Archive for June, 2012

Even (Relatively) Low-Skilled Jobs Are Going Unfilled

Even (Relatively) Low-Skilled Jobs Are Going Unfilled

The New York Times reports:

“Companies all over are having a difficult time recruiting the kind of people they’re looking for,” said Robert Funk, chairman and chief executive of Express Employment Professionals, a national staffing firm based in Oklahoma City that helped some 335,000 people land jobs last year. “We currently have 18,000 open job orders we can’t fill.”

But why the difficulties? We keep hearing about high skilled, high tech positions like computer programming and petroleum engineering going unfilled, but how could it be that more “humdrum” jobs aren’t getting filled? Later paragraphs in the story give us some clues.

Although the people quoted blame the shortage of truck drivers on the fact that it’s unglamorous and you have to pass a drug test, I think these details give us a pretty big clue:

That challenge is magnified because insurance companies typically require drivers to have up to two years of experience driving a truck before they will cover them, Mr. Hoag said. While larger companies can afford to train drivers, Mr. Hoag said he relied on Craigslist and a Minneapolis recruiter to find them — but the recruiter, he said, “is struggling to find people, too.”

How are people supposed to get two years of experience if no one will insure them without two years of experience? How do employers expect to find “qualified” truckers if they’re not willing to spend money on training? Trucking is a lonely, often miserable job but I’m sure there are millions of unemployed Americans who can pass a drug test and would love the opportunity to support their families on a trucker’s wage.

There’s apparently a shortage of machine operators as well:

Mr. Greenblatt currently has five openings for machine operators, positions that don’t require college degrees but pay, on average, about $60,000. What candidates do need are skills like the ability to operate a computer, read a blueprint and use a caliper. [...]

“My operators are in constant contact with our customers, so they need to be able to articulate through e-mail,” Mr. Greenblatt said. “But you’d be surprised at how many people can’t do that. I can’t have them e-mailing Boeing or Pfizer if their grammar is terrible.”

You can chalk some of this up to writing, even if it’s just e-mail, being really hard. But this is an indictment of the education system. Why do we have so few people who can respond to customer e-mails?

Full Story:The New York Times: A Sea of Job-Seekers, but Some Companies Aren’t Getting Any Bites

5 Careers Expected to Have Shortages in the Next Decade

June 29, 2012 6 comments
How One Hacker Quit the Programming Life for Bluer Skies

How One Hacker Quit the Programming Life for Bluer Skies

Frank Duff by Mike Linkovich
Photo by Mike Linkovich

New one from me at Wired:

Some people believe that everyone should be a programmer. But Frank Duff is living proof this notion should be taken with a large grain of salt. In 2003, Duff quit his job as a software developer and went to work as a bike messenger.

Two years later, he published an online memoir detailing his exit from the software world, and it became an instant internet classic, reflecting the desire of many developers and other white-collar workers to somehow escape their office cubicles and do something “real.”

“Even before Office Space, white collar workers peered out the window (if they were so lucky) and imagined a more romantic life doing real work out under the sun,” he wrote.

Since Duff published his memoir, we’ve seen a mini-movement across the tech world that seeks to turn just about everyone into a programmer. A startup called Codecademy is offering online programming lessons designed for the average person. Google is pushing visual programming tools such as a Blockly and App Inventor that let you code without even a single keystroke. And a Facebook engineer named Carlos Bueno recently published a book that seeks to bring the programming ethos to children as young as five. Duff sees some value in the idea of universal “code literacy,” but he also urges moderation.

“Should everyone learn to code? I certainly wouldn’t make it mandatory,” he says. “[But] I encourage people to learn to code, just as I would encourage them to learn to drive, knit, and shoot.”

Nine years after quitting his full-time programming job back in 2003, Duff tells Wired that he still codes from time to time, but he has no regrets. Leaving the programming world freed him to do so many other things. “I think it’s unlikely that I’ll ever need to rely on my ability to write code to feed myself again,” Duff says. “But it’s a skill set I’m grateful to have.”

