Friday, November 29, 2013

Weird requirements when buying a house

It's a wacky real estate market--in some areas, inventories are low and sellers can clamp on weird contingencies.

Nancy Keates writes about this in the WSJ, Nov 22, 2013.

In one case, the buyers were asked to take on the owners' Norwegian elk hound Fiffi--they could not take the pet to their new place. The dog lived happily another 10 years.

Such requirements are called "irregular exclusions or inclusions."

They give agents fits--their commissions depend on making people agree to these--they are on the increase, up 25% from five years ago.

One deal fell through because the buyer would not buy one of the seller's unremarkable paintings.

Another deal meant most of the plants in the yard were going with the seller. A U-Haul pulled up.

Another buyer refused to close because the seller had taken the turtle fountain that spit water into the pool. The agent found a similar one and saved the day.

Another deal turned on the buyer taking the seller's four chickens.

As for Fiffi's new owners--they had never had a dog. She barked and barked to go out until they got it--she trained them. My dog is not so conscientious--a coping story for another day.

As for advice--ask your agent about contingencies before making an offer.



Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Do you favor white sellers over black?

One thing we can be thankful for is the internet and its constant reminders to us to not be jerks. (Along with its constant opportunities to be jerks.)

At the University of Virginia, they did a year-long experiment on Craigs selling iPods.

They placed 1200 ads in 300 locales, ranging from small towns to big cities. The hand pictured holding the iPod was either white, black, or white with a wrist tattoo.

The iPods in the black hands received, on average, 13% fewer responses, 18% fewer offers, and offers that were 10% to 12% lower.  The wrist tattoo offers were similarly disadvantaged.

Buyers corresponding with the seller with the black hand holding the iPod were also less likely to give their full names, agree to a proposed delivery by mail, and were more concerned about a long-distance payment.

They docs said they were surprised to find as much racism as they did.

I thought about this--I have bought on Craigs from black and white sellers--I had no idea of race when I paid extra for the person to bring it over. I wonder if this would have affected me. I am not sure--and that is unsettling.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Don't hate me, but older people need to stop having fun

You know when you go in a bar and the over-50 set look kind of pathetic and tired?

Drinking is harder on you as you age. Bear this in mind during the hols.

Older people tend to be borderline dehydrated--their bodies soak up liquor.

The liver is also changing--getting bigger but less efficient.  The enzymes that break down alcohol decrease.

Often the glass or two of wine you used to look forward to can give you a headache.

Also older people take a lot of meds--these can interact with the hooch. A big one to look out for is blood thinners--coumadin or warfarin. Many docs say not to drink if you are on that.

Booze also can cause brain changes--and you know how we don't want THOSE when we get older.

And it interrupts sleep and you know how older people need their sleep.

So--quit drinking? You don't have to, but limit it to one drink a day max for women and two for men, preferably not every day.

And never wear a hat like that guy.

Monday, November 25, 2013

A horse life is a good life

Talk about doing what you love.

The WSJ had a story by Jen Murphy (Nov 19, 2013) about Phyllis LeBlanc, CEO of Harbor Sweets, a chocolate factory.

A lifelong horse rider, her life and workout is not chocolate, though she eats it every day, but riding.

Riding a 1,200 pound animal takes a lot of core strength, she says. I will take her word for it. She works out a lot--including with a trainer one day a week.

 She competes in dressage, a precision sort of "horse ballet." The horse and rider demonstrate 38 movements with increasing levels of difficulty--trying to make it seem effortless.

The horse notes it when she is not focused--and so, she says, do her chocolate employees and vendors.

It can take 12 years to perfect the movements of dressage.

How long it takes to become a chocolatier, it does not say. But the chocolate pays for the expensive tack and makes a well-rounded life.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Hup hup hup--up and at 'em!

Anita Bruzzese, Gannett, says sit down right now and write down your goals and aspirations.

Write about two paragraphs.

This is not an elevator speech--it's just for you.

Studies have shown this increases your confidence. You will use more action verbs.

You will prepare more--do more homework.

Keep your back straight, dress appropriately.

