Friday, December 31, 2010

World I never made


A friend of mine and I were talking. We don’t even recognize this world anymore. We feel like scared outsiders only we don’t have another planet to go to.

My friends used to have jobs. I used to be able to put my mind to it and get $3,000 a month in just using my wits, ideas, and experience. My mother’s money used to gain interest and grow.

It used to be a good thing to own a house. Now it’s your pet albatross—and it can eat!

We used to think those we elected were capable of keeping an eye on the world economy, national economy, trends, capabilities and all the nuances and pretty much could make course corrections when these things went out of balance.

Now we know they are all wet.

If someone gave us credit—loaned us money—we figured they knew odds were we were going to be able to pay it back. We said OK, you’re the one taking the chance, thanks.

Everyone didn’t hate us—perfect strangers did not want to blow us up or if they did, they didn’t get in our faces with it everyday.

We used to laugh more, cry less. We could sleep at night. We felt some pride, some sense of accomplishment, love of country.

Not anger and fear.

Oh, well, thanks for listening. A new year is starting. If you can stand it, I can. I am not making any resolutions, though.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Oh, no, broke people eat fewer veggies


David Wessel, Dec 28, 2010, says now the national nannies are worried that broke, unemployed people won’t buy and eat their veggies.

One percent increase in unemployment equals 2-3% decrease in produce consumption.

And an 8% reduction in salad consumption!

The researchers could not pinpoint the reason for this. A trip to the produce dept would have done it—bananas are 80 cents each.

Some other stunners? The more hours people work and the higher their wages, the more they smoke.

Hint: Could also be a cost element there…Stress + money.

During good times there are more fatal auto accidents (can afford cars and gas?) and more deaths from disease (can get a diagnosis), but fewer suicides (well, being down and out can make you suicidal).

Also not surprising: Mortality rates increase in the year following a layoff for high seniority workers.

Well, those would be the ones who never expected to be let go, cannot find another comparably paying job, and are probably older with more physical problems.

Most of these are fodder for The Big Book of Duh, if you ask me, which you didn’t.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Run your business or be run out of business


I am blobbing around trying to figure out how to bring in more money. We joke around, we starving writers, about needed more “revenue streams,” which translates into “anything for a buck.”

A guy I know outfitted a van to create paid tailgate parties at games—saves the fans from bringing their own food or ride.

Clate Mask, cofounder and CEO of Infusionsoft, and author of Conquer the Chaos: How to Grow a Successful Small Business Without Going Crazy, says certain things impede small businesses.

First is lack of consistent lead followup. Eighty percent of people who will buy from you do so between contact 5 and 12 from you—but most business people quit after three contacts.

You need to followup after a sale—and get another sale. It’s easier to keep a customer than get a new one. Cheaper, too.

Email back and forth, keep up relationships.

Make sure you get paid on time—don’t in effect extend credit. Do you look like a bank? No? Then don’t.

Market consistently, don’t rev it up just when you need business.

Keep a mailing list.

I do some of this, but I need to get new clients. Many have disappeared, gone out of business, or punked out.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Style in the Age of Ruin


Jennifer Alfano writes about style in Harper’s Bazaar (Fall 2010).

True confession: I am wearing baby blue pop-it beads. Remember those—you can snap them apart and reconfig into a shorter necklace. Yup, still like them. And people recognize them—what they say about me after, I have no idea and don’t want to find out.

The author saw some woman in NY during Fashion Week epitomizing style to her—camel-hair coat, white pants, charcoal lace up booties, and a stainless steel watch.

This—to Alfano—was effortless style.

Some other women go the other way—she talks about one gal who wore a sheer black dress, boy briefs, and a long feather necklace as if it were jeans and a t-shirt.

Yes, not tugging at it or blushing would help a lot.

Chic women, she says, buy pieces they love—not need. A black leather and lace Givenchy mini was one example.

Chic women don’t throw old things out. One woman says she is more of a collector, than a shopper.

I am tempted OF COURSE to make some remarks here substituting Versace motorcycle pants for my extremely neutral, painfully neutral, faded black Roamans’s pants. My Burberry Porsum military coat is at the cleaners…you see what I could have said.

But the author is now back to the woman in the white pants and camel coat. Does this paragon think, oh, heck, these are still pretty clean and clap them on to go out and stun and amaze other women like this author?

Clothes should make you feel independent and in control. Whatever you wear, put it on, hope there are no stains and holes, and SELL IT, baby! Now that is chic.

Monday, December 27, 2010

How to screw yourself up


Anthony Balderama, CareerBuilder, says job interviewers are like first dates—both sides want to create a certain impression.

Wear a nice outfit, groom yourself—like you could on a date. Then, avoid the following.

Don’t arrive too early. Often you will see more than one person. This has been choreographed. Arriving 45 mins early is as bad as 45 mins late.

Don’t let your desperation show. I always remember I am saying what I can do for the client—not what the client can do for me (hire me and give me money).

Don’t overdo the followup into stalking country. A paper thank you is fine. Maybe one email followup a few weeks later.

Don’t talk trash about anyone, much less the previous (snotbag) employer who canned you. They will just wonder what you would say about them.

If you seem to have no goals, they will wonder if you can pursue the company’s goals, which they will call the mission.

Can you think of more, readers?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Bartering for gifts


In New York, even the richie-riches are having swap meets, although they are probably catered. The gals get together and exchange purses and suits. They also throw in a donation to a woman’s shelter.

Swapforgood.org is the group setting these up.

You can put up goods or even services, such as window installation, massage, or music lessons.

