The DC Snow Team battles the fourth major snow event of the year

The District of Columbia Storm Team went into full deployment Sunday, March 16, 2014 for Saint Patrick’s Day Snowstorm as Mayor Vincent Gray’s administration battles the fourth major snow event of the year.

Residential street sweeping will be suspended Monday and Tuesday, March 17 and 18, 2014. Thursday, March 20, 2014 is first day of spring.

The District Snow Team (Department of Public Works and Department of Transportation) went into a full deployment at 8 pm Sunday, March 16, putting more than 200 plows on District commercial and residential streets by 10 pm. Precipitation started Sunday as rain then turned to snow after 9 pm. About 2-4 inches of snow are predicted before the storm ends Monday night after a rain/snow mix. The forecast calls for sub-freezing temperatures overnight Sunday into Monday with a high of 32F on Monday and 43F on Tuesday.

DPW Director William O. Howland, Jr., echoed the lines of a favorite Dolly Parton tune when he said, “Here we go again, just in time for St. Patrick’s Day. We encourage everyone to be aware of road conditions and take the necessary precautions as they travel, whether on foot or by motor vehicle.”

Howland said that DPW’s residential street sweeping program will be suspended Monday and Tuesday, March 17 and 18. “The same dump trucks we use for street sweeping are the same trucks we use for snow removal. Staff is spending the weekend converting these trucks back to snow vehicles,” he said. Enforcement of street sweeping parking restrictions will be suspended as well.

Residential and commercial property owners are asked to apply an abrasive such as non-clumping kitty litter, rock salt or deicer before the storm begins. They also should be aware that sidewalks must be cleared of snow within 24 hours of the end of the storm.

All District of Columbia Public Schools and administrative offices are closed on Monday, March 17, 2014 due to the inclement weather for all students, school-based staff and administrative office staff.

Examiner.com will be on the roads with updates on the snow removal.

Art director vs. designer – which makes more sense for your marketing program?

The Spiro ad agency in Philadelphia in the ’80s (it’s long gone now) had a slogan that I thought was the best ever for an ad agency.

“Where good enough isn’t.”

I miss those days in the advertising industry, when copywriters and art directors worked together to create brilliant slogans and campaigns, to sell the sizzle and not just the steak. Or the hamburger, as the case may be. Today, the online revolution has meant that the bean counters have taken over and (rightfully so, I must admit) made it all about the numbers. These days, more often than not, good enough IS good enough. However, if you’re the one who’s charged with bringing together a marketing communications program – the world is so much bigger than just advertising these days – then you’ll probably face the decision at some point as to whether you should hire an art director or a designer to develop and produce your online and print vehicles.

If you need an annual report produced (one that’s already been written), or a newsletter template or other piece for which the “marketing” is pre-determined, you may do well with the services of a designer. Because they don’t need to focus on the bigger marketing picture, they can concentrate on creating a beautiful design that’s easy on the eyes and directs your audience(s) attention to what’s important, no matter what the medium.

If you’re looking for a creative idea, however, and someone with experience at corralling lots of different specialties to develop campaigns, it probably makes more sense to consider an art director. The better ones combine project management skills with exceptionally good taste. The best ones tend to have worked at an ad agency and know what it takes to sell stuff.

And isn’t that the reason you’re marketing in the first place?

Development and promise of the VIX on the 10th anniversary

A panel discussion featuring four experts will survey the development and promise of volatility products. The panelists will include volatility product traders and users.

Topics include:

-The tenth anniversary of the launch of VIX index futures on March 26, 2004,
-The launch of new volatility indexes and products since then,
-Discussion of VIX contract performance in periods of market turbulence,
-Discussion of contract design, pricing, and contango issues, and
-Applications, including managing portfolio tail risk and enhancing risk-adjusted returns.

