Friday, April 30, 2010

Time to try for a new job?

Anita Bruzzese, CareerBuilder, says some people may see an uptick in this crummy mess, think about the overtime they have had to put in, and think, “I am outta here.”

Not so fast.

Some companies are making new hires—but what if it’s because the other people were burned out?

As you move from “a job any job” to thinking of your work as a career again, set goals. Document your contributions so when raises and promotions do start up again, you will get one.

Think about your last annual review—anything there to work on?

Don’t overreact about being overworked now—it may settle down.

Just because you leave one company is no guarantee you won’t be in the same place of resentment in a couple of years at another company.

See if you think your company is stable, make a five-year plan.

Remember, as new guy at a new place, you would be the first to be laid off.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Get up and go!

So, here I am, see, at the desk, a teeny glum, disaffected, how can I zip into action?

Dr Thom Lobe, founder and medical director of Beneveda Medical Center in Beverly Hills, has some ideas for sparking creativity and just generally being less of a slug on ‘ludes.

First, draw a picture upside down. We need to get the old right brain going (the left is being logical all the time).

Exercise and stretch in your chair. Arms overhead…anna one, anna two…out to the side…one, two. Twist your wrists.

Laugh reading that. Good exercise.

Every 1.5 to 20 hrs—do something different for 20 mins. Visualize yourself on a mini-vacation (I included a pix).

Eat a good breakfast—be sure to include protein. Then a healthy bite every so often—cheese, nuts, hardboiled egg.

Minimize caffeine.

OK, lost me there.

One anna two, one anna two….

Oh—speaking of a slug on ‘ludes…Did you see 60 Minutes? College kids take uppers! My gosh…I finally had a chance to say, “Adderall, is that what the kids are calling it these days”?

By the way, you don’t want to be doing that. A million reasons. Brain damage over time being a possibility.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Remodel for yourself

Who can move? These huts aren’t worth much any more—and often way less than we owe on them.

So we make do. Even people who are “above water,” may not have enough equity to sell and cover a new 20% down payment and fees.

M.P. McQueen wrote about this in the WSJ Apr 24-25, 2010.

Remodeling is up 5%.

People used to do it to sell and trade up. Now they want to make the present homestead more livable.

They no longer care if the investment can be recouped—just if it suits their daily life.

$100,000 kitchen blowouts are slacking in popularity.

Instead—reinsulating is in.

Removing a wall to make the kitchen seem bigger is in.

Go to to calculate your planned improvements.

Some people are in it so long-term they are putting in handrails and ramps decades before anticipating that they will need them.

Now that’s commitment to a settled life. All courtesy of our banking and political system.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The upside of stress

In any stressful situation—it does not have to be a sabertooth tiger bearing down on you—your brain quickly floods with stress hormones and decides whether to flee or fight.

But UCLA did a study several years ago and apparently in women, the choice is “tend or befriend.”

The brain chems in women cause them to turn to their friends and children.

Friends also help women live longer (Nurses Study—Harvard). The more friends, the less likely to get sick.

Not having a close friend can be as big a risk factor for ailments as smoking or the (ever-popular) being fat.

So, my friends, present and future—I toast you!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Free howledge

Who can afford contractors and people who know how to do things, right?

Funny story—did you know if tree branches overhang your house, your homeowner’s
insurance may send a guy to take pictures, then cancel you? Nice, huh? Yup—had to get a tree guy. Email me if you want to know which company did this.

But for other things that don’t involve walking on your roof you may be able to make do with online instruction, according to Alice Garbarini Hurley, writing in Good Housekeeping, Apr 2010.

Hurley writes that our friend the internet has a video about just about everything you may need to do.

The big, fairly reputable how-to sites are,,, a I left one out that is part of Demand Media, which is a company undercutting writer pay abd ruining the industry that has supported me for almost three decades.

According to Hurley, Howdini is one that’s good for complicated projects. YouTube, Howcast, and ViewDo feature amateurs doing things—so be warned.

