Friday, August 29, 2014

Things that just decide to break

Sometimes I could hurl my electronics out the window--and I barely have any. No cell, no tablet, no smart anything, no laptop... Just a $150 computer, a printer that sits there like Jabba, and a vintage phone I can keep a grip on (my kid derides it at every turn).

But somehow, my stuff just decides "time's up--breaking now."

My water heater caught on fire this summer--10 yrs old. Off warranty, of course.

The service I get free from the library (Overdrive) to download audio books for my poor little crummy eyes--suddenly reversed--black background. Can hardly read it.

I cannot post this site using the AOL browser anymore--must switch to a mess called Chrome just for this.

My favorite daily websites suddenly can take 30 secs to change a page--unloading cookies does not help.

Ooops--while I typed that, everything shifted right.


Now I can't scroll down. Have a nice weekend.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

How to keep employees showing up

Ah, those Friday and Monday "sick" days. What employer hasn't grappled with those? They say never buy a car made on a Friday--there is some way to tell, I forget how.

CareerBuilder has some advice.

First, pay decently. Two out of three US workers do not earn their desired salary. This results in low motivation, high absenteeism--and general sullenness, which gets VERY old.

Employers should also pay attention to scheduling. People forced to work long hours often take days "off" out of the blue. Make schedules predictable.

And--hire more experienced workers. These are people who need money, know how to play the game, and grit it out and show up.

I would add: Treat workers with respect, don't throw tantrums at them, ask their advice and for their input, and just generally be human.

Your workers are your "gold"--not some necessary nuisance.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Dads who help around the house help daughters

According to Ann Lukits, WSJ, Aug 19, 2014, an article in the Aug Psychological Science says fathers who split the chores at home inspired their daughters to undertake less traditionally feminine occupations--instead wanting to become astronauts, police officers, and sports players.

The theory is that dads who pitch in at home give the girls hope that they can have time for more nontraditional jobs.

Researchers at the Univ of British Columbia in Vancouver, studied 172 boys and 154 girls. The division of labor in each household was self-reported.

The parents with less traditional roles fostered less traditional ambitions in the female kids. Their roles made no difference in the ambtions of male kids.

I remember my father not wanting me to be a doctor (a "hen" medic, he called it). So I became whatever this is...lobbyist, the reporter, then blogger, then screenwriter.

What IS this anyhow?

Never mind--personal problem.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

What to say, what to say

 Sometimes interviewers throw curve balls such as what is your favorite tree--but usually there are some standards you need to expect.


Can you tell me a little about yourself? More than facts, the hirer is looking for conciseness, confidence, enthusiasm. Talk about your career path, not your personal life.

Why do you want to work for this company? It sounds like they want to hear what you want--but they want to hear what you bring to them. And why you are a good match. Talk about your admiration for the company and how well the posting fits your skills.

What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses. Don't brag. Also only mention weaknesses you have overcome.

Why are you leaving your current job? Do not bash! Keep your grievances to yourself. Say you've gone as far as you can in that company, want more of a challenge, something like that.

If you got fired, be honest--but say even though you were sorry to lose your job, it provided a chance to find something where you could contribute more.

Relax. Be yourself. And do not just pull out these scripted replies.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Burning Man more than some hippies

I watched a documentary called SPARK: A BURNING MAN STORY. Find it on cable, if you're interested.

It was quite well done--reminded my of my feckless youth--a group I belonged to of larky designers who liked to dress in weird costumes and drink a lot.

The message was, though, that some of the Burning Man festival founders had been organizing this for almost 20 years. It was their passion, their life.

One guy said it was not his life--but you could tell it was. Another said he was quitting--you could tell he wouldn't.

Artists worked for months to raise money for weird assemblages, some of which would be burned up in the desert.

If you are a person with this kind of hook in you, I both envy and wonder about you. The crazy vehicles people brought, the fighting over tickets (too much success), the focused love and passion--it reminded me a little of indie filmmaking, which I also know a little about.

Not every job--every passion--every love--takes place in an office. Although--don't mistake it--Burning Man had offices year-round--it's a big deal.

Little Burning Man events have now sprinkled the globe. For a week, you can be whatever you want--if you can figure that out.

And you don't grow up first.

Friday, August 22, 2014

You said no to a vacation?

Fifteen percent of workers did not use a minute of their paid vacay last year.

This produces--they say--heart problems, bad morale, and reduced productivity.

Vacation resisters also make people feel guilty and just generally screw up the rightness of things.

