Tracy's blog

I’m Tracy Au and I have graduated from the Professional Writing program from university. I am an aspiring screenwriter, so this blog is used to promote my writing and attract people who will hire me to write for your TV show or movie. I write a lot about writing, TV, movies, jokes, and my daily life and opinions. I have another blog promoting my TV project at

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Putting Off Working On Your Tax Return May Cost You, Financial Planner Warns

Feb. 23 Putting Off Working On Your Tax Return May Cost You, Financial Planner Warns: I thought this was kind of more aimed at Americans, but it’s still about taxes and could be applied to Canadians. Ginny Grimsley sent me this article about saving money on taxes:

3 Tips for Keeping More of Your Own Money

Nearly 150 million Americans will file federal income tax returns this year and, unfortunately, many will be shelling out much more of their hard-earned money than necessary, says veteran financial expert Jeff Gorton.

“With the ridiculous complexity of our tax code, I can understand how the average person might want to put off doing their homework, but that’ll cost you,” says Gorton, a veteran Certified Public Accountant and Certified Financial Planner™, and head of Gorton Financial Group (

“When you think about all you do to earn your money, and the lengths we’ll go to save a few bucks, it doesn’t make sense to not do all we can to prepare for the inevitable – our compulsory contribution to Uncle Sam’s bank account.”

There is nothing unpatriotic about taking advantage of legal measures to reduce your tax bill, Gorton says. Most Americans, however, don’t understand the basics of how to minimize the tax burden, he says.

“If you wait until the last minute to do your taxes, you’re sure to miss out on savings,” says Gorton, who offers some basic and more advanced tax-saving options.

• Credits: Tax credits are usually subtracted dollar for dollar from the actual tax liability and may be utilized when filing for 2013. They include the Child Tax Credit, which allows up to $1,000 for children younger than 17; the American Opportunity Credit, featuring up to $2,500 in tax savings per eligible student for tuition costs for four years of post-high-school education; and the Energy-Efficient Home Improvement Tax Credit, which grants qualifying taxpayers 10 percent of the cost of certain energy-efficient building materials — up to a $500 lifetime credit. The Child and Dependent Care Credit, for those who have to pay someone to care for a child younger than 13, or another dependent, offers up to $3,000 for one qualifying individual, or up to $6,000 for two or more qualifying individuals.

• Deductions: Like tax credits, deductions have phase-out limits, so you may want to consult with a professional. Deductions are subtracted from your income before your taxes are calculated, which may reduce the amount of money on which you are taxed and, by extension, your eventual tax liability. Some examples include contributions made to qualifying charitable organizations. And, you may be able to write off out-of-pocket costs incurred while doing work for a charity. Others may include amounts set aside for retirement through a qualified retirement plan, such as an Individual Retirement Account; medical expenses exceeding 10 percent of your adjusted gross income are now deductible – expenses exceeding 7.5 percent are still deductible for those older than age 65; and, potentially, mortgage interest paid on a loan secured for your primary residence.

• Tax-favored investing: This involves both tax-exempt investments and tax-deferred investments. Tax-exempt investments, which include such vehicles as municipal bonds and certain money market funds, offer a way to grow your money that’s exempt from federal taxes. Municipal bonds are free of federal income tax and may be free of state and local income taxes for investors who live in the area where the bond was issued. Tax-deferred investments, on which taxes are postponed until you withdraw your money, include qualified retirement plans, such as traditional IRAs and employer-sponsored plans, as well as insurance products such as annuities and, sometimes, life insurance.

About Jeff Gorton, CPA, CFP®

Jeff Gorton is a Certified Public Accountant and a Certified Financial Planner™ specializing in individual tax and retirement planning. He is also an Investment Advisor Representative under Alphastar Capital Management, an SEC Registered Investment Advisor, and has a life and health insurance license. Gorton works with individuals and their families to create and protect their financial legacies. He specializes in working with retirees in the areas of tax planning, benefits, retirement planning, estate planning and safe money techniques. He received his BBA in Accounting from the University of Oklahoma. Gorton previously worked for 10 years as the Chief Financial Officer for a large retail organization, overseeing their accounting, benefits and 401(k) retirement plans.

How to Reduce the Biggest Expense of Your Life: Taxes: I have to say it’s kind of for Americans, but you may still learn something.  Ginny Grimsley sent me this article too:

Financial Engineer Discusses Ways to Troubleshoot Unnecessary Financial Burdens

Taxes account for the most expensive burden you’ll experience in your lifetime, says engineer-turned-independent financial planning coach Rao K. Garuda.

In addition to federal, state, city and death taxes, there are 59 other varieties. Relatively few taxes, however, account for the bulk of the burden on citizens, says Garuda, whose clients include retirees, people planning for retirement, physicians, business owners and other professionals.

He thinks his fellow Americans deserve a shot at keeping more of their money.

“When I came to the United States, I had less than $10 in my pocket, but I had an excellent education as an engineer. When I married a physician, I realized how expensive it is to make a good living here,” says Garuda, (, who quickly applied his analytical engineering mind to understanding the complicated tax system. 

“Since this country has given me so much, I wanted to repay my fellow Americans with strategies for keeping more of their own money.”

Garuda identifies some of the most expensive and common tax hurdles affecting Americans and offers advice on troubleshooting our tax system.

• Problem: The IRA tax: great on the front end, terrible down the road.
Solution: An IRA is tax-deferred, which means it will accumulate value over time. But when you withdraw from it, you will be heavily penalized with high taxes. That’s why you should convert this asset to a Roth IRA, which allows your money to grow tax-free. Since the money put in was already taxed you don’t have to pay any taxes when you take it out, and, overall, you’ll save a significant amount of money.

