Friday, February 26, 2010

Barter--why money was invented

I saw a story about how Nestle asked some prominent business consultants to come give their ideas about the company—and offered them some sweet “prizes” instead of money.

I also had a plastic surgeon ask me to write web copy in exchange for lasering hair off my face. (I was not hairy enough to justify it.)

Andrew M. Kaikati and Jack G. Kaikati wrote about this in the Jan 25, 2009, WSJ. Well, they wrote about barter, not my hairy face.

An estimated $12 billion in goods and services shuffled back and forth in 2008. Barterers even have a trade association—the International Reciprocal Trade Assn.

Consumers barter with each other—C2C, as it were. They organize into General, Specialty and Niche.

Business to business barter, B2B, can be retail (small cos to other cos via trade exchanges) or corporate (larger cos trading with each other or through a large co exchange).

Exchanges match customers and keep track of transactions. When you barter something, you get a credit you can use with any of the other members, not just the one you bartered with. These exchanges can get spendy--$400 to $800 for membership.

The government will even barter with you. There is a Stocks for Food program, allowing farmers to put up some of their crops to secure govt loans. Then when the loan comes due, they can give the govt the crops if they don’t have money. Then the govt trades the crops to companies that give it back as canned veggies, peanut butter and the like for the food assistance program.

Good grief—let’s go back to money!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

A fourth of all jobs--gone, baby, gone

Recession has made some things clear: Many of the jobs lost are not coming back, people will not be rehired, the jobs may not even exist.

Phil Izzo writes about this in the WSJ, Feb 12, 2010. About a quarter of the 8.4 million jobs lost since this began won’t be recreated.

Other industries will have to take up the slack—and workers will have to adapt.

More tasks have been automated. Many jobs went to the lowest bidder—overseas. Companies have learned to do more with fewer, that less means more profit.

Only 133,000 jobs a month will be added, some economists say—better than losses, but slow going.

We need to see 200,000 a month added to make progress.

Ah, darn, could you cry?

Well, don’t—all you need is one job, not a fixed economy.

Think of it that way--one isn't that big a number.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Can't sell--might as well improve the house

Rosie Romero writes about the latest trends in home improvement (Arizona Republic, Feb 13, 2010).

I got someone to weedeat for me—and my kid found an orange tree someone wanted removed—and brought it over.

Broke as we are, we still mess with the house.

One trend is that people still like big spaces, since they have to be home in them a lot now.

Walls are coming down to create great rooms.

Bare floors are in—rip up your carpeting. I had that done when we had a house fire a few years ago. I painted two rooms of cement, but one still has carpet glue marks, which I try to see as “loft-like” and cool.

Try to reuse things like countertops—if you get granite, put the old one in the laundry room or workshop. Want a new patio—break up the slab and put gravel in between instead of getting all new pavers.

Pay attention to product recalls. Drywall from China—not so much.

If you want to freshen one room, make it the kitchen. I did my kitchen years ago and still love it! Now, I see stainless appliances on the shows—by the time, I could sell, black will be new stainless and my kitchen will be hip!

Try adding to improvements that will help as you become less sure-footed. Install grab-bars.

Or go greener—tankless water heaters or new windows. Those windows COST A TON!

Can’t we buy them at the Depot or Lowe’s and jam them in ourselves? Or maybe off Craigs?

Uh-oh…new project coming.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Claw to the top--nicely

I always thought the tippy top might be a tad vulnerable, but many people have ambition that exceeds mine.

According to AZ Magazine, you need to up your tech literacy to succeed. Take a junior college course or one at a tech school. Learn Microsoft Office, Excel, Quickbooks, the Adobe suites.

The second piece of advice: Follow your industry, become an insider. Know the product, know the customer, know the news. Read the trade journals and business sections of the paper.

If you need a certificate or more schooling, get it. If there is a high cost, be sure it will return a higher salary. Your company may even pay for it—ask.

Expose yourself to new people and new ideas. Don’t just network with the same old.

Be reliable and don’t be nasty or get a reputation for being nasty.

If someone does you a favor, watch for a chance to reciprocate.

Have any other suggestions, readers?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Stay-at- home-mothers: Time to relaunch?

I am not being sarcastic—this can be an okay time. And you may need to if your spouse is out of work.

