Linky Friday #82

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Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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178 Responses

  1. Avatar Damon says:

    S4-Damn, the 1% have such difficult lives. My electricity is to run my business, not recover you dead phone because you CANNOT MANAGE you battery life and don’t have a backup plan. But I’ll happily charge you 10 bucks to leave it there for a full charge. Dumbass.

    A1-Yeah, this is such an issue. I’ll worry about it when I see a saturday morning cartoon called “Ruger’s Super Shots”, a story about teddy bears, riding unicorns, carrying Ruger guns, who are out to do something somthing….Report

  2. Avatar Michael Cain says:

    H2: Why does Roy even bother trotting out Switzerland and Singapore, when his proposals immediately remove the very large government interventions (and individual mandates) that are key parts of both?Report

    • Avatar Jim Heffman says:

      Yeah, I’m kind of wondering why someone would say “all we need to do is reform it!” like that’s just some little thing. The first step in reforming it is going to be to throw most of it away. (Remember the 1099 rule? Yeah, neither does anyone else.)Report

  3. Avatar Jaybird says:

    E5 There’s an joke I’ve heard about HR departments:

    Job requirements: Electrical Engineer
    Job tasks: changing lightbulbs, plugging equipment in, unplugging equipment

    The argument I’ve heard is that just as people stretch the truth on their own resumes, HR departments are stretching the truth for their own job requirements in the hopes that the two sets of lies get everybody back more or less in line.

    The only people really harmed are honest folks.Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

      Back when I first worked for Big Aero, the job posting wanted a BS-Engineering, MS preferred, with a background in Finite Element Analysis.

      What I wound up doing was spending my days editing scripts that would be used to run analysis jobs. At no point was my engineering knowledge or judgement required. The job could have been done by a guy with an associates, or an intern/co-op.

      I was so bored. I did an internal transfer after a little while.Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman says:

        A coworker once said “I spent twelve years in college learning about this stuff, and now it turns out that the secret to scientific progress is having Matlab do curve fits.”Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

      @jaybird

      The term I heard is “purple squirrel” as in HR departments are looking for people with all the skills in the world who are willing to work for modest salaries.Report

    • Avatar morat20 says:

      As someone who doesn’t apply to jobs if my resume doesn’t tick all the boxes, yeah. (A recruiter had me set up for an interview which would have increased my salary 20% and promoted me about two jumps — despite not meeting 80% of the requirements. And they were set to hire me, but I bowed out. 20% wasn’t enough for the CF I could see coming. Always ask your OWN questions at the interview. Point being: i’d have never applied for that job, but a recruiter just cold-called me about it. So yeah, someone’s not really caring about the requirements pretty reliably).

      I think a lot of it is stock HR translating — they lack domain knowledge, so they ask for the resume and skill set of the guy leaving (or the nearest guy in the department to the same job) round everything UP to the nearest five years, and slap that up as the job requirement. It doesn’t matter if 90% of the previous employee’s skills aren’t relevant, and that of the relevant ones some of have only been ‘a thing’ for three years — they’ll slap it up to 5 anyways.

      I tend to really suck at some common forms of interviews — I’ve done phone interviews with HR people who were asking me questions off a list obviously generated by the department in question, and had to keep forcing myself to answer as if I was talking to someone who KNEW what those questions meant, rather than the layman actually asking me.

      (Seriously, I dumb down the answers automatically when answering someone who is obviously reading me a question they don’t understand. It’s like..conversation 101. The actual person i’m talking to won’t get the details, so you give the laymen version).Report

      • Avatar Damon says:

        @morat20

        Yep. Good example is a global corporation in my industry. All the job reqs have a standard format with the same boilerplate verbiage for each separate salary grade. You have to look down below, near the bottom of the “posting”, to find out the some of the actual duties and responsibilities.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Damon,
        my employer doesn’t even do that.
        all jobs get the same description for the category. Even if it’s Intermediate Software Engineer. If you know someone in the company, you might be able to suss out “what you might actually need to know” based on what the actual job is listed as…(aka they’ll tell you what you’ll be working on, but that’s totally opaque to outsiders)Report

      • Avatar Damon says:

        @kim
        Jesus, that’s f’d up. At least with the way the company I was mentioning does it, you can tell that this is an entry level job:

        “This position will support the XXX Finance Planning Team. This individual will support the development of the comprehensive Long Range Plan (LRP), as well as assist in the analysis of the monthly Orders/Sales/Earnings/Cash, and in reporting variances to the current year LRP. This position will support monthly reconciliation of orders, ensure accurate invoicing and billings, and generate Contract Funding Status Reports (CFSR) for multiple XXX contracts. Strong interpersonal and written communication skills required to effectively communicate with Senior Program Finance Leadership and other financial disciplines.
        Some experience with business systems including SAP and CostView
        •Proficient with MS Office Suite – Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access
        •Excellent communication skills
        •Bachelor’s degree from an accredited college in Finance or a related discipline, or equivalent experience/combined education, with 3 years of professional experience; or 1 year of professional experience with a related Master’s degree”
        The main key is the years of experience
        Below is for a Senior Mngt type:

        “The position will report to the Director of XXX Business Operations, and will be responsible for the day-to-day execution of all Financial Management activities on the program including the development of strategies necessary to achieve program financial goals. Advise Business Director on all Finance issues affecting the Program, and ensure XXX contracts have a sound financial baseline. Develop and maintain Long Range Plan for all Financial and Base Related requirements. Develop, flow down, and track program financial goals / targets for assigned program. Provide fiduciary oversight to insure that Company/Program Financial Objectives are achieved. Establish collaboration across business functions to achieve financial goals. Ensure contract close-out activity is accomplished. Prepare and provide status of Program’s financial performance to Senior Program and Functional Leadership. Provide interface with the Customer as required for all XXX business activities.
        Leadership skills with problem solving capabilities and the proven ability to achieve successful closure of complex assignments with multiple parties.

        Working knowledge of XXX Earned Value command media to include Earned Value processes, Program Performance Management Process (PPMP) and Program Performance Management Directive (PPMD)
        • Knowledgeable of XX cost segregation systems including SAP, and financial management toolsets including CostView, wInsite, etc.
        • Hands-on familiarity with XX Aero Earned Value metrics reports and data structures
        • Demonstrated successful experience leading diverse teams in a dynamic environment
        • Demonstrated ability to manage many projects/tasks at one time
        • Proven ability to lead, motivate and mentor a team
        • Ability to effectively communicate both written and orally”

        Pretty clear that the jobs are two different levels, but no where does it really say what you’re going to be doing specifically.Report

      • Avatar dragonfrog says:

        I love when they ask for 10 years experience with technologies that have only existed for 7.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        Or when they ask for experience with so many different technologies that they can’t possibly be using all of them (or if they are, you should run away from that job as fast as you can.)Report

      • Avatar veronica d says:

        Yep. Requirements: 15+ years with Java, Ruby, Python, Unlambda, and (for some reason) Lotus Notes.

        (And as veronica gets near to clicking the link to apply, she notices they also call for experience with Microsoft Project and Subversion. She pauses. Her finger hesitates. She gazes on the screen, her expression forlorn. Moments pass. Then she shakes her head and backs away from the keyboard.)Report

      • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

        Microsoft Project and Subversion

        When you see stuff like that, it means HR or someone else who doesn’t know much about the position wrote the requirements. You might as well apply since they don’t know what they want yet.

        Though it is possible that HR would screen for that in the first place just to reduce the number of resumes they have to deal with. (Though how many resumes could they be getting for people with 15+ years experience that they need to add arbitrary constraints just to reduce their workload?Report

    • Avatar Patrick says:

      IME, 99% of technical job postings are asking for someone who would make $130k a year if they actually met all of the requirements and they’re offering about half that.

      So they’re expecting “enterprise class network support personnel” are also going to be good with providing helpdesk support with Excel and training for the accounting department and they’re going to take half their current salary to do it.

