English in a North American accent of some sort, and as a good five minutes went by, a small group of locals started to gather around to see what all this noise was about, the couple seemed to be having some sort of meltdown, perhaps traveling in India was too much for them, it is too much for many. This rude couple was even stooping so low as to point out the flaws in the English the people who were trying to serve them were using. In this part of India, English was their third language after Karnatakan and Hindi.

I am amazed at how patient the Indians can be most of the time, in a lot of countries I visited, individuals would have gotten aggressive back at the rude, loud and aggressive foreigners after such an extended period of time, it would have even escalated to violence in most places, but here it was treated with continued patience.

After what I would assume was ten minutes a Danish girl on our bus was the first to lose patience and shouted to them, “Why don’t you just get a refund, and let the rest of us go?!”

Banksy Feed The World Shirt

Arguing About Forty Dollars For Four Days

I doubt at this point any one of us wanted to spend four days on the boat with these Idiots. The couple quieted down, gave the bags to the driver, and finally got in the van. The bags were taken by the driver to the back of the van, and placed right in front of me…I was shocked…because on these two backpacks, sewn into them, similar to the way I had done myself, were Canadian flags. What embarrassment I felt, how ashamed I was of this.

I kept in mind that they may not be Canadians at all, what I found traveling around Asia in the mid 90s was that most people that claim they are Canadian, once you get to know them are actually Americans draping themselves in our flag thinking they will be more welcomed as they travel, this was the norm at this time, and may still be. Normally this false identity did not bother me because the majority of Americans I was meeting doing this were acting politely enough at the time that I would have welcome them to use our identity.

I shouted to the front of the van “Where in Canada are you guys from?”

The man replied “Vancouver” (this just happens to be my hometown.)

“Oh yeah, where in Vancouver are you from?” I asked them.

They paused for a bit and said “The main part”. “The main part” is not an answer any true Vancouverite would give, we separate Vancouver into either North Van, East Van, The West End, Kits or many other specific parts, and of course most people that say they are from Vancouver are actually from the surrounding suburbs…none of us are from “The Main Part”, highly suspicious. Maybe they could be from Vancouver, I mean Canada is not completely devoid of assholes after all.

Stephen Harper Touched By God

I Didn’t Vote For Him

It is not  just our southern neighbors who occasionally piggyback on our “honorable” nationality, sometimes posing as us as they traveled, sometimes pushing a Canadian puppet forward into the international media as an attempt bring trust to an agenda so shady they can not simply promote it themselves, but people of other nationalities also try to benefit from our perceived honor, many internet scammers also pretend they are Canadians, for instance most “Canadian Online Pharmacies” are not actually owned by Canadians, nor are they selling Canadian made pharmaceuticals, again they just drape themselves in our flag and pretend to be Canadian. Some international criminals also tend to hire Canadian lawyers to represent them at things such as human rights tribunals hoping that it might help their case. Quite often on internet forums, some people also pretend they are Canadian for some strange reason, particularly during debates on the US medical system, telling either false horror stories of how the Canadian medical system works, or over emphasizing the rare occasions where things do go wrong. Canada’s honorability on the international stage has diminished greatly over the last couple of decades, not just because of the many false Canadians, but also sadly because some of our recent Canadian politicians have not exactly been the best people…we have some things to be ashamed of already without all the fake Canadians to bring us down further.

Robin Williams Singing Blame Canada by farzaneh182

Now back to my story:

To the shock of the German guy who was sitting beside me on the van floor in the back, I reached into my pocket and pulled out a knife, I then moved it over to the flag on the bag, and as I began to pick out the stitches he smiled and nodded at me, so for the next few minutes as we drove I picked out every last stitch that held that flags on, then took the flags and put them safely in my pocket for later disposal. I didn’t know if they were Canadians or not, but I sure as hell wasn’t going to let them travel the world representing where I come from. They are nothing like the types of people I like to be associated with.

I would assume the rude couple had felt our ill feelings towards them, because after our twenty minute drive to the docks was over, there was relief in the air, as the couple decided not to take the boat trip with us after all, and instead took a taxi off to go spread their misery elsewhere.