More women are working now than men. Because they command less money? Maybe. But also there are more women getting degrees now than men. So figure it out.

Check out a website called I learned about it from Sue Shellenbarger (WSJ, Feb 17, 2010).

Some moms found it hard to learn the technology that had crept in since they left the formal workplace. One had her kid teach her Excel.The article called some returners ”modern-day Rip Van Winkles,” but I think this is an exaggeration (sure, listen to me, I am dreading tweeting).

The estimate that 1.9 million college-educated moms would like to return to work.

You learn on the fly, remarked one returner.

Or you could take what they call an on-ramping program—like Pace Law School’s “New Directions” course. On-ramping--name for everything, I guess. “Returnship” is another term I’ve seen.

If you want or need to do it—go for it. Don’t let the bum economy intimidate you. Go to IRelaunch and dig in. By the way, the site is also informative for men.

We don’t want Failure to Relaunch. Not from my peeps.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Can't afford your meds?

Can’t afford your meds?

I don’t want anyone off his or her meds!

Most people who know me know I am not big on taking a bunch of stuff, but if you need to, you need to.

Wal-Mart has helped a lot with its $4 formulary—and other places have followed suit. So that is good.

You can also check the websites of the individual medicines for coupons. I do this for my dry eye goop.

Also ask at your grocery store pharmacy, especially, if they have any way to get the drugs cheaper. My store had a plan, but people had to ask, they could not suggest it.

A website called may also be able to help. Someone who tried to sign up told me a screen came up about its Security Certificate—if you get that, email them.

Back to the meds—the next time you go to the doctor, see if you are taking anything you no longer need to take.

Also ask if an older, cheaper drug off patent might not be just as good.

This is the opposite of all the ads, which suggest you ask your doctor if a new drug would be right for you. You are asking if an old one would be. Isn't the doctor supposed to suggest this stuff--or is that a retro concept now?

Ideas for new businesses--brilliant?

I love the site. They will send you a weekly email about new businesses around the earth—it could give you an idea or two.

New business equals new jobs!

First, this week, we had floating offices. These fit two people and berth in marinas. I like the name—H2Office.

The Gruve is a gizmo that nags you if you aren’t moving enough.

A reusable connector helps you make trash into toys. If you have a kid who would rather play with the box than the toy—this could be fun.

Another new business lets you give to your favorite charities with one check each month—and not get on a million lists.

Speedrenting is like speed dating (talk to each a few minutes) but it’s to find a roommate.

To learn more and get all jazzed up, go to

It’s European but we’re over that Old Europe deal, right?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Color you...optimistic?

I know, it’s raining or snowing, the sky is gray, you’re chilly, your feet are cold, you feel gray, tired.

Well, this won’t be a shocker, but a study has shown that depressed people feel more “gray.” They made up a color chart to test out emotions—such as green with envy and “the blues.”

They asked subjects which colors they liked. They actually had lots of shades of gray on the chart. They asked which color people felt “drawn to” and which depicted their “current mood.”

So-called “healthier” people liked yellow or as the overall favorite color of "healthy" people—blue.

I love blue. My house is blue-themed. I have blue tiles in front.

Am I healthy mentally—well, you are reading this, what do you think? My friends and fam think I am negative.

I have heard that orange is the favored color of the insane. I like orange.

Like many blonds, I can wear almost any color and do. Except gray. Yick.

How about you—when you get dressed, do you think, “This is a power day” and put on red? Or “I am feeling calm and centered” and put on blue?

Maybe we could all buy a red or yellow shirt and make it happen, what do you think?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Local govts lightening up on home businesses

Across the street, in what people sort of slyly refer to as my “working class neighborhood” (meaning the police, not some snooty homeowner cabal, keep the peace), some young guys have a car reupholstering business. Very kewl custom cars come and go. Nice eye candy.

I don’t love their friend with the motorcycle roaring around, but I would have to see a war getting started to call the cops on anyone. I avoid cops.

Jennifer Levitz, WSJ, Feb 13, 2010, says even some storefront businesses are coming home now due to crummy economy, so rules and regs are being looked at and relaxed. This refers to parking, traffic noise, and other serenity issues in formerly sleepy neighborhoods.

Some places, for instance, allow home businesses so long as customers or clients don’t come to the house.

