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

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Posh Eateries Uncork Deals in Downturn

High-end eateries are rolling out three-course deals and wine specials to lure America's hungry in hard times, CNN reports. "A year ago, to be honest, I didn't have to hit that three-course menu at $35 a head," said a Manhattan restaurateur whose business is down 20%. "Now you have to." Restaurants are faring better than some businesses, but upscale establishments—especially ones that rely on tourists—are taking it hard.

Sample deals at fine restaurants include $5 soups and 25% off bottles of wine. Some establishments have opted to keep old prices but offer more for the same cost, or simply eliminate add-ons like corkage fees. "That is something that has been wildly successful just getting people in the door," said a restaurant spokeswoman. "We figure if people don't need to pay for wine, they'll spend more on food."

Globalization Is Changing Our Brains

Having boogied in 70 countries on all seven continents, Matt Harding concludes that “globalization is forcing our brains to evolve." Known via the Internet for dancing poorly with locals in far-flung locations, Harding argues that our brains were designed for social interaction within a small tribe—but we now inhabit a “single, impossibly vast social network," he writes on NPR.

The problem “isn't that the world has changed, it's that my primitive caveman brain hasn't." But when Harding dances with people, “I see them smile and laugh. The world seems simpler, and my caveman brain finds that comforting.” Because the next generation will develop brains better-suited to globalization, they will "look into eyes of strangers" and, rather than differences, see "the things that are the same.”

College's Persistence Pays Off: First Lady to Speak

Seniors at the University of California, Merced, couldn't rely on a wealthy and established network of alumni to reel in a famous commencement speaker. The UC system's newest campus has yet to graduate a full senior class and only has a handful of alumni. But that didn't keep this year's seniors from landing one of the most sought-after speakers of the season—first lady Michelle Obama. She'll speak on May 16.

Since February, the 430-member founding undergraduate class has run a nonstop campaign—with requisite Facebook page—to draw the first lady to the campus. They bombarded her office with letters and reached out to Charles Ogletree, a native of Merced who mentored both Obamas. "Mrs. Obama was touched," said her deputy press secretary.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Economy Sees Law Firms Defer New Hires

The sluggish economy has more law firms deferring offers of positions to graduating law students, Time reports. The idle young lawyers join more than 3,000 attorneys who have lost jobs since January 2008; the industry is expected to earn up to 10% less this year than last. One upside: Firms are offering as much as $75,000 to those who defer for a year.

That’s cold comfort to graduating lawyers, who have an average of $73,000 in debt. “Something about the way the system works has to give,” one administrator said. The glut of talent is good for public-interest and legal-aid operations, but even they will have problems dealing with the influx. “Who oversees employee benefits?” one exec said. “What about health insurance? Bar dues? Non-personnel costs?”

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Liberty's Crown May Reopen by July 4th

The Statue of Liberty's crown may be open again for visitors by July 4th, Reuters reports. The crown has been closed since the 9/11 attacks, but Interior Secretary Ken Salazar says he hopes to have it open, at least to a small groups, by the nation's birthday. Given the lack of exits and its narrow stairwell, the days of allowing hundreds at a time into the statue are likely over.

"If you put several hundred people in there and there is some kind of event, lots of people could be killed very quickly," Salazar said. The statue may adopt a ticketing or lottery system, similar to safety procedures at the Washington Monument. A museum and observation deck at the museum's base were reopened in 2004, but access beyond that has been prohibited.

Your Toddler's Listening, Really

If your toddler seems to be ignoring everything you tell them to do, take heart: They’re just squirreling that advice away for later, researchers tell LiveScience. “The good news is what we’re saying to our kids doesn’t go in one ear and out the other, like people might have thought,” said one. “It also doesn’t get put into action.”

Cognitive-development researchers had believed toddlers’ minds worked much like those of adults. Researchers discovered that wasn’t the case by testing 3-year-olds and 8-year-olds with a simple pattern-recognition game, and recording their eye movements. The 8-year-olds could easily predict the patterns, but the 3-year-olds exerted effort after the fact, indicating that they were recalling instructions only after they were relevant.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Working at Home Could Boost Layoff Risk, Some Fear

Workers who once had the flexibility to work from home are sticking to the office, worried that less “face time” could make them layoff targets, the Washington Post reports. To some women, the shift appears to be a step backward as pressure builds to “work as many hours as you possibly can. Don’t ever complain,” says the head of a networking group.