Show interest in others.

So do it now--write down your goals--not stuff like be a CEO by age 30, but more general goals--to help others, make enough money not to worry all the time, live up to the expectations of others.

I was talking to a friend and we decided you can think about the meaning of life--or set out to have a life of meaning.

Leave the world a better place. Heaven knows it needs a makeover.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Health insurance--what now?

The whole system is in play. You may think you are OK--but next year, the companies plan to send "the letter" to millions--as many as 100 million--people in employer plans, mostly in small businesses.

They have know this all along. This isn't a surprise. We are supposed to have plans now that pay for in vitro fertilization, birth control, all sort of things that the few affected could pay for on their own. Or this could be in a family plan--and families could pay for it if they needed it.

If you have been cancelled already, your state may or may not allow the insurance companies in that state to give you back your old plan.

We all know, contrary to the spin, that not all of these plans, or even most of them, were "acme" or bad. That is another lie, wrong promise, or misstatement, however you want to put it.

So, if you're cancelled, you may want to see what the govt has to offer in your state exchange or if your state does not have one, in the federal one.

Problem is, the federal one--healthcare.gov is only 30% built--the part where you pay has not been built. If you can't pay, you can't have it.

So now what? I think you can call in insurance broker--they can't see the plans on the exchanges but may have something--even short-term.

The word mess is inadequate for this. We need a new word. I make up words--and I can't think of one or at least not a clean one.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Sorry, your smartphone is smarter than you are

This is such a sad tale. Government Technology mag, Nov 18, 2013, says some smarties self-congratulating each other and comparing notes in Barcelona decided our phones will soon be smarter than we are.

This includes grownups.

Smartphones will soon predict your next purchase.

They will adjust to help you--say you have a meeting scheduled in your calendar in your phone, if traffic is heavy the phone will wake you earlier than you asked it to. Or if the meeting is with someone under you, the phone will let you sleep and send an apology to that person.

Phones will shoot out birthday greetings or make weekly to-do lists.

They will take pictures of you actually taking your medicine and tell the doctor you were a good little patient.

The apps will have apps.

I wish my phone would clean up after my dog--or at least call someone.

Who am I kidding--I don't have a smartphone. But my toaster is quite brainy.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Fifty shades of the hot paint color for 2014

The "hot" colors are well...not hot. The Paint Quality Institute comes out with the trendy colors for the coming year--next year, gray.

"A hot new neutral, a sleek and sophisticated color that adds refinement to any room."

Gray will also appear washed on woodwork and in fabrics used for seating and floors.

Also "in" for 2014--black and white. There will be at least 50 shades of white with a hint of color mixed in.

White also makes smaller spaces look bigger--remember, people will be downsizing.

Another comer is mustard yellow--now that is my favorite. We call it monkey vomit green. My bedroom walls are that color.

But the important thing is to stick with colors you love--not just those some "expert" loves.

That pix of the gray bedroom--restful or putting you to sleep? Which?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Ex-military entering workforce can feel like an alien

According to Jacob Green, in a special story in the Arizona Republic (Nov 13, 2103), the military and civilian work worlds are two separate cultures.  One ex-military type said he felt like an alien off Mars--he acted, wrote, spoke, and dressed differently than his civilian coworkers.

Employers may not "get" this.

But you have to stand tall and realize you have a lot to offer.

An infantryman may not need to shoot in a civilian job, but will have engrained skills of maturity, judgment and teamwork.

Take the military jargon out of your resume. Community vet centers can help with this and give you a second opinion.

Former officers may be good networkers, but enlisted men less so. Everyone needs to get out and talk themselves up.

Get to know people before you retire and keep up relationships.

Also--the US government gives priority to vets--check out jobs there first.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Questions interviewers should not ask

CareerBuilder ran a list of things interviewers are not legally allowed to ask. Any questions that reveal age, race, national origin, religion, marital status, and sexual orientation are no-nos.

But did you know they cannot ask you what type of discharge you had from the military--honorable or otherwise?

They can't ask if English is your first language. They can ask you what other languages you read and write fluently.

