"God Bless the Dream, the Dreamer and the Result." 

Thursday, July 30, 2009

5 Jobs in Social Networking

Facebook addiction interfering with your work? Perhaps you should get a job where an intimate understanding of social networking is a prerequisite. Rachel Zupek runs down five possibilities for CNN.

Recruiter: The social networks are swarming with qualified candidates, "and it's about time recruiters joined them." They can "find candidates faster, screen them better, and reach out to individuals they wouldn't see otherwise."
Strategist: For firms looking to enter the Wild West of the web, some informed guidance is necessary. "Companies are seeking social media strategists to find the best way to interact within various social sites and online communities."
Enterprise architect: For companies that have taken the plunge into the online pool, an experienced hand is necessary to keep the push organized and humming along. "This is the most exciting job in social media," an insider says.
User operations analyst: "User experience is one of the most vital parts of the business," and every company needs " to have someone in charge of the experience themselves."
Director of social media: A leader who has "a background in building teams and who really gets the promise and the purpose of social media."

America's Best National Parks

In the recession, international air travel is down and national park attendance is way up. Forbes runs down the crème de la crème of America’s national treasures, but be warned: “It's been incredibly hard to get camping space at most national parks,” one travel agent says.

Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii: Home to Mt. Kilauea, the most active volcano in the world. The park is "an exhilarating up-close crash course in the forces that shape the earth's profile," one travel author raves.
Denali National Park, Alaska: Sure, it boasts Denali, the tallest peak in the US, but the real draw is animal life. "Botswana is always wonderful," says the author, "but for the American safari, head to Denali."
Zion National Park, Utah: This "riot of rugged scrubland" got the most votes from Forbes' panel. "The narrow canyons are phenomenal—the colors astounding," a travel expert says.
Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Tenn. and NC: The huge expanse is the most popular in the US by visitors, and the old-growth forests are "breathtaking any time of year," the travel author says.
Acadia National Park, Maine: Once the playground of the Northeast's millionaires, cycling and fishing are now popular at the seaside wonder.
National Mall, Washington: Yup, the stretch of green and the reflecting pool between the Capitol and the Potomac are in a national park. "It is Washington's—and therefore America's—backyard," the author says.

Monday, July 27, 2009

'09 Grads Picky Despite Grim Jobs Market

Many of this year's college grads are confounding career advisers by rejecting suggestions that they can't afford to be choosy about what job to take in a recession, the New York Times reports. The grads say they don't want to be forced into less-than-ideal jobs and career paths by economic circumstance, but college officials blame the trend on the fact that they studied during boom times, and don't get how soured the economy is.

"I’m definitely seeing a lot of the older generation saying, ‘Oh, it’s so awful,’ but my generation isn’t getting as depressed and uptight about it,” says one grad who turned down a job with a $50,000 salary because he didn't like the employer's vibes. “The economy will rebound.” Career counselors say they're bracing for busy times in the fall, as the reality of the jobs market starts to sink in.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

'Recession-Proof' Job Is a Myth: Experts

If the downturn has you considering a “recession-proof” job like teaching or medicine, think again, Greg Burns writes in the Chicago Tribune. The recession has affected all sectors, from layoffs and lower enrollment at educational institutions to dwindling state budgets choking civil servants. “It’s a question of degree,” one expert says. “I really don’t believe there is any such thing as recession-proof.”

The media has painted a misleading picture about fields built to weather the storm. “If almost everything is immune to the effects of recession, the nation’s nearly 10% unemployment rate must be a bad dream,” Burns quips. The recovery will be slow, and while bankruptcy lawyers may be doing just fine, even the most “recession-proof” industries face an uphill battle.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Starbucks' New Flavor: Local Shop Names

With traffic waning, Starbucks has a new strategy: It’s dropping “Starbucks” from store names and rebranding them to reflect their neighborhoods, the Seattle Times reports. 15th Avenue Coffee and Tea, for example, won’t feature the Starbucks logo—even bags of coffee will be labeled “15th Avenue.” The shop will also aim for a classic coffeehouse vibe, selling alcohol and featuring live music and poetry.

