Thursday, April 30, 2009

OK, about this pig thing

I may end up gasping to my death and you can say, “I told you so.” But for what it’s worth, I think this swine flu deal is a case of a good crisis milked for all it's worth to get a HHS secy confirmed, a DHS secy rehabilitated. Mexican immigration questioned, community health centers funded, more billions in pharco money, and so on.

At very least, it is a roiling hotbed of weirdness and misinformation four days in. And speaking of that—how can an epidemic "start" on a slow news day like a Sunday anyhow and be almost full cry in 24 hrs?

Just lucky, I guess.

People are trying to get Tamiflu, which is not a vaccine. There is no vaccine. The one you got in last fall’s flu shot does not protect against this Bird-Pig Mutant…sounds scarier that way, doesn’t it?

Tamiflu can shorten the course of any flu and head off life-threatening pneumonia. So that may be an approach. We have 35 million doses, with many reserved for emergency personnel.

Before you get into a complete tizz and buy out the store on masks, remember, 36 million people die of plain-old-boring flu every year. This kind does strike people in their prime (why I know I am safe, heh).

So…wash your hands before eating. And certainly AFTER taking off that mask. You are believing that it’s potentially coated with mutant death, right?

And maybe from the inside, too—you can catch any flu from someone before they have symptoms.

They closed a school in Phoenix for a week because one case came back confirmed. The kid got better the week before.

What does this mean? The usual. Crapshoot.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Are part-timers the first to bite it?

Sue Shellenbarger (WSJ, Apr 22, 2009) asks if part-timers, flex-timers and telecommuters are easy targets of layoffs.

At some companies, yes, at others, no, apparently.

Some companies revoke all such arrangements and call you back to the office.

In tough times, she says, some employers think full-time, flat-out working under the eyes of a boss is the only way to go.

Others may see they are saving on benefits and salary with the part-timer. The person at home also uses less electricity and office space. In one survey, almost 30% of companies polled were considering part-time or four-day workweeks.

Usually, employees don’t like to ask for this, though, when things are shaky.

Ask yourself—what is my company’s priority right now and am I contributing to that? If your are involved with some side issue, try to get onboard with the central priority.

Be realistic. If you have to show up for a meeting on your day off, do it.

It could save you from having ALL the days off.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009 care may be sprung on us

The administration is thinking of trying to ram through a huge multi-spadillion dollar health care thing (they already got Congress to pony startup money) without hearings really or a chance for amendments.

So—hope ya like it.

NPR, Kaiser and Harvard did make a small attempt to find out what the great unwashed thought about it (that would be us).

I think, but am not sure, you have to buy some policy if you don’t have one and companies can drop what they have to they can compete with cheesy firms overseas and make you buy something else….I think. Oh, who knows.

The first step besides the billions they put in the cookie jar is the electronic medical record, which was billed as saving money, but which people don’t think will save much.

Three out of four Americans in this poll said they thought that electronic records were “important” and would improve things and prevent errors, but they don’t think they will save much money.

Personally, I don't want the feds anywhere near my information.

Half those polled said their doctors communicated fine with each other. Naturally those who did not think that usually had more doctors.

Only 22% of those surveyed had asked about the cost of a test.

Yet, half the public thinks there is a “major problem” with people getting unnecessary tests. Only 16%, though, thought THEY had every received an unnecessary test.

About half had talked to the doctor about scientific evidence that a treatment worked in comparison with cheaper approaches.

Here, though, the participants got cold feet. Less than half would trust an independent body supported by the govt to decide whether a treatment should be covered.

Well, heck let everyone have anything. Let the doctor and patient decide—just pay.

Not gonna happen that way.

In fact, I read about the osteoporosis drug Actonel—the company is going to guarantee it works or else the company will pay for treating the broken bone. What if all companies HAVE to say this or not be listed on the federally approved formularies. I have no idea if this will happen…I don’t know where this is going, if anywhere.

But I do know we don’t want any silly old discussions or open hearings.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Ack--dive, dive, metaphor alert

Business guru Harvey Mackay writes about gardens…as a way of explaining job hunting or working or something.

First, he says, plant three rows of peas—passion, performance, and persistence.

Then, some squash…squashing gossip, indifference, and criticism.

Then, lettuce. Let us be true to our obligations, unselfish, loyal.

Please—someone—kill me.

But no one did. So, now we have turnips. Turn up with determination, vision—and a smile.

How persistent should you be…One salesman said, “It depends on which of us dies first."

Doesn't he mean "gets weeded out"?

