Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Thoughts on self-checkout

Last week I went to a store in the mall.  When I got in line, there were two cashiers each taking care of a customer, and a couple in front of me with an entire cart load of mostly clothes.  But it turns out the one cashier was going on her lunch break, so I ended up standing in line with my three items for almost ten minutes.

Not long after I got in line, two people got in line behind me.  There was an older woman and a man about my age.  I don’t think they were mother and son, but he might have been her nephew or something.  They had seen the one cashier leave – I don’t think they heard the reason – and they were talking – not loudly, just between themselves – about how with Christmas you would think the store would have more cashiers. 

At one point the guy said something about self-checkout, and the lady stated that she would never use one, and the guy said something about “they take jobs away from people.” I almost turned around to say, “Yeah, crappy jobs,” but I just shook my head.  But figured I could get a blog post out of writing up my thoughts on this topic.

Since I don’t make enough money with my books, I have a crappy part time job so I can pay my bills.  I spend hour after hour after hour standing behind a register lying to people.  Meaning thirty plus people an hour ask me “How are you?” and I lie by saying, “Fine,” or “Okay,” instead of admitting, “My feet hurt, my back hurts, I have a headache, and my throat is sore from making small talk with all you people.” In case you’re wondering, while I’m not the friendliest cashier at the store, I’m probably the fastest.

Now in the store I work at there isn’t room to put in the standard multiple self-checkout, but if they somehow put one in, I’d be thrilled.  Aren’t you worried about losing your job? I’m sure some of you are asking.  In theory, no.  Because me losing my job would have little to do with self-checkout.

These aren’t the actual numbers, I’m just using them to give the basic idea.  The store is open 100 hours a week.  And Corporate tells the manager that they have 300 hours of work for the employees.  Now if all the hours could be split up evenly, that would mean there would be three employees working at all times.  But that’s not what happens.  Once a week, we get a pallet or two of frozen/refrigerated items: ice cream, pizzas, eggs, etc.  Someone has to put it away.  And once a week, we get a semi that brings everything else in the store.  All that has to be put away.  And the stuff that doesn’t fit out right away, gets put in the back as overstock, and that has to be worked at some point to get it out of the way for the next load that comes in.  So on truck days, there are more people working, meaning that for large chunks of the week, there are only two employees in the store.

Especially now with Christmas, we pretty much need two people on register all the time.  Which means there’s nobody working overstock, or fixing the shelfs (people decide they’re not going to get a bag of chips, but instead of returning it to the chip aisle they just stuff it in with the diapers), or just basic things like sweeping the floor.  Basically, there is more work to do than there are people to work it.  So why don’t you hire more people? some of you are asking.  Because that would cut into Corporate’s profits.  Or they would raise prices to pay for the additional workers.  They are in business to make money, not to have the best store where everything is always put away, everything is always clean, and there are always plenty of cashiers.

In theory, if we had self-checkout that would mean there would be more time for people to do these other things than to be chained to a register.  Of course, if we got self-checkout, it’s likely Corporate would then only give the manager 200 hours of work. 

So don’t feel bad using self-checkout, thinking you’re taking away someone’s job.  It’s not that simple.

Monday, October 29, 2018

One hundred years from now

I know that in this time of scandal, outrage and terrorism, a lot of us are beaten down just trying to make it through the day.  But I want you to take a moment and think about the soldiers in World War I.  One hundred years ago that war was almost, finally, coming to an end.  And those soldiers in the trenches would have been absolutely flabbergasted at a movie in color and with sound.  Just imagine what they would think of cell phones, 3D printers, and the moon landings.  Which begs the question, what normal, everyday things for the people a hundred years hence would completely blow our minds?

The point of this is that while it can be a bitch just making it through the day, at times we need to think of the future.  And not just the next year or five.  What are you doing today to make the lives of your kids and grandkids a hundred years from now better?

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Quick thoughts on the new Doctor

So the other day “The Woman Who Fell to Earth” aired marking the first episode of the Thirteenth Doctor as played by Jodie Whittaker.  Afterwards I saw many tweets and Facebooks posts about how she is now some people’s favorite Doctor.  And I found that a little … odd.  By no means am I saying she’s a terrible Doctor, it’s just that I enjoyed Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor, but it took half a season or so for me to realize that I enjoyed David Tennant’s Doctor more.  My current ranking of my favorite, new Doctors goes Tenth, War, Twelfth, Ninth, Eleventh.  I don’t know where Thirteen fits yet.

Trying to fit her in based on her first episode is, as I said, odd.  Especially since the episode itself wasn’t – in my opinion – all that special.  I mean, the Doctor is a little out of it because their regeneration is still cooking.  When have we seen that before, except in “The Christmas Invasion,” “The Eleventh Hour,” and “Deep Breath.” Give me four or five regular episodes to see the fully formed Doctor in new adventures and then I’ll start jostling her into my rankings.

One thing that does give me hope that Thirteen ranks pretty high, is that in “The Woman Who Fell to Earth” there were a few moments where I thought I saw the Twelfth Doctor shining through.  I can’t really put my finger on it, but there were a couple of lines and just the way she said them or moved made me think of Peter Capaldi.  If it wasn’t just my imagination, then we could be looking at some good Doctor Who.  Let’s hope we have the combination of a good Doctor with good writing.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

So you downloaded these gun plans from the internet?

There is currently a bit of a brouhaha over the plans for 3D printed guns.  Many fear that criminals – even terrorists – with access to a 3D printer will be able to make untraceable guns they will use to do horrible things with.  Many want these plans banned.  But in all likelihood, if you dug into the dark web far enough, various plans are already out there.  There’s no putting the genie back in the bottle; thanks to the internet, the bottle is smashed.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that many who want these plans banned are probably also anti-NRA.  Something I’ll point out to these people is that some years ago I read that the NRA was against 3D printed guns.  The reason being that if people could make their own guns, they wouldn’t have to buy them from gun manufacturers.  And if the gun manufacturers lost money, they’d have less money to give to the NRA to lobby politicians.  If responsible gun owners start making their own guns, some of these manufacturers may even go under.  It’s unlikely they’ll take the NRA with them, but without the fear of “the government taking all the guns” and a dying industry to lobby for, what will the NRA do?

Anyway, the point of this blog was to share an idea for a story I had a few years ago.  I thought it an interesting idea, but one I never got around to working on.  Which sucks because it would be perfectly topical right now.  The idea was this anti-gun group would flood the internet with plans for 3D printed guns.  Why would they do that you ask?  The plans would have defects in them.  Some might be obvious – the barrel turned around so it shoots whoever pulls the trigger – but many would have subtle defects.  Instead of blowing up in your hand the first time you shoot it, maybe every shot increases the chance of a crack forming in a critical component, eventually leading to it jamming.  With thousands of plans out there, how will people know which are the goods ones?  And if you see a glowing review for the Boomstick 4000 from TrumpJesusUSA47, how will you know if it’s a true review of an actual gun and not from someone hoping this junk gun will blow up in the face of anyone dumb enough to print it?

Downloaders beware.