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 (, a San Francisco-based company that aims to analyze potential employee strengths based on game play.



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 ( 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,

Yet Luxottica now has a competitor. Warby Parker ( 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 (

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

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 (

Work Matters

Fly without fear with help from this free online tutorial

Fear of Flying Help CourseVeteran airline pilot Captain Stacey Chance knows that at least one out of every six adults has a fear of flying, otherwise known as aviophobia or aerophobia. Sufferers fear take-offs and landings. They may feel out of control or claustrophobic. They be frightened about turbulence or flying over water. They might even feel that terrorists will take over the plane.

Captain Chance wants passengers to feel safe and comfortable when they fly. That is why he developed this free online course. Take his hour-long tutorial to learn the true safety statistics of airline travel and get tips for dealing with anxiety and stress. Experience a virtual plane ride. Then board an actual aircraft and open your world.
Fear of Flying Help Course

Bad Medicine: Check Your Online Pharmacy

Some of the most dangerous fake web sites are online pharmacies that sell medications that are illegal to purchase without a prescription. Their products are often diluted or even completely counterfeit versions of the real medication. Also, these rouge sites often steal their customers’ financial and personal information.

The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP, certifies pharmacy sites with its VIPPS (Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites) accreditation program. In July 2012, it released the results of its investigation of over 10,000 online pharmacies. It found that an astonishing 97% of them do not comply with pharmacy laws and practice standards.

NABP urges buyers to use only those online pharmacies that merit its VIPSS seal of approval. It hosts a list of verified pharmacies on its site: It also certifies online veterinary pharmacies with its program called Vet-VIPPS (Veterinary-Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites, NAPB also maintains a list of known rogue sites:

NeedyMeds links to discount prescription medications

NeedyMedsThis non-profit organization, founded in 1997 by Richard Sagall, MD and Libby Overly, MSW, runs a database that can connect disadvantaged patients with the Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs) run by pharmaceutical companies. Search the site to find links for discounted medications and disease-based information and assistance. In Spanish:


Make sure the kids are covered with Insure Kids Now

Insure Kids NowThe Medicaid program, in place since 1965, provides health coverage for children in families at or slightly above the federal poverty level (FPL). The Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009 (CHIPRA), brought low or no-cost coverage to families with incomes up to $45,000 for kids up to 19 years old. Families with children can visit this site to see if they qualify for the program, or they can call 1-877-Kids-Now (1-877-543-7669). In Spanish:

Insure Kids Now