Friday, May 29, 2009

Ah, places to vent

As anyone who has ever met me knows, I am all about the venting.

According to Joseph De Avila, WSJ. May 28, 2009, some New Yorkers went to LaidOff Camp and instead of hearing speakers blab about the joys of starting your own business, the session turned into a major bitch fest.

These LaidOff thingies are appearing around the country. You can not only complain, but meet people and maybe even get advice on surviving or going on your own.

These camps and meetings emanate from social networking and come together fast.

A favorite complaint is job fairs—waiting hours for a crummy selection of employers, Sometimes people waited to belly up and learn to sell Avon.

Not what they had in mind.

If you want to find a place to have a drink and socialize and BITCH without employers getting mad at you, check out,,, or

Then, feel free.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Surviving when others are falling

More layoffs and you are not laid off. Can you deal with the weird mixture of relief, anger, fear, depression, dread, and regret?

It depends on how the company went about the layoffs, experts say. If they did it with respect—rather than frog-marching people to their cars on Friday—you will have an easier time staying loyal and working harder.

Note to employers: It helps if the company tells remaining staff the business justification for the layoffs. I read today that one little company had to drop health insurance, but did keep people on? How would you feel about that?

Someone in command needs to say he or she made the decision—not just that a “decision was made.”

People process better if they can ask questions, employers. If you are not being laid off see if you can find out where you stand.

If they have already cut a lot of things that make staying less desirable, remember, you still have a job.

This may be why “suck it up” was invented. Or maybe just the expression, "This sucks."

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Overqualified--or undersmart?

Jane Porter (WSJ, May 26, 2009) reports that a NY woman sent out 100 resumes to receptionist jobs, but got only one callback. Then she took her Master’s off of it. The calls started coming.

Many people are willing to take a pay cut to have some job these days, but can’t get the chance.

Still, recruiters don’t like this because if the person lies on the resume--even to underplay experience—lying is lying.

Yet, some applicants try not to look so senior-level if they can. Instead of manager, they may use the term office support.

Even some agencies now suggest this.

But once you have done it, your resume may no longer get you the interviews for the job you really want.

Tough call. Maybe if you are smart enough to work the situation this way, you deserve the better job.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Giving when it hurts

Frank Greve of the McClatchy Newspapers, says poor people are the most generous givers. He cites a homeless panhandler who buys a hungry friend a cheeseburger with a tenth of his net worth.

Remember net worth—people used to have that before the housing market crashed.

America’s poor give more percentage-wise than higher income groups. This is similar to how people who have been bartenders and wait staff always tip well.

You know it counts.

The poorest fifth of households gave an average of 4.3% of their income. The richest, 2.1 percent.

My late father tipped 15% on the first $10 of a check, then 10%. Why? Who knows?

Don’t forget all the undocumented money earned in the US and sent home to Mexico and other places.

Women are more generous than men. Older give more than younger. More poor people go to church—where they also give.

When I get a food bank solicitation in the mail, I send $5 or $10 in cash—don’t even bother with a check.

Female panhandlers—I probably will give.

I used to have an extremely rich client who told me once that he never gave to panhandlers. Why give them $1, when he could afford to give them $20 or $50, he asked me. So he gave nothing.

Giving or not giving is a wacky subject. I will say I am not a fan of the well-dressed con man who says he needs enough to get to a job interview. He takes your card or address and says he will send the money back.

It is such a common con--in DC, at least--that everyone knows it.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Can't afford child care anymore?

Sue Shellenbarger writes in the WSJ (May 20, 2009) that some couples are scrambling to keep an eye on the ball and the tots at the same time.

They trade off the kids in the parking lot before one has to go to a meeting and the other has to spell him or her with the kids.

This has resulted in Dad doing more.

The whirl is considered so stressful that it is compared with a treadmill test at the cardiologist’s.

Some couples will survive (meaning marriage), the article said, some will not.

We are talking shared child care here and scheduling, are we not? Come on!

