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As the weather warms up, flowers start to bloom, and allergies kick in (sigh), it’s fair to say that the flu season is (pretty much) behind us. However, it’s important to understand the financial cost of each flu season.
I got an email from someone at FrugalDad (http://frugaldad.com) with a link to an infographic that very clearly lays out the costs of preventing/treating the flu. What stuck out to me was the pretty significant difference in cost between vaccination versus enduring a bout of the flu and all the costs that can come with it. Bottom line: vaccination not only saves you a lot of the physical agony that can come with suffering from the flu, but it can save you a lot of money as well.
I am not the most tech-savvy individual in the world (most of my close friends know this all too well) but I know enough to know how to handle the Internet, especially when it comes to privacy. Rarely do I sign up for anything, and if I am forced to, I use one of several “junk” email addresses. I generally never use my personal email address or school email addresses. This is pretty standard practice nowadays.
Back in December, I woke up to a deluge of emails. A deluge of emails is not exactly unusual for many of us, and generally is never a problem for me. The problem was that these emails all had one thing in common: they were all from online education sites in response to supposed requests I made regarding a variety of academic programs and degrees. All the emails were directed to one of my school email addresses.
For those of you who don’t know, I have a bachelors and two masters degrees. Given the amount of student loan debt I have been tackling, if I was going to further my education, it would not be now but sometime in the future. It seems inconceivable that, if I were to consider going the online education route, I would use my school email address to request information. I also have anti-virus/anti-spyware/anti-malware software installed.
Not only did I receive probably no less than 100 emails over the next month, but received calls on my cell phone from many, if not all of the institutions from whom I had received an email. Rather than passively mark them as spam, I decided to contact them. Only after responding to each and every call, and requesting each caller to take me off of their calling list, did I see a decrease in the communication I was receiving. Now I receive maybe one or two every few days, and all get automatically relegated to my spam folder.
I thought that was the end of it.
Boy was I wrong.
This morning, I woke up to another deluge of emails. No, these weren’t from online universities, but insurance companies. Each was emailing me in response to an auto insurance quote request that I supposedly made…again using my school email address. Apparently I am not alone. After Googling the issue, I found that many people have been similarly inundated with unsolicited emails from insurance companies. After a local agent contacted me in response to my supposed quote request, I sent him an email and got the following:
I went to NetQuote’s website. It’s a company that apparently sells insurance leads. Thanks to a nifty little extension called Web of Trust (WOT), got this warning as soon as I landed on their homepage:
Frankly, given their reputation, I was hesitant about emailing them, didn’t want that information somehow stored and used by their system. However, I called the 800 number and a very helpful representative did look into my situation. I wasn’t listed as a consumer, but the quote request ID did show up in their system. Someone did make a request using my information. The rep thought that it would have been because I filled out a survey or requested a gift card online, something that would require my email and other contact information (I’ve never done anything of the sort). They assured me that emails would be sent to the insurance agents to not contact me. While I’m glad that they did help me, something is still clearly not adding up. So I’m telling my story here, the only way I know to try to publicize the issue.
I feel violated and worried. As careful as I am, these things are still happening to me. Sure, insurance and online universities are not exactly dangerous entities in their own right. Yet if someone can use my private email and make my cell phone number readily available to entities with whom I have no connection, what else can they potentially do? I have checked all of the more important things (bank account, credit report, etc.) and there doesn’t seem to be anything amiss. Nonetheless, I want something to be done. This is a blatant invasion of privacy for personal gain, and they are really picking on the wrong person.
I know I am not alone, so I’m requesting anyone who has had similar problems or know anyone who has to share and retweet this post as much as possible. The Internet has ballooned into a vast and complicated entity. While that has provided innumerable benefits, the expansion has also driven the rise of people whose sole goal is to take advantage of others for the sake of making money or other purposes, many of them illicit.
If you have received similar emails, rather than ignore them or mark them as “spam”, dig deeper. Find out who gave out this information and contact them. If they don’t help, look up their profile on the Better Business Bureau or other similar regulatory agency’s database. File a complaint, describe your story, make sure your voice is heard. That is the only way they will learn that we will not stand by quietly and allow them to invade our lives and our privacy.
I first heard about Project Remix last year–or at least the collection of nascent ideas that would eventually become Remix–from one of the creators, who is also a good friend of mine. I was immediately sold on the idea, which was to create a site that provided resources and information to Desi (South-Asian) youth. A site created by the Indian youth for the Indian youth.