Full Story: Wired Enterprise: How One Hacker Quit the Programming Life for Bluer Skies

See also:

Coder in Courierland, Duff’s original post about his time as a courier

Lysergically Yours the novel Duff wrote while couriering.

Messenger space, messenger body, messenger mesh Another article on couriering.

Shop Class as Soulcraft

June 29, 2012 1 comment
Kardashians Get 40 Times More News Coverage Than Ocean Acidification

Kardashians Get 40 Times More News Coverage Than Ocean Acidification

Carbon dioxide emissions are not just warming up our atmosphere, they’re also changing the chemistry of our oceans. This phenomenon is known as ocean acidification, or sometimes as global warming’s “evil twin” or the “osteoporosis of the sea.” Scientists have warned that it poses a serious threat to ocean life. Yet major American
news outlets covered the Kardashians over 40 times more often than ocean acidification over the past year and a half. [...]
Despite a boom of recent scientific research documenting this threat, there has been a blackout on the topic at most media outlets. Since the end of 2010, ABC, NBC, and Fox News have completely ignored ocean acidification, and the Los Angeles Times, USA TODAY, Wall Street Journal, MSNBC, CNN, and CBS have barely mentioned it at all.

Full Story: Media Matters: Kardashians Get 40 Times More News Coverage Than Ocean Acidification

However, some of those outlets may have included newswire stories. From Media Matters: “The study included articles in all sections of the newspapers, but did not include any newswire reports that were run in the paper.” That means that there was little original reporting by those papers, but that there may have been slightly more coverage published. That coverage was still likely dwarfed by celebrity coverage, however.

For my part, I’ve only linked to ocean acidification here once, but I’ve covered Alan Moore many many times.

See also:

Welcome to the Acid Age

The effect of ocean acidification on oyster farming

Global ocean acidification monitoring network to launch at Rio summit

June 28, 2012 0 comments
The Soviet Synthesizer that Bridged Occultism and Electronic Music

The Soviet Synthesizer that Bridged Occultism and Electronic Music

Coil ANS cover

I have a guest post up today at Boing Boing on a subject I think will interest Technoccult readers:

You don’t play the ANS synthesizer with a keyboard. Instead you etch images onto glass sheets covered in black putty and feed them into a machine that shines light through the etchings, trigging a wide range of tones. Etchings made low on the sheets make low tones. High etchings make high tones. The sound is generated in real-time and the tempo depends on how fast you insert the sheets.

This isn’t a new Dorkbot or Maker Faire oddity. It’s a nearly forgotten Russian synthesizer designed by Evgeny Murzin in 1938. The synth was named after and dedicated to the Russian experimental composer and occultist Alexander Nikolayevich Scriabin (1872–1915). The name might not mean much to you, but it illuminates a long running connection between electronic music and the occult.

You can find traces of the occult throughout the history of electronic music. The occult obsessed Italian Futurist Luigi Russolo built his own mechanical instruments around 1917. The famous Moog synthesizer made an early appearance in Mick Jagger’s soundtrack to Kenneth Anger’s occult film Invocation of My Demon Brother in 1969. And in the late 1970s Throbbing Gristle built their own electronic instruments for their occult sound experiments, setting the stage for many of the occult themed industrial bands who followed. The witch house genre keeps this tradition alive today.

It’s little the surprise otherworldly sounds and limitless possibilities of synthesizers and samplers would evoke the luminous. But there’s more to the connection. The aim of the alchemist is not just the literal synthesis of chemicals, but also synthesis in the Hegelian sense: the combination of ideas. Solve et Coagula. From the Hermetic magi of antiquity, to Aleister Crowley’s OTO to modern chaos magicians, western occultists have sought to combine traditions and customs into a single universal system of thought and practice.

Electronic music grew from similar intellectual ground, and it all started with Scriabin.