People who travel are not only guests in a foreign country, but also representatives of where they come from. Not only were these two spreading to the people of India the idea that Canadians are assholes, but also to all the other foreigners they met. If you do not have any sort of respect for others, as these two did not, please just stay in your own damn country rather than spreading your assholery around the planet, and if they were Canadian after all, which they may have been, then on behave of Canada, I apologize for the assholes we sometimes produce. I just could not let them continue their travels wrapped in my national flag.

The Above Clip Features American Actor Matthew Segal, Wearing A Canadian Flag.


The Matter Of It’s Value

It is amazing how something with seemingly so little value, might actually be worth so much.

I want to tell you a short story about something of value that was almost taken from my home recently, I say almost because I caught them putting in their bag as they were getting ready to leave. I am not really sure if I would have seen it again, maybe, but then again maybe not.

I first bought this item out of necessity, I needed it bad enough to get dressed, leave the comfort of my home, take an hour long journey, during which I slightly risked my life as I dodged cars down a kilometer long, busy, narrow road with no sidewalks, before jumping on and off of public transport, where I then scaled six sets of stairs, eventually found and purchased the item, and then needed to repeat the entire semi epic journey back home.

You are probably wondering what this item is, and how much it cost me, it will probably disappoint you when I say what it is somewhere during this paragraph, but what I want you to do at this point is think about all the effort, calories, time, and thankfully not life and limb spent questing for this necessary item. It’s monetary value is worth far less than those things, but then again nothing has more value than time, life and limb. Alas, it was just a lowly mouse pad…My mouse pad, my only mouse pad, it cost me about eight dollars, and has some weak sentimental value since it has been with me for about 6 years now, but most importantly, I need it.


But you see, this is only part of the problem, because if I had not caught her folding it, and putting it in her bag, just think what the future would hold for me when I once again needed my f^@%ing mouse pad. I would of course go looking around the house for it, first in it’s regular place in my laptop bag, and then at some of the other places I may put it time to time when I am too lazy to put it away, maybe on top of a shelf or filing cabinet…then what would happen, I would probably repeat that search another time, and then start working my way through the whole room looking for it, thoroughly, maybe even in some dusty places, and then of course I would probably move onto other rooms… how fun would that be? Eventually after much searching, cursing and scratching of my head, I would likely tire of my quest, but then would probably pick up the searching again sporadically for the next couple of days, because I need the damn thing, and of course I am ABSOLUTELY SURE IT IS IN THE HOUSE SOMEWHERE !!!! ARGGGGGGHHH

After I completely and finally gave up on finding the pad , I would then need to once again repeat my epic travel of over an hour to purchase a replacement, and of course another eight dollars.

You know what she said to me when I caught her…”Oh come on, it’s just a stupid mouse pad.” then she gave me an angry look, as though this item we both needed had no value at all. She also told me she thought I gave it to her.  I try to give her the benefit of the doubt that she actually did think I gave it to her, which of course I did not, and would not. Since I need it and all, and she never asked.

I try not to get mad at her, I am pretty sure she is just a bit like the many other people on this earth who don’t take the time to thoroughly think through the consequences of their actions. When she took it out of convenience for herself, she had just never thought of my hard earned ownership, in fact, she probably just never thought of it from my side at all.

I will just let the whole thing go.

Though I feel we both have a very different perspective on the matter of it’s value.

iPhones for Robots

There is a continually accelerating trend in the world today, although fairly obvious, most people probably haven’t really come to grips with it. The improvements of automated technology have made more and more jobs obsolete, and this is just the beginning. The trend seems to be on an exponential path, and yet the main stream media seems to not make mention of it.

A long time ago, in the era of my grandfather, people were once employed to make the elevator go up and down, and telephone operators were needed to connect you to other people. These days of course other than you pressing some buttons, both the elevators and phones are completely automated. Are you old enough to remember when you used to have to go see a real live human bank teller to get your money out of the bank?

