Thursday, March 28, 2013

Does past discrimination cause LGBT to be under-represented in jobs requiring security clearances?

While I was changing trains at the Pentagon Metro today, I spotted a banner for “Clearance Jobs”, link here.

 This is a site that screens people for jobs requiring clearances, and, guess what, having an active security clearance is a prerequisite for registering at the site.

I didn’t go that route because I entered the market when homosexuality was a problem – in 1970 – although I did have Secret clearance in the Army (yes, I served despite the ban, but could not get a TS), and again when I worked for the Navy Department 1971-1972.  I left that world for the commercial financial space for my mainframe career.
The banner was above the turnstiles coming from the Pentagon Building.  I wanted to snap a picture of it without people.  I thought, they wouldn’t want people with clearances being photographed, would they.  In fact, in my “novel” manuscript, a high school history teacher with a background in military intelligence works “part time” for the CIA, and can’t tell the kids when they have a sub.  He left active duty for -- you guess what reason (DADT), but married a woman and is raising three great kids anyway.   That artifact, of my own writing, made me hesitant.  Finally, I noticed a “no photography” sign on a fence near the turnstiles.  Obviously, they don’t want people with clearances (maybe some of them contractors and not regular Pentagon employees or servicemembers) subject to photography.  This is the only “No photography” sign I have noticed in the Washington DC Metro system, and it isn’t very conspicuous.

How does the sequester affect "clearance jobs"?  Probably not as much as the media claims.    
First picture: Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Alexandria, VA.  

Monday, March 25, 2013

Commission-only direct selling jobs are not an adequate (or fair) economic fallback

Are “commission” jobs predicated on door-to-door selling or cold-calling getting harder to get by on?  Yes, they are, for a variety of obvious reasons.  Many people buy on the Internet.  Many people live alone and do not participate in the social capital that makes “unsolicited” personal approaches more common and more acceptable.  Dealing with solicitations presents obvious security problems (at home, by phone and even Internet) for many people.

On the other hand, there used to be an “ethic” that hardscrabble selling was a way to start out in life from nothing. This may still be the perception in many communities.

Generally, local and state laws do allow a certain amount of cold solicitation.  There are legal limitations on what homeowners or tenants may do to prevent them.  (The risk of involvement of weapons is obvious.)   And the “do not call” mechanism does not stop all solicitations. 

A few religious groups – the LDS Church and Jehovah’s Witnesses – still goad their members into door-to-door proselytizing.
I recall, in early 2002 while still in Minnesota, an job ad suggesting earnings of up to $75000 a year selling cable systems.  This was after my December 2001 layoff, and I called and asked.  Yes, it was door-to-door.  Maybe it made sense then to sell systems this way in neighborhoods with new homes, especially in areas new to cable.  Now it would not. People generally know which vendor they want. 
In 2002-2003, I worked in telefunding, cold calling, for “blue money on credit”.   I couldn’t do that now,  I have my giving all set up, and I rarely will take a cold call visit or call.  Do unto others?   One problem, especially with the cold calls, is that there are just too many of them.  There isn’t time to talk to everyone, just like there isn’t time to read every email.  Or like an employer doesn’t have time to read every resume, if he isn’t hooked in the first three seconds.  Now I know why.  I’ve been on both ends.  Time (and sometimes security) management is a real problem.
In late 2003 I also worked briefly selling National Symphony Subscriptions by phone.  That used to be lucrative for some people.  But, really, I pick and choose the events I want to go to.  I never buy subscriptions to the same place; that would be like buying a time-share.  It makes no sense given my interests.   It’s easier to buy on the Internet – it really is – unless the Kennedy Center site crashes when it opens sales to “Book of Mormon”.  And then – lo – you learn about the cheesy world of third-party vendors. 
This puts a lot of people in the job market in a bad way.  Do we blame the marketing companies for not keeping up?  A lot of the stuff being hocked – coupons, phone cards, whatever, has to be suspicious, maybe fake.   Do we blame the economy,  because it’s gotten so hard for many people to make an honest living without getting into something cheesy?  Maybe – but remember we used to be a lot more welcoming and sociable to be sold to directly than we are now.  Culture has changed that much – in contradictory directions.
We can’t have a good economy for more people without making more things ourselves.  We can’t get by on commissions, door-to-door, cold-calling, or “always be closing”.   The economy is good for some people – those with certain advantages (genetic and environmental) that enable them to compete – mentally, socially and sometimes athletically.    Go to any suburban church in a high income area – there are always plenty of teenagers with the skills and ability to make it in our highly individualistic economy. You know that “these kids will be all right”.  But that can’t work for everybody.  Is this a call for a "pay your dues" social compact?  

Monday, March 18, 2013

Employers are looking hard for Linux skills (why Linux, over Unix?)

Here’s a little surprise, or maybe not.  Baseline is reporting strong competition among employers for Linux skills (as opposed to native Unix), story here

I’m not sure which aspects of shell scripting in Linux matters the most, but piano-player fluidity seems important. 

It’s pretty impressive to me how good some kids are at this (remember those scenes early in the movie “The Social Network”? “Kids’ stuff!”

Here’s a video on the Linux kernel:

And I understand that, underneath the surface, Apple MacOS leans heavily on Linux, although I know Apple has its own scripting language (from having had to call support in the past to fix something on an old 2002 iMac).  
So different from the old IBM mainframe world!

Friday, March 15, 2013

A "moment of silence" for how my I.T. career started in 1970; the spoils of a deserted Camden, NJ

On Wednesday, after taking a look at the “poorest” city in the United States, Camden, NJ, I drove through Cherry Hill, NJ, which is where my work career in I.T, began on February 16, 1970. 

