Posts Tagged ‘government’

The Employment Road: Part II

February 5, 2012

At some point in my life, I realized I picked up the mantra, if it’s an honest job, there is nothing wrong with the work.  I still believe that statement.  I have learned, however, there are lunatics out there for bosses and that when given the chance, run.  I obtained a position with an individual who “sold ideas” (note, I’m still not clear what this means, what idea he sold, or really if we were on the same planet).  His great idea (at the time) was to make a database of all elected officials in the United States listing contact information, term and key issues.  I though the idea was flaky: he was basically making a PAC database and there are only several hundred, if not thousands out there based on a host of criteria.

I never thought I would need to clarify the world all.  I mean, it’s a pretty one-dimensional word:

1 a: the whole amount, quantity, or extent of <needed all the courage they had> <sat up all night> b: as much as possible <spoke in all seriousness>
2 a: every member or individual component of <all men will go> <all five children were present>
When I accepted the position, I roughly calculated the number of political offices nationwide and figured this was 6-8 months of solid work which would give the economy time to right itself.  This guy thought it could be done in a month.  After a week of work (during which we had 3 meetings to discuss the project – he was horrified that I expected to be paid for this since “I bought you coffee”), he didn’t understand why I wasn’t done with Alabama.  Our conversation went something like this:
Employer: I only have so much money budgeted for this project.  How long do you think this is going to take.
Me: 6-8 months depending on how accessible some of the local information is.
Employer:  I don’t have that funding! You need to go faster.  (so typical in project management)
Me: Uh, ok.  But you realize not everybody has a website?
Employer: Who doesn’t have a website?
At this point, I realize Mr.-I-Sell-Ideas is not the most astute person in the world.  After some back and forth, he decided that “all” meant all state houses, governors, and federal office holders and cities.  All cities.  I asked for his definition of the word city (I caught on):
Employer: You know, any town that is called a city.
Me: Do you have a population criteria?
Employer: Look, if it’s called a city I want it listed.
Me: Even the ones of 4,000 people or so?
Employer: There is no city with 4,000 people.
Me: Uh, yes, there are.  All over.
Employer: Not in Massachusetts.

School time

Yes, that is true.  Massachusetts does have population requirements for cities, town, village notations.  Most states do not.  Then we moved onto counties: how some states do not have counties, some states call the counties parishes (like churches? uh, yeah, same word but no, they are not churches. good, I thought that was against the law).  Once I went through about 15 hours of basic government principles including the election/retention/appointment of judges, I thought I could finally start.

I tackled the US House of Representatives first.

I had the list sorted by leadership then alphabetical order.

Employer: Why does it say she (Nancy Pelosi) is from California?

Me: She’s from the 8th District of California.

Employer:  You mean I didn’t vote against her?

Me: No, the Speaker is elected by the majority party in the house.

Employer: Do you think that is fair? I mean, I didn’t get to pick her!

I never tried to explain the President of the Senate concept. I think I’d still be at a Dunkin’ Donuts.  There were more bumps and bruises along the way: Nebraska’s unicarmate no political party legislature, Massachusetts senate seats being designed by parts of counties (Like Suffolk 3,4,5 and not MA Senate 1), Nevada legislature meeting every other year and the damn independents.  He didn’t like independents.  How did we know if they were Republicans or Democrats? And why did Tennessee have the Democrat-Repubican party? Pick one.

And on. And on.

I did get paid, he did go over budget.

A few months ago, he called me back.  I was working a contract and took a pass.  He tried to persuade me.  I gave him an outrageous hourly rate, demanded he withhold taxes, and a list of other insane things.  He wanted me to tell him how long it would take somebody else to do the job.  I said I had no idea.  Not even a clue? Nope.  Well, could I research it?  I figure if you can’t take the information I gave you, do a data/sort/header row/end of term in Excel, well, even my teach people about government streak had been tested.  I saw his position posted again on Cragislist.  I only hope the person who took the job had a lot of free time for sitting at Dunkin’ Donuts teaching somebody about government.