Some of the thrifty types give away restaurant coupons.

This year, we have severely limited exchanging, second-hand or no.

It makes me sad, but I try to think it’s bad to be so materialistic.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Yipes, you don’t really really like me


Jennifer A. Johnson wrote for the Arizona Republic on how you should handle a bad performance review.

I gather one should not get defensive like I did recently when a new-to-me editor at Northwestern Univ did not like my rewrite and sort of fired me. OK, did fire me. At least, I would be highly surprised to hear from him again—and the check is taking its time, too.

Jennifer writes that I should not have gotten defensive, but she does say it’s a pretty natural reaction. Yes, it came right to mind!

Listen to the challenges (I am hating that phony word these days) and don’t overlook the positive things that were said is her advice.

Don’t discuss your review with coworkers—oops, look what I am writing. In an office, this can race around like a bad game of “telephone.” I am sure the internet is different.

Don’t wallow in misery—craft a plan of action. Ask the boss to help you with those darn challenges.

Ask for specifics if you don’t understand the review.

Don’t take it personally, Jennifer says.

What? How can we not? She means, though, don’t take it as a knock on your popularity or likability—just your performance.

Well, gosh—that’s OK then.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

About that promotion--watch out


You know me by now—I am not afraid to be a big buzzkill.

Anita Bruzzese (Gannett) says don’t be too quick to accept a promotion.

For one thing, you may be ill-suited and it could screw up your career.

This is especially true if you move from worker bee to management.

Good workers or technical people can be lousy managers.

Find out EXACTLY what the job entails. Ask, “Why me?” If they are not specific—“We really liked how you planned the computer conversion and everyone cooperated with you,” then question it.

Find out what tools to learn leadership might be available—a mentor, a webinar, a book, a course at a local college.

Network with people in a similar position.

Don’t be afraid to pass. Passing might show, ironically, that you are mature enough to have done it. Maybe next time.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Freaky, dude


I saw someplace where the hottest thing this Christmas is going to the store, finding an item, then calling up a phone app to find it cheaper and ordering it from someplace else while you are standing in the first store.

Way too hip for this kid.

Then, I realized, I comparison shop, too—eBay first, then Amazon, then Google…then maybe buy or not.

The only diff is the cell phone—I don’t have one.

Now, I learn that my pals at DirecTV are going to “pioneer” sending me ads crafted to my demographic.

What is my demographic…Belligerent oldster, fat, dyes hair, loves animals, humorist…What are they going to sell me or THINK they can sell me… DEPENDS with funny cartoons on them? They don't draw cartoons funny enough.

I remember looking for a desk chair a while back—and every site I went to had desk chair ads. At first, I thought, my, how handy, then I “got” it. They were following me.

Well, I got the chair—and free—so you’re wasting your time, chairfolk, and I am getting damn tired of those chairs.

How do you feel about this stuff?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Corporate tone


Just like when you meet a person, when you experience an organization, you will get a vibe.

The office will be chattery and active or silent and hushed. You will feel comfortable—or not.

The longest “real” job I had was with a very conservative trade association—suits for women and men (although unlike the UBS thing below, we could wear new shoes to work).

I remember hiring a woman, an artist, who had not yet gotten a SS number—this was before babies got them. My boss was scandalized! No SS number—OMG!

I saw Facebook’s offices on 60 Minutes—that weird, expressionless Mark guy had an office right out on the floor amongst the non-billionaires. Big signs on the wall instructed people to HACK—which means lash together neat apps or something, not break into servers.

Me, if I worked there, HACK would mean bad writer. Not so much on that one.

Try to find out if a place is top-down or teamy.They all say they like team-work, but not all show it in action. Sometimes the team leader sets the agenda, assigns, and the rest of the team is just the blame pool.

Is the place paternal—can bosses hand out perks and raises or is there a procedure.

Tone.

This is especially important at Christmas Party time—even at a Party, don’t let your hair down too far. It’s still an office function.

Friday, December 17, 2010

What to wear


New word I saw: Bleisure. Business + leisure – get it?

People don’t leave work behind anymore and take “fake-cations” where they still connect with their devices, so what to wear, what to wear.

I am combining the above neat words (credited to TripAdvisor) with a story on the Swiss Bank UBS’s new dress code (Elena Berton, WSJ, Dec 16, 2010).

Apparently, they sort of got into “Swiss Boarding School” advice on hygiene. It’s 43 pages!

Some samples…Keep your suit buttons closed (you are wearing a suit, of course). Touch up your hair roots (except men—no Grecian or any other country Formula). Use a large padded hanger to keep your suit shoulders fluffed.

Don’t eat garlic or onions. Don’t smoke or go in smoky places.

Don’t wear cuff links.

Don’t wear too short socks that show your leg.

Don’t add more perfume at lunch.

No long nails—length in millimeters specified. No nail art, of course.

Don’t wear new shoes.

For men, no stylish stubble.

So I guess people shouldn’t be sexy, either!

They shouldn’t? I was afraid of that. I like my bankers sexy. The photo here would be a good hint of where I am heading here.

UBS—what does that stand for—U Big Silly?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Oh, noble fir


I don’t know what a Holidash is, but there was an article by Katie Kretschmer on something called holidash.com on choosing a Christmas tree.

At our house, we go in the garage and pull the little runt off the shelf.

But I remember a time when I bought live trees and replanted them in the yard—one got to be 15 feet and recently croaked.

But I digress.

The freshest tree probably comes from nearby. You can even cut your own for some big fee.

The Douglas fir usually is not local—but people love it. A classic.

