Tuesday, December 27, 2016

2016: Do We Just Hit Delete?

It's been a rough year by many accounts. Racial problems, natural disasters, car and train crashes, a country in upheaval over the presidential election. But, what if we search for the good in this year?

  • The first ever flower grown in space happened: An orange Zinnia:
  • Tigers, Manatees, and Pandas have been increasing in population and are going strong.

  •  The decision has been made: Harriet Tubman will be the first female pictured on paper money in the US; she'll be on the $20 bill.

  • Heart disease deaths are down by 70% in the US.
  • The Bucket Challenge of 2015 raised enough money for researchers to locate the gene that causes ALS. This will be a huge help in finding a cure.

  • Summer Olympics in Rio!!

  • New babies joined our world: There are about 350,000 children born each day, every year, in the world. Each of them (like each of us) can potentially be of help to the world: Will one of them cure a fatal disease? Find a way to achieve peace in the world? Invent new technology that will revolutionize how we live?
  • However you felt about the Presidential election, it was held peacefully, and the transition to the new president in January will go off as it always does. This is not true of every country in the world. The fact that people are free to express themselves about the election is also not something that's possible in every country. We can still be proud of that.
  • There were birthdays, weddings, and holidays celebrated as there are every year. Friends and families gathered to grill, dance, play games, and enjoy one another's company. Don't forget these things when you think the year was a waste.
  • There were loved ones reunited after years apart; family members discovered and met, old friends resolved their differences and renewed their friendships. 
  • And when tragedies occurred, people rallied to help. You may have lost a loved one yourself, but most likely there were family and friends that came together to help soften the blow.
  • Plenty of caring people still exist in the world: doctors, nurses, veterinarians, social workers, teachers, those taking on causes to fight for: there are heroes, if you look for them
  • Those who serve in our armed forces: these are folks to be thankful for all year around. 
If you're reading this, then you have the gift of sight and the knowledge of reading. Are you reading it on your phone? Be aware there are many people who have none of those perks. I venture to guess you are warm and well-fed and have a home where you sleep, unconcerned about your safety. All of these are very good things.

So before we toss 2016 out and slam the door on it, let's keep in mind it wasn't all bad. And 2017 will be even better!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Gift Ideas For Financially Challenged College Students

OK, Christmas is looming and you want to give people something. Anything. And your bank account says:

You don't have time, you don't have ideas, but mostly you don't have money. What to do....
Here are some ideas you might find helpful.....Most of these should be well under $5.00
  • A really large bar of chocolate or any kind of sweets, or nuts, or gum, or chips. Imagine if you got an entire bag of Kisses or M&Ms that was all yours.
  • Any kind of small container like a mug or a big measuring cup full of small candies.  Wrap the whole thing up with plastic so the candy doesn't spill. Nuts are another good filler.
  • *Be considerate of friends who are trying to lose weight or have health concerns, as to what foods you give as gifts.
  • 2 liter bottle of soda and a small bag of chips. Believe me, it will be consumed happily.
  • Coloring book and colors or pencils. Yes, for adults. Some days adulting is hard.

  • A $1 vase with a single red carnation (maybe 2, if you're feeling wealthy) and some greens. Tie a ribbon around it to make it festive. Have at least a little water in the vase when you give it.
  • A nicer pen than you might normally buy, something colorful or with soft grips.
  • CD of great music you've made yourself. Make an interesting looking sleeve or jewel case insert that gives the tracks.
  • Stocking cap. Everyone tends to lose them, and if not, you can always use a spare.
  • Small package of really good coffee. Alternately, hot chocolate or tea. You can get powdered apple cider, as well.
  • One Christmas tree ornament
  • A vase or a straight-sided glass full of candy canes
  • A bar of really lovely soap. These often come wrapped in an attractive box and cost about $4.00.
  • Calendar--desktop, blotter style, small to hang up, large to hang up, mousepad
  • Planner for next year

