Thursday, December 31, 2015

A life well-lived

Yes, you can have a decent life even if you are filthy stinking rich. But you might have to work at it.

Ian Prior, writing in Bank of America's, says happiness and rewarding mean different things to different people.

A well-lived life should not be assessed at the end--but planned for, one of his sources says.

Still, they did a survey and many wealthy people are prepared for normal health care expenses, but not for biggies, such as a crisis of their own.

From the survey:

What is most important in life: Health (98%), family, financial security, connections, legacy, passions, personal growth, giving back, acconmplishments and work. In that order.

How did the respondent rate themselves? Overall health--B, Annual exams--B+, Healthy weight--B, Regular exercise--B, Balanced diet--B, Not smoking--A, Yoga, stretching etc--C, Stress relief--B-.

Only 93% identified as financially secure.

So where do you stand? Do you explore the meaning of life or strive for a life of meaning?

Hint: The latter does not necessarily involve piles of cash.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

It's c-c-c-old in here

I live in the desert--it is suppose to be killer hot in summer, sort of balmy in winter. It's 32 degrees out. I sit here wrapped in blankets typing with my thin desert blood.

Even in your workplace, I bet there are discussions over temperature.

According to a new CareerBuilder survey, office temperature can be the subject of um...discussions.

Twenty percent of workers say they have clashed with a coworker over the heat or air.

People feel temperature affects their ability to work. It does--the whimpering alone.

So what do people do--according to the survey?

--Dress in layers (44%)

--Drink hot beverages (36%)

--Wear a jacket all day (27%)

--Use a space heater (15%)

--Use a blanket *7%)

You maybe could even more to a warmer space--say the conference room--if your supervisor says OK.

I go the layers and blanket route with hot tea.

A friend who also works at home has an electric blanket for her legs. Sounds toasty about now.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Hiring the overqualified can help your business

You're not alone, Clark.
You know the old saying--Overqualified people will work for a while and leave when something better comes along.

But two assistant profs of management at Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business, recently published a paper in the J of Applied Psych, says when over qualified people see they are not the only big fish in the pond they tend to be more favorable about their overqualification and perform better.

Normalized in the workplace, overqualification, in other words, exerts a positive influence.

When an overqualified person comes on board, they should be shown they are in good company and are working with a highly qualified group.

OK, you heard it here first.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Holidays are waning, but home-cooked meals are not

Despite all the indignant sputtering about fast food, consumers prepare five evening meals a week at home.

Home cooking seems to increase slightly with age, says the Institute of Food Technologists. Millennials eat dinner out the most, but not by much.

Over the past five years, the percentage of consumers who like to try new recipes increased by 32%.

Eighteen percent of households use their slow cookers.

Garlic, onion, peppers, jalapeno peppers, balsamic vinegar, chives, and feta are the most popular pantry staples, according to Gallup.

Stir fry dinner kits, packaged meal kits, and heat-and-eat pasta and potatoes are hits with Millennials.

One in four home cooks also wants to keep up traditional and cultural recipes and and dishes.

This is good, right?

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Transformers--giving the gift of leadership?

Autobot or Decepticon? Beats me.
Dunno where some of these stories come from--universities, yes--but do they just try to gin up holiday subjects? Probably.

Dr Peter Harms, assistant prof of management in the Culverhouse College of Commerce, says the popular Transformers toys provide lessons in leadership.

Leaders must lead in unusual contexts, he says--and fighting robots disguised as cars fit the description of unusual context, he says.

Yes--he did a paper, along with Seth Spain of Binghamton University, which will be included in the Emerald Group Publishing's book series "Monographs in Leadership and Management."

They looked at the personality characteristics of the Transformers on the boxes and in the DVDs.

Both the Autobots and their rivals, the evil Decepticons, are more intelligent, powerful, and courageous than their team members.


Intelligence was the one necessary condition for effective leadership. You have to be the decider.


The Decepticons are highly centralized--one leader, few followers. The Autobots and their leaders show a willingness to sacrifice themselves for the team.

The Decepticons are always trying to overthrow the leader.

I am not sure the average 8-yr old will get all this...Maybe subliminally.

Do kids pipe up wanting to be Autobots? No clue.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

'Splaining gaps in your resume

People, especially these days, do not work straight through--they may be laid off, leave to raise kids, relocate with no new job on tap, take time to buzz over to the Himalayas...any number of reasons.

Katherine Nobles, a contributor to Career Contessa, has some tips for explaining fallow periods in your work history.

--First, get comfortable with your positives and don't over-focus on that gap. What are your strengths, what have you learned from past experiences, how could you help the organization grow? The interviewer may be less interested in the gap than you are.

--That time off--how did it work for you? Did it improve your coping skills, your organizational skills? Did you freelance? Volunteer? Learn a language?

--Be honest and open...though diplomatic. Don't exaggerate or lie. Don't speak badly of another employer. Talk about what you learned about the industry, about yourself.

The point it--think about all this ahead of time...Be ready.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

How to get motivated--try to enjoy the challenge

Do you think you guys are the only people I try to get off the dime to do hard things? My own family members need motivation all the time!  I do, even.

It's too easy to slop around, not open bills because you have no money, not take a chance on looking for a new job, put up with an abusive person, and so on.

But one thing I have learned kicking around this planet for many decades is--face facts, see what you are looking at, make some sort of plan...take it one step at a time. Just facing down unpleasant facts can give some relief.

A new study from the Univ of Chicago Booth School of Business (J of Personality and Social Psychology) says once you get into an activity, say your "plan," it becomes a positive experience.

They also found when looking back on an activity, their test subjs tended to underestimate how important it was to actually do it.

Also: Those working out in a gym valued having an enjoyable workout more than those surveyed before working out.

Sooo...where does this leave us... If you have an unpleasant task to face, plunge in, see the satisfactions in each step of doing it, give yourself credit for not being an immature scrub always with your head in the sand.

