Ultimate arrogant driving machine

The new Hummer 2, the "ultimate arrogant driving machine" is right. According to this SFGate article, the new Hummer 2 SUV is very popular in Marin County (Bay Area, CA) and understandably so. Says Gerry Schumacher, who heads up Team Hummer in San Rafael,

But my clients like to know that if they had to get off Highway 101 and go over Mount Tam, they could. That's where it turns into a family insurance policy.

I think of all the times I needed to drive off Highway 101 and head over Mount Tam when I lived out there, why it was nearly every day! Of course, with the Hummer 2's power, I don't know why Marin residents would even bother to leave the road. Why not simply drive *over* the smaller vehicles blocking your route? Those little VWs and Hondas will squash like the mites they are when you power over them with your 10-miles-to-the-gallon, 316 horsepower V8. Just press the button which, "raises rear tires up to 2 inches" and away you go. [via Mena]

Job hunting tips or, Why unemployment is so high

I've got a new theory, based on the responses I've received to my Craig's List posting for a software/hardware engineer: It's no wonder we're seeing an increase in unemployment, people seem to have no idea how to apply for a job these days.

Here are some of the things I've received to date in response to my posting (note: posting says attachments will not be read, application requires an essay, company consists of two people):

Of the more than 30 responses I've gotten so far, less than 1/3 have even followed the directions to apply. (Those that have though look really great and I'm looking forward to talking with them.) So here's my other theory: if you're currently looking for a job, you have a tremendous advantage over other people out there if you just do a few simple things:

Address your cover letter to the person who will read it

This is an easy one and should only require a bit of your time. Simply call the company and find out the name of the person who's responsible for handling applications for the position for which you're applying. Often the receptionist will be able to give you a name. It shows you've made a little effort and care about the job.

Write a cover letter

Writing a cover letter is the easiest way to distinguish yourself from another applicant. If you've got a standard letter you like to use, spend some time and enhance it for each application you're submitting so the person who's reading it can see, again, that you care about the position and have some knowledge and qualifications for it.

Quality is much more important than quantity

Rather than whip off thirty generic emails to any job listing that might be right for you, take the time to craft five quality responses for the five best listings you've found. Write those cover letters, address them to real people, triple-check your message before you send it (so you don't apply "for the UI position" or call a woman "Richard").

And most importantly,

Follow the directions to apply for a position

I know this sounds harsh but honestly, if you can't follow directions to apply for a job, what makes the hiring manager think you can follow directions if you get the job?

No matter what the job market, just following these simple guidelines should increase your chances of landing an interview, and distinguishing yourself within the applicant pool. Surely if this is something you plan to do for the next X months or years, it's worth taking the time to do it right.

And one more thing, once you do have that interview, don't forget to send a follow-up thank you letter. While these were traditionally done on paper, nowadays if you're applying for a technical position, I think you can get away with email. It doesn't have to be anything fancy: simply thank the interviewer for taking the time to meet with you, ask any follow-up questions you may have, and reiterate your qualifications for the position.

Another boxy monster

Lots of reader comments today, this one to point out the also-horribly-boxy 2003 Honda Element. Maybe I'm just not the target demographic -- these things are awful!

Where to eat now 2003

The New York Metro Where to Eat Now 2003 is out and available in New York magazine and online. It would help a lot if one could view the "hot" restaurants by neighborhood but it seems that the layout is restricted to the categories they've defined, and 'by neighborhood' isn't one of them, unless you happen to live on the Upper West Side. Sadly the entire layout of these pages makes this resource less useful than it could be. 3 columns for "The Hot List"? Guh.

Men respond better to females

A megnut reader sends a pointer to an interesting article, in response to my concerns yesterday about the battle-assisting robot voice being female. Apparently there's a digital cockpit voice known as "Bitchin' Betty" that assists F-16 fighers and Apache helicoptor pilots "in sticky situations."

NASA had conducted studies on pilots, most of whom are men. The results showed that men respond more quickly to a female voice.

So perhaps the voice would be female after all. Still, she wouldn't necessarily nag, would she?

New Year, new resolutions

I suppose that, given it's a new year and all, and I'm now 31, I should have some proper resolutions for 2003. But I don't really. I don't want to lose weight or kick some nasty habit. I just need to do better at some things I do already. Like go running more often. Or cook at home more. Or spend less time online or at work. Or do a better job of saving money and watching my budget. But the thing is, I feel like I'm already doing all that stuff pretty well. I guess my resolution is to continue to do those things well. Oh, and do some volunteer work. That's a good resolution I have: I'm going to apply to be a volunteer and spend some time doing more giving this year. I knew I had something I wanted to do that was new and different this year.

Blog Tribe Social Network Mapping

A way-cool social network map of the blog tribe at Ryze. I love these maps.

An emotion-sensing robot

An article in Wired News that's particularly timely, at least for me, on robots that can sense emotion and the potential to use them on fields of battle to advise commanders.

On New Year's Eve I spent some time talking to a guy who was involved in similar work at the MIT Media Lab (not for war purposes though), and I've been thinking about the whole concept ever since. Of course, what I found irritating in this article was this statement, from a corporate communications officer at the Office of Naval Research:

Speaking as a former soldier, the last thing I would want is an artificial girlfriend by my side to nag me about how I am feeling while out in the battlefield.

Funny that he assumes the robot would be a woman, and would be nagging him rather than helping. Of course, I figured the robot would be a guy and be all buddy-buddy with the commander to give him a pep talk. I guess we all have gender biases.

Job posting

I'm looking to hire a hardware/software engineer for the new project I'm involved in. The description is here at NY Craig's List. Please pass it on if you know someone who might be interested.

