Just a few short years ago, $40 would fill my tank and get me a cuppa coffee. $100 would buy me so many bags of groceries that I would need to get the bags into my car. A soya chai latte...well...I didn't buy any of those back then.
My day ended yesterday listening to former President Jimmy Carter talk absolute drivel to Charlie Rose (who was getting a little irritated himself, I might add) on theoretical nonsense about how the next president could change the world perception of the US by a 10 minute inauguration speech. Today my day started by listening to George Bush talk absolute drivel for ten minutes on how good people were finding it tough to make ends meet. Yes. George. Thanks for overstating the obvious. Two polar opposites as presidents and enough drivel to fertilize my lawn for a decade.
Then I went to Trader Joe's, where I used to buy $50 - $60 and fill my house with food for a week. Today I spent over $100 to feed our family of three (and a dog) and I'll be lucky to make it to Friday. And then, I filled my car with gas...or let's just say I put in $40 to fill my tank less than 1/2 way. I came home and started going through my bills, deciding in what order I should drain my bank account. Now I'm going to sleep. Got some food in the house, some gas in the car, less money in the bank and I'm pretty sure we're in a recession.
I'm not listening to Charlie Rose tonight, as I need to wait for my drivel bucket levels to go down. At least I'll save $0.25 on the electricity.
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Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Just a few short years ago, $40 would fill my tank and get me a cuppa coffee. $100 would buy me so many bags of groceries that I would need to get the bags into my car. A soya chai latte...well...I didn't buy any of those back then.
Monday, April 28, 2008
Friday, April 25, 2008
Some people wake up to the sound of an alarm clock. Others to music, ocean sounds or the dog licking their face. I wake up to National Public Radio. As I break my way into consciousness, my mind gets a bit more stretched with information and stories that I would otherwise never have learned about.
This morning, the first thing I heard was that on the first day Cambridge University launched their new site dedicated to Charles Darwin, they had over 7 MILLION hits, crashed their smokin' servers several times and had over 14,000 downloads of the pdf version of the Origin of Species. The documents (over 20,000 of them) had previously only been available in person at Cambridge. Documents range from handwritten recipes, to theory rewrites, to the pros and cons of marriage. Who wouldn't want a peek into the mind of the very real man whose observations of variety of birds sparked a revolution of insight into the science of evolution?
Thursday, April 24, 2008
What do the Mona Lisa and I have in common? Well, for one thing, we were both conceived of before 1959. I'm sure, dear readers, that none of you find that quite as funny as I do. Oh well. At least I'm chuckling.
The other thing Mona Lisa and I have in common is that we are both part of the Mona Lisa Consulting team. Owner, Edith Bodnar and her partner, Veronica Vargas, set a goal of bringing some very strong talent together to tackle some of the bigger image, branding and marketing challenges facing medium to large size companies in a tighter and tighter global marketplace. And it gives me great pleasure to be on their roster as one of their consultants. You'll notice their link on the sidebar.
And if, like me, you love to look at that gorgeous image of the Mona Lisa, you'll appreciate the graphical approach this group has taken with a modernization of the interpretation of this great masterpiece.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Primary, schmimary (I'm a Clinton fan, so I really should say "yay", but it spoils the opening).
Back to the topic. Where are the jobs? Well, here is some good news. Some of you have been looking for work opportunities in Pennsylvania. Say welcome to a new Gen Plus employer: Development Dimensions International. If you live in or near Bridgeville, PA, then head over to Gen Plus and get your resume in to DDI. This job won't last long. If you apply for the job, make sure that you flag your resume as coming from Gen Plus so you don't get lost in the shuffle.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
It's Earth Day and many people (myself included) pay more lip service than actual impactful service to reducing carbon emissions and preserving the planet.
But there is an organization that has found an incredible, reasonable and effective way to bring both attention and resources to carbon offsetting. About a month ago, I participated in a web conference held only for bloggers (these are becoming quite popular and I get asked to participate quite often -- it's a phone conference with bloggers, the questions and interchange are honest and frankly, great, and we get a link of the audio recording to share with our readers.)
