YouTube Will Save Civilization

I know, I know. You’re skeptical. YouTube is home to millions of channels, and the most famous and profitable are of young Millennial men and women opening toys or playing video games while you watch.

But bear with me, because I believe that YouTube is the answer to a huge problem we have right now in our world—The lack of reality education.

What do I mean by reality education? I mean Home Economics and Shop. Two classes that until the late eighties were considered mandatory classes for high school students. I call this reality education because these are the skills desperately needed to become an adult: cooking, budgeting, fixing an electrical outlet, building a fence, and yes, learning how to operate a chainsaw.

Some might think I’m being romantic, and I don’t buy into the Home Economics for girls and Shop for boys paradigm. However, in the early eighties most high schools were combining the classes and mixing the sexes. Boys cooked, girls ran chainsaws and all were well on their way to becoming citizens who didn’t have to call a handyman each time there’s a leak in the pipes.

Somehow by the early nineties though, the entire program just went away. Enter in the least handy generations ever…Generation X and Y. The TV handyman character, Red Green, always said, “If the women don’t find you handsome, they better find you handy.” I think this goes for women as well. Most of us don’t know how to change the breaks on our cars or replace the GFI outlets when they go out. We’re also struggling at balancing our daily finances, making budgets and cooking has gone out the window. It seemed like we fell into a dark ages where caring for the home fell into the category of, “Hire someone!” Good for real handymen, but bad for the rest of us.

The end of Home Economics started long before the eighties. In a Huffpost by Brie Dyas it’s suggested that, “The post-World War II landscape presented a challenge for college-level home ec studies. During the Cold War, universities started to defund programs in favor of increasing budgets for science departments. The explosion of convenience foods made from-scratch cooking seem irrelevant. As college-level courses disappeared, those at the high school level lost their cache, as well. As Megan J. Elias writes in "Stir It Up: Home Economics in American Culture," home ec "became associated with dead-end high school classes for girls."

Shop had a similar fate—to be a handyman was a last resort for those who couldn’t be something better. According to Tara Tiger Brown, a contributor for Forbes Magazine, there are real reasons why this happened. Let’s start with California, the pioneer in all things American it seems. She writes that shop and home economics didn’t make the a-g list for the UC when deciding what skills were needed for future Americans.

“The UC/CA State system focuses on theory and not applied skills; a belief that learning how to swing a hammer or understand the difference between a good joint from a bad joint is part of a by-gone era, and as a society these skills are not something to strive for – something people resort to when they are out of options. Looking at shop class in this light is short-sighted and detrimental to America’s future.”

Our fears of being stereotyped has led to a generation of humans who actually don’t feel prepared to care for their homes. Many still live with their parents, even decades after college (that’s another blog all in itself) but for those of us who do create homes of our own, we’ve pretty much had to learn as we go, which until the invention of YouTube, was quite difficult.

Take this perfect example. Just a few weeks ago, our gas fireplace in our bedroom died, just in time for the first winter freeze. The timing couldn’t have been worse. I called the store where we’d purchased the unit and they said their repair team was busy for the next six weeks! They gave me the numbers of some local fireplace repairmen. So I called them and they too were busy for eight to ten days. That’s a long time to sleep in a freezing bedroom. But my husband, being one of the last handy men of his generation, had installed the thing, so I asked the repairman if he could give me a hint of how my husband could fix it. He told me that there were two sensors that needed to be cleaned and gave a description of how to do so, which I passed on to my husband.

A mere five years ago, that would have been it. He would have tried and perhaps figured it out, but perhaps not and then we would have waited eight days until the guy could come to our house to fix it. But my husband had shop and sort of knew his way around. And even better, he searched YouTube and found a video of a guy doing just this repair. All he had to do was search for the model name of the fireplace with the words, “cleaning the sensors.” Voila! Issue fixed and heat was back on in no time.

I went on YouTube and found videos on how to do your laundry, write a check, balance a check book, make a bookshelf, replace a GFI outlet, clean my fireplace, and double ply yarn on a spinning wheel. The amount of information shared by those who know how to do is AMAZING!!! These aren’t famous YouTubers making millions a year. These are men and women who are willing and able to take the time to teach those of us under the age of forty-five how to do the things we need to do to keep the house running. 

In lieu of learning these basic homemaking skills from our parents, or from home economic and shop classes in school, YouTube is our final hope.

I recommend getting on there and taking charge of your education! To start, visit Red Green on YouTube, the best handyman TV show on Earth, and it’ll get you laughing, which is the best way to tackle any problem. For real life problem solvers, I found this list of Nine Great DIY YouTube Channels from Popular Mechanic to be incredibly helpful.

I’m so grateful to these DIY folks and I applaud them. If you’re one of them, please know that you’re appreciated and I honestly think that you’re saving our civilization.

For without you, our homes would fall into ruin…trust me.

Hacktivism: The 21st Century Solution to Communications Disruption

My father went to Vietnam. As an ROTC member in college, he had no choice—serve or go to prison. Not being a fan of prison, he went. My father was also an electrical engineer and lifelong ham radio hobbyist. As a result, when he arrived in the hot, sweaty jungles of Vietnam he wasn’t sent to the front line, instead he was assigned to building the communications towers that would keep the US army and its allies connected throughout the war.

