Archive for August, 2006

A shout-out to my Acura dealership

Wednesday, August 30th, 2006

Car buying is usually a pretty stressful process. I went through it last December and January. I didn’t realize I hadn’t blogged about it, but it looks like I hadn’t. (I did post some photos of my new car on the companion of this blog, my Flickr account.) In sum, the process ended up being just fine and I came away happy with the outcome.
I am now at the McGrath Acura Dealership in Morton Grove, Illinois where I bought my wonderful car. There is nothing wrong with the vehicle, there never has been, I just brought it in for a check-up before my long drive out to California soon. I figured I’d get an oil change as well. It turns out that the first one after the purchase of a new vehicle is free. That’s nice. So is the full check, and the car wash, too, of course. (I knew that, I’ve taken advantage of that a few times already.)

An additional perk of sitting in the comfy waiting area sipping hot chocolate is that it turns out they have free wireless here. Who knew. I brought my laptop to do some work, but I wasn’t expecting to be able to go online. Nice.

In general, I’ve had great experiences with McGrath Acura, so if anyone in Chicagoland is reading this, take note. (And if you decide to go and buy a vehicle at this dealership, be sure to mention me as a referral so I can get the referral bonus.:)

One more point: the Acura RSX is a really great car, and much more affordable than most other Acura models, fwiw.

Links for 2006-08-30

Wednesday, August 30th, 2006

Links for 2006-08-29

Tuesday, August 29th, 2006

Links for 2006-08-28

Monday, August 28th, 2006

LIESNS PL8S

Sunday, August 27th, 2006

In addition to taking pictures of restroom signs, I also enjoy looking around for interesting license plates. There are plenty of these in Illinois, apparently one in five drivers has one. I find this somewhat surprising given their cost: $76 extra for personalized plates and $123 for vanity plates (and who knew there was a difference between those two categories?).

I used to take a lot of pictures of them, but given the volume I have decided to focus mostly on ones that I can decipher and find at least somewhat interesting. Some of my favorites: EUROPA, KODALY, MAKE ART, GENEVE 4 (although that would be cleaner without the number), GOOGLE and MR PHOTO. For that last one I reversed course and went back to park on the street and capture it. I am serious about my collection.:) Among others’ photos, I’ve especially appreciated finds that have some Internet-related meaning (FLICKR‘s the best), but some others are fun as well (e.g. GRUETZI) plus the ones that are not obvious to decipher (although if they are too cryptic I’m likely to miss the meaning). Others are just outright curious, for example, who knew emotional expressions about one’s Mom is a popular theme (I LOV MUM, ILUVMA).

The issue of vanity plates can get tricky quickly as certain expressions are not always allowed. One has to wonder how closely suggested plates get scrutinized. Or would the reverse of a plate be checked (say, you want to send a message to those viewing your plate in their rear-view mirror, do state official consider the reverse reading of submitted requests)? Then there is the issue of specialty plates that support certain causes. The environmental ones don’t cause much contraversy, but the pro-life ones do.

Illinois has a search program available so you can check whether your preference is available. It turns out that mine is, but I’m not ready to spend the $123. I guess I could always just get a bumper sticker.

I see that there are plenty of vanity plates in Calfornia so I look forward to capturing those when I move there in a couple of weeks.

Got a few seconds?

Sunday, August 27th, 2006

Then click here.

Read the rest of this entry »

Links for 2006-08-26

Saturday, August 26th, 2006

Firefox extension incompatibility problem

Friday, August 25th, 2006

E-Blog readers have been extremely helpful in the past when it comes to technical difficulties around here so I thought I’d try to get some advice in a related realm once again.

For months I’ve had trouble installing some Firefox extensions. As soon as the xpi file downloads, I’m told that “[xyz extension] could not be installed, because it is incompatible with Firefox 1.5.0.6″. This is then usually followed by the following additional note: “[xyz extension] will only work with Firefox versions from 1.5 to 1.5.0.*”.

Firefox extension incompatibility problem

What I don’t get here is that 1.5.0.6 IS a 1.5.0.* version so why don’t these extensions work? Any ideas?  I would really like to try some of these extensions, but I can’t right now. Thanks!

Links for 2006-08-25

Friday, August 25th, 2006

Links for 2006-08-23

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2006

Links for 2006-08-22

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2006

Being overqualified

Monday, August 21st, 2006

I was catching up with a friend recently who, after receiving a Master’s degree, decided to move to a professionally less-than-ideal location for personal reasons. She’s been doing okay by picking up work here and there, but it’s been a long process. She was explaining to me the frustrations of being told that you are overqualified for a job. I could definitely see her perspective and was nodding throughout her desciption of various recent experiences. But after the responses I received to my recent post (posted on Crooked Timber, I seemed to have forgotten to post it here as well) about outsourcing advice, I am starting to understand the other side’s position better. A few people emailed me offering their services. The problem is, pretty much all of them seem to be overqualified, which puts me in a difficult position.

My motivation for looking into outsourcing was twofold: 1. to see whether I could find additional assistance with work since undergraduate students don’t always have as many hours to give to a project as is necessary and there are a limited number of graduate students locally; 2. to see whether I could save some money by hiring people elsewhere.

Certainly, removing the geographical constraint of the job helps and clearly there are people out there who could use some work that is open to a flexible schedule. However, it’s not at all clear whether there is much money to be saved.

