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What the Tesla Will Need to Succeed: A Perspective from the Ground Floor

A bit of advice on the side: If you need a shortcut to intelligent conversation, and have a lot of long car rides in your life, listen to CBC Radio. Appropriate, as it was on one of those long car rides that I was recently reminded of the Tesla Model-S, the most successful attempt yet to commercialize the electric car.

Rather than waste the word space describing it, I’ll link to this Oatmeal Comic explaining what it is, how it works, and why it’s so great.

Impressed? I was. Too bad I’ll never be able to afford it this millennium. The CBC report mentioned it, and a quick Google search confirmed it, but the starting Canadian price is $65,500. I avoid sharing financials, but rest assured, I do not possess that amount of money, and never have in my life, period. The language being used it that it’s the first electric “luxury” sedan, emphasis on the luxury, and I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt: It’s entirely possible the car just isn’t able to be produced on the cheap yet, and the “luxury” tag is an attempt to make the price more palatable. Regardless, the price is the real problem, and represents the most difficult aspect of marketing this, and indirectly saving the environment.

To demonstrate, let me show you my car, an older Toyota Camry I inherited from my parents when they upgraded. My friend Agnes is the one leaning on it.

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There’s now a significant dent on the back, the result of slippery winter conditions, and an impact with a guard rail. And even if I had inherited it with the dent, I’d have taken it anyway. Why? Because fundamentally, I just need to get from point A to B as quickly and cheaply as possible. I’ll ride this thing until it breaks down and is too costly to repair, then after that, get something else as cheaply as I can, because my fundamental mantra is to keep it as financially stable as possible. Far as I’m concerned, getting a nice car is rock bottom in the list of “things I’d do if I had the funds.”

There’s a more cynical side to this, as well, and one that I’ll be up front about: When given something abstract like the environment, and comparing it to day-to-day concerns, the unfortunate reality is people care more about their everyday life and convenience. It takes a certain type of person to shell out a small fortune for an environmentally safe vehicle when there’s a far cheaper, easier option staring them in the face, and that person is a small minority. Certainly not enough to save the world.

I think it’s not an unverified statement to say that the inheritors of this first world, i.e. those in my age bracket, mostly think the same way. And that’s the key. If Elton Musk wants to save the world, designing an elaborate, luxury vehicle isn’t the answer. He needs to release an electric car that is super cheap, and easy to acquire. Certainly, the only reason I’d buy one. I look at things like the auto-detection pop-out handles, the smartphone compatibility, and the onboard computer, and I wonder if shaving those things off the model would reduce the price.

Readers and thinkers, I pose this question to you: At what point would you purchase one of these? How cheap does it have to be? How convenient, too? Would you need charging stations every block? A part-replacement system in place? Basically, what’s the threshold for conversion?

Honesty, Ambition, Rejection: A Challenge for Employers

Here, have an “Interview Selfie” of myself being as professional as possible:

Ignoring the Evangelion poster. And the crowd of Transformers. Do focus on the degree uptop.

Ignoring the Evangelion poster. And the crowd of Transformers. Do focus on the degree uptop.

I had a pair of interviews today for school placements. They’re the first time I’ve gone job hunting in about a year, thanks to my second burst of schooling, and it had me thinking of a few things. Like it or not, I’m an old hat at this process, having spent something like two years with “looking for jobs/shooting resumes out/going to interviews” as a part-time job, a common artifact of the modern quarter-life crisis (aside: check the recent title change up top). Sometimes, I really feel like we’re missing an essential element in these interviews: Honesty goals, ambitions, and rejection.

I need to tack those quantifiers regarding honesty onto it lest I lead you to believe I mean exaggerating or fabricating qualifications. My principle reason not to do that is that it will only come back to bite me later when it turns out I can’t do something I’ve advertised. I’m speaking of honesty and transparency about the process, both from the applicant and the company.

Admittedly, I’m far better off now than I once was when it comes to resumes and interview. I know now that I was doing certain things horribly wrong, thanks to my “professional practise” classes, or “how to do all those little things regarding employment that everyone should really know.” Nonetheless, even during my initial hunt, there were certain idiosyncrasies that made me wax philosophical.

For instance, you’re not supposed to say “please hire me. The job market is terrible, and I need the work.” Somehow, that translates into desperation, which is a negative thing.

But why is that negative, exactly? Should the impression not be that it instead means “I’m willing to work hard and do what needs to be done because I am extremely aware of my tenuous grip on employment?” Surely an employee who shows such signs would be more dedicated, and more devout. But, that level of honesty is, for some reason, not permitted by the social contract.

