Temp Worker Nation USA

August 12, 2013

According to the BLS, the total number of temp workers surged by 7.5% in the past year to 2,279,800 in May.  That’s the highest it has been since it reached 2,767,300 in October 2006.  And if you have been looking for a full-time, permanent job lately, you know exactly what the situation is like  despite the smokescreen of sunshine and roses as portrayed by the mainstream media.

Getting on board with the official meme that temp work = wonderfully liberating, amazingly awesome, and, gives you lots and lots of time for stopping by the corner corporately owned coffee monopoly (because as we know, paying $6 bucks for a thimble full of burnt joe is what all Americans should aspire to) , various and sunder across the web have chimed in with opinions that weren’t just rendered while wearing rose-colored glasses, but those shades were absolutely embedded to the writer’s eyeballs permanently with a blow-torch.

Futurist Speaker blogger, Thomas Frey, writing about The Great Freelancer Movement is chock full of figures to make you all warm and fuzzy, not to mention, hot for, the world of temporary work, particularly as it concerns the Millennial Generation, or Gen Y, those who were born between 1980 – 2000.

Frey is positively brimming with the gospel according to the corporatocracy, and, hits us with eight (8) pie-in-the-sky bullet points of temporary serf goodliness.  Get a load of this load.

Frey writes:

The freelancer benefit package No, being a freelancer doesn’t come with health insuranc,vacation time, or a 401k plan. But what it does offer is far greater.
 
You’re in control so you get to decide who you want as a client, when you’re available for work, and most often, how much you’ll get paid. Yes sometimes you’ll get fired from a project, but you can also fire your client.
 
Freelancing done right will give you a far higher salary,a far more influential circle of friends, and an ability to make a difference.

Wow,  Frey makes it sound as if being a temp does everything except solve world hunger.  Rest assured, however, after reading his assessments, temp work  will eventually yield  exactly that result, as well, I just know it.

Hey, maybe if we work at it hard enough, we can also ride a flying white unicorn while sprinkling magic pixie dust to save the planet from the oil companies and create wage equality for all while we’re at it.

Well, first things first -working as a temp, specifically, one who freelances electronically using portals such as oDesk, will in fact, put you on equal footing with the rest of the undeveloped world, that is for sure.  Yours truly has been workin’ the ol’ freelancer gig long enough to know what is and is not kosher on that count.

Not to pick on oDesk (it just happens to be the one freelancing site that I am most familiar with at the present time) but taking a long look around its neck of the ethernet will typically yield a gig as follows:

oDesk1

Click to enlarge

The employer wants you, the freelancer, to put in 35 hours of the week preferably for  less than $1.50/hr  Sweet!  That oughta get you that brand new , 27- inch widescreen flat-panel IPS LED HD monitor in no time, sparky!

You mean I, too, can experience the thrill of working for Third World wages in a digital sweat shop of my own choosing?

Yes, you can, little American worker! Thanks to the miracle of the global labor pool, you can be just as poverty stricken as Apu over in Bangladesh who earns $0.10 per day!  Except in Bangladesh, Apu can still afford food and lodging.  You, on the other hand, will have to move in with your parents or into your car or whatever makeshift shelter your freelancing salary will afford you.  Perhaps a cardboard box under the bridge just outside town?

It’s a glorious worker’s paradise, dont’cha know? Hey, and don’t forget, if you’re not satisfied with the luxurious salary of less than a buck fifty per hour, remember that you can always fire your client!

Doesn’t that sound awesome?

You know it, baby!  Temp work is soooooooo incredibly liberating, character building and altruistic, that the only generations being exhorted and encouraged to take advantage of it are those born after Boomers like Frey have already golden parachuted out of the workforce and have otherwise stockpiled their six digit pensions and 401(k) retirements and are now telling you that you don’t need to have any of the benefits and security his generation had.  Don’t you just love how that works?


Amazon’s Kindle Worlds: Instant Thoughts

June 20, 2013

I agree 100% with Scalzi’s initial thoughts, and, as “preliminary” as they may be, from the POV of a writer, this is a raw deal. Avoid it like the plague.

