Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Outsourcing Conundrum

I've been struggling with outsourcing over the past few years. I work in an industry where its very easy to outsource much of your technical support staff.

We see it with many of the major US players: Boeing, Microsoft, Apple, Mastercard, General Motors, etc.

Currently, I work with peers in India, the Philippines, and China. Many of my buddies lost their jobs over the past few years because of the outsourcing. I somehow survived.

There also appears to be a distinct lack of upward mobility within the company, and many believe its caused by jobs going over seas combined with many of the vets that were getting paid boom salaries, not wanting to leave their positions to go elsewhere because the pay isn't as much.

In the back of my mind, I know that at any moment, I can be replaced by someone overseas. Yes, they might not be as efficient as I am or as personable to our American clients, but they can hire two of them for less than the cost of me. But it still doesn't seem right.

As one of my users said, "Its just god damn un-American." I agree.

I understand why. The demand to show your stockholders you made profit quarter after quarter, even though the industry might not have grown, and that you somehow cut costs will keep people investing in your company.

I think it causing a larger rift in class warfare. The guy getting laid off isn't thinking about keeping a business going, he's thinking about how the rich CEO and people with enough disposable income to play the stock market, are doing just fine with their record profits.

He's thinking about the stereotype of the person that took his job and how evil they are and how they are ruining the world economy.

However, a new variable has been added. All of a sudden I'm working directly with some people overseas. They are no longer this sweat shop worker keeping things running while I'm asleep. These are people with names and personalities. I like these people.

And really, its not their fault. They want to live the American dream. The problem is, in this digital age, we've found a way to export the American dream to other countries.

It's not Alvin's fault that my company hired him to do work. He's just trying to earn a living. If it wasn't him, it would've been one of the other millions of people looking for work overseas.

So, I guess I'm trying to not blame the people taking the jobs. I'm trying to shift my anger and disappointment toward the companies that do it.

In a way, I guess I should blame Capitalism.

As a side note, some reports suggest that outsourcing is now coming the other way. India is actually shipping jobs to the US.  So maybe this 20 year trend is finally coming to an end.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Ghosts of High-School

I took a four day weekend this week. Originally it was to celebrate the start of the hockey season and burn some PTO I had, but since hockey isn't happening, I made new plans and they happened to be a huge blast of Dan circa 1999-2003.

Thursday night, Sallie, Lacy, and I went to see the Smashing Pumpkins. It was Billy Corgan complete with his "Zero" shirt, surrounded by bored students who couldn't afford to see the Cardinals game and thousands of people my age dressed in their best flannel and black t-shirts. The Smashing Pumpkins are one of those bands I've skipped too many times, we had to go to this show and it was great.

Friday I spent the day out in St. Charles after dropping Sallie off at work. I met a buddy of mine I hadn't seen since I left for Mizzou for Cecil Whittakers pizza buffet, a past time of high-school as well. We spent the entire afternoon searching used game stores for Sega Genesis and Playstation 1 games, talking about Smashing Pumpkins, and pizza. I swear, for a moment, I thought I was 17 again.

Then yesterday, I thought I was done with the high-school-ness of my weekend, but we went to the wedding of one of Sallie's families close friends. I knew some of these people too, they road the same bus as me for a few years. Well, the weren't the only ones I knew from high-school.

I was seated next to a guy that wrestled one of my buddies in high-school. I somehow knew the best man, but I couldn't figure out what group of friends of ours overlapped and I ran into my first girlfriend and her new husband. The last time I saw Rebecca was at a Target in St. Charles in 2002. I just couldn't believe I was standing there, face to face with my entire summer of 2001, and having a conversation with her.

It was a crazy weekend.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Saving Money and Feeling All Manly

I told you a few months back how Sallie and I were going into survival mode until a few bills cleared up. Well, I think we've done a fine job.

For bills, we've managed to cut things down quite a bit.

  • Netflix: Went from 1 DVD to just streaming - saved $8 a month.
  • Electricity: We didn't put in a second AC window unit this year and kept the AC about 6 degrees warmer than last year. In total, we saved about $70 a month all summer even with Ameren increasing prices this year.
  • Cell Phones: We switched to Virgin mobile since they use Sprint's network anyway. Saving $70 a month.
On top of those we got aggressive and swapped some things around.
  • Paid off both our medical bills. Total a month, $200.
  • Paid off the loan we took out before Sallie went into surgery. Total per month, $260.
  • Shifted around some credit card balances to one with 0% interest. 
So total, we have 5 less payments a month and are paying about $600 less a month.

On top of that, we both have had second jobs.

Sallie's continued doing her track club newsletter which brings in a nice chunk of change once a quarter.

I've been working with my buddy Allen on gutting houses, being all manly and stuff.

I've quickly learned that I'm not one that learns from reading books or watching videos on how to do things. I need to be shown, usually just once, and once I know what I'm doing, I'm golden.

Since owning a house, I've felt inept at how little of home repair I know how to do, but I'm finding out its only because I've never had a reason to fix anything.

I've had to do a little bit of everything on these old houses. I've installed light fixtures and ceiling fans, painted, cut trim, installed flooring, ripped out carpet, and worked a little with plumbing.

I got to use a nail gun that loaded nails like clips and was hooked up to a 4 foot tall air compressor. I seriously felt muscles and chest hair grow as I shot each nail.

There was one house that a good 50 years of furniture was shoved in the basement and we had to clean out. We quickly learned this was a spider nest. Allen and I wandered the basement, one of us holding a flashlight, the other a blow torch, and we had to kill spiders like we were in Aliens or something.

We found an old 1940s style radio in the house that still sort of worked. Allen took it home to see what he could do with it.

Basically, what I'm saying is, we didn't do anything really this summer, but it was worth it. We're finally in a place where we might be able to make progress on debt for the first time in three years and we learned a few things along the way.

Monday, October 1, 2012


I went over to a buddies house on Saturday and brewed for a solid 8 hours. I've had some questions as to the process and such, so I figured I'd post with pictures. This guy has much more and better equipment than me, so in two weeks, I plan on posting my brewing process.

So we just brewed a generic ale with almost no-bitter taste (IBUs) because we're testing what 5 different yeasts do to the same brew.

1. We used 9 lbs of 2 row grain, which is sort of the basic basis for most beers. This is my buddy grinding it... shortly thereafter he robbed a train.

2. While that was getting ground, we heated water up to a proper mashing temperature. Basically, you submerge your grain in water around 160-165 degrees to pull all the sugars and enzymes out of it. So you take this set up, and slowly pull water from the cooler. After it runs through the grains it turns a darker, smokey color. We then dump the water from the picture back into the cooler and run it through a few times until the smokey water looks clear. 

3. Now we heat up enough water for our total brew, in this case about 8 gallons  and put it in a sparge cooler. It's a similar process to the mashing, but this time we are running hot water over the grain bed slowly, trying to keep the grain bed loose, and then emptying it into our brew kettle. You have to make sure the water level stays high enough, otherwise the grain will compact and you won't get as much sugar out of the grains as you need.

4. At this point, we take what's called wort (This is unfermented, unhopped beer) outside and throw it on a sweet propane burner. We got it up to temp, threw some hops in, boiled for 60 minutes. 

5. After that, we cooled the wort down to 70 degrees, put the beer into 5 small fermentors and pitched our vials of yeast. By now, there should be CO2 leaving through the airlocks and in about 3 weeks it'll be ready for bottling.