Late Night Reading

The painting was like none of his others. It was just of me, of my head and shoulders, with no tables or curtains, no windows or powderbrushes to soften and distract. He had painted me with my eyes wide, the light falling across my face but the left side of me in shadow. I was wearing blue and yellow and brown. The cloth wound round my head made me look not like myself, but like Griet from another town, even from another country altogether. The background was black, making me appear very much alone, although I was clearly looking at someone. I seemed to be waiting for something I did not think would ever happen.

Girl with a Pearl Earring, Tracy Chevalier

Interview Quesitons

You are in a stopped car with a helium balloon floating in the passenger compartment. All the windows are closed. The car accelerates forward. With respect to the passenger compartment, does the balloon move forward, move backward, or stay stationary?

Close Encounters with the Brainteaser Job Interview, John Kador [via Hiring Technical People]

I would hate to have to answer that question during a job interview. I have no idea what the balloon would do nor do I know how to work this out. Asking puzzles during interviews has become an accepted technique when interviewing technical people. I have used such questions in the past but prefer the sort that don’t have one correct answer. I’m interested in finding out how the candidate approaches problem solving, but if the candidate responds immediately with the right answer I don’t know if they made a lucky guess, have heard the question before, or are really bright.

Recorded Customer Service Calls

The latest version of NICE’s software performs “word spotting,” scanning sound files for predetermined words or phrases, such as “cancel my order” or the names of competitors. It can even search for anger in callers’ or agents’ voices by examining the pitch, speed, and other criteria, much as a lie detector would.

Because conversations can be analyzed as easily as a spreadsheet, they represent a potential gold mine of information about why customers buy (or why not), which competitors are stealing customers, and which agents defuse irritated callers. The system identifies the most valuable customer interactions, says Chris Files, quality development facilitator at FedEx Custom Critical, which is about to employ word spotting. One of the search terms she plans to use is “wow.” “Why not?” she asks. “We want to track the customer experience.”

This call is being recorded, Fast Company

Whitehead Witch

The eight poor wretches who stood in line at the bar were bedraggled and showed signs of their incarceration. They possessed such a strange variety of ill looks, and from their diabolical appearance anyone could have assumed this alone would give grounds for suspecting them of witchcraft. They stood with their heads bowed as their names were read out then ordered to sit on a bench.

– The Witches of Islandmagee, Charles McConnell

I was bought quite a few books this Christmas. This hasn’t really happened before as I read a lot of books and my friends are always concerned that I will already have read the book they want to buy. Gift buying is always difficult and probably more so at Christmas. I’ve always believed that people find it difficult to buy things that they themselves don’t like and also that the gift tells you something about your friendship. So what was Tony trying to tell me when he bought this particular book? And is Marc to blame?

Christmas Cheer

Some people grow up and spread cheer. Chocoholics just grow up and spread.

Chocolate Lovers

My sister bought me quite a selection of things for Christmas including a book (which the quote is from), a photo album and a hair dryer. However, by far the most interesting was a joint present for Marty and myself. Christine and her children had been to stay with us on a number of occasions during the year and Christine thought it would be amusing to get us a few things that she thought would come in useful. She bought us a metal colander within which she put a duster, a dish cloth, a few lightbulbs, a sugar bowl, a candle, drinking chocolate, after eight mints, and a Christmas pudding. No-one has ever bought me a duster as a present and I’m not convinced that anyone other than my sister would dare.