      Or maybe they just expect people to lie, as JB says. But that seems to be preselecting your candidates for “people who already have an established track record of telling me what I want to hear instead of the truth”Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

        IME, 99% of technical job postings are asking for someone who would make $130k a year if they actually met all of the requirements and they’re offering about half that.

        There’s probably some survivorship bias in play here. More attractive offers tend to get filled and taken down much more quickly, so the snapshot you see when browsing the listings is skewed towards those that take a long time to fill.

        This also probably explains why so many candidates are awful. A good candidate might interview at half a dozen companies, get an offer, and stop interviewing. A bad candidate will just keep on interviewing because nobody makes an offer. Then when he finally gets a job, he gets fired and starts interviewing again.Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

      I’m grossly underqualified for my current job, according to the ad I answered. I didn’t really even apply—I just thought the job sounded like something I might be interested in in the future and asked the recruiter if I could talk to the hiring manager about what exactly I would have to learn to meet their requirements. Instead they just skipped straight to the phone screen. When I got in, I learned that basically no one in the company knew any of the stuff they were asking for prior to joining, and I would say that a large majority of the work done at the company requires virtually none of the specialized knowledge listed as a requirement.

      I have no idea what they were thinking.Report

  4. Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

    A4 – I sent the original link, but it turns out the original story was more sensationalist than accurate (as Popehat explains)

    This does not diminish my original comment regarding the precautionary principle, as other examples are legion.Report

  5. Avatar Kolohe says:

    A3: My girlfriend’s cousin’s husband has a small herd of goats on a 10 acre lot in the Greater Portland (OR) area. According to him, the grazing area still needs to be mowed every so often, as the goats are insufficient to keep it a steady state ‘grassland’.Report

  6. Avatar Kolohe says:

    E4: Isn’t someone that comments regularly here a long haul truck driver? I’d like to get my take on this article. If I remember from what he(?) said, the miles cap is something like 2000 miles a week, and the going starting rate (based on the back of the trucks I saw from driving across country this summer) is at most 50 cents a mile for a company driver. (and most seemed in the 35 cent range) So, while 700-1000 dollars a week (gross) is either at somewhat above the median wage in this country, it doesn’t seem like quite enough considering the hours and the family separation. And on the flip side of that, I question the ability of anyone to actually max out their miles (between the ad hoc nature of some the runs, rookies getting the short end compared to more seasoned drivers, and usual company management shenanigans to make sure labor costs don’t come in too high)Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

      That would be Road ScholarReport

    • Avatar Jim Heffman says:

      E4 is another one of those “plenty of jobs in Midlanowhere” stories.

      There’s also the dirty secret that more and more companies are forcing truckers to become independent contractors, which means they have to pay for EVERYTHING–their truck, their insurance, their gas, all of it is their own dime now.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        Squint your eyes just right, and there are no jobs at all in North Dakota. Not that pay right. Or Kansas City or Texas. In fact, there is nowhere out there in the entire country with better job opportunities than wherever you happen to live right now. Things are equally tough all over. Don’t let anybody tell ya different.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Well, I think Road Scholar also said (I think it was Road Scholar) that the folks who lease/own their own trucks have a much more committed attitude toward the job than guys who are merely using the company truck as a company guy. A guy who owns his own truck wants to max his miles, push the limits, and get as much done as possible. The company guy wants to do the bare minimum.

        Now it seems to me that there’s a chicken/egg question in there… but it makes sense to me that that’d be the case. (And apologies to RS if I put words in his mouth.)Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman says:

        “Squint your eyes just right, and there are no jobs at all in North Dakota. Not that pay right. ”

        Ah-heh. If I’m underwater on my house and have one kid in junior high, one in middle school, and one just starting kindergarten, and my wife has her own career and this is where all my friends and family are, “pay right” is kind of a bigger deal than you’re suggesting.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        “Due to existing obligations, I cannot take advantage of that opportunity” is not the same thing as the opportunity being illusory.

        When I was in college, there were some great opportunities that required a lot of travel. I was in college, so travel was not on the table. That doesn’t actually mean that they weren’t pretty great opportunities. (For somebody.)Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman says:

        Jaybird, the issue is that a company driver gets paid by the company, whereas an independent driver gets paid by the client–and only if they actually *have* a client. You don’t get paid for the time spent waiting in line at the port for a container to pick up doesn’t make money, but you still have to burn fuel to keep the truck going.Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman says:

        ““Due to existing obligations, I cannot take advantage of that opportunity” is not the same thing as the opportunity being illusory.”

        I didn’t say the opportunities did not exist; I’m pushing back against the idea that there are plenty of jobs out there and the only problem is people not wanting to take them; the implication being that the problem is the people and not the jobs.

        It’s actually useful to read the article (and the comments) where they say straight out that the reason there are openings is that the companies don’t (or can’t, or won’t) pay enough to make the jobs worth taking.Report

      • Avatar veronica d says:

        But I recall one of the big downsides of the housing crisis was an overall decrease in mobility for middle-class people. For example, in the past even if you could not move, enough of your neighbors could that the job economy would clear. (Or close to it.) Now it does not clear because many people cannot move.

        In addition to housing issues, I would add that the deep set culture wars have exacerbated this problem. For myself, I couldn’t realistically move to one of these places. It would be socially unlivable for me.

        Okay, so I am an outlier. But there is a spectrum of social comfort, and economics happens on the margins (she says with a grin). Thus saying, “Well there are jobs in {inhospitable place}” doesn’t really move the conversation much.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        Jim, reads to me like the bigger issue is lifestyle (being away from families) rather than money.

        Veronica, I think that’s the case, with regard to the housing crisis and underwater mortgages. It’s definely a counterargument to the social case for home ownership.Report

      • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

        “Somebody” is doing a lot of heavy lifting in the phrase, “great opportunities for somebody.” Minimum wage + a dental plan for a job as a guinea pig for a taser testing contractor is a great opportunity for masochists with bad teeth, but I don’t think the WSJ should be writing puzzled articles about why they can’t fill 35,000 positions when the first few were so easy to fill. Nobody would call that a “shortage” even in a down economy.

        The difficulties that come with a long-haul trucking job a pretty well known (at least the obvious ones are–I’m sure there are plenty more that you learn about after taking the job). I’m puzzled over why business owners are so puzzled that their list of “somebody” is too short to meet their demand at that price point.Report

      • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

        @will-truman

        Jim, reads to me like the bigger issue is lifestyle (being away from families) rather than money.

        I’m not sure how you’d separate the two. The purpose of wages is to get you to do something you wouldn’t otherwise do by compensating you for the impact it has on your lifestyle. Work eats your personal time with family and your recreational time, it is often stressful and physically tiring, and sometimes it’s dangerous. Wages are set with those trade offs in mind.

        It looks like the trucking industry (and any other industry that gets a chance to complain in the WSJ) wants to be exempt from that problem, but the reality appears to be that in order to spend long hours driving a truck and days or weeks at a time away from home, people want to be compensated more than slightly above median wages.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        My comment was not about truck driving in particular. In that case, I think the problems are reasonably straightforward. I can’t blame people for not wanting to do it, and I can’t blame employers for not paying the problem away.

        To answer your question elsewhere about how to separate the two, they’re not seperate but they’re not the same, either. Questions of money are much easier to fix questions of lifestyle. Trying to fix the latter with the former is sometimes possible but often not feasible and typically very, very expensive.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        By way of example, one of the reasons my wife left her previous job was lifestyle. Pay didn’t factor into it at all. Could they have, theoretically, offered her $3m per year and would she have taken it? Yes. So in that sense, it can be considered “a problem with pay”… but it’s not that, and trying to use pay to solve it would not have been feasible in any realistic sense.Report

      • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

        I agree that the lifestyle problem can be expensive to solve, but it’s important to recognize that it’s not the fault of the people who aren’t taking the jobs. For example, the “live-in servant” lifestyle is not one that people really choose in the US any more. Most people can earn enough that they can live on their own, so the combination of low wages, crap hours, low status, but a roof over your head is no longer enticing. We could bring back the live-in servant if we jacked up wages enormously, but the actual outcome was that we just don’t really have live-in servants anymore, and that’s OK.