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Mindless tips and other “helpful” suggestions

April 25, 2011

I spent part of the weekend doing the search-for-actual-good-job-hunting-tips. I spent MORE time laughing. I’ve decided that either people are far dumber than I actually think (which is scary. . . given my thoughts around most of the species) or there is a genuine lack of unwillingness of anybody from HR people, to placement agencies, to college career offices to say “yes, the economy sucks. if you lose your job, unless you are a renter with in-demand skills (the great unknown), chances are you are screwed for a bit of time.”

Let’s face it: the unemployment rate is roughly 8.5% in the “official” count.  How is unemployment calculated? Good question. I thought it was social security numbers with money paid in – those who are claiming divided by the number of people with social security numbers who are over 21 (or a similar matrix, let’s face it, we are never going to capture the true number with things like maternity leaves, medical leaves, stay at home parents, people who return to school after working, etc) but a way to get the number that is a close approximation.  Nope.

This is from the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor and Statistics – that is the federal government’s department RESPONSIBLE for determining such things as unemployment. This method they have used since 1940 (or longer than my retired parents have been alive):

“Each month, 2,200 highly trained and experienced Census Bureau employees interview persons in the 60,000 sample households for information on the labor force activities (job holding and jobseeking) or non-labor force status of the members of these households during the survey reference week (usually the week that includes the 12th of the month). At the time of the first enumeration of a household, the interviewer prepares a roster of the household members, including their personal characteristics (date of birth, sex, race, Hispanic ethnicity, marital status, educational attainment, veteran status, and so on) and their relationships to the person maintaining the household. This information, relating to all household members 15 years of age and over, is entered by the interviewers into laptop computers; at the end of each day’s interviewing, the data collected are transmitted to the Census Bureau’s central computer in Washington, D.C. (The labor force measures in the CPS pertain to individuals 16 years and over.) In addition, a portion of the sample is interviewed by phone through three central data collection facilities. (Prior to 1994, the interviews were conducted using a paper questionnaire that had to be mailed in by the interviewers each month.)

Each person is classified according to the activities he or she engaged in during the reference week. Then, the total numbers are “weighted,” or adjusted to independent population estimates (based on updated decennial census results). The weighting takes into account the age, sex, race, Hispanic ethnicity, and State of residence of the person, so that these characteristics are reflected in the proper proportions in the final estimates.”

The federal government says this sampling is effective – reality? As a line from The West Wing (paraphrased): No, there aren’t more poor people, we are just counting them correctly.  Which administration wants to be known as the administration that actually discovered MORE unemployed people.

The site continues to explain how these “highly trained” samplers obtain their data:

“Mrs. Jenkins tells the interviewer that her daughter, Katherine Marie, was thinking about looking for work in the prior 4 weeks but knows of no specific efforts she has made. Katherine Marie does not meet the activity test for unemployment and is, therefore, counted as not in the labor force.”

Wait a minute: in a court that would be hearsay.  Mrs. Jenkins’ doesn’t KNOW what her daughter did or did not do: shouldn’t the correct tag be “unknown status” (let’s put it this way, how many parents really know if a teenage kid put in a job application or not? I’d hope more than I think is probably true. . . ).

Another issue: according to the 2000 census (I can’t find the breakdown for 2010), there were 105,480,101 HOUSEHOLDS according to the US Department of Census

In short? The US Government for the past 71 years has been calculating the unemployment rate in some backwards manner by which they interview (at the maximum) .006% of households in the US. Yup. I feel real secure in the data.  But then again, one of the sites I read said that if you have been unemployed for more than 6 months, you are unemployable.  I think I’ll file that under how the federal government calculates the data.

But since I can poke holes in the data, does anybody have a job for me that uses these sort of skills? I’m sure it’s valuable.