“The trend had been moving toward more flexibility. Now we’re going in the opposite direction,” says a lawyer. Laws meant to ensure work-life balance are going out the window as legislators realize they lack the cash to enforce them. While there’s little hard data on the issue, “I think anybody with a flexible arrangement feels like their job is on the line,” says one laid-off woman.

For April 1, an Ikea Car?

Ikea says it’s unveiling a car March 31, but the day after that is—you got it—April 1, Jalopnik reports. The Leko, which is touted by its “designer” on a French website set up by the Swedish home-furnishing giant, will be modular, able to operate as a coupe or a convertible, and has the support of World Wildlife Fund France. Apparently, it’s very environmentally friendly, but no word yet on whether you assemble it at home.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Steinbeck's Laugh Would Echo Down Wall Street

John Steinbeck would relish our economic decline if he were alive today, writes Rachel Dry in the Washington Post. The author of the Great Depression classic Grapes of Wrath, which is regaining popularity these days, romanticized economic hardship and grieved over the affluence of post-WWII America. "He'd think that maybe we're ready to learn a lesson or two," Dry writes.

"If I wanted to destroy a nation, I would give it too much and I would have it on its knees, miserable, greedy and sick," Steinbeck once wrote. Now that we've been "brought low by stuff," writes Dry, it's time to heed his advice. Her recommendation? Pick up one of his later, angrier books, like Travels With Charley in Search of America—which recounts his road trip through a nation gone soft in the 1960s.

Life's a Beach? Not During Spring Break Recession

College students are refusing to let the economy throw a wet blanket on spring break, Time reports. They're just not going to the usual—and expensive—spots. Flights to the Caribbean and Cancun have sunk about 20%, as many revelers head for Orlando, Los Angeles or New York instead. “Spring break is a once in a lifetime experience, so they’re finding a way to do it,” said a tour operator.

Others are participating in service-oriented trips, which can cost as little as $300. Harvard’s program saw a 90% increase in applications. Even cheaper are so-called staycations when students remain on campus and help nearby nonprofits. One junior says, though, she’ll just stay home. “I couldn’t afford to go on vacation,” she explained, adding that the economy is forcing people to “pick and choose.”

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Special Olympics Champ Challenges First Bowler

Kolan McConiughey says he’s confident he can beat Barack Obama in a bowling matchup, despite the president’s recent improvement to a score of 129. The Special Olympics champion, who has three perfect games on his record and averages 266, tells TMZ that "he’s cool, but he can’t beat me.” The White House had no comment on the challenge in the wake of Obama’s bowling joke on Leno, though the president has apologized and invited Special Olympics athletes to the White House.

5 Tax Scams: Do They Work?

Cheating the IRS is illegal and dumb. That said, Details asked attorney Kelly Phillips Erb—who keeps a blog that welcomes cheaters—to evaluate a few of the more popular scams. "I find their logic interesting," Erb says.

Hide Your Gambling Winnings: Doable, but a score of $1,200 at the slots or $600 at the track requires filling out a W-2G form. If you plan to deduct losses, keep a journal of the event—it will come in handy during an audit.
Make Up Dependents: Those who fabricate kids are walking a fine line, Erb warns. Suddenly having 10 dependents raises a red flag, and could trigger Patriot Bill-era charges.
Invent Donations to Charity: The IRS cross-references your donations against a list of charities, so forget about it—unless it's a donation to Goodwill for less than $500.
The Old "Home Office": Just don't deduct 100% of anything, especially the phone line.
Don't Pay At All: Ask Wesley Snipes. "Yeah, a lot of those people end up in jail," says Erb

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Some Spending Hard to Trim in 'Guilt Economy'

Charitable contributions are down in a tough economy—but that may not mean people are feeling less philanthropic. Feeling too guilty to let the masseuse go under or a favorite shop die, many who can afford it are spending in an effort to help those around them, the Wall Street Journal reports. “It’s the guilt economy,” says one such consumer.