In Nashville, it’s estimated that 14,000 businesses now operate illegally.

One was a guy in Gilbert AZ (few miles from here), who had 40 huge tanks of fish he took to pet stores. The joint was developing a telltale, shall we say, STENCH? They said it was a home-based warehouse in an area not zoned for it, but this was overturned because the fish guy said it was temporary. Actually some neighbors defended him. Times are bad. One man said if this is what he had to do, it’s not bothering me.

Another woman in Nashville had a beauty chair and a tanning bed in her garage with a small sign outside. She was tagged for having people come to the house. A councilman proposed a narrow exception for home-based beauty parlors, but it was rejected for being unfair to other businesses.

The councilman may try again to get the rules changed. A second rent, a second electric bill, he said, can be the breaking point.

If you are thinking of complaining about someone, why not think of their family--they are just trying to survive.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Thought about online courses?

M.R. Kylis writes about this in the Feb/Mar 2010 issue of Working Mother.

One interviewee studied two yrs at a Montana State Univ online program to become a certified librarian. She had been a teacher, but craved a change.

Mothers often take advantage of the daytime for the kids, then study at night.

One woman did her MS in chemistry online through the Univ of Maryland.

More than 60% of schools now offer a remote option, Harvard, Penn State and Duke included.

These can cost as much as the on-campus course, but you have way fewer expenses.

Of course, you do have to motivate yourself and stick with it.

Check out to find accredited schools. has some scholarship and payment info. tells you about federal loans.

Have you ever done it? Tell us about it.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Need a jobs group--start one

At my old church in DC, we started an employment mission. This was during the nineties.

We met once a week—compared notes, sometimes a guest came in. Our favorite was a dance instructor who made us run and hop around the room and get out of our heads. Fun!

Once a month, I printed up people’s qualifications in little blurbs in a church bulletin insert. The Clintons attended our church and the ushers told me the president read my little flyer from beginning to end, even if Hillary was tugging on his sleeve. I always fancied it helped him know how real-world people were hurting—I wish the current president seemed more aware.

When I remarked on this on LinkedIn, Susan Breidenbach told of finding a group for unemployed professionals in Reno—it’s called ProNet. They put on a four-day job seminar. They do mock interviews, help each other with resumes. Last week, she said, 102 people attended. ProNet is also holding a Job Fair.

She said it took her six months to find this group. Now they are at work putting on a cable TV show aimed at unemployed professionals.

If you start a group, local businesses may give you listings and if you are involved, you may get first shot at those listings. Think about it.

“Overturn every rock,” Susan wrote us on LinkedIn, “to make sure your community does not have a group.”

And if not—maybe start one. Find a meeting place, get the paper (if you still have one) to publicize it.

Go to for more interesting commentary.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Remote cobblers make shoes last

"Last"—yes, a pun. A shoe pun. How often do you read one of those?
Oh, never mind. (The last is part of a shoe.)

Sarah E. Needleman, WSJ, Feb 11, 2010, says women bought more than 700,000 pairs of shoes in 2009, men, half that many.

Still, shoe repair shops are becoming scarce. There used to be 120,000 in the 30s. Now we are down to 7,000.

Now many cobblers and repairmen have websites—you send the shoes in with instructions. Check out Resole America, American Heelers, NuShoe, and Great Lakes Shoe & Orthopedic Service.

They send you the boxes and shipping materials—you fill it in and send off the kicks.

The reporter tested them on the basics—new soles and heels. Some threw in polishing and waterproofing.

One job was soles for cowboy boots--$70 with $15 or $20 shipping depending on your location.

Another one had free shipping—she sent some worn out pumps and let the cobbler decide what they needed. They came back much better--$44.

Some responded and whipped the shoes out. Some took their time. Like any other eBay or online service, I guess.

Where is that corner guy? I used to get scraps of leather there to make sandals for my Barbies.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

I ran out of ramen!

Good grief, I am going to starve to death. What was I thinking?

Aw—just kidding, though I do favor the 10-cent lunch special (not bad with frozen veggies added).

I decided to write about yummy food today instead of the usual Sturm & Drang.

Stephanie Witt Sedgwick, of the Wash Post, says this time of year, we are still hopeful about the resolutions—never yell at the kids, exercise daily, and love our gum-chomping co-workers.

Cooking healthier is a…piece of er,…er,…kale?

