Category Archives: My Life…

Job insecurity saved my career

A chart at the Economist compares the average job tenure of developed countries.  At four years, the United State has the shortest average tenure by far, with the British working more than double that duration, and the Greeks working over 12 years at the same job.  No doubt that many will use these numbers to condemn the U.S. for not protecting “the rights of workers.” In most Western European countries, employers can only fire workers under certain legally-defined conditions, and only after a lengthy disciplinary process subject to independent appeal.  Putting the morality of coercing employers into lifetime contracts aside, do such “protections” really help workers? 

The official French unemployment rate is roughly double America’s, with unemployment among young Frenchmen at about 20%, and lasting much longer on average.   The correlation of high levels and prolonged periods of unemployment with laws meant to protect against unemployment might seem surprising to someone who advocates fixing social problems with legislation.

The glaring problem with the socialistic attitude that society can be improved by replacing voluntary economic activity with a coercive regulatory state is that human beings are not cogs in a machine.  They do not passively follow new regulations, but proactively respond to incentives.  Faced with the practical impossibility of firing unproductive workers, employers would rather not hire them in the first place.   They can hardly be blamed for this, for their alternative is to play a game of Russian roulette and risk being bankrupted with unproductive or even counter-productive employees.  They must try to find people who are passionate about their jobs because once hired, they will earn a salary whether or not they work for it.

I am personally grateful to live in Texas, an “at will employment” state, where either party can terminate employment with no liability.  My career success would not have been possible if I weren’t so easy to fire. 

As I was nearing the end of my master’s degree, I managed to obtain an exclusive internship that promised to jumpstart my career.  Due to a combination of a lack of social skills and planning, I had failed to network with employers, peers, or professors, and managed to swing the internship on the basis of my technical skills and/or academic record.  However less than two weeks before my internship was to start, the company suddenly reneged on the internship offer.  With just a few months until graduation and no personal connections or offers on the table, I started to wonder whether I was any better off than my friends and classmates who went back to their parents with useless liberal arts degrees.   In a similar situation, most young Europeans continue living with their parents for decades and accumulating more useless degrees.

I was not in Europe, and so I was able to do contract work during college, and offered to do a six-week long unpaid “internship” for a think tank I had done some work for.  I’m not familiar with European labor laws, but somehow I doubt that it would be as easy to simply offer one’s services in exchange for room and board with no paperwork or commitment whatsoever.  During that summer, I brushed up on my skills, and was offered a low-paying, but very promising opportunity for a small startup near Austin, Texas.  I had nothing but a degree and a recommendation behind my name, but there was little risk from the perspective of my employer, and so I had my first opportunity to prove my worth.  A year later, I used that experience to get a better position in Dallas.  Exactly a year after that, I changed jobs once more, and then once again seven months after that.  I now work as a month-to-month contractor with no job security whatsoever, but a solid resume and 360% more income than that first job.  Had my employers been bound by French labor laws, I doubt I could have gotten that first chance to prove my worth. 

I am currently employed by a French-owned company, and my coworkers who visit the French headquarters like to joke that their associates there all have good looks but don’t seem to shower or change their clothes.  I don’t know whether it’s true, but it makes sense – without job mobility, superficial characteristics like appearance become much more important when getting that first and only job, and after getting it, there is little incentive to keep up appearances.

 

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Damn, I look good!

David_Fountain.jpg

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Speaking of mystics…

I’ve been reading a lot of Robert Heinlein lately. He really is an amazing science fiction writer, and his independent, productive, rational, and optimistic protagonists share many traits with the heroes of Ayn Rand. The only flaw I see in his writing is a pervading skepticism of all absolutes and ideals as such. His characters express their philosophy in specific (and usually true) “practical” principles like “Get the facts!” but never in terms of the broad abstract ideas needed to derive them. As such, they’re not the kind of individuals that could dedicate their lives to any idea (although a few do) or even one mate (Heinlen was a big fan of “free love” towards the end of his life). I think some of that came from his strong animosity towards any form of dogmatism, especially organized religion. His novels are full of lines like:

The most preposterous notion that H. sapiens has ever dreamed up is that the Lord God of Creation, Shaper and Ruler of all the Universes, wants the saccharine adoration of His creatures, can be swayed by their prayers, and becomes petulant if He does not receive this flattery. Yet this absurd fantasy, without a shred of evidence to bolster it, pays all the expenses of the oldest, largest, and least productive industry in all history.

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Objectivist Summer Conference

I was surprised that so many people were interested in
learning all about the Objectivist
Summer Conference
I attended from July 5 to 17, and now that I’m finally home and my blog is working properly, it’s time
to spill the beans.
Continue reading “Objectivist Summer Conference” »

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I was taking my final

I was taking my final early today because I am leaving for the Objectivist Summer Conference tommorow. My prof had me sit in the hallway while he was in class, and as I sat there doing my final, this couple comes out of a a nearby room and starts a conversation about 20 feet away from me. So the guy starts talking about morality, and I can’t help but listen since he actually sounds halfway intelligent. First he goes on bashing liberals and pragmatism, talking about how living according to principle is the only path to happiness, how modern society is corrupt, etc etc. The woman he’s talking to isn’t really following, but I quickly catch on to the flaws in his arguments and if you know me at all, you should know how I love a good debate, so I’m really temped to interrupt, but I’m taking my final exam and all, so I try and focus. Then the topic switches to money, and the guy suddenly goes on a rant about how money is the root of all evil, and how materialism is what’s wrong with society, etc, etc, and I can barely focus on my exam becuase he’s just so wrong and I have to sit there and think about relational databases and audit trails. Then, if that wasn’t bad enough, the guy starts preaching about the bible while I try to draw an ERD diagram, and about all I can do is try to sit there and not jump in the conversation. FINALLY they leave, and I thank God (hehe) that I can finish my exam in peace and go to a place where I don’t have to deal with irrational raving mystics, but hopefully do get a chance to debate my brains out. So if you dont see any posts for the next few weeks, you know what I’m up to.