You stood up! It might even be fun...well, fun may be too strong.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Kitchen solutions looking for problems?

What, this old thing?
From the Institute of Food Technologists come some things we can look for in the kitchen of the future.

--Appliances will be wired to monitor their contents and reorder when supplies run low. Products nearing expiration would be moved to the front (how, I wonder).

--Each family member can print the dinner they want using a countertop 3D printer--and the food will be printed out, taking into consideration allergies, likes, dislikes. etc.

--Induction cooktops will heat only the area being used.

--Counters, sinks and cooking surfaces will move up or down at the touch of a button.

--Facial recognition will even do this when a person walks in.

--Virtual chefs will appear to walk people through food prep.

--The kitchen will consult with your fitness system--yes, you need more carbs after a strenuous workout.

--Video monitoring will help you see what's in the fridge.

--Also in the fridge--ultraviolet light to sterilize food, and a blast chiller will keep it freezy.

Golly, I don't know how I manage cooking and eating leftovers, with my one-height stove that doesn't know me from Adam's cat--and just turns on and cooks stuff.

By the way--I don't want the darn appliances ordering things and spending money I may not have.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Santa is all business

Ryan Holmes, CEO of, says the Jolly Old Elf is a tough businessman.

He has maintained a large global operation from a remote site for hundreds of years. His net worth, according to Forbes, is infinity dollars.

--He knows how to delegate. He relies on those elves. He doesn't waste time looking over their shoulders. Mrs. Claus does the baking. The toys are top-notch, the assembly line never breaks down. He saves on clothes and decisions with a uniform.

--Again, he thinks globally and did so before this became trendy.

--He has delivery down pat. All in one night--a supreme feat even Amazon can't match.

--He has tremendous customer support because of his exceptional service. He offers free chimney delivery, although this is a huge pain. You can write him, sit on his lap--he's everywhere.

We can't all be Santa, but Trump (eyeroll) and Bezos can't hold a Christmas candle to this guy.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

So you want to start a food business....

Aw--just kidding.
Every episode of SHARK TANK, it seems, has at least one food hopeful. Cupcakes, barbecue, health drinks, you name it. The Sharks always remark that this is a very hard business segment to crack--so much competition.

But, these days, according to Julian Mellentin,, millennials are food explorers--fusions, new tastes. Snacks based on seaweed alone are already a $250 million market.

Some pluses:

If the volumes of potential customers are low, you can come in under the radar and not run into the big boys coming to eat your lunch. Peter Drucker, business guru from Harvard, lauds the small market.

The new wrinkles are low volume--but can command high prices. Twenty to 30% of people will bite on health and wellness--and they pay.

New brands, at least at first, can use alternative distribution channels such as gyms, health food stores, and gas stations/convenience stores.

Small brands can go directly to the consumer--sell online. The Hint no-sugar drink gets a quarter of its sales online.

With a small brand, you can take your time. The bigger brands kill off ideas if they don't make money immediately.

Some challenges:

You must keep a close eye on consumer behavior with small brands. People may get bored with baked chips (had some the other day--yuck).

If you have no recognition, you need to go the PR route and give out samples.

Cash flow from sales is not enough--sooner than you think, you will need an investor or many of them. A hundred grand is mimimum for marketing and fulfillment of orders.

But this does not mean it can't be done. Even a company that sends out whole cakes made it big on SHARK TANK.

Cake is something you can get anyplace--but it worked as an online business.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The future of clothes

Memory Mirror in action.
Was reading Marie Claire magazine (Jan) and came across a story on the future of shopping. They asked some clothes mavens what they predicted.

Leila Yavari, fashion director of Virtual dressing rooms--try on from your phone. And soon--buy directly from Instagram and Pinterest feeds. She also would like to see an Instant Outfit Machine like on the Jetson's.

Lauren Santo Domingo, cofounder, Moda Operandi: Etailers will add personal shopping and private salons for trying on,

Rebecca Minkoff, designer: Brick and mortar stores will go higher tech. Touchscreen mirrors--get another size with a tap on the screen. Outdoor and sunset lighting in the booth, too.

Sarah Rutson, vp, Net-A-Porter: Social media-based buying is coming.

Carmen Busquets, fashion investor. People will custom-design their own clothes on the screen and get them sent to the door.

Note: Neiman Marcus has Memory Mirrors--capturing images and video so you can compare outfits side my side.

A video of my rear end? No.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Ah, Facebook--how can I quit you?

Actually, I did quit. The day of the IPO. But others I know continue to participate...

But hasn't everyone wanted to quit? Reclaim their time? Not find out weird and embarrassing things about their friends?

Now Cornell Information Science tells us why leaving this pastime is so hard to do.

--Perceived addiction. People who think Facebook really is an addiction, strumming those endorphins or whatever, are more                                                            likely to return.

--Privacy and surveillance. If you used Facebook to manage what others think of you, it's harder to quit and you are more likely to come back. If you think your are being monitored--it's easier.

--Your mood. In a good mood? Easier to quit.

--Other social media may play a role. Say you have Twitter--it may be easier to quit Facebook. But if you really think about the appropriate role of media in your life, you may alter your Facebook--taking it off your phone, reducing your friends, or limiting the time you spend there.

Still Facebook is how some groups stay in touch...and many people love it.

So...if you are being thoughtful about it and it is not devouring your life and you don't care if the govt and companies "spy" on you, play through.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Do not say this to someone who's been laid off

Yes, people are still getting laid off, despite the perky official statements.

Mary Lorenz, CareerBuilder, reminds us that people who have lost their job can range from angry, to depressed, to in denial, to humiliated. What you say next can matter.

Some no-nos:

"Don't let it get you down." A job loss can feel like a death--you can go through the five stages of grief--of course, you are down. Give the person time and space before throwing this one out.