Farming has of course gone through similar transitions, the amount of work done by many dozens of people can now be done faster by a sole driver of one machine, and even that one driver could be replaced by a self driving vehicle these days.

Automated Farming

Over the years, most people who used to work on the farm, have moved to the city to get work, no longer do they work to supply society with their needs, but spend most of their waking life creating documents which eventually get stuffed into filing cabinets where no one will ever read them again, or pushing some kind of product on the consumer.

Just as most farming jobs have become obsolete, the same type of thing has been going on with manufacturing jobs, as the robots are improving, the jobs they can do are getting more complex, in fact people are no longer needed in the modern factory at all, with today’s technology entire cars can actually be made by robots via 3D printing.

Though it took a long time to produce the plans for the first car, they can now be print out one after the other, 24 hours a day, with no sick days or holidays. The first car took forty-four hours to print, which may seem like a while, but imagine thousands of 3D printers going at the same time.

You might think that all the manufacturing of 3D printers would be lots of work for humans, however the printers amazingly enough, can replicate themselves, or even make larger or smaller versions of themselves, who then again can scale upwards or downwards.

In theory you can now order a car from a website, and it could then drive itself right to your house to pick you up. No human needed.

The same thing of course is going on with every other manufacturing business from clothing to iPhones. Even the age old job warfare is being replaced by robots

Rather than shopping malls, and sales clerks, websites now sell products, and robots can sort and ship them.

Once pretty much all these jobs are taken by robots, then there are of course no need for managers, accountants, bookkeepers, or really any office job at all. The robots just need to be told once what to do, and away they go. Nothing to manage there. The selling, and management of the sales, money transfers, tax and everything else can all be handled by computers.

So what exactly would a human be needed for in the ultra modern world then? Other than the initial deigning of new products, not very much. Although currently over seventy percent of jobs seem to be of no use to society anyhow.

The old idea was that for every bit of automation we created, from washing machines to vending machines we could all enjoy more free time, that the machines would continually free us from the menial task of daily life and create paradise. However most people these days who do have work, are working harder and longer than ever just to keep a roof over their heads.

As most of the once important blue collar jobs become obsolete, people are being forced to move into white collar positions, but the transition is not easy for many, and they end up soon going broke, which can lead to desperation, and the desperation can lead to crime. Crime of course leads to more crime enforcement, and often jail for many.

Once all the blue collar jobs are gone, most white collar jobs will follow.

It makes me wonder if the people who rule our societies have any sort of long term plan for the future of humanity, it seems to me that they do not. In a very capitalist type of society such as the US, automating all aspects of consumerism may seem like good business sense, in the short term the profits will be immense. However as robotics continue to improve, and as 3D printers keep replicating themselves and are programmed to make more and more things. Who exactly will have a paying job to be able to afford the things they sell?

I have spoken before of my wishes for the future of society, that I believe we should have some sort of new Renaissance, and new era of art, music, entertainment and creativity, but what I didn’t realize is that at that point we were in the middle of a small one, before spring of 2012, many people could actually make a living on the internet, good writers, artists and other sorts of entertainers were able to post things on blogs and social media, which friends would share, people would read them, possibly click on an advertisement along the way, and people were rewarded for their creativity. Things were pretty good back then, however during 2011-2012, things changed, most social media website who’s stocks were publicly traded got bought up by people who had other things in mind, namely directing people to their own news websites and stores. The unedited streams of Facebook, Digg and the like became heavily edited, big business hijacked the social media, and search engine results became more Big Business oriented as well. Many popular blogs on publicly hosted blogging networks were quietly deleted by their big business friendly hosts around that time, all the writers work was lost, and many bloggers suddenly found themselves without an income, the blog sharing networks were also of course hurt, most blogging networks suffered great financial losses during this time, some of them lost the ability to use advertising from the large companies who had essentially hijacked the internet at this time, one of the biggest blogging networks of the time Blogger went out of business completely. Most internet based small businesses also disappeared around this time, or soon after.

It seems to me that in the future most jobs positions will be held by robots.