Those closest to us are most likely to benefit from such spending, an expert says. One woman, for instance, was happy to cut her pool cleaning, performed by several faceless people. But she couldn’t let her longtime gardener go. Financial advisers may encourage clients to avoid such decisions, but a philosophy professor says, “we’d worry about someone who didn’t have those feelings.”

US Cars Catch Foreign Makers in Dependability

Buick and Jaguar are the most dependable all-around car brands this year, the Detroit News reports. A study by JD Power and Associates looked at the average number of problems that crop up in 2006 models to make its estimation, which could be more influential as the recession has drivers holding onto cars longer. Joining Buick and Jaguar—which tied—in the top five are Lexus, Toyota, and Mercury.

All Ford brands had fewer than the average of 170 problems per 100 vehicles, while only Chrysler’s eponymous label and two of General Motors’ beat that. Each had a best-in-segment entry, though no one could touch Toyota, which grabbed five. Buick’s ascendancy signaled a shift for one analyst. “There’s more of a blurring between the quality of imports and the quality of domestics,” he said.

Wal-Mart Gives Workers $2B in Bonuses, Rewards

The recession has been kind to Wal-Mart, and it’s decided to share the wealth with the wage slaves. The mega-discounter will dole out about $2 billion in financial incentives to its hourly workers, Reuters reports, including $933.6 million in bonuses and $788.8 million in profit-sharing and 401(k) contributions. “While economic challenges forced others to step back, we moved forward,” Wal-Mart’s CEO boasted.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Teen Uses YouTube to Help Dad

When Mark Gullett lost his job as a marketing executive for the Tampa Bay Lightning, his son Ben, 14, knew what to do. He made a somber YouTube video in which he told Mark’s story in short sentences on poster boards. Now, after only 6 days, the video has garnered over 20,000 views, hundreds of emails and a few job offers for Mark. “When we first saw it, we almost cried,” Mark tells the St. Petersburg Times.

In Recession, NBC Page Gig Loses Luster

Stop by NBC’s Rockefeller Plaza headquarters for a tour, and you’ll be shown around by cheerful 20-somethings, cheerfully working 50-hour weeks for $10 an hour. Why? Because this is the NBC page program! Michael Eisner started as a page, as did Steve Allen, Willard Scott and others. But these days, such career climbing seems non-existent. The jobs just aren’t there, the New York Observer reports.

“If you can make it into the page program, that means something,” said one former page. “You’re being groomed for a career in television. But almost everyone I know who just left the program doesn’t have a job.” Adds another: “I no longer recommend the program. Essentially, it has been a sort of negative experience.”

In Job Hunt, Tech Boosts Old-School Networking

The best way to get back into the workforce is both time-tested and cutting-edge: networking. Facebook, LinkedIn, and even Twitter are taking the place of the old-fashioned phone call, Farhad Manjoo writes for Slate: "The most forward-looking job seekers have all but abandoned job-listing sites in favor of social networks." A 2009 survey found 27% of new hires came through referrals, and just 12% from listings.

Anecdotal evidence has convinced Manjoo that "old ways of looking for work no longer pay off." Social sites can be used to meet people who work in the same field or with a desirable employer. Self-promotion is key—even for those who have a job. "When you're looking for a job, do whatever you can to make yourself stand out," Manjoo counsels.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Ledger-Directed Music Videos to Air This Year

Music videos showcasing Heath Ledger’s directorial skills will be released this year, according to the Hollywood Reporter. One of the videos is for Grace Woodroofe’s cover of David Bowie’s “Quicksand.” The other, a fully animated spot for Modest’s Mouse’s “King Rat,” was a collaboration between Ledger and illustrator Daniel Auber. Modest Mouse will appear on Letterman tomorrow.

March Madness: It All Started With Larry and Magic

March wasn't always so mentally unstable. A new book claims the whole college roundball craze started 30 years ago, when Michigan State and Indiana State—and their stars, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird—met in the title game. “You couldn't have asked for a better dynamic between these two central characters,” says Seth Davis, who wrote How March Went Mad and calls their match-up a “catalytic event.”

