Thoughts

A pandemic of laziness

The rhythm of life in a temperate climate with four seasons is, understandably, cyclic. Spring is when nature thaws and outside work begins. Summer is when the work goes on in earnest, with a view of the cold seasons to come. Building work, for example, requires the summer heat for foundations, masonry, painting, etc. Agricultural work is spread out through the three warmer seasons. Autumn is when nature begins to wind down and withdraw into itself, and people tend to do the same. The focus of the work shifts to gathering and getting ready for the winter that is almost in sight. The coming freeze is made inescapably clear by the cold, frosty mornings of autumn. The signs are all there and no one can deny them.

As I worked on our NGO’s charitable projects last year, which involved a lot of landscape and building work, I saw certain signs as well. By the end of the summer and in the fall, it was undeniable to me. Wherever I went, people just didn’t want to work. The concept of an honest day’s work got lost on most people. Somehow, it’d become esoteric to them. I have already attempted to exorcise it back into something known and unmysterious, through a post I wrote on the very subject.

Then, winter came and with it came a certain time when we all had to put… time… aside for reflection (or drivel, as the case may be). We all call that time now “the coronavirus pandemic”. It stretched on and on through spring and just as summer came round the corner, we were free (almost) once again to resume our work. The pace did indeed become frenetic, given the prolonged pause we were all forced to partake, but to my dismay, most people did not choose to engage in productive work, re-confirming last year’s observations.

I would have thought that economic activity would begin with a fury, with people wanting to make up for lost time, especially given the dim prospects of facing more waves of restrictions and economic troubles in the fall and winter but no, the frenetic pace was set mainly by people trying to organize parties and barbeques, to find places to vacation and by those eager to protest and vandalize anything and everything under the sun. I think I can best describe this frenetic post-quarantine activity with one phrase: no rhyme or reason whatsoever — wild flailing of arms and tongues, mad goings to and fro, but ultimately meaningless.

As I pointed out in a previous post, pent-up frustrations will out, and perhaps I’ll write a future post on the anarchic, asinine, “bite the hand that feeds you and shit your own bed” tendencies of the current post-modern ideologies that are driving these protests, or rather driving the people brainwashed into believing them into utter chaos and certain disaster, but for now I’d like to focus on an epidemic of much larger proportions than the coronavirus epidemic: rampant, universal laziness. At some point, this might have been called endemic, but we can safely call it epidemic, and we could even go so far as to call it a pandemic: a global pandemic of laziness. Many more people are infected with it than COVID-19 and with no cure in sight, many will die from it as well.

When I look at the generations of today that are of working age, what I mostly see is a blithe indifference to the inescapable, undeniable fact that life must contain a certain proportion of work. I’m talking about real work, hard work, an honest day’s work, backbreaking work, drudgery, sweaty bits and bobs, wet back, red neck kind of work. It simply must. Our mammalian bodies need this physical work in order to stay in condition. Going to the gym for an hour or so a few times a week is a poor substitute for proper physical work. Life requires work. Achievements require work. Even the pleasurable bits of life consist of physical labor, as horny teenage boys with sweaty palms will surely attest, several times a day.

And yet, once the people of today reach working age, they begin to assume, wrongly, that life can somehow function without work. Never mind us working, the robots will do our work and the government will pay us a universal basic income that will free us from the torture of work and allow us to focus on our creative sides, such as scratching our balls and asses as we watch television, or liking absolutely inconsequential posts on Facebook or Instagram. Let’s just do a bit of shopping with that free government money, let’s throw in a bit of work on the car, like upgrading the subwoofers or mufflers (for the completely tasteless), maybe get a little tattoo here and there, a bite or ten of fast food, and life is good and complete for probably 90-95% of people.

While this kind of stuff may allow various societies to slide by for a number of years, coasting on the hard work of a few motivated individuals, things will inevitably slip from existence to subsistence, and that is where the civilized world is headed if people don’t start doing some proper work.