        With some of these other jobs, employers need to decide whether they actually want them or not instead of pining for the days when people were more grateful/desperate (if those days actually ever existed). We’re not going to do away with trucking any time soon, so sooner or later we’re going to end up coughing up the wages needed to get our stuff trucked around. Do they *really* need welders in random city X in the middle of nowhere? If they do, they’ll get them instead of complaining to the WSJ that it’s expensive. The question, “What do we do to get welders to move to the middle of nowhere?” assumes that getting welders to move to the middle of nowhere is a problem that needs to be solved.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        So as long as there is a McDonald’s hiring somewhere, can we say there is no job shortage?Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman says:

        “one of the reasons my wife left her previous job was lifestyle. ”

        It is important to understand that not every price is quantified in money.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Jim,
        it is a rare person indeed who cannot fix most issues with enough money.Report

      • Avatar Patrick says:

        If you have a job available, but nobody is taking the job, there isn’t actually a job available.

        There’s you, trying to pay somebody what is obviously less than what the market will bear, trying to hire somebody when the somebody’s willing to do your job aren’t willing to do it at that price.

        “There are plenty of jobs available, but nobody will take them!” means “you’re not offering enough money to get them to want the job”.

        People aren’t entitled to get paid to do whatever, but employers aren’t entitled to have people work for the wages they offer, either. “I should be able to pay somebody X to do this job” isn’t how it works.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        Patrick, it’s rarely the case that nobody wants the job for the posted wage. It’s far more frequently that nobody legally authorized to work here wants the job for the posted wage.

        I agree that employers can’t demand people work for however little they want to pay. I do think, however, that some posted payscales are pretty reasonable and if they’re not being filled, it’s not always on the employer (any more than I think someone’s inability to find work must be because they’re being too picky or demanding too much money). In this economy, I am inclined to blame the employer by default. But in certain sectors and areas, I think that’s less the case.Report

      • Avatar Patrick says:

        Patrick, it’s rarely the case that nobody wants the job for the posted wage. It’s far more frequently that nobody legally authorized to work here wants the job for the posted wage.

        I have a solution to that problem!

        I agree that employers can’t demand people work for however little they want to pay. I do think, however, that some posted payscales are pretty reasonable and if they’re not being filled, it’s not always on the employer…

        Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying that it’s anybody in particular’s fault, either. I’m saying it’s how the market actually functions.

        Maybe the employer can’t afford to pay the employee X + Y and still make a profit (I find that a little difficult to believe given the profit reports, but hey, maybe that’s the case).

        But if all you can offer is X and nobody wants X to do that job, it’s not the potential employees’ fault either.

        It’s nobody’s fault. It is what it is. There is no market to fill that job at that wage. Pay more, offer better perks, drop working hours, or leave the job unfilled.

        While nobody has to offer the guy with the Master’s degree in puppeteering a job, the guy with the Master’s degree isn’t required to take any particular job, either.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        Not just markets, except insofar as we throw in “Government policy” (such as immigration, safety net, etc) into markets. Which we can! It should just be explicit.

        Other than that, not much to disagree with.Report

      • Avatar Patrick says:

        Well, sure, but I’ve seen the size of a welfare check.

        If you can’t beat the snot out of that as a base wage, I’m not so sure that your target wage is very realistic for a lot of jobs. For some, sure.

        But I wouldn’t clean toilets for minimum wage, for example.Report

      • Avatar Road Scholar says:

        @jim-heffman : There’s also the dirty secret that more and more companies are forcing truckers to become independent contractors, which means they have to pay for EVERYTHING–their truck, their insurance, their gas, all of it is their own dime now.

        Forcing? That’s news to me. There’s always been a variety of arrangements available from just a straight-up employee company driver to being a fully independent business owner. Sort of in the middle is the owner-operator who owns or leases his own truck and operates it under a contract (confusingly also called a lease) to an established company. It’s very much like operating a franchise. The company you’re leased onto typically puts their logo on your rig, arranges freight, deals with all the billing and so forth, and pays you either a fixed amount per mile (in the neighborhood of $1.00) or a fixed percentage of the actual revenue.

        Some companies are entirely company drivers, some are exclusively owner-operators, and others — probably most — have a mix. Whether going the o-o route is a good deal or not seems to be purely a function of getting with the right company, working your ass off, and sometimes a bit of luck, or at least avoiding the worst luck. I’ve heard horror stories where the guy couldn’t afford to eat and others where he was building a considerable fleet of his own. Essentially it’s like owning a franchise so whatever range of success and failure you see with Subway shops or whatever you’ll see with this.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        If you own a Subway, at least you can eat (if not very well.)Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko says:

        I’ve got some horror stories too, @road-scholar — but I don’t ever hear the success stories. No one comes to a lawyer and says, “It’s all working out, I’m making money and the company is happy with me and I like the work and my taxes are paid and the DOT is leaving me alone, thanks for your time here’s $300!”Report

    • Avatar Michael Cain says:

      Having driven western interstate highways regularly for years, and at the risk of offending Road Scholar, this is a field that just screams for self-driving vehicles. The recognition problems are much simpler than those in urban areas, and the software is almost certainly going to be more polite than some of the drivers I’ve encountered in the last couple of years. My pet peeve of late are the pairs of trucks, one driving 65.0 mph and one driving 65.5 mph, and the overtaking driver pulls out to pass but doesn’t change his speed at all. So the cars, who all want to drive 75 mph, pile up behind the trucks, with some of those drivers doing stupid things as well.Report

      • Avatar Road Scholar says:

        You won’t offend me, @michael-cain . For all the gee-whiz enthusiasm out there about the Google-mobile, the truth is that actually not that many people are interested in a self-driving car, particularly if it adds a few $k to the price. I saw a survey that had positive responses of around 25% or so. Granted that’s still a lot of potential customers but is it enough?

        Anyway, the rationale changes considerably when you consider self-driving commercial trucks. I’m leaving in the morning for a 1330 mile trip from Seattle (area) to Denver. All but about 40 miles of which is on interstate highways. That’s 1290 miles of the most easily automated driving you can imagine. And that’s basically my life right now. I would guess that something like 80 to 85% of the miles I drive are on freeways. If that could be automated to the point that I could sleep or goof off for those miles my productivity would more than double. That’s a lot of potential money sitting on the table.

        The other end of the driving spectrum has a lot of potential as well. Something like thirty percent of truck accidents occur at very slow speeds backing into parking spots and loading docks. Some high end cars will already parallel park for you. I would LOVE a system where I could pull up next to an empty parking space or dock, have the onboard computer scan the environment, plan a backing maneuver, and then execute it with me watching with a remote dead man switch.

        FWIW, I feel your pain about the way some truckers drive. It’s just a complete lack of courtesy. If I have some other truck passing me sslloowwllyy and traffic is behind him I’ll go ahead and back off so he can get around. If it helps at all we all have a gob of stories about assholes in cars too. 😉Report

    • Avatar Road Scholar says:

      Yeah, @kolohe , that would be me (hence the oh-so-clever moniker). Thoughts on the subject… Well, this may come out sort of scattershot so bear with me. Typical starting pay for a driver fresh out of school is around $0.28/mile. There are some add-ons like extra pay for multiple stops or for short hauls, plus a couple different kinds of detention pay when you end up sitting for no fault of your own. I’m currently near the top of my company’s pay scale at $0.38 plus bonuses that make it really $0.41.

      I just passed the 150,000 mile mark in this truck that was new last summer. About 62 weeks as near as I can figure, so that works out to about 2400 miles per week average. I can push closer to 3k in any given week but home-time and various bull like the two days I just spent sitting around while it was in the shop bring the average down. But being a “Platinum” driver with seniority helps when there’s more drivers than freight in a given area.

      This industry has horrible turnover, with the average employment duration of less than a year. There’s a few of us that have been around quite a while (I started in ’98) and a constant rotation of newbies, most of whom don’t last long. Most people just aren’t cut out for it. It can be hell on a marriage but even the single guys (and it’s still mostly men) usually flake out just from the demands of the job.