Avoid buying a tree that’s trussed up—you can’t tell what the heck it looks like.

As for watering and those rickety little pans that clamp around the bottom—why don’t they invent something better?

Oh—they have! The garage model.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Weird ways to encourage house sales


Amy Hoak, WSJ, Dec 13, 2010, says people are getting more despera…inventive…in selling homes.

One emptied the rooms, hung a photo exhibit instead of staging, and invited people to browse. It kept people from walking through too quickly.

Of course, it was the Hamptons—would that work in your hood?

Others have hired feng shui experts.

Try sprinkling salt over the doorway.

People still bury a statue of St Joseph in the yard. Supposedly some nuns did this first in the 1500s—to get a place for their convent. It worked—but it was a medallion. Why the burying…who knows.

Some owners throw in a golf club membership or a car.

Or even a real sweet “sweetener”—chocolate-covered strawberries.

Some write a letter to buyers—about how happy they have been in the house, where they shop, people they met.

You could throw a party. They do that on SELLING NEW YORK for those over-the-top condos they are selling.

No place to bury St Joe in Tribeca, I guess.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Need a new something or other?


My desk chair got all weird—it kept slamming down a foot without warning and then lost a wheel—but the slamming down thing was the worst—I would get so much adrenaline, I would be choking on it.

A pal reminded me of Freecycle…the national giveaway deal with many local chapters.

I was on it once before and remembered it having a bunch of rules, but if you power through those, it can be fun!

I got an almost new, much nicer chair probably worth $150 or more within 15 minutes.

FREE, MY BABIES.

Some stuff is weird—would you drive 10 miles to get a Walmart coupon?

In a recent daily listing, though, I saw PDAs, a computer desk, a Camcorder, a VCR, a TV—pretty decent stuff.

These are snapped up fast—it helps to sort of sit on your computer like I do.

Go to freecycle.org, But be ready to do an OFFER of something before you request an item.

Monday, December 13, 2010

More cents than sense


Guess people somewhere still have income and disposable. Gwendolyn Bounds,WSJ,Dec 8, writes about “me-tailing,” getting stupid crap that is about yourself.

How about a bobblehead doll that looks like you? Or personalized M&Ms.

Maybe a portrait of your DNA suitable for framing. That one is $440.

Can’t you see putting that on your wall, a date coming over, studying it, then running out of the apartment?

You know how my mind works.

At cafepress.com, you can get a yoga mat with your picture on it—maybe during the downward facing dog, you can kiss yourself.

You can get Nikes that are custom-made.

Or how about a wall-sized vinyl reproduction of a phone pix?

That could get interesting.

Did you know the Barbie with the camera and little screen on the back may be investigated by the FBI as a way to make doll porn?

Surprise—you don’t need that. I knew a guy years ago who posed Barbies and shot them with a Brownie.

If you don’t know what a Brownie is, I am sorry for you.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Poor, yes, but trendy always


Christina Binkley ( WSJ, Dec 9, 2010) says you will be seeing a lot of pink next year.

Pantone—the ink matching company—declares a color du jour and next year, it’s HONEYSUCKLE PINK!

The company asks a bunch of designers around the world to forecast a color and then picks one. Of course, this is a color the designers have been seeing already.

This one is retro, old-time lipstick, hot summer afternoons, garden parties.

Of course, honeysuckle can be white or yellow, but why quibble. Quibble…what a great word.They should do a Word of 2011.

Pink, one guy said, is optimistic.

The idea, another said, is for someone to stop in his or her tracks and say, “Neat color, I need those plates.”

Also, the 2011 products are already being manufactured. 2011 is in two weeks.

Oh, well, chance for a press release. And now you, you poor reader, will think of this every time you see adorable plates in the shade formerly known as bubble gum.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Managing the manager


You have to teach people how to treat you, someone once told me. I have kept that in mind. You need to sort of command, rather than DEMAND, respect if you can.

Anita Bruzzese, Gannett, says a boss who ignores you can hurt your career—you don’t want to be under the radar all the time.

You need clear expectations in your career life, Says Bruce Tulgan, author of It’s OK to Manage Your Boss.

Think in terms of getting one-on-one time, even if it means cornering the boss somehow.

Don’t just email or text—get face to face sometimes.

Write down everything you and the boss agree on. Keep notes on your progress.

The most important thing I used to do is ask the boss to set priorities—if he or she rattles off 10 things, ask, “Sounds good, which should I do first?”

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Don't platinum-plate your house


This may seem ludicrous in this market, but some people do like to spiff up their homes still—even I once had my kitchen redone (in the Wayback).

Ellen James Martin, Universal Syndicate, says the key is to not “over improve” and not be able to get your money back when you sell.

Now, with many houses mortgaged for more than they can sell for, this is a real danger.

The other side of this is dumpster houses—with not even cosmetic improvements made. They sit on the market, too.

Don’t renovate without consulting a real estate professional. Make sure the person has worked your neighborhood for 10 years or more.

Keep projects within neighborhood norms. No garages in your nabe—don’t build a 3-car special.

If you are not planning to stay long, buy good quality but nothing too personal and eccentric.

Those faucets over the stove for filling spaghetti pots—to me these are over the top.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Some companies getting loosy-goosy


Even in this mess, some companies are leaning over backwards to help employees fit work into their busy lifestyles.

Balance is the key word.

Bob Crachit would not recognize the work world these days (except for the tightfistedness, maybe).

There is more telecommuting going on—some people work from home a few days a week. Our Chamber of Commerce gives everyone a PDA so they can work from anyplace.

