Don’t Compare

My last post all the way back in 2014 was about salaries remaining stagnant despite massive increases in productivity, focusing on the USA. Recently I’m seeing more and more discussion about the difficulty that new college grads have getting work, and the headlines tend to be along the lines of “Millennials Increasingly Unable To Afford To Live!”

One thing that people keep trying to do which they shouldn’t is compare with the past. We’re not living in the past, it’s a different world! You can say that in the 1960s and 1970s that our parents were able to afford a 4-bedroom house with a car and annual vacations on only one salary, but the fact is there were HALF the number of people on this earth back then! 3.6 billion in 1970 compared to 7.2 billion now! That’s a crazy amount of growth. Technology and industrial processes have rapidly improved meaning that productivity has increased massively.

This means that land/property is becoming more valuable, and labour is becoming cheaper.

This is not the fault of the Boomer generation, nor is it the fault of the government. It’s progress, and this is exactly what should be expected (note I’m not commenting on whether this kind of progress is good or bad, it’s just progress.) It will take a change in civilisation at this point to halt the trend of consumerism that is driving this. And at the end of the day, most people don’t want that.

The same people that complain that they can’t find jobs are often the same people wishing for free college tuition for all. It’s not free, until teachers and colleges are willing to provide the services for free. Someone must pay. And if everyone has a college degree, how do businesses differentiate between candidates when so many people apply for the same jobs, and so many people study for worthless degrees?

The same college grads complaining about low entry level salaries are often the same people that consider smartphones to be essential, when in fact they are just adult toys. Very few people can honestly claim they need a smartphone to lead a full life without impacting their social or professional lives. If you have a low salary, don’t buy a smartphone!

Yeah, it sucks that houses in places like the USA and UK cost 10-15 times the average salary, when our parents paid 3-4 times their salary. But what are YOU going to do about it? Here’s a tip: don’t compare, don’t complain. What you’re really asking for is to slow down population growth and stop promoting consumerism. So, get rid of that iPhone and HD satellite package, adopt a child, have a small wedding, stop buying useless crap, eat out less, and do something useful.

Henry Ford Was A Dick

This post is a two-parter. I’m going to state what I think is going on and then back it up with some figures. You can draw your own conclusions in the comments.

The Rant

Thousands of years ago, before any kind of automation, people worked in order to grow things, craft things, move things, etc. Domestication of animals was one of the first forms of automation – instead of chasing animals around all day, why not keep some for breeding and then just pick them off when they are ready? Why drag things around by hand when you can use a horse? If there were no other jobs, this would have put people out of work, but people went on to become farmers. More people had time to study, colleges of sciences and arts started cropping up, and more professions were born.

Fast forward to 2014 and more jobs are being automated. More people are working on creating and maintaining these robots and processes that keep things going. That means less manual labour jobs and more desk jobs. CEOs of companies are now celebrities and they earn increasingly more than the basic workers at their companies. The CEOs earn so much more not because they are doing that much more work, but because their work is inherently more risky and the talents they bring are harder to find (compare this to professional athletes versus some dude at the gym).

More and more, school leavers are complaining that they have to study for many years, take on a lot of debt, and face an uncertain job market with bills that they cannot pay, and houses they cannot afford. This problem is getting worse every day. Most of our parents could afford a house in a nice area on a single salary in their late twenties.

But isn’t this all exactly as we should expect, the way our society is progressing? Using the smartphone as an example, in the USA it has become one of the most ubiquitous accessories. It assists us with our daily lives and can be considered an extension of our brains. It is also totally unessential for life. It may take 1000 people to develop and produce a smartphone, but that phone can be mass produced by machines and delivered to millions of people. Soon we won’t even need operators for those machines. If the human population doubles, we don’t need to double the number of workers making smartphones. So how do buyers continue to pay for those smartphones indefinitely? What do those people DO in order to make money in a world that is becoming more and more automated, and in a world where fewer workers are needed to produce the same quantity of things?

The answer is that more and more people simply don’t work. Those that do find work wherever they can, and if they can’t afford essentials and fall below the poverty line, governments pick them up and tax the people with money to give to the people without. It’s part of living in a modern society. But where does this end? What do we do when we run out of work for people? Do we end up with a rich few and poor majority with a struggling middle? Most probably, yes.

Sadly none of the predictions that people in the future would have more leisure time are coming true. People working ridiculous hours to make ends meet are still working ridiculous hours, even though those hours are unnecessary given the sheer number of people who don’t work.

Maybe it’s time to tell people that working 30 hours a week is OK and acceptable. Maybe people could use some of this spare time for some genuine good, like teaching children or cleaning up little, although I actually have no faith that most people would actually want to contribute to their community.