First, Steph tells us, add citrus to everything. Tons of it. Marinate in it, put it in salad dressing (mix with olive oil), and put lemon and orange zest (oily crumbs scraped off the peel), in ricotta cheese, add a little brown sugar and fruit—dessert or breakfast.

Use a lot of herbs. Use the dried ones in sauces, the fresh on top at the end or in quick-cooking dishes . Put chopped herbs in dressings. Bean salads—remember those?—load in the herbs and EVOO.

Use foreign-tasting spices on American foods—turmeric, cumin, chilies, cinnamon, cloves. Make rubs, put them in burgers. I like a bottled spice called Chinese Five Spices. For a good hot or cold side dish, mix with peanut butter, olive oil, and water—heat and put it over spaghetti—yum cold, too.

If you’ve already added salt to something and it still tastes flat, try a dash of sugar. You’d be amazed.

I went nuts and bought one of those plastic yellow lemons full of juice. I throw it in everything now. I know—get fresh. Well, you get fresh if you want. Me, I like my fakey.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Say you WANT to quit your job

Dennis Nishi (WSJ Jan 26, 2010) says a survey shows that 60% of those still working want to change jobs when things pick up (insert prayer here).

The key will be to quit well—as in having a “good death.”

First, Nishi says, look over the employee handbook—see what rules bind you. See if you get back un-used vacay time, for instance.

If you don’t get paid for vacation time, start using it ahead of your leave-date.

Make an appointment with the boss to discuss your departure. Make if formal. Bring a hard copy of your letter of resignation. Offer more notice than 2 weeks if you can. Nonetheless, some companies will invite you to depart that day.

We used to call that being “walked to the car” in my ex’s computer operator days.

Don’t take the stapler. These places have cameras. Not worth the hassle.

Clear your browser cache, remove your passwords, and delete anything (you know what I am talking about) you don’t want left on there.

Fantasy football—what did you think I meant?

Don’t lay blame, don’t rant, don’t finally get it all said. Things get around. Former bosses land the darndest of places.

Join an employee alumni association or stay in touch with your colleagues.

You never know—that reference could depend on it.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Health jobs--people will always get sick

Erin Zlonek, Arizona Republic (Feb 7, 2010), reminds us that decrepit and ailing bods will always need some tuning up and looking after.

Growth career fields include…

Dental hygienist and assistant. Half of all hygienists earn between $55,000 and $79,000. Not bad. Usually only a two-yr program is required. Assistants—the ones who sterilize and lay out the sharp little tools (ick) and update records (and joke with the dentist) earn from $26,000 to $38,000.

Medical assistants earn between $23,000 and $33,000. Ten percent make over $40,000. They keep all records, room patients, and deal with insurance. A course can be completed in a year.

Occupational therapy assistants and aides provide rehab services and emotional support to people with disabilities. Half of these make between $39,000 and $57,000.

Physical therapy assistants concentrate less on the life skills and more on therapy such as electrical stimulation of muscles, ultrasound, gait adjustment, and balance. Half of these made mid-30s to high 50-s.

Pharmacy techs. These help licensed pharmacists deal with customers, store and keep track of medicine, and sometimes, count, lick and stick. Figure on $10-$15 an hour.

If you have a strong stomach, can deal with people having a bad day, and like to feel you are really helping and making a difference, get into health care. It’s kind of a calling, not just a job.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Thrifty cosmetics mean looks for less

First, according to Good Housekeeping, March 2010, forget the dept stores for makeup and cosmetics. Costco, Wal-Mart, the grocery store can meet most of your needs.

Remember what my ex- used to say? He worked in a factory that turned out creams and potions and said some days, the Estee label went on, sometimes Sally Hansen. Basically, the same stuff.

Target is OK price-wise if they are running a two-for-one sale.

Sign up for in-store cards and frequent buyer programs. Of course, the store can zero in on you and your preferences, but sometimes they zero in with bargains. It’s a trade-off.

Some dept store makeup is sorta price-fixed. Try finding a Clinique product, even online, for less.

Speaking of online—eBay is a great place to cruise for makeup.

Or you can find an online bargainon a store's website and then pick it up at Nordies or someplace…save on shipping.

Wal-Mart even has an online site. Beauty items ship for 97 cents.

