Working at Walmart

TL;DR: If you want a decent unskilled labor job, apply at Walmart (especially before the holidays, they’re hiring a lot right now). If you can get a highly skilled job, maybe don’t apply at Walmart (maybe corporate).

I work at Walmart. I have just had my first anniversary actually (which is something that they actually pay a lot of attention to). It’s something that I actually didn’t think would ever happen.

A few years ago I have actually said that I would never work in retail. But then, the job market not giving me a whole lot of options because I didn’t have a formally finished education or job training. So I ended up having to take a job in a small computer store to finish my job training as a programmer. Unfortunately for me, most employers in the United States don’t really care what kind of education you had or have received in a foreign country.

I came to the US just last year and Walmart was actually the first job I have had in this country. Before I applied for the job and over the past few years I have heard quite a few negative things about Walmart and so I was fairly reluctant to even apply. Obviously, though, I didn’t really have a whole lot of options.

It struck me as very odd that Walmart has such a huge hatred for unions, which is something that you don’t commonly see in Germany. When you start working at Volkswagen, for example, you get a union application with your work contract. There are very few people working in automotive companies that are not unionized and the same goes for many other sectors. I was told that Walmart makes a point of paying their workers as little as possible, to the point that people have to rely on food stamps and other government programs to even survive.

The truth is that Walmart actually improved upon a lot of things in recent years. The hatred of unions is still ever present but the need for unions isn’t really there anymore. The starting pay also went up to $9/h and there’s a mandatory raise to $10/h if you finish all your training. Walmart also has a decent set of benefits which include a 401k plan that matches up to 6% of your income after you’ve been with the company for over a year.

Now compare that with other unskilled labor jobs. Retail jobs, fast food jobs, restaurant jobs, etc. You won’t find a whole lot of jobs that start out at $9 an hour and even fewer that will throw some benefits in there as well. But even disregarding all of that, there’s a huge difference.

If you wanted to, you could make Walmart a career. In the store I work at, and many others I have seen, you just need to do a good job, have some ambition, and show up for work every day and you’ll likely be able to move up fairly quickly. I got promoted to be a supervisor after working for the company for less than 9 months. Technically there are options for even steeper increases in position, but that happens fairly rarely. I have seen people get promoted after less than 6 months, though.

So after all the jobs I’ve done where hard work was never commended, rarely even noticed. I have a job where I can see a path to success, where performance matters.

Trump knows nothing about Mexico

Hillary let Trump get away with an incredible display of ignorance in the debate that apparently no one has picked up on (Forbes did write a short article on it).

Trump said: “Let me give you the example of Mexico. They have a VAT tax. We’re on a different system. When we sell into Mexico, there’s a tax. When they sell in — automatic, 16 percent, approximately. When they sell into us, there’s no tax.”

Now here’s the thing, while what he is said is true, it’s not quite the whole picture. Like Germany, Mexico has a sales tax, which means all goods sold are taxed. So you buy something at the store in Mexico you pay 16% tax, regardless of whether or not it’s produced in Mexico or the U.S..

Trump apparently expects the Mexican government to give a subsidy on anything imported from the U.S. by exempting it from the tax that they charged on everything else. That’s like saying I shouldn’t pay the sales tax on my car because it was made in Mexico.

So did Trump distort the facts or does he not know the facts. I think he’s just stupid.

The hiring process

After moving to the US from Germany I have had some interesting thoughts on why the whole hiring process sucks, for anyone involved.

I’m mostly talking about hiring people who are currently not employed since most of the issues I’m talking about here don’t really apply to people working in the field they’re looking for work in.

For employers it seems like finding an ideal candidate for a job is amazingly hard. Even harder when the unemployment rate is fairly low. You’re spending probably hundreds of hours trying to find someone who would fit in with your company and do a job well. And even after all that you won’t find out if you made the right choice for another few thousands dollars spent. And then, even if it doesn’t seem to be the right candidate you need to wonder if it’s actually worth it to go through all the hassle of replacing them or if they’re doing almost well enough not to get fired.

For employees it doesn’t seem any less complicated. I have just spent close to 30 hours just preparing a résumé (that you can see here…. shameless plug intended), and with that I obviously haven’t even gotten to a cover letter, which obviously should be different for each application. Then you need to actually find a company that wants to hire the likes of you and for which you want to work. So far I have spent about 50 hours and the time of a few friends before even applying for the first job.

