Wednesday, April 23, 2014

It's been that kind of day

Well, at least parts of today have been that kind of day; much of it has also been lovely.

When I hit those parts, though, I sometimes think of this Ramones song.

Two and a half minutes of three-chord rock that takes care of business.

No, of course, I don't really want to be sedated.  I'm not the kind of guy who deals with his issues with drugs--though if we count food as a drug, and I can make a case for doing that, then I do have this weakness. 

The song still hits home in my current mood.

It'll pass.  I'll work, and I'll listen to rock and roll, and this will pass.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

When I find myself in another city

should I post an invitation here to blog readers for an informal get-together?  I've considered it, but I don't know if anyone reading this would be interested in such a thing. 

In upcoming weeks, I'll be in Portland, OR (next week) and Austin, TX (mid May).  Should I give this a try at one or both of those cities?

Comment or email me if you're interested.  If crickets respond, that'll be my answer.

Monday, April 21, 2014

On interviewing for a job: Contacting a company in email

I wrote in an earlier post about the research you should do before interviewing with a company.  You should do that research not only before your interview but also before your initial contact with a company.  When that contact comes through email, as it very frequently does today, you have a great opportunity to make a big impression on the company.  Whether that impression is good or bad depends on how you handle your message. 

For starters, make sure all your text is clear, to the point, grammatically correct, and free of spelling errors.  Note I said "all your text".  That's because you're writing not just a message body but also possibly a cover-letter attachment, a resume, and a Subject line.  I have seen many an error on the Subject line, and those errors are sure to leave exactly the impression you don't want.

You can avoid many of these errors through a simple trick:  compose the entire message, including the Subject line, in Word, and turn on its grammar and spelling checkers.  Those tools are far from perfect, but they will at least stop a lot of the most obvious errors. 

You should make sure you customize the content of everything you send to the particular application you're making.  Yes, that is a lot of work, but the whole process takes effort, so get over it and do the work.  Nothing will make you look like someone who doesn't give a damn quite as much as a message that refers to a job from another company's ad--or even that other company; yes, I have received such messages. 

Instead, state clearly and in brief why you want this particular job at this particular company, and then why you think you'd be great at it.  If you're a hard worker committed to learning and improving, say so.  You might think everyone is and everyone would say so, but you'd be wrong on both counts. 

I'm not going to spend time going into resumes, because you can easily find plenty of information on how to compose them, except to make these two points:  list your experience in reverse chronological order, from most recent job to first, and keep it short.  I've been working full-time for decades, and I've had a lot of jobs, and my default resume fits on one page. 

If everything I've said sounds to you like a basic tidbit that everyone should know, I agree.  I'm always amazed, though, at how many first email messages fail to obey these most basic guidelines--and at how many job opportunities those errors cost people.

Sunday, April 20, 2014


I left this movie with very mixed feelings.  On the one hand, as I usually do, I had a good enough time watching it.  It kept me reasonably engaged, even though the plot arc was clear from the start.  Johnny Depp turned in his usual odd performance, but for the most part I bought him as human; he was much better suited to the slightly inhuman, awkward AI that he played for most of the film.  The supporting cast turned in appropriate performances, with Paul Bettany delivering possibly the best character portrayal I've seen from him.  The subject matter is of great interest to me, so I enjoyed seeing other people explore the ethical questions involved. 

Despite all those positives, I can't come right out and say I liked it.  The best I can do is to say I sorta liked it, but I need that qualifier. 

Its biggest weakness may be that it added nothing new to this ongoing public and entertainment-media discussion.  Nothing felt at all new or original to me.  It also seemed to be unable to decide how it felt about the various people and organizations in its story.  Depp turned crazy--maybe--but he was also doing good work.  His wife, Rebecca Hall delivering a solid acting job, was the innocent victim--and also possibly the source of all the trouble.  The terrorists were short-sighted AI-age Luddites who murdered a ton of researchers--and who turned into kinda-sorta good guys working with the government at the end.  The power went out and stayed out all over the world--but everything seemed to be peachy-keen. 

Obviously, Transcendence was yet another of the many movies that you can't think at all hard about, because it cannot bear the scrutiny, but that's most films these days (maybe, probably, most films and works of fiction always).  Yet I did think about it afterward, and I'm thinking about it today, and so perhaps that's enough to make me give it a very qualified recommendation. 

Check it out if you are interested in this area and have the time, but don't go out of your way for it.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

What I've learned recently from my Web site spam

I'm easy to find online.  If you want to reach me, all you have to do is go to my Contact page, fill in the form, hit the send button, and an email will reach me.  I answer all my own email.  This simple form has worked well for years.

Until recently.  For a while--my hosting service now seems to have fixed the problem--spambots were using this form to contact me with a great many warnings and offers.  From these many, many messages, I learned the following:

  • I am on the edge of having a heart attack.
  • I am going bald.
  • I am in desperate need of a wide range of drugs to increase my sexual prowess.
  • My testosterone is low.  
  • My junk is entirely too small.
  • I need instruction in love-making.
  • With almost no work and only a little cash up front, I could make a fortune.
  • I could work from home and make over $85K a year in only a few hours a week.
And on an on.  

In short, all the spam that once reached me only through personal email addresses was able to find me via this form.

For now, I'm leaving up the form, because as I noted, my hosting service seems to have stopped the spam flood.  I'll hope it continues to do so.

If you would like to write me an actual message, feel free to use the form.  Please don't open your message, however, by trying to sell me something, because I'm likely to stop reading and delete it as if it were spam.

Meanwhile, I'll keep trying to figure out which drugs I need to buy from Canada and Mexico to fix all these problems I didn't know I had.

Friday, April 18, 2014

On interviewing for a job: Learning about the company and its people

No, I'm not interviewing for a job.  I'm writing this entry, which I expect will be the first of an on-again, off-again series, because over the last several years I've come to believe that despite all the available information, an amazing number of people fail at the basics in a job interview. 

One of those basics is that if you haven't done a lot of easy research before an interview, you've already blown it--or at least hurt your chances.  This preparation is easy, though it does take a bit of time. 

You should begin by going to the Web site of the company and reading a lot of its pages.  Learn about its products, its culture, its marketing, and its team.  Check out all the social-media venues in which it's active.  If it has YouTube channel, spend a little time there, too. 

If you're greatly interested in the company, consider doing basic searches on the names of the people with whom you'll be meeting.  Between Google and LinkedIn, you can often learn a lot about your potential colleagues and employers.  I'm not suggesting stalking or obsessive digging, mind you; just basic preparation.

To my surprise, an amazing number of people either skip this work or go to a company's home page and stop.  You can learn some information that way, but so much more is available that it's foolish not to take advantage of that information.

I'm not suggesting you do this, by the way, so you can suck up to the interviewers.  I think it's important because it helps you have as much context as possible for what you see and hear in the interview, and also so that you can make an informed decision about whether the company interests you. 

This is really just today's version of an old bit of advice that still applies to job-hunting (and to many other areas of life):  Do your homework.

Thursday, April 17, 2014


I'm probably the last person to discover this wonderful singer and composer.  I wouldn't even have heard of her were it not for Sarah's Twitter feed.  I now can't wait to hear her upcoming album, Forever For Now.

I'm not sure if it's everyone's cup of tea, but from the first five seconds of this song, "Night Like This," I've been unable to forget it or get it out of my head.

Enjoy it here.  


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