My best tip: Lipstick as blush. Blend well…and spend well.

Friday, February 5, 2010

When you must sell your home

Ilyce Glink, Tribune Media Services, says eventually you may need to try to move—and sell your former best investment, your house.

Out here in Arizona, our housing market is a disaster—most people I know are upsidedown. Many are looking into short sales—where you somehow talk the now-federally buoyed up bank to take pity on you and accept what you can get for the balance of your mortgage.

This year, 4 million more people will be foreclosed.

Man, doesn’t this blow?

Interest rates are low, which is good, but banks laugh you off if you try to reposition your mortgage to a lower rate.

Sellers need to really whip houses into shape and exceed all expectations.

Clean the house; stage it if it’s empty.

Invite at least three agents to price it, not just the agent who helped you buy it.

Be realistic about the situation. See what is selling on your block. How long was it on the market? Setting a high price (a wish price) and waiting and waiting may be worse than just setting a market price.

Research other neighborhoods—but don’t put in an offer until you have an offer.

Read everything. This is how many people ended up with adjustable rate messes.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Tell employers what you can do for them

Yes, you need money but you don’t want the job because you need money…very bad form, don’tcha know.

J. Craig Anderson explores this on CareerBuilder.

First—when you are in an interview, try to remember: What you did for someone else isn’t really the point—what can you do for the person sitting in front of you?

To know that, you need to research the company…Have they gotten any contracts lately, partnered with anyone, etc. How could you fit in?

You want to show you can make or save the company money. Money. Make or save. Repeat after me. If you can retain customers, lower costs and other pluses—speak up.

Try to be humble, but self-assured and confident.

Do you come off as fun or pleasant to work with? This can be important.

And make or save them money.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Can one flub sink you?

Joann S. Lublin (WSJ, Feb 2, 2010) says in this job market making a faux pas or any kind of pas in an interview or networking, even, can be curtains.

Head hunters and recruiters admit they have black lists. Liars, losers, and misfits, they say.

Exaggerating your qualifications can land you on the list.

Failing a background check—not good.

Submitting a resume to a firm who already received your resume from a head hunter can get you outlawed—you may cost the head hunter a fee.

One applicant also learned he had been blacklisted because when asked if he would be willing to take a drug test, he joked, “Sure, just give me a week’s notice.” Yeah—well, not funny.

Another guy got listed because he rose high on an applicant list, then stayed with his employer when the employer made him a good counteroffer to keep him.

And above all—don’t put weird or incriminating nonsense on Facebook or Tweet stupid stuff—this gets checked, better believe it.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

'Zup in exercise on the cheap?

The American Council on Exercise comes out with its trends every year, so here goes.

Basically, they say, people are busy and broke.

Cheaper health clubs will gain members.

Group training will be the rage. Zumba—a Latin-type dance workout will be popular.

Workouts will be short and intense—Boot Camps and the like.

Exergaming will be in (video games with movement) and will be offered at health clubs.

The Boomers will get their own routines.

Companies and friends will be emphasizing wellness more.

You may even get a program through your phone or be nagged by a gadget called a Fitbit.

What the patoot is that? Gizmo that you wear all day and night and it tracks your movements and sleep and everything. Then gives you a report.

Nah, not for me. I wonder if it can “see” eyerolls.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Love in recessed times

Ooops—Richard Whitmire says finding a guy is er, harder than ever (WSJ, Jan 22, 2010).

If you are getting sick of Mommy’s boys, basement dwellers, older guys hunched over their Quicken programs and pre-nups, and are heading for the sperm bank, allow me to relieve you of the notion that the latter is a walk in the park, either. (Yes, I know of whence.)

And if you are looking for a purse, he may be looking for a nurse. Not good. And those coyote lovers tend to be fickle.

Yup, women are getting too educated and too accomplished to settle. 22% of men with some college are now out-earned by the missus.

We now have more eligible women than men. Long-term monogamy tends to come when there are more men than women. If a woman does not like what a man does, he’s off the island, so men tend to mind their Ps and Qs.

58% of all BAs and 62% of associates degrees—women.

And now we are also in a Man-Cession. Men are out of work.

Interestingly, according to this article, some colleges are accepting less qualified men so men won’t be in such short supply that they can treat women badly.

Still, just like a job--all you need is one.