Further, I do think that gullible writers will jump on the bandwagon thinking this is a great way to get noticed. See also HuffPo bloggers who contributed to the site only to make Arianna Huffington an even bigger millionaire since she then sold the site to AO hell.

Compensation to bloggers = Zero.

Huffington’s cut: $315 million.

Writers who are willing to work for free are no better than indentured servants.

See also Unpaid Blogging:  Digital Servitude

Whatever

The Twitters are abuzz today about Amazon’s new “Kindle Worlds” program, in which people are allowed to write and then sell through Amazon their fan fiction for certain properties owned by Alloy Entertainment, including Vampire Diaries and Pretty Little Liars, with more licenses expected soon. I’ve had a quick look at the program on Amazon’s site, and I have a couple of immediate thoughts on it. Be aware that these thoughts are very preliminary, i.e., I reserve the right to have possibly contradictory thoughts about the program later, when I think (and read) about it more. Also note that these are my personal thoughts and do not reflect the positions or policies of SFWA, of which I am (still but not for much longer) president.

1. The main knock on fan fiction from the rights-holders point of view — i.e., people are using their characters and situations in…

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Review | Sony PRS-600 Touch eBook Reader

June 17, 2013

So after much thought, deliberation and research, I finally decided to seriously consider purchasing an electronic book reader.  I wanted to buy it used because I’m on a budget, but that doesn’t factor into my review here.  Instead, I will focus on the practicalities, in addition to the FAB (features – advantages – benefits).

I must admit that I didn’t want to like it.  In fact, when electronic book readers became ubiquitous not so long ago, I was still staunchly against them.  This was mostly due to the high profile debacles involved with the Kindle -stories of consumers’ entire book collections being deleted remotely because Amazon was too intimidated by the legacy publishing and/or established writer’s cartels to stand up for its customers only helped to fuel my anti-electronic book reader vitriol.   Why would I possibly want to spend money on an appliance that was only going to screw me over and otherwise aid & abet the corporatocracy ‘s continued assault on Fair Use rights?

I was determined, nonetheless, to avoid any electronic reader containing  a proprietary format (such as Kindle’s .mobi and Nook’s .epub). Proprietary formats serve to prevent customers from transferring content from reader to reader in much the same manner the entertainment companies seek to prevent the end user from transferring digital content from DVD to computer hard drive.  The better to SCREW you so that you will have to separately purchase the same content in a different format to accommodate the use of different players.  (This is what the Kafkaesque digital rights management is all about.)

Another factor that pushed me into wanting an electronic book reader is that I am going to self-publish Book #1 in a seven book series in the supernatural/gothic/horror genre very shortly and exclusively in electronic format.  As a writer, it doesn’t sit very well with me to publish my work in manner that I can’t even see the finished product for myself.

And so with this criteria in mind, I found (ta da!) the Sony PRS-600 Touch.

PRS-600

The Good

File Formats

 Sony is not wedded to any particular file format;  That is to say that while it does support proprietary DRM-infested formats such as  .epub & .mobi, the consumer is not forced to purchase content exclusively in one format or another.  Additionally, the Sony will also support .pdf, .doc, .jpg & .txt.  While this is all very nice, the catch is that you must choose a single format because the Sony will not read multiple formats at the same time.  For example, you won’t be able to read files in .pdf, .mobi, .epub & .txt file formats concurrently.  So choose wisely should you decide to purchase this particular reader.

This limitation hasn’t been a problem for me, however, as the content I want to read is exclusively in non-DRM portable document format. (.pdf)   (Note here that when I say non-DRM, I am referring to a plain vanilla .pdf file, not a .pdf that has been digitally signed with Adobe’s version of digital rights garbage.)

Ability to Annotate

I am a big fan of the highlighting, note taking and dictionary features, but then again, I’m a writer.  I like to take notes.  And while the built-in dictionary will be helpful to the average person, I find that both my vocabulary, as well as that of the books I read (mostly late 19th Century writers such as Blackwood, Bierce, James, Lovecraft, & Machen)  is much larger than what the New American Oxford Dictionary has in its memory bank.