How sad when a metaphor has to die. Like taking the wings off an angel.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Chap chap chap that gum

One time, a friend of mine and I chewed gum all day at the mall and got back in the car and our jaws locked at the same moment. Funny! We looked at each other and went mmm, mmm in utter pain and misery.

Now the good gray heads at Emory have determined that kids who chew gum may be smarter.

Oh, look, the study was sponsored by the Wrigley Institute. Oh, well, proceeding on that basis, they divided 108 eighth graders into a Houston charter school into chewers and nonchewers. The chewers chewed during homework and test taking. Sure enough, the chewers upped their scores 3%.

Three percent could be merit pay for some teachers, so are they sure they want to ban gum in schools? The gum chewers also needed fewer breaks, paid attention better and were quieter (except, presumably, for the masticating pops).

Another study showed that gum chewing cut the cravings for snacks.

They just want to sell more gum, grumped one nutritionist (I know her).

Even some dude at Mayo said chewing burned some calories. Eleven per hour. Of course, if you chew sugarless (sorbitol, the artificial stuff, supposedly also cuts decay) instead of chewing brownies, you save on calories.

Especially now, with everyone worrying their brains out, gum could have some function.

Just get ready for that uh-oh moment when your jaws freeze.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Job Fairs--you never know

On “60 Minutes,” they highlighted some peeps lining up around the block for a job fair—Marriott, I think it was. One woman seemed so great I would have hired her to organize me if I could have afforded it.

You can go to Mr Google and put in job fair and your city and see what’s shaking.

I have not been to one yet for transportation reasons, but I think there is value in getting into business clothes, sharpening your short pitch, and meeting people to face to face.

Too many companies like to hide online so they won’t be accused of discriminating or confronted by embarrassing neediness or weirdness.

The tables at fairs are dwindling. A big one here was down 50%, although 15,000 employees suited up.

Still, even the most hardened HR person says lightning can strike.

Some important rules: Dress appropriately.

Try to find out which companies will be there and look them up.

Create a 30-second “Why you should hire me” presentation.

If there are workshops, go to them. The recruiters may be there.

If there is a big line, don’t worry. You can even go later after it thins.

Very important tip: You may talk to a recruiter and then be told you must apply online. Don’t let your face fall or get POed. Don’t! Just smile and say, “Let me make sure I have the correct information.” If you are calm and nice about it, you may even get a personal email address from the recruiter.

Most of all, remember what one HR pro calls the Four Ps. Packaging, preparation, presentation, and persistence.

And no flipflops.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

You can triumph even in the big stores

Tania Anderson, writing on, says you need to outsmart the stores these days. First, leave the kiddies at home. Did you know they influence 80% of their parents’ buying? I don’t mean candy and that stuff, either.

Bring the kid—buy 30% more. Retailers are licking their chops.

Make a list. Remember those? Sticking to the list and buying the cheapest of each product on it—save a third!

Forget those limited-time offers. And those free gift things—how free is free if you have to buy something for $29 to get it?

Forget the fear appeals—all your teeth will fall out, etc. It’s just toothpaste.

Bring a calculator. Add up groceries as you go along.

Change your shopping habits—cruise different aisles, check prices in a different store.

And might I add—you might see a food you used to like that you don’t normally buy. It’s fun!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Teach--and live longer

Who’s going to turn us over in the nursing home? Some kid who is now getting a terrible education out here.

So….Maybe you can help him or her and yourself at the same time.

There could be other health benefits for you as well. A study at Washington Univ in St Louis compared adults in Experience Corps (where you lean to tutor kids—23 cities have it, with other 55 and ups and reported that not only did the tutors not report physical decline, but two-thirds of them said they were more active than before.

Almost 85% said their circle of friends had expanded. Eighty-six percent said their lives had improved.

Sherry Anne Rubiano wrote about this in the Arizona Republic (Apr 19, 2009).

This Experience Corps thing teaches you to tutor kids—there are skills involved. This isn’t babysitting.

A first grader can really challenge you! one participant said.

One collections agent started tutoring and now is trying to become a teacher.

The kids are also improving their tests scores.

You can also go to to find opportunities near you.

Foster Grandparents is another possibility.

And don’t forget your local literacy programs.

Come to think of it, these kids may become doctors, not bed-turner-overers.

Also—I have seen ads on Craigs for tutors. There could be $$ in it.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Yoh-boy, now we work out in the parking lot

Anjali Athavaley, writing in the WSJ, April 15, 2009), says people are finessing the gym in droves and finding cheaper ways to unwind, energize and stay fit (and alive).

A Nintendo Wii Fit game is way cheaper than a membership.

Other people are pooling their money and hiring a trainer—one group even works out in a parking lot.

