Dr. Norm Matloff Asks "What Skills Shortage?"
October 19, 2012, 12:53 AM
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Dr. Norm Matloff writes to his email list:

"What Skills Shortage?"

This message will go in a somewhat different direction from what the title might suggest.  Please bear with me, and I will get to the issue implied by the title.

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that my department (I think all of UC) switched from operating their own e-mail servers to having Gmail do it. We would be able to keep our old e-mail addresses, and indeed, mine still works, matloff@cs.ucdavis.edu  So, please continue to use that one.

But in order to accomplish this, Gmail apparently set up a rather Rube Goldberg type of kludge, under which my Gmail address contains my UC Davis address.  In fact, if I log into Gmail through the Web to view my mail, I actually do NOT enter a password, and just click Sign In.  I then get to a UC Davis signin page.  I had to do a lot of tweaking to make my Mutt e-mail reader access the Gmail server.

All this presented logistics problem in terms of my distributing my e-newsletter.  The abovementioned kludge was an issue, as were Gmail constraints and my desire to use a text-based e-mail client, and above all to keep things simple.  I did develop a quick-fix solution at the time, but not accpetable for various reasons.

I won't go into the details, but the point is that several people among you had suggestions, and two in particular spent considerable effort helping. It so happens that e-mail servers are not something I'm very knowledgeable about, so I really appreciated the help these two guys gave, each in different ways.  Because of that, I now have set up something in Python (my favorite programming language, along with R) that is working pretty well. I'll probably fine-tune it a bit when I have a chance, but it is serviceable.

So, now to the title of this message.  Of the two who helped me, one is unemployed and I believe the other is too (not sure in the second case right now, but he's been unemployed before)).  And yet both of them are highly capable.  The one who I know for sure is unemployed has a PhD and is one of the smartest people I know; he took to this problem without having a lot of background, and yet immediately started giving me insights, and ultimately led me to an example on the Web which formed the core of my solution.  The second guy is quite experienced in e-mail server issues (developing code, not administration), and taught me a lot of information that proved helpful.

Yet I'm sure that both of them have been passed over for jobs in favor of H-1Bs.  And no, the solution is not retraining, as I've explained before; it's to reduce the H-1B program.

Norm