Nobody wants to do physical labor anymore. Everyone wants to click around on a computer screen all day for greater pay. Most of the “white collar” work has become a joke, with everyone pretending to work but actually doing as little of it as possible, and very few people willing to do “blue collar” work, which is actually what builds and maintains civilizations. I’m not saying that blue collar work builds the arts and humanities or the sciences, but our physical world requires blue collar work in order to build and maintain the infrastructure that supports the higher endeavors. Let me put it to you this way: someone’s gotta lay the internet cables, build the routers and assemble the phones and tablets that you use to faff around all day while pretending to work. How about the obsession of modern man with food, which must be stuffed into their mouths at all times, in all sorts of forms? Out of the population of any civilized country, the percentage of people engaged in agriculture is ridiculously tiny, and in my view, it’s not because of agri-giants, it’s because no one wants to do the back-breaking work of tending to the lands and the farms. Thank goodness there’s farm machinery available that allows fewer people to still do all of the farmwork that’s needed to keep all those office workers well-fed to the point of morbid obesity, because we’d all be in for a seriously rude wake-up call otherwise.

I look around me and I see so few people willing to work hard, willing to put in an honest day’s work. I don’t care what their excuses are. Even if it’s just for a crummy, humdrum job, someone with a backbone will want to put in some good work so they can sleep well at night. Apparently, a lot of people have lost their backbones, because most of them aren’t doing good work. Look around you. Out of your circle of friends and acquaintances, how many of them put in an honest day’s work? Don’t tell me, just figure it out for yourself. Isn’t it worrisome once you do the math? Heck, look at yourself and be honest, you don’t have to tell me, you just have to admit it to yourself: have you been putting in an honest day’s work, day in and day out, in recent years? Please don’t post a comment to brag about how much work you’re doing. Just do a bit of self-assessment and be brave enough to admit to yourself where you stand.

I’m not saying we should be working to the point of breaking down our bodies, day in and day out. We should have a balance. Those of us who predominantly do office work should have 1-2 full days of proper physical labor each week, in order to keep things in balance. Those of us who predominantly do physical labor should have 1-2 full days of restful work each week, once again in order to keep things in balance. And wouldn’t you know it, that’s what weekends are good for? Office workers should, for their own health and personal satisfaction, engage in serious physical labor during the weekends, around their houses or in volunteer work with various organizations in their communities. Factory workers and those who do mainly physical labor should, for their own health and personal satisfaction, spend their weekends educating their minds by reading or watching documentaries on various subjects, meeting with friends and having meaningful conversations (not getting drunk and stuffing their stomachs).

I for one am having such a hard time finding people to help us with our physical work. About the only people who are willing to work, from my experience, are the older generations who’ve grown up under very different circumstances than today’s working youth and adults, and active or ex-military folks, who’ve served and know what it means to work hard. All the rest of them are just fluff. They simply can’t handle a full day of physical work. Most people I’ve seen are ready to fall down after a half hour of serious work, and that’s so problematic, in so many ways. The youth are the worst: they’re pampered little simps who parade in and out of coffee shops, instagramming their meaningless, unproductive lives, unable to read or write properly, subject to every whimsy of their “influencers”. I have seen so few of them that know the value of work. If I were to estimate, I think less than half a percent would be a fairly accurate figure. Everyone’s trying to make a fast buck without the work. It simply doesn’t bode well for the future of work and for our future as the human race. If things keep going this way, I truly hope that robots will become advanced enough and affordable enough so they can do the hard work, because everyone will simply be too old, too fat or too frail and out of practice to do anything worthwhile.

PS. I realize the youth critique is historically repetitive, and that virtually every older generation decries the state of their youth, yet I look at how much the older generations have accomplished and I am in awe. With every passing generation, we are accomplishing less and less, and we’d be in seriously bad shape if leaps in productivity, invention, automation and mass production didn’t offset the gradual and certain loss in elbow grease. Less and less people are doing the work that carries our civilization forward. Most are sitting back and benefitting, without having contributed. I look at what the young generations are accomplishing right now (triggered SJWs, influencers flogging shit left and right, carpentry faffers on YouTube more concerned with sucking up the dust in their workshops than doing any substantive woodwork, etc. ad nauseam), and I shudder.

