Monthly Archives: June 2007

How to Work the Room

Written by Larry Chiang

Tips on ‘Social Graces’ – the one thing you need that an MBA can’t give you

So you’ve got your engineering degree, and your marquee MBA, and a business-plan. You’re on your way. But at some point you’re going to have to ‘grace’ your way through an important networking or social event. How you handle this matters-probably more than you care to admit.
Anyone who has attended a Silicon Valley networking event can attest to the fact that “Social Graces” often elude us founders. But if we were “hacking” or “grocking” our way to better methods of networking, the user manual would be 10 inches thick! There is such a thing as “Social-Business Protocol.” Not all of us in the startup universe are born with it, we can all learn it. So, here are my 10 tips for founders en route to the power-party circuit.

1. Be more of a host and less of a guest.
Susan Roane and Letitia Baldridge say there are two types of people at a party: hosts and guests. People like hosts more because they make introductions, and make people more comfortable. Guests tend to need attention and maintenance. Susan wrote the ageless book How to Work a Room and Letitia wrote Executive Manners.

2. Avoid permanently joining a “rock pile.” A rock pile is a pack of people in a tight circle. It’s natural to huddle because it makes us feel safe, but it borders on anti-social.

3. Dress for the party. The more junior you are, the better you should dress. I always try to dress up because of my lower-than-average IQ. On the other hand, an advanced networking strategy is to show up severely under/over-dressed. If you’re caught off guard with an impromptu invite, execute under-dressed (aww shucks) Mark Zuckerburg’s Adidas flip-flop routine.

4. Don’t “hotbox”. Hotboxing is squaring the shoulders front and center to one person. In groups one person will often “hotbox” the target/VIP of the group. Hotboxing in a one-on-one conversation is OK, but it excludes others from joining.

5. Put your coat and bag down. Your coat is non-verbal communication that you: a) need a shield; b) just got there; c) don’t trust the host’s coat check; d) are not healthy enough to keep your body at 98.6; e) are imminently about to leave. Women can be forgiven for keeping a purse, but it’s a networking sin for a man to keep a ‘man-purse’ (i.e. backpack, tote- or laptop-bag).

6. Mentor someone about your-or your company’s-core competence. Since Duck9 educates college students about FICO scores and debt minimization, I have networking talking points on FICO scores and the urban legends that surround them. It transitions nicely from the what-do-you-do-for-work question. It also adds some substance to party conversations and clearly brands you as a person. I’m the duck dude, with the magnet for a card, that does credit education.

7.Don’t forget to get mentored as well. A great guy I know has one rule for social-professional success: his party goal is to learn three new things at every event. It is very effective. He tilts his head like my shih tzu and gets all sorts of credit for being a great listener.

8. Be a good host while you’re someone else’s guest. Say ‘Hi’ to wall flowers. I once saw a tier-1 celebrity work the fringe of the room. He must’ve said ‘Hi’ to 12 wallflowers. Actors don’t get paid
to act, they get paid to promote. As entrepreneurs, we better promote ourselves by being gracious to everyone. This means making introductions, too. Introduce a junior person to a senior person. Include one positive snipet about both as you do so: “Sarah, I’d like to introduce Hazel, she started Fashion4 and also leads the “Ladies Who Launch” here in Silicon Valley. Hazel, this is my friend Sarah whom I told you about from?” (Letitia Baldridge has an entire chapter on this.)

9. Managing the party host. When you’re interacting with the host, ask simple questions requiring a ‘Yes/No’ response. I’ve heard disastrous questions in a vain attempt to out alpha-male the host. The best questions to ask of a host are upbeat, light and fluffy. If you want to be Mike Wallace/Chris Matthews with a hardball question, tread lightly. Also, help your host wiggle by wrangling them away from guests who are monopolizing or “hotboxing” them. They will thank you later.

10. Always, always, always: Thank the host before you leave.

These are some of the basics of good networking. One bonus tip for when you are havng a hard time at an event: play ‘Convo Bingo’. Make a list of ‘bingo’ words in your head and every time you hear a word on your list,cross it off. This will force you to listen intently and actively drive the conversation towards your “bingo words.” It also makes you a better audience to other guests. A sample bingo card is available here.

Do You Make These Mistakes When You Write?

Written by Brian Clark

Do you make these mistakes when you write?

It’s time once again to review those nasty errors that damage our credibility when we write. Not normally a fun task, but absolutely necessary. I promise to keep you amused to diminish the pain (or at least I’ll give it a shot).

As with the last time we explored grammatical errors, I feel compelled to mention that copywriting and blogging should be conversational and engaging, and breaking formal grammatical and spelling conventions can often be a good thing. Every time I see a comment complaining about something like, oh, I don’t know? the improper use of an ellipsis or one-sentence paragraphs, I shake my head with sadness.

They just don’t get it.

Outside of specific professional or academic contexts, writing with a personal style that makes it easier on the reader is more important than pleasing Strunk and White. That said, I also believe you have to know the rules in order to break them. Plus, there are some errors that you’ll never convince anyone that you did intentionally in the name of style (outside of a joke), and even then some people will still assume you’re dumb.

So, let’s take a look at some more of those types of glaring errors that you never want to make. Thanks to reader suggestions and the aforementioned Messrs. Strunk and White, here are seven more common mistakes that can diminish the shine and credibility of your writing.

1. Loose vs. Lose

This one drives a lot of people crazy, including me. In fact, it’s so prevalent among bloggers that I once feared I was missing something, and somehow “loose” was a proper substitute for “lose” in some other English-speaking countries. Here’s a hint: it’s not.