Now there are companies who are supposed to make the process easier for both sides. But do they really ? If I hire a company to do the hiring for me, will they really evaluate a candidate or will they just go through their résumé like I would ? If I hire a company that will go around and show off my résumé to companies, will they actually do a decent evaluation ?

Now I know this isn’t all that feasible, but there should be a company that hires and trains people and then actually knows what skills they have and what companies they would be useful for. Or even specifically trains people in the technologies that are in use at the company that wants to hire someone. And I know what you’re thinking: that’s what schools are for. But you would be wrong. There are so many people attending very good schools who really haven’t learned much of what the school wanted to teach. Being able to repeat things on a test isn’t quite the same as actually using that knowledge in practice.

Obviously I’m talking mostly about IT jobs here. And I’m really advocating against using standard programming tests to see who at least understands some fundamentals of programming. It’s fairly easy to memorize the fizzbuzz test and similar ones without really understanding them.

I don’t really have a solution to this whole problem right now (beyond people calling themselves experts in whatever technology the company uses, it’s fairly easy to test those people by making them actually write something useful), but it’s obviously something that’s on a lot of people’s minds.

Idiocracy and the reality it has turned into

Assuming you haven’t seen the movie, it’s about a future of more and more dumbed down children and a president straight out of an action movie.

The weird thing about it is that now people start actually seeing this future happen. We’re having a republican primary season that’s dominated by boasts of a retarded billionaire that has so many failed businesses that it’s hard to take him seriously as a businessman or more importantly a candidate. He’s an entertainer that has no substance and no plan.

And yet, somehow, in a national poll he would receive over 30% of the votes against either democratic candidate. Both of them being well qualified, both of them having plans, both of them talking about issues.

This whole thing obviously started a couple decades ago. When somehow the republicans convince a whole nation that we don’t want elitists in the white house. We somehow want a man of the people. We wanted George W. Bush ???? I’m still not sure how we got there. But from there it only got worse.

John McCain would have made a decent candidate. Obviously not a great one. Ever since Bill Clinton won the presidency with debates about plans, budgets, the future the republicans withdrew more and more from debates about issues and got drawn to debates of morals and ethics (while, unsurprisingly their morals and ethics are lacking). Debates about abortion, gay marriage, and religious beliefs took the place of issues, bills, economy.

After McCain we have Mitt Romney, another decent (and obviously not great) candidate. Himself a rich wall street guy who prides himself in abusing every tax loophole there is. Proudly paying far a far lower tax rate than someone making 10% of his income. Obviously way out of touch with most of the american population.

But then here we are in 2016. With a field that initially had 16 (qualified) candidates, with some candidates that were serious about their budgets, their plans, their issues. And we go with the candidates that has none of those.

The republican party apparently has decided against looking for a brighter future. Against having qualified candidates. Against elitism in all its forms.

We, as Americans, need to make sure we reverse this trend. Do we not want someone in the white house who’s smart ? Do we not want someone who has brilliant advisers ? Do we not want someone who thinks about the implications of the bills he signs into law ? Do we not want someone who takes a minute to think before acting ? Before making a choice that can alter the course of history for America ? Do we not want to be elitist when we choose our president ? Do we not want the best and the brightest for the job ?

I want the highest qualified candidate to be in the white house. I want the smartest person possible in the white house. I want someone who at least knows about the implications of their actions. I want someone that one of our closest allies doesn’t need to have a special session in both houses to figure out if they can, or need to, ban them from the country. I want someone that Americans can be sure doesn’t just nuke Iraq because there might be Isis there.

I want someone who thinks before acting.

The Bathroom debate

I can honestly not believe we’re having this discussion in the 21st century.

So as you may have not been able to escape heard about the debate on which bathrooms people should use…. here’s the deal: Republican state legislators in quite a few states are passing bills that would restrict the bathrooms to people matching the gender on their birth certificates. Have we had an issue before that would have been solved by these laws ? of course not.

So why would we make these laws now ? Fairly obviously to discriminate against transsexuals. Here’s why: As noted in the previous paragraph the laws go by the birth certificate. So even if you have legally changed your gender and are considered a woman you’re forced into the men’s bathroom. Why would that make sense to anyone ? No one is taking their birth certificate anywhere, so the law is extremely hard to enforce. Unless you want to just arrest people on suspicion of not being the gender they claim to be. So then you would have to arrest about 25 people for every one case where you’ll find someone whose gender doesn’t match their birth certificate. Obviously there isn’t one look that all transgender people share.

