The conn of the fox
After three plus decades in the PC/IBM-compatible world, I recently acquired two Apple computers. I plan to blog a bit later about the transition from one world to the other.
Apple products are sleek, stylish, elegant, quiet, cool and fun to use. My last PC computer was the size of a small suitcase and I paid extra money for the “super quiet” case. Yet it sounded like a 747 taking off and we practically had to yell over the noise when in my office. By comparison my Apple “Mac Mini” is so small that it sits on my desk and I didn’t even realize it was a computer at first. I mistook it for an external hard drive. The size and the fact that it made absolutely no noise at all was deceptive.
“The facilities at Foxconn are fine, but the management is poor. Hundreds of people work in the workshops but they are not allowed to talk to each other. If you talk, you get a black mark in your record and you get shouted at by your manager. You can also be fined.”
–An investigator of Foxconn’s Longhua plant
So, for the first time in my life, I’ve signed up as an Apple customer, I’ve made purchases from the Apple store, and I’ve received three shipments so far from Apple. And I’ve noticed that their boxes, sleek and stylish also, say things like “Designed in California.”
The phrase “designed in” is, of course, a euphemism for “made outside the U.S.A.” At my former employer we sold apparel products in our store that had large labels sewn into the garments. These labels were representations of the flag of the United States. In smaller print, under the flag, were the words “Designed in the U.S.A.” I often wondered if this actually worked on the non-critical thinkers out there. I guess that approach must work on some. The garment was actually made in Pakistan but I wondered how many purchasers actually realized that.
Some shoppers would make it very clear they only wanted “made in the USA.” I’d say great, and show them to the rack of USA garments. These were, however, about three times the cost for the same item. And, I’ll be painfully honest here, were not of the same quality as the items made in Pakistan. Sad. Even the most hardcore patriotic shopper withered in the face of such facts.
So my Apple products proudly proclaimed that they were “designed in California.” A check of the label told the rest of the story. “Made in China.” No big surprise there. It’s the age old story of companies wanting consumers with American dollars purchasing their products but not wanting to pay American workers to produce them. And it’s not just Apple. My Google toys were also made in China.
A few days later a news story about Apple caught my eye. It seems that their products made in China are handled by a company known as Foxconn. And, in 2010, “nearly a dozen” Foxconn workers committed suicide, some by jumping from buildings. In fact, Apple’s Chief Operating Officer (COO) Tim Cook, the man likely to fill the shoes of Steve Jobs, personally visited Foxconn in 2010 to improve “working conditions” there. Cook was accompanied on his visit by “two leading experts” on suicide.
For its part, Foxconn also took action. Among other brilliant ideas it began attaching large nets to buildings, Apple said. Is it just me or does that seem like treatment of the symptom? Sure, you could fix the underlying problems that lead some to think suicide is a solution or, even better, just try to catch more of them before they hit the ground and cause annoying negative publicity.
Foxconn also hired counselors.
So nets and counselors, eh? Both of these solutions are decidedly aimed at workers. But where is any indication that Foxconn is willing to fix itself and improve working conditions? Sadly I can’t find evidence of that in the news reports I’ve seen.
Apple reported that it found 91 underage workers. Not a good sign of a responsible culture.
It was also reported that some of the materials used to produce its products, like tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold may not be “fair trade.” In other words, those products may be sourced from regions where armed conflict and/or human rights abuses are known to be occurring.
Apple said it had required companies to reimburse $3.4 million in “recruiting fees” to workers. Yeah, employees had to pay bribes for the right to be mistreated workers.
Chinese environmental groups recently released a report critical of Apple saying that the company didn’t do enough to address health and environmental concerns at its manufacturing plants. In one case, they claimed a worker at a Wintek Corp. plant had nerve damage caused by a chemical known as n-Hexane. Apple said it required Wintek to stop using n-Hexane after 137 workers had experienced health problems after exposure to the chemical.
It seems to me that a job has to be pretty poor indeed if that many workers think the only way out is to die. Last year, the Telegraph reported that 16 workers jumped, 12 died, and that 20 more people were caught and stopped by the company before they could jump.
Personally, when I eat a plate of food, perhaps a little chicken, I like to know that the chicken had a pretty good life, at least by chicken standards. At least up to the point where it was killed to become my dinner. I’d like to think it lived free and enjoyed the sorts of things that chickens enjoy. What I absolutely do not want to hear is that the chicken was mutilated at birth, kept in a tiny box for its entire life, and was forced to stay awake and eat under bright lights 20 hours a day. Some say God put animals on Earth for humans to use, but that’s just taking things too damn far.