Again I ask “Who exactly will have a paying job to be able to afford the things they sell?”

In the future are they going to try and market iPhones to Robots?

EDIT: The robotic farmers have now arrived.

Ms Mega Consumer

About a year ago now, something happened to me which shook my reality a bit, although hundreds of others also experienced this small event, for me it had a profound meaning that I will now share with you all here.

During the middle of my work week, just after lunch, I ran out of shipping envelopes, so I headed down to the local wholesaler to pick up a cool thousand 10″x14″ envelopes. Due to the distance between where I parked and the wholesaler, it was fastest and easiest for me to cut through a local shopping mall. From past experience I knew the thousand envelopes were going to weight quite a bit, so I decided that on the way back I would stop for a coffee in the mall.
Mall View
I picked up the envelopes, and carried them back to the mall’s third floor coffee shop, my muscles we’re getting tired, so when I found an empty coffee shop table next to the third floor railing of the mall’s courtyard, I dumped my envelopes in one of the chairs, went to ordered my coffee, then returned to my table to drink it.

The coffee was nice, and so was the view of the busy mall. This mall is always extremely busy, and getting more so by the day. It was a suburban mall once, but the city has grown so much over the last decade or so, the surrounding roads which were once full of houses are now full of condominiums. The population density in the area has more than doubled over the last few years, as has the population of the mall.

I people watched as I slowly drank my coffee, there were lots of people all over the place, many had a bag or so in their arms. There were people on laptops in the coffee shop, some with friends, some that looked to be on dates, and then there was this one table that I couldn’t quite figure out. Sitting at this table there was what seemed to be a very well off lady, drinking her coffee, she was just beyond middle age, well made up, with a designer haircut, about 5 ft 5 inches tall, and 180 pounds. The lady was very nicely dressed in what I would assume to all be all new designer clothing, she wore a blue floral dress, designer shoes, lots of jewelry, and polished leather high heals. She seemed very relaxed, I would guess she was wealthy enough she didn’t need to work, this was mid day after all. The man who sat with her did not have a drink of his own and was not dressed so extravagantly, from the look of him, I assumed he was probably living on an income below the poverty line, his clothing looked plain, old, but looked clean and ironed, he had no jewelry that I could see. He was about 5 ft 8 inches tall, thin, in his early 30s, and fit. They did not look at each other or talk. The couple finished just moments before I did, so my thousand envelopes and I ended up following them out of the coffee shop.
Other than the physical differences between the two, I saw some other very obvious clues as to who they might be. While the lady was obviously leading the man, as she carried what seemed to be a very expensive designer purse. The man was following and carrying about fifteen designer brand name shopping bags, fanning out from his hips, which I would assume had just been purchased. I reasoned this man was an employee of the woman, brought with her on these shopping trips possibly as a driver, and then due to the fact that the woman bought more clothing that it looked like she could carry, he was her porter as well. The way this all played out, this looks like a common event for the two. It is possible that this woman never wore the same clothing twice, and maybe did not even wear some items once.

This particular mall had five stories to it, and conveniently at the front of the mall, there were four floors of escalators all facing the same direction with about a 20 ft gap between the top of one escalator, and the bottom of another. The up escalators lined up with the next up escalators, and the down with the down. Due to the efficiency of this design, not to mention the huge population of the shopping mall, I could not imagine just how many thousands of people that this row of escalators moved during a normal day, however at this there were at least 200 people using them, as well as another hundred or so queued on the islands between the escalators.

Just as this lady and guy reached the extremely busy center of the third floor island between escalators, something happened, this lady just figured out that she didn’t know where she wanted to go next. So she stopped, as did her servant. This was of course an immediate problem for the hundreds of people who were being pushed onto the already full escalator island by the up and down escalators. A lone person would have caused some inconvenience in such a place, but this wide girthed lady together with her servant and the 15 bags of clothing, were taking up the space of about five or so people.

