Joblessness: Tips For Turning It Around

By Joel DeVyldere 

It’s 11:30 a.m., my second day in Portland, and I’m already starting to grow nervous. This job search is going well if you count resumes distributed. If, however, you’re counting interviews scheduled,positive replies, or even “yes, we’re hiring”’s, you’ll be relatively down for the count.

I’m moving storefront to storefront asking if they’re hiring, like my mom told me to do when I was 16 and wanted a car. Outside the shops, literally hundreds of folks are begging for change in the street. Have they simply given up on looking for work? Or are they not interested in it?

I’ll leave the ethical questions for the radio talk shows to answer. For now, it’s refreshing to be in Portland where, at least, there is someeconomic growth. Still, national unemployment is a steep 7.9%, not including discouraged workers, and all those people who are still looking for a job because they’ve only found part-time work.

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Photo credit

Some have theorized that the U.S. economic system tends to keep at least a few people unemployed to maintain the status quo. Full employment would eliminate the long-standing labor surplus, causes wages to go up and working conditions to become more negotiable.

Political theorist and MIT Professor Noam Chomsky wrote this year that many of the lost manufacturing jobs are permanently gone. Chomsky traces a failing economy to a shift that he says began in the 1970’s, “a significant shift of the economy from productive enterprise — producing things people need or could use — to financial manipulation.”

Chomsky makes a good point. And while some theorists have made a lot of the fact that profits are down for this company or that, large companies don’t hurt from the recession; instead, they simply scale back their enterprise. Only people have the capacity to lose tangible opportunities in the gaps between commerce.Unemployment, however, is not the only work-related consequence of this recession.

As employers become more keenly aware that they don’t need you, their respect for their employees as human beings can be sidelined by the needs of the business; hours are cut, work conditions worsen, and practices like double-hiring start to become commonplace.

The large number of job seekers seems to create a culture of competition in which people begin to disregard each other’s needs as well. Some places, like the Wendy’s near my University, have such poor work conditions and a high turnover rate that they simply leave their ‘Now Hiring’ sign up all year round.

But all of this doesn’t change the fact that I need a solid, paying job if I don’t want to continue living with no money. Even being poor and happy requires at least some money. For those of us who don’t want to wander off and build a cabin in the woods, formal, stable, gainful employment is a must.

The Job Search (things I hope will help)

Fix up that resume. I met with Pat Ferris, Employment Services Coordinator for the University of Oregon Career Center, to talk resumes and employers. Pat suggested I simplify my resume to make it easier for employers to scan it quickly:

  • Condense my resume to one column instead of two
  • Implement the use of bullet points (instead of complete sentences)
  • Utilize “action verbs” to describe my work experience and and career skills (UO’s “Action Verb” list).

Take a pen. Ask for the name of the manager if you’re going to swing back by. Businesses sometimes also have a website to apply to – always a good thing to write down.

Bring a sack lunch. Going to distribute and/or check on some resumes? Once you get to a commercial district, you may as well ride the momentum of the job hunt through the day. It can be exhausting and hungering work – especially if you’re applying at restaurants.

Check out Penn State University’s “Job Search Tips for a Tough Economy.”

The Great Recession

By Joel DeVyldere

Five months after graduation, I quit my illustrious full-time food service job, packed up my things in the trunk of my friend’s car and moved the nearest major city. Jobs – the kind that pay more than fifty dollars a day, and don’t require you to ignore the high-schoolish antics of a cast of apathetic co-workers – were on my mind. A lot of folks would say I made a big mistake.

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Recessions are defined as a period of time in which investments are down, jobs are scarce, and the growth of the economy slows or comes to a standstill. In reality, however, a recession is much uglier than that. I can imagine it now – a bug-eyed employment-chewing beast with gorilla-like strength – bent on mercilessly terrorizing Tokyo… err, Wall Street.

GetInline

Wall Street’s charging bull

Recession monster attacks
after apparently setting fire to New York.
(Illustration by Josiah Pyles)
During the last recession, things were “back to normal” within five years, with accelerated economic growth carrying a surge of job-fulness well into the 1990’s. The time before that, every bank on the continent neared collapse and thousands of people began to starve as they lost their homes and belongings. I heard an economist on TV say this current economic predicament is more like the former than the latter (a real charmer, that guy).