Other companies compress the hours into fewer days—meaning more days off. This can mean 10 hrs over 4 days, 80 hours over 9 days, or “summer hours”—where an hour is added Mon-Thurs and people leave Fri at 1 PM.

Sometimes babies who are not at the crawling stage can come to work with Mom.

Still, I heard about another company that clamped down—no personal cells at work.

It could go either way, I guess. The goosy way is better. Employees are not kids. Lighten up.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Ah, Mr Bernanke


http://marketplace.publicradio.org/display/web/2010/12/06/am-bernanke-returns-to-60-minutes/

Did you see 60 Minutes last night? Although I don't talk much about politics on this site, it is an area of great interest to me and was my major in college.

Bernanke appeared on the show three years ago and of course, the commentators were all gushy and self-congratulatory about how he never went on TV and now he was on their little show, oh my.

Anyway, this time out, he was still professorial and "I am in charge here" (guess SOMEONE has to be), and said the latest move to buy back debt was absolutely necessary to prevent deflation.

Someone said this QE2 stuff is like paying Visa with MasterCard. Now THAT I know about.

I gather 1.5% growth sucks. Almost 10% unemployment also blows (it's way more in many places as people out here know all too well) and there is a chance of a second dip.

Of course--we have Bernanke to save us. Like he did the first time?

All I am saying is in my opinion, we hire these people to follow the world markets, create a US industrial policy, take care of this, and they don't.

Or it's just all so new, so different, so unmodelable, they can't fathom it. Hey--someone got these trillions of vanished wealth and it wasn't me or anyone I know! Or else it was all on paper and I was never OK.

So buckle up. This ain't over.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Reach out and touch someone--28 times


Now, from Deliver Magazine (Post Office mag about direct response), comes a play on the old marketing advice that someone has to hear your name seven times before it sinks in.

With today’s media spew, this apparently has turned into 28 times!

Isn’t this stalking almost?

Of course, they are talking about direct mail and advertising, but could a variation on this apply in the case of job hunting or being recruited for a new job?

Check our jumpstartyourmarketing.com, a Sacramento co.

You need 28 “touches” within a 2-month period, says founder Katrina Sawa.

Have a website, send thank yous when you meet with someone, make a monthly call to places you’d love to work whether they advertise or not, send Christmas cards to everyone you can think of from the past year.

Get out there. Touching, isn’t it?

When do you stop? I would say a restraining order would be a clue.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Don't shoot--this is a great idea


We’re all been there…It’s too expensive…Not invented here….It’s been done…It won’t work…We tried it back in the day…blah blah.

Everyone’s a critic.

Anita Bruzzese, Gannett, takes some of this on.

If you are so frustrated you feel like quitting your job over an idea you cannot get across, try to counter these negatives.

Lorne A. Whitehead, she says, has written a book called BUY IN (Harvard Business Review).

If someone says, this is not really a problem—say, “To someone with this problem, it does not look small.”

No one else is doing this—“First time for everything.”

It didn’t work before—“Well, conditions have changed.”

This isn’the time—“The best time is when people are excited and committed—which is now.”

It’s too much work, we are already overwhelmed—“Well, working on something exciting will raise our energy level.”

Sometimes maybe you need to say, “Quit being such a dope.”

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Affordable water looking for a backer


Water, water…you know the poem. Well, there could be a drop to drink.

Those four youngsters recently rescued from 50 days on a raft, people in Haiti, and pretty soon, just about all of us will need to drink the ocean.

By 2050, half the world’s population will face a water shortage.

An acquaintance of mine has invented a portable desalination system currently selling for $99—which he hopes to reduce in cost to ten bucks when it gets going.

But no one seems interested. Are you? Or have you thought of pursuing a great invention or idea now during "The Troubles" and have ideas for this?

Sea Panels are perfect not only for third-world countries, but travelers, boat equipment, the military, emergency kits and anyone who wants a way to make sea water or contaminated water potable.

Conventional desalination is delicate—the dissolved crud like arsenic and chlorine can damage the membranes used.

Sea Panels are easy. They are impervious to fouling, have nothing to wear out or replace. The thing is 100% solar.

Plus Sea Panel water is up to 10 times purer than tap.

What’s not to like? Know anyone who is thirsty for a great idea—a life changer? A life saver?

Go to http://www.seapanel.com/.

Come on—you must know someone! Or have some ideas.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Uh uh uh--or are workplace romances OK?


Brittany Watts, AZ Republic, Nov 28, 2010, says dating coach Joann Cohen says workplace romances should be avoided, but do happen.

Good grief, be honest, hasn’t everyone tried this?

She recommends checking the Employee Handbook first—some companies forbid it. Oh, you’re no fun! Be sure to check sexual harassment sections—now you are REALLY no fun.

Communicate with each other—how will this affect your working life?

Be discreet—no big liplocks in the hall. Watch flirty emails, long lunches, same rooms on business trips.

Don’t date a direct report. Very bad form.

Be sure the person is not a different person outside the office. Your squeeze could be oozing charm at work and just oozing outside of work.

Try to keep work and private life separate.

I can report that this does not always work out fabulously. You may not find that in the Employee Handbook. People tend to remember things a long time.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Layaway is back...or never left


Max Jarman, AZ Republic, Nov 26, 2010, says the old system of layaway—select an item and pay a little each week until it’s yours—is coming back in popularity.

People want to pay cash. They want items to mean something.

K-Mart has always had it. Now so does Toys R Us, some others. Target and Walmart do not offer layaway.