I had gotten out of the Army a week before, and as I recall I left my parents’ home in Arlington VA early Sunday afternoon – it was snowing – took a bus to Philadelphia and somehow got over to the Cherry Hill Inn, and went to work officially in the RCA personnel office Monday morning.  

I drove past the old RCA building, which is now just a general office building with many tenants, and couldn’t park for a shot, but got a picture of the street a couple blocks away, as “commemoration”.

RCA at one time did manufacturing in Camden, NJ; it’s departure does have something to do with the decline of the city.  Only Philadelphia and St. Louis have immediate “suburbs” in adjoining states that are poorer than the cities.  
Camden does have light rail (is it part of Philadelphia's?)
I didn't get such a good shot of the Navy ship at the Camden waterfront.  Center city Philadelphia, acorss the Delaware River, is just out of sight in this picture.  One wonder why libertarian author Charles Murray, in his book "Coming Apart" (reviewed March 14, 2012 on the Books blog), didn't talk about Camden NJ as well as the Fishtown area of Philadelphia. 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Maryland museum shows how IT used to be a few decades ago

The Frostburg Museum, near the state university in Frostburg, Maryland (on the Allegheny “altiplano”), has some wonderful knickknacks, including a huge collection of items that show information technology as it was in past years.  The museum is open only Thurs-Sat from 12-4 when volunteers work there, and takes donations at the door. 

The exhibits include older PC’s, various typewriters, cash registers, card readers and sorters and EAM equipment, printing typeset and presses, as well as microfilm readers and various telephones.

Back in the early 1970s, when I worked at NBC in NYC, it had run much of its general ledger operation on EAM equipment.  RCA Spectra COBOL was an advance.
There are plenty of exhibits showing “real jobs”, even like underground coal mining. Do the rest of us owe karma to those who do dirty jobs for us?  Chairman Mao thought so.
There were even some bizarre board games, including fantasy “carom” baseball.  I don’t see how it works. 

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Electronic Frontier Foundation, Privacy Rights Clearninghouse, discuss social media privacy and the workplace

Electronic Frontier Foundation has a piece today about its own employment policies, and mentions that it does not ask for social media passwords, because in California, it’s the law, as it is in Maryland and some other states.  The link is here.
Actually, “don’t ask” (without “don’t tell”) is the right policy anyway.  As EFF points out, asking for a social media password  is like asking to visit a person’s home.  Actually, in its early days with Ross Perot in Dallas, back until the early 1970s, EDS used to do just that. They used to have a surprise “house interview”.  I heard about that in the late 1970s from ex-EDS employees when I worked for Bradford in New York City.
The EDS link is here
The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse has a valuable “Fact sheet on social media privacy” here
The interesting concept here, as I have discussed on my main blog, is that online behavior is becoming “privatized” because in this competitive world, employers feel that they need to expropriate an associate’s public social media behavior – because it could drive away clients, or be predictive of an associate’s future possible disloyalty.  No longer is there any meaningful separation between communications done from one’s own personal computer (or smart phone) and writing done on corporate infrastructure.  Twenty years ago, that had been a steadfast principle, accepting double lives.  But no more.  

Monday, March 04, 2013

Abuse of interns in some industries seems real; even volunteerism requires real focus

On Sunday, the New York Times “Fashion & Style” section presented another long report, by Teddy Wayne, slamming the practice of not just using interns but badly overworking them, particularly in media or show business and fashion industries, link here ("The No-Limits Job").
The story reports interns working 18 hour days and being on-call all the time, and fired for missing calls on weekends or nights after going home. 

And young college graduates are finding that they have to take several internships to get into the running for real employment, and wind up moving back home with mommy and daddy.

Internships make sense for academic credit.  Computer programming schools place students at companies for a couple months for internships (at USLICO, which I have written about), they were used in the early 90s). But not for years. 

In fact, I recall reading a cover letter in the early 90s (the first Bush recession) where someone offered tp work “as a volunteer” for a while.

The NYT article discusses Ross Perlin (I didn’t realize he is only 29 now), and his book “Intern Nation” (reviewed on Books Blog, June 8, 2011). 

Below, Columbus Internships examines, “Do we have to pay an intern?” (2011), (with respect to the Fair Labor Standards Act)

The problems in interning carry over into volunteer work, where there sometimes is a self-serving bureaucracy.  I have been criticized, in a couple of instances where I volunteered briefly, with not knowing what was really going on.  How would I?  One case involved the Whitman Walker Clinic around 1990 (actually there were two little incidents), and then later when I was maintaining a mailing list database in dBase4 on my laptop for a gay activities group in 1994.   To make volunteering effective, you really need to make a time and focus commitment, it seems.  

Saturday, March 02, 2013

A 2004 interview at an airline, with an interesting result

I saw a sticker on a contractor’s car for “Independence Air” the other day. 
This was a budget airline that ran out of Dulles Airport.
In March 2004, I actually went to a “job fair” at Dulles for a job (“interim job”) as a gate agent.  It would have paid $9.50 an hour, and would have been a uniformed job (time spent dressing wasn’t paid). 
I remember having to make a verbal presentation.  I described how I had “saved” a small consulting company (to become Lewin later) in 1989 one day by solving a particular problem.
I didn’t get "selected" (thankfully).  Nor was I selected for Hollywood Video.  I would soon become a substitute teacher (at age 60). 
But I did get to make two round trips (to Atlanta, and later to Tampa) for only the price of a ticket tax.  So I guess just going to the interview paid off.  Practically free air travel for a year.  Maybe my speech on how to save a company made an impression. 
I think this company was eventually absorbed by AirTran.