The organization is Brighter Planet. Jonathan Isham Jr and Andy Rossmeissl , cofounders of Brighter Planet, created this new company to empower individuals to take on climate change. (Isham is also Luce Professor of International Environmental Economics at Middlebury College .)
By creating a frequent user Brighter Planet/Bank of America credit card program where the benefits go directly to offset carbon emissions and YOUR carbon footprint. Fantastic? I thought so. Here is the full interview. If you don't have the time for the full interview, please, please, on this Earth day, head over to Brighter Planet, educate yourself on what they are doing, and on the types of things you can do to better the planet (and, yes, changing your light bulbs to fluorescent really DOES make a difference.)
Here's a brief on the company, sent to me by Cindy Samuels, a phenomenal PR power in her own right:
"A socially responsible company, Brighter Planet offers innovative products and services to help create a sustainable future for the planet and its people. They provide individuals with practical tools, like their recently launched Credit Card that fights global warming by investing in premium renewable energy projects instead of encouraging further consumerism with rewards like airline miles.
Brighter Planet’s innovative carbon impact tools were recently featured on ReadWriteWeb ( http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/brighter_planet.php). They encourage individuals to make a profile on their website, calculate their carbon footprint, and watch their footprint shrink with certain choices in products and lifestyle."
Why should you be interested? Because you, like me, seek ways to both reduce out “carbon footprint”, but also join in the fight to halt global warming.
Happy Earth Year.
Monday, April 21, 2008
Friday, April 18, 2008
In my own efforts to live a "greener" life, one of the changes I made was to buy a high end Nalgene bottle (the high quality plastic bottles that are not supposed to leach toxins into the water) so that my daughter could use it instead of individual bottles of water that are so wasteful and harmful to the environment. My child has been drinking water from this bottle for over a year. We've saved about $300 on buying bottled water and stopped about 300 bottles from going into the trash or recycling bins at school.
On Tuesday, Canadian journalist, MARTIN MITTELSTAEDT of The Globe and Mail, released an article on a Canadian ban of Bisphenol A (or BPA -- "7" in the recycle arrow circle).
"...the designation as dangerous could pave the way for the hormonally active chemical to be listed as toxic under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, which would allow Health Minister Tony Clement to issue specific measures to curb its use.
Bisphenol A, or BPA, is one of the most widely used synthetic chemicals in modern industry. It is the basic building block for polycarbonate, the see-through, shatter-proof plastic that resembles glass, and is also used to make the epoxy resins lining the insides of most tin cans, along with some dental sealants, sports helmets, and compact discs."
BPA has been looked at for quite some time, (NPR was reporting on this issue in August 2007) but assurances have always been that the small amount of BPA that gets into our bloodstream is harmless. That is no longer the determination.
On Tuesday, NPR again reported on this issue, as the US, (along with many other countries) has to figure out how to deal with this issue. According to MITTELSTAEDT, "U.S. tests have found that more than 90 per cent of the population carries in their bodies trace residues of the chemical, whose molecular shape allows it to mimic the female hormone estrogen. Small amounts of BPA can leach from food and beverage containers during use, such as when they are heated, exposed to harsh dishwashing chemicals, or contain acidic substances. Health Canada is testing Canadians' BPA levels, but the results will not be available for several years.
In response to concerns over the safety of BPA, many specialty retailers, including Mountain Equipment Co-op, have pulled polycarbonate plastic containers from their stores, and BPA-free bottles are been flying off shelves, creating shortages. Hudson's Bay Co. announced last month that it had “secured large quantities” BPA-free baby products, a sign of how quickly even the mass market has moved against the chemical.