Some places make vacations mandatory--even if you "staycate" at home. Others pay for tickets.

(Which ones--the tickets?)

Still, studies show 13% of managers are less likely to promote those who use all their time. Those who don't vacation as much also get bigger raises.

Some people feel vacations aren't worth it--expensive, you feel good for two weeks (or harried or the kids drive you nuts), then you're back.

How do you feel about this? I have not had a "vacation" in 20 years--this is my vacation. When I had a "real" job, I also hated to leave--things got screwed up, my staff took advantage and left early, they called me, etc.

I once heard banks made people take vacations--because if someone was embezzling, it would come out, they could not cover it up from afar.

Is that still true? Good story, anyhow.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Jobs wiping out college kids

Adam Knowlden, assistant prof at University of Alabama's dept of health science, coauthored an article in Family and Community Health saying college students were exhausted.

Sixty percent of the college student population does not get enough sleep (that is 30% for the general population).

The cause: job stress and lack of time.

Naturally, there is a study. 188 Univ of Cincinnati students in 2012.

Students were more worried about inadequate sleep hurting them in the present than in their long-term health.

They cited having a sleep-conducive environment as important.

The researchers did cite "social lives" as an impediment to proper sleep.

But also volunteer work and employment.

I would say maybe "social lives" wins. But what do I know?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Shabby chic or just, you know...

Replace or cherish?
I never got "shabby chic." Distressed. Beat up. Funky.

Make no mistake--my taste is pretty boho--with a mid-century modern sensibility if not execution (can't afford).

Now, Urban Outfitters, along with its sisters Anthropologie and Free People, is experiencing share loss.

I remember some TV show about the buyer for Anthropologie--he roamed the world dickering over native crafts and French flea market finds in a snooty accent.

I don't like blue jeans with expensive pre-cut rips, either.

Things get shabby legitimately soon enough. It's a short trip from shabby to ratty.

Am I wrong? What do you think?

By the way, many of my readers are in France--do you do shabby? I have only been to Spain.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Deskilling--new one on me

I learned a new word! Deskilling. De-skilling. It means replacing employees with automation.


A CareerBuilder study showed that 31% of companies have deskilled workers.

But--the vast majority said this meant adding jobs, not taking them away.

Info technology firms are most like to deskill.

Overall, 31% companies plan to do this...

Customer service...35%
Accounting/finance 32%

The jobs added are usually higher paying. But--interestingly--35% of those who deskilled added back jobs because the technology failed.


Monday, August 18, 2014

What should you eat at work?

No--besides THAT.

Doughnuts, crullers, Danish, bear claws--no no no. Not those either.

Kaitlin Louie, of, says greasy sandwiches and vending machine bait are also not great for sustaining energy and creativity during the workday.

Usually, you can get stimulants--coffee, tea--bosses want sound oomph. But combined with those cheese and mayo concoctions, these can dim your edge.

First--saw this one coming, didn't you--eat leafy greens. These slow digestion of starches, making them more available for energy.

Be sure to get enough iron. This helps carry oxygen around your body--and to the old brain.

You need some fats--healthy ones--like Omega 3s. Fish, walnuts.

And watch the caffeine.

Yeah--I watch it go down.

All this is probably good advice--listen up.

And tell those doughnuts to get themselves out of your head.

PS Does lettuce on a cheeseburger count as leafy? Never mind.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Skanky luggage thieves

How nice--you entrust your bags to the bowels of some airport and some dopes go through them and help themselves.

Scott McCartney, WSJ, Aug 14, 2014,  says the TSA is trying to tighten up on these charming souls.

The feds send "bait bags" though screening--containing iPads, watches, and jewelry and see who succumbs. Bang--on go the cuffs. Five hundred and seven screeners nailed so far.

But some thieves also put TSA stickers on--so the TSA is suspected. Now, the TSA videotapes its inspections.

To protect yourself, never put valuables in checked luggage.

In fact, don't use fancy luggage.

If you suddenly have to check because the overhead bins are full--take out laptops and other stealables. People often just hand it over, hurrying to make sure it gets on the plane--thieves know this.

Make your bag identifiable on the carousel--maybe a sticker or ribbon. Get there fast and snatch it off.

If something is stolen--tell the police.

Still, dishonest people are relentless in their nastiness--good luck.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Doing the workman dance

What's a girl to do? Last night, I smelled acrid smoke--alarms did not go off, but it was bad. I checked my room, my daughter's, the outside front and back--and finally called the fire department.