The big tickets like Nautilus machines are sitting in stores, but the cheaper alternatives such as mats and workout DVDs are thriving.

You can get a decent workout at home, admit the tony trainers.

Some people even find they work out more than when they had to haul to the gym.

Naturally the gyms have responded with specials—so if you still want to go that route, get a price.

Speaking of prices, I just did a story on Joan Price, the author of The Anytime, Anywhere Exercise Book: 300+ quick and easy exercises you can do whenever you want! Joan’s advice is that you can get the recommended 30 mins a day of moderate exercise in little increments all through the day. She has a zillion suggestions, from don’t get a cart in the store, carry a basket…to doing chair pushups at the desk. The book is on Amazon.

One of her best? If you do go to the gym, do not circle to find a parking spot close to the door. People do it.

Think about that one.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Harvard 'splains how to cut health costs

Besides getting ‘scripts for larger doses and cutting pills in half (some kinds), how else can we save money on health during this mess?

Our buds at Harvard have some ideas. First, develop a good relationship with your primary doctor. He or she should realize you have financial constraints and not goldplate things. The doc can also suggest ways to stay healthier. (The presupposes a relationship some people have, some don’t)

Don’t go the Emergency Dept (they love to call it that) unless you have to. First call the doctor and try to get advice over the phone or an appointment. Sometimes they send you to the ED. It’s very expensive to go to the ED and you do not get the same care without insurance as you do when you have it.

Maybe Urgent Care or one of those in-store centers will do fine.

If you are on meds, stay on them, as a general rule. Unless you have been on a long time—ask…maybe you don’t need it. Don't just "stop" medicines, ask.

Even if your plan, if you have one, does not require this, consult with your internist or family practice doctor first before seeing a specialist. You might pick the wrong type of specialist.

Forget those drug ads. Older drugs are often perfectly or even more effective. (I love the part in the ads where it says, “This may cause death.” May cause death—this may kill you!) Of course, you get generic every time you can, right?

Make sure you get only screening tests that you need.

If the doctor orders an MRI or some other expensive test, question it. Ask!

If you having a heart attack or stroke, you need immediate care. Other aches and pains can wait…for awhile. If the doctor says let’s apply the test of time, do it.

Discuss end of life issues—this is where care gets very expensive. Sometimes hospice could cut in sooner.

Eat veggies, don’t scarf processed sweets all day, walk or exercise, don’t smoke. Forget falling apart. You can’t afford it.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Get up, kid, and start a company

The heck with summer jobs—no one can find a job. Tell the kid to start a business. Writing in the WSJ (Apr 15, 2009), Sue Shellenbarger says kids are getting serious about this money thing.

One young woman started a jewelry business, built a website, and got her friends involved selling.

There are even camps to learn to be an entrepreneur—I can just see it, Camp Mini-Mogul.

Junior Achievement (remember that from school?) is thriving.

Most kids need a little startup money (hello, parental units..).

Another kid is selling webpage templates.

One makes decorative hair ornaments.

And, yes, they still mow lawns (try to find that out here in AZ). Only when these kids do it they hire a ton of other kids and pay their parents back for that truck.

Some kids help companies get going on Facebook or learn to Twitter.

Another kid invented a game he sold on Amazon.

Before he perfected it, he had failures. His advice? Keep going. Try again.

See? He means business already.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

"The G" is trying to help, really it is

Some other weird ways to job hunt

Are you getting the notion yet, from what the pres says, that this economy is not “going back” to anything, but radically changing? There may not be jobs left for everyone, like a really twisted form of musical chairs.

Anyhow, if you are looking for job hunting ideas other people may not be using, check with the Dept of Labor’s “Career One Stop.” It is tips on everything from applying to unemployment to where to find faxes and computers you can use if you don’t have one. The counselors also know about obscure job training you may not have heard of.

The Depts of Labor and Education had also collaborated on something called Career Voyages, providing info on high-demand jobs and how to qualify or train for them. Go to

Goodwill-remember them—also does job training and placement. Go to

The Jewish Vocational Services has been around since the last Big D. The branches know the needs of employers in their areas. Go to

And don’t forget temp agencies. So many people may think those are a thing of the past that they won’t go there. They still exist. Sign up with many.

Any other offbeat ideas, readers?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Road crews now a growth area

Out here Arizona way, the Federal Highway Administration and the state transportation agency are holding pre-apprenticeship classes throughout the state.

Free of charge.

Although the stimulus money for so-called infrastructure is going to employ only a tenth of those who have lost construction jobs in Arizona alone, this could be a way to get a foot in the old door.

You will learn OSHA regs, CPR, and other skills too.

If you like working outside or just working in general, some aspect of construction might be for you.