"You'll bounce back." How do you know? This may be an emotional downward spiral. And don't try those dumb ideas like "Everything happens for a reason" or "When a door closes..."

"What did you do?" Hey--maybe the person did nothing to deserve it, but thanks for blaming it on them.

"Wish I had a reason to leave my job." You don't.

"Well, here is MY advice..." Who asked?

"OMG, are you freaked out right now?" Maybe the person was dealing, but THEN got freaked out hearing that.

Instead, Lorenz says, say: "I am here for you." And listen--don't always try to fix or give advice, just listen.

Speaking of listening, I listened to a sort of funny book called, "Nothing Happens Until it Happens to You," by a newspaper columnist named T.M. Shine, who gets abruptly laid off. It had its moments--he languished in unemployment, encountered a nutty life coach, seemed to get pretty used to being a costumed waver (see pix), reluctantly rides a dolphin, befriends a crazy neighbor woman, looks for a long-lost grade school buddy, drinks in a clearing in the woods with his pals, and of course, sends out  few resumes.

Some of these strategies are not recommended, by the way.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Gifting at the office

Like the word "gift" as a verb? Me, either.

But I digress. Debra Auerbach, CareerBuilder, says 21% of workers plan to buy presents for coworkers--and 20% also plan to give the boss a gift.

They asked some workers what the weirdest gift they ever received from a coworker was.

--Duct tape

--A squirrel toilet seat decal

--A bag with a coat in it

--A giant heart-shaped candy (maybe from another holiday?)

--A picture of a bear

--A bowling ball

--Homemade sausages

--A ceramic sheep with clothes for every season

Employers are also feeling the spirit. Sixty-six percent plan to give a holiday party this year--up 3% from last year.

Forty-five percent will give employees gifts, 47% charity donations.

OK OK--the bonus. Fifty-four percent plan a holiday bonus, up from 47% last year.

I remember back when I had a real job--they gave lavish parties, in a hotel, formal. Then it went to in the office. Then it went to a gift certificate from the local grocery store. This was noted, believe me.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Finding a mentor--not a piece of cake

A mentor is sort of like a life coach within your company or industry. The person knows the ropes, knows the people, looks out for you and provides advice.

Cassie Weber, Government Executive, No 19, 2015. said she once asked a bunch of journalists if she could be their protege. She sent warm, hand written letters. But these people did not know her, had no interest, and tossed the notes.

So she has some tips:

Be sure someone is isn't already looking out for you. You may not need a formal mentor.

Know the difference between a sponsor and a mentor. A sponsor helps you win promotions, maneuver around people, take the next step. A mentor could even be someone from your past outside of your work world.

Check your network for mentor possibilities. You need good personal chemistry.

Be honest--does the relationship work? What if the person is not, over time, really that supportive--or even goes against you. Trust your gut.

Make sure the relationship is mutual.  Send little notes, clippings that would interest them--and are not just about you.

Maybe you need a posse or group instead of a single mentor. Met, set goals, report back.

Mentor someone else--see what it's like.

Remember, mentors can come at any stage--you don't need to find one for your whole career.

According to Weber, finding a mentor is like love--you need to be open, ready--but can't force it.

I had several mentors, and I mentored. Usually, I found, you fall into it.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Hey, kids, math and science for all this Christmas

Melissa Jurist, program manager of K-12 education at the College of Engineering, Univ of Delaware, has some suggestions for kids who love science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

These are the tools real scientists use, she says.

Younger kids (4-6): A stethoscope to check the dog's heartbeat and also their own.

Owl pellets--you an get these online--pick them open and find little mouse bones and other things the owl could not digest and whurpsed up instead.

Magnets are fun--large enough to not be swallowed, even by smaller siblings.

Older kids (7-12): Dissect a chicken leg (this means a scalpel and careful supervision).

Make something out of balsa, a light as air wood, that will hold 5 pounds.

How about a pantograph--learn math from scale--trace a small item and make it bigger.

Check out Arduno and Raspberry Pi--about $50.A huge online community comes with this.

Learn coding.

It's OK for kids to fail, for their structure to aids learning.

And all this also requires a lot of hands-on parenting. So come on, all.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Toxic worker can cost a company

Amy X. Wang, Government Executive magazine, Dec 4, 2015, says a working paper out of Harvard Business School looked at the performance of more than 50,000 employees at 11 companies and concluded that rooting out a toxic employee saved the company twice as much as hiring a fabulous new one.

Mostly, in this study, the cost of the toxic worker was from other employees quitting because of the person.

Hiring a superstar benefited the companies an average of  $5,303. Avoiding a toxic person benefited the companies $12, 489.

What is toxic? If you have to ask...

OK--they meant pushy, aggressive, and inappropriate. This covers a lot as everyone reading this knows.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Of course, failure is an option

"Failure is not an option." NASA never said this, but it ended up in the script for Apollo 13, according to Robert D. Behn, a lecturer at the JFK School of Govt at Harvard, writing in Govt Executive magazine.

Of course, failure is an option--it happens all the time. I think it was Thomas Edison who said, "What do you mean I don't know anything--I know 5,000 things that don't work."

Tom failed--a lot. But you have the lights on, don't you? So did Lincoln, Churchill, Henry Ford, Isaac Newton, Darwin, Beethoven, Steve jobs and Bill Gates.

In fact, failure precedes almost all success.We can't always invent, on the first try, a perfect solution.

Experimentation means failure of experiments as well as success.

In science, we consider a "guess" a hypothesis. Sounds better, doesn't it? Acting on this guess then most often results in failure.

But when success comes, it's that much sweeter. That is me talking, not that Harvard guy.

Friday, December 4, 2015

No rest for the weary job hunter

According to Richard Eisenberg, Forbes, many unemployed people knock off the hunt for the holidays, figuring everyone is too busy to worry about hiring.

Mistake--he quotes Susan P. Joyce of as saying.

This is a great time she says.

