Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Sniff, sniff--safe to eat?


Waste not, want not is the watchword these days. Money is tight. Madeline Vann, Everyday Health, says just because leftovers “look” fine does not mean they are safe to eat.

You can’t go by the Expiration Date on the package because you may not have stored the item at the optimum temperature. Keep the fridge below 41 degrees Fahrenheit. Frozen foods must be below freezing—32 degrees F. Foods higher in protein spoil faster than those containing more sugar and sodium.

You can go by your nose to some extent—small off? Toss. If the food is gray or greenish—toss. Clumpy—say milk—no way.

Here are some other guidelines: Eggs—Use within three weeks. Toss cracked or broken ones.

Seafood—refrigerate if you are using it within two days, otherwise freeze.

Ground meat—Two days in the fridge, 3-4 mos in the freezer.

Fresh poultry—1-2 days in the fridge, nine mos to a yr in the freezer.

As for dairy—get pasteurized products. Watch those expiration dates.

Canned foods—Store in a cool dry place without temperature fluctuations. Acidic content—such as tomatoes—up to 18 mos.Low acid foods can be kept 2-5 yrs.

Other tips:

“Sell by’ Date – last calendar date the food can be sold. Can still be used.

“Best if Used By” date – refers to quality not safety.

“Guaranteed Fresh” date—Usually on bakery products. OK, but may not at peak freshness.

Milk is usually OK a week past the “Sell By” date.

Maybe we need to emulate the French and just shop every day, cook, and enjoy.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Decluttered--not nasty neat


I define nasty neat as compulsive, every fringe going in the same direction and so on.

My idea of decluttering is to cut down on the big chunks.

If you want to sell your house, you need to do this. Everyone says so.

The words “crammed” and “stuffed” cannot apply.

Apparently a would-be buyer would not identify with toiletries on the counter and junk in the garage. I am not sure why not—but I guess it might be distracting. People only overlook their OWN clutter.

So—sigh—remove all photos and toys.

Someone recommended throwing a packing party—to me that is another thing to worry about—a darn party!

Play music while packing and stowing—it speeds up the process.

Or hire an organizer.

Check out a place called the Institute for Challenging Disorganization—www. challengingdisorganization.org—to find help.

That sounds pretty …er..organized to me.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Name it and claim it


Naming something is fun—and powerful. You mark it for life—and are part of it, sort of.

Writing in Fast Company.com, Matt Gordon and Nick Foley blat on about product naming. Thinking of a new division or inventing something…

First make the name memorable. Don’t just start with A’s or something phone book-related. Don’t we basically throw those away now anyhow?

They cite Yummy Tummy Koalas—which I am guessing is candy, not marsupial jerky or something.

Fill the name with meaning. They cite VISA as an example, saying it has acquired new layers of meaning—access, travel, official status.

Say the name out loud. Schweppes is their example—people love to say it, they claim. To me, an example of a name no one said out loud is Accenture—censure, disapproval.

Google is a name which grew on people...playful.

They also say BlackBerry is a perfect name. I say it followed Apple as whimsical fruit naming.

You also need to sound new—they cite W Hotels. Young, hip. Well- short anyhow.

They love Accenture…Accent on the future. Oh, please…Censure that.

What names do you like? I think Living Social or whatever is it, is a yawn. Groupon sounds like a big fish.

When they did the Chevy Nova--they didn't know Nova means "won't go" in Spanish. Yoops.

Them of course, after you find something you love—it won’t be available for a domain.

That's life.

Now THERE’S a name for a magazine.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Come on, think of the kids


T. Foster Jones (my editor Tod) wrote in the Feb Costco Connection about how to spend less money at D’World. He consulted a Costco travel consultant named Sarah Gaudet.

First, she says, plan each D’World day in advance. Have a schedule of where to go and when and what to eat and where.

Make dining reservations well in advance, especially at popular joints like Cinderella’s Royal Table or Mythos.

When entering the park—turn left—most people turn right.

Go to the back of the park first.

Or ride late in the day—shorter lines then, too.

Get the Disney FASTPASS. Or Universal’s Express Pass.