Panelists:

Mike Edleson, Ph.D., CFA, Chief Risk Officer, Office of Investments, University of Chicago
Joanne Hill, Ph.D., Head of Investment Strategy, ProShare Advisors
Jamie Tyrell, VIX Options Market-maker, Group One Trading
Krag “Buzz” Gregory, Ph.D., Managing Director, Goldman Sachs

Moderator: Matt Moran, Vice President of Business Development, CBOE

Date: Wednesday March 26, 2014

Time: 5pm to 7pm

Venue: Chicago Board of Options Exchange (CBOE) 400 S. LaSalle Street, Chicago, IL

For more information and registration click here

About QWAFAFEW: an informal organization of quantitatively oriented professionals in various aspects of financial services (primarily investment management). The group was formed a number of years ago to provide a venue for quantitative researchers to discuss their evolving work with peers. The members span the gamut from owners and senior executives of investment related organizations to recent entrants to the industry.

Wait..What Did I Buy Again With My Credit Card?

How many times have you looked at your credit card statement and wondered this? Wait, you aren’t looking at your statements? Well, that’s another story. Since I review my statements often, especially given all of the well-publicized data breaches lately, I occasionally come across very ominous looking charges like this one:

SQ *JDoe $15.00

After a little process of elimination, given the day of the week, Saturday, and the amount, I determined that it was for a Square payment I had made to a taxi driver. Ok, fine, but why wasn’t this completely spelled out on my statement? Why does it have to be so difficult to figure these items out right away? And, what’s more was that it was listed as “Uncategorized” on my statement. Now, how am I am supposed to account for my credit card spending easily and accurately when I get tons of those showing up?

In another example of poorly categorized and coded transactions, Mrs. Edge used to work at Freddie Mac, the mortgage provider, and every time she ate at their cafe, they coded the transaction as a “loan.” That’s not right, and since then, I have grown frustrated with the transaction coding on all of my bank statements; debit cards, too. In one case, I almost protested a charge before realizing I had made it. We shouldn’t have to do this as consumers, and it makes me wonder, how many transactions have been protested, reversed, and later realized to be accurate? Every time a bank reverses a charge (presumably that is not reimbursed by the party who issued the charge), it loses money, and well, say what you might about banks, that still means jobs are at stake. So, you’d think that the industry would wise up and standardize coding.

While major banks (if you are reading this) are probably not going to change this practice overnight, I would totally appreciate standardizing transaction and category coding to help make credit card accounting for our purchases more user-friendly. I am available to work on this right away.

4 Business Section that Employee or Employer MUST Follow

Almost everyone here of workplace injuries or accidents, and everyday about 13 workers go to work in the morning, but never come back in the US. Therefore, employers or business owners have legal responsibilities to make sure a healthy and safe workplace. They have the responsibilities of their own well being as well as their employees or workers. There are many companies that have a very poor safety record and workers health & safety in not safe there. This post will explain you what these responsibilities are.

Legal responsibilities for identifying as well as correcting hazards rest on the shoulders of employers, owners, contractors, managers, supervisors and workers. The Occupational Health and Safety Act and Regulations need each one in the workplace to work together to identify and control hazards related to health and safety.

SHEilds says “The health and safety at work Act 1974 imposes general duties on company’s owners, controllers of premises, the self-employed and manufacturers to make sure safety and welfare. However, the final person that makes up this list is – workers or employees.” Owners may also be legally responsible for negligent acts committed by employees acting in the course of their employment.

Section 6: This section tells to the manufacturers, importers, designers and suppliers of the goods or articles for use at work. They have many different duties to make sure that article supplied for use are safe and to provide all necessary information like how to use the item, what to keep in mind while using, etc. for its safe use.

Section 7: This section clearly states that while at work, all the workers and employees have a responsibility not to put themselves in danger through their acts or omissions. They must cooperate with their employers, for example by wearing proper protecting equipments such as gloves, goggles, etc.

The duty of every employee while at work-

They must take reasonable care of themselves as well as other persons or their colleagues who may be affected by his acts at work.
As any duty, requirements or responsibility imposed on his employer under any of the relevant statutory provisions to co-operate with him so far as is required to facilitate that duty to be performed or complied with.