Full Story: Boing Boing: The Soviet Synthesizer that Bridged Occultism and Electronic Music

June 27, 2012 2 comments
Genesis Breyer P-Orridge Interviewed by Technoccult Part 1: TOPI Status Update

Genesis Breyer P-Orridge Interviewed by Technoccult Part 1: TOPI Status Update

Genesis Breyer P-Orridge
Photo by Seth Tissue / CC

Klint Finley: How’s the new TOPI going? What’s the status?

Genesis Breyer P-Orridge: Actually, it’s rather gratifying. You’ve probably been to the Ning. And there’s that world map at the front which shows where there are active people and it’s almost obliterated the world map at this point. So whilst the activities are still somewhat limited, and directionless to an extent, what it does demonstrate to us is that there is still a serious appetite, curiosity, need for some of the ideas that we put into hibernation for a while from the TOPY with a Y. There was always the plan to have T-O-P-I, the One True Topi Tribe. That was always part of the strategy from the very beginning. But the first decade of T-O-P-Y, Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth, was… not the kindergarten exactly…. but that was sort of a filtering process to reconvene the idea of magic in a contemporary, demystified way in public culture. And that was almost too successful and we actually ended up in exile as a result of the threat that was perceived by the British establishment.

Ironically, they attacked us when we had already said that we were going to disband that version and become nomadic. The last thing we sent out to people was printed on what you send wedding invitations on, it was gold embossed card and it just said “Changed Priorities Ahead, TOPY Nomads.” Which was actually a sign, a street sign. We were driving along the road coming back from looking for a big house, a community headquarters in the north of England and there were road works going on and there was this big sign that just said “Changed Priorities Ahead.” And it was one of those moments where we went “That’s exactly what we were hoping to do.”

So the intended idea there was that we were closed down, Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth, in the hope that those who had really started to comprehend on their own, in their own way, what we were trying to say – which was to bring people around to using an intuitive personalized version of magic – to get those individuals to understand that we were a non-hierarchal, non-Masonic, post-”museum of magic” network.

In other words, a lot of people did their 23 sigils and then they would sometimes write and then say “What happens now?” and we would just say “That’s it. You don’t get a prize. You don’t get a new instruction. You don’t suddenly have a special title. If you’ve not figured out how to really discover and express your true desires by now then you’re never going to get it. Most people did understand that but there were some that expected a prize and were disappointed.

So we had reached the point of dismembering it and deconstructing the ten year project and the next step was to find a location to then go into the One True Topi Tribe. We looked at an old hotel in the north of England, we looked at the farm in a place called Arbor Low in Yorkshire, which actually had a stone circle on the grounds of the farm, which is where we used to have the TOPY Global Annual Meetings over a long weekend and we would camp out and we would do rituals outside in the stone circle. It is a beautiful place. So we were seriously looking at different locations. And then we, meaning myself and my family, decided to go to Nepal to do some research and to work with Tibetan Buddhist monks that we had come to know. And then come back and built the One True Topi Tribe but as you know that got interrupted by the British government.

So we went into hibernation and then Thee Psychick Bible got published. And during the next few months after that was published, we started to get lots and lots of e-mails and letters and meet people at concerts and events. They were saying, “We really want to know more about this. Why is isn’t it still going on?”

June 27, 2012 9 comments
Russia Wants Its Own DARPA

Russia Wants Its Own DARPA

RIA Novosti reports on Putin’s plan for the Russian Foundation for Advanced Research Projects in the Defense Industry, a Russian equivalent to DARPA.

President Vladimir Putin has submitted to parliament a bill on the foundation’s establishment, which is expected to become Russia’s answer to the United States Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

The foundation will be tasked with informing the country’s leadership on projects that can ensure Russian superiority in defense technology.

It will also analyze the risks of any Russian technological backwardness and technological dependence on other powers.

Full Story: RIA Novosti: Russia to Take on ‘High Risk’ Defense Research Projects

(via Wired Danger Room)

June 26, 2012 0 comments
Politicians Hiring Private Investigators to Dig Dirt on Opponents

Politicians Hiring Private Investigators to Dig Dirt on Opponents

Eric Ohlsen and his three staffers hang out in their new office space on Southeast Morrison Street in Portland, looking like guys with high-tech startup dreams.

