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A healthy new respect… November 30, 2007

Posted by emsgeiss in parenting & family, toddlers.
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I have a healthy new respect for mothers (and fathers) who are taking care of a child who is chronically ill, has a disability or is in any way “special” or “differently abled.” Normally, I hate such p.c. terms, but having a child with a cast on makes me understand in a whole new way. (more…)

The resilience of toddlers November 25, 2007

Posted by emsgeiss in parenting & family, toddlers, writing/editing/blogging.
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My darling son seems intent on proving that the delightful moniker I was given when pregnant with him of “elderly prima gravida” is true. I’ve always been pretty speedy and agile. I can even boast to having stolen 21 bases at a H.S. girls softball game during my limited high school softball career. My husband, who ran track in high school, is also a pretty speedy dude. And while we’re both still relatively fit and healthy (despite gym avoidance), we are finding that our son seems to have inherited the gift…in spades. But chasing after him, I’m feeling quite, *ahem* elderly. Now, I know that the new gray hairs that have sprouted are directly related to his accident, but I’m ready to trade in the prenatal vitamins (which I still take for some reason) for Geritol. (more…)

This just in… November 24, 2007

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As I predicted in my Black Friday post yesterday, “Analysts say [this year’s Black Friday] sales were the weakest in five years”  according to a report by CNN.  This is despite predictions of Black Friday sales to reach $20 billion.  Hmm. 

The frenzy was on, yesterday, as a favorite blogger of mine posted about yesterday. Describing the queued shoppers as flying into the store as soon as the doors opened as if they were storming the Beaches of Normandy and creating enough chaos to warrant bringing in law enforcement, the post is eye-opening.  I hope he (and all of the other retail workers doing Black Friday duty got combat pay). 

The lunacy is expected to continue today, as stores offer more incentives to come in early, stay late and buy, Buy, BUY!  Don’t worry though, if you can’t make it to the mall today. There’ll be more sales next weekend. 

The great thing about the Black Friday madness…it gives us writers plenty of inspiration.

Copyright © 2007 Erika-Marie S. Geiss

Ah…Black Friday November 23, 2007

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The last time I checked, Black Friday was the Fisk-Gould scandal that occurred on September 14, 1869 when “James Fisk and Jay Gould attempted to corner the U.S. gold market.”  In the finance world, it has alternatively been applied to the September 19, 1873 stock market panic triggered by over speculation.  (Perhaps everyone was talking like a pirate and didn’t get the bids right?)  Apparently Black Friday will forever have financial connotations, since today, it means the Day After Thanksgiving Sales thanks to the retail world. For the retail world, it means potential big bucks as they offer ridiculously low prices starting with “door busters” and other incentives at obscenely early hours.  For consumers, it means parting with even more hard-earned cash in the name of getting a presumably great deal and a head start on holiday shopping.  For this, people stand in insanely long lines, which in many places at this time of year, means being up before dark and braving wickedly cold weather.  I wonder if they realize that there will be many more sales between now and Holiday…um…I mean Christmas. 

 The last thing that I need the day after Thanksgiving is to get up before my son ever would, stand in line outside for hours before a store even opens just so that I can join the shopping frenzy in the quest for lower than low, low prices, only to wait in line some more at checkout amidst irate, gloating or disappointed customers only to be served by overtaxed and often incompetent cashiers.

Now, tonight when we watch, listen to or read the news, and the retail reports come in, we will probably hear (once again) that the revenue from Black Friday shopping was lower than anticipated, despite the number of people who engage in this new American after-Thanksgiving tradition.  Given the history of the term “Black Friday,” maybe the retailers are shooting themselves in the feet by adopting a term with such negative and perilous financial connotations.

I for one, will be sitting this tradition out and enjoying some extra sleep, and a morning of snuggling with my husband and son, and a nice, leisurely breakfast.  

Copyright © 2007 Erika-Marie S. Geiss

Giving Thanks November 22, 2007

Posted by emsgeiss in parenting & family.
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My husband and I have much to be thankful for, loving families, our own little nuclear family, God of course, good friends, fulfilling jobs and most recently, that our little guy only sustained a fracture to his humerus after a tumble down the stairs. And, on a funnier note, I’m thankful that my sister-in-law took the helm to host Thanksgiving this year.