They rolled up--five guys--tall, rangy, the same ones who have carted me off in an ambulance before. It was like old home week. I asked was it my imagination--oh, no, there was a haze.

They had scanners, checked around--it was the hot water heater. Burned up. Six months off warranty, of course.

They set it up to drain with the hose, left the breaker flipped, and, I noticed later, had undone my cord spaghetti in my room and put everything on the powerstrip. That is their DNA.

When my kid got home from the night shift, she was upset--we had a fire in her room six years ago. Not a great memory. She swore the thing was still making noises, even though it supposedly had no juice.

We called an emergency plumber at 2 AM. They called back faster than a doc would have. He said the noises were from no air coming in as water drained--something like that.

He came back at 8 AM. This is when the dance began. My heater was not to code, it had no valve of some sort to keep it from being a "steam bomb" etc. Scare the old gal, that's the ticket. Oh--and the noises--the shutoff valve was not shut off.

He is still working and is pleasantly OCD--cardboard everyplace, booties on his feet, overexplaining.

The tab? A thousand bucks.

Sooo, young people, when you think about that starter house, take a longing look at your apartment--it comes with a super and paid repairs.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Hi, uh uh...

Olga Khazan, Government Executive magaine, Aug 11, 2014, explains why some people just cannot remember names.

They may be kind, conscientious, people people, etc, but cannot for the life of them remember a name they heard.

She says there are some reasons for this. First, if there is a line or crowd, you are more focused on introducing yourself.

You may simply not be that interested.

Your short-term, "working" memory is sort of like a leaky thermos, she says--it spills all the time. If you don't concentrate on holding something in it, it may slop over and disappear.

Also, she thinks names are kind of pointless--they don't tell you anything about the person. You need to connect it to something about the person.

If you do forget, she says, what the heck--ask. "Hi--darn, I forgot your name..I am Star."

I used to be a lobbyist--people on the Hill in DC like you to remember them. So when I was introduced, I sort of made a mental point to lock in the name. Like a burst of increased consciousness.

I do it with people on help lines, too. It amazes them.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

WANTED: Big data PhDs

They call these "unicorns" because they are so hard to find.

Elizabeth Dwoskin, WSJ, Aug 9-10, 2014, talks about a guy who was analyzing data from a particle accelerator and  now analyzes Yelp reviews--all in a career's work for a data scientist.

These dudes and dudettes are so rare, everyone wants them--retailers, banks, matchmakers, you name it.

They find patterns in millions of pieces of data from different sources--and see how customers react and purchase.

Behavioral patterns--that's the key.

One guy adapted a genome mapping algorithm into a way to see how consumers react to small changes in ads.

These high tech companies run out to meet these candidates in the middle of the night, if necessary. They toss out offers like M&Ms.

Put "data science" in your Linked In profile--you will get calls.

Stanford is involved in the Insight Data Science Fellows Program which is helping turn out such people.

If you have any idea of what I am saying, you may get a great job.

Who needs accelerators when you can work at TaskRabbit?

Monday, August 11, 2014

Big, lumbering companies try to be quirky

Tom Edison--wild and crazy guy?
Ted Mann, July 3, 2104, says giants like GE are trying to join the quirky/creative set but can't leap right in.

Sometimes they join that irritatingly named Quirky Inc and try to pass off nominal changes in their regular products as wacky innovations--viz, an air conditioner that runs on wi-fi.

Honeywell is revolutionizing the ....wait for it...powerstrip.

Another lame-oid: The Egg minder--an $80 device to count how many eggs are in the fridge.

My oh my.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Will everyone be online?

Good old Mark Zuckerberg, CEO Facebook, which of course you knew, was opining about the future i n the WSJ, July 8, 2014.

He points out that only a third of the world's population is on the internet.

Everyone should be hooked up, he thinks. Yet, the connectedness is only increasing 9% a year, he laments.

He goes on and on about a global sense of community, participating in the world economy, etc etc.

But I think people may be a little wary--and some of this is from things he has done--like crossposting everyone's business all over the place via FB, having ads follow us around, capturing God knows what about us, dabbling in medical records, on and on.

Do we need our phones to turn on our coffee makers? Do we need an app to find a hot guy a block from us--come over the play.

On Thurs, my TV and internet were down for four hours. I was bereft. I tried not to get mad. I cleaned my desk.

Yet, I think of my late mother who lived almost a century--she never sat before a computer or touched a key in her life. She was fine with it.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Can you tell a joke?