The personalities of the two stars helped. Bird was shy, while Magic loved the fans and media. "They were just unbelievable basketball players because of the way they could think the game," Davis says. It was the most-watched basketball game of all time. Back then, most households got four channels, and none even carried the NBA finals. The Magic/Bird showdown proved basketball was a draw.

Recession Lifts Auto Repair Shops

For car mechanics, the recession has its perks: Americans are flocking to repair shops to ensure their vehicles run longer in tough times, CNNMoney reports. Automotive Service Association members have seen a 16% boost in sales compared to last year. “In relative terms, that $1,000 repair to keep a $2,500 car running may be an attractive alternative” to buying a new car, said the group’s president.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Volunteer Boom Becoming a Burden

As more people lose jobs, they’ve got hours to fill—and many are turning to volunteer work, looking to do good and perhaps network, the New York Times reports. But organizations have been so flooded that many have had to put would-be helpers on waiting lists—and for some, it's becoming a burden. "The irony is that sometimes it’s almost more work to find something for a volunteer to do than to just turn them away," says the United Way's VP.

Smaller organizations often lack a volunteer coordinator, and many have had to cut back in the face of lighter donations. “Can you make them stop calling?” asked a nonprofit executive, who noted that “everybody’s inspired by Obama,” who has urged public service. "They also don't have any jobs."

How to Pick NCAA Brackets and Not Go Mad in March

Obsessing over your NCAA tournament bracket? A time-management expert tells Esquire how to keep the March Madness time-suck under control.

Admit you have a problem—possibly after someone tells you, "You really seem to be getting over-involved with this whole thing.”
Cut back. Sure, "cutting it out completely might be too radical a step." Limit the amount of time you spend on your bracket.
Replace your obsession with something else. Like, you know, work.

Half the World's Languages Will Vanish by 2100

Globalization has many benefits, but the preservation of the world's languages is decidedly not among them. Ever since the invention of agriculture 10,000 years ago, smaller tribes have assimilated into bigger ones and seen their native tongues lost, and the process has been speeding up, reports the Washington Post. Of the world's 7,000 languages, more than 2,400 are considered at risk of extinction by UNESCO.

And even more could be extinct—marked by the death of its last primary speaker—by the end of the century, as the spread of English, Spanish, and Russian continues to wipe out native tongues of small indigenous groups. The United States alone has lost 53 languages since the 1950s.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

In Barren Job Market, to Get a Job, Create One

New businesses are sprouting up across America as unemployed people running out of time and money decide that the only way to get a job is to create one, the New York Times reports. Economists say now is the time in the downturn cycle when "forced entrepreneurship" starts, and this time around, the Internet is making it easier for aspiring people to get their ideas—from web design services to jellyfish aquariums—off the ground.

The failure rate for small businesses is intimidatingly high even in boom times, but economists believe those who do succeed may be sowing the seeds for an eventual turnaround. That's because small businesses, collectively, employ a sizable chunk of the workforce. And corporate downsizing has left huge numbers of talented people available.

Mother's Day Weekend World Premiere of "Seeds" a play by Pyramid Productions


What is "Seeds?"

Simply put, Seeds is a real, relevant, and very funny theatrical production that aims to capture various dynamics that exist within OUR society.

Have you ever seen that 21 year old self made entrepreneur in Black Enterprise Magazine and said to yourself, "Damn, how did dude get on?"

How about that person in your life that always has a smile on their face despite that fact that they are feeling the recession just as much, if not more than we all are? Ever wonder, "What the F is dude smiling at?"

And I'm sure we ALL can relate to the wild and imaginative thoughts that come about whenever we approach a red light after exiting the Ryan and are approached by a struggling homeless person. (Especially on 95th St.) We have thought or even stated aloud, "That could never be me."

But without exploring and understanding the paths these individuals had to take to get where they are in life can we ever really be certain about that statement?

After all, your current status in life has just as much to do with your upbringing and the situations you face throughout your journey as it does with who you are as a person. In fact, if you really want to break it down your upbringing and experiences ultimately MAKE you the person you are. (I believe we all witnessed that in the last play, “The Greatest Teacher.”)

But this time around we are going to explore the actions (and in actions) we are exposed to at a young and impressionable age and the impact these “experiences” had our lives, for better or worse.