One thing that the recession of 1983 and the Depression of 1929 have in common is that they’re both safely in the past. Maybe that’s part of what makes this particular recession so troubling to me – uncertainty.

When I find myself worrying through the day, I sometimes think that what I really need is a story – a way to ensure my experience of this economic hiccup becomes a tangible piece of history in the making. I need to talk about what it’s like to live with no money, with no savings account and no rich relatives to fall back on.

Maybe, more than anything, this recession is a great opportunity to think carefully about the life choices I’m making; to live more deliberately than I have before. It’s 2012, and I’ve decided to ride this one out in Portland, Oregon.

Popovers Recipe

By Alice Cura

Popovers are a favorite weekend breakfast for my family. They are rich in protein and delicious warm or cold; plain or with butter, honey, or jam. Just add fruit on the side, coffee or tea, and breakfast is ready!

Note to parents with kids who are suspicious of anything resembling protein: if your child eats four popovers (easy to do), she has eaten a whole egg!

Measurements:    c = cup, t = teaspoon, T = Tablespoon

My mother used to let the milk and eggs stand at room temperature overnight.
Since I often decide to make popovers at the last minute, I do this instead: take milk and eggs from refrigerator. Measure milk in microwave-safe container (such as glass) and heat in microwave until lukewarm.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees (F)
Grease 2 muffin tins (for 24 regular size muffins) (Faster to use a spray like Pam, or just rub tins with Crisco, margarine, or butter)

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Beat thoroughly with mixer:
6 eggs

Add and mix in:
1 1/2 t salt

Measure and heat in microwave until lukewarm (about 100 degrees F):
3 c milk

Measure and sift:
3 c flour (I use unbleached flour)

Add some milk (about 1/3) and mix.
Then add some flour (about 1/3) and mix.
Repeat until all milk and flour are mixed in.
Mix well until there are no big lumps of flour.

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Pour about half (3+ c) of batter into large measuring cup (easier to pour). Fill greased muffin tins about 2/3 full. Place in oven and bake on middle oven rack for about 15-20 minutes, until the popovers have “popped” and are light brown. I bake one tin at a time.

Note: If your popovers collapse when you take them out of the oven, they are still great to eat, but if you like, you can leave them in the oven just a few minutes longer, with oven temperature reduced to 400 degrees. You can experiment to see what works best for your oven and tins.

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Popovers usually have a nice hollow in the middle. If they are piping hot from the oven, be careful not to burn yourself with escaping steam when you cut one open. Parents may want to do this for smaller children.

Have a lovely breakfast!

The Corn Syrup Craze

By Joel DeVyldere

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High-fructose corn syrup… what on earth could that be? It sounds harmless enough. Fructose is a sweetener—a simple sugar that naturally occurs in many fruits and vegetables. Corn is a vegetable that grows in the neighbors’ garden and tastes delicious with butter. So what could be so bad about something like high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS)?

Plenty, if you ask many health fanatics. HFCS has a terrible reputation among health writers and healthy eaters. It has been revealed to be a chemically altered form of corn sugar that tastes extra sweet. Real and natural sugar (like “evaporated cane juice”) is all the rage at many grocery and health food stores. People will pay half again as much for a “no high-fructose corn syrup” label on their sugary foods.

Genetically Modified… and It’s Cheap!

With the U.S. agriculture subsidy system pumping limitless cheap genetically modified corn into our food system, corn syrup is now the cheapest sweetener on the market. Most juice brands and nearly all soda brands in the United States now make their drinks with high-fructose corn syrup instead of cane sugar—and use lots of it. Pepsi, Coke, and the brands they own (Dr. Pepper, Mountain Dew, Mug, Sierra Mist, Lipton, Brisk, SoBe, AMP, Gatorade, Powerade, Hi-C, Sprite, etc.) tend to sweeten exclusively with HFCS.

