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December 2006

"The CRANKY Shopper's Holiday Gift Guide"

Yeah, I still have gift giving on the brain. And all this shopping is making me cranky!

"Nothing puts the bug into 'bah, humbug!' more than an impossible shopping challenge. He has everything. She doesn't like anything. They want nothing ... except to fill you with the searing, white-hot frustration of a thousand yule logs. Tired of these hateful want-nothings taking the Michelle Kwan out of your Kwanzaa? Sick of stubbing your mistletoe chasing after these dreidel-dodgers? Check out our profiles of the toughest people to buy for and use our online gift suggestions, chosen to fit every budget. Or give a more personal gift, with your own private coupon... And do it all as you sit blessedly alone sipping an eggnog, warmed by the toasty glow of your computer and far from the maddening crowds. How's that for comfort and joy?"

  • The Geek
  • The Do-Gooder
  • The Ebert
  • The Spoiled Brat
  • The T-Square
  • The Bookworm
  • The Forked Tongue
  • The Nympho
  • The Holy Roller
  • BTW, my favorite gift category is T-square....oh, no, you shouldn't have!

    Are You a 'Re-Gifter'?

    Okay, who hasn't 'regifted' once or twice (or more)? But please follow the "12 rules for regifting":

    "There are only three reasons you might be reading this column:

    1. You think 'regifting' is totally tacky, but you secretly hope there might be a polite way to get rid of that hideous scarf your Aunt Edna gave you.
    1. You're a chronic regifter and you need some new ideas to get you through the holidays.
    1. You've never heard of regifting. Really. You're just curious.

    "Welcome, one and all, to a frank discussion of a grand old holiday tradition we all practice and pretend we don't. (That includes you fibbers who picked No. 3!) Even Peggy Post, etiquette advice columnist for Good Housekeeping, admits she's done it."

    Six Rules on Gift-Giving at Work

    Just how often does either party to gift exchanges like the outcome? Not to mention the dicey office politics:

    "As the holidays approach, the season of potential gift-giving at the office can range from pleasantly surprising to painfully awkward.

    "Navigating the social and professional landscape can be difficult, but there are ways to avoid alienating colleagues with embarrassment or hurt feelings, career experts say. Co-workers who are also friends can exchange gifts off site, for example, and those who want to get the boss a present can go in as a group to be as inclusive as possible.

    "The first order of business for those looking to play Santa is to check the company handbook or consult its human-resources manager to see if there's a policy on office gift-giving.

    "Many employers are erring on the side of caution these days in anything that could be construed as fodder for a lawsuit, and some may extend limits on gifts to and from business associates to the interoffice realm as well, said Deborah Brown-Volkman, a career coach in East Moriches, N.Y., and author of the forthcoming book 'How to Feel Great at Work Everyday.'


    "Here are six suggestions for gift-giving at work without putting people on the spot or breaking team camaraderie:

    1. Keep it voluntary.
    2. Weigh a gift to the boss carefully, since others may perceive it as inappropriate or an attempt to curry favor.
    3. Be mindful of income differences and financial pressures when soliciting group gifts.
    4. Don't present a gift to someone you don't know well just because it's the holiday season.
    5. Gifts among peers are best exchanged off site and after hours to avoid anyone feeling excluded.
    6. What if you receive an unforeseen gift?"

    I have mixed feelings about giving gifts to co-workers. And getting them (but I do love book gifts!). How do you handle this gift-giving season?

    "Know your workplace obligations"

    This article is from an IT perspective, but regardless of idustry, it's always good to know your obligations...& those of your manager:

    "Wouldn't it be nice if every boss came with a standard API [Application Programming Interface]? It would be so easy to look at the interface specifications and know exactly what he expected, in what format he expected it, when you should deliver it, what predictable events would result from your input and how you should handle error conditions. All the politics would go away. Those pesky emotions would become a nonissue. Success would become deterministic.

    "Sadly, it will never be so simple. Every boss-subordinate connection is a custom job. This is both the promise and the pain of workplace relationships; they are cobbled together not of hardware or software, but of wetware (the gray, squishy stuff between our ears).

    "The complaints about this are endless from the subordinate side. 'I don't know what he wants, and he won't tell me.' 'She doesn't really understand what I do, so she can't tell me what she expects.' 'He tells me one thing, and then when I give it to him, he changes his mind.' 'She says that I have an attitude problem, but I don't really know what that means.'