Every morning my father would get into a Jeep with several other soldiers and cross the field from their base to their towers. Every morning the Vietnamese soldiers would fire at him, non-stop. He would then spend the rest of the morning building the tower, fixing it and bringing it online, all under enemy fire. Once it was all up and running, he’d return in the Jeep, under fire, while other men protected the tower.

And each night, the Vietnamese would destroy the communications tower—which meant my father had to do it all over again the next day, and most days, of his time there.

The Army needed him, and at the end of his tour of duty, offered him enough money to buy a house at that time in CASH, if he’d stay another tour. He recently told me he laughed at them and said, “No way in hell. Get me out of here.”

His laughter wasn’t because he thought the situation was humorous. He knew statistically that the fact he’d survived being shot at every day while building those towers was an anomaly, and the chances were slim he’d continue to survive another year of duty.

Forty years later, we’re still fighting wars with countries all around the world. We may not be calling them the Syrian War, or Iraq War or Afghanistan War anymore. Instead it’s the “War Against Terror”, a never ending war reaching around the globe. Terrorist attacks can happen anywhere and while our institutions of war still desire to put boots on the ground like we did in Vietnam, the reality is that there are new ways to bring conflict to an end.

Today, in the 21st century, an act of war can be committed anywhere, not just on enemy soil. And similarly, armies of terror can communicate, not through large radio towers that need to be guarded, but anywhere in the world, via the internet. Recruitment and planning of many terrorist acts are done online. Thus to take out their communications no longer requires men shooting at technicians as they work. Instead, it involves men and women, sitting behind a computer, hacking into cyberspace and disrupting communications, all while drinking coffee in their pajamas.

I think my Dad would agree that this is a huge improvement to what he, and many others, have suffered.

And who are the soldiers disrupting the communication in today’s War on Terror? I imagine the Armed Forces has a band of cyber-soldiers. The Feds do as well. But it turns out the hacktivist group, Anonymous, is the one waging the most interesting and perhaps effective, counter-terrorism attack of its kind. And it appears they’re having a lot more fun than my father did.

Seven days ago, they rickrolled the Islamic State. According to SF Gate, “The "hacktivist" group has been flooding all pro-Isis hashtags with countless videos of the red-headed bass-baritone, according to a recent tweet from the #OpParis account.

Anyone familiar with 1980s music videos knows how unsettling watching Astley sing and dance can be. In fact, as Dazed notes, tricking people to watch his "Never Gonna Give You Up" has been a staple of viruses, protests and other online pranks since 2007.”

Just in time for Thanksgiving the hacktivist group followed Islamic State recruitment to the dark web and gave them some good sexual advice. The Jerusalem Post reports: “…programmers from the hacking team GhostSec employed the weapon of mockery and overran a website linked to ISIS supporters with ads for the erectile dysfunction drug Viagra and the anti-depressant Prozac.”

Humor goes a long way. We don’t need more boots on the ground, we need more hackers to dedicate hours of their lives taking down the main methods of recruitment and information sharing. From Twitter to the dark web, coders are the new face of communications disruption.

As I already mentioned, I’m sure that the Pentagon and the Fed are already employing people in this arena. Yet many coders I talk to would rather do this work as vigilantes and renegades, than sign up to work for the government. In the case of the military, many don’t want the duty part. They aren’t soldiers in the old fashioned sense and pledging one’s life to the Armed Forces doesn’t look too attractive to most computer geniuses. If you’re the type of person who likes to work from home in your pajamas downing Red Bulls and playing video games in between hacks, a role in the Pentagon isn’t quite for you.

Computer oriented folks could take normal employment with the FBI. The recent cracking of the Silk Road by FederalAgent Chris Tarbell is a great inspirational story that should make any hacktivist consider a job with the government. I shared Tarbell’s story with my eldest son, in an attempt to lure him to consider a job in computer forensics. We opened up the Book of Majors by the Collegeboard and checked out the career description. Overall, the coursework was amazing. Not only do you study all things code and computers, but also criminal law, justice, investigation and forensic accounting and science. Unfortunately, according to this source, while job prospects are good—more than fifty percent of FBI cases will require a computer forensic expert—be aware that if you pursue this career, child pornography cases can be as much as SEVENTY percent of the work load for state level offices.

Seventy percent? No wonder our greatest minds aren’t interested in going the traditional route and working for the FBI or the police. Most of their cyber experts’ minds and souls are being destroyed chasing down the worst perverts in our society. While I applaud these folks and I’m so sorry that humans are so sick and twisted, it’s not surprising that many talented programmers would turn to hacking or hacktivism, rather than be cyber warriors in the employed sense.

Still, hacktivists give me hope. In the realm of anti-terror, they’re bringing their expertise and their humor to the situation. And several groups have also began fighting the cyberwar against child pornography and the slave trade. The internet may be amazing, but it also enables horrible people to do horrible things.

The good news is that while our technology makes planning terrorist attacks and the selling of human sex easier for the darker elements of humanity, the same technology makes it possible for many of our brightest minds to join together and fight, without ever having to leave the kitchen.