If your pants are too loose, you might lose your pants.

2. Me, Myself, and I

One of the most common causes of grammatical pain is the choice between “me” and “I.” Too often people use “I” when they should use “me,” because since “I” sounds stilted and proper, it must be right, right? Nope.

The easy way to get this one right is to simply remove the other person from the sentence and then do what sounds correct. You would never say “Give I a call,” so you also wouldn’t say “Give Chris and I a call.” Don’t be afraid of me.

And whatever you do, don’t punt and say “myself” because you’re not sure whether “me” or “I” is the correct choice. “Myself” is only proper in two contexts, both of which are demonstrated below.

Many consider Chris a punk, but I myself tolerate him. Which brings me to ask myself, why?

3. Different than vs. Different from

This one slips under the radar a lot, and I’ll bet I’ve screwed it up countless times. It boils down to the fact that things are logically different from one another, and using the word “than” after different is a grammatical blunder.

This vase is different from the one I have, but I think mine is better than this one.

4. Improper Use of the Apostrophe

Basically, you use an apostrophe in two cases:

  • For contractions (don’t for do not)
  • To show possession (Frank’s blog means the blog belongs to Frank)

If still in doubt, leave the apostrophe out. It causes more reader confusion to insert an apostrophe where it doesn’t belong than it does to omit one. Plus, you can always plead the typo defense if you leave an apostrophe out, but you look unavoidably dumb when you stick one where it doesn’t belong.

5. Parallelism

Back when I talked about bullet points, one of the tips involved keeping each bullet item in parallel by beginning with the same part of speech. For example, each item might similarly begin with a verb like so:

  • deliver?
  • prompt?
  • cause?
  • drive?

When writing a list of items in paragraph form, this is even more crucial, and failing to stay in parallel can result in confusion for readers and scorn from English majors. Check out this non-parallel list in a sentence:

Over the weekend, Kevin bought a new MacBook Pro online, two software programs, and arranged for free shipping.

Do you see the problem? If not, break the list into bullet points and it becomes clear:

Over the weekend, Kevin:

  • Bought a new MacBook Pro online
  • Two software programs
  • Arranged for free shipping

Stick the word “ordered” in front of “two software programs” and you’re in parallel. Your readers will subconsciously thank you, and the Grammar Nazis won’t slam you.

6. i.e. vs. e.g.

Ah, Latin? you’ve just gotta love it. As antiquated as they might seem, these two little Latin abbreviations are pretty handy in modern writing, but only if you use them correctly.

The Latin phrase id est means “that is,” so i.e. is a way of saying “in other words.” It’s designed to make something clearer by providing a definition or saying it in a more common way.

Copyblogger has jumped the shark, i.e., gone downhill in quality, because Brian has broken most of his New Year’s resolutions.

The Latin phrase exempli gratia means “for example”, so e.g. is used before giving specific examples that support your assertion.

Copyblogger has jumped the shark because Brian has broken most of his New Year’s resolutions, e.g., promising not to say “Web 2.0,” “linkbait,” or “jumped the shark” on the blog in 2007.

7. Could of, Would of, Should of

Please don’t do this:

I should of gone to the baseball game, and I could of, if Billy would of done his job.

This is correct:

I should have gone to the baseball game, and could have, if Billy would have done his job.

Why do people make this mistake?

They could’ve, should’ve, would’ve been correct, except that the ending of those contractions is slurred when spoken. This creates something similar to a homophone, i.e., a word that is pronounced the same as another word but differs in meaning, e.g., of, which results in the common grammatical mistake of substituting of for have.

Ain’t this been fun?

Life at Google – The Microsoftie Perspective

Written by Just Say ?No? To Google

The following has been making the rounds on just about every internal email list I belong to in Microsoft.Here it is to share a little insight with the rest of the world.Microsoft is an amazingly transparent company.Google is not.Any peek is a good peek.

Many of you were asking for the feedback I received from my interview with the former Google employee I hired into ABC Development as a Sr.SDE.Here it is.This candidate is also a former MS employee who left the company and founded a ?Start-up? called XYZ. XYZ was purchased by Google and he was hired on as a Senior Software Engineer II / Technical Lead.Here is his take on Google?s environment as well as areas Microsoft should consider improving in order to be more competitive.


1.What is the culture really like? How many hours are people actually working? What are the least amount of hours you can work before you are looked down upon?

The culture at Google is very much like the old culture at Microsoft ? back when the company felt like most employees were in their mid 20?s.These kids don?t have a life yet so they spend all of their time at work.Google provides nearly everything these people need from clothes (new T-shirts are placed in bins for people to grab *twice* a week!) to food ? three, free, all-you-can-eat meals a day.Plus on-site health care, dental care, laundry service, gym, etc.Imagine going from college to this environment and you can see how much everyone works.People are generally in the building between 10am and about 6pm every day, but nearly everyone is on e-mail 24/7 and most people spend most of their evenings working from home.

This culture changes a bit with more experienced folks.They generally work 10a ? 6pm like the new hires, and most of them are on email until around midnight.It?s pretty common for them to be working most of the evening, too.

2.20% of your time on personal project.How many people actually get to use it? If so, how do they use it? Does Google own your personal project?

?20% is your benefit and your responsibility.?

In other words, it?s your job to carve out 20% of your work week for a project.If you don?t carve out the time, you don?t get it.Your project needs to be tacitly approved by your manager.Whatever it is, is owned by Google.If you?re organized, you can ?save up? your 20% and use it all at once.It?s not unheard of for people to have months and months of ?20% time? saved up.

Most people don?t actually have a 20% project.Most managers won?t remind you to start one.

