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.

What Should I Sell On The Internet?

As most of you know, I sell products on the internet to make a living these days, recently a friend of mine also expressed an interest in starting a similar type of business, so he asked me what I though he should sell to make some money. I gave him a few suggestions and explanations for my reasoning which I have put for you below.

I sell t-shirts, but I would not recommend this to others, had I understood the amount of stock I would need on hand and the work I would have to do to sell a few shirts for such low profit, I probably would not have quit my day job.

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91% Failure!
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What I recommend is that if you are going to sell stuff on the internet, and going to build up a new website from scratch as I did, due to a lack of visitors, you will find yourself lucky to make a single sale each day for the first year or so, therefore it is best to sell items that will not become quickly outdated. If you sell products you need to move quickly through, such as electronics, which become outdated, devalue quickly and have a low profit margin even at the best of times, you will soon find yourself stuck with a lot of stock that nobody will buy from you at a profit, also you will need to be updating the website faster than you can probably work alone and will need to hire a team of expensive professionals just to keep up.

Apache Helicopter

Sell Used Helicopters

I believe you should sell the most expensive items you can afford to, the reason for this is you have the opportunity to make the most profit per item purchased, or package sent. For example, I remember one time last year where I needed to get someone a particular color and size of shirt that we had run out of stock on, due to a high number of unexpected complications, it must have taken me about nine hours of my time to fill the order, this is not normal, but it does happen, and for my nine hours of hard work, I only received about seven dollars profit, if you compare this to people who sell helicopters online, yes you can buy helicopters online, who make a few hundred thousand for the same amount of time, you can see that my shirt business is not necessarily the worlds best idea, but it was all I could afford to start with.

If you are really low on cash, and have even less then what I started out with, which was approximately fifty thousand American Dollars, you can try some drop shipping companies. If you put “drop shipping companies” into a search engine, you will find all sorts of companies that hold all the stock for you to sell, and you can simply buy one item at a time from them, after your customers have already paid you, and then get them to send directly to your customers. This is a great alternative to holding stock, but I gave up on drop shipping in the first year myself, due to my lack of traffic, by the time I actually sold stuff, they were already out of stock on the items.

The biggest problem for any web based business will always be getting enough traffic to stay afloat, too many people subscribe to the “If I build it they will come” philosophy, which is probably a good reason why nearly one hundred percent of all web start ups fail. You really would not believe the competition out there that you have to deal with, you really have to be the best of the best to survive these days.

After four years of sixty hour weeks, and being fortunate enough to have most of the best shirts in the world available for me to sell, I am now almost making the same as what I used to make at one of the crappier day jobs I quit a decade ago, so you have to be seriously committed to do what I am doing. I heard someone say recently that to create a successful commercial website in today’s market you needed to have blind ignorant faith equaling that of many religions.

The Author Made Some Money

There is a constant push on the internet and in the news about how starting a web based business is a good idea, but statistics prove otherwise, it is a bad idea, in fact the only people that seem to really be making any money online are those that create websites for hopeful “entrepreneurs” or offer paid services to market their businesses for them. This reminds me of how a long time ago in the Klondike gold rush, the people who sold the miners supplies made much more money than the miners themselves. These are the people telling you it is a good idea, don’t listen to them too much, I would suggest never listening to anyone that is trying to get money from you.

If you still want to start an online business, you may as well get started, it doesn’t matter if it succeeds or not as long as you don’t invest too much into it. I started three websites before the one I have now, never made a penny off them, but this one does pay the bills. You should not think of the internet as a great place to get rich quick, these days the best you can hope for a chance to get rich eventually.

Wish You Were Here – Pink Floyd Lyrics and Video

This is a song that has been stuck in my had now for a little over two decades, one of my favorites. Wish you were here by Pink Floyd.

Enjoy!

Pink Floyd : Wish You Were Here


So, so you think you can tell
Heaven from Hell,
Blue sky’s from pain.
Can you tell a green field
From a cold steel rail?
A smile from a veil?
Do you think you can tell?

And did they get you to trade
Your heroes for ghosts?
Hot ashes for trees?
Hot air for a cool breeze?
Cold comfort for change?
And did you exchange
A walk on part in the war
For a lead role in a cage?

How I wish, how I wish you were here.
We’re just two lost souls
Swimming in a fish bowl,
Year after year,
Running over the same old ground.
And how we found
The same old fears.
Wish you were here.

We Need Something More Productive To Do

I have been wanting to write something on this for quite a while, but have not been able to put it all together into an article that would really express my feelings of chaos towards the modern consumer world. Consumerism was all I knew until I started traveling in my early twenties through many “Undeveloped Countries”, and “Developing Countries”, but since then, I have seen the effects of consumerism change these societies, and I do not like it very much. I have been accused on occasion of being the “Anti Consumer”

The funny thing is, I have never been able to escape the consumer model, I have sold electronics and cars, been a travel agent, and done tech support for computer companies, I also taught for a few years, but really I was just teaching people how to make money in the modern consumer society.  I still sell things for a living on my website, I tell myself it’s OK since we all need clothing, but the real reason I do it is because it’s he only way I know how to feed and clothe my family.

Wikipedia defines Consumerism as the following:

” Consumerism is a social and economic order based on fostering a desire to purchase goods and services in ever greater amounts. ”

I had someone mention to me the other day how some of the very religious countries I have visited  such as India, Laos, Nepal or Myanmar spend far too much energy on their religions, some of these country’s religions employ over 80% of their work force in temples and other religious activities, and with so many National religious holidays, no one really has any time to do any work.