Seattle independents were annoyed by Starbucks workers scouting their stores. “They spent the last 12 months in our store up on 15th (Ave.) with these obnoxious folders that said, ‘Observation,’” noted one. While a Starbucks rep calls the store “definitely a little neighborhood coffee shop,” the local owner says, “Starbucks is Starbucks, and we’re different from them.” If the idea works, the chain may expand it beyond Seattle.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Johns Hopkins Tops Hospital Rankings

Johns Hopkins has been named America’s best hospital for the 19th year in a row, the Baltimore Sun reports. The closely followed US News & World Report rankings placed Hopkins first in rheumatology, urology, and ear, nose and throat; it was second in neurology and neurosurgery, geriatrics, gynecology, ophthalmology, and psychiatry. Rounding out the top three overall were the Mayo Clinic and the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.
The rest of the top 10:
Cleveland Clinic
Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston
New York-Presbyterian University Hospital of Columbia and Cornell
University of California-San Francisco Medical Center
Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
Barnes-Jewish Hospital/Washington University, St. Louis
Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston
Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC

Willis What? Sears Tower Changes Names

An insurance company no one's ever heard of is suddenly a big name in Chicago. Starting today, the Sears Tower—the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere—becomes Willis Tower, after Willis Group Holdings, the Sun-Times reports. Chicagoans grumbling about the name change, which Willis earned by leasing just three of the building's 110 floors, should stop complaining, the company's chairman says. Sears was doing nothing for the city, he notes, while Willis brought 500 new jobs to town during a recession, and coughed up $100,000 for the city's 2016 Olympic effort.

"I'm trying to help out," he tells the Sun-Times. "I'm trying to contribute." When the Sears Tower opened in 1973, it was home to Sears, Roebuck & Co., which left for the suburbs in 1993. But the name stuck. So will Chicagoans accept the change? If the city's US Cellular Field is any indication, it could be tough sell, the Chicago Tribune reports. To many, the home of the White Sox will always be Comiskey Park.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Prepared Food Aisle Is the New Restaurant

Cash-conscious consumers who’d rather not cook are increasingly ditching restaurant dinners in favor of grocery stores’ prepared meals, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. At some stores, prepared-food sales have jumped 7% to 10%, says an industry consultant. For their part, supermarkets are hawking a bigger and better selection of such offerings. “We're saying, 'We're cooking so you don't have to,'” says a supermarket exec.

Meanwhile, the National Restaurant Association predicts a 1% drop in inflation-adjusted sales this year, reversing a recent trend that saw grocery store visits drop and restaurant business rise. Still, that doesn’t mean supermarkets have it easy: It can be tough for stores to change their supply lines with prepared meals in mind and to recruit experts in food preparation. Still, with more space being devoted to prepared food, it’s likely “supermarkets will start looking more and more like restaurants,” says an industry consultant.

Recession's Silver Lining: We're Content With Less

Americans are embracing the no-frills attitude necessitated by the recession, USA Today reports. One-third say they are spending less and plan to keep up the practice as their “new, normal” way of living, according to a study. A whopping 47% of Americans say they have all they need, another study shows, up from 34% in 2006. “The silver lining is that people are coming to realize they can live with less and their lives are richer for it,” a professor says.

“People are feeling forced and inspired to get back to what is core to them,” an author says. Films and websites devoted to consuming less and being environmentally conscious have seen an upsurge in views, and people are turning out in droves to attend self-help courses in weathering the downturn. One course, in “voluntary simplicity,” has seen enrollment jump 50% in the last year.

Got 250 Twitter Followers? Best Buy May Have Opening

For possibly the first time, an active Twitter following is a job requirement, the Telegraph reports. Best Buy asked that candidates for a senior marketing position at the company’s Minnesota headquarters have at least 250 followers for their Twitter pages. The posting also lists “1 year of active blogging experience” as a requirement, along with more conventional marketing experience.