3.What are the office arrangements like? Do you have an office or cube space?

Google believes that developers are, with few exceptions, interchangeable parts.This philosophy shows through in their office arrangements which in Mountain View are all over the map.There are glass-walled offices, there are open-space areas, there are cubicles, there are people who?s desks are literally in hallways because there?s no room anywhere else.There are even buildings that experiment with no pre-defined workspaces or workstations ? cogs (err, people?) just take one of the available machines and desks when they get to work.

In terms of employees per square-foot, every Microsoft Building 9-sized office is a triple at Google.

Google doesn?t seem to think that private offices are valuable for technical staff.They?re wrong.

4.What is the management structure like (hierarchy)?

There are front-line developers, and then their manager.My manager had over 100 direct reports and is the common case for managers at Google.Managers quasi-own products and their employees tend to work on their projects, but not always.It?s possible for a developer on your product to actually work for a manager in research (a completely different division).This makes it really interesting at review time.Oh and conflict resolution between team members is very complex ? the product?s manager isn?t involved day-to-day, probably doesn?t actually manage all of the peers who are trying to resolve a conflict, and likely hasn?t spent any time with their employees anyway.

The overall structure is:

??????????????? tons (a hundred or more) of individual contributors report to

??????????????? a middle manager who reports to

??????????????? a division v.p.who reports to

??????????????? the management team (Larry, Sergie, etc.)

5.Do they actually have plans for career development?

Not really.There is no career development plan from individual contributor to manager.Basically if you get good reviews, you get more money and a fancier title (?Senior Software Engineer II?) but that?s about it.

6.Who would you recommend Google to? Is it for the college kid or family type, worker bee or innovator?

College kids tend to like it because it?s just like college ? all of their basic needs are taken care of.In fact, even most of your personal-life can get tied up in Google benefits.Google provides free or subsidized broadband to every employee.Google runs its own, private, bus lines in the Bay Area for employees.Google provides free or subsidized mobile phones.A college kid can literally join Google and, like they did as freshman at university, let Google take care of everything.Of course, if Google handles everything for you, it?s hard to think about leaving because of all the ?stuff? you?ll need to transition and then manage for yourself.

Mid-timers, people who?ve worked at other places for a few years tend to be a mixed bag.For some, this is the first stability they?ve seen after a few failed startups.For others, this is the company that represents a ?better? way to run a company than the company they worked at before.Either way, for these folks to succeed at Google they have to drink the cool-aid and duke it out with the college kids because Google doesn?t place any value on previous industry experience.(It puts tremendous value on degrees, especially Stanford ones).

?Old-timers? tend to like Google because they?re the ones who know to take the most advantage of the perks.These are the people who religiously take their 20% time, use as many of the services as possible, and focus on having a ?peaceful? experience.They?re here to do a job, enjoy the perks, and that?s about it.They still put in a lot of hours, but the passion of the college kids isn?t there.

7.Please provide any additional information that you believe will help in our battle for talent against Google?

Make the food in the caf? free.If an employee eats an average of $15 of food per day (the actual average at Google which is closer to $10) it would cost Microsoft $3,750 per year per employee to offer 3 meals a day.Instead of increasing starting salaries, switch to free food.Give everyone else half the merit increases we would have gotten AND ANNOUNCE THE FREE FOOD AT THE SAME TIME.For that quoted $10 average Google provides free soda, free organic drinks (odwalla, naked juice), breakfast, lunch, and dinner (most people only eat lunch), free sport drinks (vitamin water, etc.), and free snacks (trail mixes, nuts, chips, candy, gum, cereal, granola bars).

That single benefit gets people to work earlier because hot breakfast is served only until 8:30.And since dinner isn?t served until 6:00 or 6:30 the people with a home-life tend to skip it.

Google actually pays less salary than Microsoft.

Google?s health insurance is actually not nearly as good as Microsoft?s.

Google has no facility for career growth.Microsoft has more, but could do better.Continuing Microsoft-specific education for things like project management, managing people, communication skills, etc.should be promoted.A structured career plan for each discipline would be great ?, experiences, milestones, etc.Paths like ?Developer to Development Manager? ?Developer to Technical Architect? which show what courses and experiences (e.g.being a mentor) are encouraged for the different paths.

Private offices for employees is a big benefit.See this up.Take a cue from Google and loosen up a little about offices.Let people call facilities and have their office painted any color they want.Have the standard office come with a guest chair and a brightly colored Microsoft branded bean-bag chair.

Google has the concept of ?Tech Stops.?? Each floor of each building has one.They handle all of the IT stuff for employees in the building including troubleshooting networks, machines, etc.If you?re having a problem you just walk into a Tech Stop and someone will fix it.They also have a variety of keyboards, mice, cables, etc.They?re the ones who order equipment, etc.In many ways the Tech Stop does some of what our admins do.If your laptop breaks you bring it to a Tech Stop and they fix it or give you another one (they move your data for you).If one of your test machines is old and crusty you bring it to the Tech Stop and they give you a new one.They track everything by swiping your ID when you ?check out? an item.If you need more equipment than your job description allows, your manager just needs to approve the action.The Tech Stop idea is genius because:

1.You establish a relationship with your IT guy so technical problems stop being a big deal – you don?t waste a couple of hours trying to fix something before calling IT to find out it wasn?t your fault.You just drop in and say, ?My network is down.?

2.Most IT problems are trivial when you?re in a room together (?oh that Ethernet cable is in the wrong port?)

3.The model of repair or replace within an hour is incredible for productivity.