If you have some kids that can’t ride, go to child swap areas—Mom or Dad can stay off with a kid, then trade—without waiting again.

To save on lodging—don’t stay at a Disney place. Look for a kitchenette. Plenty of meals can be snacky and not full-on expensive.

Also get a car. Yes, rentals cost, but this gives you more eating and fun possibilities in Orlando, which is stuffed with things to do.

Go off-peak—Jan-Feb or Sept-Oct.

A little planning can make it fun. I remember trips to Disneyland, but have never been to Disney World.

I got a whiplash on the Space Mountain rollercoaster, so look straight ahead.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Head for figures?


Financial firms are hiring. Banks—insurers—putting people on.

Banks are not going anyplace—people are using more credit cards—mortgage businesses are even expanding (Chase).

Here in Phoenix, Wells Fargo (we call it Smells Fargo) is adding hundreds of tellers.

Also here, American Express is adding.

Check out USAA, too—they cater to military families. If you are a vet, that could be a leg up.

And State Farm is on an uptick.

When you get to these websites, don’t go directly to jobs—check their press releases, about us sections—learn more.

Customize your materials to the job descriptions.

Above all, follow instructions. They are just WAITING to discard people who don’t.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Keeping the young ones productive


The pattern I see more is the “young ones” riding herd on the older, experienced ones…but CareerBuilder feels we should know how to manage the Facebookers.

They also call them “Linksters.” These people live and breathe technology, likely still live at home, and are often into social activism and “green” stuff (whatever THAT means these days).

These people—this is CareerBuilder now—have short attention spans. They need clear job descriptions and direction, including when to get to work and how long to stay there.

They are used to constant connection and reinforcement. Invite them to everything.

Lead by example in what you wear and how you act.

I think this makes the 20-somethings sound too childish--many have good ideas. But they may have a different concept of work and certainly are not planning to stay at your company forever.

Welcome them—and their gifts—you may know when to get to work, but can you speed up the computer system?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Avoid money pit


Ellen James Martin, AZ Republic, Feb 19, 2012, says some people think a real estate recovery is underway—some don’t.

If you do entertain the idea of going for the low interest rates, both neighborhoods with lots of foreclosures and those on the upswing can be OK, if your priorities are clear.

First look at square footage. Very large houses are less in demand these days. They cost to heat and cool and fix. Look at square footage, in other words—compare.

Look for 2-3 full baths.

Visit the nabes, at least virtually…Use Google maps—is the house facing a busy street or a school or waste plant.

How about those hidden costs. Oh, yes, my babies—those hidden costs. Look for good bones—new appliances, sturdy roof, not just paint and carpet colors.

Do you like open spaces or lots of small rooms? Check that out.

I often almost cry regretting my house purchase. I need a new stove. I had to get a new roof…but still, we need a place to live.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Tick tick...60 Minutes nails one


We are way ahead of the so-called cutting edge over here at Hopey Copey—we have been writing about discrimination against older unemployed people for years now.

Call us the bleeding edge.

But I did get a zotz from Sunday’s edition of the old-time mag show—you can see it at: http:// www.cbsnews.com/sections/60minutes/main3415.shtml

Joe Carbone started a group called called WorkPlace Inc, which raises money to pay companies to employ long-time unemployed workers as “interns” to see how they work out before putting them on.

This may sound irritatingly unnecessary, but apparently it is necessary to get companies to take a chance.

So---in a spirit of pragmatism—let’s get this going across the country. Now. No more posturing, blabby self-serving speeches, just some action.

If this were a govt program—it would fail. But it’s not. Can it be cloned…franchised…something?

Check out: http://www.workplace.org/contact.php

Friday, February 17, 2012

Why not join the local Chamber of Commerce?


I used to write for the group representing chamber execs in DC—and last week, I went over to the Chandler Chamber of Commerce for a meet and greet.

This reminded me of how chambers have retained their good reputation in the business world—where the Better Business Bureau and others have lost theirs.

Where “leads groups” can cost hundreds or even thousands to join, I was invited to attend at least one free meet and mingle breakfast.