So with all these laws that are obviously well thought through…. They’re forcing people who went through all the therapy and possibly surgery to change their gender into the wrong bathroom. They’re making people with a beard, with a very male physique, with a penis go into the women’s bathroom. They’re making people with boobs, long hair, wearing dresses, with a vagina use the men’s bathroom.

Does that make sense ?

Why do we have a problem with a person in a dress going to the women’s bathroom ?

How many people have put on a dress, gone into a women’s bathroom, and raped someone ? Raped a minor ? Please tell me, because I haven’t heard of a single case.

So with all these issues that we haven’t had, we’re creating a law with a sole purpose of discriminating against people.

Should we discriminate ? Should we judge people ?

Now I’m a guy, with a beard and short hair, I have a 6 year old daughter. Can I take her to the bathroom ? Clearly now I’m violating the law if I go to the women’s bathroom with her. Clearly she’s violating the law if she goes into the men’s room with me. What really is the accepted behavior here ?

Amazon Mechanical Turk

So I was going to start my journey of using the mechanical turk (Basically a platform on Amazon that lets you complete small tasks for a tiny bit of money, usually under $1 each), and saving up the money to buy a new computer.

This was cut a bit short. Since my social security number is apparently not old enough, they somehow can’t verify the information I have provided…. which is pretty sad for a company of that size working in information technology.

The whole thing was to make a bit of money on the side before I could find a reasonably paying job, and they told me to try again in one year. At that point I obviously won’t need to do that anymore since my marketable skills are worth at least $50k/year.

I guess I will bid farewell to this idea and the mechanical turk as a whole. Amazon also took a big hit in the amount of respect I had for them.

My next big Adventure

As you may know (I have an about me page that you’ve certainly devoured….) I’m married, have 2 children, and am German (2 of those aren’t actually on said page….).

Now I have finally received permission to reenter the United States of America. A process that was started in 2013, which in the grand scheme of things and considering all the hurdles, wasn’t actually too long. I might write more about that whole process later, since it’s all fairly interesting and a lot of people (cough) conservatives (cough) clearly have no idea how any of it works. (No you can’t just decide to come to america. No they don’t let people with Ebola just walk across the border).

So now (or …. soon) comes the time to actually move to America (yes I’ll call it that regardless of it annoying people who know that America is actually a continent). Which means that besides the horrible difficulties of moving, the horrible difficulties of being poor (and broke) and the horrible difficulties of airlines now thinking 2 ounces is too much luggage for a family of four…. We somehow have to carefully decide what stuff is precious enough to take and then somehow try to move via airplane.

Obviously the children are thrilled to go (one hasn’t seen her biological father in years, both haven’t seen their mother’s side of the family in years), neither is thrilled about leaving essentially all of their stuff behind. They have a shitload of toys from 4 Christmas’s (what’s the plural of Christmas anyway ?) and birthdays and all the stuff in between. And the great majority of them is going to see the inside of a trash can. And we have no money to replace them…. It’s going great so far !

Obviously we’ll be taking most of the clothes we have…. also a good time to sort them and throw away a whole lot…. and maybe some electronic devices that are easier to take than to replace.

Unfortunately the medical problems of my wife make it near impossible for me to find work since it makes a lot of things far worse if I leave and she has to deal with everything by herself. She is on disability, but the american social security system really doesn’t have a lot of room for things past the basic necessities. Which is something that way too many Americans are way too comfortable with, but I digress.

So with both of our families never even making it into the middle class neither is really able to help any, we are struggling to even get enough money together to pay for the plane tickets, much less being able to send some stuff by mail rather than having to replace it at an unspecified later time.

We’re planning on making the trip in late April or early May. Currently we’re waiting on two documents that still need to be sent to the US consulate and I will be receiving my visa shortly after that. Probably around the middle of April, hopefully slightly sooner.

In case you’d like to help me, I have started a gofundme campaign.

Thank you for reading all this.

Gratis Mentalität

Heise hat gerade eine Newsmeldung veröffentlicht unter dem Titel Mit Sky, Netflix und Co. weg von der Gratismentalität, in dem aus den vorliegenden Daten völlig verkerte schlüsse gezogen werden. Eigentlich ist offensichtlich was passiert, aber man muss trotzdem alles negativ verkaufen.