This theatrical production aims to display the good, the bad, and the ugly of the challenges of childhood through the story of several young, minority, inner city youth (and a couple grown folks) that are trying to either survive the streets, revive the streets, or eliminate them altogether.

"Seeds" is guaranteed to be the powerful, dynamic and uplifting piece you’ve come to expect from a CLK Production. And we are confident that ALL those in attendance will be able enjoy this body of work for one reason or another; be it a 75 year old Grandmother looking for a unique Mother’s day gift or a 15 year old youth struggling to find their way.

PLEASE Show Your SUPPORT for Unique, Inspiring, & Real Entertainment at its BEST

Company Bio

Pyramid Productions is a fast-paced services company focused on community and dedicated to providing diverse forms of entertainment for the Greater Chicago land area and its citizens. This company is owned and operated by energetic young minority business men and women who firmly believe in change. In fact this company is in the business of change; changing the way we live, think, communicate, and more importantly grow. Pyramid Productions has found its niche providing entertainment based services to community members that are considered to be progressive by most standards. Pyramids’ unique events and specialty programming efforts have been overwhelming successful in providing alternative avenues of excitement and entertainment for patrons from all walks of life. This forward thinking is what has established Pyramid Productions as the fastest growing entertainment based Services Company in the area. The continued growth and success of this company will serve as a testament that change is both possible and permanent.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Europe's New Temp Worker Class Bears Recession Brunt

The new class of temporary workers created by European labor reform is suffering most in the current wave of job cuts, the Wall Street Journal reports, testing the new policies amid the threat of backlash. Short-term employees—easier and cheaper to fire than permanent ones—also get fewer unemployment benefits, widening the gap between the haves and the mostly young and immigrant have-nots.

The laws governing temp workers, says a spokesman for one German company, were “a real instrument of flexibility in the high times,” helping fill millions of new jobs—and when the economy recovers, those workers will be first to feel it. But economists worry that anger—Europe is no stranger to protests over jobs—could force governments to reverse the laws before that happens.

Goodbye, Sears Tower; Hello, Willis Tower

Sears Tower is to be rechristened Willis Tower in accordance with a new lease signed by insurance firm Willis Group Holdings, the Chicago Tribune reports. The company plans to move some 500 associates into multiple floors. It says its $14.50-per-square-foot move means big real-estate savings, and the name change came free with the lease.

McGwire Resurfaces as Batting Instructor

Mark McGwire speaks! Just not about steroids. The former home-run king granted a rare interview to the New York Times to talk about his reemergence in baseball—as a volunteer hitting instructor. “I’m such an easygoing guy,” he said in a brief reference to his steroids scandal. “I don’t need to sweep away any bitterness."

McGwire spent part of the winter helping four major-leaguers, including Matt Holliday of the A's. “I think all athletes have that God-given ability,” said McGwire, whose own swing was self-taught. “What goes behind it is the work ethic. It’s all about improving yourself throughout your career.” McGwire, 45, says he'll keep teaching provided it doesn't interfere with spending time with his two young sons. "Right now it's not about me."

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Wal-Mart to Offer Doctors Digital Health Record System

Wal-Mart is moving to provide a low-cost way for physicians in small offices to use electronic health records, the New York Times reports. The company—teaming with Dell for computers and eClinicalWorks for software—plans to offer a system for under $25,000, about half the current cost. The idea dovetails with Obama administration's push to boost such electronic records with $19 billion in stimulus money.

“If Wal-Mart is successful, this could be a game-changer,” said the former national coordinator for health information technology in the Bush White House. About three-fourths of the nation's doctors work in small offices, where the cost of installing such systems is more prohibitive, the Times notes. The cost of $25,000 is for the first doctor in the office; other physicians who use the system will pay another $10,000.

Laid-Off, Many Turn to Blogging

As layoffs soar, job seekers are turning to blogs to connect with others in the same boat and share their adventures in unemployment, the Wall Street Journal reports. For many professionals, blogging helps make sense of the sudden changes a layoff brings. "It's difficult to see your own progress, and that alone can discourage you," said Sawa Horibe, who started tryoutforlife.blogspot.com to organize her thoughts.