If you have an accent, some interviewers may say, "Where are you from?"

Nope--no can do.

I wonder if they can ask do you plan to get pregnant--I don't think so.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Colleges court foreign students


Caroline Porter and Douglas Belkin, WSJ, Nov 11, 2103, says many smaller universities are actively scouring Asia and other locales to find students--paying students.

The number of foreign students shot up 7.2% last year from the previous year.

Foreign students account for 3.9% of US college and graduate students.

Seventy percent are in 200 schools (there are 4,000 accredited colleges).

The biggest collections of foreign students are at University of Southern California, University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, Purdue, and New York University.

Chinese students are a goldmine. Also lucrative--India and South Korea.

Are these students admitted on the basis of grades or because they pay a lot? Do they keep American students out?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Do you know your neighbors?


Editorial writers used to lament that people were isolated, would not report crimes, did not know even their next-door neighbor.

I knew people in my apt building in DC, but here in the burbs of Phoenix, I only know the guy across the street--and he is moving.

There is also a guy a few doors down who wears short shorts and has the bod for it, but in almost 20 years, we have not buddied up. He drove by the other day and waved. About it. His wife probably doesn't let him date, anyway.

So how to you find a block party type neighborhood if that is what you crave?

If you have kids, focus first on the school district--a lot of your life will center on the kids and their parents.
You will be working with these adults--believe me--even if you don't want to.

People in rich neighborhoods usually work late--this is how they get rich. So there may not be a lot of socializing.

Drive around--do you see people on the street talking?

Maybe pick a place with like-minded people--such as a senior community.

Some of this is up to you--you have to make an effort. Do they still have welcome wagons and cookie bakers?

Not sure.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

View of rusty manufacturing and sleek technology is wrong


How often do we hear the term "Rust Belt" to describe the brawny factory areas across the Middle West? Now Detroit--the brawniest--is bankrupt and the auto industry dispersed around the world.

This is bunk, says the National Association of Manufacturers.

NAM has launched a new D.A.T.A. (Driving the Agenda for Technology Advancement) Policy Center. Manufacturing drives technology is the message--it is not its victim.

Manufacturers, the NAM points out, invest more in R&D and hold more patents than all the other domestic sectors combined and this includes Silicon Valley.

Patent rights bestowed by the Constitution keep manufacturing strong.

So if it seems to be in a doldrums, because of say no manufacturing jobs being created in recent quarters--it's only because our leaders don't emphasize it, promote it, celebrate it, protect it in international marketplaces, and work to recreate it in a manner worth of a new century.

Buy American if you can! Don't let others eat our lunch.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Are you a hard driver?

Remember Meyer-Briggs--a complicated way of zeroing in on personality types? I never quite got it.

But then a read a piece by Mission Facilitator's International's president Dean Newlund. He want back to four personality types I used to use, so naturally I liked it.

First, we have analyticals. They like a slower paced environment, more time to assess, and they don't like making a final decision. If you're their boss, give them time.

Hard driver is the second type. These are your Type As, they like control and dislike listening. To manage them, plan ahead, don't wing it. Give them options and let them control the picking. Cut the chitchat.

Expressives are fast-paced, but like the "big picture." Don't worry them with details--give them approval and use words like "gut" and "intuition."

And last, amiables are slower paced types, who build relationships, listen and share (even their personal life).

Try to "mirror" the person you are dealing with. Know our own style, but identify with theirs.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Bad interview body language

Stories abound about people who bring their cat to an interview or wear hot pants. But short of that, there are other no-nos in how you present yourself.

CareerBuilder says don't rub the back of your neck or head.

Don't touch your nose (like you are expecting it to lengthen like Pinocchio's).

Don't lean toward the door.

Don't stare blankly.

Nod but don't look like a bobblehead doing it.

Sit up straight and lean slightly forward attentively.

If you are facing more than one person, make eye contact with all.

If the interviewer's phone rings, motion that you can leave the room if the person wants you to.