Section 8: It states that “No person (misuse anything provided) shall intentionally or recklessly interfere with or misuse anything provided in the interests of health, safety or welfare in pursuance of any of the relevant statutory provisions.” However, if an offence is committed due to an act of any other person, then that person shall be guilty of the offence and can be charged and convicted of it whether the employer is also charged or not.

Employers will be responsible for the negligent acts of employees or workers committed in the course of their employment. An applicant can sue an employer or owner on the basis of vicarious legal responsibility, provided the employer can show that the employee or worker was careless and this caused his injury or accident.

Section 9: It provides that employers or owners cannot charge their employees or allow them to be charged for anything that is needed to be done by the ‘relevant statutory provisions’.

Note: Employers must provide some kind of safety training to their employees or workers because it will help them improve their awareness.

Gold Setting up for a Strong Rally to $1,560 per Ounce

Gold has rallied strongly since the start of 2014 and it might be heading to $1560 per ounce this year. Currently, gold prices are $1,359 per ounce which is just above levels seen nearly 4 years ago. Political uncertainty and the unwinding of the stimulus program should propel gold prices higher. CNBC Talking Numbers Global Technical Strategist Richard Ross had this to say, “We’ve been very bullish here on the US, but we’re seeing things are getting a little dicey out there from a global standpoint. Emerging markets are on the ropes right now. You’re seeing what’s going on in Russia. Even in Europe, the momentum is slowing. All of that continues to favor gold.”

Ross went on to forecast a move to $1,420 per ounce and potentially rallying as high as $1,560 per ounce. CNBC contributor Andrew Busch agrees with the $1,420 target, but doesn’t think prices will go much higher and depends largely on what happens at the FOMC meeting on Wednesday.

Looking at a weekly chart of Gold, it becomes clear how Ross came up with a $1,560 price target. The weekly chart has recently completed a more than 9 month double bottom. The price target of the double bottom pattern points to around $1,560 per ounce. Investors looking to capitalize on this potential 10% gain should buy on a breakout over $1,400 when this double bottom is confirmed. There is also a pretty strong layer of resistance at this level that would likely stall the rally. Weekly charts are pretty slow moving so it may take many months before this price target is actually realized.

McDonald’s Happy Meals terrible for kids in more ways than one

McDonald’s isn’t exactly the epitome of healthy food, but the famous Happy Meals do more than add fat and calories to kids’ diet. They are an aggressive marketing tool that gets kids hooked not only on the unhealthy food, but on the toys inside the box and visiting the fast food chain on a regular basis. Happy Meals seek to make McDonald’s profits bigger while creating a generation of dependent kids who want their parents to keep bringing them back to the fast food restaurant.

A recent article in Huffington Post titled, “11 Unsettling Facts You Should Know About McDonald’s Happy Meals,” editor Renee Jacques outlined the unhealthy foods and marketing tricks little kids are being exposed to in the Happy Meals. One shocker, McDonald’s is the largest distributor of toys in the world.

The average person might think Toys R Us or Wal-Mart holds this title, but no, a fast food chain does. McDonald’s gives away 1.5 billion toys globally each year. 90% of children between the ages of 3 and 9 eat at McDonald’s at least monthly. And each Happy Meal has a small toy inside.

For a decade, Disney partnered with McDonald’s. Whenever a new Disney movie hit theaters, little toys hit the McDonald’s Happy Meals. from 1996 – 2006, Nemo, Mr. Incredible, and 101 Dalmatians were some of the characters included in Happy Meals. In 2006, Disney ended its promotional agreement with McDonald’s because it has built a reputation for “being family friendly, and wanted to distance itself from the epidemic of childhood obesity. (Boston Globe, May 8 2006.)

Another interesting fact, “The healthier Happy Meals at McDonald’s are still pretty bad for kids.” In 2011, McDonald’s revamped the Happy Meal by adding fresh sliced (but packaged) apples to the boxed meal. The apples came with a caramel dipping sauce which was dropped when critics pointed out the empty calories and sugar content.

