Thursday, July 31, 2008

Passing Your Own Interview

I am trying to hire a new Project Manager to work for me.  I have several people in the interview loop ranging from Developers to Product Managers.  One of the developers I have on the loop is notoriously difficult.  He is a very bright guy and often comes up with very difficult questions.  I told him his purpose in the interview is to judge the technical competence of the Project Managers.  While I don't need the project managers to code, I do need them to be able to talk competently to all sorts of people, and having a good technical background is key.  The question, which I don't really want to type out, was a logic based question that any person, with no knowledge of programming, can get but it does test your ability to reason and explain your reasoning.

The feedback he gave on a few candidates he has seen has been mostly poor.  Few if any of the candidates have been given a thumbs up because nobody has really answered his questions adequately.  Curious, and maybe a little crazy, I asked him to give me the same questions.  The theory being that assuming I can do my job correctly, if I can't answer the question then perhaps it isn't really a fair question to be asking.  Of course, I'm setting myself up becasue if I can't answer the question, the question may in fact be fine, but I'm just not good enough to do the job of the person beneath me.  Kind of a losing proposition.  But hey, I'm not really afraid of my limitations, and I am pretty sure my job is secure.

Lucky for me I got the question right.  Not only did I get the question right, but I answered the difficult follow up question that he told me almost nobody gets, not even the best candidates.  So I felt a little bit proud of myself for that. Good thing to know I can pass an interview loop of someone who would be below me.  :) Of course this poses another dilemma.  Just because I answered it doesn't make it a good question.  It doesn't mean that you can't do the job adequately just because you can't answer it.  But perhaps I should bring a few more candidates in just to see if someone really can pass this seemingly tough interview, and then judge how strong of a candidate the person really is in comparison.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Landlines - Who Has them?

old fashioned telephoneI was talking to a coworker today about having a land-line.  Coincidentally, there is an article today on MSN wondering what is killing the land-line.

The article is right, the lines seem to be drawn on age boundaries.  Most of my coworkers who are younger don't ever bother with a land-line.  All they need is their cellphone.  Most of the older people in the office have one, but admit that they hardly if ever use it becasue of their cell phone.  Unfortunatley, I fall into the latter category, although not by choice.  I do have a land-line but I have it because my girlfriend uses it for work (she works from home and needs to be on a lot of conference calls).  But, like most people my age, I really don't have any need for one.

If this isn't a reason to short stocks of telecom companies which only have land-line based businesses (Qwest comes to mind) I don't know what is.  Even those companies like AT&T and Verizon probably face pretty uncertain futures given the commodity business cell phone carriers provide.  I myself have, in the past eight years, used all the major providers at one time or another.  I did it because it was easy to switch (even easier now that there is number portability) and I had no reason to pick one over the other.

What will change even more in the future will be that most won't even need a phone.  Most people are just going to need something that can send a text message.  While people my age may or may not use the feature very much, just go younger by about five years and it is pretty much the only form of communication used.  The voice functionality of cell phones will be like the camera today.  It will be on every phone, but few people will actually use that functionality.

Do you have a land-line?  If so why?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Panasonic 50PZ800u Review - The Bad

Now that I wrote all the things I love about the Panasonic 50PZ800u, I figured I would write the things I don't like about the TV.  The good thing is that most of the things that I don't like about the TV are small and minor.  The good definitely outweighs the bad in this case.

  •  The Remote - I absolutely hate the remote.  The most annoying thing is that the Channel and Volume are on the opposite sides of where they normally are found on other remotes.  I constantly find myself changing the channel when I want to increase the volume.  This is especially annoying because I use DirecTV, and changing the channel on the TV will force the TV to go to the internal tuner, and away from my DirecTV feed.  I'll talk more about this later.  I also hate that the TV doesn't control my HD DVR very well.  It doesn't do the skip correctly.

  • Can't disable the TV option - I don't use the internal tuner, but there is no way to disable this from the tv input menu.  Therefore, I have to travel through this setting every time I'm trying to change inputs.  It is annoying.   I should be allowed to treat this input like every other input on the TV.