Brittled is a word

Several people have written wondering whether "brittled" really is a word. You can check it here at the official online version of the Scrabble dictionary. Just type in "brittle" and you'll see it.

Video game addiction

One of the highlights of Christmas vacation was playing Grand Theft Auto: Vice City on my brother's PlayStation. I didn't think I liked video games, especially the horribly violent kinds like GTA. But it was so fun! It was like being a character in The Godfather or some Guy Ritchie movie. I was stealing motorcycles and punching cops and doing all sorts of other nefarious things I would never ever do in real life. Now I want a PS2 and GTA:VC. My birthday is coming up you know...

UNFPA and 34 Million Friends

The other day I wrote about UN conference on population and the unanimous rejection of the US' position against condom use and other family planning. Over the holiday I found out something else from the UN Foundation site:

Earlier this year, President George Bush decided to withhold $34 million appropriated by the U.S. Congress for the UN Population Fund's (UNFPA) work in the developing world.

With a budget of only $270 million worldwide, UNFPA will be hard-pressed to serve women throughout the world without the U.S. contribution. According to UNFPA estimates, the $34 million could prevent 4,700 maternal deaths, 60,000 serious maternal illnesses, as well as more than 77,000 infant and child deaths.

Behold the 34 Million Friends campaign, an attempt to "bridge the funding gap" of $34 million by asking for $1 from 34 million "friends" in the US. In less than five months, the campaign's raised $155,000. That's a lot, but it's hardly $34M.

Funds raised from the "34 Million Friends" campaign will go towards UNFPAs core programme budget, to compensate for the loss of United States support. This includes giving women and men in over 140 developing countries access to quality reproductive health information and services.

I'm donating $100 that I received for Christmas towards the 34 Million Friends campaign. Please spread the word and if you can, join me and contribute. Even the smallest amount -- the cost of a latte at Starbuck's -- can help make a difference. [via Ellen Goodman and my mom who cut out the article from the paper]

Save our sounds

Save Our Sounds, America's Recorded Sound Heritage Project is raising funds to match a Congressional grant to preserve over 140,000 original audio recordings. "These original recordings are on old wax cylinders, decaying wire, decomposing acetate, and deteriorating audio tape...The Smithsonian Institution and the Library of Congress are preserving important collections of historical recordings of spoken word and music, from Woody Guthrie's 'This Land Is Your Land' to Martin Luther King's 'I Have a Dream' speech, from American Indian recordings of the 1890s to the oral histories of ex-slaves recorded in the 1930s." The project aims to put the recordings online once copies have been made. [via The Boston Globe]

HP Mpulse interview with me

There's an interview with me (where I talk about "blogging's infancy, how content has changed, and why pervasive blogging is just around the corner") over at HP's Cooltown magazine site. I guess it's been up the whole month of December but I hadn't realized.

Christmas Scrabble miracle

Last night while playing Scrabble I experienced a little Christmas miracle of my own. I was in 2nd place and it wasn't looking good for a comeback. All the letters were gone from the bag and we had only to play what remained before us. And then lo and behold, I looked at my letters, looked at the board, and promptly scored the highest single score I've ever gotten in one play. I laid down "brittle" onto a "d" to form "brittled." Not only was it a Scrabble (entitling me to an extra 50 points), I also played it on the triple word score. Since no letters remained in the bag, my use of all my letters also ended the game. 126 points for one word, and the game was mine.

Wirless propagation?

I wonder if we'll see an increase in wireless usage as wi-fi addicted bloggers head home for the holidays? I am contemplating bringing the AirPort along when I head to Boston this evening. Once non-wirelessly connected folks see how easy and great it is, I suspect they'll want to go wireless as well.

Wired News on bloggers and Lott

Another article in Wired News about weblogs, this time addressing webloggers' roles in taking down Trent Lott. Nothing particularly new or different in it, except there were some quotes of note from Elizabeth Osder, a visiting professor at The University of Southern California's School of Journalism. First she says,

"Bloggers are navel-gazers...And they're about as interesting as friends who make you look at their scrap books."

That part is funny. But then she says,

"There's an overfascination here with self-expression, with opinion. This is opinion without expertise, without resources, without reporting."

Which is just foolish and ignorant and demonstrates that Ms. Osder hasn't spent much time following the happenings of the (ugh, I hate this term) blogosphere.

Without expertise? Hardly. Have a look at Joshua Micah Marshall's short bio, or Dan Gillmor's about page. Without reporting? She must have missed the whole Kaycee Nicole saga. And without resources? She must not understand much about the Web or blogging at all. Not only do we have sites like Google at our disposal, but we have the distributed knowledge of a diverse readership. As Dan Gillmor likes to say, "my readers know more than I do." There are domain experts for nearly anything you can possibly imagine. Weblogs provide a way to connect and share that knowledge.

Free online wine course

The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) offers courses online at If you've got some time on your hands over the Christmas holiday, perhaps you'd like to enroll in one of their free courses? They're offering A Taste of Wine Online ("a close look at three of the world's classic wine grape varietals"), The Professional Chef Discovers Contemporary Flavors with California Raisins (taught by my fav Thomas Keller!), and The Professional Chef Discovers California Cheese ("an exploration of cheese that promises to be at once serious, timely and above all enjoyable"). Not only are these classes free, you can also earn credit for them. I know how I'm going to spend some weekend time once I'm done with all this unpacking...

Off for the holidays

No updates for a few days while I'm in Boston for the holidays with my family. Merry Christmas and safe travels to those of you celebrating as well.

Tony Hawk Limited Edition iPod

Though it's too late for Christmas delivery, you can still get a limited edition Tony Hawk iPod in time for New Year's Day, or another day that's not Christmas. It's autographed by Mr. 900 himself, or rather, engraved with his signature. Cool!

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