No Surprise

In the least surprising news development since the Sun rose at the forecast time this morning, it turns out that Alexa and Siri are, in fact, home eavesdropping devices.

George Orwell was an optimist. In Nineteen Eighty-Four, everyone had a telescreen in their home because the government forced them to. In today’s USA, people agree to it because advertisers have convinced them it’s personally convenient.

Wall Street Is Not Private Enterprise

This story begs some questions: If Wall Street needs to be recurringly propped up by the Federal government, is it even honest to portray Wall Street as private enterprise? Wouldn’t seeing it as a quasi-state enterprise be more accurate? If that’s the case, isn’t there also a strong case for a much greater degree of public input into and control of these institutions than is presently the case?

What we presently have isn’t really private enterprise: it’s socialism for the rich.

Yet More Evidence Apple Sucks Now

As I wrote recently, their laptops now mostly suck. Now their smartphones are starting to suck. Make that their smartphones are starting to suck more, because smartphones have always sucked. And their iPads now suck too, now that they’re programmed to deliberately brick themselves when you travel.

There’s definitely a trend going here, and it’s not a good one.

Authoritarians Do the Strangest Things

Fourteen years ago, the “Church” of Scientology was establishing a web presence consisting of hundreds of eerily conformist “individual” web pages for its members. (The site in question is now long gone, of course.) I don’t know how many people were stupid enough to fall for it, but it was beyond me how such an effort could prove even remotely convincing.

Now Amazon is stealing that page from the Scientoligists’ playbook, this time with Twitter accounts instead of home pages. Again, it’s beyond me how anyone could find this even remotely convincing.

Then again, I’m an anarchist in a world of capitalism and government fans. Maybe most people really do find it convincing when people say stuff even though it’s transparently obvious that it’s being coerced out of them?

Dealing with CenturyLink Sucks

My current long-distance provider, Pioneer Telecom, has ever since I became a customer with my current line had an issue with the occasional call having a one-way connection: I can hear the other side just fine, but that other side cannot hear anything. This is merely annoying to me, but it sometimes makes the other side temporarily wonder if they are now the subject of intentional harassment.

Inertia makes it a pain to switch, but as time has passed, the issue has happened more and more to the point where their service is now basically unusable. When I first got my land line, CenturyLink told me they now offer long distance service. I can’t remember what the price was, but it seemed uncompetitive, so I decided to shop around and found a better deal. (Well, it would have been a better deal if the call quality was reliable.)

So, anyhow, the time to switch has come, and the first order of business was to revisit what CenturyLink’s pricing is. If it’s simply a little bit more expensive, but not obscenely so, it’s probably worth it to pay more for better quality.

First, I try going on line. There are almost no options for managing one’s existing residential service. I find a page saying such things are under construction and to talk with an agent instead.

So I call the customer service number listed in the front of the phone book. Naturally, there’s a long phone tree. At some point in it, I am encouraged to use their web site instead. Yes, the same web site that is incomplete and which just told me to speak to an agent to accomplish this basic task. Then I get put on hold. After over a minute of waiting, it is clear that I made a mistake in calling on my kitchen phone and hang up.

I go into my office and place the call from my desk phone, the one that has a headset which leaves both hands free so I can do other stuff while waiting on hold for an extended period of time. It turns out, of course, to be an extended period of time.

After too long, I get an answer. It’s a guy in India with a heavy accent who doesn’t understand my English very well and keeps asking me to repeat stuff. This is a sign of total sleaze; it says: “We are so cheap we not only outsource labor, we outsource it to the cheapest people possible.” That’s because there’s plenty of educated people in India who speak perfectly clear English and who have no trouble understanding it when spoken by a native English speaker. (Of course, they cost a bit more to hire than those who barely know English.)

He asks me my phone number, which is a totally unreasonable thing to ask on an 800 number, because they already have that data. All 800 number owners do; such numbers work by reversing the charges, so caller numbers are furnished them due to the long-established tradition that those who pay long-distance tolls are entitled to receive itemized data showing the charge for individual calls. (In fact, CenturyLink’s phone tree already had detected my number and asked me to confirm it was the line this call was pertaining to.)

I ask about the pricing, and get placed on hold for an extended period of time. (Apparently he doesn’t have that information.) When he gets back to me with the pricing it is only a per-minute cost. I have to explicitly ask if there is a monthly fee, and if so what it is, then am placed on hold again while he researches it.

It’s obscene, of course. Why wouldn’t it be? That’s apparently CenturyLink’s business model: to tout the (surprisingly competitive) per-minute cost and sucker customers into getting zinged by monthly charges.

Needless to say, no sale. I’m still researching options.


Barney Frank, Bankster

Barney Frank’s claims that Trump is not gutting the regulations that were passed in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis should be taken with not just a grain but a large block of salt, given that he now sits on the board of a bank poised to profit from the deregulation (no doubt at taxpayer expense when the next crisis rolls around).

And the Dodd-Frank regulations themselves were weak in the first place; they failed to fully replace the Glass-Steagall Act (which itself was repealed with no small amount of Democratic Party complicity).

It’s not just the Republicans that are at fault; the Democrats are the party of banksters and capitalism, too.

Why Does Taleo Even Fucking Exist?