On a day like today though, it is hard to not think of those who are less fortunate in many ways. Those who are thankful that they can take another breath today, those who are thankful for the basic things that most of us take for granted…a simple meal, much less a feast; a new pair of socks much less an overflowing drawer-full; a pair of shoes, much less too many to count. (more…)

Mustering my strength November 20, 2007

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The last 24 hours or so have been interesting to say the least. My little guy fell down the stairs, and at 21 months sustained a fracture to his left humerus (upper arm bone) about a third of the way between the elbow and the shoulder. So as my husband and I attend to our little one, who now has a brand-spanking new blue cast, I’m mustering my strength. (more…)

Strange parenting skills November 18, 2007

Posted by emsgeiss in Nablopomo, parenting & family.
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When you have a toddler, you find yourself doing all sorts of odd things to amuse them and often to diffuse them in an attempt to redirect behavior that’s otherwise unwanted. At least that’s the case in our house. Yesterday, during a near tantrum, I decided to juggle to distract him from whatever it was that he wanted to do and wasn’t supposed to do. It was such a minor thing that not only have I forgotten what it was, I was able to distract the boy while my husband removed whatever temptation it was from the room. I realized that juggling is among the list of skills I never expected to use in real life—ever—and certainly not as a parent. Parenting has all sorts of surprises apparently. (No pun intended.) (more…)

So victors we weren’t… November 17, 2007

Posted by emsgeiss in Nablopomo, sports, Uncategorized.
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Not today anyway. 

The Wolverines let us down this year (again) for the 104th meeting against OSU. And while the fans certainly showed up for the game, staying through a steady, cold rain, the team was physically there—on the field that is, but they didn’t show up mentally or emotionally.  Sure, it was raining, field conditions precarious, the ball slippery—blah, blah, blah…but that doesn’t excuse an 11-point loss to those hairless nuts—the buckeyes.  OSU really didn’t do anything spectacular, except show up. And there was no reason for the loss…except Henne and Carr. I hate to say it, since he’s been our beloved Number 7 since his days as a true freshman. But with his injured shoulder and throwing as poorly as he was today, last-game-of-senior-year or not, Carr should have pulled him out, after the first quarter-full of “Number Seven Incomplete” calls.   The man just could not connect.  By the middle of the third quarter, you could see that the Wolverines hearts’ just weren’t there. But the fans rallied on, many of us defying common sense to get in out of the rain and staying on through the bitter end.  So with a 14–3 win for OSU, they get to claim bragging rights for this year’s Big Ten title, even if we do have the better record in the history of the teams’ more than century-old meeting. 

While the clichés are flying and the tag lines for next year’s crop of T-shirts are being made, we will put this season to bed (and bury this last game) and hope for true victors and champions to return to the big ten gridiron next fall.  In the meantime, we’ll focus on Wolverine hockey.  Go Blue! 

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Copyright © 2007 Erika-Marie S. Geiss

More Outsourcing stuff…point missed November 16, 2007

Posted by emsgeiss in Business Issues, education, Nablopomo, politics, Uncategorized.
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A few days ago, I posted about outsourcing and made a suggestion to industry. And, I think what was a good conversation occurred through the comments board between me and a reader.  (Thanks Steve!)

Then today, checking out my blog stats, I discovered a new comment. I was psyched. The comment read:

5. virtual assistant staff – November 16, 2007
Nice article.., you shown have important outsourcing is.. two thumps up.. Check out our site.. 8)

You know, we writers love to get kudos…especially “two thumbs ups.” But somehow, this one wasn’t sitting well with me. So, what did I do? I checked out their site.  Now, normally, I wouldn’t go on and on about a comment that someone made on my blog. But with the sick feeling growing in my stomach, I felt the need to out them.  

The link in their comments takes me here to the company Web site.  Apparently, someone at the company has time (or is outsourced, I mean paid) to search the Web and the blogosphere for random comments about outsourcing and they found my little rant. I could hardly call it an “article” with a straight face. (But hey, I like the praise.)

I had to do a little quick research. (And I do mean quick.) I couldn’t find out where exactly this company is located.  I wondered: Is it here in the U.S.? (With a name like DC Global Management you’d think so.) But that just shows how well they rely on our the gestalt that occurs when we, as Americans, see those those two letters when put together.  The company has nothing to do with Washington, nor are those the initials of anyone in any position of power at the company–at least not that I could glean. It turns out that they are indeed in the U.S. and the Philippines. They are in fact an outsourcing firm.

A quick scan of the company’s offerings revealed a long list of services that they provide–from customer care reps to virtual assistants to web design and more. Among their specialties is a listing for media professionals including copy editing, which made me chuckle. Being an editor myself, I instantly found errors on the site…so I guess their outsourced editing staff isn’t as top-notch as they claim.  (I hope that none of the companies on their scrolling list of “satisfied clients” hired them for their editing skills. Even if the company didn’t design its own site, you’d think someone on staff would have been charged with proofing the text.)  I couldn’t tell where exactly their employees are from either, but when you look at the alleged staff photos of people busily working in cubicles, it doesn’t look like your average American office space.