      But for the few that can hack it it’s pretty much guaranteed employment as long as you keep your license reasonably clean, don’t have drug or alcohol issues, and don’t do stupid crap like abandoning your equipment instead of just quitting like a normal person. And finally, my company at least is about as equal opportunity as it gets. They seriously don’t give a crap about anything other than your ability to do the job. If you’re legally able to work they’ll train you up and put you on the road. I’ve run across at least four or five pretty obvious trans-women driving for us and made friends with a gay dude yesterday.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko says:

        Maintenance must be a bear with the equipment in such heavy use.Report

      • Avatar Road Scholar says:

        The trucks typically come with a 500,000 mile warranty on the drivetrain. Yep, a cool half-million. They also cost about $150k and that 500 K is about four years of use. Basically all the numbers are bigger by a factor of ten or so. Fer instance, a new set of tires will set you back about $3000.Report

  7. Avatar Jim Heffman says:

    E3: The other issue is that companies often lack the vision (or, sometimes, the ability) to provide financial compensation with anything other than a raise. Monetary awards are some special rare thing that This Company Doesn’t Do Because Um Um Um.

    I’d strongly prefer a system where your raise was zero percent (or, rather, indexed to inflation in the past year) but every time you did something you got a bonus. Completed a design? Fifty bucks, right there. Contributed to a design review presentation? A hundred. Actually presented something? Two hundred. We finished a design review with no liens and no actions? Everyone gets a thousand, good job all around.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      A former employer of mine had the policy that it was actively wrong to ask for a raise or additional compensation, unless you had been promoted. The rationale being that you agreed to work for $x/hr. If you argue that you should work for $y/hr, you were essentially going back on your word. Which is dishonest.

      The same employer, though after the architect of the above policy left, did sort of do what you refer to. A coworker and I put together a toolkit that helped productivity immensely. When internal tools complained, not only were they shot down, but we got a nice little check cut in our direction.Report

  8. Avatar veronica d says:

    On E5, my employer has been making a big effort to recruit women. (Which, yay, they got me!) Also they have been pushing more women to apply for promotions. (We have this weird self-nomination thing for the promotion tracks.) And in fact they have noticed women are far more reluctant than men to apply for promotions. They want to change that.

    But there is a downside they are perhaps missing. Men who are visibly ambitious, even to the point of overconfidence, tend to be well regarded. It is just something we expect men to do. It is different for women. Women who show the same traits do not engender a similar response. There was a study (sorry, no link) that showed observers became decidedly annoyed and judgmental when women showed ambition. When men did the same things, however, they were more forgiving.

    (The method was having study and control groups read identical narratives about an ambitious executive, but with swapped genders. Then the subjects were questioned on their feelings toward the characters in the story.)

    My employer is very smart and good at measuring bias. (We’re really good a measuring everything.) But I wonder, when it is time for me to apply for promotion, am I going to annoy the review panel? Will I pay for this in the long term?

    I dunno. This being a woman thing — it is a minefield.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      There are ways to mitigate sounding ambitious (and reading the original article might give you some of the watchwords to avoid). Talking about being a team player, referencing mentors, a focus on “getting it right” not getting ahead.
      Confidence is still needed, but…Report

      • Avatar veronica d says:

        @kim — I’ve read dozens and dozens of articles on this, along with participating in workshops. It remains a minefield.Report

      • Avatar veronica d says:

        Plus, there is still not much evidence that these techniques really work, or will work well for a broad class of women — this “Lean In” stuff is for a certain type of executive-track white cis woman. It might not play if I try it. Nor might it work on an engineering track.

        Our culture gives men a pretty straightforward playbook on corporate politics. Women are having to figure it out our own, and we’re finding that trying the stuff men do does not work for us. So we try different stuff. No doubt we get a lot wrong.

        This article hits the main points faced by mid-level women engineers: https://medium.com/matter/the-ping-pong-theory-of-tech-world-sexism-c2053c10c06cReport

      • Avatar veronica d says:

        Actually, replace “this article” with “this adorable cartoon…” 🙂Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman says:

        I remember reading that article and thinking “wow, you know, all that same stuff happens to me, and it’s happened my entire career, except maybe having men stare at my chest, and I continually have to deal with it it even now. Are people being sexist against me, too, even though I’m a man?”Report

      • Avatar veronica d says:

        @jim-heffman — Maybe you’re just manifestly incompetent. shrug

        Thing is, you cannot fool a trans person on this topic. Been there. Seen both sides.

        Plus, you know, this might be annoying to hear, but scientists actually study this stuff, with like numbers and data, and there are stark differences in conversational dynamics between women and men.

        I like this article, which is a summary of gender dynamics in the classroom: http://isites.harvard.edu/fs/html/icb.topic58474/krupnick.html

        There are many, many, many, many, many, many studies that show the same basic stuff. Some analyze corporate meetings. Some analyze interruption patterns at parties. On and on. Some analyze the perception of discourse patterns. When they do that, they find this: people don’t even notice how much more men talk than women, or how often they interrupt, or the ways they dominate the topic. In one study it was found that if women get even 20% of classroom time, the men in the classroom complain that it is dominated by women, that women are talking more than men.

        Think about that. Even 20% speech by women seems like too much. Under patriarchy, women should not talk at all.

        Why do you trust your self-perception on this issue? What tools do you have to overcome subtle, unconscious bias? Do you even want to overcome bias?Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman says:

        “Why do you trust your self-perception on this issue?”

        So you’re telling me that I can’t trust self-perception…except I can totally trust YOURS.

        My engineering classes were 90% men. Some of them had one woman in a class of fifteen people. If 20% of the time were devoted to women specifically, then that would be that one woman having 20% of the conversation. You’re damn right people would say “it feels like none of the rest of us get a chance”, but did they say that in classrooms where one man got 20% of the talking time?

        You also make much of men’s tendency to interrupt women. The study you linked shows that men tend to interrupt everybody.Report

  9. Avatar dragonfrog says:

    [E3] Oh sigh, Forbes. Year one of a generic career trajectory starts with a $100,000 salary. Suuuure it does.Report

  10. Avatar dragonfrog says:

    [S7] About three years ago I switched from a Razr V3 to my current smart-ish phone. I went in to the phone store reasoning that since miniaturization technology only gets better, I should be able to find a slightly better phone that would fit as well or better in my pocket. Wrong! The flip phones were all much, much bigger and clunkier than the antiquated Razr. The smallest phone in the place was a relatively crappy HTC Wildfire S, which is only a bit bigger than the Razr, and that is what I’m using now.

    And it seems to have only gotten more extreme. The smallest phones I can find are still all bigger than my current phone (on its last legs); the flagship phones are now even more absurd than the Galaxy Nexus that Fledermaus got at the same time, which even then required a customization of her purse belt just to be able to carry it, and had me teasing her about her pocket television.

    Don’t hipsters wear tight pants anymore? Is there no manufacturer catering to their requirement for a phone that fits in their teeny-tiny pockets, or do they just keep oversize phones in their messenger bags?Report

    • Avatar veronica d says:

      Right. My next phone will probably be a Nexus 5, but I’d really prefer the Nexus 4 if they still made it. I don’t need a big screen, but to carry it in a tiny handbag is mandatory.

      Stupid nerds and their giant phones! 🙂Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        I find it interesting that Apple has decided to go bigger on their iPhones. Half the time when Applytes boast of something like a smaller screen, it’s on the basis that if Apple doesn’t do it then it’s not worth doing. But I thought that they were actually serious on the size issue, and that there would be more pushback.

        I have big ole hands, and so the 5″ S5 fits very comfortably. I’m a nerd, so I want a Note 4. I put it in a holster, because I’m married and don’t have to care how nerdy I look. 🙂Report

      • Avatar veronica d says:

        Wait, I’m married and I care a lot about how (non-)nerdy I look!