I feel something similar about my shiny new Apple products. I’d like to know with certainty that the company I’ve chosen doesn’t abuse human beings. Even those in other countries. I’d like to know that the employees were paid a fair wage, given things like reasonable breaks, had safe working conditions and were treated with dignity and respect. I’d like to know that workers weren’t pushed to work 70 hours a week or subjected to so much stress that they “twitched” during their off hours.
Is that too much too ask?
- Apple sent top exec to China after rash of suicides at supplier plant
- Inside Foxconn’s suicide factory
That’s sick, man
The message is clear. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) want you to “Stay Home!” when you’re not feeling well. They want you to call in sick.
Too bad, so sad!!!
I don’t want to overstate this, but I am literally a modern day super hero. I am Vector Man. My special powers activate the moment I start feeling ill.
vector: an organism (as an insect) that transmits a pathogen
I know, calling me an insect is quite the over-compliment but I’ll take what I can get.
It’s been at least six years since I last called in sick. And probably a lot longer than that. Unfortunately that’s just about as far as my memory works. I do know this: I’ve been at my current job about 4 months and haven’t called in once. And my previous job was 5-1/2 years and I never called in sick, either. I’ve got quite the streak going.
The problem? Staying home to protect the health of other people costs me money. I haven’t had sick pay since 2001. I also haven’t had health insurance since then, either.
The CDC seems to have the opinion that if people stayed home when they got sick that would be beneficial to society as a whole. Or some such shit like that. Whatever. I don’t live in that world.
Interestingly, if a cell is infected with two different flu viruses (such as H1N1 and H2N2) then the virus genetic material can be rearranged in the cell so that the released viruses include mixes like H1N2 and H2N1 surface molecules.
Source: Flu Terminology 101
This is what I call the double-whammy reverse incentive. I can’t afford to call in sick and I can’t afford to see a doctor. So I just work through it. Germ powers activate!
Saturday, out of the blue, my snotbubbles kicked on. Think of my snotbubbles as similar to Spider Man’s “spidey sense.” So I knew that Vector Man’s super powers were about to power up. That night a cold and/or flu thing came down on me like a ton of bricks. That was one hellacious night and when I woke up my body was feeling like it had tumbled all the way down Mount Everest. Every part of me was sore!
Sunday night was more of the same. When I woke up I was dead man walking. My wife told me to stay home from work. “Ha!” I scoffed in her face. “Vector Man has never failed to perform when needed.” So I dragged my sorry ass in to work and, for once, was successful at keeping my damn trap shut. (Which is, by the way, my #1 goal every time I go to work.) It was a busy weekend and I had a lot of ecommerce orders to ship. I worked half a day, got all my orders out, then asked to go home where I tried and failed to take a nap.
The thing is, and I learned this recently when on jury duty, when I’m not in the office no one does my job! Literally. When I came back to work every single order that had come in for three days was sitting there waiting for me. That really cracks me up! Think the customer is important? Think again!
It works like this: When the boss is there and you are there, the boss will ride your ass hard to make sure those orders go out. It doesn’t matter if they came in at 3pm. They will be going out today. Period. Even if you have to make a special trip to the goddamned post office. But, if the boss is there and you are not, suddenly that shit flies right out the window. Suddenly it’s perfectly fine and dandy for those orders to sit. For days. The message is loud and clear: Fuck the customer if anyone other than Vector Man has to get off their ass and do some actual work.
So yeah, today I will be hauling my ass into work one more time. Even though last night more than lived up to all of my wildest expectations. I’ll be working because no matter how sick I get, Vector Man has a responsibility to his fellow man.
Vector Man action figure includes Snotbubble (TM) fluid kit, Triple-Sneeze action (TM), Projectile Vomit Pack (TM) and Irritable Bowel Syndrome plug-in with motorized performance and temperature-sensitive paint. Odor Paks sold separately.
Thank God that Toy Biz v. United States determined that action figures are “toys” and not “dolls.” It wouldn’t be quite as macho to be a doll.
For more reading see Can’t call in sick scenarios.
Going into Labor Day
I need the life version of an epidural because I am decidedly suffering from intense labor pains.
For most Americans (at least those not in the burgeoning service industry) Labor Day is traditionally recognized as a day of respite from toil. That means a lot of Americans get the day off. For some, the day represents the unofficial end of summer. For others it represents the start of something new, like the NFL season.
For others, however, the day is just like any other. A lot of people with service industry jobs will still be out there working. That’s probably a lot of people since these days the service sector accounts for the majority of American jobs. Less and less we actually make stuff in the good ol’ USA and more and more we are all out servicing each other. So to speak.