A little more quick research revealed that the company is in fact part of a larger conglomerate–The Hubport Group, which seems to specialize in having several outsourcing companies–nine to be specific.  What’s sad is that they are a U.S. company that specializes in outsourcing our jobs. (Um… does anyone else see a problem with that or am I a lone wolf on this one?)  When I checked them out further, I found an interesting article about how large U.S. companies will profit by outsourcing to Asia, written and posted by a Bill Bonner of The Daily Reckoning, what seems to be an on-line periodical based in Australia.

He mentions the growing Chinese middle class (sounds like the U.S. two generations ago) as well as our own faltering housing market. He also mentions how companies can spend less by outsourcing. Well…duh…we already know that…it’s all about the bottom line in business.  The article relies solely on quotes from an alleged Minneapolis newspaper, but never attributes the quotes to which paper. (I searched and couldn’t find a match.) Did anyone at Hubport responsible for posting articles do any fact checking which would be, pretty standard practice? (I think those outsourced employees, again, aren’t so top-notch.)

So not only has the commenter, who will probably now retract the glowing “two thumbs up,” miss the point of my days-old blog post, which was to show how outsourcing is failing us, by checking out their company as quickly as I did, the company proved that the quality of outsourced work may not match the standards that we expect (and in some cases demand) here in the U.S.  Once again, the various lead-paint related recalls are perfect cases-in-point.

The question is, at what point does low cost outweigh standards, safety and keeping the American workforce employed? I think those are questions that industry as a whole is coming to grips with. 

This is how I see the outsourcing situation:

When we outsource–whether it’s the blue-collar work of manufacturing or the white-collar work of what Bonner quotes as “high-level things like design, research, marketing, [and] legal work” we are displacing our own at the peril of our own economy and our own workforce. To me, it’s a pretty simple equation:  If you fire people here, and hire people overseas to fill those positions, people here don’t have the wages to buy the products you make or services you offer. It doesn’t make any sense. Why push ourselves into poverty by displacing our own middle class in favor of supporting the rising middle class of somewhere else?  I know it sounds xenophobic, but really, it isn’t. I firmly believe that non-industrialzed nations have the right to become industrialized, join the “first world” so to speak, but how about doing it the way that we did…through hard work and ingenuity…the good old “pull yourselves up by the bootstraps” method without sucking off of someone else?  (Before I get challenged about America’s corporate historical record, no, the corporate historical record in the U.S. is not without its blemishes, as Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle and the Enron scandal aptly illustrate as two decades-separated examples, but those whom industry has oppressed came here to work and to find a better life.  We also have ways of dealing with such atrocities here.)

For industry to “sell out” as it has done by mass outsourcing, as I see it, for the sake of cutting costs, to in turn offer us “low, low prices,” is really unfathomable, especially with the net trickle-down effect that outsourcing is causing.  It’s one thing if there is a quid pro quo, where on the whole we are getting something out of this outsourcing business besides “low, low prices.” And if you ask me, getting “low, low, prices” isn’t that much of a bargain since people tend to buy more (with the less that they have) when they think they’re getting a deal.  I can see how outsourcing (overseas) can be attractive to a company–cheaper labor, and as Steve pointed out, a more educated workforce.  But perhaps if we educated ourselves better here, companies would be finding a broader pool of talent here and jobs would remain here. The outsourcing issue is quite multifaceted, and of course, it’s not going to change quickly until a large enough group of people get hurt by it or find that they’ve been duped.  And they are getting duped, because as my earlier quick research shows, the talent pool overseas, isn’t necessarily any more qualified than our own American workforce.  Think about that the next time you get a call (or for that matter, call) an American company, and the person you speak to is overseas (and allegedly better educated than we are), but can’t figure out phonics or how to decode a word enough to pronounce your name properly.

Okay…that’s my rant for the day.

Copyright © 2007 Erika-Marie S. Geiss

Networking Rewards: WAH Expo day three November 15, 2007

Posted by emsgeiss in Nablopomo, networking, Uncategorized, WAHM/WAHD Stuff, writing/editing/blogging.
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Today was the third and final day of the WAH Expo.  Again, another day of great speakers and presentations. I had my first public presentation about theWAHMmagazine and shared about its conception, format and a bit about the big launch.

The rewards of networking programs like this are manifold. You not only benefit by learning from others, but getting to put yourself out there, if you’re a presenter and share your information and expertise. For writers, especially non-fiction writers, this kind of forum is perfect for platform building.

This is going to be a short post tonight. There is a lot to process. Contacts and leads to follow up on. Connections to maintain.  And a brainstorming session to attend. 🙂

Copyright © 2007 Erika-Marie S. Geiss