• Problem: Too many people don’t take advantage of creating tax-free income via insurance products.
Solution: From a financial perspective, retirees and professional planners run into a significant issue: seniors, blessed with good health, who outlive their money. But with certain insurance products, retirees can create tax-free income while covering the later years of retirement – and protect their wealth if they become severely ill. There are certain insurance products tied to the stock market that can help people accumulate assets in the long run. Many of these products offer a tremendous upside for potential without the downside of increased risk.

• Problem: Missed opportunities – people who don’t take advantage of free money in a 401k.
Solution: Perhaps the company you work for is, like many others, bureaucratic to the point of being impractical. Your employer may not have done the best job communicating details about benefits such as matching 401k contributions, or you may not have taken the time to learn them. Now’s the time; this is free money! If your employer is offering a 50 percent match on your first 6 percent of contributions to the 401k, you should be contributing at least 6 percent. Educate yourself on your company’s plan so you can take full advantage.

About Rao K. Garuda

Rao K. Garuda, CLU, ChFC, is president and CEO of Associated Concepts Agency, Inc. – “The Missing Piece” of financial planning -- founded in 1978, and a popular speaker at seminars and conferences for financial industry professionals. He came to the United States from India 35 years ago with a degree in engineering and, after marrying a physician, realized he had to learn how to reduce the couple’s taxes. Disappointed in the financial advice he received from professionals, he went to business school and developed expertise in tax reduction, and protecting money from stock market losses. Rao is a founding member of First Financial Resources, a national organization with over 75 partners in the USA; a life member of the Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT), and a life member of MDRT’s Top of the Table for 21 consecutive years.

Why You Shouldn’t Go Cheap When Filing Your Taxes

Feb. 23 Why You Shouldn’t Go Cheap When Filing Your Taxes: I know tax season is coming, and I don’t find taxes very interesting.  I do find saving money interesting so read on.   This will help you save money.  Ginny Grimsley sent me this article.

Financial Expert Explains Why You Should Hire A Good CPA & Not Part-time Help; Offers Tips

It’s that time of year for part-time help at the local tax-preparation location, when drivers can see seasonal staff standing at busy intersections wearing costumes of the Statue of Liberty or Uncle Sam. But they’re not the only ones who are hired part time, says professional advisor to Certified Public Accountants Gary Marriage, Jr.

“I sometimes ask people, ‘Do you want a guy in a costume to handle your taxes?’ Of course, the guy actually doing the paperwork probably won’t be the guy standing near the traffic, but he’s also not the person you want dealing with your bottom line,” says Marriage, CEO of Nature Coast Financial Advisors (

“I know millionaires who go to these pop-up tax firms; they’d rather spend a few hundred dollars on their return than a grand or two with a skilled CPA. But this apparent savings comes at a cost, because a good accountant is likely to find many thousands of dollars in savings in a single tax return, and they are far less liable to make a mistake.”

Marriage offers additional tips for consideration this tax season.

•  Have your records handy, and consider a long-term relationship. Not only is it advantageous to file taxes through a CPA, it’s also smart to have all relevant records readily available at your disposal – no matter who is helping you with your return.

“Not only do I strongly advise you to use a reputable CPA that you can trust, I also think you should try to establish a long-term relationship with him or her,” Marriage says. “Think of a financial professional as similar to a doctor or lawyer – the better they know you, the better off you’ll be. High-net-worth individuals have the most incentive for professional financial services, even if they’ve made a hobby of saving money by doing things their own way.”

•  High-income earners pay the vast majority of income taxes – don’t volunteer more.  Taxpayers with incomes exceeding $100,000 earn 60 percent of the country’s income, yet contribute 95.2 percent of the income taxes, according to recent estimates from Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation. Additionally, those earning more than $100,000 – a bit more than 20 percent of taxpayers – pay for 75.7 percent of total federal taxes, excluding the burden on corporate and investment taxes.

“There are many high-income earners who are passionate about their careers and love what they do; they care more about their work than their income,” he says. “These tend to be the folks who need reminders that there are legal avenues available for protecting their hard-earned money.”   

•  High-net-worth individuals should consider CRAT. Many people, financial professionals with years of experience, do not know about Charitable Remainder Annuity Trusts, a form of financial protection that Marriage often teaches to CPAs. CRATs are a flexible and effective instrument used in financial and estate planning. A CRAT provides a significant tax shelter for any assets and property placed within it. That allows any assets in a charitable remainder annuity trust to increase in value without being taxed on the increase. A well-constructed CRAT can provide financial security for the annuitants.
“CRATs are surprisingly underutilized, but many CPAs I run into simply don’t know about it,” Marriage says. “It’s worth asking your financial advisor about, and if your advisor is unfamiliar with the structure, encourage him or her to look into it.”

About Gary Marriage

Gary Marriage Jr. is the founder and CEO of Nature Coast Financial Advisors (, which educates retirees on how to protect their assets, increase their income and reduce their taxes. Marriage is a national speaker, delivering solutions for pre-retirees, business owners and seniors on the areas affecting their retirement and estates. He is an approved member of the National Ethics Bureau, and has been featured in “America’s Top Hometown Financial Advisors 2011” and most recently selected to co-author a book with Steve Forbes titled, “SuccessOnomics: Power Principles.” Marriage is also the founder of Operation Veteran Aid, an advocate for war-time veterans and their families.