4.It encourages a more flexible model for employees to define their OWN equipment needs.E.g.a ?Developer? gets a workstation, a second workstation or a laptop, and a test machine.You?re free to visit the Tech Stop to swap any of the machines for any of the others in those categories.For example, I could stop by and swap my second workstation for a laptop because I?m working remotely a lot more now.In the Tech Stop system, this takes 5 minutes to walk down and tell the Tech Stop guy.If a machine is available, I get it right away.Otherwise they order it and drop it off when it arrives.In our current set up, I have to go convince my manager that I need a laptop, he needs to budget for it because it?s an additional machine, an admin has to order it, and in the end developers always end up with a growing collection of mostly useless ?old? machines instead of a steady state of about 3 mostly up-to-date machines.

25 Sites We Can’t Live Without

Written by
The uber-e-tailer that never forgets its bookstore roots. The new print-on-demand service means customers can now order out-of-print, backlist and large-print books from several big publishers. Soon it will start selling DRM-free MP3s (meaning you can copy the songs for personal use and download them to any device) from EMI and other labels out of its new music store. (iTunes already does; see below.) And, if the rumors are true – that Amazon is in talks to buy Netflix – before long it could own the market on movies, both digital downloads (through its Unbox service) and rent-by-mail. From handbags to hand vacs, Amazon really is a great place to shop for virtually anything, even shoes, though still has the edge there. And before you check out, it doesn’t hurt to see whether has any of the same items on special.
World News. Sports. Radio. Articles and audio in 33 languages. is content rich too; episodes of the series Expose: America’s Investigative Reports can be viewed here even before they air on TV.
Helps steer you to the right restaurants, bars, nightclubs, hotels and spas in dozens of cities, with editors’ picks and user reviews, and a Yellow Pages directory that includes shops and other services. A mobile version lets you access listing info from your cell phone. Other local search services worth consulting: Yelp!, which relies on reviews by its members (a.k.a. “yelpers”), who now chime in from more than two dozen cities, and Attendio, which clues you in to events happening in your area.
Free classified ads in every category, organized by locale. To access ads that are posted elsewhere online, go to Oodle , which searches online versions of local, regional and national newspapers and other Web listings, such as iHomefinder, and – 75,000 sources in all – to help you find that next roommate/motorcycle/vacation home.
An immensely popular place to share your favorite Web links and see what other people are bookmarking. Search the site by keyword (each link is tagged with descriptors both general and specific), create your own list of favorites to share with everybody else, or add to an existing collection. It’s all about the tags. To see the most popular ones, click here.
The leader in social news, where users determine what’s important and interesting by submitting it, “digging” it and posting a comment. Click “Top in 24 Hours” to see the most popular articles, blog posts and other Web pages of the day. In recent months the site has expanded beyond tech news, adding separate sections for Science, World & Business, Sports, Entertainment and Gaming. Digg Labs continues to roll out new and visually interesting ways to view the links and find out immediately what’s hot (and what’s not). On BigSpy, stories pop up at the top each time they get another digg, the moment they get it. The bigger and bolder the headline, the higher the digg count. Arc, meanwhile, arranges stories in a circle; mouse over a piece of the pie to preview the link.
The online auction powerhouse sells one car every minute on eBay Motors ; at StubHub, which eBay acquired in February, you can buy tickets baseball games, Broadway shows, concerts and other events. And the charity auctions at eBay Giving Works have helped buyers and sellers raise $100 million for more than 10,000 nonprofit organizations since the program started in November 2003. Also, check out the eBay Wiki to read about -or chime in on – all things eBay.
This social network is not as popular as MySpace, but it hasn’t yet been corrupted by marketers and other fake friends – not yet anyway. Once available to students only, it has opened its doors everyone and has made dozens of third-party applications available for members to use on their pages, from iLike (music sharing) to Graffiti (lets you draw on your friends’ profiles) to Flixster (movie reviews) to (poll your friends!).
The Annenberg Political Fact Check, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, is an independent, nonpartisan effort to cut through the routine spin and dissembling of politicians and other public figures. Staff writers check speeches, TV ads, news releases and other public statements for accuracy, and provide clarification and context.
More than half a billion images are now posted on Flickr, a superbly-designed sharing platform and social network for photo enthusiasts that, since June, also offers French, Spanish, German, Chinese, Italian, Portuguese and Korean language options. (Next up: video.) Upload and tag your images and make them available for community consumption, and see how they rate on “interestingness” and “gorgeousity”; join a group (there are more than 300,000 of them, and each one has its own theme); comment on other people’s images or subscribe to a photo stream. The cool Maps feature shows where photos were taken. For more private sharing and straightforward printing services, use Shutterfly or Kodak EasyShare Gallery. Or try the new, no-frills Picupine; it doesn’t offer printing or long-term storage, but it allows you to share your photos quickly and easily, without forcing you to create an account first. Once you’ve submitted your photos, the site creates a Web link you can then send to friends and family.
The world’s leading Web search engine has helpfully gathered together a complete list of its ever-growing range of special features, tips and tricks. It also offers a wide range of useful Web tools and services, including Gmail, the free Web-based email you can now port to your cell phone port to your cell phone; Picasa, a great way to organize and edit your photos on your desktop (and share them online using the Web-album publishing tool); and the stellar Google Maps, which recently introduced Street Maps, 360-degree street-level photographic views that allow virtual movement through a location. The images were shot over several months by camera-equipped vans that simply drove up and down the streets of Denver, New York, San Francisco, Las Vegas and Miami (some of the results have raised protests from privacy advocates ). Google’s maps now mark public transit stops too. (As an alternative, HopStop does an excellent job providing door-to-door directions by subway or bus from any two points in New York, Chicago, Boston, Washington and San Francisco.)
Easy-to-read explanations of how things work, from plasma converters to antibiotics to E-Z Pass. Now the site lets you upload photos and video to help supplement its written content. UNICEF sent in a video clip about land mines; NASA on sonic booms; and GE on photovoltaics.