  • Air fresheners, for the car or the home.
  • A pair of socks, maybe two pair.
  • Magazine and a snack.
  • Book. There are so many types of books, there's bound to be something they'll like (See what I did there?)
  • "Sample size" lotion, hand sanitizer, or other items, maybe in a cloth bag
  • Small zippered bag for pencils, coupons, keys
  • Key chain or key chain ornament
  • Cleaning cloth for phone or Ipad screens
  • For someone who lives in another state, a pile of postcards from your hometown. They're about 30c apiece. These have been seen at Hallmark.
  • Candle, or for safety's sake, some battery operated tealights
  • Batteries--who hasn't run out of these?
  • Print out some recipes for food you've always gotten compliments on, tie with ribbon. There is a template for recipe cards in Publisher, or you can download one.(Bonus: if you search 'Index Cards,' they also suggest flash cards. Can you use those for studying?)
  • New deck of playing cards, possibly with something to play for
  • For a fellow student, simply think of things you'd like or can use: a small package of hand wipes? Fresh supply of decent pencils or pens? Snacks for studying? Paper clips? Lanyard?
  • Journal and pen
  • Small frame with a poem or small symbol in it, or a tiny drawing you've done
  • Puzzle
  • Sheet of 10 stamps
  • Make handmade cards-with a bit of imagination, you can make several for not much money
  • Print some of your better photos at about 20c apiece at the 4x6" size.  Frame one or use it to make a card.

Where, one may ask, does one find such items?
  • Dollar Stores--and use them for wrapping and ribbon as well
  • Goodwill: Containers for treats, and also books, decorations, vases candle holders-you can also find things that were originally from Target with tags still attached, for a bargain, too
  • The grocery store--you'll be surprised what you can get for under $5, even under $3 
  • The grocery store will often have single flowers for under $2.00.
  •  Half Price Books: Their clearance area is a feast of great books, many of which are under $5 and often under $3. (be open to a book strictly for fun!) They also carry magazines, CDs, and movies at reduced prices. This is another great way to Go Green.
  • Barnes & Noble always has displays of books for under $10, and sometimes under $5.
  • Drug stores can often have simple and inexpensive items you can give others
  • Look in the 'Travel Size' bins, many stores have them. A little bit of something nice is a good treat.
  • Bullseye's Playground at Target (formerly their Dollar Spot) has items for $1, $3, and $5.
  • Michael's has bins of small items for $1.50 apiece--they might be helpful in making or wrapping small gifts
  • You can order photos online or using your phone and then pick them up at Target and other stores
Don't forget, part of your gift is presentation. Without spending much, you can dress up almost anything with a colorful box and/or bag, and ribbon. Simply tying a bow around something can make it seem more like a gift. Making a "to and from" tag to hang from the ribbon adds a nice touch as well. If you have a shredderful of paper, you can use the shreds to cushion a gift. You can use strips of fabric instead of ribbon, or wrap an item in a kitchen towel for a gift wrapped in a gift.

But remember: it really isn't about the gift, it's the gesture. And if nothing else, you can simply tell your friends and family that you can't afford to do gifts this year but you would love to spend time with them. They'll be fine with it. Really. They're your friends and family.


Monday, December 5, 2016

Merry Broke Christmas!!

Anybody can relate to the phrase: I can't afford it. Especially college students.

What do people actually spend on Christmas in the U.S.?

Here are some rather startling statistics:

To start the 'holiday season,' did you know people spent $350 Million on pet Halloween costumes last year?

Americans usually spend about $600 Billion on Christmas. Here is a rough breakdown per family:
  • Tree                     $  42.00
  • Cards and postage   32.00
  • Decorations             73.00
  • Food                        95.00
  • Travel                    960.00

Black Friday stats:

  • Amount spent on both Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, and Black Friday:   $4.45 Billion
  • Amount of that which was spent online       $2.72 Billion
What people are buying most of this year:
  • 4K TVs
  • Legos
  • Shopkin Dolls
  • Barbie Dream Houses

Some more stats...
  • Amount of business done using cell phones:   $1222 Million
  • Average amount spent per each person in the U.S.  $300.00
  • Amount the average family spends overall each Christmas   $750.00
  • Sadly, the amount usually spent in a year on books per family    $111.00  (not textbooks)

And your wallet says, "???!!!!!!