5 Tax-Saving Strategies To Help Your Family This Tax Season: Ginny Grimsley also sent me this article:

Overlooked Deductions May Cost You Thousands

Millions of Americans face a challenge in meeting their budgets every month – not just financially, but also in their time budgets, says investment advisor Reid Abedeen.

“Knowledge is power and time is often money, but what if you don’t have the time to empower yourself with knowledge? For many households, that often means losing out on thousands of dollars through tax deductions,” says Abedeen, a partner at Safeguard Investment Advisory Group, LLC (

“As a family man myself, I understand what it means to work hard to provide the best possible for my wife and children. Had I not worked in the financial sector for almost two decades, I might not have understood how to best troubleshoot my tax return, I sympathize.”

Abedeen offers the following strategies that may be relevant for your family this tax season.

•  Take tax deductions for capital loss. If your capital losses exceed your capital gains, the excess can be deducted on your tax return and used to reduce other income, such as wages, up to an annual limit of $3,000, or $1,500 if you are married filing separately. However, you may deduct capital losses only on investment property, not on property held for personal use.

•  Fund your retirement to the max. You can contribute up to $5,500 to an IRA in tax-year 2014, or $6,500 if you are age 50 or older. Workers in the 25 percent tax bracket who contributed $5,500 to an IRA would save $1,375 on their 2014 tax bills. You’ll want to check your eligibility and understand the deadline for the 2014 deduction. If you make a deposit between Jan. 1 and April 15, you need to tell the financial institution which year the contribution is for.

•  Advisory fees are tax-deductible.  Don’t feel like spending money to save and make money? There’s a workaround. Before closing the door on the possibility, inquire with a financial expert. Most are happy to give a free initial consultation, and you don’t have to be a millionaire to make it worth your while. 

•  Gift assets to children. You don’t even have to file a gift tax return on an asset that’s valued less than $12,000, which is not taxable. If the fair market value of the gifted asset is more than $12,000 per person per year, but less than $1 million, there is the requirement of filing a gift tax return, but you won’t be taxed. The gift still is not income taxable to the recipient.  

•  Deduct a home-based office when used for your employer. If space in your home is used exclusively and regularly for a trade, you can count that as a deductible. Calculate the square footage of your home office and divide the area of your office by the area of your house. If the percentage is 14 percent, for example, that represents the percentage of your total home expenses that can be allocated toward the home office deduction. For further questions, consult a professional.

“You’ll want to be very vigilant regarding these details of these deductions,” Abedeen says. “For any questions, I seriously recommend consulting a professional.”

About Reid Abedeen

Reid Abedeen is a partner at Safeguard Investment Advisory Group, LLC ( As an investment advisor, Abedeen has helped retirees for nearly two decades with issues such as insurance, long-term care planning, financial services, asset protection and many other areas. He holds California Life-Only and Accident and Health licenses (#0C78700), and holds a Series 65 license, and is registered through the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). Abedeen is a family man who owes much of his fulfillment in life to his wife, Smyrna, and his three children, Yusef, Leena and Adam.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

DJ Maretimo - Jazz Loungebar Vol. 1, 2, 3

DJ Maretimo - Jazz Loungebar Vol.1 (Full Album) HD, 2013, Smooth Bar Lounge Music

A green room with white couches.

DJ Maretimo - Jazz Loungebar Vol.2 (Full Album) HD, 2014, Smooth Bar Lounge Music

A red room with white couches.

DJ Maretimo - Jazz Loungebar Vol.3 (Full Album) HD, 2014, Smooth Bar Lounge Music

A purple room with white couches.

Claudia's good news is a victory we can all share

GOOD NEWS! All charges dropped against torture survivor Claudia Medina Tamariz

Please pass on my gratitude to everyone who supported me in Canada"
Dear Tracy,

All charges have been dropped against Claudia Medina Tamariz, the Mexican woman who was tortured and forced into a false confession in 2012.

Thank YOU for playing a part in this moment of celebration! 

We met Claudia last year while in Mexico for the launch of a major Amnesty International report on the widespread use of torture in Mexico. Meeting Claudia was a highlight of this important human rights mission to Mexico.

As my colleague Kathy Price, who joined me on this human rights mission, says in her account of this tremendous victory, this is the second piece of heartwarming news to follow our visit to Mexico. It was only a few months ago that we celebrated the release from prison of Ángel Amílcar Colón, who had also been tortured and wrongfully detained  for "confessing" to crimes he did not commit.

Please accept the deep gratitude of Claudia, who wishes you to know that:
“The charges would not have been dismissed without the help of all of you."

Read: Claudia's good news is a victory we can all share

Warmest regards,


Alex Neve,
Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada 

Maretimo Sessions - No.14, 15

Maretimo Sessions - No.14 Singapore - Selected by DJ Maretimo, HD, 2014, Lounge Music

A big city with a big lake in front of it.  There's a sunset.

Maretimo Sessions - No.15 Ocean Cruisers - Selected by DJ Maretimo, HD, 2014, Lounge Music

There's a sunset.  There's a silhouette of a cruise ship and a palm beach on the left side.

Maretimo Sessions - No. 11, 12, 13

Maretimo Sessions - No. 11 Brazil - Selected by DJ Maretimo, HD, 2014, Football World Cup Lounge

Christ the Reedeemer statue is on a big mountain.  It overlooks the city and the ocean.

Maretimo Sessions - No. 12 Lost In Space - Selected by DJ Maretimo, HD, 2014, Weightless Sounds

A space station and a space ship floating over a planet.

