Play Balloon Brigade to Find Your Strengths as a Worker

Balloon BrigadeHere is an online game that I am playing. My task: To water my flowers and to defend my “contraption”, on the right side of the screen, from the burny thingies that march over the hill from the left. My weapon: water balloons that I can fill on my contraption (until they sometimes burst) and flip (with a swipe of my finger) at the hot enemy hordes, thus extinguishing them. The challenges vary. Sometimes, there are just a few fiery intruders. If I throw high and hard enough, I can catch them as they first enter my space. Sometimes, though, I miss them. They toast my flowers and come right up to the foot of my contraption, trying to burn it down. No time to fully fill balloons then. Just a quick squirt and then fling, fling, fling the flaccid bags down to protect the contraption base.

How well I performed, through sixteen challenges, may offer a clue to where my strengths as a worker lie. Am I a strategic thinker? Am I quick? Do I think ahead to protect the flowers at my base when there is leisure to do so?

The game is called “Balloon Brigade”, available as a free iPad or iPhone download from Knack (http://knack.it), a San Francisco-based company that aims to analyze potential employee strengths based on game play.

Knack
http://knack.it

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Have vintage-inspired clothing made to order at eShakti

eShakti.comIn a discussion among my online friends about web-based custom dressmakers, one name recurred: eShakti. Founded in 2001, the site “specializes in mass-customization of designer clothes for women.” “These are much drooled over by ladies I know,” writes cataloging professor Cheryl Tarsala. eShakti offers a selection of stylish dresses, tops, skirts and jackets in sizes ranging from 0 to 36W. The garments can also be cut to custom measurements, since the clothing is not assembled until it is ordered. Prices range from $39.95 – $129.

“eShakti means the power of the Net since Shakti means power in Sanskrit,” says CEO B.G. Krishnan. “Our fashion has this rather well-defined retro-modern quality now. And the fact that we give customers the option to change the styling – the sleeve or neckline or length – makes it unique.”

Even though the clothes are made to order, in California, New York and India, they can be returned free of charge. “The business model is sheer genius,” writes Tarsala.

eShakti
http://www.eshakti.com

Warby Parker lets you buy glasses on the web

Warby Parker

My son Peter returned from his Oxford year abroad with his glasses in pieces. Time for a new pair! But he did not want those boring ones for sale at the neighborhood optometrist. As befitted his globetrotting scholar persona, my boy wanted a stylish pair of peepers.

Most of the world’s glasses are now made by the Italian conglomerate Luxottica (http://www.luxottica.com). This corporation not only controls 80% of the world’s major eyewear brands, but also owns retailers such as LensCrafters and even the vision care insurance company EyeMed Vision Care. Luxottica has been accused of using its monopoly to unfairly hike the prices of its brands, which include Ray-Ban and Armani. (Arends, Brett. “Are Designer Sunglasses Worth the Price?” June 22, 2010, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704518904575365362932852610.html)

Yet Luxottica now has a competitor. Warby Parker (http://www.warbyparker.com) was founded in 2010 by University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School classmates Jeffrey Raider, Andrew Hunt, Neil Blumenthal and David Gilboa. These gents aimed to provide stylish eyewear for reasonable prices by designing the frames in-house and then selling directly to the customer over the web or in their own stores, without middle-man markups. Many of their frames cost only $95 and none are over $150. In a charity bonus, for every pair that they sell, Warby Parker donates a pair of glasses to non-profit organizations like Vision Spring (http://visionspring.org).

Peter admires the vintage-inspired design of Warby Parker glasses, and so he visited the site and uploaded his picture to virtually try on the frames. He chose five and had them delivered via the site’s “Home Try-On” feature, which allows customers to sample frames for seven days and then return them at no charge. It turned out that his virtual selections didn’t suit him in real life, so he visited Warby Parker’s Los Angeles store for his final selection. Still, his experience shows that it is now possible to purchase an accessory as unique as prescription eyeglasses entirely over the web.

Warby Parker
http://www.warbyparker.com

File your taxes online for free.

The Internet Book of Life

Free FileIf your income last year was less than $57 thousand, file your federal taxes electronically for free with Free File.This year, 15 private tax preparation companies are participating in the Free File program. They all have different eligibility rules, so use this “wizard” to find the best one for you: http://apps.irs.gov/app/freeFile/jsp/wizard.jsp. Note: You may have to pay to file state income tax forms electronically. Those of any income level can use IRS-approved Free File fillable forms. Fill them in online, print them out and send them through the mail.

Free File
http://www.irs.gov/efile/article/0,,id=118986,00.html?portlet=106

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Buy gifts that are made in America with help from USA Love List

USA Love ListPhiladelphia’s Sarah Wagner is on a mission to bring manufacturing back to the United States. To that end, she urges all of us to try to buy Christmas gifts that are made in America. Although it is difficult to find electronics and appliances that are manufactured domestically, Wagner says that things like jewelry, cosmetics, clothing and candy are not hard to find. Craft fairs and the site Etsy.com are sure-fire places to locate locally produced gifts.

Wagner advises shoppers to check the tags on products in big box stores like Target or WalMart or department stores like Nordstrom and Bloomingdales for domestically made goods. She found products ranging from candles to cast iron cookware that were made in the U.S.A.

Wagner and her staff highlight deals on American goods on her blog USA Love List.

USA Love List
http://www.usalovelist.com

Holiday gift idea: The Internet Book of Life on sale!

Internet Book of LifeFrom now through January 7, better living through the Internet can be yours at 33% off! Plus free shipping in the continental U.S. Order a copy for you and one for your mom. The Internet Book of Life makes a great holiday gift. Just apply the promo code  ITIFW12 when you check out.

The Internet Book of Life: Use the Web to Grow Richer, Smarter, Healthier, and Happier
http://books.infotoday.com/books/Internet-Book-of-Life.shtml

Professor Bob Sutton offers advice about how to deal with jerks at work

Bob SuttonBob Sutton, Professor of Management Science and Engineering in the Stanford Engineering School, believes that managers and workers with negative, dysfunctional attitudes are a huge drain on organizational resources. He cites research that demonstrates that negative experiences are five times more powerful than positive ones. Power over others can blind us to our own boorish behavior. So, Sutton has written books to help businesses and other organizations become aware of their possible dysfunction: Good Boss, Bad Boss (2010) and The No Asshole Rule (Rev. ed. 2010).

Follow Sutton’s musings on his blog. Take his online test to see if you share the negative tendencies that make you a problem at work: The Asshole Rating Self-Exam, or ARSE (http://electricpulp.com/guykawasaki/arse/).

Work Matters
http://bobsutton.typepad.com