Monday, November 19, 2012

Do companies still pay associates for short-term disability?

Are companies keeping short-term disability available to salaried and hourly associates?

Back in January 1998, I fell in a convenience store in downtown Minneapolis and sustained a hip acetabular fracture.  I was turning as I entered the store from the Skyway, and the store hadn’t put down mats to sop up water from an outside entrance.  Ironically, I had walked over for coffee when the mainframe TSO connection went down around 9 AM on a Tuesday morning. 

I wound up in the University of Minnesota hospital for a week with major surgery, in rehab across the River (it seemed like a nursing home) for a week, and then recouped at home.  I recovered very quickly and was back to work in three weeks. 

The company (ReliaStar, later to be bought by ING) paid my full salary under its short term disability policy, without loss of vacation.  I guess that’s the one time that I got a “perk” that I thought that parents with children then unfairly got. 

By the time ING came in the door, however, the short term disability payment was reduced to 80% of salary.  That didn’t affect me, but it could have done so for others.
The case was litigated, but the ReliaStar health insurance was able to collect most of the settlement (after lawyer’s fees) through subrogation.  

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Microsoft Windows 8 stiffs consumers over Start Menu; I get signed up by Google+ "automatically"

Microsoft has created a flap by not including the Start Menu in its new Tablet-oriented Windows 8.  Users can get an app, Stardock, for $5, to get it back.  And it looks like Microsoft executive Steven Sinofsky will be defrocked as a result.  The USA Today story Wednesday November 14, 2012 was widely circulated (as here, by the Tucson Citizen).

The Stardocklink is here

I suspect most laptops will be sold with Stardock installed.

But the move by Microsoft seems a bit bloated.  Most Microsoft PC owners (including me) have considerable need to conduct business transactions and often to author and publish (and not just to social network lists) volumes of text.  You need all the old-fashioned interfaces to do this easily.

On another matter, YouTube yesterday coaxed me into using my real name (my Facebook name) on my videos.  I approved the change, and found that Google instantly signed me up for Google+.  I immediately got some notifications and friending requests.  How will I keep up with my regular sites. Blogger, Wordpress, Facebook, Twitter, and now Google+?  At least I stream my Twitter into Facebook so more people see it (that’s what I want in my circumstances – nothing real “personal” in the teeny-bopper sense gets posted anyway), and get some comments and “likes” that way.  Myspace I’ve lost track of, as well as my skill with MySQL.  Given what is on my plate, that  (the SQL stuff) has to change soon.

By the way, it looks like Facebook shares jumped this morning, even as employees are finally allowed to sell; maybe they didn't need to.   I actually met Mark Z. "accidentally" in 2011 for a moment.  It's not that hard to run into celebrities (including baseball players, it seems, especially when you visit your local medical center on your own business for orthopedic issues -- it is the off season, after all.)

By the way, does Microsoft remember that "Surface" was the name of am NBC sci-fi series about a secret underwater life form back om 2005?  Does the tablet foreshadow a purification from nature? 

Thursday, November 08, 2012

State governments look for mainframe contractors; are "mature technology" skiilsets getting hard to find after so many forced retirements?

Even though I marked my Dice account as "not looking" right now, I have seen a recent uptick in emails looking for mainframe people, often with skillsets that are less specific than in the past, mostly for state government contracts (especially MMIS but also social services programs).  I suspect that in many cases the same contractors tend to rotate among these contracts and are known to specific clients.

For example, yesterday I got an email from TSCTI (link) for skills in COBOL and CMS for state government in Richmond, VA.  The acronym for the company name means "22nd Century Technologies", not exactly "20th Century Fox" (which ought to change its century).

I suspect that so many older programmers have retired, or retooled, or simply done other things after recession (and 9/11) related layoffs than now there really is a developing shortage of mainframe programmers in just the basic stuff.  Is this now going on?

All these layoffs in past years suddenly seem to have been shortsighted.  Companies and governments face real problems in getting work done and keeping legacy systems running.

Mainframe culture was its own world (of batch overnight cycles, CICS, and a certain verbose style of programming and JCL).  No one wanted to stay in it after 2000, it seemed.  What's happening now? 