Maretimo Sessions - No.13 Dubai - Selected by DJ Maretimo, HD, 2014, Oriental Lounge Music

A city at night.  There's a big lake in between two highways.

I'm going to the AGM. Are you?

I'm going to the AGM.
Are you?
Dear Tracy,

Every activist has a moment that inspired him or her to movement. What's yours?

My moment came when we learned the fate of Troy Davis. I'd been involved with Amnesty International USA since my freshman year of high school. Through my work, I learned about Troy's case, and I became passionate in doing everything I could to ensure justice for Troy -- from collecting signatures, to organizing events, to calling on authorities to grant him a new trial.

In the moment that a court in Georgia decided that Troy would be executed, I was called to movement. I realized in that moment that I could never stop doing this work. I realized that the world needs people -- activists -- like us to really advocate for those at risk of human rights abuses and to stand with the oppressed in demanding justice.

Now, as a 20-year-old college student, I am still involved with Amnesty as the National Youth Action Committee Representative for the Northeast. I organize, facilitate workshops, train young activists and work daily to progress human rights in the U.S. and around the world.

Please join me in reenergizing that call to advocacy at this year's national Human Rights Conference -- our 50th Annual General Meeting. Register to attend today.

Each year at the AGM, we have the unique opportunity to come together as activists. Together, we deepen our organizing skills. We attend hands-on workshops and plenaries. We discuss and vote on resolutions that shape Amnesty's policies. Most importantly, we share stories of survival and our ideas on how to create change.

Amnesty International USA is working to highlight and empower all voices, including those of the youth. Together, we realize that our voices, and our stories, make a difference.

My story and Amnesty's story both started with a moment. So tell me: What's your moment?

See you in Brooklyn.

In solidarity,

Gerry Rivadeneira
Student, human rights activist and AGM program committee member

P.S. You receive $10 off when you purchase two or more tickets at the general rate -- so be sure to invite your friends! Register today.

Women's Rights need your vote!

30 Years since federal leaders held a debate on Women's Rights 

Dear Tracy,

When I wake up the morning after this year’s federal election I want to know that the government elected is going to act on the issues that affect me and other women and girls in Canada.

I want to know that our political leaders are going to concretely address the staggeringly high rates of violence against Indigenous women. I want to know that they are going to make sure that women don’t earn 20% less than men for the same work. And I want them guaranteed that childcare will be available to make sure that parents who want to work can.

Together we can make this dream a reality! Join us and call on all political party leaders to commit to participating in a federally broadcast debate on the issues affecting women and girls.

Let’s put the issues affecting women and girls—and therefore families and communities across Canada--#UpForDebate this year!

Sharmala Setaram.jpg

Sharmala Setaram,
President, Amnesty International Canada

Monday, February 23, 2015

“Identifying the workplace that works for you”

Feb. 16 “Identifying the workplace that works for you”: I cut out this article by Barbara Moses in the Globe and Mail on Sept. 14, 2012.  This is a good article discussing about instead of what your career is, but what your workplace is.  Some companies are not going to be a fit for you.

I know some people don’t like to work at a big company because they feel like they are a number instead of a name.  Some people like working for a big company because of job security.  Some people have no preference about the size of the company.  Here’s the article:

Many people return to work after a vacation break dissatisfied and start to ruminate about making a major career change. But all too often when people are unhappy, they attribute their distress to what they are doing – their role and the skills they are using – rather than to where they are doing it.

If you are experiencing career distress, consider the possibility that you need a change of scenery rather than a major career change.

Whenever I first visit a company, I am struck by the degree to which organizations, like people, have their own distinctive personalities – happy or sour, outgoing or withdrawn, energetic or calm. Just as with people, there needs to be the right chemistry to make a match with your work environment.

You can learn a lot about what it feels like to work somewhere, and whether you will make the right connection, simply by walking around and observing. Is there a lot of earnest conversation in which people seem engaged? Do people seem happy? Note the office layout, the kind of art on the walls, how people dress.

Different industries tend to have their own character, but within an industry there can be huge differences. On book tours, for example, I have visited newspaper offices across Canada. In some offices, employees looked like they had just rolled out of bed and were miserable; while in others, it seemed staff had put some thought into their dress and were happy.

Before you leap into a major career reinvention, there are several factors to consider that will help identify your best workplace environment, given your values and work style. If you are working for a large company you might find that the role you are in is a good match – you just need to switch departments.

Nature of the business

The core work of the company, and the kinds of services or products it delivers, influence its culture. Consider the personality of an organization composed of helper types such as human resource professionals, social workers, nurses. It will tend to be more nurturing because of the values and motivations associated with helping roles, compared with those in tougher industries, such as manufacturing or construction. If you are a more sensitive person, hard-nosed environments will be more difficult for you.

Risk and reward levels

There is significantly more risk involved with a miscalculation at a hydro utility (a massive blackout, say) than at a hotel (too many guests for too few rooms). Whether the risks are financial, environmental or safety-related, in industries where prudence is required, cautiousness tends to permeate the entire organization. Workers in these types of companies tend to have strong motivational desires for security.

The size of potential rewards is also important. For example, investment banking tends to be less risk-averse than life insurance because the potential payoffs are great. These differences are also reflected in people’s motivations and work behaviours.

Pace of work

It can be demanding to work in an organization where many things happen at once without much advance planning – though many people thrive in such environments. Compare a busy retail environment and a public accounting firm, for example, in terms of the number of people interactions and the necessity for backroom analyses.