        🙂

        Funny thing about my job is that most folks there are so OMG-NERDY that I feel like a different species sometimes.Report

      • Avatar dragonfrog says:

        Unless something new and amazing comes out between now and the end of my current contract, I’ll probably get an S4 mini. Which is about as “mini” as the new “Mini Cooper,” but will at least fit in most of my pants pockets.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        Holster! Holster! Holster!Report

      • Avatar dhex says:

        @will-truman

        ” I put it in a holster, because I’m married and don’t have to care how nerdy I look. :)”

        but if you’re not going to consider your wife’s feelings, what about the general public? they gotta look at the holster. think about how it makes us feel. 🙁

        i have enormous hands but the big(ger) ass phones are a mystery to me. i don’t know what i’m going to do once the gnex dies. i’m locked into verizon, as nothing else out here works and i get a 21% discount on billing. and i’d like something that’s stock android or as close to as possible.Report

      • Avatar veronica d says:

        You could always get an Android watch and take the watch band off! 🙂Report

      • Avatar dhex says:

        i think making fun of a phone holster and then buying an android watch is a wide stance too far, even for me. not sure why companies can hire engineers to build a smartwatch but run out of money to pay a designer to make it not tron ugly every single frickin’ time.

        maybe the new moto x? or the htc one, which seems ginormous. or maybe verizon will eventually be able to run a nexus phone on their network, and pigs will fly, and some other fantastical nonsense will happen.Report

      • Avatar veronica d says:

        No, I mean use the watch body as an actually small enough phone.

        You wouldn’t wear the hideous thing.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        So guess who wants an Android watch? Or something like one?Report

      • Avatar veronica d says:

        To be fair, I can see someone liking this:

        http://www.macrumors.com/2014/09/05/motorola-launches-moto-360-smartwatch/

        Too masculine for my taste, and nowhere near designer-ish enough, but I can see someone liking it.Report

      • Avatar dragonfrog says:

        If I get a cell phone holster, it must have something to truly recommend it. For instance, if the handsome phone holster at the bottom of this page were an article of commerce rather than a one-off labour of love, I might consider it.

        http://www.thesteampunkempire.com/forum/topics/looking-for-steampunkReport

      • Avatar dragonfrog says:

        @veronica-d No, I mean use the watch body as an actually small enough phone.
        You wouldn’t wear the hideous thing.

        I have been keeping an eye on android watch-phones as an option. If one comes along with otherwise reasonable specs – particularly a screen resolution not too much lower than my current phone, and 1 GB of RAM – that might well be the answer.

        And no, I haven’t seen any I’d want to actually strap to my wrist.Report

      • Avatar dhex says:

        i could get one and wear it around my neck like a track coach. would work better were i a track coach. or wore tracksuits.

        i like how the best designed smartwatch is only now hitting “cheap casio 80s watch” in terms of visual appeal.

        @will-truman

        “So guess who wants an Android watch? Or something like one?”

        why? (pronounced WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY)

        seriously though, if it could replace a phone, i think i’d see the appeal. maybe they’ll win the wearable wars over cyb3rpunk goggles. but as it stands you’re basically just adding more junk to recharge.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        That moto watch looks A LOT like a Swatch I had in the 80’s.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        I had a cheap radio watch in the 80s. That was awesome.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        I never wore more than two swatches at once (one on each wrist). There was a kid who wore, like, a dozen in my class but he was an odd duck. He’d get pissed when he had a dozen watches on his arm and you’d ask him the time.Report

      • Avatar veronica d says:

        Well, like then he has to look at all the watches and decide which one will be the canonical time. That’s work!Report

      • Avatar ScarletNumbers says:

        @veronica-d 1:12 pm

        Wait, I’m married and I care a lot about how (non-)nerdy I look!

        Be fair; you are poly.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      The flip phones were all much, much bigger and clunkier than the antiquated Razr

      I have a theory! Want to hear it?

      I think the people who are hanging on to flip-phones tend to disproportionately be the older set. They don’t want small phones. They want phones that their wobbly fingers can easily hit the button on and are less likely to drop. The people who wanted the smallest Razr-type phones are mostly smartphoned, and so not a part of the target audience anymore.Report

      • Avatar veronica d says:

        I saw a guy using a Palm the other day. I was, like, wait! Did I just fall into a time vortex?

        Then I was like, am I gonna have some kind of transsexual time paradox where I meet my boy self and we fall in love…?

        But no, it was just some weird dude who still used a Palm.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        For all of my nerdiness when it comes to phones, I am often a late adopter. I used to have a separate Pocket PC and phone and would have continued to do so until Office Security inexplicably decided that pocket PC’s were a security risk but smartphones (like Pocket PC! Except with cameras and radio functionality!) weren’t. Even then, I went for years without getting a data plan. Jumped off Windows Mobile over to Android at the last possible minute.

        So, I feel for Mr. Palm Guy.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        I have an old candybar phone. not sure if those are older than flip phones or not.Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        @veronica-d
        That reminds of Asimov’s song: “Oh give me a clone”

        http://members.tripod.com/~bardic_circle/aclone.htmReport

      • Avatar Dan Miller says:

        From my time working at a phone company, I can confirm this suspicion is correct.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        Then I was like, am I gonna have some kind of transsexual time paradox where I meet my boy self and we fall in love…?

        It’s been done.Report

      • Avatar veronica d says:

        Right. I seem to remember a Harlen Ellison thing in the same vein.

        Anyway, it wouldn’t happen, even with a time vortex, because I despise my former boy self. That fucking coward stole so many years from me. Yeeeeesh. “Waaaaaa! I can’t transition. I’ll be ugly and a freak.”

        Whadda loser. Now-me is fucking beautiful and amazing and I love every moment of my life.

        I totally shag now-me.

        So, someone please make a “split myself into two bodies” machine. I’ll be on that shit fast.Report

    • Avatar Jim Heffman says:

      What’s happening is that people have realized that what they wanted all along was a portable computer, and portable computers need a screen big enough to do things on. The fact that their portable computer can make telephone calls is actually a side benefit.

      Remember (as one of the links points out) that what Steve Jobs really wanted was the iPad, and he considered the iPhone a distracting sideline.Report

      • Avatar veronica d says:

        But people also want things they can text on, and quickly check Facebook and Twitter, and maybe read an article online, but not necessarily on a 9” screen.

        Anyway, I’d love a 4” phone. It would be perfect for my nightlife.

        Maybe I’ll do the watch-without-the-band thing, once the technology stabilizes.Report

      • Avatar dragonfrog says:

        My current portable computer that happens to make phone calls has a 3.2″ screen, which is about right for my use of it – map directions, bus timetables, text messages, reading and only occasionally writing emails, looking up recipes in the grocery store and wikipedia articles when I do crosswords in bed.

        About the smallest I’ve seen lately has a 4.3″ screen, but the surrounding trim is a bit smaller, so the overall phone isn’t quite as much bigger as that might suggest.Report

      • Avatar dragonfrog says:

        I totally see why there are these phablet things – I’m just surprised that there are so many, and that the market for small phones is apparently too small to sustain even one mass market offering.Report

  11. Avatar Mo says:

    E4: There’s a labor shortage in X = Companies in X don’t pay enoughReport

    • Avatar veronica d says:

      Are you saying Software Engineers aren’t paid enough?Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        How much would you ask for 80 hour weeks and a job you can’t quit without leaving the country?Report

      • Avatar Mo says:

        I would say that the shortage of software engineers is a myth. But also, there’s a reason why big tech companies colluded to hold down prices.

        http://fortune.com/2013/08/05/the-myth-of-americas-missing-software-engineers/Report

      • Avatar veronica d says:

        I hire in this industry — at least I did until recently. My new job does not include hiring. But anyway, first hand, it is really really really really hard to find good, competent engineers.

        Which, to cheer for diversity, those companies who figure out how to hire (and retain!) women and minorities are going to see a huge win.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        v,
        I’m (mostly) competent. You wouldn’t believe how many people look at my resume and don’t even bother to interview me.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        My inclination, when I hear employers complain about the difficulty in finding good people, is to attribute it to insufficient pay. But I’ve also heard things from the employer’s point of view, from people that I trust.