Personally I look forward to the day when we all work from home and no one ever goes anywhere. All the cities will be ghost towns and our highways will be empty. It’ll be a dream come true. Of course there will be no water, food, clothing, electricity, housing, toilet paper and other essentials like electronics unless they are imported, presumably by some sort of transporter technology. All the truck drivers will be working service jobs, too.
Speaking of dreams, yours truly decidedly does not have one when it comes to Labor Day. I’ll merely be experiencing additional labor pains as I schlep my useless carcass down to my dead-end job. Technically I’m not in the “service sector” as my job is theoretically technical. But in practice the technical duties I perform are the smallest slice of the pie chart that represents my day. Bigger slices on that graph are consumed by providing “customer service” on the phone (since it is imperative that every call be answered even if only by a miserable idiot like me who can only respond “I don’t know” all day long) and retail sales on the floor.
My wife has Labor Day off but I won’t be spending the day with her. For her sake I hope she has a backup lover to keep her occupied.
If you want the real history of Labor Day, check out Wikipedia. I just did and learned a few new things. If you are like me and working at a job you hate tomorrow, consider it a temporary distraction from your misery.
For me, Labor Day seems like a good time as any to consider my current situation in life. I’ll just go ahead and keep those ponderings to myself. I won’t bore you with the details but suffice it to say it’s not good.
Today’s Los Angeles Times brings us a bit of interesting news: Some economists are now predicting that even if our economy bounces back the unemployment rate is not expected to do the same. They are saying it might be years or even decades before our labor market recovers after (hopefully) our economy rebounds.
One thing seems certain: As less of us have jobs and unemployment benefits dry up, there is going be a shortage of another valuable resource that is sometimes a wee bit beneficial to economies. Consumers with disposable money are a fairly vital ingredient to keeping other people in jobs making stuff and providing services. As less of us are able to spend I personally look forward to seeing what might happen. It should be a lot of fun. I’m stocking up on popcorn.
In the meantime it looks like there just might be a lot more boot licking in my future. But that’s all in a day’s work when one finds himself In the service of the King.
Thoughts on “loving what you do”
Every once in a while some sanctimonious sick son of a bitch will try to feed me this unpalatable line of disgusting crap:
“You gotta love what you do.”
Usually this this oh-so-useful piece of advice is offered by likes of playboy Hugh Hefner, eligible bachelor Derek Jeter, billionaire / airline owner / adventurer Richard Branson, etc. You know, the “make their own rules” sort of people.
Yeah, if my job title was “adventurer” then I might be a tad happier, too.
For most of us, the harsh realities of employment are, shall we say, a skosh less than “ideal.” In my case, the trip to dirty whore didn’t just happen overnight. It took a little bit of time, patience, good old fashioned luck and a healthy dose of deceit.
I’ll try not to bore you with the nitty gritty details, since you’d probably pass out and hit your head, and nobody wants that. I’m a webmaster by trade. I had a hard time finding work after moving to a small town. I ended up taking a job (on 09/11/2001 no less) that turned out to be heavy phones and heavy sales and just a little bit of technical duties thrown in to maintain the illusion that I was actually a “webmaster.” I wasn’t. It was my first exposure to the position of whore. But I was desperate for work and had no other choice.
I did some side work for a company and long story short, they needed a “webmaster.” (You’ll see the reason for the quotes soon enough.) I interviewed for the job of “webmaster.” The job of “webmaster” was offered. I accepted the offer and put in my two-week notice with my current employer. It was a very hopeful and exciting time for me.
At that point, I was pretty much committed to switching jobs. It would have been hard if not impossible to undo.
Before I started work at the new company I was brought in for a meeting. I was shown the operation, met the team, and then given some training. I quickly realized that something was seriously askew. I was being trained on the product line, how to answer phones, operation of the cash register, and retail floor operations. In other words, absolutely nothing to do with actual “webmastering.”
I’ll never forget that day as long as I live. I left the building, sat in my car in the parking lot and threw up. Good times to be sure. And it has been all downhill from there.
Now, five years later, I’m still here, still in this small town, and my hate and despair is palpable. I’m totally miserable being a phone bitch, talking to customers, and working as a salesperson. Yes, I do have some “webmaster” duties heaped on top of my regular bullshit, but it is nothing I “love.” It mearly represents additional stress and pressure on top of the daily secretarial things that have to get done.
There is no point to this post. I’m just having one of those days. Now you know why I always call myself a “whore.” My loose definition is getting paid to do that which you hate. I got that covered.
I guess my main beef with “you gotta love what you do” is that it implies that I choose this, that this is somehow what I want. I’ll bet millions and millions of workers would tend to disagree, even these days when a job, any job, is as valuable as a gold nugget.