Added bonus—Items are at the store, not where sneaky-petes can find them in the closet at home.

Surveys show people may spend a little over 2% more this year than last. Twenty percent more of them will use debit cards.

For layaway, most stores require a fee, a down payment, and payment of the item in 90days or less.

Some of these, such as Sears monthly payment plan, 48 installments, 13% interest, don’t sound like layaway to me.

My mother had her own form of layaway. She would cut out a picture of say, a new coat we were getting, attach play money for the amount we could spend, wrap that, and then when the after Christmas sales came, we could go and pick out a coat.

I always thought she forgot to shop. But hey, it makes a funny memory. Sort of.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Some companies courting tech types


Wouldn’t you love to have someone fighting for your favor in this job market?

Well, if you are a computer genius, they might.

Jessica Guyunn, LA TIMES, writes that Silicon Valley is throwing money at top talent.

Google gave all its employees a 10% raise.

If you can write software, you’re golden.

The little scamps are stealing talent from each other, poaching, enticing, rewarding, peeling grapes.

Facebook, the upstart, is really twitting (not tweeting) Google.

Google is responding by making their workplaces cushy.

Then, wouldn’t you know, along comes some unknown such as Zynga Game Network, to glom onto Facebook and Google people. The brats!

Speaking of b-words—bubble—anyone remember that one?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

People stockpiling less, not more


Since “The Troubles” began four yrs ago, I have developed food anxiety, shortage anxiety, whatever it’s called. If there are only two items in the fridge, I can hardly breathe in all the way.

Our pantry (a bookcase my brother made in shop class) can stand almost bare. No breathing for me!

Today, though, in the WSJ (Nov 23, 2010), Ellen Byron says people are hoarding fewer supplies and less food. They are “just in time” buyers now, just like companies have been for some time.

According to this, they will buy enough for a week or several days and not stock up when the price is low.

I am the opposite—I buy three TPs when the 1000-sheet stuff goes under $9. I will get three boxes of spaghetti when it’s 88 cents. Same for bread—freezer.

Still, the experts suggest people are going to the store more often and getting less.

Reportedly, the manufacturers and big stores like Costco have to allow for this now. If people are coming more often, they change their displays more often.

The warehouse stores package fewer cans in one shrinkwrap. There may be 18 eggs, not 24.

Since 2008, these companies have taken a hit because people eat from their hoards in the pantry instead of buying. Now they buy, but smaller amounts.

Me, I welcome the Value brands at our Kroger and Walmart. The big red "V" means a good deal. I might stock up.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

If you opt to drive this holiday


Cary Lockwood writes about getting your car ready for a holiday jaunt.

You may want to drive in lieu of being fondled and stripped at the airport.

The average age of cars is 10 years now. They need upkeep.

First get your tires inspected. Some manufacturers say seven-year-old tires should be replaced, even if they seem OK.

Get your cooling system checked. Make sure it will hold up down to minus 32 degrees F.

The washer fluid should also be good down to minus 32 degrees F. Be sure the squirters work.

Get your battery checked. There are tests they can run. Don’t assume they did, although this is often done during an oil change.

Keep emergency items in the trunk. Check the website, www.yourautonetwork.com.

Bring food. Blankets. You don’t want to be stuck in a snowbank without anything to protect you.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Hurry up, apply, no, wait, we are thinking


Mark Whitehouse, WSJ, Oct 11, 2010, says the current uncertainty is slowing down whatever hiring might happen.

Let’s face it, eventually someone will need to buy something, a washing machine will break, a car will punk out, and then someone will have to make something, then someone will hire someone.

But for now, it’s pretty much frozen.

Also, companies really feel like they have their pick. Some people even list a job saying if you are unemployed, don’t even apply. It’s getting creepy.

The problem is the “pick” is getting funkier—credit scores are dropping, meaning companies who somehow translate that into a judgment on people are finding fewer “suitable” candidates.

Skills are getting out of date. People are losing their sales mojo or their investment mojo.

Some companies are sort of screwing around fishing—they will advertise and then if someone “ridiculously awesome” comes along, they might hire—or not.

Come on, people—let’s get with it here. Every person you call back, interview, ask for more information, is a human being with hopes and feelings. Be decent.

What goes around comes around—you could end up being treated the way you are treating people now.

Wasn’t that in the Bible?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Maternity leave can be worrisome


How much time can you afford to take off? Despite laws against it, can you still be fired for taking leave?

The truth is that employers can say you were going to be laid off anyway—and skirt the law.

Most women don’t respond legally—so companies get away with it.

Can you afford to be out a long time—most maternity leave is unpaid.

Have a plan, says Anita Bruzzese, Gannett.

Don’t tell until you have to—when it becomes apparent.

Stay professional—don’t show your sono around or buzz about names.

Plan ahead—even for an early arrival. Have your projects in hand.

Tag up with your boss often while you are home. Stay in touch.

I think I violated all these—and I didn’t go back…So do as I say, not as I did.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Hey, hey--no rest for you!


The Taft Resource Group says don’t buy into the idea that job hunting during the hols is futile.

Companies hire all year long—hiring is not down in Nov and Dec. In fact, many budgets come in Oct 1—and managers lose money if they don’t hire before Jan 1.

People may be in and out, but they do schedule interviews.

Since many people do get dormant during this time, you can get a leg up getting out there.

Stay visible. Maybe send Christmas cards to people who interviewed you even if they didn’t hire you. Who knows.

And keep your ears open at holiday parties—“Who needs an assistant, sorry, could not help overhearing.”

