Camera Simulator

If you’re new to photography, particularly cameras with “advanced” controls like aperture/shutter priority or manual mode, then this Camera Simulator might be helpful to you.  It shows the various effects that lighting, distance, focal length, ISO, aperture, and shutter speed have on a photograph.

Nifty…

This is why I read Everything

People sign contracts all the time. Credit cards, mortgages, employment contracts, privacy agreements, non-disclosure agreements, rental agreements, car rentals, etc. Few, if any, actually take the time to read them.  I’m one of the few.  I read everything.

Why?

Because I don’t ever want to get screwed by the terms of an agreement that favor the other party.

Looks like some employees over at Skype didn’t bother to read their stock options agreements. The options they thought were worth thousands or millions are now worthless. Had they read the agreements, they wouldn’t have been fooled. They probably would have gone someplace where their options had value, or they would have had the contract changed.

Caveat subscriptor.

Why Shopping at Target is Awesome

A new Target recently opened up near our apartment.  Since then, our local Walmart hardly gets any visits from us.  Target is just so darn close!

But it’s more than that, I’ve concluded that shopping at Target is awesome!  Charlene and I do the vast majority of our shopping (groceries and sundries) at the following establishments (in alphabetical order):

In terms of preference based on shopping experience, I’d rank Trader Joe’s and Target as tied, then Costco, then Safeway, with Walmart taking dead last.

Don’t get me wrong, Walmart does have low prices, which I greatly appreciate during this recessionary period.  But Walmart is not always cheaper than Target as we’ve been lead to believe.  And I love Costco for certain things, like meat.  But honestly, the shopping experiences in both stores pale in comparison to shopping at my Target.

Here’s why my* Target is so awesome:

  • The employees are empowered. One time I had an item ring up for a few bucks more than it showed on the shelf.  At a Safeway, this would require the checker to send a runner to verify the price.  The runner would then have to come back, report the correct price, and an adjustment would be given.  Sometimes this makes me feel bad as I make the 3-5 people behind me wait as I get my few dollar discount.  At Target, they said, “OK, no problem.” punched in the discount, and away I went.  Nice!
  • I get a 5% instant discount with my RED card. Can’t beat that in this economy.
  • The store is bright, clean, and airy. Can’t get that at a Walmart.
  • I get $0.05 for each reusable bag I use. More savings is better!
  • They sell groceries. One less reason to go to Safeway.
  • The employees are helpful. Unlike Walmart or Costco employees, Target employees are super helpful.  If I ask about a product I’m trying to find, not only do they know the aisle, they offer to take me there and show me. Try getting someone at Costco to do that for you.
  • The employees speak and understand English. This is not meant to be racist at all, but frankly, many of my local Walmart employees don’t understand English, and it’s very frustrating.  I ask them questions, and the answer is either “No” or a shake of the head, even if I ask a question for which there is no “Yes or No” answer.
  • They have a Pizza Hut and a Starbucks in one location. Nothing like satisfying your vices while you shop.
  • They have frequent, continuous sales on the items I buy. Again, it’s all about saving money.
  • Their pharmacy always has my prescriptions ready and on time. Try getting Safeway to fill a prescription on time.  I’ve gone there numerous occasions when they called me to tell me a prescription was filled, only to make me wait 10-15 minutes while they unsuccessfully search for, and then re-fill my prescription on the spot.  They freakin’ called me to tell me it was ready.  Where did it go???
  • I can get $4 generics at the pharmacy. More money saved. I’ve even had instances where the amount of the $4 generic they provided was 4 times as much as the $5 generic I got at Safeway.
  • Their pharmacy sells my asthma medication in pre-mixed vials. When I have really bad asthma, an inhaler just won’t do.  I need it nebulized.  Safeway provided me with a bottle of albuterol and a number of vials of saline solution.  This requires me to mix the albuterol with 3/4 of the vial of saline.  (What in the world do I do with 1/4 of a vial of saline solution???)  I even asked the Safeway pharmacist if I could get it pre-mixed.  She said “No.”  Target sold it to me pre-mixed without me even asking.  When I bought it and ask if I could get it pre-mixed, she said, “It already is.”  Talk about anticipating the customer’s needs!

If I thought about it some more, I’m sure I could come up with dozens of reasons why Target is better.  But this should suffice for now.

Bottom line: If you have a neighborhood Target, patronize it.  You’ll be glad you did.

*I believe most of this list applies to all Targets.  There may be some exceptions, like in the helpfulness of the employees.  So I understand your Target may be absolutely awful, and for that, you have my condolences.  Now you have the street address for mine, so check it out and let me know if you still differ with me.  But this has been my experience at my San Jose Target, and they definitely get an A+ from me.