A backlash against the artificial sweetener HFCS has become all the rage in recent years. Major and local brands alike have marketed “all-natural” and “corn-syrup free” products alongside their chemically engineered cousins from the mainstream. In addition to soda, you can also find naturally-sweetened juices and teas in many grocery stores. Honest Tea and Honest Ade, for example, use cane sugar and fruit juice to sweeten their lines of teas and juices—all for a significantly higher price.

A Risk for Kidney Disease

So, we know that corn syrup-free drinks are available, but is it worth the extra money to avoid corn syrup? Well, the health craze has some scientific support. A recent study from Loyola University found a link between drinking two sodas a day and a high risk for contracting kidney disease. The study stopped short of blaming it all on HFCS, however, saying that more studies would have to be done to find whether this is the fault of HFCS, overall sugar intake, or other factors.

In truth, HFCS, which has about the same chemical composition as honey, isn’t necessarily what’s causing all of our sugar-related problems. In a recent interview with The Cleveland Pain Dealer renowned food politics writer Michael Pollan stepped back his previous statements against HFCS, saying instead “there is a problem with how much total sugar we consume.”

The real issue with HFCS, it seems, isn’t so much that this kind of sugar is so bad for you, but that now that it has become cheap and practically limitless, it can easily be slipped into everything you eat. Huffington Post has a fascinating list of items sweetened with corn syrup and its twisted chemically engineered cousin HFCS, including everything from bread to cereal to Kraft Easy Mac.

Corporate Greed and “Natural” Products

Greed is really at the heart of the corn syrup controversy. Food companies have engineered a cheap sweetener with nearly infinite supply, and now are engineering a backlash to sell even more sugary treats under the name ‘natural.’ “They started giving products made of real sugar health claims and [are] trying to make sugar look good,” says Pollan.

The take-home? Replacing the HFCS in your diet with real sugar and other natural sweeteners could help you avoid the lows of extreme sugar addiction (and the resulting diabetes) and potentially lower your risk for kidney disease. Overall, however, eating less food with simple sugars, whether natural or artificial, is the most important thing.

Additional References:

U.S. Sugar (including HFCS) Consumption Trends:

Genetically Modified Corn:

The Perks of Skiing Hood

By Lexi Reeve

Most of my childhood memories consist of waking up at the crack of dawn, climbing into my dad’s SUV with my gear on hand, and heading up to Meadows for a ski day on the mountain. I’d been raised to be a skier since I was six years old, and some of my best memories took place at the Mt. Hood Meadows ski resort. Learning to ski with my brother on the bunny slopes, drinking hot cocoa in the lodge to warm up after a long day in the snow, and even night skiing with the mountain all lit up in the dark, finding my way down to the chairlift with minimal lighting and nothing but a layer of white in front of me. Mt. Hood Meadows isn’t just a business, or an activity to try when you have nothing else to do that day. It’s not even an excuse to spend time with family and friends. It’s a lifestyle. And although it may not be a lifestyle everyone enjoys, I’ve decided to write down everything that I love about the Mt. Hood Meadows ski resort. So, why not go rent some gear yourself and try it out for a day?

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Photo copyright Lexi Reeve

Meadows has a run for every level. Beginning with the green square, blue square, black diamond and then up to double black diamonds, you are sure to find a run at your level. You can even choose runs that will challenge you until you can work your way up to those double black diamonds! My dad and brother have made me go down a run called God’s Wall a couple times and, although challenging, it’s made me a better skier!

Night skiing at Meadows is gorgeous as well. The trick to this is picking a day with optimal weather conditions. If you can master that, you’ll be skiing down the mountain face with a nice layer of fresh powder beneath you. With the overhead lights shining down on the snow but still dimly lit, night skiing is an experience you have to try for yourself. The view of the mountain from the chairlift at night is also something else!

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Photo copyright Lexi Reeve

The Mt. Hood Lodge is another reason why I love Meadows. To be able to go and grab a cup of hot chocolate after a long run or when the snow starts to get too cold is a really nice treat. And if you want to take your time, there are two sit-down restaurants in the lodge, Alpenstube and Vertical Restaurant and Sports Bar, as well as some delis and cafes for faster service. There is also outside seating with heated lamps for warmer days! The best part is you can ski right up to the lodge, drop off your gear, and head in for lunch.