To see what projects might be amping up in your state, go to

You could also go to for govt jobs in general.

The Federal Highway Admin website is

Again, as always, I urge you to be creative. If you want to work near your home, for instance, go to office buildings nearby and collect names and call. Many jobs are not advertised.

Or buy sun block and get outdoors.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Babies are expensive little cuties

Uh-oh, was that nausea?

Lesley Alderman, writing in the New York Times (April 11, 2009), says vasectomies are on the increase, what with people noticing that college has spiraled off the charts and every little onesie costs a fortune.

The last time the feds checks, 2006, it cost $260K to get a kid to age 17.

The birth rate also fell during the OD (Other Depression).

This time, though stats are scarce, urologists say wait times are increasing for the procedure.

This has been especially noticeable in Upper Manhattan where the well off, or formerly well off, financial industry folks live.

Some people are out of work and have time to get the snip. Others want to do it before they lose their insurance.

Go to for more info. (Hits there are wayyy up.)

But be sure. The operation takes 20 minutes—but undoing it takes 5 hours and doesn’t always work.

Friday, April 10, 2009

How to hang onto that job

Here are some tips for staying employed. And, of course, most people are.

Take on extra work. Don’t be a pain. Arrive early. Leave late. Suck it up. Take on extra projects, try not to bother the boss about every little thing.

Ask your boss where you stand. Try to get a one-on-one meeting. The boss may say, “I don’t know where I stand either” or “Well, I am worried about you.”

Check out your mental health. Are you a stress-ridden wreck? Don’t show it. Eat and exercise wisely. Wear makeup if you normally ditch it sometimes, conceal those dark circles.

Help others. Even though you are busy, help people who are less well off. It creates great, calming perspective.

Learn new skills. If the company offers training, grab it.

Update your resume. Spend time on it. Check it with others.

Be confident. Go to meetings. Be seen.

Network with everyone. Join a professional group.

Ask yourself—If I got laid off tomorrow and could do anything I wanted, what would it be? Then ask yourself—what training could I get now to do that job?

Personally, I want to be paid to write audio book reviews…Know anyone?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Underground economy--surfacing?

I would be the last one to not pay taxes, but what with some of our appointed officials being pretty casual about it, I got to thinking about the underground economy.

I use cash to get my trees trimmed by passing gardeners. I know people out here in Phoenix who pay for electricity by the minute by putting tokens, purchased from the electric company, in a meter in their homes. Most of the people my kid knows don't have bank accounts. People have yard sales or sell on Craigs every hour of the day. People come up to you in the shopping center parking lot sometimes and offer to sell you a dozen enchiladas or some tasty item. Day laborers gather each morning waiting for a guy in a truck to come by.

In third world countries, the underground economy is larger than the official one--and it may be the same here, I am not sure. I do know marijuana is the largest cash crop in the US. Our underground may have started there, but I suspect everyone in it sort of just invented it for themselves.

In India, for example, people sell in the markets to supplement their famous $3 a day wages. World-wide, more than half of the world's non-agricultural workers are in the "informal" economy.

It's their safety net. Supply and demand.

Remember the apples people sold in the last "Giant Downturn"? Underground economy.

I understand in the Islamic world there is an elaborate worldwide financial system based on trust. I forget the name of it. But you can borrow from a guy here and somehow they keep track and that lender gets a credit someplace else.

Some Chinese immigrants here also have their own private financial system.

We are already headed that direction. Does the IRS still try to collect on the value of barter transactions? They used to.

I can foresee a world in which we hand those goofy little gold bars on TV to each other.

When we say "off the grid" here, we don't mean the electrical grid.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Whole foods (not the store) can save $$

United Features Syndicate’s Mary Jane Butters points out that adding high-fructose corn syrup and preservatives and wadding things into weird shapes for packaging costs money—processed foods are spendy.

By age 5, a kid will have eaten 7 lbs of additives.

Whole foods are left pretty much untouched—but often the little “touching” required (notice I avoid saying cooking) can be time-consuming.

To incorporate more whole foods, first make sure you have freezer space and containers. 32-oz yogurt containers are great.

Buy all you need to get through a week. Post your upcoming dinners on a blackboard in the kitchen.

Stay around the outside of the store—dairy, produce. In the inner aisles, look for slow-cook brown rice, quinoa, steel-cut oats and so on. Frozen fruits and veggies are great.

On the weekend, set aside several hours to cook. Make rice, oatmeal and other necessities ahead and freeze in portion-sized or recipe-sized bags. The same goes for sauces.

For snacks, whip up granola mix or pop organic popcorn.