(zitat) “Die Zahlungsbereitschaft bei den Zuschauern wird sogar noch größer werden, weil jetzt die Angebote da sind”, vermutete Medienforscher Klaus Goldhammer. (zitat ende)

Die Zahlungsbereitschaft war immer da. Die Angebote nicht. Ich hatte sogar schon mal darüber geschrieben…. Wenn uns jemand ende der 90er Jahre gesagt hätte “Du kannst Musik haben so viel du willst, für 10€ im Monat”, wir hätten alle gesagt “Ja bitte”. Nicht nur das, wir hätten nicht napster heruntergeladen um Musik kostenlos zu haben. Kazaa hätte es gar nicht gegeben, genause wie limewire und alle anderen.

Die Bereitschaft der Produzenten die Musik für den Preis anzubieten wir einfach nicht da. Die Bereitschaft ist teilweise immer noch nicht da. Wenn Taylor Swift ihre Musik nicht bei Spotify anbieten will (obwohl sie jedes Jahr millionen bekommt), dann liegt das nicht an der Gratismentalität.

Ja, die Mentalität ändert sich, langsam. Aber nicht bei den Konsumenten. Wir konnten uns CDs kaufen, aber nicht sehr lange. Die längste Zeit waren “CDs” auf dem Markt die sich eigentlich so nicht nennen durften, weil der Kopierschutz nicht standardkonform war. Also konnte man die “CDs” auch nicht überall abspielen.

Das muss man sich in der heutigen Zeit mal vorstellen. Man kauft sich eine CD, nicht nur weil man die Musik mag, nicht nur weil man von der Werbung eingeschüchtert wird das Raubkopierer in den Knast kommen, sondern weil man die Musiker unterstützen will. Und dann kann man die Musik nicht hören wegen dem Kopierschutz. Wenn man ne mp3 herunterläd kann man die fast überall hören. Aber wenn man bezahlt bekommt man etwas was, vom komfort her, deutlich schlechter ist.

Man stellt sich vor man will ein Regal bauen. Am Straßenrand findet man das perfekte Regalbrett. Aber man geht lieber 5km weiter in den Baumarkt und lässt sich eins zuschneiden. Und dann bezahlt man im Baumarkt für ein Regalbrett das völlig Krumm ist und für das Regal nur die hälfte nutzbar ist.

Die Mentalität war schon immer die gleiche. Wir hätten gerne auch damals für das gezahlt was wir jetzt angeboten bekommen. Auch den gleichen Preis den wir jetzt bezahlen. Es hat nur keiner angeboten.

Und jetzt….

Wir sehen noch immer eine Werbung dafür wie schlimm raubkopieren ist. Fast alle Filme die wir kaufen haben so etwas. Fast alle Filme die wir kaufen haben Intros oder Vorschauen die man nicht überspringen kann…. Raubkopierte Filme nicht.

Aber hier ist wenigstens Netflix zur Stelle. Raubkopieren ist mitlerweile (wenig….. sehr wenig) schwieriger als für Filme zu bezahlen. Allerdings sollten sich die Produzenten auch hier mal gedanken machen ob man nicht alles für alle lizensiert, also nicht einiges bei netflix sehen kann, anderes nur bei Amazon, anderes nur bei Watchever…. Weil es wird sich keiner finden der Abos für alle bezahlt. Es werden sich aber sehr viele Leute finden die ein Netflix Abo haben und sehr sauer sind, dass sie nicht alles sehen können was sie wollen.

Also !

Hört auf über die Gratismentalität zu meckern. So wie Ihr das dastellt ist es nie gewesen. Es war nur einfacher etwas gratis zu bekommen als dafür zu bezahlen. Und das sollte euch zu denken geben.

Zero day exploits in Windows

And why Microsoft isn’t happy with Google.

So far this year Google has released information for 3 (fairly) major security holes in windows that could be exploited for a variety reasons. Obviously mostly trojans wanting banking information and the likes.

Microsoft isn’t happy because they were working on a patch for the last 2, with one of the patches being released only 2 days after Google released the exploit, the other one (released today) had a patch pushed from January to the February patch day because they weren’t happy with the patch.

So one would think that Microsoft is right and Google is wrong.