        Even if it is a matter of pay, though, that may be a long-term solution that doesn’t do much for the short term. My college roommate is a VP of IT and he’s talked about the difficulty while disclosing exactly what the jobs entailed, resume requirements, and pay, and it was all quite reasonable. But he’s in a city with a booming economy and… there’s a shortage. Short term, maybe they could bribe away other people, but that would only solve the problem for that company. (Adding to the story, no less than two other people while I was down there asked if I was looking to move back and looking for work. One was somebody who knew me, while another was a guy I happened to meet at a party. This despite having already been out of the job market for a while.)

        Long-term, either the city needs to draw more people with the requisite skills, or more people need to get said skills. Right now, though, there’s nothing to call it but a labor shortage (in this particular industry, in this particular area).

        I should add, this was a while back. For all I know, the situation may have worked itself out.Report

      • Avatar veronica d says:

        Right. I’ve been on your side of the desk also. But it is not easy to find people here in Cambridge. Nor is it easy in the valley. Nor in the northwest. Nor in NYC. So we open other offices in other places, but that creates new problems. (It’s bad enough dealing w/ the fact our main office is in the valley and we have two largish teams of engineers here on the east coast. Offices in smaller cities are even more fragmented.)

        Plus recruiting complexity, visa requirements, security clearances and background issues, etc., etc. Plus, honestly, it is hard to recognize good people. A bad hire is worse than an empty desk. (Been there, done that, seen projects crash and burn because one bad hire creates a mess.) So you tweak your interview process a million times and throw at it all the analytics you can muster. And then you recruit someone for weeks and the fucker decides to haul off and work for Twitter or Facebook (like OMG what is wrong with people!) And then you start again.

        Anyway, it’s really complicated.

        All this said, it’s a great job to have.Report

      • Avatar Mo says:

        @will-truman Why doesn’t the firm look for people outside of their own market? Offer relo packages. Just like you suggest that employees look for jobs in places like South Dakota, firms should be looking for employees in places like Detroit and offer full (one-way) relo. And you’re pretty certain to get an employee that will make it work if they relo because leaving home is a hell of a commitment device.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        Mo, I very much think employers should do that. (I can’t speak to my friend’s company, but except to say that they were interviewing out-of-towners. Lots of people don’t want to move, or can’t due to existing obligations.

        My own thing is advocacy of the Kansas City Plan, wherein the government tries to help connect LTU with jobs outside of their area, and helps them with relocation expenses. (In exchange, employers agree to hire people who have been out of the job market for a while.) This wouldn’t help former roommate, but that’s my approach to regional misallocation when dealing with jobs that don’t require as much training, or for employers willing to train.Report

      • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

        My college roommate is a VP of IT and he’s talked about the difficulty while disclosing exactly what the jobs entailed, resume requirements, and pay, and it was all quite reasonable.

        I think part of the problem here is definitional. People seem to define a shortage as “the inability to hire people at a reasonable rate” without really defining what reasonable is. On what basis do you decide that the pay is “reasonable” for that job in a city with a booming economy, and how does that basis jibe with the observation that people aren’t accepting it?Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        What I mean by reasonable is that they were offering as much as I was paid in my last job, for a job that required little experience.

        People weren’t taking it because they are in a place with more opportunities than people to take advantage of them. Thus, I think the term “shortage” applies even if they could theoretically fill those slots by paying people three million dollars a year.Report

      • Avatar veronica d says:

        @troublesome-frog — Well, obviously if you were a firm with limitless wealth (which would perhaps annoy your competition), then sure, just pay more. You could offer $100,000,000,000,000 dollars a second for skilled software engineers. You’d get some top notch resumes.

        Back here in the real world…

        Thing is, there can be real market failures, including macro levels failures to attract people to good productive jobs paid at levels where firms can profit. I work in a field with way-above-average salaries, and we get that money because we are hard to find. Yay me. Boo economy.

        And this for a subject that American schools (to a shocking degree) refuse to teach at the primary and secondary levels.

        It’s weird.Report

      • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

        What I mean by reasonable is that they were offering as much as I was paid in my last job, for a job that required little experience.

        That’s still kind of an un-anchored definition of “shortage” and “reasonable” though. Is there a shortage of cheese in Menlo Park because cheese costs more in Menlo Park than it does in Stockton? Supply and demand for things varies all over the place.

        I can *almost* see the argument if there are a bunch of unemployed people around town who could do the job but prefer to do nothing (almost, but not entirely), but the fact that there are enough buyers paying well above that price to soak up everything being offered is really strong evidence that the reasonable price is the one that’s clearing the market, not the one employers wished they were paying.

        People weren’t taking it because they are in a place with more opportunities than people to take advantage of them.

        That’s true for the highest offering buyer who gets priced out of every market for everything. If oranges are for sale at $1 per pound and I’m willing to pay $0.90 per pound, I’m not getting oranges because all of those oranges are seeking other opportunities with people who paid $1 per pound. I suppose you could call the inability to satisfy everybody at all price levels a “shortage” but I’m not sure what that tells us other than that scarcity is a real thing.

        There’s always going to be somebody who comes in below the current market rate, looks around, and says, “Gee, it’s hard to get oranges at a reasonable price.” But the fact is, people are buying those oranges at $1 per pound, so it’s hard to make the argument that my $0.90 price is the reasonable one and the $1 price is unreasonable.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        Well yes, too some extent there is going to be a level of subjectivity involved.

        Someone could argue that there is no shortage of housing in San Fransisco because those who are priced out or are homeless don’t count because they could have bid more on housing.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Will,
        harder to make that stick when the price of food in SF has dropped because people can’t afford it b/c they are spending so much on their housing.
        (in short, if everyone other places is spending 50% of money on housing, and sf is spending 85% — for the people still living there… well, you may have reached peak housing costs possible).Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        You can argue that not having the money doesn’t matter any more than a company’s inability to pay infinitely for employees.Report

      • Avatar veronica d says:

        Right. I feel like we’re hitting the edges of market fundamentalism here.

        It is hard to quantify opportunity costs on a macro level, when you are looking at the interactions between education, training, and skill distribution, compared to the markets to consume those skills. Yes, this happens in “free markets” and given enough time and a completely stable fitness landscape, the market will clear.

        But we do not live in a stable fitness landscape. The market does not clear. Educators make bad choices. Social factors lead to people unwilling to move. New industries spring up that demand new skills.

        And by the time the problem becomes so obvious that even skeptics have to come onboard, the landscape has changed and new problems come at us.

        So when an industry says, “We have a shortage of X,” we should at least listen and see if we should make macro level changes now.

        We need way more CompSci education and we need it yesterday.Report

      • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

        Someone could argue that there is no shortage of housing in San Fransisco because those who are priced out or are homeless don’t count because they could have bid more on housing.

        This is an important point, because I see a “shortage” as a problem that can be alleviated, at least in theory, by supplying more of that thing. Let’s say we managed to double the housing in SF and caused the price to drop. There will still be people who want to live in SF who can’t. Is there still a shortage? My problem is that if we use the typical employer’s definition of “shortage” the shortage will never go away. Cut wages 20% and there will still be a shortage of employees who are willing to work for 10% less than that, and there will still be plenty of space in the WSJ to call for policies to make it happen.

        Given the examples that the WSJ and others manage to come up with when they’re trying to convince us that there are terrible shortages, I’m inclined to think that the fundamental issue is not that there’s something causing a particular market not to work properly but rather that there’s always a preference for marginally lower wages and they’re calling that preference a “shortage.”

        The same holds true for software engineers. A shortage should generally look like this:

        1) Something changes. We need more X than we used to or there’s less X available.
        2) Prices rise in response.
        3) More X is eventually produced, reducing prices, but maybe not to their previous level.

        We’ve known for much longer than the average secondary school / college lifecycle what software engineering pays and what the work conditions are. There has been plenty of time for the market to reach a new equilibrium. I can see a shortage of a particular specialty that has just appeared or just saw a spike in demand while people train up, but it seems to me like overall, we’re producing as many software engineers as we should be at the current price level.