You can "Netplay"--not Network--at this time of year. Reconnect, Catch up. You will also meet new people at parties.

You may also be able to schedule "informational nterviews" when people are less busy between Christmas and New Year's.

In fact, that week is "magic," says Nan S. Russell, Job-Hunt's loss recovery expert. Sometimes the gatekeepers are not around, but the bosses are.

Tag up with your Linked In connections...congratulate them on a birthday or wish them happy holidays.

If you get a family portrait taken, refresh your online photo--get one taken of just you. (I am guilty of using an old picture...)

Check out old HS or college friends on Facebook. See where they are in life.

Try to connect with recruiters during the holidays--same thing, the gatekeepers may be out.

Send holiday cards to people you have interviewed with.

Volunteer--you never know who may be serving soup next to you.

All of this does not mean you can be a crafty bore asking for a job every place you go. But it does mean you can't just stop the whole process.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Speak up during your next review

Sitting down for your annual review can stress your last nerve. Rather than hang your head and wait for blows to fall, how about asking some questions?

Guru Robert Half suggests one question could be: What steps do I need to take to get to the next level? Chances are the supervisor will be impressed with your ambition (what if the next level is her job?).

What are the dept's priorities for the coming year and how can I help meet them? This shows you are  team player.

What skills might I acquire to help improve my performance? The company may even pay.

What are the dept's successes over the past year? If you are flustered over a negative comment, this can shift the conversation to more positve realms.

What can I do to help my coworkers and management next year? This is especially good if you review is good--shows you are invested in the company's success.

Can we schedule a followup? Say you'd like to think about the information you've received and would like to discuss it further.

A review is an opportunity not a bloodbath. You may even get a raise.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

"Shopping" at work can get you in trouble

Cheese it--the cops!
Matthew Tarpey, CareerBuilder, says shopping from the desk is on the rise. Half of workers say they will do it. forty-two percent will spend more than an hour.

Forty-two will use their phones or tablets to pare down the Christmas list. Last year, that was 27%.

But here comes The Grinch. Twelve percent of employers say they would fire someone caught doing this. This is up from 8% last year.

Of course, the holidays are not the only time employers worry about wasted time on personal activities. But this, year surveillance is up,

--36% of employers say their company monitors sites employees visit (4% last yr)

--55% prohibit posting o behalf of the company on social media (that was 50% last yr)

--28% say they have fired someone for using the internet for personal reasons and 18% have fired an employee for something posted on social media

You know your workplace--are you vulnerable? Your boss may be making a list and checking it twice.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Attention: Artists

Sadly, artists need day jobs in most instances. According to Caitlin Boho, CareerBuilder, these jobs are usually in retail or food service.

Jennifer Hudson used to sing into her mic at Burger King.

Kurt Vonnegut managed a Saab dealership.

Some possible gigs are:

Personal trainer. You can set your own schedule. And work out for free. Great for actors who are and want to be ripped.

Nanny. Check out websites like Again, you can get a flexible schedule.

Freelance photographer. Get a free website from someplace like Take headshots for actor friends. Build a portfolio.

Research assistant. Check with universities and think tanks.

Administrative assistant. Data entry, web research, proofreading, editing.

Or go Passion-Adjacent. Work in a gallery, build sets, be a production assistant,

A job gets you energized and out there. The ideas will flow.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Ah, the plight of the middle manager

Jane--you've got this.
Government Executive did a piece by John R Malgeri and Jeffrey E Press, on "Jane," a supposed middle manager in government. But some of the observations could apply to the private sector, too.

Jane is tasked with translating broad objectives into manageable activities for herself and her staff.

Yet, she tries to be creative. She looks for new ways to improve performance, she acts on input from her people and customers, she collects better data to make work more efficient.

Some tips:

Ask the right questions. Jane must show she is humble enough to welcome advice. These middle managers seek front-line insights.

Then she asks questions. What questions do we not have answers to? What data do we need to answer those questions?

Jane should also identify the root causes of known problems. She needs to stay on top of trends--and offer low-cost, simple, innovative solutions.

She must be a change agent.

She must recognize employees want to be challenged, to change what is wrong.

Yes, this is easier said than done...

Recently I read a comment on a website from someone who had been to the airport and heard a supervisor tell a TSA agent to "slow down." This commenter was outraged--slow down, they are already slow...etc.  But maybe someone up the line was late for work, and shoving the screened people up the process would create a bottleneck, who knows...

Well, Jane is supposed to know... If slow down was her "solution," then her "customers" were not amused. Maybe a better system of checking in at the gate, where a missing person would not stop the process?

Friday, November 27, 2015

Change this--right now!

Elin Cherry,, writes about workplace changes she would like to see--PDQ. That stands for Pretty Darn Quick.

First, she says, the way an employer says things matters. Don't call child care and maternity leave "women's issues," call them "family issues."

Sometimes, employers say they are sensitive to such problems, but women can read between the lines. Instead of asking when a woman will be back after a baby, she says, it would be nice to say, "We have your back" and mean it.

Rewarding more on accomplishment and results would be good. Usually the most grueling hours are in one's 20s and 30s--but these are childbearing years.

Base incoming salaries on what others earn--not on what the applicant made in the previous job.

Employers also need to be aware of implicit bias. Women should not be deficient if they "don't lead like a man."

Let's face it, she says, childcare is often a woman's biggest "issue." Regular child care, care for when the child is sick, care for teens.

Child care AT WORK is the best option. Moms can visit, breastfeed. Childcare downtown in business districts is also an option. Companies could even co-op to provide childcare.

Let's get on it!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Still time to find the perfect holiday job

The good thing about most holiday jobs is that you can't get stuck there--it's temporary.

Matthew Tarpey of CareerBuilder says you may already have one--the "holidays" now seem to start after Halloween, have you noticed?