  • The upconversion of standard def media is so so - Standard TV doesn't look so great, but that is to be expected.  DVDs look OK but not great.  I have a media center PC, and the upconversion it does is noticeably better.

  • CATS is useless -  It has a feature to brighten the TV when it is lighter, darken it when it is dark.  The dark setting is way too dark though, so I disable it for everything.

  • 24P playback is questionable - People complain about the flicker that the 48HZ feature of this TV.  I don't see it, but my girlfriend does.  Your mileage may vary on this one.

  • The settings for each of the different picture modes, other than custom, are across the TV set - So change the brightness of one input in that mode, it changes it for all THX setting across all inputs.  Kind of annoying, it should remember

  • Volume is the same across all inputs - minor annoyance.  Don't know if any TV does this, but my different input sources all have different volume levels.  When I change inputs, sometimes it is way to high and I almost lose my hearing

  • Anti-reflective isn't that great - if you watch this TV in bright daylight, you are going to get glare.  If you can't control the light you are getting into the room, you may have to deal with glare.  This is probably no worse than other plasmas, but it is there.

  • The Size function works across all inputs - One of the problems with Standard Def on DirecTV is that you need to have Overscan enabled on the TV because they don't output it at full 1080 resolution.  This wouldn't be an issue if I let the TV do the upconversion but that leads to the TV taking too long to change channels as it adjusts the picture.  This means that I have to have "Size 1" enabled just for the DirecTV feed.  But this setting holds across all inputs, so I have to have my computer output at a lower resolution.  There is no way to make this setting custom to each input.

Despite the rather long list above, I love this TV, and would absolutely recommend it to anyone looking to get what is, in my opinion, the best TV out there for the money.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Halting Foreclosures

homeforeclose.jpg While driving, I heard on the radio a news story where a politician was proposing putting a halt to all foreclosures for two years.   The purpose of such a moratorium was to "save the American Dream" for all those families who will be kicked out of their homes in the coming years.

Let's forget the fact that most of these are homes that these people could never have afforded in the first place.  Let's also forget about the rights of companies, and by extension their shareholders, to collect the money that was agreed to in writing by the people who signed these mortgages.  But really, to protect the American Dream.

That is clearly a phrase that politicians just love to throw around whenenver it is convenient for them or when it makes for a good sound bite.  But are we really protecting the American Dream by allowing these people to stay in these homes that they can't afford, even with a lower mortgage payement?  No.

What about the American Dream for all those people who didn't get caught up in the craze?  Those who were careful and responsible with their money and didn't get caught up in the frenzy of a housing bubble?  Are you telling me that our government should favor those who already own a home vs those who don't?  Doesn't that sound a little bit like the rich getting richer, pretty much exactly the opposite of the American Dream?

How can I make such a claim?  Wouldn't helping all these familes stay in their home be the right thing to do?  Sure, if you want to prevent anyone else from ever being able to reasonably afford a home.  How can this be?  Look, the current foreclosure wave is a GOOD thing.  It will bring prices back in line with where they should be, much much lower.  If you allow people to continue to live in homes they can't afford, you will not put downward price pressure on home prices.  This desperately needs to happen if we ever hope to get back to a level of afforability.  People will have no reason to sell their homes for less, because the supply of homes will be much lower.  Banks won't have any incentive to sell foreclosed homes at a lower price either since the inventory on their books will be much lower than would be otherwise.

So let us not kill the American dream for the rest of those unfortunate enough not to already own a home.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Do College Rankings Matter?

Nassau Hall - Princeton

I was talking to some coworkers today about college rankings.   They were talking about whose college was better and for what reason.  The topic eventually turned to college rankings which they were using as a gauge of "better".

Now lucky for me, I hold the trump card.  My alma mater has been ranked #1 for the past several years by US News and World Report.  So I win in any argument that eventually comes to this.  Now, I would agree that Princeton is probably one of the best schools out there, if not the best, but does the ranking really matter? No, in my opinion it doesn't matter, or at least not very much.