Monday, July 13, 2009

How to Stage a Vacation Coup

Planning a summer vacation? It may be harder than you think to get away from your needy colleagues, but with “aggressive, simultaneous upward and downward management,” it can be done, writes Stanley Bing in Fortune:

First, get the boss’s permission and make sure your subordinates know you’ve claimed the dates. “Establishing a bona fide vacation is a war. Yours should not be a casualty.”
Ten days before your vacation, “do a massive core dump on all available life forms—reportees, colleagues, the guy who cleans the fish tank. ‘What’s this meeting with Beanie and Cecil doing on my agenda?’ you may ask the clueless noid who put it there.”
Make sure to “use the phrase ‘When I’m on vacation next week’ no matter what the subject at hand” whenever you’re within earshot of your boss.
When your boss inevitably informs you of an important meeting during your vacation, “do not flinch. Executive amnesia is a form of authoritarian terrorism that must be fought.”

Recession Delivers Double Whammy to Legal Aid Offices

The recession has crippled funding for legal aid even as it has bumped up the number of people requesting representation, McClatchy reports. Though the federal government ramped up spending this year—and plans an even bigger increase for 2010—state funding and private donations have cratered, forcing legal aid to turn away about half of the 2 million valid cases it receives this year.

The recession also stole away another traditional source of funding: interest from lawyer-administered client funds, which provided $112 million last year. The Fed’s decision to lower rates to combat the economic crisis is expected to hobble that revenue source this year. “When those interest rates dropped,” an official said, “they took legal aid with them.” About 51 million Americans qualify for assistance, up 11 million since 2007.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

How to Plan a Wedding Without Losing Your Mind

Heidi Kurpiela was never big on weddings. “I never paged through bridal magazines in line at the grocery store. I never ached to be a bride.” But even a no-frills attitude didn't save her from the maelstrom of wedding planning, she writes on The Stimulist. Herewith some lessons learned as she saw herself turning into the obsessive bride she was sure she would never be be:

You can buy the dress alone: it doesn’t have to be a weepy or expensive undertaking. It can be as simple as running to the supermarket for a half-gallon of milk.”
You will be intimidated into hand writing your guests’ addresses: Get over it. Apparently easy-to-read computer generated ones are in bad taste.
You must buy a cake serving set: Kurpiela suggests whatever you find marked down at Pier 1.
CC your bridesmaids on all shoe-related e-mails: Kurpiela accidentally told one bridesmaid to buy gold, another to buy brown. Whoops.
You will register for things you will regret. Going through the store with the scanner sent "cold chills of gluttonous consumerism" down her spine. You can edit the next day.
You can break tradition: The internet is brimming with good ideas for DIY touches. There need be no rules.

Get a Checkup or Lose Your Insurance

How far can a firm go to improve the health of its employees? AmeriGas Propane's insurance costs were rising, its work force was aging, and its employees weren't getting preventative care. The company began voluntary programs to encourage healthy behavior that didn't work. So AmeriGas gave its workers a simple choice last year: Get regular check-ups, or lose your health insurance, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The ultimatum seems to have worked; AmeriGas has seen more than 90% of workers get their exams, and the checkups have uncovered early-stage diabetes, cancer, and liver disease the employees admit would’ve otherwise gone undetected. And because AmeriGas doesn’t require that any action be taken based on the results, the firm is not in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act. But whether the program works remains to be seen: The company's health costs were 3% higher than they would have been without it last year, due to the cost of additional exams and care.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Colleges Encourage 'Gap Year' With Cash

Colleges around the country are making it easier for high school graduates to delay college and instead put in a year or more of public service, the Christian Science Monitor reports. More than 80 schools have partnered with AmeriCorps to give students tuition credits in exchange for such service. Others, such as Princeton and Dickinson, have their own versions, figuring the payoff will be more well-rounded students.

"We're seeing an upsurge nationally in the number of students looking for alternatives immediately following high school graduation,” says an administrator at Dickinson College, which offers a $10,000 tuition credit for every year of public service.

