Man, some commercials are just so good, they qualify as entertainment in their own right. Funnyplace.org is a web site that features the best commercials from around the world. Most are hilarious. It’s amazing to see what the Europeans and others get away with….even commercials by American companies are far more risqué than they could ever be here. Check out this Burger King ad.
An absolutely amazing site of 3D models of human anatomy and biology, courtesy of Mr. Italo. A great find, especially if you write medically-oriented articles and reports. Damn…where was this when I was developing a recent PPT presentation for a client in HIV research?!
I’ve been researching new vehicles for the past three months, culminating in my purchase of the Subaru Forester last week. In my mind, there are three kinds of purchases in this world:
1. Small items that you really don’t bother researching because the category is generally inexpensive, and if you don’t ultimately like the thing, hey…that’s what kids who’ve just set up apartments for the first time are for! I’m thinking toaster, blenders, George Foreman grill’s, bathroom scales, etc. Often, you may even allow yourself to be swayed by advertising, just because you liked the cute girl demonstrating the Magic Bullet blender.
2. Hobby items that you have a profound passion for and lose all sense of proportion. It’s not so much about the product’s functionality as it is about its history, traditions, look, and the way you feel when you handle it. It may be insanely priced, but you’ve just got to have it. You know you’re getting screwed financially (there’s certainly better value-for-money available) but you want it anyway. I’m thinking Leica, Rolex, Louis Vuitton, etc. These purchases emanate from deep psychological places, filling needs that may be dormant and unfulfilled since youth. I don’t begrudge these kinds of things, instead, I look at them as psychotherapy.
3. Large functional purchases of utilitarian stuff that is guaranteed to cause you enormous grief if you make the wrong decision. There’s little emotion here (although cars may be an exception, otherwise how do you explain things like the Smart, or the Mini-Cooper?). I’m thinking heating systems, entertainment centers, computers, fridges, stoves, dishwashers, and for most of us, cars.
I only do research for the 3rd category, mainly because I’ve learned that “Good judgment is the result of experience, which is usually the result of poor judgment”. There are few things worse than having your new heating system crash when it’s minus-thirty outside (been there), nor when your dishwasher heating element malfunctions and melts all your plastic items into modern sculpture (been there too, with a new Maytag dishwasher).
But where do you go for relatively unbiased reviews and opinions? The internet can be a great resource, but fact is, the vast majority of review sites are just shills for specific manufacturers who pay the advertising. So rule #1: Never trust sites that carry any form of advertising. You are far better off paying a small sum of money for the privilege of getting a reasonably objective viewpoint (note I say “reasonably” because there is no such thing as a completely unbiased viewpoint; we all have our own built-in prejudices, a function of being human).
My personal preference is Consumer Reports, and in particular their on-line service at www.consumerreports.org. Here’s why I like them:
1. It’s a not-for-profit, public organization.
2. They scrupulously accept no form of advertising from anyone.
3. Their reviews subsume not just the opinions of their testers but hard-core laboratory test data.
4. They mine the largest database of owners in the world (who participate in their surveys) in determining levels of Owner Satisfaction. This is key because the bigger the survey pool, the more accurate the results. Owner satisfaction is a big issue because a product may actually score great on all its test parameters, but overall satisfaction may still be low because no tests can capture all the elements of what goes into creating a great ownership experience.
This week I mercifully returned my Saburau Impreza to the dealer, the two-year lease having expired. Thank God I only took a two year commitment! I hated the car from Day One. It was my wife’s idea to let go of our two big vehicles (my Toyota Highlander SUV and her Mazda MPV van) as part of “walking the talk” about going “green”. Since I will not drive a car without All-Wheel-Drive, I settled on the Impreza as a reasonable alternative. But shoehorning a 56 year-old, back-surgeried, 6’2″ 250 lb. Sasquatch into this low-slung, sporty hatchback made for guys 20 years younger proved a daunting daily task replete with much grunting and cursing.
This week I also took possession of my 2010 Subaru Forester and breathed a sigh of relief as my ass willingly slid into the front-seat with hardly any bending or stooping. This “crossover” feels great and since it uses the same engine as the Impreza should have almost no additional gas consumption penalty.
Subaru is the only car company that only does All-Wheel-Drive (AWD) vehicles. Every one of its cars from the least expensive to the most luxurious are based on the same platform. There is a great misconception about All-Wheel-Drive. Most people think you only need it if you live in snowy climes. And while it’s true that it sure helps in deep snow, AWD is the single most important safety feature in a vehicle the whole year round. If you gave me a choice between seat belts/airbags and AWD, I’ll take AWD every time! The reason is simple: In the winter, you are already likely to be more careful, especially in snowy or slick conditions, where you know that the risk is higher. But the rest of the year, when it first starts to rain and the oil that is always embedded in the asphalt mixes with the water, or some truck has dropped sand or grease, or some nut tries to swerve into you…that’s where AWD makes the difference…by helping you avoid an accident rather than have to survive it!
