— FEATURED —
— FOLLOW US —
— POLICIES —
Except where indicated, Boing Boing is licensed under a Creative Commons License permitting non-commercial sharing with attribution
— FONTS —
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed a lawsuit against Dr. Dennis Nobbe's Dynamic Medical Services, Inc, where employees were made to engage in bizarre Scientology rituals as a condition of employment. The EEOC says that this violated employees' freedom of religion, and they're suing Dr Nobbe to prove it. This is the downside of the Church of Scientology's dodge of getting itself certified as a "religion," a practice that otherwise grants it enormous privileges, including preferential tax-treatment. But once your woo-woo exercises are officially "religious rituals," then forcing someone to engage in them violates freedom of religion rules:
According to the EEOC's suit, the company required Norma Rodriguez, Maykel Ruz, Rommy Sanchez, Yanileydis Capote and other employees to spend at least half their work days in courses that involved Scientology religious practices, such as screaming at ashtrays or staring at someone for eight hours without moving. The company also instructed employees to attend courses at the Church of Scientology. Additionally, the company required Sanchez to undergo an "audit" by connecting herself to an "E-meter," which Scientologists believe is a religious artifact, and required her to undergo "purification" treatment at the Church of Scientology. According to the EEOC's suit, employees repeatedly asked not to attend the courses but were told it was a requirement of the job. In the cases of Rodriguez and Sanchez, when they refused to participate in Scientology religious practices and/or did not conform to Scientology religious beliefs, they were terminated.
Requiring employees to conform to religious practices and beliefs espoused by the employer, creating a hostile work environment, and failing to reasonably accommodate the religious beliefs of an employee all violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
David S. Gallant had a part-time job working as a "numb meat puppet" for Canada Revenue Agency, answering phones and dealing with people who were often grumpy and thick. He vented his frustration by creating a little indiegame called "I Get This Call Every Day." He got fired.
In the game, the player listens to a conversation between a person talking to a government-style customer service representative. There is no specific mention of government but one of the graphics refers to “Last Tax Return” and some of the security questions asked of the caller are similar to what real CRA agents require.
The caller, who comes across as dense and snippy, wants to get his address changed and the player decides how the agent answers by clicking on screen choices.
“It’s easy (for the agent) to get fired in the game,” says Gallant.
And maybe in real life.
National Revenue Minister Gail Shea is not amused. Her communications director, Clarke Olsen, sent an email to the Star Tuesday stating, “The Minister considers this type of conduct offensive and completely unacceptable. The Minister has asked the Commissioner (of Revenue, Andrew Treusch) to investigate and take any and all necessary corrective action. The Minister has asked the CRA to investigate urgently to ensure no confidential taxpayer information was compromised.”
Tax department employee creates online game to vent his frustration with taxpayers [Valerie Hauch/Toronto Star]
UK chain Pret a Manger has a cuddly reputation for being more than a mere fast-food joint, despite the capital it took on from McDonald's. But when a longstanding Pret employee called Andrej tried to organise a union in his shop with the reasonable goal of having all Pret employees paid the London Living Wage of £8.55, they fired him. It's just part of a dirty tricks campaign run by Pret against its 91% immigrant workforce when they have the audacity to organise. I'm done eating at Pret until they reinstate Andrej and promise to pay their staff the London Living Wage.
Derek Khanna, the Republican House staffer who wrote an eminently sensible paper on copyright reform that was retracted less than a day later has been fired. So much for the GOP's drive to attract savvy, net-centric young voters. After all, this is the party that put SOPA's daddy in charge of the House Tech and Science Committee.
But it's pretty terrible for Khanna -- what a shabby way of dealing with dissent within your ranks.
