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 Indeed.com, 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.

Breadwinners and Stress

This is totally not a surprise. The Google indexing of my site is broken (something that a newly-created sitemap will hopefully soon fix) but I once wrote that the capitalist system exploits families by holding children hostage so as to blackmail their parents. You may want to quit that awful job, but it won’t just affect you; it will make your wife and children suffer as well.

Why wouldn’t breadwinners suffer stress under such a situation?

Why Recruiters Are Useless

Those who most need help finding employment are those new in the market for a particular line of work, either as a result of recently graduating from school or a mid-life career change. But recruiters are hired at the behest of* the employer, and candidates with no experience are common as dirt, meaning employers need no special help in finding same. The candidates employers need help finding are those with specific, specialized experience.

But recruiters lack that experience, too, which seriously limits their ability to judge and match candidates with positions. Moreover, the positions being recruited for tend to pay better than the job of recruiting for them, so this state of affairs is inevitable. Thus if you’re an experienced candidate, recruiters are still of little or no help; they’ll just pester you with false lead after false lead.

I speak from experience here, having at one time been a freshly-minted CS graduate and now being a senior-level programmer. It went from recruiters being uninterested in me to me being uninterested in the (inevitably mismatched) opportuinities recruiters pestered me about.

Given that, is it any surprise that the low road dominates in the recruiting industry? Why seek people with any knowledge at all to recruit in a field? Just hire the cheapest workers in India you can find, even if they can barely speak coherent English.† They’re fated to do a bad job anyhow, so why even try? After all, doing a good job isn’t the point. Your business model is based on both candidate and employer making an unwise decision (i.e. to use you), not on providing value to either.

This leaves out the recruiters hired by busy employers whose staffing departments are themselves understaffed, of course. But when sleaze dominates an industry, the odds aren’t good. So if I see a recruiting agency’s name on a job listing, I pass. And when one cold calls me and leaves a voice mail, I just delete the message.

* Note I did not write “paid by”. That is because they are not. To claim otherwise is to state what I call the Recruiter Lie. Does anyone think employers have an unlimited orchard of money trees to harvest for paying wages and salaries? Of course not! They budget those costs, and the cost for paying recruiters ultimately comes out of the same pot for paying wages and salaries. One will come at the expense of the other.

† Which, given they are the cheapest, will be the case; competent English speakers will seek more honorable and better-paying work.

Sleazy Recruiting Agency: KRG Tech

I’m not going to much blame the specific claimed recruiter (Arun Kumar), because I strongly suspect he might not be an actual person. These slime are running address and phone number harvesting bots and ever since yesterday have been repeatedly spamming and robo-calling me about a job I am at best minimally qualified for.

Gotta love the mangled English, too. Realize that there’s plenty of well-educated people in India and Pakistan who have no difficulty using proper English grammar, and who thanks to the low standard of living in either country can be hired for a song compared to Western salaries. But of course if you’re a total sleaze outfit you can hire someone less educated in English for a song compared to them, so that’s what you’ll do.

From: ArunKumar <arun.r@krgtech.com>
To: xxxxx@xxx.com
Subject: Arun KRG Tech - Full Time (Permanent) - .NET Developer/Support - Redmond, WA
Date: Fri, 29 Apr 2016 08:38:46 -0700

Hi,                        

Greetings!! We KRG Technologies star partner of HCL America recruiting for
.NET Developer/Support - Redmond, WA. If you are interested with the below
job description kindly share your updated resume, comfortable rate with tax
term to  <mailto:arun.r@krgtech.com> arun.r@krgtech.com or call us to 661
367 8000 ext. 207. Also Please share this requirement to your friends, who
are looking for job change.