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I was ego-surfing the web

I was ego-surfing the web today, when I came accross a biography of my namesake — in Russian. It seems that Äàâèä Âåêñëåð was a a psychologist at Columbia University who invented the IQ test. Specifically, he came up with the following definition of intelligence: "The aggregate, or global capacity to act purposefully, think rationally, and deal effectively with the environment."

Unfortunately, when Äàâèä came to the United States, he spelled his name "Wechsler" rather than my "Veksler," which is why the very-appropropriate legacy of my namesake remained hidden from me for so long. (Actually, when I was 16, I had my first name legally changed from "Dennis" to "David" — but that’s besides the point.)

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I'm a corporate tool.

A few months ago, I placed a tiny, invisible image on my blog in exchange for "product samples." A few weeks later, I got a bucket with a shirt, chocolate drinks, other assorted merchandize, and a link to "Raging Cow," a blog "written by a cow" that just happens to have the name and image of a new chocolate drink product. The blog itself has various "humorous" rants that make no sense whatsoever and never explicitly mention the product the blog is advertizing. The only hint that this is a actually an experimental guerilla marketing technique is a tiny link in the corder that sats "©2003 Dr Pepper/Seven Up, Inc." Will it work? I have my doubts, but their crawler will probably notice this link and send me more merchandize, so I’ll be a good corporate tool and keep on blogging about it. You can sign up here, but your blog has to get 50+ hits a day to qualify.

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Do you know this bird?

A few weeks ago, I noticed a little bird nursing two eggs on a palm tree two feet outside my window, and I decided to try to take a few snapshots of the chicks. Although I’ve seen it clean and feed the baby chicks, whenever I approach the nest on the porch to take some pictures, the mamma bird immediately covers the chicks with her wing and gives me "the stare" until I feel like a tresspasser on my own porch. I took some photos anyway, which you may see here. Update: I liked up the bird, and it’s a white-winged dove.
bird with chicks

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My room in 360°

After cleaning up around my room this weekend, I decided to make a 360° composite snapshot with a Matrix-styled theme on my pc’s. Check out the results in two versions 145K and 1.6MB

my desk

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I finally registered for my

I finally registered for my first classes of graduate school today on my way to a masters in MIS. I will be taking VB.net and Database Design the first summer semester and taking off the second to go to California. Getting into grad school turned out to be a big fiasco becuase my recomendation letters were somehow lost by the admissions office, and my application nearly got lost in the "incomplete" pile. Apparently the address given on the application downloaded from the website was old or inaccurate. Well either way, I should be out of here in a year if everything goes well and I take a full load.

By the way, I saw The Pianist last night, and the movie really sucked, despite by best expectations. Growing up Jewish, I saw dozens of movies about the Holocaust and grew terribly sick of them when I realized that nobody had a clue of what caused it or even attempted to answer why. More often than not, it was portrayed as a natural disaster, not to be understood and learned from, but merely blindly countered with "never again" without knowing what was the evil thing that should not be repeated. I know now of course, which is why I was all the more angered when I saw the same attitude towards 9/11.

Anyway, I thought the movie would have much more piano playing and less drawn out and impresonal history of the Warsaw ghetto and several scenes which reminded me of how I sometimes scrounge around my apartment looking for leftoover food. The only part I liked was the smuggling of the guns, which reminded me of a flier I saw some time ago (shown below). The Nazis, Chinese and Soviets never banned all guns — they just made sure that they were controlled tightly enough so that no "subversives" could get their hands on them. By this standard, gun laws in England and parts of the US (like NYC) are already equal to or worse than those under the Nazi’s and Soviets.

If you’re wondering why all the interest in guns all of a sudden, it’s becuase I decided to get one a while back and started doing research on both the legal and psychological aspects of gun control. I found that the gun-control movement exists as a natural extension of the collectrivist-liberal philosophy — in this case, intrincisim (guns are inherently evil becuase men are unevitably unstable and amoral), determinism (violence is inevitable, we can only choose to take away the weapons), Statism (the State owns the people) and malevolence (a desire for criminals to have an advantage over honest citizens). The last seemed shocking to me too, but it is easy to see in explicit terms when one looks at the pacifist’s foreign policy agenda in areas like terrorism, the UN, and Israel.

Some psychologists have looked at the anti-gun mentality as a passsive-agressive mental disorder, but I see it as a typically irrational reflection of the subjectivist’s own mentality. Lacking values themselves, the liberals/subjectivists/posmodernists seek to destroy value out of pure envy. Their tolerance is actually an intolerance of principle, and they seek to riducule and destroy the concept of value itself (hence subjectivism disquised as "tolerance" and "diversity"). A principled and moral man flies in the face of the degrading collectivist view of human nature and cannot be taken on directly, so they seek to eat away at his principles by deterministic nanny-state policies such as welfare and gun control. For the great majority of liberals, the connection between their philosophy and its political outcome is subconscious, which means that rational challenges to their views can be that much more powerful by contrast. Unfortunately, the philosophy of rights, reason, and reality is so lacking these days that both sides muddle on without really knowing what issues they are debating. Liberty is lost in the end because the bureaucracy is inherently unstable and politicians always power hungry, so that one side is always pushing for slavery while the other can only respond "not so fast!" as they give up their lives one regulation at a time.

monopoly

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