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Places

Laying the roof on the stair scaffold of the Magarei Kirchenburg

This video describes and shows the work that we did in order to lay roof tiles and finish up some other work on a reconstructed wooden scaffold that will serve as the stairwell to the clock tower of the Saxon fortified church in the village of Magarei (Pelișor) in Southern Transilvania, Romania. This was the continuation of a woodworking project that took place this summer. That project/workshop was co-organized by Stiftung Kirchenburgen, the Saxon foundation with whom we’ve partnered for the conservation and restoration efforts there, and it was sponsored in part by the Prince of Wales Foundation and the Order of Romanian Architects.

This part of the work was done by ourselves, Asociatia P.A.T.R.U., our NGO that we set up for the specific purpose of conserving and restoring the parochial house and fortified church in that Saxon village. I invite you to visit our NGO’s website and find out more about the work we’re doing.

Merry Christmas!

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A Guide To A Good Life

Things everyone should know about technology

The fourth video in a new series where I talk about the people, experiences and things that have helped me in life. Who knows, perhaps they’ll help you as well. This one lists the things we all need to know about the technology we use everyday (computers, tablets, phones, routers, backups), in order to use them efficiently, increase our productivity and avoid frustration and swindles. Enjoy!

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Thoughts

Work

The single highest purpose in life.

The more one lives, the more they ask themselves about the meaning of life. What’s the point of it all? Why are we here? Who made us? We get into all these complicated discussions about origins and God and the afterlife, discussions that amount to just about zero. All the while life goes on, with or without our answers.

The point is, we are here. And if our lives are to have any meaning, if we are to get any enjoyment from them, we need to contribute. We need to do something. We need to work. It’s not an external mandate but an internal one. We ourselves get to find out that our lives have less and less meaning once we stop working. Even if it’s work we don’t like, it still gives some meaning to our lives. And when we do like it, oh boy, then our lives become wonderful!

Some of you will say, “Surely love is the single highest purpose in life. You’ve got your priorities wrong.” Nope. Love without work is dead. That’s a paraphrase, and I bet it sounds familiar to some of you. The actual quote is “Faith without works is dead.” A wise man wrote it. What is love but a kind of faith? The two imply each other. Faith cannot exist without love and love without faith just isn’t love. Furthermore, what would your love be worth to your partner without works? If you profess your love for them, but your deeds (your works) say otherwise or say nothing at all, then that love is dead. I’m not talking about esoteric things here, I’m talking about human love, the kind I hope you’re experiencing in your lives.

If all this talk about work is ringing false for you, then I am sure you don’t like your work. You see, for most of our written history, a lot of people have been engaged in doing unpleasant work. That’s still going around these days. Instead of each of us thoughtfully considering what work we should do, because we can do that nowadays, we jump at jobs for the wrong reasons, only to find out we hate them, and therefore we wrongly assume we hate work.

Even if we can’t pick our jobs, we can actively choose to do the jobs we have better. It’s a choice we can make every day, to do good work and let that be what makes us happy in our jobs. When we do that, the wonderful thing that will happen over time, is that our jobs will get better. We’ll find ways to make them better and new opportunities may open for us, perhaps advancement, perhaps other jobs that we’ll love. But we have to do good work first. We have to make that choice and we have to follow it through.

Rest assured when I tell you that work is the highest purpose in life, and that we can only find meaning in life by doing good work.

In recent years, research has been done on productivity that has shown that people who take proper vacations (where they break off from work completely) are more productive in their jobs. It’s easy to misinterpret those results and say that we need more vacations as rewards for substandard work, but I’d like to point out with quite a bit of personal certainty that vacations only make people who love their jobs more productive. In case you hate your job, you’ll simply dread going back to work and once you’re back, you’ll do the same crappy work you’ve done in the past. When someone loves their job, the contrast of being away from it is what charges them up. It’s the lack of work that winds them up like a spring-driven toy, and once they’re back, they unleash their newly gained energy on the work they love. That’s why we see increased productivity.