And there are those temporary jobs, too—they can go permanent. Well, may not not the Santa one, but some.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Listen up, college kids


Christine J. Kim, USA TODAY WEEKEND, Nov 12-14, 2010, says now’s the time to finish those college apps.

Doing it before they are due avoids the rush—winter is when financial apps are also due.

Apply to at least six schools, says financial adviser Scott Anderson.

It’s OK to be undecided on major. Most people are.

Hold off on making any financial decisions until you hear on money from all schools (March or April).

Be very wary of early admission—you don’t know what you are looking at moneywise.

Exciting times—but also high finance. Be cautious.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

It's OK to be the "old" one


This mess is really hitting those over 50. Bam!

Daryl Bjornas writes about this for the AZ Republic, Nov 14, 2010.

We older types need to believe in ourselves—but not in a “In my day, sonny” way.

You need to come across as energetic.

You need to do some social networking—think of it as “typing coffee hours.”

You need to be confident.

Update your look. Get a haircut. Maybe have your makeup done at the store, if you’re a woman. No sweaters with leather buttons.

Don’t say too much. Don’t put every little thing on your resume Stay within 15 years.

And just be nice. Be fun to work with. Don’t be a know-it-all, dazed, or a rambling rose talking about everything and nothing.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Veterans--ten hut!


Sad story pre-Veterans Day in the AZ Republic about how our female vets are also devastated by horror from Afghanistan and are coming home, some of them to live in the streets.

This is so disgusting, I can’t even describe how I feel—double vomit comes close! Good grief, people, these folks deserve so much more—and unfortunately, this economy is crushing them, too.

Some need retraining for their old jobs, according to Kristena Hansen of the AZ Republic, Oct 17, 2010.

There are resources for vets, though—some not open to non-vets.

First, most vets attend the Transition Assistance Program, a partnership of the Dept of Labor, the VA, Transportation Dept, and DoD. These are workshops, usually on the base, given 180 days after separation or retirement.

Those with service-connected injuries go through a Disabled Transitional Assistance Program.

Another resource is GI Jobs magazine. www.gijobs.com.

Some other starting points are the Dept of Labor, www.dol.gov/vets.

The VA Vocational Rehab section at www.vba.va.gov/bin/vre/

Let’s hire vets!

If any vets need help with a resume or any organizations want mention here, let me know.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Weasels never rest


Everyday of the week, more than once, some dude thinks he or she is entitled to take my money, what there is of it, if I am stupid enough to hand it over.

The Postal Service has issued a sort of useful brochure on fraud, even though only 2%of ID fraud happens in the mail.

My advice is ASSUME EVERYTHING IS A HUGE GYP and go from there. (Did you know you are not supposed to say “gyp,” which comes from gypsy, which the Rom don’t like equated with fraud.)

Anyhow, how can you tell if an offer or approach is fraudulent? Does it sound too good to be true?

Does it say “act right away”?

Does it guarantee success? High returns?

Does it require postage be paid or some other payment for a “free” item?

Is someone asking you to “receive” payments, deposit them, and send them the difference?

Also—you do know foreign lotteries are illegal here, right? You can’t win them?

Never click on an url in an email—enter it in your browser if you must.

There are no legitimate jobs that involve reshipping from your home!

And never EVER send some bank your financial details so they can update anything. Update my butt! I even got a call on the phone like this—sit on a tack, dopey!

Why should some gal, who is probably a Russian kid in his pyjamas anyhow, leave you her dead husband’s fortune? Why you?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Selling "as is"


If you still have equity and need to sell your house, what if you can’t paint, polish, and fix it up?

Ellen James Martin, Universal Syndicate, writes about what you can do.

Make sure the home is neat and cleaned out, at least. Try to find volunteers to help if you don’t have family around.

Make sure the place is sparking clean.

At least paint the front door and entry—the first impression.

Some agents will stage for you—provide a piece of furniture or two.

Make sure your listing price is realistic.

Check signs in your neighborhood—go to those agents for a pricing estimate.

Ask what you need to do to get the thing sold.

The agent suggesting the highest price may be trying to flatter you. Having to come down hurts you.

So don't necessarily pick the agent with the highest estimate. Check recommendations, track record, chemistry.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Have a friend who is unemployed?


Biz gurus JT O’Donnell and Dale Dauten take on the subject of how to help someone who lost their job. The questioner says when she tries to help her unemployed friend it ends in an argument and excuses.

I gather the friend is not responding to the help being offered. This probably means it’s advice.

JT says the friend may not be hiding anything, as the questioner speculated, except maybe fear and sadness.

You need to grieve when the centerpiece of your life disappears.

JT says she does not even use the term unemployed because it has such a bad connotation.

Dauten says most unemployed people get sick of advice. Ask if you can brainstorm a list of target companies—and maybe provide some introductions.

It’s better to be a friend, rather than career counselor. If the person wants advice they will ask for it.

Just let them talk—don’t try to fix.

And don't say things like, "Well, at least you could earn a living all those other years."

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Tried not to be grumpy about DOWNSIZED


I hate it when people try to tell me even more ways I could save money—get rid of my pets, let my kid use my landland phone (we don’t have cells), etc. I am already pretty darn cheap.

Anyhow, I watched the WE Channel’s show on economizing called DOWNSIZED—Saturday night, if you are interested. (Yes, I still have some cable left, basic.)

This is a blended family—7 HS age kids. They didn’t get along at school, then Mom hooked up with Dad, then a contractor making more than a million a year, and the kids had to get along.