That is not to say that I think all schools are created equal, because I certainly don't.  And, as someone who hires other people, I'm not going to lie and say I don't take someone's college education into account when I'm scanning resumes.  Would I really give more weight to someone who went to Princeton vs. MIT, ranked #1 and #7 respectively? OK, maybe in this example I would, but I certainly wouldn't do it if it were Yale (#3) up against MIT.

Yet people put a lot of stock in these rankings even though there is very little difference between the top few schools or any of the schools in the middle.  I always have said you can get a great education no matter where you went to school, it is up to you to make the most of it.  Certainly, many doors have been opened up to me because I went to such a great and well known school like Princeton, but does it really matter if it is #1 or #10?  Perhaps to a few people on the outside looking in, but in the grand scheme of things, I think most people should just ignore college rankings.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Cost of Being

There is something that I don't think a lot of people get.  I see it every day at work and I see it in the way people behave when it comes to their finances.  There is a cost of being.

What do I mean by that?  Let me give you an example.  We have a core piece of technology.  On top of that core piece of technology, we have added many small features.  At the time of inception, and without giving it full thought, these features may have made sense.  They were easy to implement and brought in incremental revenue.  This is revenue that is rather insignificant but nevertheless is revenue.  Since this is web based, the "cost" of running these features and services isn't very much, it just means keeping a web server up and running.

However, there comes a time in any feature that something doesn't work.  It may be the feature itself, or the feature may have some side effect that was unintended.  When that something doesn't work, the impetus is always to fix it because you don't want to have broken parts of your product.  So there is a cost that must be born to fix this almost pointless feature.  There is even additional cost when you factor in that you will now spend time worrying about if this feature will break again.   This feature can even go so far as to holding other features up because you can't launch new product while the current product is broken.

The same goes with people in their everyday lives.  Just look around at the things you own that you probably never use.  I've complained before how, during my move, I found boxes of things I moved up to Seattle that I never even opened, and was now shipping right back to L.A.  This has a cost both in terms of the move and in terms of me storing it for years.  People have extra cars they don't drive or gadgets that just sit on the shelf, only ever used once.  All these things have some cost associated with just "being".  If we just got rid of all these small, incremental cost, the total sum of the savings would probably be quite significant.

What do you have like this?  What insignificant things do you just keep around that, if you think about it, really have a cost?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Why Taking One Day Off Work Is A Bad Idea

So today, as I returned from work from my one day hiatus, I was given a stark reminder about why I don't like to take a day off of work.

When you have a job like mine, the work doesn't just go away.  It just piles up.  There is always the same amount of work, you just have less time to do it.  This was especially acute for me today because I didn't even get the chance to catch up from Friday.  Mondays and Tuesdays are my traditional worse days since everyone, myself included, tends to try and shove every meeting into the beginning of the week.

So don't just take one day off of work.  If you are going to take time off, it better be a week.  Better yet, it probably needs to be two.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

High Price Oil Changing Habits

hi-gas.jpgThere has been plenty of talk about how the high price of oil is changing habits for American consumers.  American's are finding ways to save money by combining shopping trips, finding alternative ways to get to work, and trading in their SUVs.   The pain that American's are just beginning to face is very real.  But note the key words, "just beginning".  While demand is softening in the United States, demand worldwide is still quite strong and getting stronger.  On the other end, supplies are still restricted and it doesn't seem like OPEC can do much about it.

The change in behavior hits all segments.  Its funny how that can happen even to the people that it doesn't really affect.  That's the problem with inflation, its all about expectations.  If people expect inflation, it happens.  With the expectation of inflation people are going to change their behavior.  Take myself for example.  I do think about the price of gas and I let it affect my decisions.  While I am still driving to work (having decided the train isn't for me) I'm taking my girlfriend's car that gets better gas mileage.  I live close to lots of stores, and have resorted to walking so long as I don't have to carry anything back.  My weekly trips to Best Buy just to look?  Curtailed it and now I only go when I'm headed in that direction anyway.  So if this is affecting someone like me, one can only imagine what it is doing to the rest of the population.