Since this is often temporary, you can shoot for a job that fulfills your needs. The hours may be crucial to fit in with your other activities. The benefits and culture may be less crucial. You may pick something close to home, for example, and ignore other possible negatives.

Still, you may be hoping this seasonal job morphs into something more permanent. Almost 60% of employers say they may keep seasonal people on... In that case, look at all aspects. Don't be afraid to ask--could this become permanent?

A lot of seasonal jobs are in retail--don't worry if that is not your strong suit (say folding sweaters). There are many aspects to retail--customer service, clerical, management, shipping...Keep your ears open.

The one job that is strictly seasonal? Santa!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

You, you first

Nine to five expired with the constant presence of phones and email...but when is it OK to actually leave work?

Kit Watchot, in Career Contessa, takes on this thorny subject.

Nearly two-thirds of companies have people who stay and stay, for fear of letting down bosses or the team or hurting their own chances of advancement.

If you are in the "zone" on a project, OK. But is this every day?

It's OK to "pack up your books," as we used to say in grade school, if leaving does not mean missing a deadline, the coworkers have left, or a person you are collaborating with has called it day.

Before going...

--Answer emails with questions, so no one is left hanging.

--Check your to-do list--be sure nothing is missed.

--Say good-bye so no one is looking for you.

Still not sure? Ask the boss (if he or she is still there)--"OK if I get going?"

The way we did it in the old days was when the boss left, we did. It worked fine.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Tidbit for the T-Day conversation

We all know about the Pilgrims, the Indians, the cold, the sharing and the thanks giving in 1621.

But this was NOT the first Thanksgiving, say archeologists at the Florida Museum of Natural History.

The first one was 50 years earlier near the Matanza River in St. Augustine, Florida.

That was when the Spanish explorer Pedro Menendez de Avilas (left) and 800 soldiers, sailors, and settlers joined local tribes for a feast that followed the Mass of Thanksgiving.

They ate salted pork, red wine from Spain, and yucca from the Caribbean. Also on the table--garbanzo beans, hardtack, and olives.

Menendez left Spain with eight ships and arrived with four. He was thankful to have made it.

By the time the Pilgrims rustled up their vittles, the people who settled America's first colony in Florida probably had children and grandchildren living there.

The Florida settlement was also more of a melting pot than the more British-oriented ones we usually hear about.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Looking forward to political talk at T-Day din?

A new study finds that more than half of all "children" in the US either "don't get" or reject their parents' political party affiliations.

Time was, sociologists thought like parent like kid. The idea was that parents imposed their values--including political leanings.

The study, which appears in the December American Sociological Review, relies on data from two family-based surveys. You can get the details from the longer version in the Review.

In the two surveys, which looked at mother-child and father-child, more than 50% of children misperceived or rejected the parent's affiliation.

This held through the child's life--adolescence, young adulthood and adulthood.

A lot of discussion of politics in the home made it less likely that the kids not understand their parents' stands, but did not make it less likely that the child would reject those stands.

The conventional wisdom, the researchers said, may need to be updated. Children are not carbon copies of their parents--more's the pity.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Incubator in St Louis whips up food businesses

St Louis University has an industrial kitchen in the basement.
It has been used to teach nutrition and dietetics students the skills to operate restaurants and catering businesses. (It also prepared breakfasts and lunches for six nearby elementary schools.)

Recently the university upgraded it with new fridges and freezer and two blast chillers.

Now a dozen small food businesses rent space there. The university is making no dough on it, but it is self-supporting.

The faculty and grad students consult with the companies. One is Jessie-Pearle's Poundcakes Etc.  She has baked for 55 years but now can produce more cakes. All the tools are there, Jessie says.

Another student turned his master's thesis on how to bring locally produced tofu to St Louis into a business, MOFU Tofu. He uses non-GMO soybeans.

The caramel apple business called Rebel Roots prepares 80 apples a week for sale at farmers' markets. She uses her grandma's recipes for pretzel bit, marshmallow and peppercorn apples, among others.t

A women's shelter partially supports itself baking chicken pot pies at the kitchen. Homeless men also make Fresh Start Dog Food--which also sells cat treats.

For other campus kitchens, check out:

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Veterans are great employees

Next post--on your team.
Veterans know how to work on a team, they have integrity, can perform under pressure, solve problems on the fly, adapt quickly, persevere, communicate, and master technology.

But nearly a third of veterans in a CareerBuilder survey, say they are underemployed, up 23% from last year.


Still, 38% of employers surveyed say they are stepping up their efforts to recruit vets. That's up 5% from a year ago.

What professions are hiring vets the most?

--Customer service (38% of employers cited)
--Sales (31%)
--Production (29%)
--Distribution and logistics (22%)
--Accounting (22%)
--Marketing (20%)
--Human resources (19%)

If you are a vet interviewing for jobs...

Be yourself. Eighty percent of vets say this on their resumes, but 58% think this is not a plus. Emphasize the qualities above.

Despite some skepticism on the past of vets, nearly half of employers say given two equally qualified applicants, they would hire the vet.

Only half?

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Hackable toys--a dark threat?

Hello yourself, Babs.What are you up to?
Caitlin Fairchild, Nextgov, says even children's playthings would be the playthings of the hackers.

"Hello" Barbie, for example, has a speaker, mic, and WiFi chip connected to servers--the better to converse with kids. She "remembers" info from previous chats--such as the child's favorite color.

Just call her Siri, says the CEO of the company, ToyTalk, Mattell partnered with to create this little companion.

He swears Babs is operated by robots, but Germany gave her a Big Brother Award for privacy violations. The NSA is also skeptical of the tiny bombshell.

Barbie is not alone--"My Friend Cayla" also communicates to kids and is not password-protected. And Cognitoy's dinosaur doll is powered by IBM's Watson.

Dinosaur doll? that Teddy Bear looking a little crafty?

Monday, November 16, 2015

Is your office a happy office?