This flows both ways, and I feel sometimes like I’d appreciate honesty from an employer regarding their process, as well as turning a prospective employee down. I don’t particularly mind being refused for something on general principle. Desperation or not, that’s how life goes. However, it would all be so much easier if I was just straight up informed that I’d been turned down. In my early Professional Job Hunter days, I’d let things sit for weeks at a time, thinking I’d get a call or an email back. Nowadays, I know that I should have followed up myself, but even then, a lot of places went out of their way to erect barriers prevention that, and I was forced to guess.

It was a hard lesson learning that, by default, you must assume you didn’t get the interview, or the job, simply because they’re probably not going to contact you to tell you that. There were a few exceptions, and I appreciated them dearly, inasmuch as one can appreciate a rejection.

That’s my challenge to employers, then. Or rather, as much of a challenge as a tiny blog in a dark corner of the internet can send. Let your applicants know that it’s not happening, so that they can be released to search for the next job. And if you receive 5,000 applications, surely you can at least put together a form response. Perhaps some people would take umbrage to that, but I would not. Rather, I’d feel free to move onto the next thing.

Really, I think that’s the problem with modern job hunting (speaking, again, as some sort of semi-professional). There isn’t a dedicated set of forms and rules. I think in the middle of a recession, where untold masses of people my age are scrambling and hunting, some obvious set of conventions could save both employers and job hunters time and worry. Well, mostly job hunters. With employers, it’s a buyers market.

Of course, it’s worth noting that previously, I was attempting (poorly) to break into a profession that was shrinking at an alarming rate, stopping only to scoop the absolute top percentile of applicants. Perhaps this time around, things will go better.

Passing in the Night, Part 2

If there was one upshot to being stranded miles from home at 1:30 AM, with a sick friend in the backseat, it was the perfect temperature for an early fall evening. Warm enough that Martin didn’t feel a chill, but cool enough he could keep his jacket on.

After a time spent solidly staring into the empty grassy fields beyond the road, Caroline spoke to him. “Talk to me a bit?”

“Hm?”

“You’re not saying anything, and you have that look on your face. You’re in a funk.”

He paused, thought to himself for a moment, then finally said, “This blows.”

She stifled a chuckle. “What is this, 1997?”

“Shush,” he said, mockingly. “Seriously, though. It’s almost 2 in the morning. I want to go home and sleep. I have work tomorrow. What are we doing out here, literally in the middle of nowhere?”

She narrowed her eyes. “We had to get down to the concert somehow. It was either get in the car or take, like, three different buses. You said yourself a car made the most sense. And, I mean, it’s not like you didn’t want to come. Wasn’t it fun?”

“Oh, yeah, for sure.” He nodded. “It’s just…the logistics of it suck. It’s like three hours from home. Between the gasoline, the tickets, and the time, it was expensive and difficult no matter how you slice it.”

“But worth going,” she said. It wasn’t a question.

“Hm.” He grumbled. “I’m on the fence about that, to be honest.”

She turned to him again, raising another eyebrow. “Seriously?”

“Well, yeah. I mean…” He hesitated for a moment before continuing. At that moment, the two of them could vaguely hear Sasha groaning in the back seat.

“Was it really worth all this time?” he finally replied, “and all this effort to come down here and see a band perform on stage? I mean, how much do you think we spent on this trip?”

She stared at him evenly for a moment, then waved her hand dismissively. “You’re no fun.”

He waited for elaboration, but it didn’t come. “That…that’s it? That’s all you’ve got to say?” He snickered. “Who’s living in 1997 now?”

“I’m serious, dude,” she replied. “You were fun before. Now, you’re not. It’s all I have to say.”

“Do you mean I’m no fun right now, or in a broader sense?”

“Honestly, I’m not even sure.”

He crossed his arms, staring off into the field. “So that’s it, is it? I’m the unfun one.”

“Yup. Sorry to say.”

“I’m the unfun one because I’m thinking about being responsible, about what’s a good use of time and money.”

She made an annoyed noise, and Martin turned to look.

“Seriously, man,” she said, “If you didn’t want to come, we weren’t gonna make you.”

“I feel like I had to, though,” he said, faintly.
“What? Why?”

“Well,” he said, turning his thoughts over in his head, “if you guys had gone, and I hadn’t, I’d have missed out on something.”

She sighed. “You’re losing me.”