With oil now back under $130 (it's odd that people now think of $130 oil as low) and looking weak, will this trend continue?  If we suddenly wake up and oil is "only" $80 or even $50 a barrel, will America's addiction to oil continue, or did this summer's events just let the genie out of the bottle?  However awful it sounds, I actually hope that oil stays high.   I see people making changes, and they are changes that I think are good in the long run.  I would hate to see energy prices suddenly fall and people go back to the way things used to be because the next time it happens, it will be like the boy who cried wolf, only this time it will be the boy who called high oil prices.

What about you, have you let high gas prices change your habits?  Do you think high prices are here to stay?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Taking a Day Off

For no real reason, I'm taking today off.  When I told Jenny that I was doing this, she looked at me kind of funny and asked me, "What did you do with Terrence?"  Jenny has known me for a long time and knows it isn't too often that I actually take time off.  It is especially rare when I decide to take a day off for no reason.

But there really is no reason.  It was true for a long time that I never took days off work, but that has lessened as I have gotten older and my time has become more valuable to me.  When I was young and single, work was everything.  While work is certainly still very important, I'm putting more emphasis on a work-life balance.  Not a lot more emphasis, but some :)

Even when I was at Microsoft, I took some days off.  I even went so far as to take three consecutive days off once to take a much needed trip with the girlfriend.   And now, when I probably need vacation even more than when I was at Microsoft, I am going to take some time off to go hang out at the beach.  This has me thinking about how much my life has changed over the years.  Back in the days I worked with Jenny at our previous employer, I didn't even know what work life balance was.  It was all work.  I would work 70 or 80 hour weeks, go home, and then work some more.  I didn't really have a life, so work kind of filled a void there.  That wasn't to say I wasn't happy, I was, but it's amazing to me how much my priorities have shifted.  I probably work 50 hour weeks on average, and rarely go over that.  Only occasionally will I work more than an hour when I get home.

So I'm off to somewhere in the direction of a beach.  Don't have a lot of plans, that would almost be too crazy for me, and knowing me I'll still be checking work e-mail via my blackberry, but at least I won't be in the office.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Ignoring Your Paycheck

I get paid twice a month, on the 15th and on the last day of the month.  That would make today payday.  As I was sitting at my computer today, I said out loud, "Oh, today is payday.  I almost forgot".

My coworker looked at me and said, "There is clearly a man that doesn't live paycheck to paycheck."  Of course, he is right.

I certainly understand this is a luxury that many might not have.  It's hard enough in this day and age to save any money let alone enough where you can almost completely forget that it is payday.  However, I tend to think most people have a lot more fat in their budget than they realize.  So I tend to think that if more people tried, they could eventually not end up living paycheck to paycheck.  The key is to break it up.

To not live paycheck to paycheck, you probably have to have six months of living expenses.  This is the standard amount that almost any financial advisor would give you to say that you are financially sound.  It is a hard goal to manage, but it is very doable.  The key part of that is not the money you save, but it is the money you spend.

Six months of living expenses is much easier to manage if you cut down your living expenses.  If you can cut your living expenses from say $1500 a month to $1000 a month, that equates to $3000 less you have to save every month.  Now that's a big difference.  I have helped others do this by simply making them list out what they spend in a month, and then asking them a simple question, "Would you rather continue to struggle and worry about your finances day in and day out and have that latte, or would you rather sleep better at night?" (both from being financially secure and having less caffeine)  The answer should be obvious.

For me, saving six months of living expenses has never been hard, and it isn't because I made a lot of money or lived in a cheap area.  It's becasue I controlled my cost.  At no time in my life have I spent more than 70% of my paycheck on my living expenses.  This means I'm saving 30% at a minimum.  Now that number runs closer to 50% as I make more money, and I keep my standard of living relatively flat.  Think its impossible?  It isn't.  When I first graduated college, I made less than $50,000 a year.  While that may seem like a lot to some people, try living on that in New York City.  Now try saving money.  Not so easy.  My paycheck came out to roughly $1600.  I got this twice a month.  Keep in mind this is a NET number after taxes as well as whatever I put away in my 401K (which should never be considered as part of your pay. You should just do it and forget it.  Learn to budget without this money) My goal was then, and is now, to only have to spend one of these paychecks on my living expenses.