Psychologists say try to concentrate on the love and why you married the person when the arrangements get frustrating or overwhelming.


And of course, be grateful you have two people to trade off. What do single parents do? I had child care and it was still a juggling act.

But we all survived.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Ixnay on bad references

According to the Associated Press’s Eileen A.J. Connelly, most companies still check references you give, although that may be waning a little with the coming of the social networking sites, which they also check (or they may look for your coworkers on a networking site and ask them informally).

I always tell my refs to say I kicked heroin without a program, which probably goes a long way toward explaining why I am self-employed.

Asking someone to give you a reference is tricky. And you should ask. It would be nice to know what they plan to say, but don’t put them on the spot.

Make sure the person knows you well, but also knows your work accomplishments and habits. Think of vendors you have worked with, clients. You could even offer to draft a few talking points if you think the person would appreciate it or be receptive to that.

At least remind potential references of how long you have worked at a place and what you did.

Send a short email to the reference and say someone will call and here is a description of the job and why you want it.

If the person says they are not allowed to get involved, don’t push it.

If you are laid off, ask for a reference letter as you wind things up. Otherwise, people can “forget” or they get laid off, too.

If you suspect one of your references is trashing you, there are firms who will call and see what they say. Might be worth a google.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Always get your medical records

No matter how many hassles you get into, you need one more: If you are hospitalized or get tests, get those records.

First, never ever assume that if you don’t hear back on a medical test, no news is good news. There are seven ways results can go astray. If you don’t hear back in 2 weeks, call.

Second, if you are in the hosp or go to the ER, get the record. Yes, it’s a soul-sapping hell of bureaucracy—but remember, this is the info on you the govt wants to have. Don’t you want it to at least be accurate?

Ah, but it’s not that easy.

First, you must call the hospital, ask for "patient records," then they will mail you a form and you fax or mail it back. In days or weeks, the records come.

Then you read through—my mother was in the ER two weeks ago for 3.5 hours and they managed to say she has Alzheimer’s (nope), Type II diabetes (nope), and was unconscious from the fall that brought here there (also nope).

Under HIPAA, they say you can “correct” the record. But au contraire—you cannot get the info out, just file your own competing statement which supposedly comes up the first thing on the screen if someone accesses the record.

Will a doctor believe you, the dopey layperson, or the doctor who supposedly wrote the other items? Who knows.

I am just saying—these records make interesting reading. See what you are getting tagged with.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Cautious new world

The other night on Southland, a cop show, the cops saw some kids had posted themselves surrounding a dead woman in an alley and wearing jewelry she had on in earlier shots.

We’re not in Kansas anymore, kids.

One company manager reprimanded people home sick for posting on Facebook. Well—he must have been WELL and looking at Facebook.

The head of Domino’s had to apologize publicly when some employees posted “booger pizza” pix on YouTube.

Another real deep thinker posted a tweet that said he got a job at Cisco but would hate the work there. A Cisco person saw it and informed the stupid job hunter that Cisco sort of knew its way around the web and tough for him because he wasn’t getting the job.

Some people have posted on bad doctors—ooops, the docs sued.

Some people do LinkedIN for work, Facebook for friends.

Remember the phrase “never the twain shall meet”? Maybe not in olden times. Now, “twains” have a way of hooking up.

You don’t want your clients subjected to your cat pix or the lampshade on your head at a party.

Do they still have lampshades?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Hippies redux

What goes around…well, you know the rest

Co-housing is the new buzzword for seniors, meaning those boomers who used to munch sprouts and play guitars in communes.

Your humble here even was active in a yoga ashram for 10 yrs.

Silver Sage is is one such compound-like deal. Elderspirit Community at Trailview in Virginia is another. But the US only has three—Denmark has 250.

The big three things residents avoid—isolation, boredom and helplessness.

They give each other permission to get info from the hospital. They cook for each other if one is sick.

My female friends and I have thought of this—combine our meager funds, live someplace. We would require a pool and a very cute pool man, naturally. And a bartender. Like the Love Boat on land.