Independent researchers in dozens of studies have linked trace BPA exposures in animal and test-tube experiments to conditions involving hormone imbalances, including breast and prostate cancer, early puberty and changes in brain structure, particularly for exposures during key points of fetal or early neonatal development. "
I'm more than concerned. I'm alarmed. My daughter and many of her friends show signs of early puberty. Hormonal imbalances are becoming more and more frequent in young women. Last night I wiped my house of as many items with BPA as I could find. That, unfortunately, will not wipe out the years of exposure that my daughter has already had to the substance. When I was a kid, before the advent of Tupperware, our milk came in glass bottles with cardboard caps. We kept food in glass dishes with a plate to cover it. There were no microwaves...we reheated on the stove top. TV dinners had just been developed and fully-prepared off the shelf meals were unheard of. We DID have to worry about lead in paint, asbestos in our walls, and a lot more second hand smoke than today.
As we move forward, we'll have to move backwards in order to preserve the health of our children.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Nothing like an excellent re-brand to get my attention. As you may know from my earlier posts, we suffered a family tragedy. It is really hard to function in the normal day-to-day sense as your mind tries to comprehend and process the information, emotions and necessities of moving forward.
In the spirit of moving forward, one of the unavoidable facts of life for a 40/50/60-something woman is that your hair grays. It doesn't matter that I didn't want to pay any focus to my graying roots, but they seemed to take on a life of their own and screamed for a quick home dye-job. So, in an effort at a return to normalcy, I tackled my hair. For those of you with graying tresses, you'll understand what I mean by tackled.
Gray is stubborn. Gray is coarse. Gray would prefer to remain gray. And I would prefer that it beats a hasty retreat. If you have ever home-dyed, then you, like me, will also have tried just about every brand there is on the market. Feria, Preference, Nutrisse, Nice'n'Easy...and on and on. And, if your gray is like mine, within days of torturing your hair, the gray brazenly peeks through, daring you to last three weeks until your next dye job.
I was very curious when Clairol came out with Gray Solutions and promises of 100% gray coverage (and skeptical, of course), but I decided to try it. The product was very good. My coverage was solid. The gray didn't peek through. But the packaging and the experience of the product? Not as good. The packaging looked old. What can I say? I realize I'm covering the gray, but I'm an almost 50-something. I'm not yet my mom's age of 72. But the packaging made me feel old. The pre-treatment worked, but made me look like some sort of a drowned rat after application. Good end result, but not a feel-good experience. It worked, so this became my reluctant brand of choice.
So imagine my surprise when I opened the package to start the process just the other day. I'd noticed the exterior branding had changed a bit -- skewed to a bit younger demographic -- but the entire interior packaging had been reinvented. Instead of boring foil packets, the packaging had changed to a gorgeous new age blue (think paint job on all the new car models now). The pre-treatment gloppy paste had been reformulated to a lighter gel that could be used all over the head rather than just the ends (easier usage) and the conditioner had been lightened up. Oh joy, oh bliss...I WAS the TARGET MARKET. They had rebranded for ME! So now, a great product, intended to cover the gray, had been rejuvenated (literally).
Why all the waxing on hair dye? Because it was a perfect example of taking a great product (like you, the 50 plus jobseeker) and finding a way to re-package, re-tool, chunk, and retrofit your external presentation in a way that the buyer (HR recruiter) would find not only your product solid (your skill set), but how you were packaged (how you'd fit into a younger company culture, for example) and what you brought to the mix.
So my hair may have great coverage, but the re-brand reinvigorated me. Good job, Clairol. Good job.
PS. Incidentally, I have not been solicited by Clairol or paid by them to review their product. But it sure would be nice to get a lifetime supply of the product...my hair will only get grayer.
Monday, April 14, 2008
Health Care Work Force Too Small, Unprepared For Aging Baby Boomers; Higher Pay, More Training, And Changes In Care Delivery Needed To Avert Crisis
Last week I received a media preview of a comprehensive new monster report that has just been released today, by the Institute of Medicine. The report warns of a looming crisis regarding our aging population and health care inadequacies. And it isn't that we don't already know most of this in general. However, the numbers that the report assigns to the challenges ahead will have some government heads spinning. If this doesn't make SOME notice the elephant in the room, then I don't know what will.