Thoughts on your new TV

According to “Your New TV Ruins Movies“, we should all buy plasma TVs and for our LCD/LED displays, we need to turn off the motion smoothing function.  We have a Samsung LCD/LED TV.  And to be quite honest, I never liked the look of motion smoothing to begin with.  I’m not sure how the pro’s describe it, but to me, the picture “looks so real, you can tell it’s fake.”  What I mean is that the lighting, makeup, CGI, etc. all seem to become more apparent.  Not sure how else to describe it, but perhaps the article accurately captures the reason: it ruins movies.

I do have to say that the color on the sample Inception screenshots looks pretty awful.   Leonardo DiCaprio looks more like Hellboy than Jack Dawson.  However, I really do like the sharpening and brightness.  The buildings in the background are significantly sharper, and the columns in the mid ground are more 3 dimensional to me.

Cantonese Green Onion and Ginger Sauce

If you’ve ever had real Chinese food, like at a Chinese wedding banquet, you’ve probably seen the Cantonese Green Onion/Scallion and Ginger sauce served with a boiled or roasted chicken.

I set out on a quest to duplicate it.

I started out with the general knowledge that it was scallions, oil, and salt.  Honestly, I didn’t realize there was any ginger in there at first, but my sister-in-law confirmed it to be so.  Additionally, my mother-in-law mentioned that everything was raw, no cooking involved here, so that does make it slightly tenuous to eat, especially for people with weakened immune systems because of the possibility of getting E. Coli.

After a fair amount of trial and error, here’s what I came up with:

Ingredients:
2 bunches of scallions
1 Tbsp minced ginger (you can get the pre-minced stuff in the jar, or mince your own fresh)
1.5-2 tsp salt
1/2 C Grapeseed oil

  1. Rough chop the scallions into 1/2″ pieces or so.  This doesn’t have to be perfect.
  2. Throw everything into a chopper or blender.  (I use the chopper accessory on my Cuisinart Stick Blender)
  3. Ta-da!  You’re done.

The most common application I’ve seen is with boiled chicken.  But it seems to go with chicken in general–fried, boiled, broiled, grilled, etc.  I have yet to try it with beef, but I’m guessing it has to be good.

Sorry, no photo of the mixture.  Next time I make it, I’ll add one.

Build your network

A couple of days ago, I wrote a post on the necessity of being on LinkedIn if you’re looking for a job (or if you ever intend to do so in the future).

One other thing I’d recommend, particularly if you’re a new grad is to begin working on your network now.

Mark and Mike from Manager Tools have a podcast on this as well:
Building a Network

The huge takeaway I got from that podcast was the necessity of keeping in touch with folks every few months.  Mike and Mark recommend a strategy they’ve affectionately named “Ctrl+Shift+K”.  (Listen to the podcast if you’re confused.)

Frankly, I don’t follow their guidance to a “T” in this area.  I use Google Calendar, and put in weeklong reminders to myself:


I pretty much have a different set of people to call each week.  As you can see, next month I’ll be calling Christopher, Malcolm, and Rob.  I also put their phone numbers in the appointment so they’re handy.  These “meetings” are set to recur on my calendar every 3 months.

Now it’s your turn.  Go build your network!

If you’re job hunting you gotta be on LinkedIn

The title pretty much says it all.  I’ve had a number of conversations with unemployed people (new grads, and experienced folks alike) lately, and I’m surprised by the fact that many of them aren’t on LinkedIn.

If you’re unaware, LinkedIn is the Facebook of the business world.  You won’t (generally speaking) see pictures of drunken revelry, and people’s latest culinary creations. But what you will find is a treasure trove of networking and job opportunities.

I’ve gotten countless leads on job opportunities through LinkedIn.  Most often, it’s through recruiters–internal or external–who are looking to fill a position with someone who has my skillset.  Currently, that’s Workday Integrations.  I even had a number of rounds of interviews at Google due to a LinkedIn connection.  Go figure.

Anyways, for the new grad, it might be more difficult to get references for jobs for two simple facts:

  1. You have no “real” experience.
  2. You don’t really know anyone.

But that will change in time, and that’s certainly no reason not to have a LinkedIn profile.  Besides, you’ve gotta get started on it eventually, so for the time being, you might as well add all of your college friends as well as any people you may have worked for–think on-campus or random part-time jobs.  You never know when 5 or 10 years down the line, Bobby from Accounting 101, or  Suzy from Physics 102 might be working at a place you want to work, and you end up getting the job because of your connection with them.

I’ve mentioned Manager Tools before.  Mark and Mike are fantastic.  (And their staff, Maggie and Wendii, are amazing as well.)  For some guidance on using LinkedIn as a professional, I’d recommend starting with their podcasts:

LinkedIn for Managers Part 1
LinkedIn for Managers Part 2

 

So there ya go!  If you’re looking for a job, and even if you’re not, you need to be on LinkedIn. You never know when you’re going to need it.