The Worst Job I Ever Had: Working in a Call Center for a Cell Phone Company

by John McDermott

It was four straight hours of listening to complaints, a lunch break, and then another four hours on the phone.

Lucas McDaniel, 31, Bloomington, Indiana

Current Job: IT Technician at Indiana University
Worst Job Ever: Customer service representative for a large cell-phone plan provider

How I got in

I was just out of college, struggling to find a job, and expenses were piling up — student loans, rent, utilities, food, car insurance. I felt the walls closing in and knew I had to find a job, any job.

I decided to apply for a job at a call center, answering customer service calls for a large telecom provider. The place had a bad reputation — a couple friends had worked there and told me, “It sucks, but it’s a job.” Which was my exact mindset heading in.

All I had to do was walk in and fill out the application. The next week they invited all the new applicants in for a mass interview, and if you made it that far, you were basically hired.

We had about eight weeks of training, all of it paid at $8 per hour. The training consisted of the new crop of employees sitting in a room for eight hours a day, looking at PowerPoint slides and listening to recordings of people dealing with customers.

Fewer and fewer people showed up over the course of training. They got a couple paychecks, then bailed. It was demoralizing. I had just earned an engineering degree from a four-year university, and here I was among a bunch of high-school dropouts.

The last week of training was spent on the floor, where we watched customer service reps field actual calls from customers. I learned more that week than I did the previous seven. All the other training was a waste.

When I realized it was going to suck

That’s when I realized I was totally unprepared for the job. I watched the customer service reps log their call information in the internal software system, and quickly realized I had no idea how to use it. “What did you just do?” I asked them. “We didn’t go over that in training.”

“Ask your supervisor,” they’d say.

The supervisor said if we had any questions, we should just look it up in the internal learning database and follow the script. But the database didn’t account for most of the situations the customers described. Or the customer would give a response not included in the script, and we’d be left flying blind.

I often had to put the customer on hold just so I could call over a supervisor and ask them what to say.

There were about 500, 600 people on the call center floor at once. It was a wide-open warehouse, with rows of cubicles, 10 to each row. The partitions between them were small, so our calls often bled into each other’s. I worked nights, and it was miserable going from fluorescent lighting to utter darkness.

Our base pay was $9.50 an hour, but you could make up to $12 if you stuck it out long enough. Promotions were on a merit system. You were judged harshly by the customer satisfaction surveys conducted after each call. If you weren’t able to fix someone’s problem, even if you followed the script, the customer would rate you low and ruin your chance for a raise or bonus…




Radical Kuwaiti sheikh claims Photoshop is against Allah: video

BEIRUT, LEBANON (11:10 A.M.) – Salafi Sheikh ‘Uthman Al-Khamis of Kuwait told an audience earlier this week that using Photoshop or any photo editor is forbidden because it goes against Allah.

A member from the audience asked the radical sheikh “can we add effects to our photos?”

Sheikh ‘Uthman then replied that editing any part of a photograph is forbidden and not allowed, adding that the photo must stay as it is.

The radical sheikh is well-known for his constant attacks against Shia Muslims on his TV network and his unorthodox religious claims.


Wikileaks’ Timely Reminder of our Digital Panopticon

“The Panopticon must not be understood as a dream building: it is the diagram of a mechanism of power reduced to its ideal form.” – Michel Foucault

by Kit

the late eighteenth century English Utilitarian philosopher and social-theorist Jeremy Bentham devised what he called the “perfect prison” – The Panopticon. The design is simple, a circular prison with one guard in the central room, and all the cells facing the guard tower. In this way the gaoler can have a line of sight to every cell at once, and no inmate can ever be sure he’s not being observed. Bentham described it as:

…a new mode of obtaining power of mind over mind, in a quantity hitherto without example…a mill for grinding rogues honest.”