Of course, when The Troubles hit, Dad’s construction business flopped. In the first episode they are chasing the last $300 of their $1700 rent. They live in a very tony part of Phoenix and there is a Mercedes in the driveway. Mom has Chanel earrings on and a rock on her finger.

Their other two houses were foreclosed. Yet the furniture looks new. They shop at Albertson’s—one of the most expensive chains here.

The mother has an MBA and teaches grade school for what she considers to be a trifling salary of $40,000 (“basically volunteer,” she says disdainfully).

So—this is not a typical family in any way. Not. Not. The comments on WE are pretty angry about this. I think it’s scripted by some H’wood dope who thinks, gee, maybe the older kids could dumpster dive.

As for Dad, he takes the sofa change to Coinstar, which anyone sane could have told him charges vig of 10%.

Watch at your own risk—and that of your blood pressure.

My daughter laughed. “They have the show, Mom—plenty of money now.”

Monday, November 8, 2010

Resiliency--can be in short supply


Anita Bruzzese, Gannett, our faithful jobs gal, makes the point that we all are either working too hard, too little, or not at all. There is no Baby Bear these days.

The ones with jobs who are overloaded or underused are looking, too, on some level.

Some people can look every day for years and still be buoyant. Others crumple in two weeks.

People vary in their resilience, according to Davis Temin, a crisis management person in NY.

According to a study by the State Univ of NY Buffalo and Univ of CA Irvine, people with a lot of crap throughout their lives are taking this mess better.

Yeah, well, I have had plenty of adversity and this weekend lost all resiliency over a cheap desk chair that kept breaking. I am in a dining chair now and will be forevermore--no more of those adjustable things.

Resilient people, according to this article, gain power helping someone else. They change it up.

They set goals..remember my checkoff list? Big Sharpie for the checks!

Connect with others—yeah, networking.

Keep your eye on the prize—one job, one better job, an assistant, whatever it is.

Work does not define you. You are not a failure. For one thing, everyone without a job had a heck of a lot of help from Washington in getting into their present situation!

By the way—I am into blaming where blame is due. It makes me feel resilient. Look what those dopes did and I am still standing.

Er, sitting.

Er, falling off my chair.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Food prices to rise


Shopping for us these days is a guerrilla exercise—buy house brand or “Value” brand? Is a can of veggies for lunch actually soup? (Answer to that, sure, why not, except for the sodium.)

Do you ever get backup anxiety—only two rolls of TP left, the 1000 sheet kind is almost $9 bucks on sale, ooo, $9…

Or you open the fridge and it looks a little Mother Hubbardy—and you get that pang of dread.

Now, Julie Jaron and Ilan Brat, WSJ Nov 4, 2010, say the chains are ready to rock-and-roll on prices again.

They said an inflationary tide is about to ripple through the supermarket…that sounds kinda bad, both as reality and metaphor.

They want to raise prices just enough to cover new costs somewhat, but not enough to drive people like me to Walmart—ooops, already driven!

This amounts to raising prices on certain items. OK, Starbucks, do your worst—I haven’t had a granda-biggie or whatever for years.

Meat is more in demand in third-world countries, so grain is becoming scarcer.

The Walmart guy said he wasn’t going to raise prices because demand was weak. You mean there is a cheaper place than Walmart?

Maybe that Hispanic place—FOOD CITY, or whatever it’s called. Will check it out.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Quit dumping on boomers--sell to them


I am a year too old to be a boomer, so what am I—a toomor? Don’t know. All I read now is ageist stuff about how Boomers are selfish, didn’t contribute anything, spoiled their ne’er-do-well kids, are sucking down entitlements, blah, blah.

Well, up until this recent great leveling started, the 78 million of them were also pretty well off. Their average income is $71,000—average net worth $236,000. Does that count house equity—uh-oh.

About 40% of boomers will more after retirement—not if they have upside down mortgages.

One in seven boomers is a caregiver.

One-third of all trips in the US—yup, taken by adults over 55.

Are they internet morons? No—43% of internet traffic is boomers. Eight-two percent of older adults use the internet to research health issues.

If boomers are in online communities, almost 60% log in multiple times a day.

So there—big social types. Some with money.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Try not to get labeled as overqualified


Megan Neighbor (CareerBuilder) says employers can find some very loyal and skilled employees these days—and should not be so afraid they will leave immediately.

Many employers, as a matter o fact, like to fill even entry-level positions with experienced people.

Yet, some fear not being able to get someone at entry-level pay. They may offer a prompt evaluation and possible upgrade. Consider that.

So see how the land lies. One expert says apply for jobs near your home. Some employers don’t want people too far away.

Try to apply your skill set to the requirements—often a computer is checking. Repeat keywords in your letter.

Put a technology section in your resume—programs you know, social networking you can do.

If you have stayed at a job for years in the past, emphasize your stability.

I read an essay about how Americans like to work more than Europeans—even if they don’t need the money. That was interesting. We do need the money now—so be ready to work!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Security theater


I haven’t flown in years, but I dread having my "good china" peered at through some dopey x-ray machine that some company cleaned up inventing and doing all sorts of make-work things like removing shoes (uh, underwear was the last hiding place—thus the neato x-ray?).

Gack!

Does any of this do anything? There is a documentary out called Please Remove Your Shoes.

It describes all this as “security theater,” designed to make you feel protected. And to scare bad guys from trying anything. But it costs $8 billion—is it worth it?

The "experts" say the wiring on this last device was so subtle, it might not be seen on x-ray, so trying to x-ray all cargo is a huge, expensive, and possibly futile deal.