You can also search by putting in “how to,” then the subject.

Try to see how long the video is—they could go on and on. They should show something like 4:29—which means four mins, 29 secs.

Gosh, this is also a funny story. My daughter wanted to get rid of wasps on our fish pond outside—they were divebombing her on the patio. Every site we went to had something about building a wasp trap—soda bottle with sugar water. Yes, that’s a picture of it. The idea was, wasps fly in, can’t get out.

Well, let me ASSURE you they don’t fly in and this is a good example of “content” copied and recopied from one source…In other words, crap. I liked it better when “content” was called writing and even involved research of some sort.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Slow, cheap, healthy eats

I am a bad cook. Well, not bad. A non-cook would be more accurate. But I can order out and I can heat up and nuke.

I also luuuv my crockpot. Throw in Lipton’s Onion Soup mix, water and any meat in, click it, and forget it until it smells so good you get hungry.

So Judith Finlayson’s book, “The Vegetarian Slow Cooker: Over 200 delicious recipes” caught my eye.

Usually you think of veggies being overcooked and slow cookers are all about overcooking, but apparently “plant food” as Finlayson calls it can be cooked all day.

She points out that cooking times vary from cooker to cooker, so keep that in mind.

Some veggie matter—such as legumes, also require some breaking down of fibers, so this is good.

She makes cheesecake in this thing, too (sans the Lipton’s, presumably).

She also browns veggies before putting them in…beginning the carmelization process.

Root veggies cook vern slower than meat.

Some veggies—peppers, for instance—need to be added at the end or they get bitter.

Whole rather than ground spices do better.

Oh—there are tricks to this. You’ll have to get the book…and bon appetit!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

New on the job

If you just got a job--first, congratulations!

Anita Bruzzese, Gannett, says you have to know how to “go to work.”

Beginners may not know, and people experienced in the working world may have forgotten.

Remember, your coworkers and bosses are slammed—and may be doing the work of several.

Young grads may enter the workforce without knowing the overall drill.

First, never say you are bored.

Ask what you can do to help someone instead.

Many young people like texting or emailing—at work, it’s face to face. You have to learn how to meet, talk to people, make friends in other companies related to yours.

On Friday, don't just make weekend plans, send the boss an update on what you are doing.

Never send a business email without waiting and reading it over.

Greet people. Yes, everyday! Of course, you saw them yesterday or even that morning, but sullen uncommunicativeness does not mean you are “deep,” just creepy.

If you have bad news, tell the boss so he or she won’t be blindsided.

Above all, read the handbook.

If it says don’t use company computers to go on Facebook and the others, don’t do it. If they give you a phone or blackberry, they can check it anytime they want.

Violate these rules—and there may be no second chances. Yes, it’s like that.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Ways to save on health care

Jeff Wuorio, Good Housekeeping, Mar 2010, has some ideas about saving on health care.

You may be able to get vaccines for your kids cheaper than at the pediatrician (under your plan). Go to

Many grocery and drugstores also have cheaper vaccine shots for you, too!

Under or uninsured women can get free breast and cervical cancer screening by going to

Dicker with your doctors. Ask for a price break. Before going in, check with the billing office to see if there is a discount for cash.

Ask the doctor for samples—I even go back and get more without even having an appt. Niceness may vary.

Buy drugs at internet sites (check with National Assn of Board sof Pharmacy… first—95% of internet pharmacies may be bogus).

Check out the rebate program at Hamacher Resource Group in Milwaukee.

Join your own pharmacy’s discount program. Mine is way better than my Medicare drug plan!

For eyewear and exams, get out your AAA or AARP card.

For teeth, check out the local dental schools. We have done this!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Hourly work--don't rule it out

Katherine Powers, Working Mother, May 2010, talks about people who have made a career of what they thought was a high school or temporary hourly job.

One woman made a career with McDonalds…allowing her to work part-time when her kids were in school, but full-time in summer when she has child care. Some people have the reverse.

