Monday, February 19, 2007
Friday, February 09, 2007
If you ever played with a starter microscope set as a kid, you may have felt the amazement of creating a miniature world simply by placing a drab little speck of matter under its objective lens. That same sense of wonder surely drove the winners of the 2006 Olympus BioScapes Digital Imaging Competition, an annual contest for the best microphotographs of living (or once living) things. The Olympus Corporation recruited a panel of microscopists to judge each entry on its scientific contribution, aesthetic quality and technical excellence—not just who could present the gnarliest looking bug head. Bear that in mind as you view the 10 finalists, announced last December, along with our picks for the most interesting honorable mentions.
At a news conference in Beijing, an international consortium of physicists released the first detailed design of what they believe will be the Next Big Thing in physics: a machine 20 miles long that will slam together electrons and their evil-twin opposites, positrons, to produce fireballs of energy recreating conditions when the universe was only a trillionth of a second old.
“The good thing is that we have developed a design that can address the challenging physics goals and meet the technical requirements, and we have worked very hard to cost-optimize it, yet it (not surprisingly) does remain expensive,” Barry Barish, a physics professor at the California Institute of Technology and chair of the design team, which includes 60 scientists from around the world, said in an email interview before the announcement.
Money is cheap. And some experts say it could stay that way for years. That's creating opportunity—and brand new risks.
In some ways, it's the 1990s all over again. Back then, the info-tech boom created an unexpected boost in productivity that persists today. Now it looks like something analogous has hit the global financial markets. A combination of globalization, innovation, and good old-fashioned competition among markets has made it easier and cheaper to raise and deploy money. Borrowers now can draw funds from around the globe. And derivatives let financial institutions and traders manage their risks with mind-blowing precision. With Chicago, London, New York, and Frankfurt all jostling to be the world market leader, exchanges and financial institutions have an incentive to be cheaper, faster, more innovative.
Companies who wish to import H-1B workers are required to file a Labor Condition Application (LCA) with the Department of Labor showing that they are, in fact, paying the H-1B workers according to the law. Keep in mind is that the law only allows the Department of Labor to ensure that the LCA form is filled out correctly. The Department of Labor does not validate the prevailing wage.
Attached below is an LCA filed by HCL for some of the H-1B replacements at BofA/Exult. The salary for the H-1B workers is $39,184, about half of what the people they replaced made. So how can HCL claim they are paying the prevailing wage?
The first step used here in the wage depression process is to call the H-1B workers generic "systems analysts". So instead of using the
higher-than-average wage for the specialized skills of Oracle and PeopleSoft, the employer uses the wage for systems analysts as a whole.
The LCA says that the employer used OES (The Bureau of Labor Statistics "Occupational Employment Survey") to get the prevailing wage. OES put the mean salary for "systems analysts" in Charlotte, NC at $60,150, a figure significantly greater than what the H-1B workers were
The Department of Labor provides an additional service to assist employers to depress wages in their on-line LCA system. There, employers can get a prevailing wage for Level 1 ("Beginning level employees") workers and Level 2 ("Fully competent employees") workers, which in this example are $41,246 and $69,618 respectively. So now the employer claims the H-1B workers are "Beginning level employees" and uses the lower wage as the prevailing wage.
The law only requires H-1B workers to be paid within 95% of the prevailing wage. The employer takes 95% of $41,246 and comes up with a wage of $39,184. Thus, the company is paying the H-1B workers about half of what the workers they replaced made.
Even if the law is not being violated, note that HCL is paying these supposedly "highly-skilled" and "best and brightest" employees the lowest wage it can possibly get away with, right down to the last dollar.
Data for the fiscal year 2006, which ended last September, show that 7 of the top 10 applicants for H-1B visas are Indian companies. Giants Infosys Technologies (INFY) and Wipro (WIT) took the top two spots, with 22,600 and 19,400 applications, respectively. The company with the third most applications is Cognizant Technology Solutions (CTSH), which is based in Teaneck, N.J., but has most of its operations in India. All three companies provide services to U.S. companies from India, including technology support and back-office processing.
The only other U.S. companies among the top 10 are the accounting and consulting firm Deloitte & Touche and consultancy Accenture (ACN). They rank seventh and ninth, with 8,000 and 7,000 applications, respectively.
Thursday, February 08, 2007
My pet project, called Fileshifter, is secure file-manager targeted at small companied needing to transfer big files to and from clients and coworkers. This one-man creation written in PHP using Cake has unique features such as: drag-n-drop uploads and no maximum file-size (7GB DVD image is the largest uploaded to date). Without CakePHP it would not exist.
You want to hire a new programmer and you have the perfect candidate in mind, your old college roommate, Guillaume Portes. Unfortunately you can't just go out and offer him the job. That would get you in trouble with your corporate HR policies which require that you first create a job description, advertise the position, interview and rate candidates and choose the most qualified person. So much paperwork! But you really want Guillaume and only Guillaume.