We also used to go to evening mixers at chambers in DC. Free of charge.

Members of the chamber of commerce range from accountants to spas to wireless companies. You can patronize reputable companies with which you have an affinity—your chamber membership.

Chambers also hold frequent educational meetings—how to be in business, how to keep records, books, bid on contracts, fire people without being sued, and so on. The nitty-gritty of business life.

They do paper communications—not everything requires a password—remember newsletters and brochures?

Yes, you will be asked to volunteer for committees and do some work—but in the course of that, you will meet interesting people who may be able to advance your career—or even give you a career.

So…call your local chamber. This is a last-century idea that is still working fine.

I was offered a chance to join for $190…which I do not have at the moment, but I will put it on my wish list.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Data versus intuition


Dean Newlund, www.missionfacilitators, says too much reliance on numbers and data can squelch innovation and the leaps that intuition can provide.

He cites the two space shuttle accidents—and asserts that NASA disregarded engineers’ intuitions and hunches, possibly leading to the second accident.

Some things don’t show on a spreadsheet.

Newlund says we are entering the Conceptual Age—the logical and linear are being replaced by the inventive and big picture type of thinking.

Data makes us feel secure. Intuition is scary.

Data may tell us where we have been. But it does not tell us where to go.

This is why I am skeptical of returning to rail travel or leaping completely into windmills or solar. Even if those could be done economically.

But--Just because something is counterintuitive does not mean it’s a good move. Our intuition may be saying no.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Non-fiction world stinks


I have one foot in Fiction World—listening to audiobooks—or watching TV. Everything is easier there in FW.

On NCIS, when you need to look someone up, you put in "brown hair-red jacket-was in Georgetown Saturday"--and a driver’s license comes up complete with picture. There he is—John Smith! Well, well, well, got you now.

A relative calls—emergency, can you come? In FW, you dial Experian, then head to the airport—the trip is $800, but no problem, on my way.

Or just go to the airport, reserve a seat on your phone, wave your credit card near a reader, and you’re off. No mention of over your limit, the pets will starve, the plants will croak, and you will get fired.

You get a bad headache—in FW (say on A Gifted Man, NBC), a world-renowned neurosurgeon plucks you off the sidewalk and walks you into the hospital bearing his name and operates within the hour—whew, big tumor, but you’re fine now.

In books, heroes like Jack Reacher walk around in army surplus rags for days in the heat and babes still clamber all over their manly form.

Reacher just buys more clothes—no laundry for him!

A friend of mine also said she saw a heroine in a book who had “night vision contacts.” Well, those sound handy.

These things don’t happen or exist in my world—and I want them! Except for how Reacher says we don’t need toothpaste.

He took it too far that time.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Suggestion boxes


I have a suggestion—snark, snark.

I remember once, when I had a “real job,” the association (it was a trade assn) put up a suggestion box.

This was a very hierarchical place full of ex-military—so that lasted about 90 minutes.

I think they thought maybe the serfs would suggest that the bosses make more money. I intuited that that did not happen.

The thing vanished.

My “suggestion” is that you take time to be in a job—in a company—get the lay of the land—before making suggestions.

Don’t barge around in a new job and try to make changes all at once. Be smart, be watchful—be gradual.

Back up changes with results, facts.

Maybe one could be a money-saving idea—don’t spend money on suggestion boxes.

Somehow the idea gets around some offices that the office is a democracy. I don’t think so.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Develop monk-like acceptance


Everyone keeps telling me I am freaking out, what with being terrified and broke and all. So maybe I should enroll in the Univ of Pennsylvania’s course in how to be monk-like.

This is a course on monastic life and asceticism.

Students wake at 5 am, and for various periods, forgo technology, coffee, and human contact.

Men wear white shirts, women black—they sit on opposite sides of the classroom.

They forgo alcohol for periods. Cannot touch anyone. No eye contact. No eating after dark. They also write in a journal every 30 minutes.

This builds hyperawareness.

I suspect hyperawareness is what is getting me in trouble, but what do I know. This could be an interesting exercise. I used to know yogis who did things like this.