With the upsurge in low-wage hourly work, this story contends, managers will have to treat hourly people better. Many hourly places do have health insurance, for instance.

About 75 million Americans work by the hour, with a median wage of $11.49.

Working Mother lists the best companies for hourly workers—check the website.

Many of these “good” companies offer educational benefits, insurance, flex time, even child care.

That sounds sort of like careers, not jobs. Yes—these companies say—careers.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Walmart--what to do, what to do

Brad Dorfman, Reuters, was waxing on about Walmart. He thinks they are in a weird position in what he calls “the new normal,” meaning this crap economy.

Some Walmart customers want to trade up to Kohl’s or Target, and some are heading for the dollar stores.

Both the up’s and down’s posted better revenues last month. Walmart wasn’t sayin’.

Walmart stock is up 3%, Target’s up 16%, if that tells you anything.

Target, he says, is destined to do pretty well—it’s discretionary, but not ultra-discretionary, meaning, I guess, you could choose it and get out alive financially.

We have a Walmart three blocks from us. We depend on it. They just dolled it up, but in the process, took out the garden center and the plants.

I liked those. They were nice. I didn’t care if they were down-channel, or however these analysts like to talk. There were plants, flowers, leaves—it smelled good in there.

Some days I used to go in the greenhouse and just breathe. Very soothing.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Vacation time--vay-whatta time?

Anita Bruzzese, Gannett, says in spring thoughts turn to not going to work. Vacation time is coming!

If you have a job to vacay out of.

Still, with increased workloads and fears of layoffs, many working stiffs are scared stiff of taking time off, no matter how much they need it.

I once read that people who work in a bank MUST take time off—so if they are fiddling the books, it will come to light. I wonder if that ever was true or still is.

But now, of course, consultants say we need to decompress. After burnout, one said to Anita, it’s hard to recover.

So what do you do, readers?

A mind is a terrible thing to burn out. You might need it later.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Happy talk

Jeez, what is UP with everyone wanting to be happy in the midst of a total economic and emotional breakdown? Be real!

Sue Shellenbarger, WSJ, Jan 27, 2010, says some companies are hiring “happiness coaches.”

I recently wrote some stories for a site called Coaching Commons (dot org) on coaching, and it made me more aware that everything has a coach these days. Could even be a good field to get into…google it…organizations and sites. (I quit them, though, because they would not pay the PP commission—cheapsters who did not respect me, so maybe they need an editor coach.)

Anyhow, UBS, Amex, KMPG and other biggies have hired these happiness people.

They try to make employees get a positive attitude—or at least a neutral one. I guess I could shoot for neutral.

Employee satisfaction is at a low. Only 45% of those with jobs like those jobs.

Buoyant moods up profits, too. (One for The Big Book of Duh—why else would they do this?)

In these sessions, employees focus on what they can control, not on what they can’t.

OK—it’s not rolling in the aisles joyful, but it could help put things in perspective.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Keep an eye on future hot industries

Companies that aren’t thriving today will bounce back later(say when everyone’s car bites the dust).

The opposite is true—bill collectors could hit a slump a few years from now. (Nice to have fantasies.)

Health care, biotech, education, government, security, information, and green industries are sort of doing well now. But others may come to the fore as world economic conditions improve.

Keep an eye on VoIP (Voice over Internet), private hedge funds (ack—didn’t they tank us), single family home building (same), car manufacturing, environmental consulting, search engines, new car dealers, and mining.

See anything good? Now to find someone to pay you.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Loan modification--maybe run?

Ilyce Glink, Gannett, tells of a guy offering to read a person’s loan paperwork and find errors to help the customer get out of the loan.

Of course, he wanted a mint for this “service.”

This is only one scam being dangled in front of increasingly desperate homeowners.

It’s a SCAM BUBBLE! Ta-da!