The next time you’re in the store? Forget the soda. No one needs soda to live.

Little Debbie can also struggle on without our patronage.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A penny scrounged

One of the weirdest money saving things I ever saw was turning utility bill envelopes inside-out and using them again. It’s HARD to turn an envelope inside out. Try it.

Recently, though, the Arizona Republic shared readers’ best tips for tough times. Besides planting a garden or line-drying sheets, some interesting ones:

Take a home improvement class at Home Depot and do your own home repairs. (I bought a reel lawn mower at a yard sale because the weedeater and I don’t get along, and the lawn mower is still in my living room.)

Book air trips on Tues and Wed—often cheaper.

Make food from scratch—waffles, pancakes—and freeze.

Carry a cooler with drinks and snacks when running errands for more than an hour.

Use cold water for laundry.

Water filter, people—not bottles.

Pay off credit cards every month (good for a laugh anyway).

Cut your own hair—I do this (hey, shut up!).

Use coupons—heck yes—it’s all the rage!

Give your dog baths—this didn’t work out well for me, but that’s just me, the dog will have to start his own blog with the unsavory details.

And for heaven’s sake—no pay for view. I am discussing this with my kid when she gets up.

I may turn HER inside out.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Going, going...gone over?

The new hot happening deal is grocery auctions. Beats Costco all hollow.

They are just like real auctions with the fast-talking auctioneer and everything.
You are bidding on canned food (sometimes with no labels), toilet paper or frozen pizzas.

An auction in rural Pennsylvania attracted 300 people!

These are leftover or damaged goods from stores and restaurant purveyors. Some may be past the sell-by date but are still OK.

So far, nine states are holding these.

Be sure—unlike some of our dear leaders—that you know the “real” cost of milk or frozen broccoli so you don’t overbid.

Could be a good way to stock your freezer with meat or another high-ticket item. You know—break up the all peanut butter all the time diet.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Easy-peasy ways to help yourself and your planet

Hey, there’s my house—wow, I have more vegetation (overgrown bamboo) than anybody, neato-torpedo.

Oh, Hi—I was just futzing around on to see if installing leased solar panels would save me on electricity and they gave me an aerial view of my house, which sort of interests me, and sort of scares the pulp out of me.

Check out to see if you could lease those panels you hear so much about—no one can afford them except Al Gore and the president.

That is just one interesting thing I got from a press release on a new book called…well, you can read it.

Some other tips for the hopelessly strapped:—they lease textbooks.—some scheme to make or save money recycling stuff. Maybe like those curly bulbs that are messing with everyone. is for temporarily financially inconvenienced fashionistas. Get some mileage out of someone else’s duds.

Babies R has disposables for the little ones—and boy can they run through things.

The book also has good advice on finding free WiFi and other moneysavers. Check out, too.

Now, back to spying on myself. I wonder if I had my kid walk in the yard--could the spy satellite see her?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Unemployed and feeling puny--head for Walgreens

If you lost a job after March 31, you can get free care through 2009 at your nearest Walgreens in-store clinic. This applies only to adults, but spouses, domestic partners, and children also qualify if they don’t have insurance.

A catch? You have to already have gone to a Take Care clinic.

You have to be able to prove you are receiving or will get unemployment.

Once you find a new job, even if it does not come with insurance, you no longer qualify.

Quest Diagnostics will toss in some simple lab tests, too.

In the last three years, 1.25 million people have gone to the Take Care clinics. There are 330 in-store locations.

This seems pretty decent of Walgreens—I applaud it.

Of course--you do have to pay for the prescriptions. This is capitalism! (Still)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The $90 pet fix

Why is it always a minimum of $90 to walk in the vet? They take your dog in back (the dreaded “back”) and wait until it seems ninety bucks’ worth—I am convinced.

I say this because my beloved dog Jim has some ear rot again, the old medicine isn’t working, and I am looking ninety bucks in the snout.

Steve Dale, writing in USA Today Weekend, March 27, 2009, says you need to search for discounted food in today’s environment. No, not roadkill—coupons, smartie!

You can also slowly transition your pet to a cheaper food—their tums are so sensitive, you have to phase it in.

Some food pantries also have pet food—ask. (They also need pet food donations.)

If the dog gets sick, ask around for low-cost vet care, maybe at a shelter or on a special weekend.

Petsmart gives low-cost shots a couple of nights a week here.

If your vet is an American Animal Hospital Assn clinic, you may be able to get a grant of up to $500 a year for extreme treatments needed by your pet.

I draw the line at hot pebble massages, personally. But Jim has been shaking his head a lot. So it’s time…to…go…in…the…back.

Sorry, boy,it’s for your own good.