Staff education

Knowledge workers – those with higher education and more training – are more expensive to replace than less-educated employees who engage in routine transactions. As a result, knowledge-work organizations tend to treat their employees more benevolently, with greater developmental opportunities, flexible work options and better benefits.

Importance of the function

Is the function of the job (or the department or division) seen as overhead for the business? Or is it seen as a source of profit? Consider the role of human resources. For years, HR has lobbied to be seen as an important player at the management table. But because many companies, perhaps incorrectly, see HR as overhead – necessary for compensation and employee relations but not a profit centre – it has often been treated as inferior.

Want to find an organization where HR is seen as important? Look to knowledge-worker environments, where managing talent is critical to attract and motivate staff.

Average tenure

One of my clients complains that whenever he suggests an alternative way of doing something, he is slapped down by colleagues for not understanding the company’s culture. The five years he has spent in the company hardly qualifies him as being new on the block, but relative to the average 18-year tenure of other staffers, he is seen as an upstart.

Companies that employ a lot of long-tenured staffers tend to more cautious and risk-averse, and can be resistant to new ideas. They tend to have high needs for security and dislike novelty and change.

Age and gender composition

As a result of Gen Y expectations, organizations that employ many young educated staffers, such as professional service firms, tend to be more responsive to concerns about flexibility and work/life balance. Similarly, female-dominated organizations tend to more concerned about employee sensitivities and desires than male-dominated companies, because women tend to be more attuned to others’ feelings.

Barbara Moses, PhD, is a speaker, organizational career management consultant and the author of Dish.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

be interview- savvy/ make the most of lost opportunity

Dec. 22 Be interview- savvy: I got this Alberta Job Centre newsletter on Sept. 15, 2011.  It compares job interviews with dates.  I have read a couple of articles where they’re compared.  Well, you are meeting new people and seeing if this will be a long-term match.  This article breaks it down on how to act in each interview stage:

You just landed an interview. You’re excited. You’re nervous. And, your head is full of questions about how to come across as the perfect candidate: What should I wear? What should I say? What are the frequently asked interview questions are they may throw at me?
Most of these first questions revolve around marketing yourself to the company and answering the question, “What does an employer expect in an interview?” But, hang on a second. Take a moment and remember, it’s also important to use the interview process to answer the most important question of all: Is this the job I want?

To answer that crucial question, you must pay close attention during the interview and actively engage your potential employer. That doesn’t mean you should throw all your hard-hitting questions out at the beginning. The key is to strategize by asking questions that fit in with the goals of the various stages of the interview process.

So, how do you know what to ask and when? Mark Stevens, CEO of marketing and public relations firm MSCO and author of 25 books, including Your Marketing Stinks, suggests viewing the stages of an interview like different stages of dating – falling in love, going steady and engaged to be married. As with dating, you don’t jump in asking about finances or other uncomfortable topics. After all, putting the cart before the horse can kill a good thing. Keep in mind the company’s concerns as well as your own when asking questions and you might find yourself getting swept off your feet by the perfect new job.

Initial Interview: The Falling in Love Stage

Asking for and discussing a bureaucratic checklist of benefits or responsibilities is no way to entice a new employer to fall in love with you. The goal of the first interview is mostly to figure out if you like the company and if they like you and could use your skills. Also, this is a time to look for subtle clues about the workplace – take note of the office mood, corporate culture, and how you are treated. Did anyone offer you a coffee or water? Do people make eye contact or say, “Hello”? Can you hear laughter anywhere?

Once the interview starts, the questions you pose to your interviewer should open up dialogue on broader topics such as your professional values and goals, and how they all might align with company goals. Keep the tone personable and look for ways to convey your passions. Doing so will help you come across as confident and knowledgeable, and that can set you apart from other candidates. Furthermore, the depth of information you’ll be able to discuss will leave the interviewer with a much clearer picture about who you are every day.

For example, Stevens advises people to avoid the question, “What will my duties be?” Instead, he suggests posing a similar question this way: “I visited your Web site, and I liked what I saw. How would I be able to contribute to those values in this position?”

Changing the way you ask a rather standard question can lead to a more interesting dialogue and give you a more complete idea of the job. It also shows your potential employer that you are aware of the company goals and that you are someone who will find ways to make them happen. On top of that, by preparing ahead of time, you show the employer that you understand the importance of questions for employer during interview. This puts some of the power of the interview back in your hands.

Second Interview: The Going Steady Stage

If you’re asked in for a second interview, you’ve obviously struck the company’s fancy, and you can begin to ask some of the more difficult questions – tactfully, of course.

Your goal in this stage is to add detail to the broad picture that was painted earlier and to answer any doubts or concerns that you may have about the job. If your research has found a black mark in the company’s record, ask about how that’s been corrected. If you’ve found that the company’s financial situation is a little rocky, ask how that’s being addressed.

Keep in mind, though, that the formats of follow-up interviews vary widely. You may be meeting with more people than you did in the first interview, or you might just meet with the same people to further explore some topics previously discussed. Either way, you may be asked some of the same questions you were asked before, and you may want to ask some of the same questions as well.

If everything is going well at the end of this stage, you should feel fairly comfortable with this company and envisioning a future with them should be positive and without too many doubts or unknowns.

Job Offer: The Engagement Stage

Congratulations! They want you to join their company – and no matter how excited you may be, don’t jump too soon. This is the time to negotiate the nitty-gritty of numbers and benefits. If you have any remaining concerns, is this company willing to bend to meet them? Are you willing to compromise something in return? Explore how. To ask critical interview questions shows that you care about yourself. Don’t stop looking at this as a relationship at this point – neither party should be asked to sacrifice too much.