    "As it turns out, the inability to forge easily understandable, straightforward, repeatable relationships is just as frustrating for bosses as it is for subordinates. Supervisors would love to be able to clearly articulate exactly what they expect so that all their people would understand. Sadly, many managers erroneously believe that they have clearly defined and communicated their expectations, and they just can't figure out why no one else seems to get their vision."

    The author, Paul Glen, says both employees & their managers owe each other "Candor, Loyalty, & Delivery." That sounds right, but I'd also add Clear communication. Would you add anything to this list?

    Find job openings in blog posts...really!

    Google news search now includes blog content -- I've noticed some job openings listed in those blog results:

    Litigation support:


    Real estate:

    Intellectual property:

    Labor law:

    The 10 Best Books of 2006

    Looking for a gift for people who like to read? Check out this list of both fiction & nonfiction books from the New York Times Sunday Book Review.

    The descriptions of these two books put them on a list of presents for myself!

    By Gary Shteyngart. Random House, $24.95.
    Shteyngart's scruffy, exuberant second novel, equal parts Gogol and Borat, is immodest on every level - it's long, crude, manic and has cheap vodka on its breath. It also happens to be smart, funny and, in the end, extraordinarily rich and moving. "Absurdistan" introduces Misha Vainberg, the rap-music-obsessed, grossly overweight son of the 1,238th richest man in Russia. After attending college in the United States, he is now stuck in St. Petersburg, scrambling for an American visa that may never arrive. Caught between worlds, and mired in his own prejudices and thwarted desires, Vainberg just may be an antihero for our times.

    A Natural History of Four Meals.

    By Michael Pollan. The Penguin Press, $26.95.
    "When you can eat just about anything nature has to offer, deciding what you should eat will inevitably stir anxiety," Pollan writes in this supple and probing book. He gracefully navigates within these anxieties as he traces the origins of four meals - from a fast-food dinner to a "hunter-gatherer" feast - and makes us see, with remarkable clarity, exactly how what we eat affects both our bodies and the planet. Pollan is the perfect tour guide: his prose is incisive and alive, and pointed without being tendentious. In an uncommonly good year for American food writing, this is a book that stands out.

    You can find more choice books for browsing here & "100 Notable Books of the Year" here.

    9 Tips for Office Parties

    Office party guidance compiled by Kring & Chung from Department of Labor information. Who knew the DOL cared this much about parties?

    "The United States Department of Labor’s Working Partners for an Alcohol-and Drug-Free Workplace has prepared two highlight articles titled, Send Your Employees a Safe and Sober Message About Office Parties and Drinking and Nine Tips for Office Celebrations.

    "We prepared an article highlighting key points in these articles and a section on employer liability for accidents that are caused by intoxicated employees who drive home after a company sponsored holiday party.  We hope this information will be helpful to you in promoting a safe and happy holiday season."

    "How Many Lawyers Does It Take to Make You Sick?"

    Yep, the answer to this question totally depends on the firm!

    Plaintiff: Amy Seiler

    Defendants: Harry J. Mulry Jr.; Gregory G. Shaub, doing business under the firm name Mulry & Shaub L.L.P.

    Accusation: A paralegal toils for a small law firm and gets bouts of "stomach distress, headaches and disagreeable fits of temper." Oh, and don't forget those "digestive upsets."

    "In a lawsuit [PDF] filed last week [11/16/2006] in Brooklyn Federal Court, Amy Seiler says her bosses at Mulry & Shaub in Port Washington negligently dragged their feet in hiring a replacement for an outgoing receptionist. And so for the next two months, Seiler was forced to work two jobs for the price of one."

    Does this sound familiar to anyone out there? How would you have handled this situation?

    "Paralegal Job Outlook - Stagnant or Full Steam Ahead?"

    This is not really new news, but it's nice to have "paralegal job growth" confirmed:

    "According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for paralegals is very good, with an expected growth rate near 33 percent a year through 2010. The bureau notes that compared to other professions, the leap in the paralegal field is dramatic.

    "The paralegal or legal assistant profession is expected to grow because of a couple of economic factors. One, more law firms are hiring paralegals to do some of the necessary legwork - research and paper work on their behalf. This frees up the attorney for court appearances and for developing client-attorney relationships, two duties a paralegal is not allowed to do. Two, having a paralegal do the work rather than an expensive paid by the hour attorney saves the client money."

    BTW, here's a chart showing "Average annual total cash compensation" for paralegals displaying increases in various positions across 2004, 2005, & 2006.