The Internet Movie Database
The Internet Movie Database is not just the Net’s more extensive directory of films and TV shows of the past, present and future -it is also a stomping ground for film buffs who like to quote dialogue, share trivia and recommend favorite flicks to their friends. Or, before you head to the theater or pop in that DVD, go to Rotten Tomatoes to see what all the critics have to say.

The best online music store also sells movies and TV shows. The new iTunes Plus sells unprotected tracks (meaning they can be played on any device, not just iPods) from EMI artists such as Coldplay and Norah Jones for $1.29 each.
When planning your next trip, make this your first stop. The search engine works fast, scouring hundreds of travel sites to find the best airfares. You can compare rates on different travel dates, or check prices to several destinations at once. Create a profile so you don’t have to enter certain data every time you use it. When it comes time to choose a hotel, read the reviews on TripAdvisor.
There’s a ton of great content here – about animals, world adventures, the environment, the sciences, space – plus educational stuff too. Also check out National Geographic’s My Wonderful World, which aims to boost your geographic literacy, offering daily quizzes to test your global IQ – and be sure to see the special section for Kids & Teens.
Digital movie downloads are getting easier, but most consumers still prefer their movies on DVD, and those slim red sleeves (with return postage prepaid) are still the best way to get ’em. But, the question now, is whether will acquire the company, and if so, will it keep the website and the system intact?
Just current conditions and forecast, by city or ZIP code. No extras, no ads, no distractions. Data comes from
This blog search engine now searches for social media too -photos, video and music posted on online sharing sites – and a tag cloud on the home page shows you the hot topics of the day. Blogs are given an authority rating, based on how many other blogs currently link to it. The new BlogStorm also tracks blog love; register your site to receive free statistics. Another honorable mention goes to Sphere, where you can select a topic (Sports, Politics, Entertainment) and the site will generate links to the most popular blog posts, news stories and other related content.
The best for celebrity and entertainment news. Recent scoops include a May 18 post about Andy Roddick’s buffed-up bod on the cover of the June/July issue of Men’s Fitness (the site’s crack team of reporters even scooped Roddick, who blogged about the seemingly doctored photo four days later: “little did I know I had 22-inch guns…”) Check out the latest paparazzi shots, browse the video galleries or click for an archive by name. (Full disclosure: TMZ is a joint venture between Telepictures Productions and AOL, which, like TIME and, is owned by Time Warner.) Can’t get enough? Check out Yahoo’s splashy new omg!, which is big on photos. (Brangelina with the kids! Kate Bosworth at the beach! Paris jogging – before being jailed!)
The official Web portal for the U.S. government, with links to every branch, agency and organization involved in federal business, plus reports, guides, reference material and other resources to help you navigate the system, and, whenever possible, get things done online. Each Web page of links is more specific than the last, so you can quickly drill down to the matter at hand. It took three clicks (and three seconds) to find NASA’s bank of images and animations of our home planet (select Science & Tech, then Physical Sciences, then Visible Earth), learn how to file for bankruptcy (Money and Taxes/Personal Finance) and read up on Medicare prescription drug coverage (Health). Also: FedStats.
Bitingly funny recaps of dozens of popular TV shows, plus forums for further discussion.
A big portal packed with information about health and related issues. A recent redesign introduced a cool new tool called Symptom Checker, which lets you self-diagnose-sorry, “pinpoint potential conditions”-in seconds by clicking on body parts and selecting from a list of specific complaints (just be sure to check with your doctor for a real diagnosis). The new WebMD Health Manager lets you store your personal medical records online and make them available to doctors. (The new Revolution Health portal also lets you do this, but charges $129 for that and other premium services.) Other trustworthy sources of information about disease and other health matters: the Medem Learning Centers, which aggregates top articles from leading medical societies on a wide range of topics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Institutes of Health.
The people’s encyclopedia, with millions of articles written in hundreds of languages. It’s free, and anyone can edit. Its pages dominate Google search results, and the site is in the top 10 in terms of traffic. And now there’s Wikia, where you can create a wiki of your own and get help managing it. Other offshoots include the Wiktionary, Wikiquote and Wikispecies, a “directory of life.”
We’ve already singled out a few of our favorites from Yahoo’s basket of goodies – Flickr,, Bix – but the site is also number two in Web search. A free account with Yahoo Mail now comes with unlimited storage, and fewer restrictions on file attachments. You can also access your messages on your cell phone. Another favorite site within the mega-site is Yahoo! Answers, a community where visitors post questions, users respond, and everybody rates and ranks those responses. The site boasts 21.4 million unique U.S. visitors a month and more than 130 million answers to millions of questions ranging from, ‘How is yoga different from Pilates?’ to, ‘What do you do about The Annoying Guy at work?’ Meanwhile, new social networking site takes an entirely different approach to online Q&A.

Google as predicted in 1964

Written by Web Owls

I do enjoy looking at old predictions of the future. Eventually, the future arrives and we can compare it with the predictions.

Sometimes, the predictions are better than the reality. Sometimes, reality outpaces not only the predictions but even the dreams of the past. And sometimes, the predictions end up being pretty-much spot on.

That’s the case with a piece about the ” answer machine” of the future, which appeared in the book Childcraft Volume 6: How Things Change, published by Field Enterprises Educational Corporation in 1964. (Thanks to Paleo-Future for bringing this to my attention.)