WASHINGTON — As the first of the nation's 78 million baby boomers begin reaching age 65 in 2011, they will face a health care work force that is too small and woefully unprepared to meet their specific health needs, says a new report from the Institute of Medicine. The report, Retooling for an Aging America: Building the Health Care Workforce, calls for bold initiatives starting immediately to train all health care providers in the basics of geriatric care and to prepare family members and other informal caregivers, who currently receive little or no training in how to tend to their aging loved ones. Medicare, Medicaid, and other health plans should pay higher rates to boost recruitment and retention of geriatric specialists and care aides, said the committee that wrote the report. The committee set a target date of 2030 — the year by which all baby boomers will have turned 65 or older — for the necessary reforms to take place.
"We face an impending crisis as the growing number of older patients, who are living longer with more complex health needs, increasingly outpaces the number of health care providers with the knowledge and skills to care for them capably," said committee chair John W. Rowe, professor of health policy and management, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York City. "The sheer number of older patients in the coming years will require trying new models for delivering health care and the commitment of greater financial resources," he added. "If our aging family members and friends are to live as robustly as they can and in the best health possible, we must have a work force of adequate size and competency to take care of them."
Work Force Shortage Threatens Quality of Care
Several reports show an overall shortage of health care workers in all fields, but the situation is worse in geriatric care because it attracts fewer specialists than other disciplines and experiences high turnover rates among direct-care workers — nurse aides, home health aides, and personal care aides. For example, there are just over 7,100 physicians certified in geriatrics in the United States today — one per every 2,500 older Americans. Turnover among nurse aides averages 71 percent annually, and up to 90 percent of home health aides leave their jobs within the first two years.Older adults as a group are healthier and live longer today than previous generations, the report notes. Even so, individuals over 65 tend to have more complex conditions and health care needs than younger patients. The average 75-year-old American has three chronic conditions, such as diabetes or hypertension, and uses four or more prescription medications, the committee found. Dementia, osteoporosis, sensory impairment, and other age-related conditions present health care providers with challenges they do not often encounter when tending to younger patients.
All Providers Should Be Competent in Geriatric Care
Virtually all health care providers treat older patients to some extent during their careers — and likely will do so even more frequently given that one in five Americans will be 65 or older by 2030 — so they need a minimal level of competence in geriatric care, the committee concluded. Health care workers should be required to demonstrate competence in basic geriatric care to maintain their licenses and certifications. All health professional schools and health care training programs should expand coursework and training in the treatment of older individuals.To deliver care more efficiently and alleviate the shortage of adequately trained workers, the report calls on the health care professions and regulators to consider expanding the roles and responsibilities of health care providers at various levels of training. For example, if a certified nursing assistant is able to administer certain medications, a professional nurse would have more time to concentrate on more complex patient needs. Additional research is needed on how to prepare health care workers to assume expanded roles, the committee noted.Because insufficient training can leave direct-care workers unprepared for the demands of their jobs and lead to high turnover rates, the federally required minimum number of hours of training for direct-care workers should be raised from 75 to at least 120. More training is required for dog groomers and manicurists than direct-care workers in many parts of the country, the report notes.
Higher Salaries, Financial Incentives Needed
While the number of older patients is rapidly increasing, the number of certified geriatric specialists is declining. Medicare, Medicaid, and other health plans need to pay more for the services of geriatric specialists and direct-care workers to attract more health professionals to geriatric careers and to stanch turnover among care aides, many of whom earn wages below the poverty level.Salaries of doctors, nurses, pharmacists, social workers, and others who specialize in geriatric care lag behind those of their counterparts in other fields. A geriatrician earned $163,000 on average in 2005 compared with $175,000 for a general internist, despite the extra years of training required for a geriatric career. Physicians who choose dermatology can earn over $300,000 a year. Registered nurses who work in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities earn less on average than their counterparts, despite working longer hours with more overtime. Medicare's low reimbursement rate for primary care is the foremost reason that geriatric specialists earn lower salaries, given that so much of their income comes from the government program. Medicare should increase its reimbursement rates for services delivered by geriatric specialists, the report urges.Direct-care workers are more likely to lack health insurance and use food stamps than workers in other fields. The median wage for direct-care workers in 2005 was $9.56 an hour. To boost wages, states should allocate funds to be added to the Medicaid payments that cover the majority of services provided by direct-care workers, the committee stated.