If negotiations begin to feel uncomfortable, ask about the larger concern of the employer. Is it that you might be earning more than a supervisor? Are they nervous about giving you the responsibility you’d like to take on? Find out the root of any concerns, ask critical interview questions, and see if there are compromises that can be made so both you and your employer feel like you’re being treated fairly.

Remember, as with dating, one interview process is never the same as the next, and you may have to trust your gut to know when the time is right to ask some of the more difficult questions. Tread softly but confidently through the sticky topics – succeeding in this will likely set you up for a rewarding relationship with your next employer.

Jan. 13 Make the most of lost opportunity: I cut out this Globe and Mail article called “How to make the most of a lost opportunity” by Eileen Chadnick on Apr. 16, 2011.  Now this is good career advice that could be applied. 

This is a common situation.  I find reading it inspirational and motivational.  Here’s the whole article:

THE SCENARIO: I thought I was in line for a promotion to a leadership role, and with my supervisor's encouragement, I invested my time and money in developing my skills and took on more responsibility. My supervisor just told me the promotion is on hold due to unforeseen organizational changes and not my abilities. I am feeling frustrated and wondering if my efforts were wasted and if I should consider moving to another employer.

THE ADVICE: I understand your disappointment, but don't let this setback derail your career aspirations. Your investment in your professional development is not lost. You can still put it to good work. Here are a few thoughts to get you back on track:

Clarify your goal: Don't limit your goal to just one particular opportunity. If the goal is strictly to get "this promotion," then it stops there. But if it's a broader objective of obtaining a leadership role, then there are other avenues to explore.

Reflect on the lost opportunity What did you find attractive in the role that you would want to include in your next job? If you could design the most optimal next step, what would be included?

Write a goal statement: Write a detailed goal statement that identifies what you want in your next role. What stretch opportunities would entice you? In what kind of work culture do you thrive best? What areas of responsibility do you want to take on? Consider both leadership and other aspects of work - for example, leading a bigger team? Being involved in marketing or research? Obtaining international experience? Getting into a new sector or industry?

Take stock: You've been working hard this past year - identify the skills, strengths and notable accomplishments that are now part of your leadership capacity. Write it out and refer back to this list often - and update it as you continue to develop. You will need this to update your résumé and engage in career conversations, interviews, and so on.

Update your résumé: You have a more compelling story to tell. Be ready! Update your résumé to reflect this enhanced capacity and experience. Whether you seek opportunities elsewhere or focus within your existing organization, updating your résumé will give you more confidence and self-awareness so that you can better promote yourself.

Make your aspirations known: Your supervisor was supportive of your promotion and may still be an ally in your career development. Talk to her about your career aspirations (beyond the promotion) and collaboratively explore a career development path that would be meaningful for you. Are there other roles in the organization you hadn't considered? New projects to further develop specific skills? Would your employer be willing to sponsor additional training? Whether you choose to grow your career internally or
eventually look elsewhere, having a career plan that recognizes your potential and supports your development will engage you more fully. You will also feel assured that you are moving forward on a path and not stagnating.

Cast a wider net: With clarity on your goal and what you now have to offer, you may decide to cast a wider net beyond your organization as you explore career opportunities. Create a plan to network and research opportunities that would be attractive to you. No matter how comfortable you are in a role or organization, it is always a good idea to keep the radar open to opportunities and to develop a strong network of professional and personal relationships that may be valuable in your career and professional development.

Acknowledge the lesson: When we don't get something we want very much, there can be a silver lining. The retrenching and re-evaluation the disappointment forces us to do can reveal other possibilities. If you go through this reflection and planning process, you will have more clarity and may even end up with a much more meaningful goal than the one you started out with.

Ultimately it's up to you. Go to it!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

James Robertson / Jamie Lynn Spears restaurant fight

Feb. 18 James Robertson: On Yahoo, I found this story of a man who walks 20 miles a day to work because his car broke down years ago.  When I first saw the video, I was grateful for the Edmonton Transit System. 

Then through a crowd-funding campaign, he got a car.  Here’s an excerpt on Yahoo: 

The Detroit man whose determination to walk more than 20 miles a day to get to and from work inspired an online campaign that raised more than $350,000 for him abruptly moved on Tuesday after telling police that he did not feel safe with his newfound fortune.

According to the Detroit Free Press — whose profile of 56-year-old James Robertson led to the outpouring of donations and gifts, including a new car — the factory worker was moved to a temporary home after consulting with local law enforcement officials.

"We had a meeting with him [and] he expressed interest that he did not feel safe," Detroit Police Capt. Aric Tosqui told the newspaper. "People were actually asking him for money."

More than $350,000 was pledged for Robertson through a crowdfunding campaign launched by Evan Leedy, a 19-year-old college student who read the story and wanted to help a stranger in need. According to the paper, Robertson has yet to see any of the money raised and is expected to meet with financial advisers this week to discuss how the donations will be managed.

Boy jumps from burning building: Here’s a crazy video I found on Yahoo:

“As a four-alarm fire tore through a three-story building in San Francisco, Alessandro Gonzales was forced to make a dramatic exit.”

Man buys “rare” watch and sells it for $35, 000: I found this on Yahoo:

Earlier this month, Zachary Norris was scouring a Phoenix Goodwill for a used push golf cart when he spotted a collection of old watches. Among them was a watch with a dial that read “Le Coultre Deep Sea Alarm.”