Here’s how it starts:


I think Google can handle that:


What else can our Answer Machine do for us?


A single click from Google’s first result shows us this picture:



Yep, “File | Print” does the job nicely.


The original “Mary Had A Little Lamb” recording was not kept, but we can listen to Edison re-enacting it or to an 1899 recording made on Edison’s 1878 tinfoil phonograph.


A Google Video search doesn’t disappoint, although you do need to scroll past movies about Edison Lighthouse. I especially like this movie, filmed by Edison, which demonstrates that the more things change, the more they stay the same.


Someday? I already have an answer machine that can do all those things. I’m feeling lucky.

Tricks to Keep Your House Cool this Summer

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As the temperature rises, so does the cost of cooling your home, especially if you use an air conditioner. Obviously, the best way to keep your home cool during the summer is to use an air conditioner to keep the temperature down, but there are other options that don’t raise your energy bill quite significantly. Air conditioners may offer tempting temporary relief from summer heat, but they’re a huge environmental no-no. You may be cooling your home, but the fossil fuels you’re burning in the process are only making your summers hotter. This summer, leave the air conditioner in storage and try these environmentally-friendly alternatives instead. Fundamentally, the idea is to minimize sources of heat and remove built-up heat from inside.

Fans and Ceiling Fans

  • If you’re looking for ways to beat the heat, a ceiling fan can be a great investment for your home. This one appliance can make a room feel 6 or 7 degrees cooler, and even the most power-hungry fan costs less than $10 a month to use if you keep it on for 12 hours a day. Good fans make it possible for you to raise your thermostat setting and save on air-conditioning costs. Fans don’t use much energy, but when air is circulating, it feels much cooler. Ceiling fans are best, but a good portable fan can be very effective as well.
  • You should remember that even mild air movement of 1 mph can make you feel three or four degrees cooler. Also make sure your ceiling fan is turned for summer – you should feel the air blown downward.

Shades, drapes, or blinds

  • Install white window shades, drapes, or blinds to reflect heat away from the house. Close blinds, shades and draperies facing the sun (east-facing windows in the morning and west-facing windows in the afternoon) to keep the sun’s heat out and help fans or air conditioners cool more efficiently. Always remember that the best way to keep your home cool is to keep the heat out.

Internal Heat

  • The most common sources of internal heat gain are; appliances, electronic devices, and lighting. Be aware from where the heat is comming. Now if you have air conditioning, use it wisely. Don’t put lamps, televisions or other heat-generating appliances next to your air-conditioning thermostat, because the heat from these appliances will cause the air conditioner to run longer. The heat they produce will make it think your house is warmer than it really is, and your system will run harder than it needs to.
  • Unless you absolutely need them, turn off incandescent lights and heat-generating appliances. Replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents; they produce the same light but use a fifth the energy and heat.
  • You should also try to avoid heat-generating activities, such as cooking, on hot days or during the hottest part of the day. If you are cooking, use your range fan to vent the hot air out of your house. By reducing the amount of heat in your home, you will have to use less energy to cool it.


  • Plant trees or shrubs to shade air conditioning units, but not block the airflow. A unit operating in the shade uses less electricity. Deciduous trees planted on the south and west sides will keep your house cool in the summer and allow the sunlight to warm the house during the winter. For example just three trees, properly placed around a house, can save between $100 and $250 annually in cooling and heating costs, and daytime air temperatures can be 3 degrees to 6 degrees cooler in tree-shaded neighborhoods.

Roof and Walls

  • Paint your roof white – If you’ve got a flat roof, paint it with a specially formulated reflective paint or just paint it white. The reflective effect will help to keep the rooms under the flat roof much cooler.

Other things to remember

  • Humidity makes room air feel warmer, so reduce indoor humidity. Minimize mid-day washing and drying clothes, showering, and cooking. And when you must do these things, turn on ventilating fans to help extract warm, moist air.
  • Avoid landscaping with lots of unshaded rock, cement, or asphalt on the south or west sides because it increases the temperature around the house and radiates heat to the house after the sun has set.
  • If the attic isn’t already insulated or is under-insulated, insulate it NOW. Upgrading from 3 inches to 12 inches can cut cooling costs by 10 percent.

Best of 2007 Movies: The First Half

Written by Dr. Royce Clemens

The Geeks of Doom’s reviewer extraordinaire, Dr. Royce Clemens, gives us the lowdown with his views on the best this movie season has had to offer so far.

Hot Fuzz

Best Film: HOT FUZZ

In a year and an age where looking cool and making money was tantamount, ONE MAN was still stoked to be at the movies. That man’s name was Edgar Wright and his film was Hot Fuzz. The man behind Shaun of the Dead and the Don’t trailer in Grindhouse gave us the tongue-in-cheek story of London Super-Bobby Nicolas Angel, who is such an awesome police officer that he makes everyone else in the department look bad and is IMMEDIATELY transferred to the sleepy village of Sanford, where the murder rate is extremely low, but the Lethal Accident rate is uncommonly high.

I’d be willing to wager, were one ever to meet Mr. Wright, one could sense his love of film radiating from him much like an aura. He too has the habit of referencing his favorite movies, but instead of incorporating them into narrative
(Tarantino) or grinding the film to a halt in a shallow attempt to show us all the stuff he’s seen, (Roth) Wright imbues the characters with his film’s manic energy until it looks like kids playing POINT BREAK in the backyard. The fun is completely contagious.