Wikileaks latest release of classified documents, entitled Vault 7, comes as a timely reminder to all of us (as if we needed it) that the panopticonthe theorized perfect prison – is now a fibre-optic, digitized, hard-coded reality.

Here’s a run down from Wikileaks’ own analysis page (with some added emphasis):

The increasing sophistication of surveillance techniques has drawn comparisons with George Orwell’s 1984, but “Weeping Angel”, developed by the CIA’s Embedded Devices Branch (EDB), which infests smart TVs, transforming them into covert microphones, is surely its most emblematic realization.

The attack against Samsung smart TVs was developed in cooperation with the United Kingdom’s MI5/BTSS. After infestation, Weeping Angel places the target TV in a ‘Fake-Off’ mode, so that the owner falsely believes the TV is off when it is on. In ‘Fake-Off’ mode the TV operates as a bug, recording conversations in the room and sending them over the Internet to a covert CIA server.

As of October 2014 the CIA was also looking at infecting the vehicle control systems used by modern cars and trucks. The purpose of such control is not specified, but it would permit the CIA to engage in nearly undetectable assassinations.

The CIA’s Mobile Devices Branch (MDB) developed numerous attacks to remotely hack and control popular smart phones. Infected phones can be instructed to send the CIA the user’s geolocation, audio and text communications as well as covertly activate the phone’s camera and microphone.

The CIA’s Remote Devices Branch’s UMBRAGE group collects and maintains a substantial library of attack techniques ‘stolen’ from malware produced in other states including the Russian Federation. With UMBRAGE and related projects the CIA cannot only increase its total number of attack types but also misdirect attribution by leaving behind the “fingerprints” of the groups that the attack techniques were stolen from.

These early analyses show us the powerful trifecta of these operations – the CIA can hear you, find you and…if they deem it necessary…kill you. In fact, the reveal that the CIA has been working on hacking vehicle control systems adds new dimensions to the (as yet unsolved) case of Michael Hastings, a counter-culture voice in the American press who died in an inexplicable car accident four years ago. (A good rundown of the case can be found here.)

The repetition of a now well-established fact – that the CIA, NSA, DHS…whoever…can hack various electrical devices to listen in to our communications is nicely topical, given the current clash between the in-coming and out-going presidential administrations. An interesting thought is that Wikileaks, if it ever was as completely impartial and alternative as it purports to be, might be being used to score political points. The theorized split between the CIA (pro-Hillary) and the FBI (pro-Trump) works well as an explanation for this, as it did with the DNC and Podesta e-mail dumps prior to the elections. Either way, this information is nicely timed to remind the world that, as we already reported, of courseDonald Trump was being surveilled. Everyone is.

The final section we’ve highlighted, the proof that “…the CIA cannot only increase its total number of attack types but also misdirect attribution by leaving behind the “fingerprints” of the groups that the attack techniques were stolen from” is an interesting tidbit of information. Worth remembering, because it will almost definitely have fallen down the memory hole next time some “evidence” is produced claiming Russia or China or Iran have hacked this, that or the other.

Further along in Wikileaks’ explanation of the data, and much discussed on CNN and in Congress (who seem rather unfazed by the illegal bugging and possible assassinations), is that the CIA’s arsenal of “cyber-weapons” were unsecured, and probably stolen by unknown parties.

Did state and/or non-state actors access and steal CIA created data-mining programs and spyware? I don’t think it matters. At all. The reasoning behind this is fairly simple. Firstly, there are no groups LESS trustworthy than the American military intelligence institutions. Secondly, and more importantly, I don’t believe it to be true…


Wikileaks’ Timely Reminder of our Digital Panopticon


Mind over matter

Resultado de imagem para images Bits of stuff called matter. Photo by Peter Marlow/Magnum

Bits of stuff called matter. Photo by Peter Marlow/Magnum

The closer you look, the more the materialist position in physics appears to rest on shaky metaphysical ground

Adam Frank is professor of astronomy at the University of Rochester in New York and the co-founder of NPR’s blog 13.7: Cosmos & Culture where he is also a regular contributor. He is the author of several books, the latest being About Time: Cosmology and Culture at the Twilight of the Big Bang (2011).