I happen to disagree.

One of the reasons that Google (and other people who publish exploits) have such a tight schedule is that security holes, even after the people responsible were notified, had a tendency of staying unpatched for a very long time. Microsoft’s internet explorer in particular had a reputation for being vulnerable to exploits that Microsoft had known about for over a year. These days Microsoft is doing a much better job. But Microsoft isn’t doing a much better job because they feel the need to make their products more secure (although much has changed and they actually do), but because they now know that the exploits will be released after 90 days.

Many companies have proven that it’s possible to fix vulnerabilities within 90 days. Even Microsoft isn’t doing so bad usually. One has to consider, though, that Windows contains millions of lines of code. So some hidden bugs could be fairly hard to track down. They also do have some of the best programmers working on it, though, so this really shouldn’t be an issue.

If Google is being consistent and doesn’t, for example, give RIM extra time to work on a patch, I think this is a good thing. I think 90 days is enough time. I think Microsoft is capable of providing patches for their products in time, with no problems. I just don’t think that they’re making this a priority. Or they need to streamline their project management and have the right people working on stuff in time.

I really don’t think Microsoft needs 60 days to work on a patch, so I think that they just started late. Start early, have the right people working on it and none of this will be a problem.

Party line vote attack ads

or X has voted with Obama Y% of the time.

In a fairly interesting development there are now attack ads on candidates that solely focus on how much they voted with Obama. Interestingly enough though Obama used the same tactic when it was Obama vs McCain for president.

Why does that bother me ? It does not. The implications do bother me, though.

So we live in a world where most of the voting happens along party lines. That much is obvious to pretty much anyone. But now the republicans are implying that the gridlock that is now part of D.C. is the fault of the democrats that keep voting with Obama. Obviously this also rallies the republican base.

If the democrats now made attack ads about how much the republicans vote along party lines, or against any democratic bill, nothing the ad says would be news to anyone, and it wouldn’t get anyone to vote, or even change the way they would have been voting. We have actually come to a point where republicans can freely admit and advertise that they vote against any bill of the democrats and it won’t cost them a whole lot of votes. It might even actually get them some votes. But they can “attack” the democrats on doing the exact same thing. Hypocrisy now knows another level.

Now here is what actually bothers me about the whole thing: All the ads are focusing on is how much the democrats vote with the president. Nothing at all is said about what bills they voted on, if they approve or deny certain bills. The content of the bills they vote on is completely irrelevant. It could be a bill preventing people from clubbing baby seals and all the democrats vote for it… doesn’t matter, voted with the president.

Jobs bill, ending government shutdown, obamacare, you’d bet the democrats voted with Obama. Why is that ? All of them are insanely popular with broad support among any demographic (except for that last one in the conservative rich white demographic, maybe).

So now we have attack ads that attack the democrats for passing bills that enjoy the support of far over 60% of the voters and the worst thing is: it works.

The republicans shutdown the government over obamacare, vote to repeal obamacare over 40 times, when it’s such a huge step into the right direction that no one in the general public really questions anything about it anymore, except for the personal mandate. Discrimination against preexisting conditions, no one wants that. Preventive care is paid for, everyone wants that. Medicare expansion allowing less fortunate people to get emergency help, everyone wants that.

But none of that matters, because what individual bills you vote on doesn’t factor into the ads anymore. The simple fact that you vote with the president is enough to rally people to vote republican.

Please people, focus on the issues. This almost seems like a foreign concept these days, but look at what the candidates have voted on and how they have voted. Don’t focus on statistics.

Obamacare has such broad support and republicans still run on the platform of repeal obamacare.

Background checks for all gun sales has 90%+ support of the general public. And yet almost all republicans vote against that bill.

Republicans shut down the government over obamacare in a last ditch effort to stop it from taking effect. And somehow they get reelected. Please don’t let that happen. Don’t let them waste hundreds of millions of dollars on posturing and circumventing democracy.

Whichever way you decide to vote, make it about the issues and not the person. Vote for the person who is more likely to improve your situation or the situation of the nation as a whole. Don’t vote for someone who wants to give tax breaks to the top 10%. Don’t vote for someone who creates or extends tax loopholes or even subsidies for companies who make billions of dollars every year. Don’t vote for someone who wants to cut social security for the people who already are hit hardest by the recession. None of this helps you, or the country.