He thought about it for a moment before continuing. “If you go, I feel like I have to pony up the dough and go myself. I would have missed a bit of your story. Our story. My story. The collected story.”

Now it was her turn to snicker. “You sure you didn’t have anything to drink?”

He shrugged. “Blame it on the lack of sleep,” he said, pointedly.

She grimaced. Her next words were bitter. “Look, I wasn’t making you come. At this point, it’s all you. I mean, you either go and enjoy yourself, or you don’t go because you don’t think it’s the right thing to do, it’s a bad use of time or money or whatever. But going and then complaining’s just gonna make everyone else as miserable as you are.”

“Hey man,” he said, a bit of sarcasm in his voice, “you’re riding in my car, remember?”

She gave him a thin, resigned smile. “And you’re the perfect gentleman for letting me.”

She peeked over her shoulder, through the window of the car. “And I think she’s asleep. If you’re eager to get going, then let’s go.”

She pointedly nudged him with her elbow, and he grabbed the passenger-side handle instinctively, opening it for her. Wordlessly, she slipped in, and he moved around to the driver’s side of the car.

Dreams, Pragmatism, and the Media: An Unintended Trap

I’d intended to lighten things up for a time, but something’s come to my attention that I feel the need to discuss. If you recall from my last post, I discussed the life path a lot of people my age chose, and how it unintentionally cause major problems down the road, getting a “higher education” leaving us without job skills, holding the first to be more important than the second, not giving a thought to how things will work out. Bear in mind the following is all opinion. I may be entirely wrong. Maybe in a few years, I’ll recant this position.

The problem is that we didn’t make this post-secondary decision on our own. We were taught that, and now we’re reaping the consequences. Take a look at this comic, an animated form of a lecture by Alan Watts. it’s what triggered this rant:

2013-01-08-alanwatts

Sounds pretty good, right? It should also sound familiar to you. It’s the same sort of theme we saw in a lot of media aimed at kids. I’m pretty sure a lot of the Disney canon consists of this same message. We all know the familiar story. You don’t want to follow in the footsteps of your family, or your social class. You have ideals, you have dreams, and those are important. Anyone that says otherwise is a soulless oppressor, or possibly horribly misguided, and is trying to make you give up your dreams, and your special unique talents. Perhaps, if the young dreamer sticks to their guns, they can show their oppressors the error of their ways. Either way, all they have to do is chase that dragon, things will work out, one way or another. The thing is, it’s entirely wrong, possibly damaging, and the opposite viewpoint is one we now reflexively dislike, as we associate it with those misguided antagonists in that fiction we loved.

I think the big problem is that fundamental assumption that we’re supposed to follow these dreams of ours, do these things we enjoy, and forget the money. What are we, soulless? Draw your art, ride your horses, write your articles, make your videos, and damn anyone that says you’re wasting your time. The problem lies in the whole “ignore the money” part. “What if money was no object?” that cartoon asks. Well, it sort of is. It is, and pretending it isn’t, turning a blind eye to it, not worrying about those bills you’re going to have to pay one day, that’s a ruinous mantra.

We’re told time and time again, money doesn’t buy happiness, it’s not about the money, money is the root of all evil, et cetera, et cetera. It’s true money doesn’t buy happiness. What it does buy is security, stability, and life. Knowing what you like, and pursuing your dreams is good and all, but you need to be able to function in society as a grown person at the same time. And that doesn’t necessarily mean abandoning those interests that some would scoff at (I talked about that at length here,) it means being able to live unassisted on your own. It’s hard to follow your dreams if you can’t feed, clothe, and shelter yourself. These things will not magically appear. You need to make them happen, and to make them happen, you need cash. We need to step back and accept the fact that some sort of income is necessary in order to live, and it’s not going to come to us automatically. And if you’re not making it appear, then someone else is, and you’re living off the dimes that they’re earning.

The reason the philosophy preached in that cartoon potentially damaging is because it ignores this basic fact. That, and it leaves out the fact that we like do not always equal things we can do for money, that one won’t automatically lead into the other. Maybe you’ll become the best at what you do through slavish dedication, and get money that way. But to count on it is to ignore the present, and ignore some other, very real, non-optional needs.

Take a look at that dream. Can you realistically expect to make money off it soon, as in in the next few years, instead of some hazy future where you’ve mastered that skill? If not, then that doesn’t mean you have to abandon it. It merely means that you’ll need to do something else to earn income, and work on that dream of yours when you’re not out earning your living. I suppose that’s the other false dichotomy that the media presented us: That the two are mutually exclusive, that deciding earning a living is important means your interests and dreams have to die. They really don’t.

So, here’s my own philosophy, what I’d wish modern media would teach a new generation: Follow your interests, but get paid. If your interest won’t pay you, find something, anything that will, and work on that interest in your spare time. Maybe, if you stick with it, and if you have and/or grow the talent, you can leave that other career and take your interest on full-time. If not, you’ve got a roof under your head, food under the table, and something you like to fill your spare time. If that seems a bit unfair, consider that a realistic perspective won’t turn you into a starving artist, merely a really busy one.

Epilogue: And if you are in one of those situation where you can’t support yourself, that’s hardly uncommon for modern youth, thanks to the world we inherited. The best thing, I think, is to simply recognize this fact, and try to worm your way out of it, and not simply be content to freeload for all eternity.

Bleak Week Finale: The Student’s Lawsuit

Potential readers: If you know anything about the legal system, I’d like to pose a question to you during this article, as I’ll freely admit I’m fairly ignorant of how it works.

That Cracked article I linked in my first post was also linked to another two part article about hipsters and modern society. I’ll link it at the end of this. While it’s not the main focus of the two-part piece, it does have some interesting things to say about the role of post-secondary education in the modern world.

Now, this ties into something that’s dogged both me and a lot of my friends as we collectively flail about in our mid-twenties, trying to get a career going. Basically, a lot of us wonder whether or not to bite the bullet and return to school for something else, something more specific, something more marketable. Certainly, there’s the argument that a fresh graduate is more desirable and relevant than someone who’s been on the hunt for years on end, and now that we’re no longer wide-eyed idealists (more on that later), we can pick something that’s useful and employable, and once again become metaphorical fresh meat of the leaner, healthier variety.

But for every thought that runs that way, there’s a thought that runs the opposite direction. Does it matter if we go back to school? Are we better just networking and fostering contacts and content on our own? Will we wind up where we are now four years down the line, only significantly poorer? I’ve saved some cash up. Do I want to risk losing that pile on a gambit that may not refill it? The biggest issue here is the question of whether or not a post-secondary education will do what it’s supposed to.

Hold on, though.

Didn’t we go to school to learn the relevant skills? Who was it that let us go to these schools, and what did they promise us? I feel like we were promised the ability to take on the world, and yet so many of us didn’t get that, or were inadequately prepared for The Real World.

So, here’s my hypothetical. What if an enterprising student, fed up with the way things were going, were to launch a lawsuit? Imagine a scenario where that student sues their college or university, demanding at the very least their tuition back, on the grounds that their school did not hold up their end of the bargain. The student feels like they were guaranteed marketable skills, and yet they apparently don’t have any, and weren’t adequately prepared. Basically, it’s a lawsuit over a perceived breach of contract. My question to anyone in the legal area would be if there’s any merit to this, and how it would go down if someone attempted it in real life.

Now, I’ve voiced this scenario to a friend before, and an interesting discussion was generated, specifically about how it raises the issue of what, exactly, college and university are about: Job skills, or “higher education?”

Well, what is higher education, exactly? And why do we want it? And if it doesn’t pay the bills, what use is it? It’s easy to be idealistic when you’re young, and shrug that last statement off as soulless and cynical. The thing is, when you’re young, you tend to form an unspoken assumption that things will just work out on their own, career-wise and money-wise. After all, your educational life has been automated until this point, why won’t your post-educational life feel similar?

When we’re young, we’re naive enough to assume it’s okay to have higher education instead of job skills, or hold the misconception that they equate the same thing, or that they’re not important. This seems to have been a recurring theme in a lot of the media around me in my formative years, and I worry about the inadvertent damage created by it. However, I’ll save that for another entry, as that’s another, much more cynical cultural tangent I could go on related to this, and I’m sure you’re tired of the morbid nature of a lot of these posts.

Anyways, my point, again, is whether or not this could be done, and if it would have a legal leg to stand on. Don’t worry, though, I’m not going to attempt it myself. Certainly, posting about it on here would be about the dumbest move possible. For me, it’s just an amusing hypothetical.

Epilogue: While I’m here, why not return your degree and demand the money back, the way someone would return a purchase to almost any retail outlet? That’d perhaps be a far more amusing scenario, but one less likely to work in the real world. Besides, I’d like to think that even the most cynical of us wouldn’t dare part with their degree or diploma. After all, some credit is better than none.

Anyway, here’s that other article I talked about, part one of a series. It’s another interesting read.