Here's an idea to help spend less and have gifts mean more: Narrow your categories. Maybe each child, for example, will receive:
  • One thing he/she needs (socks, pajamas)
  • One new pair of mittens and/or winter hat
  • One soft thing (teddy bear, blanket)
  • One thing to create with (paints, building)
  • One book
  • One thing the child simply wants

Remember the items you charge, you will indeed have to pay for. Be sure you do this infrequently, and plan to pay it off just as soon as you can. Use a credit card with a low interest rate but still avoid charging anything. It's too easy to amass a big debt, and you really cannot buy happiness.

Consider next year stashing away a certain amount every month so that by next Christmastime, you have a couple of hundred dollars to spend in cash. Lower what you consider 'needs'---you can still give, just give less and give more of yourself. Spend time with people, not money.

  • $10/month x 10 months (gives you time to shop ahead)   $100.00
  • $15/month x 10 months                $150.00
  • $30/month x 10 months                $300.00

See how it adds up? Some banks will set this up for you, or you can simply do it on your own as a monthly payment. Keeping it in the bank will help you resist the temptation to dip into it before you need it for Christmas, but you could keep it in an envelope on a high shelf.

The best way to spend less-sometimes- is to make simple gifts for people. Are you a good photographer? Have one of your pictures printed and framed for a gift. Do you cook something delicious? Food is always appreciated, and homemade is always better than store-bought. Can you build a simple item of wood? Sew? Knit? Do a craft? You might find an interesting glass jar and fill it with candy or other treats. Make a unique card to go with it, and you have a perfectly lovely gift. The satisfaction of giving something you worked on can be much better than wasting money, plus you can work on it at will and not have to fight the crowds in the stores-and not have several hundred dollars of credit card debt to deal with after the holidays.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Air Force One

When you see the President of the United States in an airplane, it's Air Force One.  This name was first coined by Dwight Eisenhower, but the planes presidents have flown in have gotten much more sophisticated as air travel has advanced.
The aircraft is actually two Boeing 747-200B models, each equipped similarly. One's tail number is 28000 and one is 29000.
Did you know these things about Air Force One?
  • It has 4000 square feet of space
  • There are three levels to the aircraft, as there are in any Boeing 747. Passengers, including members of the press, generally travel in the middle section, which looks like a typical airplane seating section.
  • The President has his own room, bathroom, and workout room
  • There is a large conference room that also serves as the dining room
  • It holds 70 passengers and 26 crew
                                 An early Air Force 1 not in use any longer
  • The President always has a doctor that travels with him. The plane has a medical office ready for almost any medical crisis, including the ability to convert to a surgery suite if necessary
  • Air Force One has its own exclusive baggage handlers
  • Food purchased for Air Force one is purchased at out of the way grocers and different places every time, by Secret Service agents; this avoids tampering with the President's food
  • The plane is clad in heavy shielding that preserves it from a nuclear blast

  • This plane can be re-fueled in mid-air, and so can stay airborne for an indefinite time.
  • Before Air Force One travels anywhere, the Air Force sends one or more C141 Starlifter cargo planes ahead which carry the motorcade: cars, limos, vans, that will be used in the President's trip.
  • The President's helicopter is named Marine One. It is usually used to transport the President to Air Force One (the helicopter can land on the White House grounds, while the jet cannot.) If he is leaving from Washington, D.C., the plane typically takes off from Andrews Air Force Base.

 Here is a pretty thorough tour of Air Force One. It was made during President Bush's administration and shows everything from the galley (kitchen) to the pilot's seat.

Try a quiz to see what you remember: http://people.howstuffworks.com/air-force-one-quiz.htm
Current Air Force One

Monday, November 21, 2016

Careers With Minnesota Companies:Target

Target is one of the largest employers in Minnesota: there are currently 347,000 people who work for Target. There are 1,934 Target stores. Revenue for Target in 2014 was more than $72 billion.

