Thursday, December 31, 2009

Me likee the coffee--and it likes me


Melinda Beck, WSJ, Dec 29, 2009) says java is good for you—or most of us.

Of course, no self-respecting health writer would just say something seems to be OK, so here is how it breaks down.

2-4 cups a day, 35% less likely to develop Type 2 diabetes.

At least 6 cups—60% less chance of prostate cancer than those who drink zero cups.

Lower risk of getting colon, mouth, throat, esophageal, and endometrial cancer.

Same for gallstones, cirrhosis, Parkinson’s, and The Alz.

Someone even looked an 100,000 people 20 years concluded the more coffee they drank, the less likely they were to die during that 20 yrs.

Prevents death!

Man, this stuff is the libation of the gods.

Wellll….Here comes Melinda again. It can raise BP, and homocysteine, an amino acid in blood that can raise risk of stroke. Pregnant women who drink 2 cups a day had skinnier babies and more chance of miscarriage.

Coffee also could be bad for older women losing bone.

And of course, people can’t remember how much they drank for these studies—and what does “cup” mean…how many ounces?

Coffee drinkers may also have good jobs and access to health care—they say. I think that one is a stretch in trying to diss these positives.

So…have a cup if you want. Even these scientists said they drink it. And decaf? Can raise LDL, the “bad” cholesterol. Decaf is an abomination anyhow.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

S'no joke


The Loyola University Health System says don’t let winter kill ya.

Think of the sledding, days off school, cross country skiing.

And the shoveling.

When you shovel it all day, shoveling snow on weekends is can be dangerous if you do it wrong.

Broken bones, heart attacks—it ain’t pretty.

If you have heart of back problems—get someone else to do it. Period.

Shoveling is like many reps with a heavy weight.

Take a fast walk or march in place first to rev up beforehand.

Wear layers. You can shed them as you get hotter.

Wear gloves—frostbite is not fun.

Use a small shovel with a curved handle. A wad of snow can weight 15 lbs.

Lift with your legs not your back, as mom used to tell you.

Shovel frequently—don’t wait for huge banks to build.

Stay hydrated—being cold does not mean you are not dry.

Avoid caffeine and nicotine.

How about giant brandies? Probably out, too.

They still make cocoa, though.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Always wanted to be a nurse?


Bad economy or good, health care mess or no, people need good nursing care—disease and injury are givens.

I was reading in my Geo Washington University alum mag about a 15-mo nursing degree you can get to add to your BA. Basically it gives you a second BA.

We look to be about 160,000 nurses short by 2025.

The first year GW did it, 20 grads emerged. That number is doubling.

There are 205 such accelerated degree programs in the US.

I would advise you to call your local university and see what’s what. I put “15-month nursing program” in google and found a bunch.

All the times I have been in the hospital—the nurses made it or broke it.

You could make it bearable for someone or lots of someones.

Monday, December 28, 2009

About those late-life crises


Is it a crisis if it happens about once a month?

Hey, we live for today, right?

Every day we are told to reinvent ourselves. This can get very exhausting.

But once again, the economy sucks, the admin is a joke, my profession of journalist is on its last legs, and I am sitting here with a family to support.

Welcome to 2010.

So….the other day I saw a baseball cap decorated with hot-glued brocade sort of in a montage—kinda cute…but $35? No way.

But I kept thinking about it…Maybe we could make some even cuter ones and see if local stores would stock them…maybe…

At first my family sort of humored me Yeah. Star, great idea…

Then my daughter said you can't see and your sister has those nails, so I would have to do it and I don't want to.

Oh.

So now I am back in crisis. Stay tuned.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Kid's sick--but you MUST go to work


When my tot was younger, I used to think I did my best mothering when she was sick—got juice, Jell-O, crackers, pudding, fun sick foods, read more to her, etc.

But one day, after she was knocked down by a kid on a bike, I had to go to a meeting the next day—people were coming from California, it had been set up for months.

Turned out she had a broken leg—and I missed the casting (her Dad took her--he was around then). Just send over my Mother of the Year trophy.

Chandler Regional Hospital has a Kid Care area where kids with strictly regulated symptoms can be dropped off on such occasions. Well, not broken bone occasions, but sniffles events.

Any given day 350,000 kids are too sick to go to school. Working mothers stay home with them 5 to 29 days a year.