What I liked about the swamis I met was they could be in a limo one day and in a loincloth on a cold rock the next—they took it in stride.

I am really really bad at taking things in stride. I suppose we could all improve at it.

Friday, February 10, 2012

C'mon, buy some cool stamps


The PO lost a few billion more over Christmas. Be a sport—support the one thing the govt ever did that benefited people—the Post Office.

And that is only quasi-governmental these days, as it is.

I get the Philatelic catalog. I guess it’s for stamp collectors—but I get it so I can mail things with cool stamps.

That may sound dumb, but people actually notice stamps and say nice things—even creditors have called and said, got the check, neat stamp.

I know it’s corny.

I have had stamps with iconic American dreamobiles on them. Pixar stamps with Toy Story characters. Comic characters from the newspaper. And now—Owney, the mascot of the Railway Mail service.

This scroungy mutt was brought to the Albany PO in 1888 and when his postal clerk owner left, he stayed. He loved lying on mailbags. He would jump on a train to get on them. He traveled across the country…then he jumped on ships and eventually went around the world by himself—with metal tags affixed to his collar by the PO.

He was a good luck charm…no train he rode on every derailed or had an accident.

He sort of met with a bad end—no, not the dead letter box. But close.

Anyhow, you can get an Owney stamp. And many more.

I call (800) 782-6724. Get the catalog. Get some Owneys…or make them look up the Pixars. It costs a dollar extra to order rather than get those flag deals at the grocery store.

Those are so boring….zzzzz….pflut….

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Why not telecommute from say, Italy?


Anita Bruzzese, Gannett, tells about a guy with a sweet deal—he telecommuted for 13 mos from Venice.

If it works from your home a few miles away, why not farther?

He came back looking at life through a different lens, as he put it.

He started slowly—working up to the big trip. He telecommuted one day a week, keeping in touch by phone, email and teleconferencing.

He dealt with problems as they arose. He worked 2 to 11 pm in Italy so as to be on Florida time.

He learned the language.

And he set a time to return—for one thing, his wife wanted to work again.

The worst part—missing the Christmas party.

Now this was probably not this breezy and easy, but I bet it could be done.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Sometimes you have to roll the dice


I am getting a new roof.

Getting a new roof means everyone thinks you are a gullible dope. Everyone has an opinion.

My old roof sort of was gone with the wind. I mean, the monsoon. Actually—I prefer the term haboob.

Every time the wind blew, I would lie in bed thinking of shingles flying. Then in the morning, I would find them in the yard.

This became very depressing. A new roof is $7,000 or thereabouts.

Almost every week someone would come over to the door and offer to fix it…Irish travelers, grifters, weird unwashed types.

Finally, one day, I talked to a nice young man who showed up in a pleasant ride. He looked me in the eye. He had references—they said he did what he said he would. He set me up with my insurance company. He went on the roof with the guy.

And now the roofers are up there, happy for the work. So far, so good. I took a leap of faith. I did this one other time on this scale—and did not lose.

So if you have an opinion—too late.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Meeting parameters


Mark Twain once said, “There are two kinds of people—those who think there are two kinds of people and those who don’t.” But in this case, the two kinds are those who like meetings and those who don’t.

Some people actually like sitting around a table and not working at their desk. Someone else usually has to talk. They can daydream or doodle on a pad.

Even people who hate speaking often can stand to run a meeting—usually other people will speak.

But meetings take a lot of productive time…how can you minimize waste?

Christine Tetreault, AZ Republic, Jan 29, 2012, says first—have an agenda. Send it out to everyone 48 hrs beforehand. This will contain the list of attendees, topics, how long each topic will be discussed, and who will take the lead on each.

Set a start and end time for the meeting so people can schedule their own time.

Keep people on point during the meeting. If someone takes over, thank them and ask for feedback from the others on what the overbearing person said.

Document everything. Send out the minutes.

Then follow up. How else will you know if the goals were met?

DO NOT: Invite everyone.

DO NOT: Schedule meetings at peak hours.

DO NOT: Have automatic meetings…only when needed.