Couldn’t we get a marshal on every plane or something? The bomb-sniffing archways and nosy x-rays, I just don’t know.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Ready for another run at job finding?


Years into this, with our evasive leaders hemming and hawing and saying we are going in the right direction, so many people are still desperate and afraid.

With good reason. This overall unemployment number isn't set to change, at least not in 2011. But all YOU need is one. That's your number.

Too often, and this includes me, we just keep going to our same websites, doing the same things, and nada.

So although the holidays are a bad time to jobhunt, we aren’t quite there yet. So how about…

Sending five paper resumes to companies in buildings near you—go in and get the names off the directory.

If you are working with a job hunting group, find one different group—Check under Workforce, Goodwill job hunting, your state or county, maybe a nearby church.

Call back two people you have been putting off calling.

Do one or two things a day—and not just putting your resume on big computer boards.

Volunteer—to get out of the house and get a different mind set.

Are you game?

Make a list and actually check things off. I love checking things off. I use a big wide Sharpie.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Interviewers and applicants need to up their game


If a job applicant doffs the slippers and drives over with scarce gas and puts their worth out there for you, the least you can do is interview a reasonable number (3-4) and tell the ones you don’t hire that you picked someone else.

But I can’t tell you how many jobhunters tell me they never get a followup, an answer, anything.

Cullen Wheatley wrote about this in CareerBuilder.

If you don’t hear back (or even before you leave), ask what you did right—or wrong.

If you don’t feel like that, at least ask what the next step is.

Always send a thank you note. Mailed. Not a text, not an email.

Be patient. If they said it would take a few weeks, then wait.

After the time is up, call and say, “I am still very interested.”

Never sound desperate, even if you are.

Sometimes, if I really wanted to work for someone, I call back in a month after they hired someone else.

Who knows—maybe the person bombed.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

New! Pop-up stores


Think fast—that Halloween store is only going to be there for a month or so.

Taking advantage of the MANY empty retail spaces around these days, temporary stores are cropping up.

Even the big guys like Toys R Us are putting in little satellite stores. They just stock the big stores’ hottest items.

The National Retail Federation is expecting a decent holiday and these stores will make shopping more convenient.

Actually, even if things get better, the pop-ups are here to stay. Some of the ones near you may even become permanent.

This refers especially to outlets for the big chains—like the GAP, which opened a pop-up in New York during Fashion Week showcase its Piperlime accessories.

Gucci also has opened and closed these for its Icon sneakers—now you see it, now you don’t.

At least this must create a job or two, right?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

When you get ready to depart this changed land


I once went to Ireland for the weekend. Hand to God. Left Thursday night, came back Sunday. Went to visit an old boyfriend who lived in Dingle on the West Coast—he wasn’t even home.

Ever since, I think of myself retiring to that fusty little village, 100 pubs, 400 people.

With this country sinking, I think about it more and more, although my bad vision and poverty would probably preclude an Irish second chapter.

The other day, the WSJ asked some questions about living abroad. Would Medicare cover me? Nope, except for limited exceptions close to our borders.

Would Social Security mail me a check? Yes. To some countries, no, but Ireland is OK.

Could I get direct deposit of my SS check? Maybe. There is a list of places I could.

Would I have to file my taxes? Yup, though I might get more time.

Could I still vote in US elections?Yes—absentee in the place where I last lived, even if I have no property here anymore.

Would you ever consider bagging this mess and trying it someplace else?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

News flash: Grandparents still spoiling kids


The Wall Street Journal (Oct 25, 2010) says grandparents are raining money on their grandkids—recession or not.

In 2009 (OK, not really as bad yet) they spent $52 billion. This according to Grandparents.com.

Yes, the old…duffers...whoa, wait, the average age to become a grandparent is 50!

Half of all grandparents have contributed to their grandkids’ education.

Grandparents are 26% of movie audiences.

All four Rolling Stones are grandparents.

OK—that one didn’t have to be in there.

The one thing my own child has not done is bring me a grandchild—under the circumstances, this is fine.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Questioning credit checks on applicants


Everyone has been touched if not decimated by this stupid economy—especially out of work people.

Four states have limited the amount of credit info a would-be employer can get on you.

African-Americans and Latinos have been shown to have lower average scores—oh, let’s discriminate, what fun.

They have done studies and poor credit does not necessarily mean you will steal or be disorganized or not be good at your job.

About 60% of employers use credit checks, only 13% for all applicants.

They companies contend poor reports mean the candidate might steal or commit fraud.

How about seeing if the person has a criminal background—wouldn’t that be better? Even that could be misleading.

Just because you need money does not mean you will steal.

You might even work hard for it!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Your appliances are having a party


Servomechanisms—supposed to serve, not rob you,

David Wells, a green energy guy in Phoenix, says ceiling fans use one-third as much energy as a box fan.

Switching just 10 light bulbs to CFLS or LEDs can save you as much as $40 a mo.

If you use an oscillating fan all day, during peak hours, this can cost $12 in electricity! At night, not turning, nonpeak hours, maybe $2.

Do you leave your computer on all night? I don’t, but it can consume some electricity if you do (and get weird cooties, I believe—viruses).

Some people unplug the toaster when not in use. The TV also uses some teeny amount of juice to stay at the ready.

If I unplugged everything all the time, I can see myself standing there thinking the damn things were broken, though. I am like that.

Do I turn out lights—yes. Hey—are CFLs (above) those curly messes? I don’t like those. Ugly and the light is odd.

For more from David Wells, go to now2zero.com.

He would hate me, but he might like you.