You can see if your local hospital has such a service—this one, a well-kept secret, has been around 10 years.

Their rules for judging how sick a child are: Fever over 100, vomiting more than twice in 4 hours, diarrhea, earache, red eyes with goo, lice and nits---stay home from school.

Runny nose, cough or rash, went to doctor, not normal, sick family member—think about keeping them home.

Then, on the bright side, you can do that good mothering, even if it includes finding them a safe place while you go to an emergency meeting. Or try to hold onto your job.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Lessons from a personal shopper


Georgann Yara, writing in the Arizona Republic (Dec 21, 2009), introduces Diana Gruenig, a personal shopper.

Maybe now, during The Troubles, many of us cannot afford a personal shopper, but she has some tricks for us.

She specializes in revamping existing wardrobes—lesson one, don’t toss, rethink.

She shops on Monday and Tuesday—the slowest days in the stores.

She doesn’t riffle through racks and pull out items—she looks down the sides and sees which fabrics are suitably rich.

Some people need an update, others a new image. Know which is which.

She then shops to holes in the wardrobe and rolls the choices to the client on a rack.

It’s less stressful to try things on at home. My sister always takes things home and if she doesn’t like them, just brings them back.

Many men, she says are mannequin shoppers—they buy what is on the mannequin so they can get out of the store.

That’s why half her clients are male.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Being Santa a funky gig this year


Joe Golfen (AZ Republic, Dec 21, 2009) says Santas are getting some tough one this year—get Daddy a job, Mom needs something called chemo, can you get Daddy from Afghanistan.

They learn in Santa school to day there is only so much they can do.

One Santa, who has played the jolly elf for 37 years, says when he offers to pray, he does…to be truthful.

Just hearing Santa will be thinking of them makes them feel better, one Santa said.

One Santa said most of the children in a low-income group wanted video games or other toys, but one said, “Santa, can you bring my Mom and me a home—we don’t have one.”

Santa does have the power to comfort, one nurse said.

Who’s going to comfort Santa? I see why some of them have a couple.

Cheers--ho, ho, ho.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Dear Poor You: Those Christmas letters


Do I sound defensive? I live in a “working class” neighborhood in an upsidedown house and business is bad in Obamaville.

I sort of dread getting those chirpy long newsletters---And Susie got a full scholarship to Vassar and will spend Junior year in Scotland…Buddy just got a promotion at Morgan Stanley and expects a fabulous bonus any minute…Roger bought a new Escalade and we get 25 miles to the gallon, can you imagine…I was elected to another term …

Ack.

Can anything be so perfect?

Well, not anymore. According to the WSJ (Dec 18, 2009) many newsletter writers are more subdued these days.

One woman, who had earlier talked of her kids’ progress at household word colleges, instead announced her own layoff. She also noted for all and sundry that she still had health insurance.

The year before one woman had announced her new job—half a newsletter’s worth. This year, one word: Downsized.

Other writers use humor and sarcasm. Oh, I do love sarcasm—it is my favored form of communication. One guy said what a wonderful year, all rumors that I got a $100,000 pay cut are wrong—it was $106,000.

A car dealer wrote: “For God’s sake, buy a car!”

Still others are networking—keep me in mind for x, y, z.

One creative woman said they were Hansel & Gretel trying to sell a house and the banks were the Big Bad Wolves. A wicked Witch (appraiser) devalued them because of the Three Pigs down the street.

I like that one.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Underwater-glug


In the hideously depressed real estate market out here in AZ, everyone I know owes more on their houses than the houses are worth—even those who did not refinance during better times.

Yeah, great little investment there. Remember when people said your house was an investment? Yeah--pretty funny.

Now it’s an albatross.

Still, most people I know believe a deal’s a deal. You bought it, you pay for it.

Yes, the rules have changed and yes, the fat cats are still raking while we are baking.

Don’t you love how all of a sudden these bankers could whip up billions and pay it back so they could give themselves bigger salaries and bonuses or hire some guy who makes a thousand times what you do?

But there is something inside many people that says don’t break your promise. It's called integrity. Can integrity be wrong?

It’s a tough call. And remember—some states have laws that let the banks come after you and take your car or bank accounts if you walk. Be careful and do your research if you are making this “business decision.”