A human traffic jam began almost immediately, things like this happen from time to time, so I expected the woman would figure out what was happening, and leave the busy area to let others past, but she seemed completely unaware of what was going on around her. As she put her finger to her lip for some harder thinking about what to do next, the man with the bags was looking around a bit worried at all the trouble they were causing, he looked to the lady, which he stood behind, but did not say anything to her, he seemed to be uncomfortable at the thought of informing her. People tried to force themselves by, but the population of the island was growing fast. After a few more seconds, I became scared, I was afraid that the escalator machinery’s continuous push of people both up and down from this spot was soon going to crush, injure and kill many people. I had a pain in my stomach about this possibility, and it seemed the man with the bags was concerned about this as well, I could see from his quick glances around that he was fully aware of what was going on, but his master was not, she stood there a while longer, it was getting very bad on the island, very dangerous, then she took her finger down from her lip, and walked back the way she came, not taking the escalator after all. Possibly she was not yet done shopping for the day.
Shopping mall escalator
I stood out of the way for a bit while the crowd died down, then took the escalator down to where I would get in my car.

As I was driving home I kept thinking about the incident, it had caused quite a bit of stress to me at the time, and it went over and over in my head…. you see what really bothered me about this situation, other than the possible horror this woman had almost caused to the other people in the mall, was that this shopaholic, slow thinking, ignorant woman was the boss to the man who carried her bags. She was the one that had the money, she was the one that was calling the shots here, yet the man who served her was obviously a hard worker of higher intelligence.

If this was truly a modern darwinistic world where the hard working and intelligent people were supposed to rise to the top, it would seemed far more logical that she should be following him, not the other way around.

How exactly did this lady have so much money, and therefore so much power over others?

I thought later of all the things she had just bought, all the people that needed to serve her in the stores, all the cotton farming, the picking, sewing, and delivery needed. The petroleum used for her bags has likely been fought over in wars causing people to lose their lives, not to mention the environmental destruction which goes along with it, the raw oil gets shipped and refined, processed and shipped again etc, the things she had bought had taken up enormous amounts of manpower, and were constructed from raw materials that came from all over the world. Yet she might only wear it once ? If that.

I can hear the average news watching economists saying “But, But, she creates jobs!”. However, she doesn’t really create jobs, what she creates is work, tons of it, and she creates environmental damage, and in this instance she created trouble. Maybe if someone wasn’t slaving away in the factory for her, they could be doing something better for someone else.

How much of humanities manpower is spent on this woman and people like her? How much work do we all need to do to support shopaholics? How much work does she do for society? From the looks of her, I would guess she takes countless millions of manpower work in her life, and probably gives zero in return.

The strangest part of this coming from me, a retailer, is that she would be my ideal customer, as much as I did not want her in front of me at the mall, people like her are what I need for my business survive. In fact I was out buying envelopes to serve consumers just like her in the first place. My lifestyle depends on shoppers and improves with over shoppers.

But how come she was in charge? How come all these hard working human beings need to serve her?

Does that seem right to you?

I hope one day soon, all the world’s shopaholics might find something better to do with their time, then all the poor workers who served them can take a well deserved break.

Welcome To The Machine

A few days ago I had a very strange experience, maybe not an overly unexpected one, but it was very strange just the same.

I had gone to the local shopping mall with my girlfriend to look for a new backpack and get something to eat. After a short while I found one particular bag which looked well built, and seemed to suit my needs . The bag was boasting quite an incredible guarantee, that they would fix the bag, forever, no matter what. Which I thought was fantastic because I had just worn through my second bag in the last couple of years, and having one I could really depend on, or get fixed for free would be a load off my mind.

I looked around for the sales rep and eventually found her, sitting behind the counter’s cash register, mostly out of sight, pressing virtual buttons on some sort of large tablet phone. Although this girl who was quite obviously hiding, and didn’t look like the world’s greatest employee, I thought she might have the answers I needed.

“Um, Excuse me” I said to her. “Could I ask you a few questions about this bag?”

She acknowledged me by raising her all powerful tablet tapping finger to let me know she would just be a minute, and then went back to tapping, what I assume was a message to her friend how I was rudely demanding some sort of service from her.