Expandable Memory

The PRS-600 has an SD slot to expand its memory.  And with memory being relatively inexpensive these days, the sky is the limit.

The Bad

Sony’s File Management Software

Upon having charged up the reader, the first time you plug it into your computer, it will immediately prompt you to install Sony’s file management software.  I suppose this is helpful provided that the end user is unfamiliar with any other options, but Sony’s software should be avoided if you can help it.  Although I have not personally experienced any particular problems, I have read numerous reviews written by other end users whose main complaint is with the software because it apparently does not facilitate the transfer of purchased content from vendor to reader very smoothly.  (This hasn’t been an issue for me because it has never been my intention to purchase electronic books.) Additionally, if you want to avoid using Sony’s software then consider using Calibre, instead.

The Ugly

Calibration

With the ability to annotate, you must calibrate the reader so that it recognizes the stylus.  This is easier said than done.  The process of calibrating the unit was very problematic.  It took me over an hour and made me want to throw it out the window.  Calibration should not be this difficult given that Apple also uses the exact same technology with its products and calibration is not like pulling teeth the way it is for the Sony.

Arbitrary Lock Ups

Since I don’t know the history of this particular unit, I don’t know why this model Sony inexplicably freezes.  Perhaps the previous owner pounded the shit out of it and drop kicked it on a regular basis?  I tend to think not since the casing isn’t scratched up or marred in any way.

Sony blames unit freezing on a corrupted file, but that’s a load of ca-ca in my opinion.  It’s too easy to blame a file for a malfunction, particularly since my files are all in non-DRM .pdf format.   In fact, it’s a lot like complaining to Caltrans about pot holes and being told that the ginormous holes in the road is due to the weather.  Pffffffffft!  Maybe that excuse flies on the east coast where it snows, sleets and the weather otherwise pulverizes the roads, but over here on the other side of the country, where the sun shines approximately 300 days of the year, not so much!

But then again, this is a used product and the locking up issue may or may not be attributable to previous use and abuse.   The main thing I absolutely adore about an electronic book reader is that I can store hundreds of books on it and have them at my fingertips on a slim unit instead of hauling around dead tree books in my bag.  (All that extra weight adds up when you’re a bus & bikin’ kind of person.)  And also, real estate for extras such as books  is at a minimum given my current living situation.  For a bookworm like me, the ability to have instant access to the content that I don’t want to have to read on the computer is priceless.

In reading reviews written elsewhere, a lot of end users bellyached about the absence of sharp fonts and a glare problem on this model, but I haven’t been troubled by either as the glare issue is solved with a simple re-angling of the unit into another position.  As to the fonts, this model lets you select the size of the font from five different sizes plus a zoom feature.  So if you’re blind as a bat, then you’ll be glad to know that not only can you select XXL sized font, but you can also zoom in.

In the final analysis, I’m fairly happy with this reader.   But fret not dead tree lovers, electronic book readers won’t replace printed books 100%, but it sure does wonders for portability and convenience of reading material.

Free Electronic Book Archives

Internet Archive

Project Gutenberg

©2013 Peyton Farquhar and Prattle On, Boyo™. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Peyton Farquhar and Prattle On, Boyo with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Facebook to Test Market Overriding User Privacy Preferences

December 22, 2012

In its ever-increasing quest to generate more revenue, which usually means violating user privacy preferences, Facebook announced that it will “test” market to certain accounts the ability to send private messages to the inbox of non-friends to the tune of $1.00 per message. 

Now to the average Facebook user, charging for private messaging, regardless of the pricetag, may seem silly, especially since the charge is only applicable if you want to contact someone not on your friend list. But what you may not have realized is that Facebook recently fixed what was not broken (again) by enabling messaging on your account even if you had previously chosen not to.  Case in point:  Yours truly had messaging via Facebook available only to friends.  If you weren’t a friend, then you didn’t see the “message” button on my page. 