In my case , my mortgage payment is about what I would have to pay to rent a house. In other people’s, though, they could bank $1000 or more a mo by renting and need that money for food and clothes for their family.

Bank. Jeez, don’t even say that word.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Merry little barter credit


Along the continuing theme of how to give employees a nice Christmas on zero dough---today Parker Leavitt (AZ Republic, Dec 16, 2009) wrote about how some bosses are giving barter points from a local barter exchange or whatever they call them.

This one, the Arizona Barter Exchange, has 600 businesses in it—restaurants, hotels, landscapers, hotels, and others. One company does something for another company and get credits which can then be “spent” at other exchange members’ businesses.

One company gave each employee $300 worth of credits. Then the Exchange held a fair where the workers could “buy” things.

Of course, this isn’t cash that can be used for bills—it is more for services and goods. The kind of things people like to get as gifts.

I was in a barter group once back east—I remember it being pretty complicated…or else I was pretty stupid.

Have you ever tried it, readers?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

(Tiny voice) Wheee


I used to (don’t laugh) hire people. I often finished my spiel by saying, “We try to have fun here.” I remember some shocked and uncertain looks from applicants.

One asked me what the hours were, I remember. I said, “Well, 8:30 to 5:00, but after you have paid some dues, you can kind of come and go as long as the work gets done.” Silence. Then she ventured, “Dues? You have to pay to work here?”

OK—that was funny only to me. Bad example.

I read one of those advice columns on work the other day where the questioner said everyone in her office was joking and yukking it up and she felt like the grouch.

They suggested a website called www.HowNotToActOld.com. (I felt very old reading this thing.)

Another said standing out for being a stickler might work in the questioner’s favor.

A third said, “Why be so judgmental, calling the others unprofessional?”

Being professional, this person said, means showing up and doing the work.

If the laughter is keeping you from working, well, you might have to say something. And that something would not be: “Shut up, you losers.”

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Stimulus petering


The so-called stimulus was legislative pocket lint in the first place—pork projects lying around Congress that could never get through—then, wham.

They were never going to create jobs or certainly not a lot of jobs—unless some college kid got a temporary job counting minnows by a dam or something.

The big infrastructure things—highways, bridges about to fall into rivers—were not really shovel-ready. Most of the money has not even been spent.

Gary Fields wrote about this in the WSJ Dec 1, 2009.

At recovery.gov, the White House website of successes, some of the stimulus effect was made up—it was in all the papers, citing Congressional districts that didn’t even exist, etc.

Now the big construction cos that were going full steam are winding up and looking for their next groundbreaking. We need something to bid on, said one exec.

Unemployment in the construction industry (which is not all housing) is at 19%,up from 10%.

A big highway bill was being considered but would have required gas taxes to pay for it. People seem to have noticed we are spending and borrowing our guts out.

Sure, a new freeway would be great in your neighborhood or widening the one you get stuck on, but the phone, as one guy said, ain’t ringing.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Like it or not, you may be retired


Only 60% of people 55 to 64 are employed and it’s trending down.

Kelly Evans and Sarah E Needleman wrote about this in the WSJ Dec 8, 2009.

People get laid off, aren’t ready or thinking of retiring, can’t find another job, then get early Social Security and start the Big Struggle.

Just a year or two ago we were hearing that people were planning to continue working.

Now, not so much.

Getting early SS means you get less forevermore, unless you pay back what you got at 66 and start over, sort of. Who can do that—we need this money to live on.

But people retiring early means fewer dollars paid into SS, your classic vicious cycle.

Does age bias have a part in this? Naturally, don’t believe anyone who says differently.

One person quoted in this said the younger people at companies thought he could not even check email—when he was very computer savvy.

Plus—there is the factor of working hard all your life, learning, getting smarter and better, then being dropped as worth nothing.

That part really blows.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Houses sell better if they look liveable


Want that lived-in look? Lived in but not TOO lived in?

You can hire a live-in stager. Not only does the company bring in neutral furniture and accessories after you’ve left, but a family that will even pay the utilities, insurance and maybe a small rental payment—plus keep the place from looking crummy.

Of course, the sellers do not keep the rental payment—the stager does.

The stagers get to live in a nice home, even if it’s only for a short time.

Kara G. Morrison, AZ Republic, Dec 6, 2009, wrote about this.

Hometenders of America and Showhomes are companies that do this.