This guy? I would say not happy.
In Forbes, Jeff Boss, author of Navigating Chaos, talks about how happiness is contagious in offices. He quotes Shawn Murphy, author of The Optimistic Workplace, on the types of leaders than can squoosh that upbeat atmosphere.

The blind exec--This one is unaware of how actions, attitude and words impact workplace optimism.

Anti-social--This person is often autocratic, distrustful of people, and skimpy with praise or recognition.

The change resister--Without change...we don't learn, grow, get better.

Those who see only profit--Profit is not the only measure of success.

Silo syndrome--Cannot see beyond his or her responsibilities, especially as to how work affects life outside the office.

I can think of some others...such as:

The scary big boss. Everyone cowers when he or she walks in or cruises around the office.

The favorite-player. This one favors certain people with the praise and good assignments.

The indecisive one. This boss throws every whim and idea at the staff without placing a priority on the projects.

Yipes--glad I work for myself. I am tough, though.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Please don't infect me

Want to clean that table?
David Spenser, CareerBuilder, writes about the practice of coming to work sick.

The idea has sprung up that only wimps take sick days.

Working while ill is called "presenteeism." You are present but not effective--and you could even lead to more "absenteeism" on the part of smarter coworkers.

People afraid of staying home--even if spewing germs and goo around--think staying home  shows a lack of commitment.

People are afraid of being fired. But coming to work can make them sicker--or keep them working at half-capacity for longer.

A vicious cycle.

Work can be a cure for some of life's ills--such as poverty, boredom, and lack of accomplishment--but it can also consume us and make us sick.

And if you are sick, it may be because someone else came to work sick.

I saw two people last week on "reality" or news shows who were sick but still working and talking to colleagues. Thanks a bunch, if I catch something.

There is no vaccine for stupid.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

In one day, you make 35,000 decisions

Can that be true? Jeff Boss, a former Navy SEAL and author of Navigating Chaos, says it is. I guess it depends on what you consider a decision.

Anyway, writing in Forbes, Boss quotes Steven Pressfield, author of The Art of War: Winning the Inner Creative Battle, who says most of us have the life we live and the unlived life within us--between the two, Resistance, the intangible force working against you. Resistance can be fear, anxiety.

But--he says--this Resistance is also an opportunity.

Uncertainty can also reveal your character. If one choice is the pressure of the moment and the other is something new--your character comes across.

Uncertainty also demands leadership and adaptability. Any "mission" can go wrong.

Uncertainty is also a proving ground. You can test out theories, be bold.

I am not sure I "get" all this...but it sounds valuable and worth pondering. Maybe I am uncertain. Do I have 34,999 more things to decide today?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Preschool musings--problem with Head Start

Full disclosure--My daughter went to preschool when she turned 2. I worked at home but had to work...I could not both care for her during the day and support her.

The preschool she went to was (31 yrs ago) more than $600 a month--members of Congress put their kids there--we were the poor relations. I still get the newsletter--the place is going strong.

They separated the kids into "rooms" of like ages. But researchers at Ohio State say that as of 2009, 75% of all Head Start classrooms (for low-income kids 3-5)  were mixed age. (Psychology Science)

This can be a downside for children, the researchers said.

Four-year-olds especially can be in less challenging classrooms. This may contribute to the less than stellar achievement milestones of 4-yr-olds in Head Start.

Basically in a sample of 2,879 kids, they found the higher prercent of 3-yr-olds in a class, the less well the 4-yr-olds did. When younger kids made up half the class, the 4-yr-olds lagged by five months.

There were also no academic gains for the 3-yr-olds.

They did not test for causes, but speculated that interaction with younger kids did not provide the stimulation in math and language and maybe teachers boiled down the lessons to a mixture young and older could grasp.

Something to think about...

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

How can you find a cultural fit?

Your style?
I was watching a new reality show the other night called Apres Ski--about young people working at a ski resort and giving customers unique winter experiences--such as vaulting out of helos or riding in a dog sled.

The new CEO was a woman from "the city" who swans around in little black dresses and pearls. Her staff is bundled up in colorful sports gear, while she picks her way over icy paths in heels.

Good cultural fit? They call her out on it in the first episode, when one of her staff says she doesn't wear prom dresses on the slopes. Snap!

Anyhow, Caitlin Boho, CareerBuilder, writes about how to gauge the culture of a company.

She writes about a coworker who had three interviews at an ad company. Then the second candidate got the job--better cultural fit.  Does this mean I am not cool enough?" he wailed.

You need to scope out the fit in advance. Find someone who works there. She herself thought Groupon would be fun--fun perks, casual dress, a tiki bar--then she learned about the management style and hours--nope.

You also can scope things out online.Look under "About Us." Also check the company social sites.

In the interview, try to find common cultural ground with the interviewer. Does the company value a sense of humor, for instance.

Ask the interviewer to describe the work environment, group activities, ways work is rewarded.

Asking even one of these can get you interesting answers.

You can also tell a lot when you walk in--is the place bustling, noisy or pin drop quiet with closed office doors--if offices even HAVE doors?

Do people have person items on their desks? How about coffee cups? Is anyone laughing?

A tiki bar is not enough--presumably you are not in Figi.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Music at work

Tony Valdivieso, CareerBuilder, asks if you're the type who keeps headphones on at work.

For some people, this is a good strategy.

--Music makes you happier, which makes everything easier. People who listen at work depend on this stimulus--take it away and they flag.

--The more you know about music, the more it will help you work. A study showed that the more people listened, the more benefit they derived.

--Music amplifies creativity. You won't get  creative just by listening, but if you are already creative, you will get more creative.

CareerBuilder has put together some playlists on Rdio.

One list is classical--makes you more productive when details are involved--no lyrics to distract.

Another is a cure for a bad day--happy topics, no minor scales.

And there is also one for nostalgia--down memory lane.