But for now, I am busy taking care of my mother. I live my life and hers.

At least it’s not lonely.

Friday, May 15, 2009

"Hire me, or else." How many characters is that?

A Dutch marketing agency is asking applicants to apply in 140 characters or less—I guess that’s the internationally recognized good length for pith now—thanks to Twitter.

That word contains the word “twit,” have you noticed? Just sayin’.

So that’s it now? The “elevator pitch” is now an extra-wordy haiku?

I am tempted to end this post there—after all, wouldn’t want anyone to have to do that tiresome reading.

But of course, I can’t shut up. I am a communicator. We all need to communicate—not compress.

We are not mimes and the whole world is not one big Anime.

The New York Times has a regular section where you pick one word that describes the economy…click on it…

(Forget it it—that word is taken.)


Like that one? See? I can be post-literate.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

All about technology now

I should talk—some of my friends think I am a dino for being on AOL and so on. And I don’t twitter since I heard the term “digital macarena.” I can find plenty of ways to waste time and I am fairly sure my friends don’t want my daily schedule since they don’t even read this blog—which could actually help them.

But Chad Graham, Arizona Republic, May 7, 2009, says no matter how old you are, you need to get on the box. Of course—you are reading this, so you are on the box. Duh.

For one thing, people submit resumes online now. You can meet your next employer on Linked In (maybe).

It used to be: send the resume, and wait. Now, send the resume and send another one, you may never hear anything, so you can’t wait.

You must also remember that employers google and go to Facebook and the other spacy-facies.

Blogging, though, can help you. It depends. If you are doing a job search blog—like Martin Piraino (, this can help you.

Whatever you do, be careful what’s out there…I had one would-be client who knew all about my ruined right eye ( and asked me if I could see well enough to type.

Most days, yes. But lesson noted.

In my case, my role in life is Tiresome Gadfly, so it’s OK. You should take heed, though. The pix of the gang at the Dead concert have to go.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

I am looking for a new job--repeat after me

You don't say, "I got laid off and we have 2 hours of money left in the bank." You say, "Oh, by the way, I am scouting around for a new job in the systems analyst field if you hear of anything."

Have a one-minute spiel at the ready.

Networking, networking…I saw Twitter described as “digital macarena,” so that sorta killed that for me…for now, at least. I am on Linked In, but for some reason, in a writing group, there appeared a lurid tale of incest…er, OK, thanks, made my morning.

I take networking to mean asking around if anyone has heard of an opening. Word of mouth.

There are also networking groups, where people meet weekly to exchange leads on business or jobs—these can cost.

The important thing is not to be shy. Tell people you are looking. This means at church (I used to write a bulletin insert of people and what jobs they wanted when I lived in DC), your home owners association, librarians, at the barbershop, everyplace.

Again, I also suggest weird approaches—such as targeting a company where you would like to work, find someone (thru networking) who works there, try to get on an inside track of posted jobs and so on.

Go down every alley, follow every lead.

Most importantly, do something--make a call, check ads, send materials--every day of the week. Preferably more than one thing.

It's easy to put things off--but don't.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

What? "Healthy" foods may not be?

Melinda Beck, who writes the Health Journal in the WSJ, says food manufacturers may be woofing us on what is really healthy—this at a tme where people need to withstand stress and still not spend a lot.

The average American, she writes, eats 90 lbs of chicken a year, but a third of that is really pumped with salt water.

If you are trying to cut salt, don’t go to a salt “substitute” without asking the doc—many contain another electrolyte that makes your heartbeat—namely, potassium. You want sodium and potassium in balance to stay alive.

If you chew gum, you may save 10 cals on nonsugar gum, but sorbital may give you the runs.

Even products labeled No Trans Fat (ooo, arteries hate this stuff) may contain some—manufacturers can “round down.”

Wheat bread may look wheaty (brown coloring) but if it says “enriched wheat flour,” it isn't "whole."