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

No, I don't have time for constant software updates, or for robocalls

I get prompted all the time to install new software.  Recently, I’ve gotten reminded to update Sibelius  (music composition software) and even replace my entire OS on my MacIntosh.  Recently, my iPad and Droid Motorola smart phone replaced operating systems, and I’m getting prompted to replace the iPad system again.

Coming from a strict business mainframe world, I’m very reluctant to make “moves” without very careful regressive testing, and because I depend on my connectivity for business in a non-contractual environment, I’m very conservative about taking “risks” that could jeopardize my own stability.

That could mean that I don’t “learn” as much.  One time, as I’ve noted, back in 1999, a coworker noted that I had demonstrated an “amazing lack of curiosity” when I wouldn’t download stuff on work computers.

But it is a bit annoying to be interrupted constantly for updates, some of which could take time and be “risky”.
And sometimes, I am very finicky about disruptions.  Unnecessary phone calls and sales pitches.  No, I can’t help somebody make their quota today, or somebody’s share price next week.  Maybe I don’t have the skills for that.  I’d like to think I’m the kind of person who would figure out what we really need to do to sustain ourselves.

I also have to say, that right now, giving of my time can involve real sacrifice. 

Saturday, November 03, 2012

How would I have fared when working in New Jersey and New York had a Sandy-like storm hit?

I did have occasion to wonder how I would have fared if a storm like Sandy had struck while I was living and working in northern New Jersey, and then later in New York City.

In 1970, I started out my career working for the David Sarnoff Research Center, the so-called RCA labs, in Princeton NJ, about six miles from my apartment to the east (toward Hightstown) in New Windsor, along a flat road.  I don’t know how that area was directly affected, but it is somewhat inland.

In 1972, I started working for Univac as a site rep, for the Montclair Branch in Montclair NJ, a town on a high Wachtung hill.  I lived in Caldwell, on another hill four miles to the west.  But we often visited accounts in downtown Newark (Public Service), the Whippany area (Bell Labs), and a client that I believe was in the low-lying meadow area, as well as New York City, sometimes.  I transferred to another branch in Piscataway NJ, lower and flatter (near New Brunswick), and lived in an apartment complex toward Bound Brook on River Road, near the Raritan river.  That apartment has flooded a couple times since I left, and may well have flooded during Sandy. 

Without gasoline and power, it would have been impossible for us to drive to client sites.  (IBM supposedly, in those days, had a rule that site reps must have their cars with them and should not use public transportation; Univac did not do that.)   Of course, client companies might well have been closed, but Public Service in Newark could not have afford to be closed (given the need to restore power) and might have found its 1106-1110 data center essential to restoring service to customers.  I don’t know what we would have done.  Univac was very good about putting people up in hotels, but would the hotels have had power or rooms available?  Maybe people would have had to double up, unknown with business travel for major companies, although small businesses (like baseball teams) sometimes make employees double up.  (That was actually an issue in the 1990s DuMuth v. Miller  anti-gay discrimination case, which I have discussed elsewhere.) 

Later, from 1974-1977, I worked for NBC in mainframe (again, Univac 1110) IT in the Rockefeller Center.  I don’t think it would have closed.  But my apartment (on 11th St, at about 100 feet elevation) would not have had power for four days.  I could have walked the three miles to work in about an hour.  I might have camped out in the office to have heat and power.

Then, when I worked for Bradford (to get IBM experience) for a New York State MMIS contract, I first worked in a building on Wall Street on the 17th floor.  We had a one-day power failure in the summer of 1977, but I actually climbed the 17 flights with no difficulty at all; I was pretty fit then (at age 33).  We had offices on Church Street, which would have closed, but also in midtown, where I could have walked to work.  New York State certainly would have extended the MMIS implementation date (which was Nov. 1, 1977) considerably.  

In these pre-Internet days, working from home or telecommuting was not an option,  But it doesn't work for people whose homes don't have power or even cellular service now either.  

I'm not a biker, but I have friends in NYC who are.  This would be a time when bicycling skill and stamina would get you through this.