Gareth Cook tells the story of Thorkil Sonne, founder of a Danish social enterprise called Specialisterne ("the specialists"), which helps place people with autism in jobs that demand a degree of focus and detail-orientation that's impossible to find among the neurotypical. Specialisterne began because Sonne's son, Lars, has autism, and Sonne saw that he was eminently suited to many tasks, and that performing them made him happy and did useful work, too. Now Specialisterne is a web of social enterprises that does everything from training to placement, and Sonne is pondering a move to the USA.
To his father, Lars seemed less defined by deficits than by his unusual skills. And those skills, like intense focus and careful execution, were exactly the ones that Sonne, who was the technical director at a spinoff of TDC, Denmark’s largest telecommunications company, often looked for in his own employees. Sonne did not consider himself an entrepreneurial type, but watching Lars — and hearing similar stories from parents he met volunteering with an autism organization — he slowly conceived a business plan: many companies struggle to find workers who can perform specific, often tedious tasks, like data entry or software testing; some autistic people would be exceptionally good at those tasks. So in 2003, Sonne quit his job, mortgaged the family’s home, took a two-day accounting course and started a company called Specialisterne, Danish for “the specialists,” on the theory that, given the right environment, an autistic adult could not just hold down a job but also be the best person for it.
Matthew Lasar's long Ars Technica feature, "Have we lost 41 percent of our musicians? Depends on how you (the RIAA) count" does an excellent job of digging into RIAA CEO Cary Sherman's claim that the number of working musicians in the USA has declined by 41 percent. After checking the RIAA's math, Lasar finds a gigantic discrepancy between the figures they cite and the conclusions they reach. But then Lasar delves further into the underlying sources, as well as government and industry stats, and finds that basically, the number of musicians working in America may have slightly declined, but is also projected to rise.
It is worth ending this cautionary tale with a review of the BLS's own occupational handbook projection for musician/singer employment in the near future. Note that the handbook cites a much higher employment figure for both trades in 2010 than mentioned in the above tables: about 176,200 musicians and singers. That's because it comes from the Bureau's National Employment Matrix, I was told, which adds additional data sources.
Employment for musicians and singers is expected to grow by ten percent over the decade—"about as fast as the average for all occupations," the government notes:
The number of people attending musical performances, such as orchestra, opera, and rock concerts, is expected to increase from 2010 to 2020. As a result, more musicians and singers will be needed to play at these performances.
There will be additional demand for musicians to serve as session musicians and backup artists for recordings and to go on tour. Singers will be needed to sing backup and to make recordings for commercials, films, and television.
Caitlin Doughty, host of AskAMortician has a message to the "little deathlings" out there who face social disapprobation due to their fascination with death and dying: it gets better. Life as a mortician, coroner, or affiliated professional is good and rewarding. PS: I just discovered AskAMortician and I am as happy as a pig in liquefying corpses!
Cathy "Mathbabe" O'Neil is a former finance-industry quantitative analyst who escaped her former career and has advice for other quants looking to do something better with their lives. She works in a startup now, and offers a fascinating study of the contrasts between finance culture and startup culture:
First, I want to say it’s frustrating how risk-averse the culture in finance is. I know, it’s strange to hear that, but compared to working in a start-up, I found the culture and people in finance to be way more risk-averse in the sense of personal risk, not in the sense of “putting other people’s money at risk”.
People in start-ups are optimistic about the future, ready for the big pay-out that may never come, whereas the people in finance are ready for the world to melt down and are trying to collect enough food before it happens. I don’t know which is more accurate but it’s definitely more fun to be around optimists. Young people get old quickly in finance.
Second the money is just crazy. People seriously get caught up in a world where they can’t see themselves accepting less than $400K per year. I don’t think they could wean themselves off the finance teat unless the milk dried up.
I love how anachronistic this ad for earning big bucks by learning steno is -- among the obsolete elements contained in it are dictation, shorthand, shorthand gadgets. It's true that continuous speech recognition, autocomplete and pocket recording devices are their descendants, but they're none of them "exciting careers."