Monday, July 6, 2009

New Site Targets Chattering (and Now Tweeting) Classes

There's been lots of media chatter about Mediaite.com, the website Dan Abrams rolled out this morning, most of it sight-unseen, challenging the former MSNBC host's intention to continue to run a media strategy firm alongside the site. Howard Kurtz, one of those critics, now takes a look at the site, which offering a sassy, scandal-fueled take on print, TV, and the net. One prominent feature is a ranking of media types which may fuel vanity but be of questionable utility, Kurtz notes on finding that he is apparently more influential than Conan O'Brien.

Mediaite is run by a lean team of just five, and Abrams has stumped up all the cash for the launch. Its editor, Rachel Sklar, promises a "super-fun" approach to "where the media are going," with remunerated contributors alongside unpaid bloggers. Yet concerns about the site's impartiality remain, Kurtz says; Abrams has not disclosed his consultancy's clients, and media blogger Jeff Jarvis told him, "I'm sorry, but this smells."

Twitter Deserves a Nobel Prize

Twitter’s been so instrumental in giving Iranians a voice that it, and its creators, deserve Nobel Prize consideration, writes Mark Pfeifle for the Christian Science Monitor. Scoff all you want at the 140-character “time waster.” “In the past month, 140 characters were enough to shine a light on Iranian oppression and elevate Twitter to the level of change agent.”

When traditional journalists were forced out of the country, Twitter gave the people a voice. Beaming tweets from cellphones to the whole world—instead of just a friends list—it became the tool the regime couldn't suppress. Its crowning achievement was to give the world the video of Neda Agha Soltan, dying on the street for daring to dream of a free Iran. “Neda became the voice of a movement,” writes Pfeifle. “Twitter became the megaphone.”

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Economic 'Mismatches' Mean Food Crisis Is Here to Stay

The various sectors of the global economy have become so entwined with food production that prices are acting in a very “puzzling” manner, the Economist reports. Last year, the market responded rationally to the global food crisis of 2007-08, increasing production and thus lowering prices. But with another bumper crop expected, prices are up, “increasing at a time of plenty.”

The response to the food crisis isn’t just troubling academically. Farmers responded by putting more land into cultivation, a practice that cannot hope to meet skyrocketing demand. More, production increased overwhelmingly in industrialized nations, depriving poor countries that consume most of the produce of potential fruits of their labor: “The spike of 2008 did not signal a mere bubble—but rather, a genuine mismatch of supply and demand.”

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Ex-Autoworkers Retool for Lower Paying Jobs

Hundreds of thousands of ex-autoworkers left adrift by the industry's implosion are having to learn new skills and get used to lower pay, the Washington Post reports. Community colleges in the auto industry's heartland are jam-packed with midlife workers aiming to qualify quickly to become truck drivers, computer technicians or nursing aides. "I've been humbled quite a bit," says one 39-year-old autoworker-turned-nursing aide who's living in his mother's basement.

"What we're seeing is the death of the conventional middle-class life and an increase in the population of working poor," says the president of one Detroit community college. Some in new careers are enjoying the feeling of job security, despite the withered pay packets. "Of course, 20 years ago, people thought the auto industry would always be solid," says the new nursing aide. "But, for now, I feel good about it."

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Crazy Sports Salaries Prove Supply and Demand Works

Sports fans love to grouse about athletes' salaries and bemoan the ever-rising prices of tickets, concessions, and merchandise. But “it isn’t some vague indefinable ‘they’ who pays the players,” writes Allen Barra for the Wall Street Journal. “It’s you, or rather, it’s us.” Owners set prices they think fans will pay, and "if you are willing to pay their prices that means they set the right prices after all."

Barra cites baseball Yoda Bill James, who argues that ballplayers make more than medical researchers because “we are, as a nation, far more interested in having good baseball teams than we are in finding a cure for cancer.” If we donated money to cancer research first, then bought tickets with what was left over, Barra writes, "athletes and rock stars will actually be paid what we pretend they should be paid."