Back in the day—I used to hate meetings. I would try to sum up and beat feet about half an hour in. Then I realized some people were perfectly happy to sit there and gaze around.

Of course, that was on days when no one was being ambushed by the Big Boss.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Everyone hates everyone--now what?


Personal attacks—this is the season…Liar, toady, rich guy, failure!

On and on.

Marty Latz, expertnegotiator.com, says there is a way to deal with the personal if it slops onto you.

First, if someone in a meeting or on a website, attacks you as a person, not just your idea, smart or dopey, don’t lower yourself to respond in the same way.

Instead, focus on your goal. Personal attacks usually come when you are scoring points—they are a distraction.

Take a break if things get heated. A cooling off period, even if hot coffee is involved.

Consider going over the person’s head—is there someone else I could talk to. Be careful with this one.

The stronger your Plan B, the better your leverage. If Plan A is abandoned, they are less like to launch a personal attack over Plan B. They might be afraid they will get their own Plan B and not a compromise.

If all else fails, I find passive-aggressiveism is pretty satisfying—just don’t respond. It is infuriating to the other side.

If all this punks out, then the person is a HUGE DOODYHEAD!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Hair today, looking tomorrow


Ad Age (Jan 29, 2012) had a story on how gray hair can sink people trying to get an ad exec job.

Say the agency you want to work in caters to youth—uh-oh.

They had an example—a guy who invented online games, and did TV and print for young people.

But—kiss of death—he was a silver fox.

He got told he wasn’t “cutting edge.”

That means young.

“There were times I said this just sucks,” the guy remarked.

The ad industry is bad—or particularly bad—because they laid off a lot of people and when they began taking people back, they wanted the social media and digital types.

According to the Pew Research Center, 40% of people unemployed more than six months suffer lower self-respect.

Well, yeah.

Also, according to one recruiter in this story, for creatives, you need to know what’s hot, what’s cool, what website is the rage (do people say “rage”?), and with age, you may be less aware of those things.

This is wrong, but people think that way.

Also the lunch and cocktail meets are almost obsolete. The guy said he can’t network because his friends are also looking.

Everyone is expendable, remarked one person in this story. “Good-f-cking luck,” said another.

Oh, good grief—I am about to put my head in the oven, except we have an electric stove.

Try Europe—they like experienced people. Why just today, I got a job opening notice for someone to write like Malcolm X—only about the food industry.

See? You have to be very creative and have a sense of the absurd—gray head or no.

These youngsters probably wouldn’t even know who Malcolm X was.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

When asking for a raise


It costs a lot to find and train a new person. So bear that in mind when asking for a raise. You have one hole card.

Cameron Polom, AZ Republic, Feb 1, 2012, interviewed some experts and they advise…

Setting goals. Think about your career path—where are you heading.

Research the position you want—or do you think you warrant more money in your present position? Think it through.

Try to become more of a leader—volunteer to train others, for example.

Step up and offer to take something specific off the boss’s plate.

Watch your timing. Know when your next review is. Work toward it.

And be innovative—find a way to do more with less or adapt or invent a new product or way of doing things.

I have learned over the years, that you have to ask—people don’t usually volunteer more money.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

If the president does not get YOU a job


I see the president sort of tut-tutted a woman whose engineer husband was out of work for several years, saying an engineer should be able to get a job right away.

Well, we know the score, don’t we?

He said for the man to send his resume and he, the president, would see where the fellow was going wrong.

That sideshow aside, we do have to look after ourselves and keep on truckin’.

CareerBuilder says you must fight the fear of rejection. People say no. Happens all the time. But sometimes they say yes.

You must also fight the fear of relocation. A lot of people can’t sell their houses and move, but if you can, and something good comes along, take a hard look.

Don’t be afraid to take a management job. They pay more and you can learn!

And don’t be afraid to fail—we have all sort of failed. Our leadership has failed, some candidates are failing, everyone fails sometime, and often many times. I have failed and failed.

Just grab some handhold and drag back into the race.

I don’t call it positive thinking myself—I call it defiance—they are NOT going to get me, whoever “they” are today.