What makes a joke funny?

This is good to know because jokes and stories are the basis of many work situations. Don Steinberg wrote a review of a book called Poking a Dead Frog by Mike Sacks (WSJ, June 13, 2014).

First, analyzing what is funny can't be done. It's like dissecting a frog--nothing left.

We can say there is a difference between writers and performers. Writers, according to SNL writer James Downy, tend to put ordinary people in weird situations. With performers--the opposite--weird people in ordinary situations. Writers like originality, performers will use characters over and over.

Comedy is about being unhappy, said one writer.

How can you not look at dark side of everything, asks Roz Chast of New Yorker fame.

How indeed?

May I add that some people cannot tell jokes and should not try? They forget parts--the "Oh, yeah, I forgot, he's a genie..." Sometimes they forget the punchline, too. They end with..."Well, I can't really remember all this--but you can find it on YouTube."

This is bad.

See? Dark side.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Use your gadgets to get rid of your gadgets

Upfront--I have no idea what any of this means. I have no cell, no tablet, no iPod, a cheeseball MP3 only.

But--according to the WSJ, Joanna Stern, July 30, 2104, you can use your devices to get away from your demanding devices.

Say you want to be on vacation. You can set your laptop to signal you when 30 mins is up. Close it!

Same for the phone--use parental control buttons. Have an annoying sound go off. Try Parental Timelock--a buck ninety-nine.

Or try an app that locks kids out--only lock yourself out after a time period.

Block timesuckers like FB and Insty.

Then what? Books? Yes, they still have those.

Talking to people?

I suppose--if you are desperate.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

See that classroom--kiss it good-bye

Some of our cherished educational models are already morphing. Not everyone heads for college or even tries to. Some kids are home schooled. People sitting in little desks in a row and someone talking is becoming obsolete.

People learn by hearing--by seeing--by doing--by being shown. Different styles.

Margaret Spellings, president of the George W. Bush Library, was Secy of Edu from 2005-2009.

Classrooms, she says, will go the way of physical banks with tellers.

Parents will control the flow of data to their children. A la carte--not fixed price.

Trouble reading--that will be recognized right away. Great in math--bring on more math!

Teachers will contract to get a job done--they will not be employees of a school system.

Employers will play a bigger role in credentialing people and getting what they want in them.

Change change change.

Sigh. I guess it's good.

Someone let that kid out, please.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Read this before checking into a hotel

No, it's not about how the top bedspreads are rarely laundered--he doesn't even mention that.

Heads in Beds by Jacob Tomsky (the audio--read by him--is great) is about this young man's odyssey in the hotel business. It's brash, profane, funny, and informative.

Tomsky--known as "Tommy," "Tom," or "Thomas"--says he may have checked you in and you did not know it.

He worked for a huge swanky place in New Orleans for many yrs (no names, pls) and a famous but slightly rundown landmark in New York City.

You will learn how to get upgrades, how to never get one, how to dispute mini-bar charges, and how the whole system works.

Yes--you are in a system and you don't know it. There is a whole behind the scenes world--the heart of the house, they call it. Besides the bellmen (who rule), there are housemen you may never see but might want to befriend.

Housekeeping may have 150 employees--tip them.

Tip everyone. You will have a better time. And folding money only.

"Tommy" says be polite, don't get angry, and always hold out your hand--with money in it. You won't be sorry.

I liked a section on hundred dollar bills--the bellmen convert their smaller bills into hundreds at the end of each shift. They have a million names for hundreds--redheads, bennies, hundos, bricks (a baby brick is a twenty), I can't recall all of them he mentioned.

Hundreds are the coin of the hotel realm.

Friday, August 1, 2014

The last picture show is not in the offing

The campfire, the stories...then came the darkened movie theatre and the stories. People like to gather and share a story--the same one--together in an area.

We laugh. We cry. We escape. We learn.

Christopher Nolan, director of the "Dark Knight" trilogy, says this is not going to change, no matter how many streams and DVRs we have. Or digital delivery. Or what have you.

Quentin Tarentino calls digital "the death of cinema" or "TV in public." Yet, he sort of remade movies a while back by glomming together familiar themes and memes into something fresh--Pulp Fiction et al.

In some sense, even the big theatres may be like TV--owners can change what is shown easily.

Still, the shared experience will rule--when you go in a theatre and no one else is there, don't you feel a little cheated?

There will be theatres in the future--bigger ones, fancier ones, but the stories will still rule.

And I hope one of them is mine--Paw & Order. See