Check out CareerBuilder FM on

Friday, November 6, 2015

What would you un-invent?

Causing the fall of civilization?
When I read the headline on this story in Nexgov by Robinson Meyer, I thought--nuclear weapons.

But I guess people were thinking smaller.The magazine took a poll of 101 executives, innovators and thinkers...and asked which technology they wish had not been invented.

Yes, nuclear weapons were one of the top two--but the other was selfie sticks.

Runners up:

24-hour cable news

Email (3 people)

Facebook or all socials (5)

The Newsfeed--too often substitutes for a paper or real research



Genetic testing for the masses

Leaded petrol (toxic, leads to lead infused kids)


Selfie sticks (a quarter of those polled!)


Salad Shooter (yeah, worried about that myself)

Weapons of war (10%)


Land mines

Besides nuclear weapons, I hate childproof caps--you need a kid's strong little fingers to open these!
Oh--and blister packs...

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Now THIS is a desk

You know those standing desks, those desks with a bike or treadmill--now they have gotten serious--a reclining desk.

A California company called Altwork, reports Corinne Purtill of Government Executive magazine, created a sort of dentist chair desk.

This baby costs almost six grand and will ship next year. Preorders get a steep discount.

For 10 years, apparently, Ergoquest has sold reclining and zero-gravity (which I doubt) desks.

Japan as the Super Upward-Looking Dozing Desk.

Genius name.

Seriously--people with chronic back pain and other disabilities can benefit.

I was just being...snarky. The thing looks a teeny bit awesome.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Jargon--can drag down your career

Work guru Robert Half recently posted on CareerBuilder on the subject of jargon. Metrics, parameters, macros, monetize, incentivize--make it stop!

Of course some technical terms are necessary in business. I used to be in the aerospace industry--we needed to talk about avionics, powertran, perceived noise decibels, and so on.

But in business overall, jargon is so prevalent therer are even lists of banned corporate expressions in some quarters. Bandwidth--dreadful. Synergy--ick. Sea change--do you see an ocean I don't see? Even creativity is getting shopworn. "At the end of the day"--hate that one.

Yes, jargon builds a feeling of community, a secret language. It is shorthand in many cases. It also makes the users sound smart and wired-in.

But--tossing around the buzzwords can also make you sound unoriginal, confusing, alienating, and ANNOYING.

The optics, people--the optics!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

What did your profs teach you?

How many of your professors or teachers stick in your mind? Not many? Me, either--but there are a few.

Careerbuilder asked some people what they remember learning from their profs.

Paul Thomas, assistant member in the dept of immunology at St Jude's: He helped Prof Paul Rauca, at Wake Forest, create an iPhone app to help Rauca's son communicate. It was a touch to talk device. He said he learned the power of simple ideas well executed. "Verbal Victor," their creation, has helped many handicapped kids and parents.

Adam Keune, cofounder of Higher Learning Technologies,, said one of his profs used to say, "An A product with a B Team will never beat a B product with an A team." He has focused on getting great people ever since.

Carolyn Smuts, freelancer, said one of her profs said make your career fit into your life--not the other way around. This prof also let her edit papers and keep her foot in the academic door while childbearing. Now she enjoys writing and editing and still has time for family life.

Think about what you might have learned. I remember being hired to do research in the Library of Congress for one professor. I learned to love that place! I later spent many happy hours there researching a screenplay.

In another instance, a professor urged me to do my senior thesis on a certain subject, which I did--and then he asked me for my research materials. He moonlighted for a think tank and was doing a paper on the same subject. Gee, guy. I was a green young kid, but I said, sure, if you pay me. He did. So I guess he "taught" me to stand up for myself.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Aw--now space weather?

Cool now, but you never can tell...
The US Geological Survey says a severe solar storm could distrupt the nation's power grid for months, leading to blackouts and a trillion buck pricetag.

Extreme space weather events...well, ducky. But never fear, the government has an action plan.

There are only a few geomagnetic storms per century, but still... What if they knock out electricity, GPS, and communications--even our TV system has occasional warnings about solar events interfering.

In November 2014, a task force was formed and is developing a National Space Weather Strategy.

Among other things, it will establish benchmarks for geoelectric fields ibnduced inside the Earth by storms from space. This will allow the power grid folks to create new engineering standards, determine vulnerability, and decide what the thresholds for action are.

For more info--go to the USGS website at and read the factsheet titled "Monitoring the Earth's dynamic magnetic field." There is also a raft of other information there.

Too wonky for Monday? Probably. But if I can stand it, you can.

Friday, October 30, 2015

I believe in jinxes--what about you?

Do you think those "old wives" knew a thing or two? Research done by Queendom, a research company, looked at 14,958 people's beliefs in the paranormal.

People are superstitious!

STEP ON A CRACK. Will doing this really result in injury to your mother? Thirty-nine percent of Jews and 25% of women avoid cracks. Twenty-five percent of young people also step over cracks, while by age 40, this is 19%.

BLACK CATS. Asians tend to be the most leery at 34%, Caucasians the least at 25%. More women than men shy away from these felines.

NUMBER 13. Strongest among Asians at 33%, lowest among whites and blacks at 26%. More women than men.

OPENING AN UMBRELLA INDOORS. Strongest among Native Ams at 37%, lowest among Asians at 23%. Twice as many women as men.

SPILLED SALT. Native Ams most likely to counter it with a pinch over the right shoulder. Lowest among Asians. More women than men.

BROKEN MIRROR. Bad luck to a third surveyed. Jews and Native Ams highest at 36%, Middle Easterners lowest at 25%.

JINXES. Half of those surveyed avoid discussing a future event. Highest among Native Ams at 61%, lowest among Asians at 54%. Women over men.

Looks like women buy into a lot of this more than men.