And by AWD I mean all four wheels have power all the time! Not this “Intelligent AWD” bull where the car is actually front-wheel drive and has to detect wheel “spin” in order to actuate, or “On-Demand AWD” where you have to actually hit a button to activate it. There’s a lot of smoke-and-mirrors in this technology and you have to truly understand how each system works in order to make a good decision.
A close friend of mine was recently diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma, or cancer of the bile ducts. He became ill very quickly and doctors thought it was a case of Hepatitis-B which is often food-borne, but usually resolves on its own without treatment. But he kept getting yellower and yellower, and sicker by the day, as the bile built up in his system. Advanced tests, scans, and exploratory surgery revealed inoperable cancer of the bile ducts (inoperable because one tumor is so large and right on the artery), as well as several other tumors on both lobes of the liver. “Go home and prepare for the end” the doctor said, “you have between six months and a year”.
On my intense urging, my friend agreed to contact an M.D. associate of mine who brokers a “second opinion” service that refers your entire file to Harvard for review and assessment as to what else can possibly be done. The doctors there were intrigued by the fact that all his tumor biopsies were negative for cancer, but the tumors looked and behaved as if they were cancerous.
Canadian doctors agreed to re-open his case and now suspect that he has a benign form of the disease caused by, get this…..eating sushi in Asia (my friend had been to Asia some months previously)! It turns out that a liver fluke parasite found in fish in Asia (but not in North America) has the ability to cause tumors to grow in the biliary system. Here is a fascinating abstract from the American Journal of Gastroenterology, dating back more than 20 years, that talks about how many Asian immigrants to North America actually have the fluke resident in their livers.
“In the Far East infection with the liver flukes Clonorchis sinensis and Opisthorchis viverrini is the most frequently documented cause of cholangiocarcinoma. Liver fluke infection in the United States remains a health problem for more than 500,000 Southeast Asian refugees who have immigrated to this country since 1975. Recent surveys have revealed that up to 26% of Asian immigrants have an active liver fluke infection. However, the common clinical manifestations of this condition, as well as the possibility of developing such long-term sequelae as cholangiocarcinoma, remain unknown to many physicians providing care for this population. This report describes a clinically unsuspected C. sinensis infection associated with cholangiocarcinoma in an elderly Chinese immigrant, and emphasizes the importance of early diagnosis and treatment of all liver fluke infections in the prevention of bile duct neoplasms in high risk populations”.
Anyway…..I know that I won’t be touching sushi next time I visit Asia! I am unfortunately addicted to the stuff here and will continue eating it since there are very few cases of any infections (of any kind) reported in North America.
Am J Gastroenterol. 1986 Jan;81(1):76-9.// <![CDATA[//
So you’ve got an interview! Congratulations. This is where Steve’s First Axiom kicks in: “You will always get the jobs you don’t want.” Why? Simple. Desire is the biggest barrier to getting the job you really want. Sounds counter-intuitive doesn’t it? It also goes against everything you’ve probably read about making a good impression during an interview…like emphasizing that you really, really, want this job.
Think about this. If you went to buy a car, would you really tell the salesman that this is your dream car and you absolutely must have it…regardless of price. Wouldn’t you instead play it cool, ask a lot of questions, and tell him that you need to think over what he’s offering? Basic negotiation: Forget about how much you need this car, widget, or job, and focus instead on what he or she needs.
The reason you will always get the jobs you don’t want is because you are cool, relaxed, and don’t reek of desperation. You ask a lot of questions. You don’t bullshit about yourself. You answer questions straight and honest. People almost always want what they can’t have. If the interviewer senses that you are coming at this job from a win-win perspective rather than one of need or want, he/she will be more likely to respect you and see you as someone who can be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. Only weak managers and leaders want yes-men. And frankly, you don’t want to work for them because they will make your life miserable. Great managers and leaders look for people who are better than them at the specific job at hand…otherwise, why do they need you if they can do the job themselves?
So here’s the first interview tip: Approach every job opportunity as if you don’t really want it so much!
So you’ve started networking your list of impeccably maintained contacts and are waiting for some leads. Great. How about that CV?
Here’s some groundbreaking news: Your CV isn’t your life story! In fact, I would guess that most CV’s get little more than a 10 second glance before being turfed, or hopefully, attract enough attention to actually get read. So here are the real purposes of your CV:
1. To attract the reader’s attention so that he/she reads it rather than turfs it
2. To highlight how you are different from the hundreds of other candidates who are sending in CV’s
3. To get you a face-to-face interview
4. To provide a road map that the interviewer will follow so that it takes him/her where you want to go rather than all over the map to places you may not wish to explore.
Here are a few CV killers in my humble opinion:
1. Typos – if you don’t care enough about your CV, how much are you going to care about your job? Spell Check, read, Spell Check again, and then have 2 friends read and Spell Check it too.
