Monday, October 21, 2013

We are Generation X, and we still suck.

Hi, I'm from Generation X. Remember us? Basically if you're mid 30s to around 50 (in 2013), you're one of us. That's right, Generation X just turned 50. Think about that for a second.
It's no surprise there was no celebration.
We were quite the rage for a while, after which we learned the hardest fact of life in a new millennium: no one gives a shit for very long about anything. And the irony is, that is entirely our fault. In fact, most of the horrors we are facing right now in the world are pretty much the result of our incompetency, indifference, lack of drive and lack of common sense. If we didn't do it, we were helpless to preventing it from happening.
America as a super power, for example. Europe is a little sister to us, loving but kind of embarrassed at their big dumb brother who doesn't even get why he can't hold a job (or a girlfriend). They are host to a number of former failed super powers - Spain, Holland, Italy, Germany and Russia - so it makes sense they'd be kind, as we are about to join that club. South Asia has crushed us with their work ethic and devotion to education, while we continue to play mall cop to the planet. Anyone feel they'll be as benevolent in victory? Me neither.
The internet is another example (ahem) and something we claim credit for. Bullshit.
The internet can be traced back almost to the "Greatest Generation" (Generation G?!), specifically 1968, when the military created Arpanet as a post-apocalyptic means to communicate. And it was released for public use by order of ultimate Generation G icon George Herbert Walker Bush! And then it was developed from a secret network to Net 0.1 by the nerdiest Baby Boom minds, led by Generation B geniuses such as Tim Berners-Lee, Bill Gates, Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs. (Al Gore was strangely absent. Good thing he decided to concentrate on environmental science instead!)
What did we contribute? Essentially we loaded it with porn, penny stock traders, stolen goods on eBay and Bit Torrent, ads for insurance, video game shoot 'em ups, and videos of pets doing tricks. And bugs like Stuxnet, which will do more to bring a real apocalypse than any zombie plague ever will. And more porn.
It was inevitable we'd screw things up. We were the first generation to come of age with a pass to slack off. So that was our name, the "slackers" - living in spare family rooms, watching TV and getting loaded. Because we came of age at a time when we had, as a nation, a wealth that will probably never be equalled in the world again. And like any good rich boy or girl, we mismanaged it. Our subsequent Gen-X leaders in government and finance and business, our best and brightest, crashed that ship and burned it and it's now a ruin on the bottom of the ocean, and we don't know how to build another one. But damn if we can't build a thousand apps to help you score with chicks.
So clearly, we are not coping with middle age and going gray well, because we wasted our prime utterly and completely. I am particularly sensitive to this as a single man, because once upon a time, men in their 40s were prized for our awareness of ourselves and what women need from their man. That's exactly not the case anymore, as any woman who seeks love online will tell you right off. Goodbye "Mad Men", hello cock selfies.
We like to say "60 is the new 40" and "You're as young as you feel", as if to reassure ourselves that we can still put together a 10th inning upset and accomplish something our millennial successors won't hate us for. The 1968 Mets would be amazed at a upset like that. (And if you get that reference, you're probably Gen-B.)
There are some who are bringing the world back to normal, and making an effort to make it better as if such a thing was possible. And once again, as it should be, it's the young people. Y and Millenial have brought us Occupy,, a Mobile internet, 3D printing in your home, Maker Faires in every town, HD video production tools in every home, and the Criterion movie library streaming on demand. They're saying no to cars and fast food, having sex without marriage and kids (like, a lot) and demanding substantial changes to the way we think about our jobs and homes and bodies.
OK, we created the Criterion library in the first place. (Oh, how we love TV.) So maybe we don't completely suck. Besides, they brought us hipsters, twerking and Justin Bieber, so maybe they will screw up too.
Or maybe we'll have to settle for being #1 at that.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

What I've learned about our addiction to oil.

My latest class at which I've discussed here* is on Energy, and I'm happy to say it's going swimmingly. And may I say there is nothing like studying the facts, statistics and science of energy to make one go green as a tree. Here's something I learned today:

The USA and Saudi Arabia produce almost the same amount of oil.

Go ahead, let that sink in.
The USA produces 11,133,000+ barrels a day. Saudi Arabia leads us by 11,545,x?x barrels. A difference of 412,000+ barrels, or 94,000 more that Russia uses.
So gee, we should be doing awesome with our oil, right? But we're not. Why not?
We consume 18,554,0?0 barrels a day. That's more than ALL of Africa, South America and Australia. That's more than #2, #3 and #4 (Turkmenistan, Turkey and Syria) COMBINED. (15,700,000+)
Need more perspective? China consumes 7,000 barrels.
Seven. Thousand. Well, ever notice instead of traffic jams, they have roads packed with bicyclists? They need that oil to make your cheap plastic junk.
And how much did Saudi Arabia consume yesterday?
136,890 barrels.
Coming in clearer now? Good. And where, I bet you're wondering, is that difference in oil going? If you guessed gasoline, you get a cookie.
8,740,000+ barrels are refined into gas; 3,850,000 into diesel; a meager 1,430,000 into jet fuel. Significantly more than half of ALL the oil we consume - specifically, the is just for getting around. 2,700,000+ barrels are used to make plastics. A paltry 670,000+ barrels are used for heating our homes.
So what do we do? Walk to the mall? Buy electric cars? Demand the gas cars we can afford get much higher mileage than they do now?
How about all of the above? We don't need to do what the above countries have done to reduce driving - like, say, forbidding women to drive - when we have these tools at our disposal. Sure, we can also fly less, demand products that aren't throwaway plastic items, and solar panel our roofs. These are included in the "all of the above" policy.
As for me, I'm sure glad I took that other class, in bicycle maintenance.

*The SaaS class didn't do so hot. That's OK, I did better learning Ruby On Rails and Agile Management through, StackOverflow and Youtube. Maybe I had a poor attitude? :D

Read all the facts here: