Sunday, December 28, 2014

Ottawhat #32 - Ottawhat? A Year

Check out this week's episode of the Ottawhat? podcast. New every Thursday!
This week, we looked back on 2014 in Ottawa, and had a great time going over some of our favourite new years plans in Ottawa.
Ottawhat #32 - Ottawhat? A Year!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Fake It Show #6 - The Pentatoque

+Mike Attrell and +Nick Maddox from +Future Chat joined me to chat in lieu of talking about science and technology this week. We learned a little bit about the old testament, talked about where our energy goes, and shamed people who shoot vertical videos.
6: The Pentatoque

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Problem with Blackmail - Thought of the Day

This Sony hack and media frenzy around the un-release of The Interview this Christmas Day has got me thinking.

The hackers have now sent Sony a new message thanking them for cancelling the release of their movie "The Interview" and saying that they will keep all of Sony's stolen intellectual property to themselves unless the movie is "leaked, released or distributed".

There are countless occasions when stolen property is held "ransom" unless certain demands are met, and in the movies the thieves always take precautions to ensure that they aren't caught (like no police involvement). However, in instances like this, all Sony (and theatre chains) are doing is kowtowing to ANY future demand these hackers might have.

With this stolen intellectual property, not only will Sony lose money on this film's release, but it will not be able to make any project that these hackers don't agree should be released. Because in cases of blackmail like this, when somebody knows a secret about you, they OWN you.

If Sony really has secret information, they had better think long and hard about whether it is worth losing control over any future endeavours for any executives or employees involved. I always say, it's better to come out ahead of your secrets and be up front, that way the thieves lose all leverage in any situation.

Obviously, this isn't a simple issue, but when it comes to getting blackmailed, the sanest way out is typically doing the best you can to bring criminals to justice, and airing any dirty laundry you might have. If it turns out this is really the doing of the North Korean government, they have made much worse threats than the ones they made this week, and we have never taken them seriously.

If you're going to take a stand, at least stand with the rational among us, or you will forever be beholden to those with your worst interests at heart.

Attrell Update - Back to the Future & the Instagram Experiment

This week on +Attrell Update, we discuss the future of the Update. I also talk about starting my Instagram experiment. You can find me there at robattrell. If you have any feedback about our videos, leave us a comment and let me know!

If you want to keep up with these videos, click on our picture in the top right of the video and subscribe!

Here's Steph from earlier this week talking about her side of Attrell Update.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Ottawhat #31 - Samantha Ingram

Check out this week's episode of the Ottawhat? podcast. New every Thursday!
This week, we talked to Samantha Ingram from the Ottawa Food Bank about many of their seasonal and year-long initiatives.
Ottawhat #31 - Samantha Ingram

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Feedback #1 - The Pilot

We're debuting all kinds of shows on +Unwind Media this week! This time around, it's a music podcast called Feedback, featuring my friends and excellent musicians, Damien Broomes and Brian Lee. Go check it out!
Feedback #1 - The Pilot
I also convinced Damien and BL to let me record them playing some songs, and here's one of them!

Future Chat #42 - Happy Saturnalia, Everyone!

This week on +Future Chat, it's the end of the year, Mike gets throat punched, and we discuss the usefulness of Watson beyond Jeopardy-winning.
Future Chat #42: Happy Saturnalia, Everyone! Subscribe via RSS, on iTunes, or on Stitcher Radio to check it out.

Monday, December 15, 2014

East Meets West #1 - Toronto, the Great Unifier

Check out episode 1 of a brand new podcast on Unwind Media! It's East Meets West! We talked about beer, milk and what to bring with you when you move across the country.
East Meets West #1 - Toronto, the Great Unifier

Friday, December 12, 2014

Attrell Update - This is Unwind Media!


This week on +Attrell Update, I introduce my media enterprise, UnwindMedia.com! This is also a chance for a year-in-review media empire-wise. Exciting stuff!

You can join the Unwind Media Facebook group at http://facebook.com/groups/unwindmedia or follow us on Twitter @UnwindMedia.

If you want to keep up with these videos, click on our picture in the top right of the video and subscribe!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Ottawhat #30 - Cait O'Malley

Check out this week's episode of the Ottawhat? podcast. New every Thursday!
Cait talks jellies, travelling to music festivals, and the Ottawa news gets really weird.
#30 - Cait O'Malley

Future Chat #41: That'll Cook Your Phone

This week on +Future Chat, we discussed open science policy, magnetic induction, and Nick imitates uOttawa professors.
Future Chat #41: That'll Cook Your Phone Subscribe via RSS, on iTunes, or on Stitcher Radio to check it out.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Attrell Update - Gorillas, Guns and Going Nose Blind


This week on +Attrell Update, I talk about human filters, why we need to talk about important things, and ponder the future of Attrell Update!

If you want to keep up with these videos, click on our picture in the top right of the video and subscribe!

On Monday, Steph gave some advice on trying to find a gift for that special someone in your life.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Ottawhat #29: Lisa Johnston

Check out this week's episode of the Ottawhat? podcast. New every Thursday!
Lisa is training to become a chef, and working with the Sock and Buskin Theatre Company on a production of Tempest, playing this week at Carleton.
#29: Lisa Johnston

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Future Chat #40 - Well That Went Well /s

This week on +Future Chat, missed Nick, talked TekSavvy, and tried out a new show structure.
Future Chat #40: Well That Went Well Subscribe via RSS, on iTunes, or on Stitcher Radio to check it out.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Attrell Update/Ask Rob - What's the Deal with Coffee?


This week on +Attrell Update, I finally get to another #AskRob question from Nick Maddox about coffee. Check it out and ask your own question at http://blog.robattrell.com/askrob. I'm answering these questions as fast as I can!

+Stephanie Attrell, when can I expect your next video??

If you want to keep up with these videos, click on the "i" in the top right of the video and subscribe!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Ottawhat #28: Grant and Magill of Rule2Productions

Check out this week's episode of the Ottawhat? podcast. New every Thursday!
Grant and Magill are part of Rule2Productions, an Ottawa-based video production company.
#28: Grant and Magill (Rule2Productions)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Listening Party Volume 4: The Rock and the Tide

This is an old album (released in 2010) but Julia is going through Grey's Anatomy on Netflix and You Got What I Need came on (House M.D. also features at least one Josh Radin song, Brand New Day). It took me back to that time and it's just a really great, solid album. All of his other stuff is great too, you should check it out!

The Rock and the Tide - Listen on Google Play

Find it on iTunes

Monday, November 24, 2014

Future Chat #39 - Light

This week on Future Chat, we talked about all the different forms light can take, and some scientific and technological applications of light energy. Subscribe via RSS, on iTunes, or on Stitcher Radio to check it out.
Future Chat #39: Light

Friday, November 21, 2014

Ottawhat #27: Zosia Huszcz

Check out this week's episode of the Ottawhat? podcast. New every Thursday!
Zosia Huszcz works with medical technologies for Abbott Laboratories.
Ottawhat #27: Zosia Huszcz

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Attrell Update - We can't all be stupid ALL the time


This week on +Attrell Update, I talk about the improvements I've made to my desktop "studio", and then I go over some of the "life hacks" I've been thinking about for the last week or two.

If you want to keep up with these videos, click on the "i" in the top right of the video and subscribe!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Future Sci Chat #12: GMOs

This week on Future Chat, we talked about genetically modified organisms, and we tested a more robust way of recording audio. Subscribe via RSS, on iTunes, or on Stitcher Radio to check it out.
Future Sci Chat #12: GMOs

Friday, November 14, 2014

Attrell Update - Whoops I Made TWO Videos


This week on +Attrell Update, I "accidentally on purpose" made two videos. The first (above) is about how I feel about what feels to me like losing time, and daylight savings time isn't helping!

The second video (below) is about the Rosetta space probe, which this week landed the Philae lander on comet P67, an unprecedented scientific accomplishment!


If you want to keep up with these videos, click on the "i" in the top right of the video and subscribe!

Earlier this week, +Stephanie Attrell let me know why she's had so much going on this month that she missed her last video, and she's apparently planning to learn a Taylor Swift song, because I asked her to sing one and she's not much of a fan.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Ottawhat #26: Shawn Bashir

Check out this week's episode of the Ottawhat? podcast. New every Thursday!
Shawn Bashir is an engineer in training who is also Amaan's brother!
Ottawhat #26: Shawn Bashir

Monday, November 10, 2014

Future Tech Chat #26: Automation

This episode of Future Chat was all about Automation, how robots and algorithms will continue to take human work and do it more efficiently and more quickly. I had some help in the introduction from Alex from the UK, just another great example of automation.
Future Tech Chat #26: Automation

Friday, November 7, 2014

Attrell Update - Congrats to Crash Course!

This week on +Attrell Update, I share some news about something I love, +CrashCourse! My favourites +vlogbrothers will be working with +PBS Digital Studios to bring you new science videos in the near future! I can't wait!

If you want to keep up with these videos, click on the "i" in the top right of the video and subscribe!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Ottawhat #25: Lisa Marie Smith

Check out this week's episode of the Ottawhat? podcast. New every Thursday!
Lisa Marie Smith is a member of the literary community in Ottawa and knows a ton about digital publishing!
Ottawhat #25: Lisa Marie Smith

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Fake It Show #5: Fake it 'til you Mike it

+Mike Attrell joined me this week on Fake It to talk about parenting, adapting from student life to adult life, and the complexities of young people's job hunts in our time.
5: Fake It 'til you Mike it

Monday, November 3, 2014

Who has Two Thumbs and Loves Things Online?

I'm going to start this post in an unexpected way: Taylor Swift isn't the person posting things on her Twitter account, in at least 95% of cases. I know this because for the better part of a year, I have been patrolling the better part of 5 different Twitter accounts, 4 Facebook pages, 3 Google+ pages and 4 YouTube channels. I know she isn't the one doing this because if you actually want to promote your stuff online, you lose a significant amount of time that you would otherwise dedicate to actually MAKING the things you want to make.

Now, obviously Taylor Swift is many orders of magnitude more popular than anything I will ever do. She has millions of fans tweeting, Facebooking and Instagramming her photos of themselves with her album or the paraphernalia she included in the purchase of her physical CD. Anytime she (or her social media team) posts a photo of a fan (or 4 photos, since Twitter now lets you attach 4 photos to a tweet), it makes that fan's month, and basically ensures they will be a life-long fan. The second effect of her "choosing" fans to highlight on her Twitter account is that it prompts people to continue to send her even more photos. This will likely go on for months after the album's release, and I KNOW there's no way one person could keep up with this unless that was their only job, and even then you wouldn't be able to sleep, so there are probably multiple social media team members doing this in shifts.

When I release something into the online world (something I do a few times a week), I do it for a couple of reasons:
  1. I like making things and paying forward knowledge I've gained and insights I've had.
  2. I want to learn how to make things better and to better myself.
The hardest part of making things so far for me has been exposing my work to a larger audience than my immediate circles. I do hope that if you see something that you like, that you tell people about it. One of the biggest things I'm working on is the idea that I don't want to force people to see what I'm doing if they don't want to, but if they DO want to, I want to make it easy.
On that note, there are a couple of ways you can keep abreast of what I'm working on, both for more technically savvy people who are control freaks, as well as for people who want something easy to use.
  • I made a Facebook group where I will post my project updates (so that my personal timeline won't be constantly spammed by what I have going on). Follow the link above to join the group, where you can receive passive or active notifications when I post something new (you don't HAVE to get notifications if you don't want them). We can also discuss my projects together there, which could be pretty cool.
  • You can subscribe to the RSS feed from my website, blog.robattrell.com, at this link: (RSS).
  • It's also possible to just head to blog.robattrell.com in your web browser, I have been linking to all the projects I have going on there, so it's a good way to see what I have going on.
So I hope you will feel excited to have a real way to follow everything I'm doing. You can also follow me on Twitter @RobAttrell and on Google+ obviously (+Rob Attrell) to see the stuff I've got going on.

If you have suggestions or questions for me, feel free to email me or fill out my #AskRob form right here.

Future Sci Chat #11: The Paranormal

+Future Chat did a Hallowe'en episode this week, and that means that Rob dressed up for the show! We talked about all manner of supernatural and paranormal phenomena, like ghosts, psychics, and many other supposedly unexplained spooky events. We had a ton of fun this week!
Future Sci Chat #11: The Paranormal

Friday, October 31, 2014

Attrell Update - Me on Media

This week on +Attrell Update, I talk a little bit about how entertainment has changed for me, how we can all watch and enjoy different things, and how there is an audience and a niche for everybody in media.

Is there something you love that most people don't know about? Leave a comment and let me know!

If you want to keep up with these videos, click on the "i" in the top right of the video and subscribe!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Why Gay Matters

http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-10-30/tim-cook-im-proud-to-be-gay
It's tiresome to hear again and again in the news about so and so coming out as gay or lesbian. There are three main ways to react to this news (spoiler alert: only one of these reactions is worth talking about):
  1. You don't care if people are gay, straight, or anywhere in between. You're happy to see Tim Cook is happy today, and you stand by him and respect his privacy (all of my Twitter feed is this, which makes me happy).
  2. You are very angry about gay people, for any number of antiquated reasons (you're the worst, but luckily, you'll probably change when somebody you know comes out to you, and you'll eventually die. Hopefully you aren't successful in spreading your vitriol before you go.)
  3. You are gay, but haven't told anybody or are afraid to come out publicly yourself. You worry you might lose your job, or be kicked out of your apartment, or bullied, or ostracized, or attacked. If you are this, maybe, just maybe, you get a chance to be hopeful of the future. If you can't already where you live, you might one day be able to get married, have pretty basic human rights, and be able to openly love the person/people you care about. This is the important one, and that's why a CEO in the Fortune 500 coming out is a big deal in 2014.
If you don't care about this news, good. You're not the problem. You can move on with your day, a little happier one more person doesn't have to hide a part of themselves anymore. We're all human. 

This same logic applies to #gamergate, sexism, and many other kinds of discrimination. We need to keep talking about these issues. If sexist discrimination doesn't happen to you, be happy for it and move on with your day, but be aware that it does happen. Speak up when you see it. Be part of the solution. It's hard for men to see or be aware of sexism and harassment, because it doesn't happen to us nearly as regularly as it does to women. And it doesn't happen in Canada as much as it does in the States (please correct me if I am wrong on this, I know it happens here too). But it does happen everywhere there are misguided people. People who don't realize what they're doing or don't care. 

It's not ok. But let's work together to make sure there is a future where it will be a thing of the past.

Ottawhat #24: Aleks Paleega

Check out this week's episode of the Ottawhat? podcast. New every Thursday!
Aleks Paleega is a pathology resident who has spent most of her life in Ottawa. Learn a little about autopsies, the tennis club scene in Ottawa, and where to go when El Camino has a 2-hour wait (which is all the time).
Ottawhat #24: Aleks Paleega

Monday, October 27, 2014

Future Tech Chat #25: Social Media in Crisis

We went topical this week on +Future Chat, discussing how social media can be used and mis-used in crisis. Between protests, emergencies, and natural disasters, there are innumerable reasons social media can be an incredible way to connect people when they need it most.
Future Tech Chat #25: Social Media in Crisis

Friday, October 24, 2014

Ottawhat #23: Rob Parungao

Check out this week's episode of the Ottawhat? podcast. New every Thursday!
This week on Ottawhat?, we met with Rob Parungao. He shared his experiences in Ottawa, talked to us about some of the on-going projects he's working on in the city, and told us about some great date ideas for couples in Ottawa.
Ottawhat #23: Rob Parungao

Attrell Update - Canada


This week on +Attrell Update, I share some of my thoughts about yesterday's attack. The scene in Ottawa was very calm and a solemn version of normal. I love this country.

I took a lot of time to reflect and really think hard about what I wanted to say and show you. You'll notice my video on Canada Day captures both the War Memorial, this city has many beautiful landmarks that are meaningful to me in a number of ways. Thank you for watching and listening.

If you want to keep up with these videos, click on the "i" in the top right of the video and subscribe!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Fake It Show #4: Interview with a Maddox

I had +Nick Maddox in the Fake It studios this week, to talk about his big move from Ontario and grad school, to Alberta and technical college. We also discussed the keys to successful relationships.
Fake it Show #4: Interview with a Maddox

An Open Letter to Canadian Internet Service Providers

Dear Internet Service Providers (ISPs),

I'm going to attempt to remain as calm as possible throughout this letter, but honestly we've all had enough of your ridiculous policies and price gouging.

I've written and talked about this problem many times before, and 5+ years of crazy and punitive changes to your wireless and home internet packages has left me shaking my head in disappointment at your terrible treatment of your poor customers who don't know any better.

A little about me, I'm not really what anybody would call a "heavy" data user, I just enjoy using technology to its maximum potential in my everyday life. I take pictures and video with my camera phone pretty much every day. I watch shows like the Daily Show and the Colbert Report 4 days a week on my morning and afternoon bus commute. I pay Apple for the privilege of streaming a reasonable amount of music in my iTunes library to my cell phone, tablet and laptop. I also listen to podcasts, 1-2 per day, that have to be downloaded. I download apps too, but certainly not a crazy amount. That being said, ALL of your data calculators are completely unable to accurately predict my wireless data usage, coming in anywhere from 5 GB to 12 GB a month (usually I max out the meter).
I'm also pretty technically savvy, and use social media. This means that I back up the photos and videos I take to Dropbox and Google Photos, I check Twitter, Facebook and Google+ a normal amount, and man a few social accounts for projects I'm working on or involved in.

I am certainly an advanced mobile user, but I don't think my Internet usage should really fall too far outside the mainstream if not for your outrageous mobile service plans which gouge customers like me who simply want to connect to the internet at its full potential.

Here is a breakdown of my mobile phone usage for September 10 - October 9 (this is now a seemingly typical month):

Minutes used: 33:41 mm:ss
Messages sent: 39 msgs
Data consumed: 35.91 GB

I recently renewed my plan which I originally got in 2008 which I have been clinging to for dear life, which includes 150 anytime minutes (unlimited eve/wknd), unlimited SMS messages to North American numbers, and what was at the time called "Unlimited Mobile Browsing". At the time, this was a $5 add-on with my new Sony Ericsson flip phone. I LOVED that phone. Since signing up for this plan, I have moved to a smartphone, and renewed the plan this summer while getting a Nexus 5 for about $60 after rebates.

Now, for people reading this who aren't familiar with my story, you would probably expect that I'm probably paying a lot of money for my plan that can get me 36 GB of data. Using that much data on even the most generous Rogers data plan would cost you well over $300. But in 2008, my plan cost me only $40 (+ 13% HST) per month, and that's how much I'm paying today. I do the math every 6 months or so and no matter how you slice it, it is worth keeping this plan and buying new phones outright than to switch to a punitive new plan and suffer through curbing what isn't really extraneous mobile data usage.

Companies like you (Rogers, Bell and Telus) have bought up or created smaller brands to attempt to appeal to customers trying to save money, but all you really do to those customers is give them even less than your major brands will give them. Koodo, Solo, Chatr, Fido, Virgin, etc., are no better deals than your major brands when it comes to the tiny amounts of data they get. Even if you buy a plan from Rogers with 30 GB of data (designed allegedly to be shared between a large number of phones/people), that still isn't enough data for one person with my non-excessive browsing habits.

Good old 2007!
I accept that I may be in a particularly unique situation with my high data use in 2014, but this is the way things are going with the internet. We need to be able to transfer data quickly and efficiently on mobile networks. And it's not like I'm not suffering consequences of being on a grandfathered plan from when the iPhone was a new product running on the EDGE network. I don't have visual voicemail, which is standard on the new plans. I don't have access to LTE data, and my upload speed is throttled particularly harshly (I'm not sure if my download speed is throttled, but it's about an order of magnitude faster than the upload). I can't tether my tablet or laptop to my phone's internet connection unless I jailbreak my phone, and I prefer to keep my software up to date than to jailbreak these days.

These policies and tiny data caps are not unique to cellular carriers and networks. DSL, Cable and Fiber internet customers also suffer through some extremely stingy plans. The plan I have been on for the last few months for Cable Internet is fairly expensive, but at least it comes with unlimited data transfer. Before that, for 6 months I suffered through a new cable and internet package that included 150 GB of data per month. That was torture, as I like to download beta software, music, and other media, and my fiance and I love Netflix and basically any other service that means we don't have to sit down in front of our TV on the hour to watch whatever show happens to be on. I was tiptoeing around to keep under the 150 GB cap for 6 whole months, and it was painful.

Right now, you might be thinking "Boohoo, you get what you pay for", and that I shouldn't be complaining about something that's cheap. I understand why you might say that, and I've always been very open about the fact that if I'm getting something worthwhile, I would be more than happy to pay a premium for that.

However, as is evident in the mobile space, and to a lesser extent in the home internet world, data rates (especially for overages) are completely outrageous and not what any normal person would consider reasonable. Even if we pretend that I'm going to pay for Rogers' 30 GB plan on mobile (which is $250 a month), that's not enough data for my typical needs. Beyond the data usage of any mobile data plan, additional data costs $10-15 dollars extra per GB. It has been calculated that the highest estimated cost to an internet provider for a GB of data transfer is about $0.08. In the home internet world, costs are even lower than that, but you can still expect to pay anywhere from $1-5 per GB for overages. This, plain and simple, is price gouging. 

Now, I hear your customers reading this shouting "Why don't you just go to Wind, or Mobilicity?" I understand where those people are coming from. To put it simply, I have tried Wind, and though their service is fairly good, the internet is slower than what I would be getting on the Rogers network even on 3G, and if I end up outside their coverage zone, rates skyrocket to as high as $50 a GB, or basically what any customer who is using pay-as-you-go data on Rogers would be using. It also doesn't save me money from my current plan, but if something ever happens to that plan, I would be going to Wind in a heartbeat.

I know that a lack of competition is what is stopping you from lowering your prices. I know this because there are examples all over Canada of people competing with you in small markets, and you have lowered your prices or changed pricing structures in those areas. In Saskatchewan and Manitoba, for instance, you offer very cheap plans with 5 or 10 GB to match the offerings of provincial carriers like MTS and Sasktel. In Ontario, when companies like Teksavvy started buying bandwidth from you in bulk and reselling it at lower cost, you made a plan that you don't advertise publicly except to TekSavvy customers. The plan very closely resembles the standard TekSavvy plan, and you can make offers like 6 months free on a 2 year contract to sweeten the deal and keep little guys out of the market.

Never mind the fact that you 100% pay your Rogers technicians more for service calls to Rogers customers than for TekSavvy service calls, which mean that TekSavvy customers end up waiting days or weeks for technicians who are prioritizing Rogers accounts. That is a conflict of interest if I have ever seen one. If somebody gets fed up with this seemingly bad service from TekSavvy, they can call Rogers, get the same tech out the next day to set up their Rogers internet, and pay more for it. This process is absolutely criminal and I can't believe the CRTC lets you get away with it year after year.

Please, please, PLEASE change your business practises. I am one of 35+ million Canadians who is fed up with the current state of internet service in Canada. I want to buy mobile and home internet from you Rogers, Bell and Telus. I just want to pay a fair price for the data I use, let you take home some profit, and call it a day. That's all any of us want. But what you're doing to your loyal customers simply won't last, and I implore you to give the people who love the work you do pushing internet technologies forward what they want. Plans with more data. Doubling the prices of your plans and offering unlimited minutes across Canada and unlimited SMS is not what customers want, as research has shown over and over again in the last few years. Run a legitimate business, that's all I'm asking.

Thank you,

Attrell Update - Lying


This week on +Attrell Update, I discuss lying in our culture, and how important the truth is to me. It's very important to be honest, and to be true to yourself.

If you want to keep up with these videos, click on the "i" in the top right of the video and subscribe!

Earlier this week, +Stephanie Attrell told me what she is thankful for.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Ottawhat #22: Nick Maddox

Check out this week's episode of the Ottawhat? podcast. New every Thursday!
This week on Ottawhat?, we spoke to my good friend Nick Maddox! He brewed some beer for us to try, and we talked about his gripes and greatest hits throughout his time in Ottawa.
Ottawhat #22: Nick Maddox

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Future Sci Chat #10: Health

On +Future Chat this week, we went all in on health. Things like homeopathy, vitamin supplements, and extra strength medicine are all on the docket for discussion. We also talked about death in the aftershow, which was a very interesting discussion.

Next week, we will be taking a little break, so tune in on October 25th for a new episode!
Future Sci Chat #10: Health

Friday, October 10, 2014

Generation Why? (Part 3)

In Part 1 and Part 2 of this story, I talk about my journey from post-secondary education to getting started with trying to make a career. This is Part 3.

As I talked about earlier this week, I am a huge believer in the concept of basic income. This is the idea that everybody in a given political system (city, county, province, country, etc.) would get a government cheque with an amount that would keep the poorest among us above the poverty line.

If you're asking how a government could possibly afford this, it wouldn't happen all at once. The program would obviously be a little bit more complicated than just giving everybody free money. Personal taxes would probably go up a little bit if you make more than the basic income amount. Businesses would have the opportunity to restructure their salaries so their employees would make about the same amount of money overall as they did before, and the corporate tax rate would also be raised since these businesses would now have some former salary that is no longer going to employees. Parents with children under 18 would receive additional benefits to keep their families above the poverty line, so that we could get a real chance at making sure no crimes are committed simply because somebody is poor. The economic stimulation from this system would undoubtedly be unbelievable, as suddenly the resources needed to run homeless shelters, hospitals, police forces, payday loan centres, etc., would suddenly drop precipitously.

There has been quite a bit of talk lately about the fact that automation in first world countries and factories around the world mean that human workers will come to be relied upon less and less. However, profits from companies that turn to automation won't slow down, if anything they will become more efficient and make even more money. All of this could mean that we will have millions of people with no work to do, and corporations making incredible amounts of money (something that you will note is already happening in the US, and almost certainly in other places). Executives are making hundreds or thousands of times as much as their lowest employees, at a pace that is completely unsustainable in the long term. Increasing corporate tax rates for corporations that are innovative and forward-thinking enough to stay ahead of the curve on automation will still make more money, but they will pay a higher percentage of tax when their revenue gets into the hundreds of billions of dollars. This tax revenue can then be redistributed to former workers and those unable or unwilling to work to keep them from burdening society, but also keep them injecting money back into the economy.
Humans need not apply.
At a certain point in the future, not everybody will have to work. The concept of the 40-hour work week is something that was made up by Henry Ford (it actually used to be higher than 40 hours on assembly lines, before child labour laws were a thing) when he decided to give people more time off work without a cut in pay so that people would be able to go out and actually have time to spend the money they were earning. If we took this even further, some people could go down to something like 15-25 hours a week, and still earn enough money during that time to make a comfortable living. Money itself is a human construct, and it's becoming an increasingly virtual one. Estimates put the amount of cash in circulation at only about 10% of the world's wealth. Saying that there isn't enough money to give everybody enough to avoid malnutrition or starvation or disease or homelessness just isn't realistic. In North America we throw away about half of the food that is produced because it goes bad or people will not eat it or it can't be sold. Grocery stores do this, throwing away food after rendering it inedible while the homeless peddle for change.

What are we doing to our brothers and sisters?

Now, back to my generation. I talked yesterday for a bit about the concept of giving new graduates a stipend for (about) 6 months of salary to get them started on the right foot. If new post-secondary graduates didn't have to worry about money fresh out of school, don't you think there is SO much they could accomplish. If I had had 6 months paid for me out of school with the freedom to job hunt without fear of not getting a return on investment (over $60000 for 5 years of school), there would have been much less pressure to find a job fast, and I could think about what I really wanted to do with my life, and pursue that passion.

At this point, all things considered, my pre-career has been pretty great. I have been working a lot of fairly short, term contracts, with the theory being that I'll eventually work my way into something permanent where I actually have a smidge of job security. University, though I enjoyed it greatly, did very little to prepare me for the concept of going out into the world and making myself known. I gained a modicum of notoriety at my school in my department, but that would only be useful if I had wanted to continue down the academic path. My options were severely limited after that point, and I had effectively no contacts in industries, because I was doing fundamental research with basically no real-world usefulness just yet (which I was fine with, but it didn't help me out in any way career-wise).

It would be really great if the public service remembered the humble beginnings from whence it came. I have a lot to say about the nature of the government hiring process and the stress it puts on new hires trying to figure their lives out, but I think I'm going to save that for another time. All I have to say is that when you prioritize cheap labour with the bare minimum qualifications, you get what you pay for. Outsourcing your workforce to temp agencies might save you money in the short term, but when young people see how much easier life is in the private sector, you're going to have a lot of difficulty attracting fresh faces who've already seen the brighter light.

University taught me a lot, but one thing it failed to prepare me for was the size you feel when you doff the ivory towers of your post-secondary institution and proceed on your own into the world. I know I have a lot of offer the world, and I'm going to get there one way or another. I'll just take it 6 months at a time for now.

This concludes my thought-splosion on the state of affairs for students after university entering the workforce. Check out Part 1 and Part 2 from earlier this week as well.

Ask Rob #2: Ebola


This week on Ask Rob I address a question from Maureen about Ebola. It's a scary disease that's having its biggest outbreak ever this year. Here are some links where you can check out more information:

http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs103/en/
http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/
http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/our-work/medical-issues/ebola
http://www.vox.com/2014/10/9/6905347/too-afraid-to-ask-about-ebola-virus-outbreak-symptoms

Keep your questions coming at AskRob@robattrell.com or click Ask Me Something on this blog to submit your question.You can also subscribe to my YouTube Channels or podcasts if you're interested in learning more. Check it all out at robattrell.com!

Attrell Update - October 9


Here's my +Attrell Update for the week. A new book (which I finished last night after making this video, oops), a great podcast, and a possible new job. Keeping it simple this week.

If you want to keep up with these videos, click on the "i" in the top right of the video and subscribe!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Generation Why? (Part 2)

In Part 1 of this story, I give a little bit of history of how I got to where I am today with a contracted job in the public service, knowing what I want out of university, and what I learned about finding an adult job.

Yesterday, I spent some time reflecting on how I got to where I am in my adult life. I went through some of the difficult choices I had to make, and the hardships associated with leaving university not really knowing where I was going to end up. My intent today is not to place blame on the education system for that indecision, but rather to suggest ways to improve the transition from adolescence to adulthood for people entering the workforce who might not have had the opportunity to find work that they truly love in university.

It's true that most colleges and universities offer work-training programs or coops, but a student getting placed somewhere they can see themselves spending the rest of their lives is understandably pretty rare. It's very hard to tell what's going to happen 2-3 years in the future, let alone trying to decide how to spend 30 years of your working life while simultaneously developing friendships, new skills, and a social identity not shaped by your parents. Add that to the fact that cheap transportation and changing attitudes about university mean that more and more teens are moving out of their homes, or out of their cities, for post-secondary education.

For some social groups, it is assumed that if you are raising a family, you will give your child room and board throughout their education, you will subsidize their education (aided or not by scholarships) or pay for it entirely. In general, you should attempt to do everything in your power to remove as many barriers as possible to your child getting the best education. This is a great tactic, but from a generational perspective, with new families hitting the same uncertainties I described in Part 1, starting a family can seem absolutely daunting from the perspective of needing to save tens of thousands of dollars right from the outset.

I have been living for the last three years with no more than 6 months of certainty about whether I would be hitting the streets looking for a new job. Though I have only spent about 2 months out of the last 2 years unemployed, at no point did I have a job that felt like it was remotely permanent, which is a very disparaging feeling. I know I have skills that I can offer to almost any organization, and getting hired on short term contracts with fairly rigid, fixed end dates isn't something that any 20-something wants to do. It also means that once out of school, it is difficult or impossible to develop yourself professionally, for a couple of reasons. First off, you can try to sell yourself while you already have a job, but that comes off as not being appreciative of the work you have. You can try to talk about what you do in your spare time, but what business people who would potentially hire you want to know is, "What do you get paid to do?".
It all feels like a race nobody is winning.
All of the above leads me to the basic fact that time is money. Nobody wants to waste their lives away doing something they don't care about. As an employer, it is becoming increasingly difficult to justify taking a risk in hiring somebody without being able to prove by some measurement that the decision is justified and backed up by some kind of hard evidence. I know a lot of young people who are working away today without a real connection to the work they're doing, simply because it is a means to a life. And if that is all you want, putting your time in, going home and doing whatever you want, more power to you. But I think that as a society, we can do better.

I've talked before about basic income, the idea that each person would be given a basic amount of money each year to keep them above the poverty line, thus enabling people who have a lot of difficulty affording a place to live and food to eat a little bit of help. It would certainly help ease the burden of homeless shelters, soup kitchens, government welfare programs, clinics and health care facilities, and many other institutions. There is a lot of debate about an idea like this, but I given what we know about the experiments where it has been tried, a lot of good can come from it.

On the same vein, another social welfare program that I think would be extremely beneficial would be a program to give university graduates a push out the door financially. There will be some students who will fall out of university directly into a job, and those people will still be in great financial shape, so this will only benefit them a little bit. However, people like me, who are unsure where they want to go, and what they want to do, would benefit HUGELY from 6 months or so of minimum wage salary up front in the form of a stipend. Since most students fresh out of university will be faced with increasing student debt which generally starts requiring payment at the 6 month mark, this small windfall would be a huge help in staying on their feet and entering the adult world in that much better shape.

Burdens on parents and families would be reduced, as new adults would be less inclined to move back in to their parents homes, and parents would have the freedom to move if they chose, rather than holding on to family dwellings in case their children failed to launch or had difficulty finding a job. There are several European countries who don't pay for university at all, which would also be a huge financial help to students, but I think this kind of monetary reward for finishing school would be extremely beneficial.

This story will continue with Part 3 tomorrow, where I will talk about how rearranging our current post-secondary financial system could have far-reaching implications in everything from family planning, real estate, and even retirement planning. Check out Part 1 from yesterday as well.

Ottawhat? #21: Eric Turmelle

Check out this week's episode of the Ottawhat? podcast. New every Thursday!
This week on Ottawhat?, we spoke to Eric Turmelle! Tune in to learn about what goes into being an engineer in Ontario, as well as about Eric's new business where he can tell if someone will be a good roommate just by looking at them!
Ottawhat #21: Eric Turmelle

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Generation Why? (Part 1)

The North American workforce is getting older. That shouldn't come as a surprise to anybody, because the North American population as a whole is getting older. We are living longer lives, and our working years extend further and further into what has long been considered "old age". As a relatively new member of the adult population of North America, most of my experience working after attending university has come from short stints of contract work.

I have a pretty unique, and diverse, set of skills, and so far no employer of mine has managed to truly use me to anywhere near my full potential. This, perhaps, is a fundamental flaw in the way employment is generally sought today, or it might be a matter of me failing to sell my skills and experiences properly. In either case, I don't think my situation is unique, or even rare. When applying for an adult job today, the typical process will involve some frantic online searches of job boards, adding a resume to employment sites like monster.com or LinkedIn, and perhaps reaching out to friends and family, either IRL or on social media.
I know that I've gotten many of my job opportunities through a variation of this process; since I hit a lot of "standard" job requirements, like a university degree, valid security clearance, and bilingual certification among the most sought-after in the Ottawa job landscape (especially in the public sector). However, through the 5-6 different jobs I've done since 2011 when I graduated with a Master's degree, I've yet to really land somewhere where I feel like I am making a real difference in a way that satisfies me. I certainly haven't had any success in getting a job in a science lab directly, although to be fair those opportunities are generally given to the HUGE number of graduates who got several years of experience in a real wet lab. My chemistry experience consisted mostly of performing simple chemical manipulations on relatively simple substances and then doing a physical analysis of the sample in question to determine its composition and structure (this is called physical chemistry).

When I was finishing high school, all I wanted to do was chemistry. I found science SO interesting and I still do spend most of my time talking and thinking about science and technology. That's why I went and studied chemistry in university, I wanted to know more and come to a fuller understanding of science and the world around me. If I had the opportunity to go back today, I would probably choose to follow a path similar to Derek Muller, from +Veritasium. He has a PhD in science education, and wrote his thesis about the use of multimedia to more effectively educate.

When I graduated at the end of 2011, all I really knew was that I didn't want to spend my whole life working in academia doing fundamental research. I learned a TON from university, and especially from grad school, but I'm sure the majority of actual science I did there won't help me much for the rest of my life. Since the beginning of 2013, I decided that I didn't have any interest in just living out my life, I wanted to control my own destiny and learn to do things that I wanted to do, and to find out what I wanted to do.

One of the weird things I discovered when I finished school is that it's relatively easy to get a job with a degree, but it's a lot harder to get a job you actually want to do. I'm of the opinion that everybody deserves to do something they actually enjoy doing, or at least that they are getting enough money to do it that it is worth it for them. One of the hardest things I had to do in my life happened about 6 months after I finished school. I had been working at Canada Computers, an electronics and computer parts store, starting about a week after I defended my thesis. I got the job by seeing an opening, walking into the store, and being hired on the spot after the interview. That felt pretty good. I didn't know a lot about computers at the time, but I was very interested in technology and excited to learn more. What I did learn was that I need stimulation at work, including working on new things and learning pretty much all the time, or I would be very bored.

So skip to June of that year, 6 months after finishing school, and working in retail full time. I was getting ready to attend my graduation ceremony, and decided that I needed to quit my job. I had a little bit of money saved after my schooling (grad school doesn't pay all that well, but it was enough with some student loan money), and so I knew I could weather the unemployment storm for a little while, looking for gainful employment.

In the end, it took me a little over 6 months of no work to find a job. In fairness to myself, I took July and August of that year (the first two months) to relax and take the break I never got immediately after school ended. I did work a few odd jobs through that fall with placement agencies, but most of that time was spent applying to jobs, and teaching myself how to code. By the middle of January, I was getting pretty desperate, and I was looking for any opportunity to kickstart my adult life. It was at that time that I reached out to a local band (+Sons of Pluto for those interested) to see if these friends I knew were interested in help with a website and social media strategy, since I didn't have much to do those days.

The very next day, I got an email to meet with my future boss, and in the almost 2 years since, I've only had about 8 weeks of unemployment since that day when I reached out to take control of my own life destiny...but that's just the beginning of the story.

Tune in for Part 2 of this story tomorrow, where I will talk about what I think would be a good way to let new adults entering the work force ease their way in, and about the difficulties I've faced since starting that "adult" job in starting my actual "adult" life.

Once you're done Part 2, be sure to check out Part 3 as well, on basic income and the future of the workforce.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Future Tech Chat #24: Google Y

This week, +Future Chat was all about the future of Google. We talked big picture projects, like building model cities and airport efficiency. We also talked about what big stuff we'd tackle if we had Google's purse strings.

Future Tech Chat #24: Google Y

Friday, October 3, 2014

Rob's Listening Party: Volume 3 (Childish Gambino)

Here's the album art for the mixtape Childish Gambino put out yesterday. It's pretty "dope".

You can listen to the album below. I know I am!


Hear Childish Gambino's 'STN MTN' Mixtape Now

Ottawhat? #20: Rebecca Laviolette

Check out this week's episode of the Ottawhat? podcast. New every Thursday!
This week on Ottawhat?, I met Rebecca Laviolette, an actress whose love of improvisation and wacky disposition made her an absolute pleasure to have on the podcast this week!
Ottawhat #20: Rebecca Laviolette