The size of the fries was cut from 2.4 ounces to 1.1 ounces. An average Happy Meal contains 600 calories, which is still too high for little kids. Most of those calories are empty and the meal is low in vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber. All important things in a child’s diet.

Since these changes, sales of Happy Meals have declined. Unfortunately, kids are just eating off the Dollar Menu. Launched in 2002, the McDonald’s Dollar Menu offers menu items including burgers, chicken nuggets, ice cream, and cookies. Kids are getting the same food devoid of nutrition just without the fancy box and free toy.

7 Disruptions That Occurred While I Book Reviewed “Epic Content Marketing”

I was about to push out the standard book review for yet another marketing book when I came across “Epic Content Marketing” by Joe Pulizzi. The problem with attempting this book review was that I felt dishonest putting myself into the role of the grader. In reality, this book is capable of reminding us all that when it comes to creating content that can compel audiences to do something afterwards, we are are still very much the students, and Pulizzi is the king who turned the content creation-advice business into a $4 million a year commodity as valuable as oil.

So I am not going to sit here and pretend that I know better than him; instead I simply share with you 7 disruptive moments I experienced while attempting to review the book:

Joe Pulizzi’s own experience heading the Content Marketing Institute taught him that promotional articles are shared way less often than instructional articles (pg. 78). This revealed to me, quite rudely, why my book reviews may not garner nearly as much traffic as those zippy instructional articles that usually have a number somewhere in the headline. Notice how my headline reads now, Joe. Granted, I’m sure this advice was formulated prior to the Buzzfeed era, which has done nothing short of cram the format down our throats. But still, I think I learned something there.
“Customers don’t care about you, they care about themselves and their problems.” What? They don’t care about me? ​Yes, that’s right, he will say. It’s probably the central thesis of the book. While reading through that advice I asked myself, “if I were to post the usual book review, what am I really offering to the reader?” Answer: “one marketing professional’s opinion on a book”. While some people may find that valuable, perhaps I would be adding much more value teaching you how to do something, rather than giving you a book rating, something you could easily obtain on Amazon.com (I give this book 5 stars out of 5, by the way). With half my reviews containing heavy criticism, one wonders how much of this effort of being critical becomes a huge waste of breath. Given this learning moment, you may very well see me experiment with new forms of content with greater urgency.
“I am not the target for my content” is a phrase that Joe Pulizzi will ask you to repeat as you read his book. So who is the target for this Examiner column that covers the NY Online Marketing scene? Entrepreneurs? Marketing influencers? CMO’s? All of them combined? That’s a helpful question. Since I didn’t always have a sharp profit motive behind writing this column, I haven’t had to interrogate myself along these lines. However, all that is changing as I gear up to launch my own communications agency. Everything I write in this column from now on should in some way or another foresee my desired target’s personality. Based on what I’ve written so far, it is clear that I am trying to grab a slice of Pulizzi’s intended audience: a mix of CMO’s, business owners and industry marketing professionals. Which leads to my next humbling learning moment…
“Develop rent to own content strategies”. Pulizzi knows that before you see lots of traffic visiting your domain, you will need to bring your voice to other platforms. This is what he means by renting before one can own. In a sense, I too am renting in a sense by piggyback riding off of Pulizzi’s brand name. After all, I will invoke his name frequently once my turn comes to push this article out via socal media channels. Perhaps I will end up acquiring a tiny sliver of his target audience in the process. What I learned by doing this book review is that I am not necessarily doing Pulizzi a huge favor by publishing a write up of his book. I mean look, I’m essentially taking his ideas and recontextualizing them through my experience — what does he stand to profit beyond a little SEO juice he probably already has plenty of? If anything, his hard work has given me the opportunity to divert reader attention away his properties to my property (or in this case, Examiner.com’s property).
Via Jason Calacanis, Pulizzi reminds the reader that “perfect content” is (a) real-time, (b) fact-driven, (d) visual, (e) efficient, and (d) curated. Just imagine, here I am ready to weigh in with criticism involving an author who is in the business of developing “perfect content”. You try to stare Pulizzi in the face and the harder you try the more you are blinded.
By now you will have seen that in this article I’ve already added a hyperlink to my new agency. I hadn’t planned on doing that before. Pulizzi doesn’t resist the opportunity to create advice that bridges the pages of his book to his business properties. The links are everywhere, existing as “resources” — but they aren’t annoying for a reason you will learn about while reading the book.
“What if your content was gone?” Pulizzi taunts us to think of a hypothetical situation where all of our content was removed from the internet. “Would anyone miss it? Would you leave a gap in the marketplace?” Ok, I get it Joe. Our content should be really, really good. So good that if I were to take down my writings, I would set off an Occupy Movement on my front lawn. My plan this whole time was to humble Pulizzi with my 5-star rating scale, and look what happened — I’m calling my friend for prescription antidepressants, because there’s no way in hell my marketing column will ever be missed. Never, ever.