Materialism holds the high ground these days in debates over that most ultimate of scientific questions: the nature of consciousness. When tackling the problem of mind and brain, many prominent researchers advocate for a universe fully reducible to matter. ‘Of course you are nothing but the activity of your neurons,’ they proclaim. That position seems reasonable and sober in light of neuroscience’s advances, with brilliant images of brains lighting up like Christmas trees while test subjects eat apples, watch movies or dream. And aren’t all the underlying physical laws already known?

From this seemly hard-nosed vantage, the problem of consciousness seems to be just one of wiring, as the American physicist Michio Kaku argued in The Future of the Mind (2014). In the very public version of the debate over consciousness, those who advocate that understanding the mind might require something other than a ‘nothing but matter’ position are often painted as victims of wishful thinking, imprecise reasoning or, worst of all, an adherence to a mystical ‘woo’.

It’s hard not to feel the intuitional weight of today’s metaphysical sobriety. Like Pickett’s Charge up the hill at Gettysburg, who wants to argue with the superior position of those armed with ever more precise fMRIs, EEGs and the other material artefacts of the materialist position? There is, however, a significant weakness hiding in the imposing-looking materialist redoubt. It is as simple as it is undeniable: after more than a century of profound explorations into the subatomic world, our best theory for how matter behaves still tells us very little about what matter is. Materialists appeal to physics to explain the mind, but in modern physics the particles that make up a brain remain, in many ways, as mysterious as consciousness itself.

When I was a young physics student I once asked a professor: ‘What’s an electron?’ His answer stunned me. ‘An electron,’ he said, ‘is that to which we attribute the properties of the electron.’ That vague, circular response was a long way from the dream that drove me into physics, a dream of theories that perfectly described reality. Like almost every student over the past 100 years, I was shocked by quantum mechanics, the physics of the micro-world. In place of a clear vision of little bits of matter that explain all the big things around us, quantum physics gives us a powerful yet seemly paradoxical calculus. With its emphasis on probability waves, essential uncertainties and experimenters disturbing the reality they seek to measure, quantum mechanics made imagining the stuff of the world as classical bits of matter (or miniature billiard balls) all but impossible.

Like most physicists, I learned how to ignore the weirdness of quantum physics. ‘Shut up and calculate!’ (the dictum of the American physicist David Mermin) works fine if you are trying to get 100 per cent on your Advanced Quantum Theory homework or building a laser. But behind quantum mechanics’ unequaled calculational precision lie profound, stubbornly persistent questions about what those quantum rules imply about the nature of reality – including our place in it.

Those questions are well-known in the physics community, but perhaps our habit of shutting up has been a little too successful. A century of agnosticism about the true nature of matter hasn’t found its way deeply enough into other fields, where materialism still appears to be the most sensible way of dealing with the world and, most of all, with the mind. Some neuroscientists think that they’re being precise and grounded by holding tightly to materialist credentials. Molecular biologists, geneticists, and many other types of researchers – as well as the nonscientist public – have been similarly drawn to materialism’s seeming finality. But this conviction is out of step with what we physicists know about the material world – or rather, what we don’t know.

Albert Einstein and Max Planck introduced the idea of the quantum at the beginning of the 20th century, sweeping away the old classical view of reality. We have never managed to come up with a definitive new reality to take its place. The interpretation of quantum physics remains as up for grabs as ever. As a mathematical description of solar cells and digital circuits, quantum mechanics works just fine. But if one wants to apply the materialist position to a concept as subtle and profound as consciousness, something more must clearly be asked for. The closer you look, the more it appears that the materialist (or ‘physicalist’) position is not the safe harbor of metaphysical sobriety that many desire…