Religion of Consumerism

I responded to the comment that hardly anyone does any necessary work in our society anyhow, last time I checked, less than 15% of the western population actually has a job producing anything at all. The work most people do is just paper shuffling, managing, serving, selling,  and general nothingness just to keep us all busy. The only thing most of us ever actually produce is more waste for the landfills.

My friend responded something to the effect of, “What are all the super religious people producing then?” I told them they were producing “Peace of mind, happiness, and hope”.

Now I am not a very religious person, and do not feel that utopia would be created by everyone simply running out and joining the closest religious institution to their house. I actually appreciate the critical, and often out of the box thinking a less religious society is able to produce. I am just saying that sometimes the very religious, sometimes referred to “Backwards” or  “Overly Religious” do quite well with producing happy  places for everyone to live, that are far less destructive to nature than consumer societies, and in case your confused, we are a part of nature, also needing clean air and water to survive.

I can hear people saying to me now “Where I live is clean and beautiful. ” and maybe it is, there are still some places far enough away from the car fumes everyone is used to breathing, clear skies free of smog, haze and acid rain without industrial chemicals and fertilizers tainting the streams near their house, and still have beautiful lakes you can swim in and drink at the same time some places on this earth, but there are not very many of them. People have gotten used to where they are and can no longer dream of a time without our very polluted, over consuming, industrialized world.

I saw this video below recently, and I thought it did a pretty good job of summing up the modern world, and consumerism. I vote we make things better that last longer, and stop throwing out things that still work.

Have a watch, it is worth the five minutes.

So what do we do then if we scrap the consumer society?

The following video has all sorts of ideas about what is right and wrong in society, and all sorts of ideas about how to fix them. I am not in favor of overthrowing those in power,  for I believe seeking power will always be in some man’s nature, fighting it would only lead to unnecessary bloodshed, since once the rulers are thrown out of their castles, it will then be occupied by another, so what is the point?

The movie below is two hours long, and again it is worth the time, if you do not have two hours right now, you may want to come back and watch it later, I do not agree fully with all of it’s solutions, but I do agree with the problems it points out:

I am surprised where only 30% of the world actually needs to work for all of us to have the things we need, and yet so many people work until they are dead, or face starvation, doing things that in the grand scheme of things don’t really do anything for anybody. Why can’t we all just work two days a week or retire at 35 or something instead? I would rather see people producing things that we can all enjoy,  than filling out forms and filing them away where no one ever sees them again.

Rather then the bureaucracy, inflation and consumerism we have, I would prefer to see a new age of art and innovation, a new Renaissance. We don’t need to throw out the monetary system, but we do need to stop printing more money if we want to end inflation. Since it seems that giant banks tend to control most of the world, it would be nice if they allowed us all some slow, measured, and painless change. Ending inflation would give us all much more free time, free universities would give us the means for new innovation, and hopefully through it all, society can find more productive things to do.

Sources – Civilian Employment by Industry and Country: 2000 and 2010

The Secret To Being Wealthy

I had a bit of a strange conversation the other day with a friend of mine,  I had just informed her that the business has finally begun to pay the bills, and I guess she got a little excited thinking great wealth might follow.  Though we are finally turning a profit, it has cost a large amount of money to get it to the point it is now, so for this venture to actually become a positive one, the company still needs to put all the startup money back in the bank, with interest, and that could take several years.

It was not so much the context of the question, but the wording, she asked me “Do you think you are going to be rich?”

I was a bit stunned by the question and looked around at my rented house with the multiple air conditioners, large HD television, stereo system, full fridge, computers, laptops and comfortable furniture. We had just returned from a one week vacation on a tropical beach, and I am about to fly off to another country only two weeks later, we eat out two meals a day and see a movie in the cinema every week. The only reply I could think of was “I thought I was rich already.”

Financial Freedom SignAssuming the company can continue to turn a profit, I will be able to continue this lifestyle indefinitely, and even if the website stopped working for some reason, I still have enough money to continue to live this lifestyle for probably another decade or so.

In reality my comfortable couch only cost me $100, my delicious healthy meals out are almost always less than five dollars, and my one week vacation only cost about $180, even though I make more, I normally live on less than a thousand US dollars a month. I wonder, does being rich really need to have a monetary value?

It is my opinion that rich is a feeling. I have everything that is truly important to me, comfort, security, love, and freedom. I don’t own a car, but living where I do, I currently don’t need one. If I did need one, I would have to have one to feel rich I guess, but since I don’t need car, having one doesn’t matter, what type of car would be irrelevant, because vanity is not really one of my needs.

I have found from experience that most people with millions of dollars in things, often do not feel rich, they are constantly driven to get more and will never be satisfied with what they have. They could lose it all in a few months without work, they know this, and can not relax. I agree with their feeling, in my books, they are poor, but it’s because of their mindset, not their paycheck. If you really want to be rich, you need to live on about halve of what you make each month, then the other halve goes in the bank, and you just bought yourself a month of freedom. After you have a few hundred of those months in the bank, you will also feel wealthy.

I replied to her question, “Look I don’t know what rich is in your head, but I am comfortable, have many vacations and my belly is always full, I do not have any worries about where my next meal is going to come from, or my next thousand meals. In my opinion, The only way to be rich is to be satisfied with what you have.”

I don’t know if I expressed my point properly to her, when she sees a big shiny new car, she probably still wishes she could ride around inside it, and I would like it also, but not at the expense of losing my freedom, and feeling poor once again.

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