It began, technically, in 1902, when George Dayton founded a "dry goods" store (not food but other items people need in their daily lives) on Nicollet Avenue in downtown Minneapolis. Dayton's Department Store, which transitioned to Marshall Fields and branched out into Target, has endured for over 114 years, and has experienced a number of innovations along the way:
1920     Due to a labor strike, goods were not coming into the store. To keep his customers happy, George Dayton had supplies sent to the store by airplane.
1956   Daytons adds branch stores in the suburbs of the Twin Cities
1962   The first Target store opens in Roseville, Minnesota
1966   Target opens in Denver
1967   Daytons acquires B Dalton, Bookseller
1968   Target Stores open in St Louis, Dallas, Houston, and California
1983   California now has a Target store
1988   Target is the first to use bar codes on all items, and a scanner, instead of individually tagged items
1989   Target opens in Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, North and South Carolina
1990   The first Target Greatland opens with 50% more store space
1993   Target opens in Chicago
1995   The first Supertarget opens, which offers groceries as well as "dry goods."

By 2001, there are Target stores in 47 of the United States.
Did you know?
  • Governor Mark Dayton is the great-grandson of George Dayton, founder of the Daytons and Target stores.
  • CVS Pharmacy has purchased Target Pharmacies and Minute Clinics as of January 2015.
  • The big red cement balls in front of the stores are called bollards, and they're there to prevent cars driving into the store.
  • The original Dayton's building was built on a lot where a church burned down. The property cost $165,000
  • If you bought stock in Target in 1987 for $1,000, it would now be worth $96,148.
  • A Target employee suggested a shopping cart that would work for disabled people. Target worked with the company that built these carts.

  • If you look at an orange-stickered reduced item, it shows the percentage of markdown in the upper right corner. If the price ends in 4, there will be no more markdowns of that item. If it ends in 6 or 8, it will be marked down further.

If you are interested in employment with Target, here are some positions they may be hiring:
  • Administration
  • Advertising/Marketing
  • Loss prevention (store security)
  • Distribution Centers (where items are processed and price tags put on)
  • Accounting
  • Target Food Brand product development
  • Human Resources
  • Law
  • Technology
  • Store management
  • Property management
You can pursue some of these careers with a degree in:
  • Business Administration
  • Marketing
  • Sociology/Crime Prevention
  • Accounting
  • Food Science
  • Human Resources
  • Computer technician
  • Statistical analysis
  • Management
Here is their hiring website: https://corporate.target.com/Careers

Careers with Target could be anywhere in the world. Their corporate website is here: https://corporate.target.com/Careers/global-locations

Monday, November 14, 2016

Which Fork Do I Use Again??

What do you know about basic etiquette? How do you respond to an invitation? What are all these forks and spoons on the table for? Here are some basics:

  • If you receive an invitation that says, "RSVP" -- you need to RESPOND. The host needs to know how many people to plan for. Courtesy means you let him or her know just as soon as you know whether you will attend the event.
  • Notice how your invitation was addressed: If it does not say "and guest", then you shouldn't bring a guest. It will be addressed to the specific people who are invited.
  • Putting the host on the spot by asking to bring a guest, or perhaps your children, makes things awkward.
   Mr. Grinberg and Ms. Berniker are invited. Their children, room mates, best friends, accountants, gurus, and dogs are not.

  • Gentlemen: remove your hat when you are in a building.
  • Anyone should open a door for an elder as a sign of respect.
  • It's never wrong to say 'please' and 'thank you' when appropriate.
  • Gentlemen, open the door to a building for the ladies. Ladies, say 'Thank You.'
  • Also open and shut the car door for a lady when getting in or out of the car. If it is a dressy event and especially if she's wearing high heels, offer your hand to help her exit the car.
  • As a courtesy, gentlemen should walk on the 'outside' of a sidewalk and women on the 'inside'.
  • Ladies and gents, conservative dress is always the best choice.
  • Be on time!
  • Be patient and do not interrupt someone who is speaking.
  • When you finish a dance, thank your partner if you are then parting ways.
  • It is always wise not to bring up topics of controversy such as religion or politics.
  • Turn your cell phone ringer off, and put the phone away when you are in a group of people.

  • Respect the personal space of others: don't stand too close, or stand behind someone looking over someone's shoulder unless asked to.
  • Wait your turn.
  • Say 'excuse me' if you sneeze, and cover your sneeze. And use hand sanitizer.
  • If you are ill, call and cancel your attendance rather than expose others to your germs.
  • When in doubt, just smile and nod.