Family Members, Other Informal Caregivers Need Training
The report calls for health care facilities, community organizations, and other public and private groups to offer training programs to help family members, friends, and other informal caregivers provide proper assistance to their loved ones and to alleviate the stress they may feel in coping with an older friend's or relative's needs. Health professionals should regard patients and informal caregivers as an integral part of the health care team, the committee added. Between 29 million and 52 million family members, friends, and others tend to aging parents or other older individuals. More than 90 percent of older adults who receive care at home rely in part on informal caregivers and nearly 80 percent rely solely on family or friends. However, little is done to ensure informal caregivers have the necessary knowledge and skills. State attorneys general should recognize training programs for unpaid caregivers as a way that nonprofit hospitals could meet their requirement to provide benefits to their local communities in exchange for their tax-exempt status. In addition, federal agencies should support the advancement of assistive technologies that can help older patients manage their conditions and handle the basic activities of daily life and also can help informal caregivers take care of their loved ones.
Medicare Hinders Delivery of Quality Care
Although a comprehensive examination of Medicare was not the focus of this study, the committee noted several ways that the program hinders the provision of quality care to older adults, including Medicare's low reimbursement rates, its focus on treating short-term health problems rather than managing chronic conditions or age-related syndromes, and its lack of coverage for preventive services or for health care providers' time spent collaborating with a patient's other providers. Medicare and other public and private insurance plans need to remove disincentives that prevent health care providers from adopting new models of care delivery — such as interdisciplinary team care — that could improve patients' health and lower costs, the report says. The committee acknowledged the complexities of making changes to Medicare and the financial crisis facing the program, which is predicted to run out of money by 2019. It was beyond the committee's purview to recommend a detailed plan for how to re-engineer Medicare. The study was sponsored by the John A. Hartford Foundation, Atlantic Philanthropies, Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Retirement Research Foundation, California Endowment, Archstone Foundation, AARP, Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation, and Commonwealth Fund. Established in 1970 under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine provides independent, objective, evidence-based advice to policymakers, health professionals, the private sector, and the public. The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council make up the National Academies.
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Saturday, April 12, 2008
There is nothing more painful than the death of a family member. This past week, we lost a member of our family and it has been so deeply sadly felt that I found myself unable to write, think, or even react in any way other than viscerally.
I do have a lot to share on the job front, but I'm just not up to it right now. For a look at just one of the many dynamics of family loss, please visit my mom's blog for a peek inside her emotions, which seem to resonate for all of us. http://cryo-kid.blogspot.com/2008/04/other-side-of-joy.html I expect to be back in writing form by next week.
Posted by Janet Spiegel at 4:07 PM
Tuesday, April 08, 2008
Saturday, April 05, 2008
Oh boy. A bad, bad week for the airlines. First Aloha shuts down and now, Skybus. For those of you who may never have heard of Skybus, they opened their doors less than a year ago. Their business model was very flawed, focusing on a great marketing program and a weak business plan (streamlined costs -you paid extra for any add-ons, including luggage stowing and advertised $10 fares.) Hubbed out of Columbus, no phone numbers...all internet driven. Like a poorer cousin of Jet Blue or Southwest. I took one flight on Skybus this year. Seats were not that comfortable, but the price was incredible. The flight should have been packed...it was about 1/2 full. But I wondered at the time if they could make ends meet even if the flight had been full. About 350 people lost their jobs.