Blogs also can help with networking and provide a place to show off writing skills. "If it somehow extends your personal brand, there's nothing wrong with sharing your view," a search firm exec said. But be careful. Posting too much personal info can be "easily misinterpreted by a potential employer who is interested in hiring the professional you," a Berkeley professor said.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Lifetime Portrait of Bard Found

A family heirloom is thought to be the only surviving portrait of William Shakespeare painted during his life, the Telegraph reports. Art restorer Alex Cobbe noticed that a portrait of the Bard in the Folger Shakespeare library in Washington—known to be a posthumous copy of another work—bore an uncanny resemblance to a painting he had inherited. After extensive analysis of Cobbe’s painting, experts believe it was the basis for the Folger copy.

"My first impression was skepticism," said Stanley Wells, chairman of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, who examined the work. "But my excitement has grown with the amount of evidence about the painting. "I am willing to go 90% of the way to declaring my confirmation that this is the only lifetime portrait of Shakespeare."

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Circuit City Powers Down

Today is the last day to benefit from the deeply slashed prices at the nation's closing Circuit City stores, NPR reports. Not everyone is pleased with the remaining selection of unwanted laptops and lonely printers, but shoppers are still finding deals, and the soon-to-be jobless employees seem to be doing their best to keep their spirits up.

"Seeing it go kind of does something to me a little bit," says one longtime customer. Another couple saw the sales as an opportunity to help their local elementary school by grabbing cheap furniture. The employees, who gave them an extra discount, "were playing soccer and enjoying their last evening of being in the store alone."

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Firms Reprice Employees' Worthless Stock Options

Major firms are trying to boost morale by giving workers another chance to profit on stock options made worthless by the stock market dive, the Washington Post reports. Many employees—especially execs—are currently stuck with "underwater" options with a strike price above the trading price. Close to 100 companies are working plans to reprice options.

At Google, the 60% share price drop since its November 2007 peak has left 85% of its employees holding underwater options, and the firm has offered to swap them for ones set at yesterday's closing price. Ordinary investors who have no choice but to take a loss complain that repricing plans are unfair; Starbucks and several others are trying to defuse criticism by making repricing options available only to the rank and file and not executives and directors.

8 Offbeat Library Collections

Your local library may be home to an odd or wonderful specialized stash of artifacts. The Smithsonian compiles a list of the nation’s most unusual library collections:

The Cleveland Public Library sports perhaps the world’s largest collection of chess- and checkers-related material, with more than 30,000 items that include Arab manuscripts and letters from chess masters.
The University of Utah’s J. Willard Marriott Library in Salt Lake City is home to the largest assembly of Arabic papyrus and parchment documents in the US, including examples of early Islamic legal work.
Nurse romance novels are the hidden gem of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee library, with more than 400 works supplementing the school’s American Nursing History Collection.

Colleges Are as Nervous as High School Seniors

College admissions season is here, and for the first time in recent memory, it’s a students’ market, reports the New York Times. Amidst economic turmoil, nervous colleges are uncertain how many students will apply—so they plan to admit more applicants and offer greater financial aid. “It’s like the dot-com bubble burst for higher ed,” one enrollment officer said. "There’s a real leveling going on.”

In a nation full of bargain hunters, rising gas prices, and surging applications, colleges are trying new methods—like Webcam interviews—to gauge interest. Administrators have become skeptical of the statistical models they use to predict acceptances. “Trying to hit those numbers is like trying to hit a hot tub when you’re skydiving from 30,000 feet,” said one official.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

How and When To Make Humour at Work!

Lionel Estridge
A good laugh will do wonders for you as smiling and laughing lowers your stress levels, wins you a friendly reputation, and helps your usually tense co-workers and bosses to relax.

Humour on the job will do a lot for your career, but there are a number of things you need to know about laughter and humour in the place of work.

Feeling good and having humour in our lives can do wonders for our position and productivity, which means that there is definitely a place for some humour on the job. Having a smiling face will help your co-workers and supervisors feel better being around you, and you may well end up reaping rewards by laughing more in the workplace. But you need to know how to apply humour in your work environment.