Instead of asking ourselves charged, difficult questions about the meaning of life and our origins, we should be asking questions like these, questions that will help us see right away that our lives have purpose and are worth living:

  • Am I working?
  • Am I doing good work? (Here I’m referring to the quality of our work.)
  • Is my work contributing to the greater good?
  • Do I like my work?

If the answers to those four questions are yes, then I’m fairly sure your life is good and you’re also feeling good. You wake up each day with a sense of purpose and at the end of the day, though you’re tired, you go to bed content because you’ve done good work. If not, then find out how you can turn that no into a yes. You know exactly what to tackle in order to get your life in… order.

These questions are also good criteria to be used when evaluating those in our societies who prefer to shirk work, the goldbricks, the ones who seek to be on social aid perpetually, the ones who complain about not having enough and about being downtrodden while they sit at home wasting their days glued to their TVs, making children so they get more aid from the government. Sadly, there are plenty of those human bed bugs around. What’s even more sad is that governments are willing to tolerate them and use them for cheap votes instead of requiring work from them. Those are exactly the kinds of people who deserve to do unpleasant jobs, because they’ve been living off the blood and sweat of honest folk and they haven’t contributed anything to the greater good. They need to go through plenty of tough work so they can compensate society for their squalid, useless lives where they’ve only consumed resources and generated trash and bodily waste.

Okay, back to pleasant things…

Let me entreat you to find work that’s meaningful to you. See if you can do work that contributes to society somehow, work that adds to our civilization, that builds upon that of others in order to yield even better results.

If you’re retired, see if you can do some consulting or mentoring work for 3-4 hours each day. Not only will you supplement your fixed income, but you’ll wake up each day with a renewed sense of purpose and you’ll contribute your lifetime of experience to those who need it, even if they’ll take a while to realize it.

Here’s to good work from all of us! 🤲

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Places

At the office

Here are a few photos of objects around my office, taken a few years ago. One of the photos has the exact date and time when it was taken written on it, but not in the typical way, where the camera imprints the text in the corner. I’ll let you see it for yourselves. Enjoy!

See the ColdFusion handbook in this photo? ColdFusion (by itself, without the Java layer recently shoehorned into it by Adobe) was and is the best programming language. It’s so high-level that a few lines of code can do what would otherwise take pages of low-level code in other languages. I find that very elegant.

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Video Log

The need for true craftsmen

I filmed a short vlog today about the need for true craftsmen, which is becoming more apparent in developed countries pretty much everywhere. The more emphasis is placed on white collar jobs, IT and college degrees, the less people you have going to vocational schools in order to learn how to become craftsmen. Countries don’t run on computers alone. We need people doing real, physical work, building the infrastructure and taking pride in their jobs, building with the best methods and to the highest quality available to them, otherwise fields like construction are going to get worse, not better. (Have you looked at the build quality of the sheds we call “homes” these days?)

I hope you take a few minutes to watch the entire video and do your part to encourage your children or your students in schools to become real craftsmen. They can make a good living, even a great living, doing craftwork, and they can do it without going into debt by the tens of thousands of dollars, getting college and post-graduate education which isn’t going to be useful to them. If you’d like a list of good, honest trades and crafts, this article which lists 19th century occupations alphabetically should help.

I’m not alone in my views. You can also watch Mike Rowe, host of “Dirty Jobs”, give a testimony before Congress where he urges the US government to encourage our children to choose to go to vocational and tech schools, because there’s a real need for these kinds of people in the US economy.

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Thoughts

A long commute may push you toward divorce

I’ve been a proponent for telecommuting for years, and I’m glad to see more proof — such as this article, which presents research from Sweden, where they’ve found that long commutes (around 45 minutes) make you 40% more likely to divorce, and also re-inforce gender-based stereotypes, where the man will usually have the better job and do the long commutes, while the woman is forced to take a lower-paying job closer to home.