Norris, a vintage watch collector, knew the watch had to be worth significantly more than the $5.99 price tag, so he purchased it and immediately brought it to an authorized Jaeger-LeCoultre retailer in Scottsdale, Ariz.. 

Sure enough, the watch was an extremely valuable one: It was a rare 1959 LeCoultre Deep Sea Alarm, one of the brand’s most desired design — less than 1,000 were made for the American market — and one of the first watches to feature an alarm for divers. 

Norris posted a video of the watch with its still-functioning alarm on YouTube.

Armed with this information, Norris posted his watched on a “Vintage Watches” Facebook page, where offers started pouring in from collectors around the world. 

Norris eventually accepted an irresistible offer from Rolex dealer and collector Eric Ku, who offered Norris $35,000 for the watch, and threw in Norris’ dream watch, an Omega Speedster Professional, to sweeten the deal. 

Not bad for a $5.99 watch. 

Norris delivered the watch to Ku in person last Wednesday. 

Norris told Hodinkee that he has since given a donation to Goodwill, but insists on keeping the amount private. 

High schooler told to cover up for exposing her shoulders: I found this on Yahoo and 16-year-old Gabi Finlayson was told to cover up her shoulders.  I saw the dress, and I thought it was modest.  The dress length goes well below her knee.  Her shoulders were showing, but they weren’t spaghetti straps.  Also her dress wasn’t even low- cut and doesn’t show her chest. 

I’m going to use Katy Perry at the Superbowl 2015 as an example.  She’s performing her song “Teenage Dream” and she’s wear a low cut blue, red, yellow, and white dress.  It shows off her legs and spaghetti straps.  Now if a 16 yr old girl went to the school dance wearing that, then the school may tell her to cover up.

Get enough sleep: I was going through my “parking lot” email and I found this comment that was for this blog post and the article I wrote about:

Here’s the Yahoo comment:

Jabra: This article or research did not address the intermittent sleep, i.e. a person waking up to go to bathroom 2 or more times a night.

My opinion: Yeah, when I wake up in the middle of the night to use the washroom, I can go back to sleep.  There are times I can’t and I stay awake for an hour, so I missed an hour of sleep.

Feb. 21:

Bryan Cranston meets cancer fan: I found this on Yahoo.  Here’s an excerpt:

“The 58-year-old actor, whose character on the AMC series had inoperable lung cancer, helped fulfill the wish of a North Carolina teen with terminal brain cancer. Brad Joyner had three items on his bucket list — swimming with sharks, driving a 1967 Shelby Mustang, and meeting Cranston — and the TV star helped his final dream come true.”

Jamie Lynn Spears restaurant fight: This happened back in Jan. 13, 2015.

E! News reports that somehow Jamie Lynn’s friend found her way into the midst of the people having the fight. Spears “helped her friend from out of the middle of the violent group” before running behind the counter and helping herself to a large knife. She then wielded the knife at the people fighting in an effort to break them up.

“I have been with Pita Pit for several years, and have never seen anything like this before,” he said at the time the brawl took place. “The events that happened occurred after 2 a.m. this past Saturday night just before we closed. A group of males got into an altercation and for some reason Jamie Lynn Spears ran behind the counter and picked up a bread knife.”

My opinion: I saw the video fight on tail end of The Social.  The manager was calling 911.  Also, Spears was holding a big knife, but it’s not really sharp.  I have worked at the Soup place.  The bread knife we use is big, just like the Pita Pit one.  However, both aren’t that sharp.  The manager was already on the phone, so Spears might as well wave the knife around a bit.

This kind of reminds when I was on the bus in 2005.  This young woman was talking about how these 2 guys went up to a drunk guy on the street and started a fight.  She said one of the 2 guys pulled out a knife on the drunk.

Woman: I went over there and told them to stop and walk away.  They did.  I just moved here and if there was a stabbing in my neighborhood, I would have to move again.

Some of you may say brave or stupid for this woman.  Maybe both.  I will give her points for her courage.  I will also give points for Spears courage.  I worked at my restaurant about 2 yrs ago and there was a fight outside.  I immediately yelled at the 2 guys to stop and I will call security.  I did call security.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Magnificence/ Christmas TV movies

Dec. 18 Magnificence: I cut out this Globe and Mail book review “The struggle to stay open to love” by Lisa Moore.  She reviews the novel Magnificence by Lydia Millet.  After I reread the article, I didn’t really like the story.  I probably cut it out because of the title “The struggle to stay open to love.” Here’s the whole article:

Early in Lydia Millet’s novel Magnificence, Susan Lindley discovers that her husband has been stabbed to death in a dark alley in Central America. Susan is a chronic adulterer and self-professed “slut.” When Susan’s husband, Hal, catches her in the act of cheating with a man she couldn’t care less about, he opts to go on a journey to Belize.

He is going to rescue Susan’s young boss, T., a real estate developer who “fetishized his Mercedes and wore no suits retailing at less than 5K,” but who has undergone a Kurtz-like transformation on a remote beach in Central America.

T. has decided to divest himself of his considerable wealth by creating a fund for the world’s most endangered species.

Millet can be very funny. The narrative voice here is bracing and bold, sometimes purposefully grating. Susan pronounces on the failings of men with a table-turning brand of female machismo, snappy and skewering: “In one sense, though, she didn’t blame the men. That would be blaming the victim. They were hobbled by their repressed rage and Asperger syndrome, variations on which were lavishly spread throughout the male population.”