This is best for homes over a million dollars and takes an organized person to do it.

Because of this market, though, some live-in stagers get an 8-month run, so it's worth it to them.

Having the home look lived-in removes the desperation would-be buyers might impute to the sellers—therefore,, this approach eliminates many low-ball offers.

Sometimes insurance rates are lower for lived-in homes, too.

Kind of in the win-win-win area, yes?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Future Farmers of America for city kids


Emily Gersena, Arizona Republic, Dec 9, 2009, says in AZ here many urban youngsters are joining FFA, which used to be for farm kids.

They learn floral arranging, marketing, vet assistance, and food science.

They compete in contests, such as knot-tying for restraining large animals for treatment.

They assist in animal surgery.

Others are more interested in plants and flowers and compete in flower arranging.

These are skills transferable to any career, administrators point out, noting basic marketing and leadership skills are taught.

Hey, my kid was in a jobs program—was interested in interior design then. Nothing wrong with vocational emphasis. Go to ffa.org and learn more.

You never know where life will take you--you may need to tie down a cow, who knows?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

We always have been temporary


Everyone is a permanent worker in need of money and meaning, but only temporarily employed and supplied with these.

Jody Greenstone Miller wrote about this in the WSJ Dec 1, 2009.

She says the surge in temporary workers is not a sign of dysfunction—but of the way it’s going to be.

The govt needs to scrap outdated rules governing temporary work.

She hires out temps—this woman. And her business is up 70%.

Companies like to be “flexible”—about to fire people anytime. She says top people like to work this way—as hired guns.

She is recommending the feds create a two-year “safe harbor" for temporaries…not subject them to the IRS’s sloppy rules on who is a temp and who should be classified as a “real” employee.

She is also recommending a new employment tax subsidy for hiring temps. If there is one for other new hires, same for temps.

Let temporary employees buy into the Congressional health plan.

Yeah, that’ll happen. In the meantime, temp even in exec terms, means freelance and consultant means “looking for work.”

I think that's stupid--but hey, people can be stupid.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Charity begins alone


I used to give some little amount to charity at Christmas and say it was in the name of my friends, which made it sounds much more impressive than it was. But it was a good excuse to write everybody! Then I decided maybe people thought I was implying that THEY should give to charity, and that made me pretty much of a dork…so now what.

I could send an email saying I am not giving anything. But still…so I decided to give to our newspaper’s Sharing campaign where they add to the money…leveraging, sort of. Even if I am a dork, people can use a hand, right?

Karen Blumenthal writes about charity in the season of recession (WSJ, Dec 2, 2009).

Did you know that poor people tend to give more percentagewise that the richies? I can see that. The Red Cross found that 20% of people were giving less, but 62% were holding even.

Still, if we can, we need to give more. The Food Banks are maxed out. Half of all charities have had shortfalls this year.

Half the money comes in at the holidays—not the time to skimp.

The Red Cross has had fewer disasters to bring in the money—and that is a disaster.

They did a catalog of gifts—but these are for others, such as $54 for three blankets.

The American Cancer Society has a campaign that says, “Cancer doesn’t take a rest.” Personally, I don’t love that slogan. Hey, you lazy slug—cancer is gaining on you.

One expert says act like a family foundation—group your donations to one place.

The average person, according to the Wall Street Journal, gives to two dozen places. Well, not this average person!

If your company matches donations—do it that way.

Be selective. Be smart. There are plenty of scammers around this time of year.

Don’t donate over the phone. Charities are exempt from the Do Not Call list, but you can ask them to put you on their own list.

If they ask for even just $5, saying every little bit helps, beware. It costs $15 or more to solicit each person.

Just don’t be a Scrooge. I used to know this very rich guy who said he could give a huge amount, but wouldn’t give anything. Watch out for those ghosts in the night, bud. Wonder if that guy is still alive—bye, off to google to see.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Keen acres


Here in Phoenix, a woman gave a little course on how to keep chickens in your yard downtown (where it's legal).

Back to the soil with us!

Gwendolyn Bounds wrote about this in the Wall Street Journal Dec 3, 2009.

Apparently, rural real estate is holding up better in value. People can’t find a job and take off for the countryside. The erstwhile city folk are called “ruralpolitans.”

Young people buy land as an investment and to live on later.

Some exurban commuters live far out.