To me  this is an interesting seasoning to life--not rational maybe, but entertaining--and shared. Hope typing about it doesn't jinx me. Or that last sentence.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Learn French in a week? Mais no

Just kidding--I don't know any French. But remember back at CareerBuilder, where some staffers were trying weeklong enrichment or change of routine exercises, well, one guy did a week of French lessons.

His name is Greg Miller and he had tried before to learn from French from YouTube before he and his wife went to Paris--this was another stab. The company had also offered free Rosetta Stone, so he went for it. Bust.

Then he tried an app call Duolingo, recommended by an Uber driver. It was supportive--telling him 20 mins a day was insanely generous and he would be fluent in no time.

In no time, the app said he was 8% fluent and offered to post this milestone on Linked In for him.

But, despite the overeager app, he felt his time was being wasted.

Could be learning a language takes real work. Quel irritating.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Wow--smart sixth grader

Not Mira--another lunch eater.
Frida Garza, Nextgov, Oct 26, 2015, writes about a New York 11-year-old who is selling secure passwords for $2 each.

Her name is Mira Modi and she crafts individual words and sends them to you in the mail.

She uses something called "diceware." She rolls a six-sided die five times to generate a list of numbers, which are then matched to a list of short, simple English words. She does this a few times. A string may be: alger gene curry blond, puck horse.

She also recommends when you get it, you add caps and symbols, although she says she can't remember them all.

This already sounds kind of hard to me. But I am a dope. These youngsters are already gobbling our lunch.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Come on with the job titles

Cat in the Hat? Kinda on the nose?
In the Wayback, I used to name things--lipstick colors, cars, banks--for a naming company in NY. I love naming. But when I read articles such as one by Sam Slaughter in Forbes, I kind of quivver.

He said he was in San Francisco and at a conference on corporate communications was a gal who said her job was "corporate storyteller." Another was a "story strategist." The third was a "futurist." (That one has been around awhile.)

Slaughter is VP for content at Contently (a name I don't love, it stops the eye and not in a good way).

He also met "customer happiness managers."

A receptionist was "head of office experience."

Influencers, trend strategists, transmedia producers, media entrepreneurs, brand architects.


One woman at Noble Experiment NYC, a Brooklyn-based rum company, was "Thing 2."

Cat in the Hat, anyone?

For that matter, how is rum a noble experiment--it's been around a few centuries.

But that's me--disgruntled former namer.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Third of British cos offer no workplace experience

Writing on, contributor Nick Morrison says eight of 10 employers in Britain think workplace experience is the best way to teach people to join the workforce, but only a third provide internships or work-study programs.

Young employees need to get in the groove, learn to show up, follow instructions, dress appropriately, communicate, and so on.

A survey of 3,000 businesses--in Britain--showed that compannies think this is great, but don't go out of their way to provide it.

In the UK, such placements used to be a part of school, now they are not. The work-school link has been broken.

What about here in the US?

I have long thought the links developing between businesses and community colleges to provide special training should be encouraged.

My own kid was in work-study program in high school. She loved it, but it also had some negative aspects, such as the promised after school job not coming through.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Bullies are ever with us

Remember the kid who growled at you and demanded your lunch money? Well, these days that bully maybe a teen girl who posts on Facebook that you are a slut.

There is a film called "Bully," which is being used to educate teachers, notably at Texas Tech.

To learn, say educational experts, kids must feel safe and supported. Teachers have to be more than good at their subjects--they have to be effective classroom managers.

Bullying is characterized by aggression, or intent to harm, repetition, and a difference in power between the bully and the target.

Many forms of bullying abound these days:

--Corn dogging--kneeing a kid in the tailbone (painful)

--Boys snapping bras

--Or What Are Those? Sneering at a student not wearing a brand name and yelling "What are those?"

--Internet harassing or shaming.

Most likely to be bullied are kids with less power, meaning awkward, poor, sexual minority, ethnic...etc.

And who are the bullies? Kids who are well liked but manipulators, for one. They fool the teachers with their sparkly personalities. And of course, there are just the mean kids, too.

The film and the workshops are to give teachers a heads up.

And you parents? Do you get it? We don't want these kids to be miserable or even kill themselves--nor do we want them intimidating others.

If your kid does not want to go to school or is depressed and you suspect bullying, you need to drill into it--talk about it.

If your kid is accused of being a bully--above all, don't brush it off with "Boys will be boys." Or: "Kids--they will work it out."

Sometimes they don't.

My daughter was bullied in middle school--she was in a tight clique of girls and one day they gave her a written letter saying she was out, they did not want to be friends with her anymore.

She was crushed. I never found out until years later.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Have you complimented someone today?

According to Olivia Goldhill, Government Executive Magazine, Oct 19, 2015, a Harvard Business School working paper found that praise from friends, family, and colleagues gets people to perform at their best.

These people are more resilient to stress, more resistant to disease and burnout, more creative, and perform better under pressure--as well as being more likely to form a bond with the employer and stay.

Seems kind of obvious, right? Yet, how often do you get or give praise?

They did a study--123 participants were given notes from someone they had a close relationship with. Some were positive (You are a wonderful role model).

Sure enough, those who got nice notes performed better in a mock interview.

To me, this is one for The Big Book of Duh. I sure know the opposite effect--sometimes when I tell friends or even my own kid about my latest cartoon project, they just say it's stupid.

Amazingly it takes effort to shake that off and go forward.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Teens who move may not graduate

Not sure what to make of this, but a new study from the Brown School at Washington Univ in St. Louis finds that students who experience at least one move over a 12-month period have a 50% less chance of obtaining a HS diploma by age 25.

It doesn't matter if they move to a poorer or more affluent neighborhood.

This was determined as part of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, a national stud that followed kides from 7th to 12th grade in the mid-1990s.

The theory is that kids depend more on informal supports--friends, associates, shared experiences--than on the actual institution.

I guess knowing this is helpful in assisting kids who do move adjust, fit in, scope it out, and get with the program quickly and solidly.