First, my impression regarding outsourcing services available online is that they may be cost-effective if you need highly qualified people (specialized tech skills, for example), but there was nothing on the various Web sites that made me think I would necessarily come out ahead by hiring people from elsewhere for the jobs of interest to me (some data entry, transcription and such). I pay undergraduate students $8-$9/hour and the sites I saw didn’t seem to compete with that well.

Second, I got responses from people who sound like they would be very responsible and could definitely do the job well, but they seemed overqualified. Years ago I paid graduate students $10/hour so today that seems inappropriate. However, I wouldn’t want to pay more for these tasks than I do to people working on them locally. I have no idea what the going rate is in various fields. I know in computer science it is much much higher, but what is it in humanities fields? Perhaps what seems inappropriate to me would be fine for some people who are really just looking for something flexible to supplement their income.

I definitely know from experience that I don’t always do a very good job of estimating what may be a perfectly acceptable job and wage for a student. I sometimes feel badly about giving out very simple tasks, but then I remind myself that I was just fine with cleaning bathrooms and dishes – those were two separate jobs:) – in my first year in college and was outright happy later on with my job in the library and doing simple tasks for professors.

But when it comes to graduate students or people with advanced degrees, this all gets trickier. I do not want to insult someone with an advanced degree by suggesting a rate that seems way too low to me. At the same time, the potential employee does not want to mention a rate with the fear of asking for less than what I am willing to pay. Regarding this latter point, the potential employees don’t know that I won’t pay people in similar situations less than what I already pay others. (I would if the person lived in a country with much lower cost of living. Thus my inquiry about outsourcing.) That is, if an undergraduate student came to me to volunteer his or her services for free in my lab, I would still only hire him or her with pay, because I believe that a person will take the job more seriously if he or she is getting paid for it. Moreover, because others in the lab are getting paid, I believe everyone should unless there is a different payoff to the assistant. For example, an undergraduate student might work without pay on one of my projects if he or she is getting course credit as per his or her preference.

Of course, it is too simplistic to see this as nothing but an hourly wage issue. It is completely possible that people with more training or background with related work would do the job more efficiently and thus would not cost more on the aggregate even if their hourly rate is higher. But this would require quite a bit of logistics to figure out. (There is some cost to starting work with a new person and training them for a task so you don’t want to get too many folks involved.)

I will be hiring for a full-time position soon. I will make sure to post the salary up front to avoid the above complications. If people see what a position pays then it should be fair to assume that even if they are overqualified, they are willing to work for the offered amount if they decided to submit an application. That still doesn’t solve all concerns, by the way, given that the employer may fear losing the employee to a better opportunity. But at least it removes one point of confusion.

Links for 2006-08-21

Monday, August 21st, 2006

Desktop icon cartoon

Sunday, August 20th, 2006

This is pretty cute although it would’ve worked at least as well with a less violent theme. It would be interesting to see something like this with some of the more recent popular programs like Firefox. Not too hard to guess who would win. Anyone know of such a creation?

Links for 2006-08-20

Sunday, August 20th, 2006

Need help with MS Word “feature”

Saturday, August 19th, 2006

I recently received and opened an MS Word file that had an annoying setting:

Help me with MS Word, please

I don’t know how to get rid of this “feature”. But I really really would like to turn it off as I find it distracting and see absolutely no point to it. Any suggestions? Or any ideas as to what it may be called or where I would likely find people who may be able to help? Thanks!

UPDATE: Thanks to David Mackinder’s comment, I was able to resolve this issue within a couple of hours of posting about it.  Thank you, David!

Social bookmarking links on E-blog

Saturday, August 19th, 2006

Following Jim‘s example, I have installed the Sociable WordPress plugin and so now each blog entry has little icons below it making it easy to bookmark a post. I don’t anticipate people wanting to bookmark too many of these posts, but it’s easy enough to implement the feature, and I like how the little icons look.:)

Can you spot the spam source?

Saturday, August 19th, 2006

McAffee SiteAdvisor offers quizzes to test users’ skills about sites that might lead to spam and spyware. I found them interesting. It’s not always possible to tell what site may lead to spam simply based on the site’s looks. And in some cases you have to do a reasonably careful reading of the site’s privacy policy to figure out whether use of the service may result in hundreds of spam messages within a few days of signing up.

This is an interesting idea, a potentially neat way to educate users about spam and spyware problems. The tool is lacking significanty in one domain though. I think it would be MUCH more useful if the results page included an analysis of the privacy policies to point out to users what it is exactly that should serve as a red flag in the various policy statements.

The survey I administered last Winter to a sample of 1,300+ college students about their Internet uses included a question about how often, if ever, students read a site’s privacy policy. It turns out that 37% of respondents never do so and an additional 41% only do so rarely. No wonder people are still struggling with spam problems.

Unfortunately, at some level it doesn’t matter what you do if your friends are not careful with your address. I have a very private address I had only given out to a few dozen people emphasizing several times that they should never enter it on any Web sites (e.g. ecards or whatnot) and should only use it for one-on-one communication (so also requesting that they avoid its inclusion on cc lines). Some of my friends couldn’t follow these requests and now the address receives about 40 spam messages/day. I realize that’s not a lot in the grand scheme of things, but the point is that none of that was due to anything I had done with the address given that I had never entered it on any Web sites and had only ever used it to send one-on-one emails to a few dozen people.

Links for 2006-08-19

Saturday, August 19th, 2006

Links for 2006-08-18

Friday, August 18th, 2006