Meadows has its own ski school where they offer lessons from age four and up! And the local high school ski teams come and practice at Meadows and even host some of their races there. If you don’t have transportation up to the mountain, Mt. Hood offers shuttle services – you can take a bus roundtrip from various locations in Portland for only $20!

Although the prices for a day pass are a bit steep (adult open to close peak-day lift pass is $89, a non-peak lift pass is $74), they do have some great deals if you want to bring your children for the day! A childrens day pass is only $10, and a night lift ticket is only $30. If you need to rent equipment, keep in mind that it will cost you more, but for those of you who have your own gear or can borrow it from a friend, there are some great lift ticket deals!

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Photo copyright Lexi Reeve

I love skiing at the Mt. Hood Meadows ski resort; I would highly recommend trying it out for a day! If you’re already an avid skier or snowboarder, try some of the other well-known Oregon ski resorts, such as TimberlineSki Bowl, and Bachelor. Have fun in the snow and be safe!

20 Things To Do When You’re Bored

By Serena Piper

We’ve all been victims of boredom. We think there’s “nothing to do” and we’re not quite sure how to keep busy and entertained. The next time it strikes, take a look at the list below for some easy time killers.

1. Rearrange your bedroom or living room.

2. Arrange the clothes hanging in your closet by color. In the process you might find some you want to donate, freeing up more space.

3. Arrange your books by color. It’s a unique way to present your bookshelf – as a colorful work of art!

4. Start a scrapbook. Print off all those digital photos and put them in an album with funny captions.

5. Take your dog (or cat) for a walk.

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Photo by Ewen Roberts

6. Make a “thinking of you” card for someone. We all like getting something in the mail other than a bill once in awhile.

7. Write a letter (not an email) to a family member or friend.

8. Go through old high school yearbooks and look up long lost friends on Facebook.

9. Play Solitaire while listening to your favorite music.

10. Bake a delicious dessert or cook a healthy meal (Pinterest anyone?).

11. Start a 1,000-piece puzzle and see how much you can get done in just an hour.

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Photo by Brad Montgomery

12. If you’re job-hunting, revamp your resume. If you’re not job-hunting, get some work done early.

13. Write out a plan of where you would like to be in exactly one year and the steps you’ll take to get there.

14. Paint one wall (to be the “accent” wall) of your living room or bedroom.

15. Clean out your car.

16. Try a new restaurant for dinner. Go alone or with friends.

17. Take a long bubble bath with candles, music, the works! Don’t forget to lock the door!

18. Peruse the bookstore and buy the first book that grabs your attention.

19. Take a half hour to do some yoga exercises.

20. Take a nap!

Dessert Time: How to Make Peppermint Bark

By Serena Piper

Which desserts are popular with your family during the holidays? Chocolate pie, pumpkin pie, sugar cookies, fudge? No one ever said they didn’t taste good, but sometimes it’s good to mix up the traditional.

If you’ve never made peppermint bark for a Christmas dessert, you’re missing out. Make it for a party treat or wrap some up in a holiday tin to bring to work or give to a friend or family member.

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Photo by Lori L. Stalteri

Feeling brave? Here’s the recipe!

Ingredients:

  • 1 bag dark chocolate chips
  • 1 bag white chocolate chips
  • 8 peppermint candy canes

1. Place as many candy canes as you can fit into a plastic ziplock bag, seal it up tight, and use a rolling pin to crush them into the size you want.

2. Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

3. Melt the dark chocolate. Once it’s melted, pour it onto the cookie sheet and spread it around as even as you can get it. Don’t worry if the chocolate doesn’t reach all sides of the sheet – it’ll be broken up later! Place the cookie sheet in the refrigerator so it has a chance to harden up a bit.

4. Melt the white chocolate and stir in about ¾ of the crushed candy cane.

5. Take out the tray from the refrigerator and pour the white chocolate on top of the dark chocolate. Then sprinkle the rest of the candy cane pieces on top. Place the tray back in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

6. After the time is up, check the chocolate. It should be pretty firm by now so you can take it out and start breaking it up into bite-size pieces.

If you’re not a candy cane fan, there are some other variations you can try, including using crushed walnuts, sprinkles, cranberries, or even pretzels.

Happy holidays!