        Would it be better if we had an infinite number of coders writing code for free? Yes! We’d all be much wealthier! But it would also be better of doctors worked for free and gave out foot massages instead of bills. If we’re going to say that there isn’t “enough” of something, it’s important to define what “enough” is and ask ourselves why we don’t have it right now.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        @troublesome-frog Now I feel like we’re getting somewhere! I don’t see a “shortage” necessarily as something that can always realistically be alleviated. I see it more as an explanation for increased price or decreased production or both. Sometimes something can be done about it, sometimes not.

        The question I ask myself when someone is complaining about a shortage is what, precisely, they want me to do about it. It is definitely worthwhile to scrutinize those that are asking or demanding something of us. H1-B visas are a good example of this. If they want to convince me to support increasing the number of software developers they can import, they must not only convince me that there is a shortage of developers (that they want) but also that their demands (wages and skill requirements) are reasonable, or else I will say “Hire somebody that Microsoft just laid off.”

        With regard to the truck driving, it does seem to me that they are arguing that they are doing what they can to up the number of drivers, like increasing benefits and pay. Maybe that’s not actually true, which would be an effective counterargument if the trucking companies want me to do something about their shortage. On the other hand, saying “If they paid their drivers three million dollars a year* this wouldn’t be a problem” is unappealing to me, because I don’t want them to have to resort to that because I don’t want to pay that much to transport goods. At that point, I would sign on for H1B visas for truck drivers or something else. Because unlike butlers, it is something that needs to be done and everyone feels the hurt if it becomes too expensive.

        I exaggerate with the “three million dollars a year” bit, of course. But you get the idea. I’m honestly not sure what the truck driving companies are asking for, really, so I don’t apply as much scrutiny as I do to software company execs. But they have jobs that sound like they could be a good deal for some people.Report

      • Avatar Mo says:

        “Thing is, there can be real market failures, including macro levels failures to attract people to good productive jobs paid at levels where firms can profit.”

        I could glibly say that if a business can’t get the talent they need cheaply enough to be profitable, then maybe the business shouldn’t exist. I loved me some Kozmo.com and wished they were still around, but the economics, which includes paying people, didn’t work. Was that a market failure or a business failure? There are lots of businesses that could exist if there were more people that do [insert job A here] so that I could pay them less.

        On a related note, perhaps part of it is that programmer and computer/IT salaries were flat 2000 – 2011, while they rose steadily (by over 50%) through the 90s.

        http://www.epi.org/files/charts/IT-Guestworkers_Figure-I.png.538Report

      • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

        The more I look into the trucking thing, the more it looks like a scam to me. It sounds like the model is to get newly minted drivers (even if it means paying to train them and adding a clawback clause), abuse them as hard as you can, and replace them when they leave. The articles I can find indicate that working for somebody else is typically a <$50K job, so I can see why most people think it's a lousy deal. Those companies have incredibly high turnover, which doesn't scream, "Good jobs await you here, we just need to get the word out." So yes, I think they're being unreasonable by being unwilling to pay for what they want, and I think that's very much the norm rather than the exception with these types of articles. If it were the norm, I'd expect to see WSJ coming up with much better examples than this trucking nonsense.

        As for the software limits, if we're going to limit the number of visas for tech workers, I'd rather see them auctioned off than having some sort of ridiculous lottery system. Better yet, make them easily portable, add a secondary market for them and allow the employees to buy them as well. That seems like it would get us the highest value people and it would make it basically impossible to systematically underpay foreign workers. On top of that, we could stop guessing about whether we're importing "enough" tech workers. The spot price of the visa would tell us whether we're lagging in producing a particular type of tech worker.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain says:

        On the other hand, saying “If they paid their drivers three million dollars a year* this wouldn’t be a problem” is unappealing to me, because I don’t want them to have to resort to that because I don’t want to pay that much to transport goods.

        Where do you stand on taxes/fees and road damage? Surface damage is a fourth-power law — increase the axle weight by a factor of ten and it does 10,000 times as much damage per pass over the road. Big trucks don’t pay nearly enough in fees/taxes to pay their “fair” share of the cost of maintaining the highways. The argument made by the trucking industry is that those fees/taxes would simply be passed on to the consumer, which is everybody, so you might as well take the money out of some other group that includes almost everybody: general taxes rather than road-specific ones, or auto owners. What they conveniently skip over, though, is that as soon as the fees/taxes were levied on the big trucks, the railroads would be back in that particular line of long-haul freight business in a big way.

        When I lived in New Jersey, there was one stretch of the Garden State Parkway where vehicles over about 8,000 pounds were banned. That stretch was well known for requiring minimal maintenance to stay in good shape. The rest of the Parkway, where the big trucks operated, was in much worse shape.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        Sometimes it’s information failure. I can’t tell you how many people are under what I consider to be faulty impressions about certain sectors of the economy or certain regions (or certain sectors in certain regions). We could chalk that up to business failures, because they’re failing to get the word out. But talking (complaining) to the Wall Street Journal is one of the ways to get the word out!

        I don’t think that there is an information failure (or much of one) when it comes to trucking. Or North Dakota, which has gotten a lot of publicity good and bad. But crikey there is a lot of bad information out there. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen the economy of places I’ve lived, or sectors I’ve seen in action, described in such a way as to be unrecognizable.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        @michael-cain I have no problem trying to capture the externalities. At least in theory. If road maintenance makes rail more cost-advantageous, that’s one thing. If we can’t find people willing to do the work here but we can import them from Mexico, that’s another.

        @troublesome-frog Dave Schuler has advocated a central warehouse of jobs. You have to publicly post the jobs for which you “can’t find people” and, if you want an H1B visa, you need to produce the resumes of the people you passed up (if any) or the resumes need to be sent through the warehouse. Sort of like how the system is supposed to periodically check up on those collecting unemployment who say they can’t find work.Report

      • Avatar veronica d says:

        I’m with @will-truman . I’m not saying we cave to big software and let in more H1B’s. But what I am saying is this: the shortage of software engineers is real and we should look at that. It is foolish to think the market will correct for this quickly, or that talent will be automatically built in response to demand. Markets don’t work that way. There is tremendous lag time for complex skills. Plus individuals choose from the options they see. Each young person in school is stumbling through a series of uncertain choices. What pays well is important. What makes the student feel sexy and cool is also important.

        There are many people who have the talent to write software, but choose to steer clear. (This is particularly true for women and minorities.) Given this, there are questions we should ask: “How can we attract more people?” “How can we retain the people we have?” and “How can we do this in financially sensible ways?”

        For example: Teach computer science in primary and secondary schools. Address the STEM gap for women and minorities. Address the retention gap for women and minorities. (Want details: Google “the leaky pipeline.”) On and on. We are not doing these things. We should. It matters a lot.

        The future of our nation and our planet are going to be shaped by the talent we build.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        @veronica-d responding to your comment about fragmented offices — and labor shortages; perhaps the problem here is the office? My BIL’s company no longer has an office; the admin. assistant runs physical mail/phone out of her home, her cell phone. Staff is spread all over the world, and always has been. This is a small software company, very successful. By eliminating the physical space problems, it allows the company to invest in all sorts of innovative small projects, as well. Good broad band lets people far apart work together quite nicely.Report

      • Avatar veronica d says:

        @zic — I’ve seen that work for certain kinds of small companies. But it has huge downsides. And broadband is not face-to-face.

        Plus my employer has a lot of perks, free lunches, Thursday afternoon company-wide mixers with beer and wine, lots of games and fun and time together in the cafe. This week they installed a new pool table, since the old one was kind of ratty. So now folks play a lot of pool, those who don’t play ping pong or gather in the video game room. And while all of this is fun, it also means I rub shoulders with many engineers not on my team, and we chat about technical stuff — because we are all geeks at heart — and discover new solutions, new people we can go to for help, teams we might want to transfer to, people we might want to bring to our team, on and on.