While still others actually farm.

Farmland and timberland tends to hold value.

Still, country life can pall—a backed-up septic tank or vermin can dim enthusiasm.

One couple bought a “mix” of chickens from a feed store, but it was mostly roosters. Killing one for food was, shall we say, not the wife’s thing. And it was tough!

Another man had horses—which he described as massive pooping tubes. He had to build bins for the um, waste, in cold and darkness.

Internet access helps a lot.

Makers of small tractors and equipment say business is booming from this trend.

Family farming—has a ring to it. Even sounds familiar.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Don't toss that coal-burning computer


In fact, it can be illegal to put electronic parts in the trash. Some of the parts are exotic or toxic.

At Iolo.com, there are some tips.

If you donate to a school, church, or nonprofit, you may be able to deduct some amount.

Still, even the most rickety-looking schools may sell your equipment and get something better. Try not to be offended.

Stuff under 3 yrs old is apt to be met with the most enthusiasm.

Computers 3-5 yrs old should go to a refurbishing center. Check out techsoup.com for places.

Older than 5 yrs—recycle. Goodwill and the Salvation Army no longer want donated computers.

Keep the operating system in it, keep software in it. Include peripherals where you can.

Get your personal stuff OFF! Reformatting the hard drive will not do it—use DriverScrubber or something similar.

Get a receipt.

I need someone to donate a computer to me! AOL, for one thing, has self-destructed. I am best friends with India.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Animals are deeply recessed, too


Our buds are being left in foreclosed homes or shoveled into crammed shelters. We can’t always afford the shots and vet runs.

But we can do something. On debtproofliving.com, one reader says they take old blankets and towels to the shelters. One woman even sews them into bed pads. Now that is handy!

Another clips coupons for pet food and takes these to the shelter.

Sometimes feed stores will give dog vaccines (rabies excluded). Check it out. (We have horses around here, so I guess there are feed stores.)

One reader shreds junk mail for rabbit cages. Take out the coated, colored ads.

Use a dog brush to get the pet hair off rugs—saves on those sticky lint rollers or the vac.

Put black pepper where you don’t want animals to “go” in your yard. Worth a try anyhow.

I also contacted a vet who comes to your house—and it was no more expensive that the go-to vet. And I was getting fed up with their attitude over there, anyhow. Grrr.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Partying down


I remember when I had a “real” job. One year, they were feeling poor and instead of setting the Christmas Party in the Mayflower Hotel ballroom, they threw it in our same older conference room where we had slept through a zillion meetings.

Instead of bonuses—they gave gift certificates to the local Safeway, which were immediately dubbed “food stamps.”

Jeez—Ever heard of MORALE!? One year, I had gotten a $2,500 bonus and believe me when I tell you that was better.

Jonnelle Marte (WSJ, Dec 1, 2009) says many small business owners are getting creative this season, instead of just chintzy.

At Proforma Worldwide Support Center in Cleveland, execs are scraping snow off all 100 employees’ cars at least once a month in lieu of bonuses. They are also rotating use of the closest parking space.

Only 31% of business owners plan year-end bonuses, down from 44% last year.

Only 16% are giving raises—last year, it was twice that.

Some companies are also cutting back on client gifts. One branding company collected a bunch of the little gifts they got from clients and regifted.

One magazine even let advertisers have a free ad.

As for the party—some small businesses in New Jersey ganged up with other small cos and threw a joint party. Saved 25%!

And another plus? It’s not the same old people you see everyday! AND—if you drink a few extras, maybe you won’t see the person you tried to hit on the next day.

Now that’s a bonus!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Cheap, bargain..oh, yeah, Christmas


According to the WSJ, Nov 9, 2009, people are venturing into the mall, but there isn’t money hanging out of their pockets.

Even the big market makers like P&G and Campbell are keeping prices low and emphasizing value.

More than 10% unemployment, six people for every job, a BS "jobs summit” and other factors are spooking everyone this season.

Three-quarters of people intend to buy presents on sale. More than half are using coupons.

Walmart is slashing prices, with 100 toys for under $10.

Applebees says of their customers: “If they only want to spend $20 for two meals, that is all they will spend.”

All of this isn’t bad necessarily—if you need a new computer, grab a bargain. Things like that. Just don’t go nuts.

Feeling recessed? Take a Nozac.