Electronic gear is scattered about and it doesn’t look as if anyone has worried too much about the decor. Rounded and pale, Ohlsen looks like he spends a lot of time inside staring at a computer screen.

Ohlsen is indeed a tech geek, but his focus is unearthing the hidden backgrounds of political candidates, not figuring out another smartphone app. He owns an opposition research firm, these days as much of a must-hire for campaigns as media consultants and pollsters. [...]

Ohlsen happens to work for Democrats, but opposition research is an ecumenical affair. While Ohlsen is working for the Oregon House Democratic caucus this year, Republicans hired an Oregon City private investigator named Scott Castleman. Financial disclosure reports show that both Castleman and Ohlsen are busy researching candidates involved in several House races.

Full Story: The Oregonian: Oregon opposition researcher finds paydirt in political dirt

June 25, 2012 0 comments
Aaron Diez’s Hypothetical X-Men Reboot

Aaron Diez’s Hypothetical X-Men Reboot

X-Men reboot by Aaron Diaz

X-Men reboot by Aaron Diez

Aaron Diez, artist of the online comic Dresden Codak, put together a pitch for an X-Men reboot. I’d love to see this!

Thousands of years ago, godlike alien beings known as Celestials came to Earth to secretly experiment on the human race. Their goal was to use homo sapiens as a genetic template to revive long-dead civilizations and species throughout the universe. However, their initial tests proved inconclusive, and the project was abandoned. What was unknown at the time was that the original “program” developed by the Celestials had spread and embedded itself onto the DNA of countless human beings and continued to be passed down through the generations, dormant.

The story begins in the near future, where in the past few years this “x-gene” begins to activate, creating outrageous mutations and causing a general panic in society. While no one is sure what is causing the mutations, it’s clear that the power in human society may quickly shift if something isn’t done. Most mutants go into hiding or destroy themselves when they are unable to control what is happening to them. A few, however, are taken in by a handful of more knowledgable mutants like Charles Xavier.

Full Story and More Art: Dresden Codak’s X-Men Reboot

See also: China Miéville’s Rejected Iron Man Pitch

June 24, 2012 1 comment
Cyberculture History: Alan Turing Might Not Have Committed Suicide

Cyberculture History: Alan Turing Might Not Have Committed Suicide

The BBC Reports:

Alan Turing, the British mathematical genius and codebreaker born 100 years ago on 23 June, may not have committed suicide, as is widely believed.

At a conference in Oxford on Saturday, Turing expert Prof Jack Copeland will question the evidence that was presented at the 1954 inquest.

He believes the evidence would not today be accepted as sufficient to establish a suicide verdict.

Indeed, he argues, Turing’s death may equally probably have been an accident.

Full Story: BBC: Alan Turing: Inquest’s suicide verdict ‘not supportable’

He says none of this excuses the way Turing was treated in later life, he just argues that the investigation was handled poorly and the evidence to support the suicide theory are poor. Copeland argues that murder is another possibility.

June 23, 2012 1 comment
Drone Artists/Hackers Detained Held in London on Suspicion of Terrorism

Drone Artists/Hackers Detained Held in London on Suspicion of Terrorism

Electronic Countermeasures drone art project

Silicon Republic reports on the detention of the drone hackers/artists group Tomorrows Thoughts Today:

The trio, headed up by Liam Young, had created the robotic drones from components that were originally intended for police surveillance.

The drones had been swarming around Science Gallery last night to show how they can broadcast their own Wi-Fi network as a flying pirate file-sharing formation.

As they swarm, people in the audience can log onto the drone network with their phones and laptops and use the drones as a local network to upload files and share data with one another.

It was just as the three performers were disembarking from their Dublin flight in London that their suitcases were swarmed in upon by customs officers at the new London Southend Airport.

They were released after about two hours of questioning.

Full Story: Silicon Republic: Quadcopter drone group held in London airport on suspicion of terrorism

June 23, 2012 3 comments