Supposedly, B of A is coming to some former Countrywide mortgage holders offering to bring their totals into closer to market range. (I have yet to get that call, let me be sure the phone is working…yes, dial tone.). This is probably legit.

Claims that your credit will not be hurt by modifying are also false—the smaller payments are called partials. Some of these reductions are also temporary and won’t get made permanent.

Do not pay people upfront. Try to find a state agency or nonprofit that is not a total ripoff.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Unpaid intern--what do you think?

Anita Bruzzese, Gannett, writes on CareerBuilder about today’s cheapster special—the internship.

OK—I think most internships are sort of exploitive, talking people into thinking they need to work for free to gain experience.

Many these days do not give any college credit—just a chance to work long hours, fetch coffee, and be in the presence of greatness.

Anita wrote this from another view, though—how college kids can talk a business into letting them work free. Two interns at a Hong Kong company recently lauded this type of opportunity in the WSJ, too, I saw. So there are two sides…

If you want a free experience-type job, Anita says to learn about the company beforehand, see how you could fit in.

Be honest about what you bring to the party—and how many hours you could put in.

Some internships do not require top grades. Take it one step at a time.

Sponge up knowledge on the job—volunteer to be useful.

After you leave, stay in touch with the people—could be pay in your future.

So--what do you think? Is the era of the unpaid intern ending or just getting started?

Friday, April 9, 2010

Messy house, messy mind

Chaos=not great. I am not nasty-neat, but I do try to keep clutter down to a dull roar. Except the garage…

Everyone seems to have a junk room, a junk drawer, a solidly packed closet, someplace that could use some weeding.

Some? How about a flamethrower?

The feng shui-ers say clutter may even be impeding your clear thinking and job prospects.

Andrea Petersen and Jennifer Merritt wrote about this in the WSJ, Apr 8, 2010.

Well, not this—but clutter. (See? Bad mind.)

They said the first thing people do it run to the store for nice containers. Nice containers just make more clutter—container piles.

Laura Leist, president of the National Assn of Professional Organizers, says this is a mistake.

Purging—throwing away—is the answer.

Having a coach can help you discard. You can’t stand there vaguely holding each item and then put it down (my specialty). These folks charge $100 an hour, so make it snappy!

Certified Professional Organizers undergo more than a thousand hours of training and hands-on work. They also pass a written test.

They come to your house to check it out—then come back to do it. No pressure.

Clutter is just “delayed decision-making,” one counselor said.

My rule is if you haven’t seen it or used it in years, you won’t even look for it, so heave it all out.

But don’t believe me—that garage is right there as testimony that I know nothing!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

You may not be a writer, but this will help

Salley Shannon, president of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, wrote a great essay on the present state of writing, which is pretty crummy with newspapers and magazines croaking right and left, overseas “entrepreneurs” getting writers to write for a penny a word instead of a dollar, and so on.

Shannon wasn’t feeling the love, I guess, the day she wrote this, which you can find at

She says, “When you are a freelance writer (insert job hunter) you’ve got to bounce back from ‘no’ like one of the bobble head dolls rebounds from a swat.”

Having a story rejected is part of our business. So is the massive, heartbreaking rewrite…she goes on.

She says she gets through rejection by reading stories she is proud to have written.

What is YOUR confidence repair program, she asks.

Writers are telling her they are having more days when it’s tough to take “normal” rejection in stride.

But—she says—she knows her editor friends still like her work and that bad times never last.

The other day in a WSJ story about an upper middle class guy who is now afraid he can’t send his kids the rest of the way through college—he said something like, “Yeah, I know, cry me a river and build a bridge over it and cross….”

Yeah, the bridge…

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Sorry, doctor, we have to run a test

Doctors certified in the 1990s must pass a test every six to 10 years to keep their licenses.

Some, in 147 specialties, must now retest for the first time since leaving school.

Older doctors were “grandfathered in” (strangely appropriate). Now they are being urged to retest voluntarily.