Laughing has been proven to be a huge stress reliever, letting you feel better and becoming more productive. To be able to loosen up and have some fun is great, so why not take that approach to work each day and lighten up around the work place? Smiling can make your job easier, more than ever if you work in customer service or sales. But there's certainly a right and incorrect way to use humour in the workplace.

One of the main rules with humour in the workplace is to avoid controversy when you are joking on the job. Stay well away from joking about political affairs, race and religion.

Sex is another unsafe topic because of sexual harassment in the workplace. Make sure that you stay well within the lines of decency.

Never make fun at other people within your organization, as you are trying to win friends with the people you work with, and not set against them. If you can't help yourself, please be extremely careful.

Poking fun at the work you do or the industry you work in is a good way to earn some smiles from your co-workers and supervisors. While these types of workplace jokes may not be so funny at home or with friends, as they really don't appreciate the pressures of your employment, the people who are around you in your job will definitely appreciate the humour about their frustrations and will be able to laugh over the situations instead of complaining.

Making jokes about the ups and downs of your trade is a safe way to add wit to the place of work. You will have the benefit of knowing precisely what your co-workers have to face each and every day, and it's much better as it helps to let go of tensions and lower stress levels by getting them to chuckle about the situations they come across frequently.

The very best time for some humour is when you are not working, but still in the region of the people you work with, such as a coffee or lunch break. You can also make an effort to be funny on the job, but when you are working, it's a good idea to use jokes much more thinly than you would normally do.

In general, humour in the workplace is a superb area to flex your creative muscles and give your job a little boost.

Humour in the workplace helps stress levels to drop, and your co-workers will feel better about working with you. Start gradually, and add a few more safe jokes here and there to incite a few smiles. Everyone will feel better because of your efforts.

NASA Begins Hunt for Earth-Like Planets

A will launch its Kepler space telescope tomorrow on a 3-year mission to look for planets as habitable to life as Earth, the Christian Science Monitor reports. Kepler will use a sophisticated digital camera, 10 times more sensitive than consumer models, to survey distant stars for orbiting planets with just the right credentials. “It’s quite an exciting time to be alive,” one scientist said.

Kepler will stare at the same patch of 100,000 stars during its mission. Even if it doesn’t find anything, that’s something. “It will mean that Earths must be very rare,” the mission leader said. “We may be the only extant life.” The $591 million is scheduled to blast off from Cape Canaveral tomorrow night.

College Grads Facing Worst Job Market in 7 Years

Employers will hire 22% fewer graduates this spring compared to last year—making this year’s dropoff the largest since the 9/11 attacks and the dot-com bust devastated the economy in 2002, BusinessWeek reports. And the situation could worsen, with 46% of employers unsure if hiring levels will rebound by the fall.

Employers previously intended to keep college grad hiring levels even with last year, said an official who published the findings. The recession has particularly bruised the finance and business sectors, where projected hires have plummeted 70.9% and 31.3%, respectively. Accounting grads are still in high demand, but said one expert, “High-demand in this economy is kind of an oxymoron.”

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Math Geeks Celebrate Square Root Day

Odds are you’re not aware of it, but today is a major holiday. Well, major for math teachers and their lucky students. It's Square Root Day, a super-rare, super-goofy holiday that occurs whenever the first two digits of the date—in this case 3/3—can be multiplied to form the last two digits of the year.

These “calendar comets,” as one teacher colorfully dubbed them, come around only nine times a century—the last one was Feb. 2, 2004. Extra points for any commenter who can come up with the next one (and no cheating by looking at the sources). Celebrants commemorate the big day by chopping root vegetables into squares.

Supreme Court Enters the Age of YouTube

A Florida man who was Tasered by police three times after being stopped for speeding has petitioned the Supreme Court to hear his case. But that petition begins not with an affidavit or legal precedent; rather, he included a link to a YouTube video depicting what seems to be severe police brutality. As the New York Times reports, justices are relying on video in a growing number of cases, and it's changing the workings of the high court.

In 2007, for instance, the Supreme Court reversed an appeals decision against Georgia police who rammed a car in a high-speed chase, paralyzing the driver. The justices, who ruled 8-1 for the police, relied on video from the squad car, which they later posted on the court's website. Where once justices relied on the findings of jurors and lower courts, video, said Justice Breyer, is forcing the justices to reckon with "Chico Marx’s old question: 'Who do you believe—me or your own eyes?'"