The Facts

  • In the US, average unemployment length has more than tripled since 1950 (source: BBC)
  • CEO salaries have increased ten times faster than employee salaries since 1950 (source: Huff Post)
  • Productivity in the USA went up by 75% from 1979 to 2012, though I think that a lot of this is down to investment in technologies to make work more efficient (source:
  • If the median US middle-class income of $51,017 grew at the same rate as the increase in productivity, people would make $77,131 (source:
  • In 1926, the Ford Model T was sold for $260. Taking into account inflation, this is $3,482 in 2014. The cheapest car currently on sale in the US today is the $12,780 Nissan Versa. That’s almost four times as much (sources: CLIO Journalinflation calculator)


So what do we do about this? Probably nothing, because stopping progress in a country like the USA where big business dictates country policy is not possible. I think the best that people can hope for is to change attitudes and understand that it’s never going to be as easy to get a house on a single income as it was in the 1950s.

PS. I don’t really think Henry Ford was a dick. He picked the best colour for the Model T, after all.

Selfie Generation

This BBC News article is the first time I’ve ever heard the tail end of Generation-Y be called the “Selfie Generation”. Anyway, the article discusses why younger people (16-24 year olds) are finding it so hard to get jobs.

Isn’t it obvious? We no longer live in a society where everyone needs to work – there just aren’t enough jobs for everyone. So our expectations need to change.

This short post is a precursor to a longer post I’m working on, tentatively called “Henry Ford Was A Dick”.

Image credit for this article to – don’t sue me please!

Top albums of 2013

If anyone cares, here are my top picks for best 2013 albums:

  1. Haim – Days Are Gone
  2. Lorde – Pure Heroine
  3. Avicii – True
  4. Chvrches – The Bones Of What You Believe
  5. M.I.A. – Matangi

I should mention that without Google Music, I probably wouldn’t have listened to any of these albums!


My 2010 MacBook Pro was starting to show its age when editing RAW photos. Not surprising, since each photo is about 25MB in size! I ordered a Samsung 840 EVO solid state drive to replace the 7200 rpm spinning platter I had in there. I forgot to measure the speed before but I figure it was around 140MB/s read/write. Now it is around 260MB/s and everything loads so much faster!

The computer boots from cold in 14 seconds – woo! Photoshop loads in about 6-7 seconds, and Safari practically instantly.

The drive itself feels like a mostly empty container – really light.SSD inside MacBook Pro


I think I’ve found out why more Americans are obese than in any other developed country. It’s not portion sizes – it’s portion naming.

People generally don’t like to rock the boat – they like to conform. This shouldn’t really be a surprise to most. It also shouldn’t be much of a surprise that restaurants like to up-sell, which means to make you choose something larger than normal for a little extra money.

So what this means is that given the option of a small, medium or large, people wanting to conform or just to get the average meal would pick the medium, without even looking at things like calories, or the sheer bulk of the food.

So my proposal to end the obesity epidemic is to rename the sizes to normal, fatty and uberchubba lardball.

Here’s another interesting post I found on Starbucks’ choice of naming. They say that the smallest size being called “tall” might make the consumer think more about the name and less about the calories or cost. They also suggest that “grande” might make people choose what they think is a more grand beverage.


People are goldfish

I was at a Maroon 5 concert last night and there were so many people taking photos and videos of the show, texting, looking at Facebook, posting stuff to Twitter and Instagram – in fact anything unrelated to simply being satisfied in the moment and enjoying the show. My job involves putting these devices into the hands of people. At one point these devices were critical for safety, communication and business, but now they are just expensive toys.

I watched one woman take a minute long video of her friends that were dancing next to her, then she reviewed the entire video on her phone while her friends were still dancing next to her. ARE YOU REALLY THAT BORED?

It was difficult not to see another in front of me spend the first half of the show trying to get the perfect crappy photo to share online – a blurry far-off shot taken from an angle of 45 degrees from the stage with thousands of heads in the way. WHAT’S THE POINT?

It’s kind of difficult not to notice this phenomenon when it’s all around you. I’ve been waiting in line for food at work and seen people open Facebook, scroll the feed quickly up and down, then exit the app, turn off the screen and turn it back on just 30 seconds later. Repeat and discover that nothing has changed. ARE YOU A GOLDFISH WITH A 30 SECOND MEMORY?

From one house to another

Last year after being a homeowner for 7 years, I paid $5,000 to let the house go. Being a homeowner for that time had its ups and downs. On the downside, I put a lot of money, time and effort into making the place wonderful, before having to pay money to get someone else to take it off my hands. I didn’t even get a chance to enjoy the deck I spent months building. I endured a lot of stress when a renter caused $10,000 worth of damage to it.

On the upside, I had a lot of fun times there. I had a lot of plans for the place (like putting in a hot tub) that will transfer to another house in my future.

A couple of weeks ago I bought a townhouse in Boulder in a much nicer area than my old house. I bought it primarily as an investment, but I would actually really like to live there! The previous owners made some really questionable interior design decisions like sponge-painting over the beautiful stained wooden doors and smearing what looks like poo on the downstairs walls. Some paint soon fixed that problem.