Added fiber in those powders may help lower cholesterol and all those other good things—theoretically—but fiber from foods is better.

Yogurt…yipes. Those cultures are supposed to be active—meaning fight diarrhea.

Those "super waters" aren’t swift. Most Americans don’t need the vitamins they contain.

Forget Omega 3 fortification—eat some fish a few times a week.

Do judge a food by its cover—and by your BS detector, which better be in good working order these days.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Ex-miliary need to pay special atten-hut

Despite two wars, people still leave the service.

There is not much call in the civilian world for an armorer or squad leader, but there might be for an inventory control or supply chain specialist or a team leader with a project manager certification.

Chad Graham writes about this in the Arizona Republic (May 5, 2009).

Military people have been taught personal discipline and to listen to and follow instructions, but have trouble translating this into civilian terms. They tend to have higher unemployment rates than their civilian counterparts.

Palladian International, a Virginia career coaching firm, specializes in military people.

Often, ex-military write a resume that only another military person would understand.

Such resumes are too long and don’t mention the past employer. It’s better to keep resumes to 350 words, according to this firm. (I found that low myself.)

Better to show specific examples of challenges and results.

Show that you finish tasks and achieve noteworthy results.

Don’t be modest. You need to talk about results. Money saved, money earned, thing invented, programs expanded, that sort of thing.

How long did each project take? What was the budget? How many people did you supervise? Did you get a promotion? Try to minimize the jargon. If you don’t know what the civilian equivalent of your military task was—ask around.

You know all this.

But often people tend to get shy. Not a good time for that.

Friday, May 8, 2009

From riches to rags

MaryEllen Fillo, Hartford Courant, says most people used to get new wardrobes when the seasons changed. Ah, good times…I remember well.

But I still want to get at least get an item or two. It’s in the blood.

Before Stacy and Clinton come after you from What Not to Wear, here are some ways Fillo suggests to brighten your look without breaking your bank (or whatever your hedgefund-payday loan thing is calling itself these days).

The secret is to shop “at home,” meaning in your own closet.

Jeans are still in, capris likewise. Just update with a top or two (even catalogs have “sales,” wait for them, or look for the clearance sections on websites).

You have jeans. OK, put on a top with a scarf this time. Do you have some old sling-backs—you are the “After” in What Not to Wear.

Have some pants that are too short—make them REALLY short. Needle and thread—remember those? Or seamstresses and tailors also need to eat—getting pants hemmed is $12 out here.

Have an old pencil skirt? Get one of those tunic-length tops (on sale, natch) and belt it.

Dump out the closet on the bed. Lose the blazers with shoulder pads and other stuff that can’t be salvaged.

This includes the tube tops when your body now has a muffin top.

Wear more than one necklace. Maybe buy a new purse.

You know what I do? When I am bored, I go on eBay, look for weird or retro jewelry that has an hour to go on the auction, bid a dollar or two and see if I get it. Usually the whole mess is way under $10 and it’s fun.

Remember fun?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Make a list--and stick with it

I think I may have mentioned using a grocery list as a way of saving money in the store.

Did you know the first one found was 80 AD—a Roman army list. I thought they had pillaging for that, what do I know.

Anyway, Timothy Martin writes about this mundane little item in the May 5, 2009 WSJ.

One woman said she was spending $100 at the store and coming home with only bread and milk. A man said he got home with three kinds of toll house cookies and nothing else. Something had to give!

One woman organizes her list on her iPhone, which then removes every item as she buys it.

Most people are using coupons, too—what do you think of those creepy systems to enter your foods on the computer so the coupons can be sent to your store card…At least Big Nephew, if not Big Brother.

Still…Meijer, a groc co in the Midwest, links people’s weekly meal plans to coupons for the foods on them.

Another person in the story went online and found recipes for the Chinese food her family loves. Saves $50 a meal.

I remember the first time I went to someone’s house and her mother made Chinese food—and get this, she was not Chinese! I was amazed.

The site is getting a lot of action. is also huge.

Check out to learn how to make a list.