Out of college, I shared a two bedroom apartment with two other people.  Our apartment was $3400 a month.  My share of it came out to a little more than $1100.   So how the heck do you live on $500 a month in NYC?  Well to be fair, I did cheat a little.   I was a consultant so I travelled a lot which means I also got a small living stipend for each day I was gone.  This would more than cover any meal I had (I ate cheap) as well as any incidentals.  In fact, I got to save most of the money.  But even without this, I could have made it.  I had no car so no insurace or gas cost.  I limited my going out and my cab rides.  I didn't go to a lot of shows or movies or buy things I didn't need.

Before I left NYC, I had a nice little cushion.  More than enough to cover my move back to L.A, which I had to pay for myself, as well as all the other setup cost I had to incur like security deposits, setup fees, etc.  Not once did I have to go into debt despite the sudden large expenditures I had to make.  Why, because I told myself I would never have to be one of those people staring at the calendar wondering when the next Paycheck was going to come.

In this case ignorance really is bliss.

Monday, July 14, 2008

What I'm Doing in the Awful Market

bear.jpgThe market is down almost 20% over the last few months, signaling that we are indeed in a bear market.  So what to do from here?

For me, I'm well positioned.  I've actually taken my lumps like a lot of people, some of them far far worse than the market, but I'm in relatively good position because I've maintained a large position in cash.  In fact, I'm about 70% cash right now and have been for a long time.  As the market crashes around me, I'm going to update my shopping list (which I haven't done in a while) and start to look for things to buy.  So what are my thoughts right now?

  • Financials are cheap, but going cheaper - I really want to buy some banks right now, and probably will soon.  Nobody wants to own them right now, and that's the best time to own them.  People are running away from the financials because of problems faced at Indy Mac, and Frannie and Freddie.  I'm not one to try and pick a bottom, so i'll start looking at which ones I want to own soon.  Two of the banks I have my eye on are US Bancorp and Wells Fargo.  I might also get into some of the brokers like Goldman Sachs.  But like I said, the financials are going cheaper from here so if you can't take the pain short term, avoid.

  • Oil is up, and going higher - People keep waiting for the bottom to drop out of oil.  I'm not one of them.  I for one think that the high price of oil is here to stay for the foreseeable future.  I believe that worldwide demand is going to remain high and if the oil producing countries could bring down the price of oil right now, they would.  I still think some of the better oil names have a ways to go like Schlumberger or Conoco Phillips (which I own)

  • Short the market, just get ready for the bounce - I think the market could easily go down another 20% from here.  That being said, it won't go down forever, so be ready for a quick bounce back up.  I would  just hedge my bets.  If I start buying a tech company or two, I would probably short the Nasdaq (QID).  This way, you hedge against the market doing anything crazy.

  • Buy high quality names - I still like a lot of the bigger names.  I am still loving Johnson and Johnson.  They announce earnings tomorrow and I think they will do well there.  Even if they don't, I still like their long term prospects.  This is the best time to pick up some of the best names because they are so cheap.

I've sat on the sidelines for a while, and avoided much of the pain that a lot of traders have faced.  But things are starting to look interesting, so I may decided to jump back in soon.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Managing with No Authority

One of the most difficult things about my job is the fact that I have to manage people when I have no authority over them.  As a Program Manager, I have all the responsibility yet none of the authority.  If something goes wrong, I have to find a way to get it done despite the fact that I can't in reality order anybody to do anything.  So how do I get this done?

Well it isn't easy.  It's something that I've learned to do over time but still don't have quite right.   This can be the most frustrating thing about my job and without the right strategy and mindset, it probably will drive a person crazy.  But here is my approach to things.