And then....there's the matter of table manners: Does this strike fear into your heart?

                                   Why are there so many of everything, and which is mine??

The basic rule is, when you sit down at the table, you will eat to your left and drink to your right. That is, your plates are to your left, and your drinkware is to your right. Keep this in mind when the place settings are so close together that you can't tell. Start with the fork or spoon the farthest out and work your way towards the plate (for example, salad is served first, then dinner; or, soup and then dinner).

Here's a diagram of what it's all for:

When you set a table:

How to behave yourself at a formal dinner:

Basics at the table...
Even if it's not 'formal,' Don't reach! Ask to have it passed.
  • Don't chew with your mouth open. Eat as quietly as possible.
  • If you get something in your mouth you don't like, discreetly deposit it in your napkin--without a remark about how gross it was.
  • No elbows on the table.
  • Don't hunch over the table.
  • Put your napkin in your lap.
  • Grooming is done in a restroom or at home, not in public.
  • When unsure, subtly look around you to see what others do.

Have you noticed the way people use their forks and knives in England? Check this out:


In some countries, eating with your hands is perfectly acceptable. In Asian countries, people use both chopsticks and forks, knives, and spoons as we do.

And what of the history of eating utensils?

Just for fun, Triogenius checked out  some etiquette rules in other countries....it was rather enlightening:

In England:
Wear a solid tie, rather than a pattern; tie shoes rather than slip-ons; and a shirt without pockets if possible.
Tap your nose if you are talking about something that should be confidential.
                                  Mr. Colbert missed the memo about the patterned tie.
Don't touch others in public, such as a touch on the arm or a pat on the shoulder, or to remove a piece of lint from someone's coat.
Discussing the cost of things, such as how much you paid for your trip or for an item of clothing, is considered in very bad taste.
If you find yourself in a waiting line, or a 'queue' as they call it, just wait---trying to get ahead in the line is very offensive in England.

In Japan:
Do slurp your noodles and soup to show you enjoy the food.

Don't tip your servers.
When you stay in someone's home, when taking a bath, don't drain the bathwater as others will use it. As the guest, though, you are likely to get the first bath. And, ...ew.
Do not stare into the eyes of someone who is speaking to you.
It may be considered impolite to introduce yourself; wait for someone to introduce you to the others.

In Australia:
Dress casually at almost any occasion.
Bring your own beer to a restaurant.

Sorry....couldn't resist...

In Argentina:
Don't wear a soccer jersey, and especially if it's not for an Argentine team. They take their football very seriously, and there are deep rivalries.  
Dress well; Argentina is considered a high-fashion country. Ragged clothes and flip-flops are not recommended.
When you eat at a restaurant, cross your fork and knife on the table to indicate you're finished.

In Greece:
Don't start eating until your host starts.
Finish everything on your plate.
Join in when they dance.
Take your shoes off when you enter someone's home.

In Russia:
Don't leave the dinner table until you are invited.
Don't give a baby gift before the baby is born: it's considered bad luck.
Give only an odd number of flowers, an even number is only done for funerals.
Don't point with your finger, use your whole hand.
                                    Count these before you give them

In China:
Do not wear brightly colored clothing for a business meeting.
Don't give a clock as a gift.
Don't give a set of four of anything as a gift.
Do not wrap a gift in white paper, white indicates mourning.
Do not finish everything on your plate; otherwise, it looks like your host should have given you more.
Do not whistle.


For a list of other countries and their etiquette custom-including how to say thank you:  http://etiquette.wanderbat.com/

Remember: Sit up straight, be polite, and no gift clocks. Now you're all set.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

A Letter to A Vet

Dear Veteran,

'Thank you' hardly seems adequate for everything you gave up

For time away from your family
For putting yourself in harm's way
Without question, without complaint, when your country asked.
For your triumphs
For your losses
For showing the rest of the world the best of the world
For being there
Whether it was yesterday
Or 75 years ago

We appreciate everything you did, everything you do.

We haven't forgotten.
Thank you isn't enough.
But, thank you.
Your Country
Superheroes don't wear capes.
They wear dog tags.