Going to a website to learn to make a shopping list. What will the "kids" think of next?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Are you getting the best deal on unemployment?

Ianthe Jeanne Duga, writing in the WSJ (Apr 20, 2009), says benefits can vary even within a state. She cited some people in Maine laid off from two plants—one group got 26 weeks, the other got two years, health care subsidies, and free college, and other perks.

Apparently there is something called Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) offering better benefits to those who lose their jobs due to imports.

This program has even been beefed up under the stimulus.

Only 50,000 people get TAA—and more qualify.

This is just part of the unfair patchwork of benefits.

There is also a separate program for railway workers.

Even plain vanilla unemployment, though, has been sweetened with another $25 in the check and a tax credit of 65% of health costs.

But again, those TAA people got 80% for health and will get as much as 2.5 years of bennies. TAA people over 50 can even get $12K in “lost wages” if they do get a job.

Many companies have withdrawn their TAA apps to see if this gets even richer.

And the Dept of Labor is already crushed with applications. Companies have to meet some criteria on how many people are affected and hos this was caused by imports.

Might be worth asking about—but if your company has qualified you probably would have been told.

Still—you can ask anybody anything.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

"The Secret"--you don't know the half of it

Remember that smash called "The Secret," basically positive thinking leading to fabbie wealth and success?

The author, Rhonda Byrne, sold 2 million of these. Made Harry Potter look like a dweeby little chump.

That was 2007.

Then, as Steve Salerno said in the WSJ (May 1, 2009), something happened to the economy. The faithful, as he put it, were left standing at the curb visualizing that Ferrari while the repo man took the Ford.

Seems “The Secret” left out some vital things—things that will only cost you $97 to get. It’s called “11 Forgotten Laws.”

Basically this and other “after market” books say, “Recession, don’t play.”

One guy even said the San Diego fires had hopped over the houses of the positive thinkers.

As Salerno put it: THIS might be something you want to refuse to participate in.” We may be broke, but we had help getting this way, and aren’t this stupid.

Ooops, did that sound negative? Guess it did.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Retirement? What's that?

Personally, I don't “get” retirement. Is work so bad you looked forward your whole life to driving around in an RV or something? Everyone is different.

It is so hard to get work now, though, I guess I am retired. I drag in a third of what I used to, worry, and play with my animals—is that retired? If it is, I retirement blows (except for my animals).

Of course, for people planning a retirement, the funds have slipped away now in many cases. Apparently, some hotshot bankers and politicians needed the money more, gave it to their buds, disappeared it or took it or something. Anyhow, we don’t have it.

William Arnold, who writes an “Aging” column in the Arizona Republic, says staying at work helps you “add” to your retirement funds—doesn’t he mean, replace some fraction?

Job loss for those over 50 has almost doubled in the last five months.

And let’s not be too gentle—it’s damn hard for someone over 55 to find new employment—taking an average of 25 weeks or more (that’s 18 weeks for the youngsters).

Older people may have to change fields—and should look for jobs that can’t be whipped out from under them and sent overseas.

“Great Jobs Under the President’s Stimulus Plan” is a book by Laurence Shatkin. He suggests getting into pest control, waste management, funerals and tax collection.


Check out

Remember what Auntie Star always says: You only need one job, not a healthy economy.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Can't move? Paint--but save

Tania Anderson, Washington Post, has some tips on how to save on paint to spruce up that upsideown house you can’t sell.

If the house is on the market and you want it to look its best, consider a lower grade paint for interiors—people will probably repaint anyway.

If you think the walls will need to be cleaned all the time, use a higher base paint (attn, people with tots). So-called “builders grade” will not stand up to Mr Clean.

Look online for coupons, watch the ads and emails from home or paint stores.

Ask for a discount in the store—esp if you are buying many gallons.

If you are hiring a painter—ask if that person gets discounts.

Maybe a more expensive paint will require fewer coats—think it over.

Don’t buy the best brushes and so on for a small project.

Readers? Any other tips?