According to the study, 11 percent of Swedes have a journey to work that consists of a 45-minute commute or longer. Many commuters have small children and are in a relationship. Most are men.

The risk of divorce goes up by 40 percent for commuters and the risk is the highest in the first few years of commuting.

And more Swedes are travelling farther distances to work.

“The trend is definitely pointing upward. Both the journey to work and the working hours are getting longer, “ Sandow told The Local.

The study was based on statistical data from two million Swedish households between 1995 and 2000.

This article in The Economist echoes the research, and offers additional arguments:

Ms Lowrey ends up running through the whole litany of traditional commuter complaints—that it makes us fat, stresses us out, makes us feel lonely, and literally causes pain in the neck—and finds research to prove that the moaners are, more often than not, right. “People who say, ‘My commute is killing me!’ are not exaggerators,” she concludes: “They are realists.”

This of course is in addition to the arguments I’ve already put forth in the past, such as in this article offering reasons for telecommuting, or this article about reducing waste in business operations.

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Events

Site migration complete

Last night, I completed what could be called an unusual site migration. I went from a self-hosted WP install to WP.com. That’s right, my full site is now hosted at my WP.com account. People usually migrate from WP.com to WP self-installs after their site gets big and they decide they want more options, like the ability to run all sorts of ads and fiddle with the code, etc. With me, it was the opposite. I wanted to stop worrying about my web server and focus on publishing my content.

As I mentioned here, things got worse after upgrading to WP 2.9. My server kept going down for no reason, and often, too. It’d go down several times a day. I’d have to keep watching it all the time, and that got old real quick, especially when I traveled and had no internet access. I’d often get home to find out my site was down and had been down for several hours, if not more. Since I hadn’t mucked about with my server to make things worse, and had already fiddled with optimized my Apache, MySQL and PHP settings to last me a lifetime, I decided to have WP have a go at hosting my site and let them worry about keeping it going. Judging by the initial results, it looks like they had a bit of trouble with it too (see this, this, this and this), but at least it’s not my headache anymore.

During the migration process, I learned three things:

  1. I hadn’t been getting full XML transcripts of my site in the past, when I used WP’s WXR Export feature. See this for more, and make sure you’re not in the same boat.
  2. The WordPress Import wizard still needs a TON of work to iron out the bugs. You’ll see why below.
  3. WordPress.com Support can be terribly unresponsive. I waited over 20 days for a resolution to my ticket about the site migration, and in the end, I had to work things out myself. When I told them as much — and I tried to be as nice as possible about it — it would have been nice to get a small apology, but I didn’t even get that.

Granted, my site migration does not represent the usual WP user’s migration path, nor was it a typical migration. By current count, I have 1,552 posts, 4,129 comments and 3,090 media files. That’s quite a bit more than your average blogger, and I think that’s what served to point out the bugs in the Import Wizard.

What exactly were the bugs?

  • Failure to import all posts, comments and media files
  • Post and media file duplication
  • Failure to properly change all paths to media files (either image source or image link or both)

Here’s where I need to acknowledge the help I did receive from WP Support. My WXR file was over 20 MB. The WXR upload limit at WP.com is 15 MB. WP Support modified the upload limit to allow me to go through with the WXR upload, and they also adjusted the timeout limit, because the migrations timed out prematurely as well. So I thank them for that help.

The big problem turned out to be the third issue mentioned above. The Import Wizard didn’t change all the paths to the image files. It turned out to be a very hit-or-miss operation. Given the scale of the operation, I might even call it a disaster. Some posts were fine, some weren’t at all, and some were a hodge-podge of images that were okay, and images whose paths were wrong, or whose links were wrong, or both. You might imagine that checking and fixing the image paths for over 3,000 media files can turn out to be a very big job, and it was.

I was also under pressure to finish the job quickly, since the site was live. Imagine how you’d feel as a reader if you visited a website and none of the image files showed up — you’d probably think the site was dead or dying, right? Well, I certainly didn’t want people to think my site was on its last legs, so I had to act quickly.