2. Grammar – don’t use words you don’t fully understand the meaning of, just to sound intelligent. Avoid jargon. Nothing makes people look dumber than mispronounced high-falluting words.
3. Size matters – there’s nothing worse than a CV longer than 2-3 pages (and 3 pages only if you’ve had a very long and fruitful career with many accomplishments, publications, etc.). A friend of mine has put his whole career on a single PowerPoint slide…and he’s a 50 year-old a pharma company CEO! If you have 47 publications, save them for later, if I ask you. Just write “47 publications” in your CV under Other Accomplishments or something like that.
4. Degrees – if you haven’t completed the degree, please don’t imply that you have. For example:
BA Economics, University of Hawaii
32 credits completed
You don’t have the freaking degree, so don’t try to bamboozle me because you think I won’t notice! And by the way…uncompleted degrees are the kiss-of-death…they imply that you don’t have the stamina to see you through tough challenges. Just create a category under “Education” that says: “Other”, and then put “Completed six courses in Marketing” or whatever. If the reason you didn’t complete the degree was because you left school to care for your six young siblings after a fire killed your parents, save it for the interview, where you’ll actually have a chance to explain it and impress the interviewer with your guts.
5. Gaps – we all look for gaps in chronology. If you took maternity leave, were in drug rehab, or went to Africa for two years to find yourself….show it. I’m just looking at a CV I got yesterday, where the period between 2005-2007 seems to have mysteriously disappeared. If you don’t tell me what you were doing in that period, I will inevitably speculate that it’s something you’re ashamed of.
6. Hobbies and interests – one of my cardinal rules is: Don’t expose your values before you know the interviewer’s. Unless your hobbies and personal interests are relevant to the job, don’t bother listing them. For example, if you are a black belt in Karate, I may well envision you shit-kicking me after a negative performance appraisal or too-small pay increase. Similarly, when I see “Golf” listed under Hobbies, I immediately envision people effing off work every Friday afternoon to play! Save it for the interview once you’ve seen the guy’s Karate pictures or golf trophies.
6. Lies – Don’t! Avoid embellishment, lies, bullshit, or any other signs of low integrity. They will find you out during the interview and you will have wasted your time and theirs.
Over the years I’ve discovered a few “axioms” (three so far) that represent what I believe are fairly universal truths (at least within a Western cultural context). Funny enough, “Steve’s First Axiom” emanates from my experiences both as a job hunter, but more significantly, as a Human Resources consultant. I thought it might be fun to share some observations from this latter perspective, perhaps particularly relevant during these tough economic times. So, for the next few postings I’ll concentrate on what it takes to get, change, or preserve a job.
Getting a new job begins when you actually have a job. It starts by building and maintaining a network of personal contacts who may be willing to help you in your next job search. Just like no one likes a fair-weather friend, the time to network isn’t when you’re looking for a new job. Too late. “Where the Hell were you when you didn’t need me” is a fairly typical thought that runs through my mind when I hear from long-lost contacts who suddenly need my help. I still try to help them mind you, but not with the same gusto and enthusiasm that I will expend on someone who took the time to care about me during their good times.
So here’s tip #1: Collect business cards. Build a database of everyone you’ve ever met, and every week, make a point of calling a few just to see how they’re doing, without asking for anything! Take the time to care about others if you ever have any hope that they will care for you. If you just call two different people every week, in the space of a year you’ll have contacted more than 100 people! And there’s a great side benefit too…it may help your Emotional Intelligence (EI) by developing compassion for others through exposure to their stories and lives.
I pity restaurant reviewers. No really, I do. Imagine having to eat at starred establishments several times a week if not more! In our early years together, my wife and I ate out at least 7 times per week (lunch or dinner). No kids, good income, and too busy to cook. After about a year, a certain jadedness pervaded our eating. The food was somehow never good enough. Been there done that. Too salty. The chef has no imagination, etc., etc.. The fact is, anything you do on a very regular basis, no matter how good it is, eventually becomes stale and unsatisfying. Yin and Yang…you can only know white by also knowing black. Or as the monks on Mount Athos say: “Even the bishop tires of too much Kirie Eleison“.
And I realized yesterday, so it is with gourmet shaving.
For the last year, my shaving has become almost Zen-like in its simplicity. A couple of favorite soaps and creams, two razors (identical except for handle color), and two brushes. Whatever blade was in the razor. Three quick and almost mindless passes, with little attention to the outcome…after all it’s always very good. Then yesterday I had a craving for something a little different. Out came the Roger & Gallet shave soap in its wooden bowl. The Plisson European White Badger brush. A fresh Treet Blue Special. The jojoba oil for a fourth and final “gloss” pass. An amazing shave full of fresh experiences of scent and a near eunuch-like level of hairlessness.
The realization? To be a true gourmet means to balance the Yin of everyday shaving with the Yang of occasional forays into excellence. Embrace the routine so that you can enjoy the special days even more.