  • Be Confident - You would be surprised how far this will get you.  If you seem to know what you are talking about, a lot of other people will believe you and do what you say.  If you are unsure about what to do next, others will be to and they will find a reason

  • Have your facts - It's hard to argue facts.  So you have to know what you are talking about and you have to know it before the other guy does.  If you are trying to convince someone to do something, and you don't have any facts to back up what you want them to do, good luck making a convincing argument

  • Know what battles to fight - You only can fight so many battles.  Most of the time, you will discover that 80% of the time, it doesn't really matter what decision gets made.  It only matters that one does get made.  Therefore, leave you big guns to the fights that need to be fought and don't waste your ammo on things that just don't matter

  • Know when to ask for help - There are times that you just can't get the right thing done.  That's when you call in the cavalry.  You and the person you need to convince probably have someone above you who is in charge of both of you.  If you know the battle is worth fighting (and you should after #3) and you know you are right (and you should be after #2) then you need to escalate.  There is no shame in fighting the good fight and then calling for help when you need it.  Just don't make it a habit.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Who is "The Man"?

I was having a conversation with a coworker today about "The Man".  No not any man, "THE" man.  You know, the one we all work for and who is holding us all down.  We were discussing it, and both complaining about how hard we had to work today because of the man.  But then it got me thinking, would I be considered, "The Man".

I'm not sure.  I certainly don't feel like The Man.   I don't feel like I'm opressing anybody or keeping anybody down.  So I searched wikipedia for an answer and this was their definition of The Man.

"The Man" refers to the someone or some group that has higher authority, such as, but not limited to, the government, leaders of large corporations, and other authority figures in general, such as the police. The Man is colloquially defined as the figurative person who controls our world. The Man is also often used as a symbol of racial oppression, as well as the boss of a blue-collar worker, and the enemy of any counterculture.

Given this definition, I think I'm running dangerously close to the line.  I definitely don't feel in control of the world, but at work I'm definitely an authority figure.  And while my company isn't a large corporation yet, it certainly isn't small.  So I think for now, I'm probably safely out of The Man status.   While it is certainly hard to quantify, my whole life is trying to make sense out of the nonsensical so let me give it a try.  I am definitely not the man.  My company is a little small, slightly over 200 people, and I'm not quite important enough yet to be considered in this category.  I probably make enough to be close to Man status, and I wield influence over quite a few people, but I'm not quite there yet.

In my book, The Man is

  • VP level or higher of a Fortune 1000 company

  • Elected government official at the state or higher level

  • Anybody with a net worth greater than $5 million

Where do you think the line is?  Do you have to work for a certain size company and be in charge of a certain number of people?  Do you have to make a certain amount of money?   Will you all still be my friend even if I do become The Man?

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Panasonic 50PZ800u Review - The Good

The Panasonic 50Pz800u

So I've had my Panasonic 50PZ800u for a little bit over a month. I am going to write up my review in two parts. The first part will be all the things I love about my new TV. The second part will be all the things that annoy me about the TV.

Let me start off by saying that I love this TV. I am extremely happy with my purchase and I don't think I could have bought a better TV for myself. I had a big party last night for the Fourth of July, and had a lot of people over watching lots of different source material and everyone really enjoyed it.   We watched a few different things.   We watched Ratatouille, National Treasure, and Planet Earth all in HD, and the picture looked fantastic.  I think it even convinced one of my friends that it was time to buy a new TV.

My setup is not extraordinary.  I don't yet have a stereo system hooked up to it, so I'm using the TV's onboard speakers.   They actually sound pretty good and I can't really complain about them.  I have a Wii and a Standard DVD player hooked up over component cables, a MediaCenter PC and the DirecTV box hooked up over HDMI, and an old Xbox hooked up over the Composite connections.  On to my review.

Picture Quality - Admittedly, this is my first HDTV.  The step up from regular TV is gigantic so if you haven't had a HDTV yet, you won't be disappointed with this as your first one.   That being said, I've seen a lot of my friends' TVs and I think mine stack up well against all of them.  It's hard to really compare TVs without a side to side comparison, so I won't even try it, but all I can say is that I'm very happy with the set.  The movies I have seen are all fantastic.  You watch Planet Earth on this thing and it is unbelievable the detail that you can see and how great the picture looks.  If you are like me, and watch a lot of sports, you won't be disappointed.  I watched the NBA finals on this TV and was just watching the Wimbledon Finals right now.  The experience was fantastic.