Thankfully, only (sic) about 40% of my posts had their image files messed up. The rest were fine, but then I also had plenty of posts with no images. If all my posts contained images, I might have had 90% of my posts to worry about… Still, I had to check every post, and as you might know if you’re a regular reader, I post lots of images per post, and where a post was messed up, brother, I had to do a bunch of work to get it fixed up. Just as an example, some posts have anywhere from 20-50 images…

Here are a couple of screenshots that show you how things stood. Here, the image link was okay, which meant I didn’t have to modify it. This was a happy scenario. However, the image path was still wrong, as you’ll see below.

The image source, or path, didn’t change during the import process, which meant I had to change it manually, or browse for the image by title or file name in the media library and re-insert it.

The image size was also lost, which meant that if I changed the image path manually, I had to also enter the width of the image.

What made things more cumbersome was the lack of an image insert button in the Gallery dialog box. That’s one of the differences between a WP self-install and WP.com. This meant that even though I’d uploaded a certain image for a certain post, and it showed on the Gallery tab, I couldn’t go there and re-insert it into a post. I had to go to the Media Library tab, search for it, then re-insert it, which takes precious time and clicks, particularly when you’re dealing with thousands of images.

In spite of all the extra work which I had to do, and which took about 1½ weeks of my time, I got done last night. My site is now fully functional, thank goodness!

As for my experience with WP Support, there are no hard feelings. I like the WordPress platform and it’s done good by me so far. I wasn’t a VIP customer and they didn’t have any financial incentives (besides the small fees for a space upgrade and a domain mapping) to get their hands dirty with my code. They offered minimal support, and to a certain degree, that’s to be expected when most of your customers are non-paying customers, as is the case with the large majority of WP bloggers.

Still, I would encourage them to consider doing the following:

  • Improve their Import Wizard so that it will not terminate until it checks and doublechecks to make sure it has imported all the posts, comments, pages, tags, categories and media files, and all the paths to the media files are correct. They’ve still got one of my WXR files, and they can use it as case study to help improve the accuracy of the import wizard.
  • Include an image insert button on the Gallery tab of the “Add an Image” dialog box, like the one that already exists on WP self-installs.
  • Offer the functionality of the Search & Replace WP plugin for WP.com blogs. This would have been a huge help to me as I fixed the image paths. I could have run a couple of queries on my blog’s content to change most of the image paths, and it would have halved my workload.

If you were one of the folks who kept seeing no images during this transition period, sorry for the inconvenience, and I’m glad you’re still around. If you’re still seeing no images, definitely get in touch with me, I might have missed a few — after all, I’m only human.

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Thoughts

One way to respond to stress

I was reminded today of something I’ve known for a long time, something that still hasn’t become second nature to me. I was faced with stressors, and how I chose to respond to those stressors determined my mood and milieu for the rest of the day. On a long-term basis, the sum of all these responses determines how my body will look. Scary, isn’t it?

Hence, a rule I will try to keep in my mind at all times: my response to stress is determined by my attitude, which in turn determines how my body feels and looks afterward.

There have been countless times in the past when my attitude toward a stressful situation caused me pain (anger, headaches, malaise, arguments), and yet, today, and a few other times, a simple switch in the way I chose to perceive the situation (it wasn’t even a complete 180° turnaround, just a different way of looking at the problem) allowed me to roll with the punches and go right on with my business. Instead of being stumped by stress, I overcame it and that allowed me to be productive and avoid feeling ill.

I remember my dad telling me about attitude more than a decade ago, when I was in college, but as a wise man once said, college is wasted on youth. It didn’t stick then, and it’s still not sticking. Sure, it sounds nice and you and I agree with this stuff (I bet you’re nodding your head right now) but until you bang your head against the wall a few hundred/thousand times, you don’t get to learn this lesson.

The simple heart of the matter is that I can look and feel like this…

raoul-at-work-2

… or I can look and feel like this.

raoul-and-ligia-at-home-7

I’ll take the latter any time, because I know the costs involved with the former state.

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