The women don’t fare much better: “In a society of aggressive or even merely confident women, she would be overlooked, but since most of them were passive and most men were lazy, the field was wide open.”

As with the female protagonist in Zadie Smith’s recent novel NW, Millet’s protagonist deals with emotional loss or numbness by partaking in as many meaningless sexual encounters as she can muster.

The promiscuity, Susan believes, has led to her husband’s death. Hal may have said he was going to Belize to find T., but Susan knows he was going to get away from her. She sees herself as Hal’s murderer.
From here the plot torques and corkscrews in all directions.

Susan’s daughter, Casey, a paraplegic and phone-sex worker, falls in love with T.; Susan inherits a Gothic mansion full to the brim with taxidermy, fauna from all over the globe; a handful of geriatrics are invited by T.’s mother, who suffers from dementia, to the mansion for a Christian book-club meeting.

The old women, who come bearing frozen cakes, sandwiches on white bread and massive numbers of paper napkins, decide to stay indefinitely (Millet is having fun here; imagine an author imagining a book club that moves in). There is a three-page critique of NPR radio host Terry Gross conducting an interview with a rapper while Susan is stuck in traffic on her way to court to fight distant relatives who want to take the mansion away from her. (I’m pretty sure I’ve heard that very interview with Terry Gross and loved it. Millet clearly has something against rap, or at least something against white, middle-aged, middle-class women who pretend to like rap); and finally, the buried mystery at the core of the novel is tantalizingly unearthed.

The subplots are slight and delivered with sleight of hand. Themes accrue; there are the questions of infidelity, environmental preservation, the moral quagmires of real estate development.
Millet touches on ideas about wealth, class, aging, sexism and female desire.

Complex characters and deft caricatures rub shoulders with each other to produce a hybrid of bright satire and touchingly brittle, broken-hearted souls who struggle to stay open to love.

Susan’s daughter, Casey, who became a paraplegic after a car accident, is potty-mouthed and brave. Though her appearances are brief, she sparkles. Millet is convincing about the restrictions of life in a wheelchair and affecting about how those restrictions can sometimes be overcome.

Magnificence, the final book of a trilogy, is more fable than realism, and promises a kind of moral or eerie warning at the end.

It is also more of a long short story than a novel, as all of these subplots are funnelled into the service of a single, graceful, short-story-like epiphany.

What Susan discovers under a manhole in her backyard, which leads to a buried basement, is both sinister and revelatory, bringing all the plots and themes together in a poetic rumination on the nature of extinction and the opposite: existence.

Lisa Moore is a novelist living in St. John’s. Her novel February was long-listed for the 2010 Man Booker Prize.

Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter: Last month I found my old vampire script.  I then thought about this movie.  I went on Youtube to watch the trailer and there are these comments:

Aval154: Love how everyone would break out in laughter in the theater when this trailer played lol

Armando Diaz: This movie was actually really great!!! I HATE how people already judge this movie and others based on their trailer.
Tristian1: Now I wanna see MLK hunt warewolves  ;)

Dec. 23 Christmas TV movies: I cut out this Globe and Mail article "The new Christmas classic is ridiculous romance” by John Doyle on Dec. 20, 2014.  He reviews some TV movies.  He is completely right about how all these TV movies are the same with variations on these love stories.  Here's an excerpt: 

In TV movies where the holidays are major part of the plot, nobody is seen sitting around watching TV. (Unless, of course, it’s a rare scene of some guys watching a sports event, because that’s what guys do from American Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day.) Mainly there’s no TV-viewing featured because all the characters are too busy having breakdowns and then realizing the true value of family. Or realizing they have met their soulmates. And yet a vast amount of our time is spent watching these silly, slight TV movies about the holidays. The viewing numbers for them are staggering.

Christmas Under Wraps (Sunday, W, 9 p.m.) is one of this year’s Hallmark Channel movies. It stars Candace Cameron Bure as a doctor who gets relocated to the small town of Garland, Alaska, where, after hating it at first, she falls in love with a handsome local. This is the fifth time that Bure has done a holiday TV movie. She always plays a successful businesswoman or professional who is too busy to appreciate the season until she falls in love with a nice chap. Yes, the fifth time.

Merry Ex-Mas (Sunday, Lifetime Canada, 10 p.m.) is new and stars Dean Cain as a guy whose wife (Kristy Swanson) divorced him when, wrongly, she thought he’d had an affair. It’s three years later and they are snowed in together along with his new girlfriend. Stuff happens. Everything turns out right and the necessary hook-ups happen. This is Cain’s 15th Christmas-themed TV movie. Yes, 15th.

The point is that this is the new Christmas ritual – dozens of similarly themed TV movies are made and aired featuring romance achieved after setbacks. It’s the new holiday reality.

My opinion: Dean Cain and Candace Cameron Bure doing Christmas TV movies all the time, it’s because they’re actors and they need to get work.  If they can and want to work on these kind of projects to make money, then it’s their choice.  There are lots of people who work at one job, company, or industry for years because they like it.  

I watched Call Me Mrs. Miracle and wrote about it here:

I did watch the Christmas mystery TV movie Deck the Halls.  My favorite Edmonton actor Eric Johnson is in this one, but if he wasn’t in it, I would still watch it.  It’s based on a book by mystery writers Carol Higgins Clark and Mary Higgins Clark:

“Detective Regan Reilly and cleaning-woman-turned-private-eye Alvirah Meehan, investigate the kidnapping of Regan's father and a young female driver just before the holidays. The race is on to rescue the pair and get them home in time for Christmas.”