With Stenotype, the world’s fastest shorthand, you can qualify for one of today’s top-level secretarial positions. This modern machine shorthand is a synonym for highest speed and accuracy in thousands of executive offices and important places everywhere. Your Stenotype machine uses only 22 symbols…types an entire word at one stroke.. .”takes” in plain English letters… provides clean, easy-to-transcribe records for permanent future reference.
Even if you’ve had trouble with ordinary shorthand, you can quickly become proficient in Stenotype. Notes are so much easier to take and read. You learn at home, in your spare time. The cost is remarkably low, and the machine itself is included with your course. Take the first step toward an exciting high-pay career today. Mail coupon for free Stenotype booklet. LaSalle, 417 S. Dearborn, Chicago, Illinois 60605.
Alternet's new series on "job insecurity" opens with a frightening and infuriating piece from Lynn Parramore, who paints a picture of a nation where the new normal is to be marginally employed, in terror of a coming layoff, haunted by unshakable student debt, and in a continuous, panicked search for work, all at once:
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Our capitalist endeavor was supposed to make us safe from the vagaries of weather conditions and arbitrary events that harassed our ancestors. But somehow we’ve ended up more worried than ever.
Anxiety disorders now plague 18 percent of the U.S. adult population –- a whopping 40 million people. Only half that number are affected by mood disorders. The drug alprazolam — familiar by its brand name, Xanax — was prescribed 46.3 million times in 2010, making it that year’s bestselling psychiatric drug. Prozac, the happiness-and-optimism pill, has been pushed aside by a medication meant to just help you get through the day without collapsing in a puddle of anxiety.
It’s easy to see the appeal of popping a Xanax. A recent survey by the American Psychological Association paints a picture of workers on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
* Sixty-two percent say work has a significant impact on their stress levels.
* Almost 50 percent indicate their stress levels have increased between 2007 and 2008.
* Forty-five percent of workers say job insecurity has a significant impact on stress levels.
...When we fear the hatchet will fall, when the future is a fog, when we’re paralyzed by powerlessness, we start to flip out. We pile on more work than we can handle. We don’t take sick days when we need them. We start fueling up on coffee and cigarettes, and dropping the things that are good for us, like leisure activities and trips to the gym. Under chronic stress, our immune systems start to buckle from “overresponsivity.”
Brian Krebs is conducting a series of interviews with computer experts on how they got into the field and what they'd advise others to do if they want to break in themselves. The first one, an interview with Thomas Ptacek, ran last month. The latest is from Bruce Schneier:
In general, though, I have three pieces of advice to anyone who wants to learn computer security:
* Study: Studying can take many forms. It can be classwork, either at universities or at training conferences like SANS and Offensive Security. (These are good self-starter resources.) It can be reading; there are a lot of excellent books out there — and blogs — that teach different aspects of computer security out there. Don’t limit yourself to computer science, either. You can learn a lot by studying other areas of security, and soft sciences like economics, psychology, and sociology.
* Do: Computer security is fundamentally a practitioner’s art, and that requires practice. This means using what you’ve learned to configure security systems, design new security systems, and — yes — break existing security systems. This is why many courses have strong hands-on components; you won’t learn much without it.
* Show: It doesn’t matter what you know or what you can do if you can’t demonstrate it to someone who might want to hire you. This doesn’t just mean sounding good in an interview. It means sounding good on mailing lists and in blog comments. You can show your expertise by making podcasts and writing your own blog. You can teach seminars at your local user group meetings. You can write papers for conferences, or books.
Matt sez, "The School of Library and Inoformation Management at Emporia State University (Kansas, USA) unveiled a comic book aimed at generating newfound excitement for librarianship and increasing the awareness of the many opportunities that an MLS/MLIS degree can provide. From the same team that created Library of the Living Dead and Monster Clash, Supreme Librarians in Metaspace is a promotional comic that highlights the many facets of librarianship in a quirky, tongue-in-cheek manner. This resource encourages librarians around the world to take a look at the profession in a new light. And maybe have a laugh or two while doing it."