Since Facebook has now overruled that particular privacy preference, if you don’t happen to be a friend, and you message me, well then your message will go straight to an ignore folder also known as junk. Hey, Facebook taketh away your preferences, and Facebook giveth a piss-poor choice in return. It’s like Gmail – sure, you have a spam folder and it does a reasonably okay job of catching unwanted email, but if Google wasn’t selling your address to everyone and his dog in the first place, then you would not be deluged with spam. But I digress.

Since the average user (you & I) would not likely have an interest in messaging someone not on our friend list, we then have to ask ourselves which users would? Who would be willing to pay for the ability to bypass the spam folder? Ha. Perhaps those users with commercial accounts, the kind whose posts show up randomly uninvited such as the following Ram spam among the content in your newsfeed from the pages that you want to see?

Ram spam

Ah, yes.  A flood light appears at the end of the tunnel and it belongs to an advertiser.

A pay-to-play charge of $1.00 per message to override user privacy preferences is but a drop in the bucket to a brand name marketer such as Ram.  But, Facebook wants to remind you that this is, just a “test” being available only to “certain” users. Translation:  Depending on the backlash from individual users, it may or may not to decide to allow coporate advertisers to bombard the shit out of your Facebook inbox with junk. And given that Facebook also recently nixed the ability for users to vote on the governance of the site, you don’t even get to have a say about its policies anymore.  Which leaves it up to writers like me to remind you that Facebook does not give too much of a damn about what the individual user wants when compared to what corporate users want. You didn’t actually believe that Facebook exists for any other reason, did you?

©2012 Peyton Farquhar and Prattle On, Boyo™.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.  Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Peyton Farquhar and Prattle On, Boyo with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Toshiba Canvio 3.0 External HDD

December 21, 2012

Featuring one terabyte of space ( 1 TB =  1 x 1012   (1, 000, 000, 000, 000) whereas one gigabyte (1 GB =  109 ( 1, 000, 000, 000).  USB 3.0, and, disk imaging software are also included to back up your existing computer hard drive, this portable drive is no bigger than the average QWERTY keyboard mobile phone. From the time I took it out of the packaging and plugged it into my Windows desktop, it worked perfectly.  If you’re concerned about rigging new hardware, rest assured, the Toshiba is about as idiot-proof as you can get which makes it custom ordered for the technology challenged.

System Requirements

Windows 7, Vista, XP

Mac OS x (Tiger, Leopard, Snow Leopard & Lion)

Features

I did some research on the drive beforehand, and, was intitally concerned that USB 3.0, despite being touted as backwards compatible with USB 2.0, wouldn’t work on my XP box.  But I was pleasantly surprised when it ran just the way it was intended with my existing USB 2.0 ports.

Where Macs are concerned, the Toshiba is formatted with NTFS and can be read and written to on a Windows PC.  Mac OS X can read data from the drive with no additional software, but if you want to write to the drive, then you have to install the software which is already loaded on the external drive. Once installed, Tuxera NTFS for Mac will enable both read and write support for the NTFS partition on your Mac.

Comparison

I have an Iomega 300 gigabyte drive that I purchased back in 2007.  At the time, its retail price came in just under $300.00.  This drive (pictured above next to the black Toshiba Canvio) is about the size of a electronic book reader, and requires external power, which can make portability somewhat of an issue. (Especially if you’re using another computer that is not at your own private desk with your own private electricity socket.)  Additionally, after the Iomega has been powered up for a little while, it tends to get really hot so you have to take care not to place it near or on anything heat-sensitive.  Plus, it’s on the heavy side.  (I’m not sure what the exact weight is, but you wouldn’t want to get hit upside the head with it.)

I also formatted the Iomega to that of the NTFS file system since doing so would maximize space on the drive.  (Out of the box, it was just the bloated FAT-32 system.)  The Canvio, on the other hand, is about a third of the size of the Iomega and requires no external power source, which makes transportation and interfacing with another computer fairly simple. The drive comes with its own USB 3.0 leash and will work with most USB 2.0 ports.  (I was able to successfully jack into an XP system owned by the local library which are notoriously, woefully, not state-of-the-art computers and locked down so ridiculously that it’s a wonder the system is even operable.) 