        Our culture is thriving. Can’t get that online.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        @veronica-d are you working above Clover?Report

      • Avatar veronica d says:

        @zic — Yes 🙂Report

      • Avatar veronica d says:

        I like it 🙂Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        daughter’s housemate, also, V.Report

      • Avatar veronica d says:

        Nice 🙂 Wonder if I know them.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      Often, but not always. Sometimes there is an information disconnect (people not knowing, or talked out of, the existence of opportunities). There are also training mismatches. Not enough people trained to be welders, with people reluctant to get training because they have to pay for it for jobs that may not be there when they’re done, and employers reluctant to train because they will take their skills elsewhere. There are lots of reasons for labor shortages.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        I’m pretty sure we train welders for free around here.Report

      • Avatar Mo says:

        @will-truman Why are they taking their skills elsewhere? Because they’re getting paid more. It seems like the concern about training and leaving to get a return could be handled with an employment contract.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        And other companies can afford to pay them more because they’re not investing in training. I see a collective action problem. I don’t see it as easily handled as you do through contracts (it would be hard for necessary provisions to be enforceable, among other things). One of the costs of a low-trust environment between employers and employees.Report

      • Avatar Mo says:

        There are loads of industries where people need OTJ training and it’s not just blue collar. Yet somehow, firms manage to train their employees and not have them all scooped up right away. My guess is that there are employment practices, treatment or other things that cause people to jump ship right away. I can’t think of bigger mercenaries than the employees you get on Wall Street, but somehow the big banks still manage to train their employees as traders and investment bankers without losing so many to places that don’t train so as to make it unprofitable.Report

      • Avatar veronica d says:

        I don’t have a lot of sympathy for companies with retention problems. Wanna keep your folks? Be a great place to work.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        There is definitely some truth to that. Most of the places I’ve worked with retention problems, deserved them.Report

      • Avatar veronica d says:

        Right. Changing jobs is traumatic — it’s what I spent my summer doing — and few people do it on a lark. If you are having retention problems, you are doing something very wrong.Report

    • Avatar morat20 says:

      I’m pretty sure that’s not always true, but there are an awfully lot of stories where companies complain about labor shortages, list everything they’ve done to get employees, and “offer more money” is just strangely absent from the list.

      I get that they’d really hate to offer more money (because, for starters, it’s not just that salary — everyone working that job already is gonna demand it), that’s coming out of profit if there’s any competition.

      But still, while maybe “raise salaries” isn’t step 1 on the list of “how to get more hires”, “are we offering a big enough salary” should be part of the conversation from step one. Maybe you are — maybe your competitors are offering the same but getting more and better applicants (if so, what’s different?).

      But, you know, people work for the paycheck. The size of that paycheck isn’t the sole deciding factor on which jobs to apply for and which jobs to stay with, but it’s pretty freaking critical. So it’s a weird trend (if it’s a trend and not just lazy reporting or people not mentioning the blatantly obvious) to sort of ignore the BIGGEST reason people have for working as a possible issue for not having enough workers.Report

  12. Avatar Kim says:

    P2,
    Comorbidities weren’t controlled for. There’s something going on, where Cancer is not comorbid with depression, but heart disease is. Yes, you can look at deaths, but … we kinda understand a little here (maybe) and this broad article seems to obscure more than elucidate.

    Looking at deaths might give you something — undoubtedly it does. But correlation is what you’re getting, and I’d be far more interested to see the breakouts.Report

  13. Avatar Kim says:

    H5,
    I think the suggestion of having surgeons as part of the “pit crew” is a good one. If the surgeon can’t talk with the patient’s family after the surgery, then get the chief nurse to do it. By no means should the surgeon be prevented from interacting with the family — that’s a good way to get poor results. But, seriously – decompress first. And everyone should get to celebrate good surgeries, not just the doctor.Report

  14. Avatar Citizen says:

    [H1]
    maybe we could allow rural folk to legally grow/use reasonable amounts of their own medicinal plants and use physicians outside the institutions that are creating much of this problem.Report

  15. Avatar scott the mediocre says:

    S5 –

    Well of course the t540 sucks. I’m kind of astonished that you wasted the time to find out with a physical item, when a cursory web search would have told you 🙂 OTOH, a t530 probably doesn’t suck, even though Lenovo went chiclet on the keyboard: the w530 is good iron and still uses the old chassis, still has a force stick, … plus the w530 has enough extra goodies to notably better than a w520 (again, I’m not positive about the details of the differences between a t530 and w530 other than the w530’s insane GPU and power supply – the research is for you to do, young grasshopper). I actually bought a spare w530 just to have a cold backup (got a good price) in case my main machine has a catastrophic failure.

    Friends don’t let friends buy Dell or HP. ASUS maybe – I dunno. I wonder if the gaming-driven market for semi-bespoke laptops like Sager will still be around when your t520 starts running out of gas?
    Report

  16. Avatar Vikram Bath says:

    [P2] Isolation is unhealthy. But unhealthy relationships are also unhealthy. So what to do?

    Um…Report

  17. Avatar zic says:

    E5 may explain my writing career. I’m much more like men here, prone to expect that if I had more than half the skills required, I could learn the rest relatively quickly. I applied for (and was always offered the job) several computer jobs that way; insurance, banking (including boston fed), and government. Most I turned down for one reason or another. And it always sort-of surprised me how many of the woman who were ‘overqualified’ for a job (nearing the 100%) didn’t apply for them because they were overqualified, and often, the pay was too low.

    I do wonder if this goes to explaining part of the unexplainable bit of gender pay differences?Report

  18. Avatar zic says:

    I adore this piece from Friedersdorf, critiquing the comparison of hetero-sexual marriage to the Holy Trinity.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

      Obviously a better analogy would be a threesome.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        Or perhaps surrogate mothers; IVF seems a form of immaculate conception, no? Clones?Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        The Immaculate Conception doesn’t refer to the lack of sex (that’s the Virgin Birth). The Immaculate Conception refers to Mary’s not being hit by the whole “Original Sin” thing that the rest of us have been hit by.

        Wait, so Jesus was Perfect *AND* Mary was Perfect? Those wacky Catholics!Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        A pretty reliable test for whether someone grew up Catholic is to ask them what the immaculate conception was. If they say Jesus being conceived without Mary havin’ relations, you know they have never been to a Catholic school or CCD.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        And if they talk about the Raiders versus the Steelers…Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Catholics only care about one football team: Jesus’ team.

        Now, why Jesus would put his team in the middle of nowhere Indiana, no one knows. The Lord works in mysterious ways.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        The Proddies were all up in the North East. The Catholics had to wander until they found a parcel of land that nobody else cared about.

        Sort of a precursor to Mormonism.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        In my experience they care very much about their high school’s team and their kids’ school’s team. The two biggest differences between public schools and Catholic schools are that in Catholic schools:

        School sports are taken very, very seriously. All the kids play something, and everyone supports everything.

        You can drink at back-to-school night.Report

  19. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    W4 — I always thought it would be fun to have a micro nation. Unfortunately, I have sworn an oath which prohibits me from founding or participating in such a venture.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      The Lodge of the Order of Not a Potted Plant is stringent in its requirements that way…Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

      @burt-likko I assume you mean the an oath required by the Bar Association. Google gave me this. Out of curiosity, which part specifically would be an issue?Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko says:

        B&P Code 6068(a) would be the issue, at least if I were to take the microstate as a serious proposition and not some sort of joke or hobby.

        @kolohe ‘s point, infra is perhaps more telling, although I’m not sure what oaths were required back then. I suspect that the import of the military oaths were more powerful than those of the barristers (viz., the oath broken by the eventual commander-in-chief) . Nor do I think things are so bad at the moment that such drastic steps as that sort of oathbreaking would be necessary.Report

    • Avatar Kolohe says:

      If a huddle of lawyers hadn’t rejected their oaths in 1776, we’d all be speaking English today.

      But really, based on BB’s link, as long as you found this micro nation outside the sovereign boundaries of the United States (including the EEZ), I think you’d be OK, oath wise.Report