All of the sources I have on the TV look good.  The connection to the computer the, DirectTV feed, and the OTA antenna, being the only true HD sources I have,  look fantastic.   The Wii and the non upconverting DVD player look good but obviously not as sharp as the HD sources.

People like to break down this category into things like black levels, color accuracy, etc.   I say that's rubbish.  Judge with your own eyes and taste.  All I can say is that for me, and pretty much everyone else who has watched the TV, this TV will suit you no matter what your taste may actually be.

Price and Shopping Experience - I bought my TV from Amazon.  Like most would be, I was a little nervous about buying such a high price item online.  However, when I was only paying about $2280 for this TV with delivery included, it was too good of a deal to pass up.  Considering that the step down version of this TV, the 50PZ85U retails for $2300, and this is a significantly better TV than that, then it was a no brainer for me to go to Amazon.  The delivery was when it said it would be, albeit slower than I would have liked.  But it was delivered safe and sound and with no problems whatsoever.  If I had to do it all over again, i wouldn't hesitate to buy my next TV through Amazon.

THX Setting -  This is the big feature that accounts for the price difference between the 85u and the 800u.  Is it worth it?  Hell Yeah!  This is the setting I watch most of my programming in.  The colors look realistic.  Some could say that it looks a little duller, and it wouldn't be totally inaccurate.  The colors are not over-saturated, and a lot of people like the over-saturated look.  My girlfriend for one.  But I love the look of THX.  It makes colors look like Colors are supposed to.

Design -  I know not a lot of people care about this aspect of their TV since they just want something that will produce a good looking picture, and not necessarily look good in a picture.  However, I have a girlfriend who has dreams of being a designer.  And so it is important that the TV looks as good as the pictures it can produce.  I thing this TV looks great on or off.  The "one sheet of glass" design is nothing to get too hyped up about, especially since they put on a plastic bezel around the edge.  But it still looks fantastic and one never even notices the bezel.  The girlfriend couldn't stand the fat lip under the 85U, so she almost made me get the 800 on this fact alone.

So overall, on a scale of one to ten, I give it a 9.  No TV is perfect, and I have a few problems with some things, but I'll get to those in my next post.  Overall a great TV, and if you are willing to spend the cash, it seriously is the best bang for your buck.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

When Interviewing, Interview the Interviewer!

As a manager in my company, I have to do a lot of interviews.  It surprises me how often I interview people who don't have much idea about how to get through even the simplest of interviews. Now in defense of some of these candidates, I often see people for junior positions.  Many of these people are either freshly out of college or on their second job.  But even then, it still is surprising how some people perform.

Probably  most common mistake I see in people consistently make is to not engage with the interviewer.  People naturally like people they can have a good conversation with.  If you are answering questions too succinctly it can be a problem.  I was on an interview the other day where I was basically trying to guide the candidate down a certain path.  This candidate was answering my questions, but they were not doing much more than that.  I was hoping to have a dialog with the person to delve deeper into their background and skill set, but it was almost impossible without me doing all the talking.  I even went so far as to asking a purposefully vague question in hopes this person would ask me to clarify.  It is a technique I like to use to see how people deal with ambiguity and how good they are at asking meaningful questions.  No such luck.  The person just answered the question.

So my advice is simple.  It just involves

  • Asking lots of questions - If you are asked a question, ask a question right back. There are no perfect interview questions.  Almost everything in life can be clarified.  I like it when people are confused about my question.  It shows they are paying attention and that they are being thoughtful about their response.

  • Talk and be verbose - Don't go overboard with this one but remember that this is a conversation.  You should probably be talking as much as the interviewer.  There are times I have gotten the interviewer talking more than myself by asking the right question.  More often than not, I do well in those interviews.

So don't be shy.  You would be surprised how often interviewers wouldn't mind a helping hand for themselves when trying to get through an interview.