Monday, March 2, 2009

Bargain-Hunting Students Swarm State Universities

The unraveling economy is spurring a boom in applications to public universities as students pursue higher education at lower prices, the New York Times reports. But while increased enrollment may help offset the budget cuts that many public institutions expect as states trim budgets, it can also diminish the student experience—and ultimately a school's reputation, leaving officials to walk a tightrope between cash flow and prestige.

At State University of New York at New Paltz, for instance, officials expect a 12% jump in applications as 15,500 students vie for 1,100 spots. Last year 24% of accepted students enrolled, an increase from the usual 20%-21%, so admissions officials will trim the number of acceptance letters it sends by 1000 and keep a longer waiting list even as the school faces $9 million in state budget cuts.

As Jobs Dry Up, Wannabe Lifeguards Head to Surf City

Huntington Beach, Calif., might be more famous for hosting surfing competitions, but the crowds lined up on the sand yesterday were there looking for work, reports the Los Angeles Times. The economic downturn has buoyed interest in $16-per-hour lifeguard positions, summer jobs once dominated by bronzed teenagers and college students.

This year, 156 applicants swam and sprinted in a race for 25 jobs, more than doubling last year’s number of lifeguard wannabes. Some were the usual college swimmers and out-of-work surfers, but this group also included a retired Olympian, a former mechanic, and an Air Force underwater-search specialist. Says the Olympian: “They might have youth, but I have experience.”

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Podcasts More Effective Than Lecture Alone: Study

Though podcasts can’t replace actually going to class, research suggests that students who download recorded versions of lectures get better grades, Ars Technica reports. Being able to repeat tricky parts of the lecture seems key; a group that attended a lecture and downloaded it later scored 9% higher than those who just attended the lecture—and those listening more than once and taking notes did 15% better.

"It isn't so much that you have a podcast, it's what you do with it," said the study’s lead author, who isn’t urging a wholesale switch to virtual classrooms; rather, supplementing lectures with podcasts benefits students and professors, who won’t spend as much time answering repeat questions.

Hearst to Roll Out E-Reader for Newspapers, Magazines

Hearst Corporation aims to do for periodicals what the Kindle's doing for books with a new electronic reader, CNN reports. The company—which publishes an array of magazines and newspapers, including Cosmopolitan, Esquire and the San Francisco Chronicle—hopes the device will help cushion revenues in light of sinking ad revenue and rising paper and delivery costs.

The device is being designed with a bigger screen than Kindle to better approximate the experience of reading a newspaper or magazine, insiders say, with content from participating periodicals downloaded wirelessly. Hearst plans to license the reader to other publishers in return for a cut of revenue. The device, likely to have only a black and white display in early models, is expected to debut this year.

Distracted Doodling Helps Us Focus, Study Shows

Doodling while listening actually increases retention of memory, LiveScience reports. A new study shows that subjects who “mindlessly” sketched while listening to a not-so-interesting phone message remembered key facts 29% more than others instructed to just listen. “It helps to keep us on track with a boring task,” a researcher affiliated with the study said.

“If someone is doing a boring task, like listening to a dull telephone conversation, they may start to daydream,” the researcher continued. “Daydreaming distracts them from the task, resulting in poorer performance. A simple task, like doodling, may be sufficient to stop daydreaming without affecting performance on the main task.”

Authors Can Silence Talking Kindle: Amazon

Amazon has bowed to pressure from the Authors Guild and will allow authors and publishers to disable the controversial text-to-speech feature on its Kindle e-reader, the Los Angeles Times reports. Authors contend that the function essentially turns the e-book into an audio book, a contract violation. “They created a hybrid product,” a guild executive said. “It was being used in a way they had not been given permission for.”

Despite the legal talk from the guild, insiders said the move by Amazon was intended to smooth relations with authors, not avoid a lawsuit. “This announcement was 95% motivated by business and relationship concerns,” one lawyer said. “The copyright claims were speculative at best.” Amazon concurred, saying the feature was legal but “rights holders will be more comfortable with the text-to-speech feature if they are in the driver's seat.”