Now if you excuse me all, I need to leave the room and focus.

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Six easy ways to stay in touch with your network

We all know the importance of building a strong social network with colleagues and mentors inside and outside of our industry. But once you have identified those contacts with whom you feel there can be a mutually beneficial relationship, how do you strengthen and maintain your bond with them over time?

One of the biggest mistakes people make is reaching out only when you need something. You need to maintain a genuine connection rather than an exploitive one if you plan to build and benefit from those relationships over the long haul. Jess Siegal, Managing Director of Execu|Search has six steps that will help you create a strong social network for when you need it most: (hi bio http://execu-search.com/our-company/Jesse-Siegal)

Here’s how:

Step One: Connect on LinkedIn. When you meet someone you’d like to network with, your first step should be to add them to LinkedIn (or invite them to join if they haven’t yet) with a personalized message. When you do so, LinkedIn will send you email updates about your new connection, including anniversaries, career changes, promotions, etc. Many people view these notifications as a nuisance in their mailbox. Some even block the emails. I say enable them so you get these emails and don’t miss an important update which translates into an opportunity to reconnect with your contact.

Step Two: Take advantage of birthdays, holidays, and special milestones. Once you receive these updates, be sure to use them to their full potential. If your contact receives a promotion, for example, send a congratulations their way! This also applies to holidays, birthdays, and other events and milestones. Sending an email or calling to say congrats can go a long way and spark some conversation. Follow you networks’ career and never dismiss a contact who makes a move that doesn’t seem relevant to you anymore.

Step Three: Send your connection(s) relevant articles. When you come across something interesting that you think a particular connection would enjoy reading or benefit from in some way, send it over. This is one of the easiest ways to start conversing and, as a bonus, it shows you have them and their best interest in mind. Also look for ways you may be able to help your contacts – and be proactive about letting them know. If you and a new account that could require someone’s expertise, reach out. Or if you can make a recommendation to someone else for them, do it.

Step Four: Keep in touch regarding industry news. There is no better reason to reach out than to discuss the latest advances in your industry and what they mean for your careers. Even an email to ask if your contact has heard of the latest industry news can be a great conversation starter.

Step Five: Invite a contact or two to professional events. Going to a networking event? Bring one—or several—of your current contacts! They may notice something or someone you don’t, and if they make a great connection as a result of your invite, they’ll be sure to keep you in mind for the future as well.

Step Six: Just ask to catch up! If it’s been a while since you’ve spoken to a contact, don’t let the distance grow until you need something. Reach out and simply say that you haven’t spoken in a while and you’d like to reconnect. In most cases, your contacts should be receptive to this and appreciate the honesty. Remember, there are plenty of means for staying in touch, but meeting in person—even for just a quick coffee—is still the best way to network.

If you have a large LinkedIn network that you have not been following these steps with – it’s not too late! Go through your contact list and reach out one by one. Say it’s been a long time and you just want to catch up. And then you are on your way to rebuilding your social capital!