When one goes to the movies long enough, one becomes convinced that it’s all about the green for everyone. That they don’t care about the art or their own reputations just as long as we follow suit into the theatres like good little sheep. It’s so refreshing to see a movie by someone who still believes!

Black Snake Moan

Best Male Performance:
Samuel L. Jackson – BLACK SNAKE MOAN

In the second best (and most atypical) film of the year, Samuel L. Jackson stars as Lazarus, a Memphis bluesman turned farmer whose wife has left him for his brother. One day he sees a half-naked and beaten white woman on the side of the road (Christina Ricci). He takes her in and nurses her to health
only to find that she’s a nymphomaniac. Lazarus takes the step of chaining her to the radiator in his tiny shack to get her out of her psychosexual proclivities cold turkey, claiming attempts of “curing her of her wickedness.”

Now what has been set up in the trailers as a button-pushing exploitation picture, preying on race, sexuality, and religion actually comes about as a story of salvation and redemption, as two fundamentally fucked up people fix each other in unconventional ways. In a way, they actually BECOME the kind of people we hear about in blues songs, with Ricci as the woman doing wrong all over town and Jackson as the solemn done-wrong singer himself. And Jackson proves in Black Snake Moan that he is the equal to Jack Nicholson inasmuch as he can make paycheck movies playing himself, and then make the little out of the way flicks with an actual character, where he can knock us all on our asses with his slow burns, astonishing range, and powerful moving depth.

And his version of STACK-O-LEE is pretty fuckin’ cool?


Best Female Performance:
Ashley Judd – BUG

Almost the polar opposite to the same story of Black Snake Moan, William Friedkin‘s Bug is about two people clinging to each other, doing unbelievable psychic and physical damage and needing it all the way. Where BSM was about healing, abandon all hope, ye who enter Bug.

Ashley Judd plays waitress Agnes, whose last thread of hope is nothing but a distant memory. She is in complete freefall, plummeting into the hell that is Michael Shannon‘s Peter, a Gulf War vet with severe mental problems. Because Peter is so nice to her and so sure of himself in a world so uncertain, Agnes follows him into madness. And Judd plays her as a thinly veiled jumble of loneliness and desperation.

Remember about fifteen years ago when RUBY IN PARADISE came out and we were all buzzing about the lil’est Judd? She finally made due.

28 Weeks Later...

Best Direction:
Juan Carlos Fresnadillo – 28 WEEKS LATER?

Ummm? I thought sequels were supposed to suck. Instead of rehashing the same damn story yet a second time, Juan Carlos Fresnadillo‘s sequel to Danny Boyle‘s 28 Days Later raises the stakes in scale, scope, character development, political relevance, and plain ol’ visceral scares.

I was concerned when the digital video that was the cornerstone of the groundbreaking first film was replaced by official Fox backing and Panavision. My fears were baseless as the Spanish Fresnadillo retained the immediacy and actually built upon it, broadening the iris with a clear sense of intimate kinetics and transparent geography in the bigger scenes. Even the fact that it is film as opposed to video works to its advantage. The conceit behind 28 Weeks Later is that everything is supposed to be back to normal, only to be found that it isn’t. The expense film brings to it conveys the sensation of a Fixer-Upper Utopia gone terribly, horribly wrong.

I’ll let ol’ Juan Carlos make Hot Spanish love to my sister all he wants. Let it never be said that I didn’t do anything nice for her.


Best Dialogue Exchange:
Chris Cooper and Ryan Phillippe in BREACH

“My Uncle was a Deacon.”

“That’s great.
Now it’s time to join the Varsity.”

Rather than chuck a shout-out to an entire screenplay, why not look at a single two-line exchange from a movie that tells a story in and of itself? For this one, I’m looking at Billy Ray‘s tense true-story spy thriller Breach.

Chris Cooper plays FBI Agent/National Traitor Robert Hanssen and Ryan Phillippe plays Eric O’Neill, a wet behind the ears agent sent in to snoop and look for evidence of Hanssen’s flawed patriotism. One thing Hanssen prides himself on is his devout Catholicism and asks the spiritual status of O’Neill. O’Neill replies and what follows sets the dynamic for the entire film. Cooper’s sneer and judgmental tone tells Phillippe how it is and THEN some: “I am completely? And wholly? beyond reproach.”

Death Proof

Best Action Sequence:

I, for one, did not whine and moan about how Quentin Tarantino‘s Death Proof half of the Grindhouse double feature was “talky” or “boring.” Show some respect for the craft, will you please? The only way one can win a game of chess is to see the whole board.

We have our villain? Check.
We have our group of vulnerable-yet-tough-as-nails women? Check.

The long dialogue portions got inside the heads of the characters and made things more tense when the EPIC fucking car chase came around. It was during this that I found the fundamental difference between Death Proof and the film that preceded it – Robert RodriguezPlanet Terror. Rodriguez made a movie about how cheesy Grindhouse movies were back in the day, like he was somehow above them. It was campy and cute, but got old real quick. Tarantino made a Grindhouse movie, plain and simple, and what made those movies golden was that the filmmakers thought the movies they were making were genius.

And the best part of the chase?



Best movie NO ONE liked but me:

It’s a giant crocodile eating people.

You can tell me that it’s exploitative and cheesy and predictable, but I? I just don’t care!. I do not give a solitary Tinker’s Damn.

It’s a giant crocodile? eating people!

You? you want more?

JESUS you fuckers are pushy?