If you’re looking for a highly portable,  easy to use, mass storage device to replace a thumb drive (as I was) then this drive is for you.  The price tag is not cost prohibitive and retails for approximately $70.00.

Disclaimer: I am not receiving any kickbacks from Toshiba or any other company for this review, but tips are welcomed and appreciated using the Pay Pal link located on the uppper right hand side of this page.

Note:  The Canvio has an L.E.D. located at the top of the case that will blink white intermittently when reading/writing to the drive, but goes black when the drive is idle.

©2012 Peyton Farquhar and Prattle On, Boyo™.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.  Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Peyton Farquhar and Prattle On, Boyo with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


2012 Presidential Debate | Won’t Get Fooled Again

October 8, 2012

Tune in for the REAL presidential debates about topics that matter to hardworking Americans.

 Every four years, after a barrage of marketing ad nauseum, the presidential election debates are televised, and, to anyone who has been paying attention to the circus sideshow known as the American electoral process, the debates amount to little more than a case of dumb vs. dumberer. Two billionaires pretending to represent We, the People, grinning, nodding and congratulating each other like long-lost lovers reunited. They coo for the cameras programmed responses that are shiny, happy, and completely devoid of all critical thought.  That the candidates were  each sent in advance the topics they were to discuss on the televised “debate” is a joke unto itself. What kind of debate can it possibly be if each party already knows what will be asked?  The verbal diarrhea that voters have heard so far should have been sponsored by kaopectate. Now that would have been truth in advertising.

Where was the discussion about the 46.2 million Americans currently living in poverty? Where was mere mention of that fact that, in the wealthiest country on the planet, one in seven Americans go to bed hungry each night? Where was the dialogue regarding too big to jail banks?  Wall Street continues to screw the country with the tacit approval of both major political parties, every level of government regulatory department and law enforcement agency up to and including the Department of Justice.  Now that’s what I call a Fuck You, Pay Me trifecta.  Tony Soprano has nothing over the feds.

Not a peep was uttered about the on-going pillaging/looting of Main Street from either Wall Street bobblehead red or Wall Street bobblehead blue.  Instead, our illustrious, heavily gelled & glittering, coiffed candidates chose to debate Big Bird, a fictional children’s character that is apparently, an enormous drain on the federal budget. All .012% of it.  To put that figure into perspective for you, the cost of PBS programming for an entire year costs what the Pentagon burns in federal dollars in only six hours.  Clearly, Presidential candidates Obomney and Robama prefer to be harder on Sesame Street than they are on Wall Street.

With a record high percentage of U.S. Voters self-identifying as independent, one could ask why the debates don’t include candidates from outside the two-party duopoly.  The answer is simple.  The outfit that runs the presidential debates, the privately held corporation known as the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) is owned and operated by minions from each of the two major political parties.  Along with the corporately consolidated, mainstream press, they have absolutely no intention of allowing any third party candidates to participate who will, no doubt, upset the highly-scripted, reach-around orgy that Demumblicans and Republicrats have been enjoying for decades.  The CPD doesn’t want voters to be informed about real-world problems or the long-term best interests of the 99%.  All that matters to the two-party system is the appearance of choice.  They further want voters to believe that voting for a third party is a “wasted” vote.  Don’t buy into the lies, folks.  Consider ALL of the options before settling for the duopoly’s favorite flavor of rainbows & unicorns.

Now in all fairness, to those voters who are swayed by appearances, the CPD does make a lot of noise about being nonpartisan, but only those with less than a room temperature IQ would accept smoke & mirrors as proof of objectivity.  Considering that the CPD is headed by a former head of the Republican National Committee and former White House Press Secretary, you’d have to have to your head buried so far up your own ass that you would accept that a Nobel Peace Prize could go to a guy who has been more bellicose than George Bush the Dumber.  Oh wait.  We have swallowed that load already when President Obama received his award.  Would you look at that?  It is possible to fool 100% of the people 100% of the time, after all.