It’s so-called “talent management software” that many HR departments use. It’s also a piece of total garbage. Typical Taleo experience:

  1. Follow a link from Indeed to the Employer’s site, which uses Taleo.
  2. Be blocked from going further because you must log on.
  3. If you don’t have an account, you must register, and when you do that, Taleo “forgets” the job that brought you there. You must go back to the linking site and follow the link again.
  4. If you do have an account, it still doesn’t matter. Taleo will virtually always claim the job doesn’t exist anymore after you log on. Again, you must go back to the linking site and follow the link again.
  5. You will then be prompted to enter, by hand, basically your entire résumé. You cannot just cut and paste it in one fell swoop, because Taleo is coded to break everything into zillions of fields (employer, address, phone, dates worked, etc.).
  6. You will then be asked to upload your résumé.
  7. Odds are, you will never receive a call back, because you failed to include some obscure keyword that Taleo was insisting be there for the job in question.
  8. None of the work you did will matter for any other employer that uses Taleo, as there is no information sharing happening. You will have to key in your entire résumé by hand again.

Regarding forcing users to register, why the fuck do that? Isn’t the goal of advertising anything (be it a job vacancy or pork chops at the supermarket) to attract people? Forcing applicants to register just says “go away, we’re really not that serious about filling this position.”

Regarding uploading a résumé, this is a completely reasonable thing to ask. Thing is, most every other job application system out there can parse a résumé (there’s stock libraries for doing this; it’s a solved problem). Only Taleo forces you to key in the thing from scratch, anew. Again, this basically amounts to a “go away, we’re really not that interested” sign on a virtual door.

How unreasonable Taleo is may be underscored by comparing it to the experience of applying to a job in the pre-Internet days: You’d compose a cover letter, and stuff that along with your résumé (copied on a copier, not typed anew for each employer) in an envelope, put a stamp on it, and drop it in a mailbox.

Taleo may also be shown to be unreasonable by comparing it to, which lets employers manage applications (if they pay Indeed for that service). You get asked for your contact information, get a box in which to compose a cover letter, and get asked to upload your résumé. A complete analogue of what you did in the snail-mail days (absent paying postage and sometimes waiting most of a week for delivery to complete); simple and totally reasonable.

Or compare Taleo to competitors like Jobvite, which prompt you for your résumé first, then parse it and populate the form fields automatically, allowing you to correct any mistakes the parser made. A little more work, but still pretty reasonable, even if it does go through the unnecessary step of forcing you to register and log in.

The mystery, to repeat, is why this piece of absolute garbage even exists. It’s got to be crap for the HR people to use, as well (software is very seldom crap in just one area; if one part of a package is crap, the crap quality typically extends package-wide). There’s so many better options already out there.

If market forces worked like capitalism fans theorize they did, Taleo would have been compelled by such forces to fix their garbage software or would have gone out of business years ago. Yet Taleo remains, one of those counterexamples to the assertion that markets inevitably foster excellence.

There Is No Shortage of High-Tech Workers

There is a shortage of decency in the high-tech industry.

I base both these assertions on my experiences at the symposium today, where I met not one but two other individuals in basically the same situation as I am. As long as the high-tech industry considers the following non-qualifications to be job requirements:,

  • Male,
  • Between the ages of twenty-five and fifty,
  • Thinks coding is the most fun thing in the universe,
  • Thinks coding is about the only truly fun thing in the universe, really, and
  • Outside of role-playing games, martial arts, and science fiction and fantasy fandom, thinks there’s basically little else of interest besides computers.

Then, yes, that industry will continue to suffer a “shortage” of “qualified” people.

No Class Consciousness? No Way!

First, let me begin by repeating (for those already unaware) that I am queer myself and that even if I wasn’t I’d totally support LGBT liberation, because it’s part of the struggle for human liberation. But, reread that last bit: it’s only part of the struggle for human liberation. Such can be said about any identity politics issue.

The Democratic Party in particular and the Left in general have in the USA tended to focus mainly on identity politics issues in recent decades. This has overall been nothing short of a disaster, as many members of the white working class have been presented with very few messages explaining how left-wing politics are in their own best self-interest.

Which brings us to this campaign. If it succeeds, it will be seen by many as nothing more than another brick in the wall of an elitist corporate/liberal conspiracy to keep the heartland poor and backward. If it fails, it will be celebrated as a victory in “making America great again” and a triumph over the same conspiracy.

Part of the problem is the broader context that the campaign is being conducted in. What if instead there was a large and powerful organized labor movement participating in it, because many of those same anti-LGBT states are also anti-organized-labor?

However, even though organized labor is currently nothing but a shell of its past self, unions still exist, and of course it’s still possible to articulate a more class-and-labor-based argument against Amazon moving to most of those same states. Yet that wasn’t done; the site’s opening page is completely silent on labor issues, despite Amazon having not precisely the best record on these (just type “Amazon warehouse workers” into your search engine for a whole bunch of examples).

As a political enemy of mine might conclude in one of his tweets: Sad!

Fuck Suburban Propane

I currently rent a tank from Suburban Propane. Because it’s a rented tank, I must also buy the propane from that supplier.

They’re changing me around $5.00/gallon. Current market price is about $1.50/gallon (I’ve checked). So I’m being charged over three times the market rate. Avarice, anyone?

On top of the $3.50/gallon price premium, I’m of course charged a yearly tank rental fee (even though the tank should be free, given what a cash cow monopoly pricing is for them).

Add it all up, figure in my average consumption, and I can expect the new tank to pay for itself in under 2 years, and possibly after a single year. So it’s basically a no-brainer.

When I called Suburban up to begin arrangements to terminate my tank lease, they of course mention their far cheaper rate for customer-owned tanks, as if I’m going to reward them for their past extreme greed. Fat chance of that.

The only worry is my current apparent inability to find an even remotely compatible employer. My superstitious side worries about jinxing things in favor of being compelled to relocate to someplace more affordable in the near future. That is merely a superstition, of course, but it still gnaws at me.