5 things you probably didn’t know you could do in Google Docs & Spreadsheets

Written by Josh Lowensohn

I spent part of today at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., talking to some of the folks behind Google Docs & Spreadsheets, part of Google’s Web-based office suite. I asked the product experts I met for their favorite features that often don’t get the limelight or that people simply don’t know about. I picked five that I thought were worth sharing:

1. Live lookup via Google and Google Finance. This is only available for Spreadsheets, but it’s one of the neater advanced tidbits that makes use of Internet connectivity. Using two special formulas, users can create cells that will update constantly with data or information gleaned from Web searches or Google’s finance service. This works for things such as stock symbols, sports statistics, or any other piece of information you want to source and keep up to date automatically. Spreadsheets users can have up to 250 of these live-updating cells per spreadsheet. You can read more about this here and here.

To do a Web search for any item in a spreadsheet cell, just right click it.

(Credit: CNET Networks)

2. Google search inside a spreadsheet. If you come across a word or phrase that’s unfamiliar, or you want to find out more about it, you can search for it without leaving the page. Just highlight it, right click and choose “Search the Web.” The results will open in a new browser window (Note: This doesn’t work in Google Docs, just Spreadsheets.)

3. Color-coded live comments. Microsoft Word junkies are probably well in tune with the program’s pop-up commenting system. Google’s approach in Documents is similar, allowing users to annotate wherever they please, as well as color-code comments. If the author or another contributor finds a comment useful, they can add it into the document by right clicking on it and then choosing that option from the contextual menu. Collaborators can also change their comment coloring on the fly, or create their own custom coloring scheme to denote things such as priority.

You can compare two versions of the same document at different edit points.

(Credit: CNET Networks)

4. Revisioning. Like an entry on Wikipedia, both Google Docs and Spreadsheets offer the option to keep track of changes that have been made over the course of a document’s or spreadsheet’s lifespan. You can jump back and forth between edits you or your collaborators have made on a drop-down timeline menu, or by clicking the “older” and “newer” buttons. The slightly more advanced version of this that’s only available in Google Docs (not Spreadsheets) is the ability to look at two versions of the same document side by side. The application will highlight the differences, and each revision gets its own color code. In any case, if there’s been a snag somewhere, or you find an addition you don’t like, you can nix it on the spot.

5. There are many copies. And they have a plan. The first thought in most people’s minds when they’re working with online apps is, “Where is this file being stored, and what if something bad happens?” Any document or spreadsheet created on the service is constantly being backed up in several places at once. Google uses the same file system for all of their Web apps, called GFS (Google File System), that’s been designed so even if the server in which your file is hosted bursts into flames, the system will automatically switch over to the backup copy. The team says if this were to happen, users wouldn’t even notice. Don’t try this with your computer at home–that is, unless it’s not your fault.

10 Sales and Marketing Tips I learned from Strippers

Stripper Sales and Marketing

Written by

Like you, I like strippers.

However, I generally find myself leaving the strip club with an empty wallet. Any business that can get you to spend all of your money is a good one to be in.

But while walking out of a club one evening, I realized that a big reason they have such a good business is because strippers are such great salespeople. It is not simply due to the fact that they are selling to stupid, horny men like myself, but because they use a lot of highly effective sales and marketing techniques.

You too can achieve great success by applying sales and marketing techniques of strippers. Here are the 10 sales and marketing techniques I have learned from strippers:

Sales Technique #1 – Give them something for nothing
One of the first things a stripper will do is come up to you and flirt with you. She will likely sit on your lap or do something to raise your excitement level. For this, you have to do nothing. But you do get a sample of the service and if it is a good one, your chances of buying the service increases. This also applies to the dances they do on the stage.

Sales Technique #2 – Understand your customers
Strippers get to know their customers by asking questions. This allows them to develop a rapport and tailor the sales pitch?

Sales Technique #3 – Tailor the Sales Pitch
Strippers will try different sales pitches to different people based on what she thinks they like. “I like to get dirty” or “Have you seen my great ass?” or “My tits are real”. Each pitch may be the one thing that converts the potential customer into a buyer. (Pointing out a tight ass works well for me). And she revises her pitch based on experience.

Sales Technique #4 – Make sure you are selling a great product/service
She knows she has to have a great product. If she put on 30 pounds or hadn’t showered for the past 4 days, she would likely not get as many customers. Regardless of how great of a salesperson you are, you can’t do much with a crappy product/service.

Sales Technique #5 – Provide Good Customer Service
She will make sure you are happy on your first dance or she won’t get repeat business or won’t be able to do what she ultimately set out to do?Upsell.

Sales Technique #6 – Upsell
She sells the customer on a relatively cheap service, a lapdance, but then markets her other services to them. She tries to get them to the “champagne room” and sell an upgraded service, which is where the money is at. However, without the first sale, she would never get the larger sale. Customer acquisition is tough. Once she does it, she needs to get as much business as she can.

Sales Technique #7 – Closing Techniques
She will use a variety of closing techniques to get you to buy her services. There are a variety of closing techniques, but two popular ones used by strippers are the compliment close (usually flirting with you) and companion close (getting your buddies to push you into closing the deal).

Sales Technique #8 – Target your audience
Strippers market to individuals that are interested in her service. First, she works in a strip club where guys go specifically for her service, that is obvious. But she also knows which guys to go after within a group or which groups will likely spend the most money. Spending time with cheap-asses only wanting to pay a dollar for a dance will not be a wise use of he precious time.

Sales Technique #9 – Persistence
Even though the audience is qualified, she knows she will get rejections. Even so, she will go up to every guy and ask if they need a lap dance. She also knows that the more guys she asks, the more yes’s she will get.

Sales Technique #10 – Branding
I don’t know any strippers that are named Ethel, Mildred or Agnus. Instead, you will get the pleasure to do business with Cookie, Destiny, Candy, or Raven.