If you are a voter who is traumatized and exhausted by the lies, distortions and obfuscations of  our political process, then you should check out the real presidential debates set for 23 October, 2012, at 8p.m. Central Standard Time appearing on FreeandEqual.org

You owe it to yourself and to your family to have an informed opinion come election day.  If you don’t, and you settle, once again, for voting for the “lesser” of two evils, then you will be perpetuating the false dichotomy of choice.  You will be part of the problem giving the nod to two candidates from opposite sides of the same coin that will further erode civil rights, galvanize additional layers of platinum in favor of the already obscenely rich, and otherwise continue to perpetuate the fraud that has become the United States, of, by, for and about the 1%. 

Take back your country, fellow Americans.  End the charade of choice by checking out third party options instead of settling for the candidate who only beats you six days per week instead of seven.

©2012 Peyton Farquhar and Prattle On, Boyo™.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.  Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Peyton Farquhar and Prattle On, Boyo with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Got Helium?

July 25, 2012

Helium is an element that is lighter than air, nonrenewable, and becoming scarce.  It is used for many purposes, including air balloons, airships such as the Goodyear blimp, and, as a shield in arc welding processes using copper and and aluminum. But perhaps most importantly, for cooling the superconducting magnet used in medical MRI scanners.

The federal government sets the rate and announced this past Spring that prices would increase from $75.75 per thousand cubic feet in 2012 to $84.00 in 2013.  This price, coupled with a shoddy federal policy and dubious industry setup, all but promises a shortage.

Despite its rarity on Earth, helium was concentrated under the American Great Plains and was available for extraction as a byproduct of natural gas production.  The greatest reserves of the stuff were in the gas fields of Kansas and panhandles of Texas & Oklahoma. 

Because helium was crucial to miliary reconnaissance and space exploration, in 1925, Congress mandated that the government encourage private producers to sell their helium to the government under the Federal Helium Program and store it in what is is known as the Bush Dome in Amarillo, Texas, the country’s largest helium reserve.

Helium production is worldwide, but the largest percentage (75%) comes from the U.S.  Approximately 30% of the world’s helium supply comes from the U.S. Federal Helium Reserve held underground in a natural reservoir that is connected to a pipeline that links stored helium with nearby helium refineries and natural gas fields in Kansas.

Helium tanks at the Large Hadron Collider.

But considering its complex geology, production of helium in the past couple of years has been halting.  Private industry hasn’t been as interested in producing helium as Congress had hoped it would be when it decided to get out of the helium business. 

Where it was once mandated that the federal government keep a reserve of the gas, Congress reversed policy in 1996 and moved to privatize the federal helium program, requiring all of the government’s supplies to be sold off by 2015.  Suffice it to say, new producers of helium have not yet emerged leaving consumers with spiking prices and shrinking supplies.

As supplies tighten, the biggest impact could be on healthcare and small-scale research.  Helium is the only  element on Earth than can keep the superconducting magnet found in MRI units cold.  Helium, in short, is what makes magnetic resonance imaging  possible.  If there were no helium to service an MRI, the unit could become damaged permanently and need to be replaced.  Considering the current price tag on an MRI scan, this will, no doubt, adversely affect patient care and jack up the cost exponentially.

No Solution Forthcoming

The Helium Stewardship Act, introduced in April, is under current consideration by the U.S. Senate.  It would extend the 2015 deadline for the selling off of the Federal Helium Program and otherwise allow the government to continue supplying world markets with helium, selling it at market price instead of the government set rate.  If the bill isn’t passed, the funding vehicle for helium operations will expire giving MRI manufacturers and researchers the shaft.  But as with any other matter of national importance and global consequence that does not involve bailing out banks, no action has been taken on the bill since its introduction.

References:

Helium – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

©2012 Peyton Farquhar and Prattle On, Boyo™.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.  Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Peyton Farquhar and Prattle On, Boyo with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


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