Tablets Everywhere

I looked to my girlfriend to give her my “WTF look” but she was also busy on her tablet phone a few steps away from me, and seemed to have no comprehension of what was going on here in the store.

The sales rep came over to me, and I walked her over to the bag I was interested in, then asked her if they would really replace the bag and repair for free. She said “Yes”, then went immediately back to the discussion on her tablet, slowly walking away from me. I wanted to ask her if I would bring it there for the repair, if it covered abuse, and whether or not I would need my receipt for the repair, with the knowledge that the thermal receipts in this store would be unreadable in a year, but she was already on her way back to sitting out of sight behind the cash register.

I decided to look around for someone else to help me, and I found much of the same nearby around the bag area, employees sitting down, hiding behind shelves, and various other things, all typing away on their tablets. Weird I thought, looking around from where I was standing I could see about twenty people or so, mostly clerks hiding, what seemed to be a manager, but also five or six other customers, and every single one of them, all of them including a couple of people walking, and my girlfriend, were pressing on the screen of their tablets. It was weird, like I was some sort of ghost or something, like we all were ghosts to one another, there was no vocal talking, eye contact or traditional socializing going on between anyone at all. Some people even had headphones on, satisfying not just their sight, and touch, but hearing as well.

I called to my girlfriend “Babe… Babe…” but she kept tapping away “Honey!” she looked up a second. “Put your phone away a minute, please.”

“Sec” she said and typed a bit more before lowering the phone a few inches. “What” she said

“Look around” I instructed her

She looked around a bit and said “What?”

“Look at everyone, every single person here is tapping away on their phone.”

She acknowledged it, then started to go back to her phone. I started to feel a bit worried about this, like it was a serious addiction for most people, including my girlfriend, I was worried about her, and humanity, and also feeling a bit alone.

I demanded she put the phone away or I would not buy her dinner, she did so, and I again pointed out the one hundred percent smart phone users around us.

We began to walk out of the store, which though filled with people, was completely silent except for the sound of our feet as they hit the ground, and the store music.

We left the store and proceeded to make our way to the restaurant for dinner, both of us were busy looking around to see if there was anyone NOT on their smartphones. There were some, but it was a small minority. Most people were sitting around pressing on their phones on the benches in the mall, but there were also many people walking down the halls, at a slow uneven pace, pressing on the phone as they went, blocking the progress of the two of us, who lacking a phone in our faces, were fully aware of our surroundings and traveling faster than the tablet users around us.

“Look at those two” I said, pointing out a couple, “walking all over the place slowly, and halve mindedly as they press on the phones, they have no more brainpower being used on their surroundings, or any more coordination than zombies.”

Mall Zombies

“Zombies” my girlfriend giggled.

There were many tablet zombie near collisions in the halls of the mall as we walked, and we even saw one couple of zombies collide head on, though at zombie speed I don’t think anyone can really get hurt.

“It’s scary” I said. “It’s a zombie apocalypse.”

As we went to the restaurant the people working at the restaurant were not on their smartphones, as well as most of the people eating, I felt like I was in a sort of reality bubble, but outside the windows more than sixty percent of all the people we saw were zombies. Scary stuff.

Have you looked up from your smartphone in public recently to see how many zombies are around you?

Although this song is not quite about becoming a smart phone zombie, it is the song I was thinking of while I looked at the zombie apocalypse around me.

Crank it up and enjoy.

Pink Floyd “Welcome To The Machine”(1975)

Welcome my son, welcome to the machine.

Where have you been? It’s alright we know where you’ve been.

You’ve been in the pipeline, filling in time,

provided with toys and Scouting for Boys.

You bought a guitar to punish your ma,

And you didn’t like school, and you know you’re nobody’s fool,

So welcome to the machine.

Welcome my son, welcome to the machine.

What did you dream? It’s alright we told you what to dream.

You dreamed of a big star, he played a mean guitar,

He always ate in the Steak Bar. He loved to drive in his Jaguar.

So welcome to the machine.

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