Of course, sweating like a faucet is out.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Now meet Gen Z

 Just when you thought you knew Generation Y--entitled, casual about hours, techie--comes Generation Z.

Gen Z's were born between 1990 and 1999. Millennials are two groups--Gen Y and Gen Z.

The Z's are already 7% of the workforce.

The impact of Gen Y was muted because many did not find jobs. But now the Boomers will have to bag it and the other two Gens will be featured.

One observer says Gen Z grew up with the uncertainty of war time--On Terror, Iraq, Afghanistan.

They either grew up too fast or not at all.

They are never lacking for data, but may be lacking wisdom and interpretation.

They are good workers but high maintenance. Employers need to focus on putting them in small, intense groups.

Teach work behavior--appropriate conduct, interpersonal dealings--don't try to find people who already have these skills.

Show them a reward, a prize--they are also used to a lot of do-overs.

And let them do work they love.

Isn't that spesh-ul? What do I know. I am probably Gen D.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Which comes first degree or job?


This is now a consideration, according to gurus Dale Dauten and JT O'Donnell. A job seeker wrote that he (or she) was an optician and had gone back for a business degree, then applied for dozens of jobs--nada.

Dauten replied that the old model of picking a degree you want and then finding a job that fits has been changed--now you identify the job you want and find out what degree you need. (It even be a short course or a certification.)

Degrees, let's face it, don't open door as in days of yore.

And this reader did not work internships in the new field while getting the degree. So now this job seeker was competing with recent college grads.

Employers then wonder if you want more pay.

Another dead end is to just shoot out resumes online--you need to network.

I also suggest joining a professional society in your new field and attending all the meetings. You have taken a huge step in adding the degree--now you need to make that pay off.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

How to act when you make a mistake


I usually try to leave politics out of this site, but can you think of any people who have made mistakes lately and aren't owning up?

Anita Bruzzese, CareerBuilder, says fear or stubbornness (that doubling down thing) make things worse.

Show that you've learned, move on--don't harp for six months.

But--often--managers take responsibility and it wasn't really their fault. It was just on their watch, as they say. So they make themselves scapegoats or let others do it for them.

A workplace guru says if you are in the middle of a mess, stay calm. Be respectful.

Say to the boss, "This makes me uncomfortable."

Define the problem--here is the issue.

Then suggest a solution.

Ah, it sounds so simple--but your hide may be at stake. Good luck!

As for our national leaders, don't get me started.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Want to pay less and never go to class?

Georgia Tech has created an online master's using Massive Online Course (MOOC) technology.

Unlike most MOOCs, it's not free of charge--but a master's will cost $6,600 rather than $44,000. Sooo....

MOOCs used to be dissed as useless and not helpful for getting jobs. Now they are morphing into credit courses at a rapid rate. Check out Udacity.org--they are cobbling up credit courseloads.

The Georgia Tech program was besieged with applicants--a lot (79%) from the US. This is in contrast to foreign nationals' dominating graduate engineering.

This is not college-age kids. If you have a four-year degree with a 3.0--you will be accepted. But you will have to make  B in two courses to stay.

Unlike the on-campus version, qualified people will not be turned away.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Weird reasons to pick a college

Angela Chen, WSJ, Oct 24, 2013, says colleges are pulling out the stops on offbeat inducements.

One student picked Oberlin because the school would let students rent priceless art for their rooms--Picassos, Matisses. Cost--five bucks.

Colleges often have "signature events," marketed to show their character--brainy, light-hearted. I would add left-wing--viz., Brown letting students shout down the NY Police Commissioner.

William and Mary has the professors justify their existence and the superiority of their courses--the winners get to get on a raft and sail to safety--metaphorically, of course.

Lawrence University (no relation) has a trivia contest that attracts people worldwide.

Back in the day, whether a university had fraternities and sororities was selling point for some people. Maybe a Nobel laureate or world-famous writer in residence would be controlling. I went to Southern Illinois Univ--Bucky Fuller was a draw. Maybe a good drama dept would attract people.

Things change.

Personally, worrying about some dude wrecking my on-loan Picasso would keep me up nights--and not in a good way.