Additionally, American, Delta and Southwest have had quality control issues and had to cancel some flights.
And today, American announced that they are in a hiring freeze.
"American's hiring freeze is the latest sign of trouble in the airline
industry. Skybus, ATA and Aloha Airlines have stopped flying in the past week
and are filing for bankruptcy protection. American, Southwest and Delta airlines
have all had to cancel flights recently to address safety concerns about some of
I know I've been tightening my belt, as have many of my friends and colleagues because of my financial concerns for the next year. When air travel is affected by oil prices to the point that so many airlines (including established ones) are having trouble, and yet, oil companies are posting record profits, it has to make you wonder. Are we are being forced into a recession? If oil companies were losing money and the airlines were in trouble, that would make some sense. Oil prices would be going up to help support oil production costs. But, given that oil profits don't seem to be sinking (or maybe I'm not seeing something...) then are we in a manufactured pseudo-recession? And why?
Tuesday, April 01, 2008
Last night I watched the Barbara Walters Special on ABC -- Live to 150. A few years ago, I'm sure I watched another show that talked about living to 125 so the advances in longevity research in just a few short years have had a quick impact on projections of lifespan. According to the program, the last year alone has brought incredible new information to the table and that follows the past 30 years of an increased pace of discovery through the marvels of scienctific research.
I've included a couple of links for readers who missed the show and would like a bit more info, but here were the talking points that completely jazzed me.
1) Aging is being looked at as a disease, with diabetes and alzheimers being the greatest enemies of aging. So rather than looking to prolong life with miracle remedies, scientists are looking at how to isolate and treat the aging genes, which in turn, will promote a longer, healthier life span.
2) There is a chemical in red wine that does, in fact, help prolong life. Don't start drinking the red stuff, though...you'd need to drink 1000 bottles a day to get enough resveratrol to prolong life. However, studies on lab rats are really promising. Even the obese rat lived 30% longer, with greater energy, than the healthy rat with no drug intervention.
3) Body parts are already being grown through stem cell cloning-- including hearts and other vital organs.
4) My child may find she lives a healthy several hundred years.
5) Extreme caloric reduction does help resist aging. I, however, would not enjoy life with extreme caloric reduction, so I'll have to hope for the red wine intervention.
6) 80 will become the new 50.
That is where I had to pause and take a big breath. If we live that much longer, that means that we will have to find a way to financially support ourselves throughout a longer life span. The ageism that we are now experiencing in job search, will advance about...30 years...and at 50 we'll only be at early-mid career. At 80 corporations will start weeding us out. If you stayed in one job for your lifetime, you could technically be with one employer for 60 years (oh lordy!), which would never fly...basic cost of living salary increases alone would have you earning far more than any job was worth by the time you'd be...I don't know...75ish?
Small business ownership would thrive, with the median owner age being...what...90? As a mom, I'd be able to give my child unsolicited advice for...130 odd years. Oh my.
The implications of just ONE of any of the many advances affecting our general population would mean a redefinition of career and jobs, employment environment, health care, marriage (yikes..being married to the same fella for 120 years? Doubtful.), child rearing, family living, world population, financial impact (would only the rich, rich be able to live a long life? What about a 120 year old blue collar worker? How would he/she make ends meet?), financial planning, pharmaceutical strategies, housing...even death planning. That is just touching the tip of the iceberg.
Divorce rates, for example, have increased over the decades, not (in my opinion) due to more lax divorce laws. No...I believe it is because people are living longer. If women don't die in childbirth in their 40's, or men in their 50's, then married folks have to live together for that many more years. What will happen when a couple marries in their twenties? Perhaps renewable marriage contracts every decade? Perhaps NO marriage? Who would commit for 130 years to ONE person? Call me flighty, if you must...but not me, that's for sure!
And if I changed jobs every 5 or so years, forget the one-page resume. I'd need about 10 pages by the time I was 85!
The advances are fascinating and actuaries are already sharpening their pencils in glee.