Studies show that in some cases what doctors think they know is not really what they know and does match what they do.

One cardiologist said he is doing things that came along way after he went to med school.

Some docs already say the tests are not crafted well. Others may retire.

I think this is good—when my dad was practicing, they had continuing medical ed. Are those luxury weekends hosted by drug companies all that passes for that now?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

“Undercover Boss” can be an eye-opener

Harvey Mackay, the everything guru of business, talks about CBS’s hot new show “Undercover Boss.”

Setup: The boss does a worker’s job.

So far, bosses from Hooter’s, Waste Management, White Castle, 7-Eleven and some others have subbed in as worker bees.

Supposedly, they developed “tremendous respect” for workers. Sort of like if doctors became patients?

An Internet guy had to unload trucks—trucks apparently figured in this business.

He even wished orders would stop coming—I think it was what we used to call a fulfillment company—the co that sends out what people order online.

This guy even got fired from one task.

The Chief Operating Officer of the Kentucky Derby is afraid of horses (Dr Freud, call your service). He even gave horses a bath.

He was stunned at how personal, how people-oriented his business was.

The head of 7-Eleven had to learn to make coffee.

All of them said the experience made them work harder at the top—because they were thinking more of people at the bottom.

I bet they didn’t mind making 400 times as much, though.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Generation Y--no balls of fire

Ian Shapira, Washington Post, writes that the 18-29-ers have a lackadaisical work ethic.

They are free-spirited, value time off over money, or want to get filthy rich with minimal effort.

This is starting to sound kind of good, isn’t it?

Well—they can’t find jobs like this any more than anyone else can find a job.

There are 50 million of these out there.

Even the much-reviled Boomers are more willing to be wage slaves and play the game.

These people define themselves a tech users, or think of themselves in the “music/pop” culture. They also are liberal and tolerant, they think. And they also think they are “smarter.”

They say they work, one said, “part of every hour she is awake.”

Most do not see it takes a long, concerted effort to build a career.

If you are a hiring manager, do you want this kid—or a Boomer or Gen X-er who wants to work? Think about it.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Can you afford a house?

Good grief, I will NEVER buy another house—what a total gyp and headache!

But some people just won’t listen to you (have you found that?). So now we go to Ilyce Glink’s story from Tribune Media Services concerning how to tell if you can afford a house.

I will tell you how--weigh your gold bars and if they equal the weight of your car, you can get a house. (This should cover upkeep, too—you know the actual real-life gypsies that come by wanting $250 to weedeat, and the escalating homeowner’s insurance, and the lobotomy you need every time you think about how much you owe and how you can’t sell, etc.).

First, according to this, how much you make a year is only a starting calculation.

Then there is your credit history and score (!!). The worse the score—you need to be above 760, I heard, but this says 620-660 for FHA—the less house you can get.

How much cash do you have—convert the gold. The more cash you can put down, the better the interest rate.

Try to put down 20% to avoid that PMI thing.

If the joint has a condo assn or HOA, that will be deducted from the amt you can pay each mo for the mortgage.

The monthly interest amts on your credit cards will reduce your funds. Debt service on student loans—reduce.

If you earn your own business, the money on your return governs what the lender will approve. Cash flow from the business is no longer counted. If you find ways to reduce your taxable income to almost zero—then that is how much they think you make.

This is making me sick…proceed.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Check out your prospective employer

Austen Sherman wrote about this in the Arizona Republic March 28, 2010.

You should get up to speed on the company or organization before going. You need to sound like you cared enough to want the job!

First, check the website. Yes, the information may be promotional, but you can find out about clients, projects, capabilities, and (often) where your interviewer stands on the organization chart.

Go to Hoover’s or, for more information on the financials. Merger coming up? Good to know. might also mention your company.

Google for news on the company.

Go to LinkedIn—see if anyone you are linked to is linked to someone in the company.

Find out what the company makes, what that item does, what is coming up. You can even buy it and try it if it’s reasonable in price.