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.