The official site launched recently, though it had already started generating buzz among our peers when it had made its first foray into the collective consciousness. Currently there are sections for cuts, cultural media, and articles. The cuts feature mixes used by various student groups and collegiate dance teams (bhangra, raas, Indian fusion, etc.) from across the country. Cultural media highlights video performances from various collegiate groups. The articles on Project Remix have been broken down into smaller categories and initiatives, devoted to everything from the arts to sports (currently I’m contributing to Team Innovate’s Neurobio series so be sure to check that out!). Examples of articles currently up on the website include my neurobio piece (an overview of neuroscience), a two-part series on biofuels, a review of Slumdog Millionaire, and a piece recounting a trip to Chennai to volunteer.
Project Remix is seeking new, fresh voices that can contribute to the site in any capacity. If you are a writer or blogger who is interested in appearing on the website, you can email projectremixny at gmail dot com. For any other questions, you can also send an email to the aforementioned address. The website is http://www.projectremix.org.
In addition, you can follow Project Remix on Twitter @ProjectRemix for updates.
To set the stage, I work for (insert cool computer company) in Chennai (South India). Here’s what has happened so far since the recession started:
1. ‘NO HIKE THIS YEAR’ was the circular [memo] that we got last December at (insert cool computer company). I was in for a nice hike as I got the top rating for my performance. (hike=pay raise)
2. Second circular during the month of Feb. (aforementioned cool company) had an excellent quarter despite the global economic slowdown. Still, they went ahead announcing that we would have to forgo 5% of our dear cost-to-company. They even said that it’s better to lose 5% than losing the job!
3. Third one is the harshest for me..I was in for a promotion, and I was told that I cannot be promoted since promotion attracts a certain percentage of PAY HIKE, and that it is against the current (cool computer company) policy of no hike and 5% pay cut!
4. I bought a house last year, and I made the mistake of approaching a private bank for the loan. The builder had a nice deal with the bank, and I was the bakra [scapegoat] there! Result: when most public sector banks have slashed the interest rates, this private bank is just too adamant scourging me (and others in the middle class) with high interest rates.
So to summarize: no pay hikes, a 5% pay cut, no promotion (because of the lack of pay hike and 5% pay cut) and soaring interest rates being peddled by private banks. India may be growing economically in some aspects, but we’re suffering just like everyone else in most aspects.
Well, all these add up to just one thing.. recession-proof yourself. Try to earn as much money you can so that you can spend happily during tough times like these.
Naren is a blogger and a blog consultant. He is fairly experienced with WordPress blogs, set up, customize open designs, SEO and ideas on blogging. He would be happy to help you on your blog quests Feel free to visit his blog at http://www.ubiquitense.com/
There Really Is No Business Like Show Business
The time: January 2009
The place: Broadway
The event: A total of 14 productions (including three long-running Best Musical Tony winners, two shows with multiple Tony wins, three musicals by Tony-winning writers and/or directors, a high-profile revival of a play with Hollywood stars, the last original play by a recently departed playwright, two limited engagement holiday shows, one Chinese spectacle, and the triumphant return of Liza Minnelli) closed.
It’s Steven here from Penguins and Procrastination. Last summer, I worked at a well-respected, professional (or for those in the know, Equity) theatre upstate New York. In the lineup of shows were four popular musicals that can be brought up in everyday conversation. However, even with loyal patrons and repeat subscribers, the theatre had trouble filling the seats. With $4.00 gas prices and the urge to save money, regular theatergoers were not willing to make their annual trips to their favorite regional theatre or stay for the after-show cabarets. Similar situations have been seen across the nation, causing many regional theatres to shut their doors or be in danger of doing so.
These instances may be a serious wake-up call for any aspiring theatre professional, such as the one writing this blog post. And it is. The nation’s economic crisis has affected all industries, and it is no secret that Broadway and the theatre in general have been hit hard. What does this mean for someone like me who is taking his first steps into that elusive field called show business? A few things come to mind, and not all of them are scary.
In the midst of all the drama surrounding the economic state, I have found that New York City is never at a loss for theatre opportunities and auditions, and those auditions are teeming with talent. The theatre scene is just as competitive as ever. This is a good thing. Competition is a healthy aspect of show business. The quality of talent is not necessarily diminishing with the gloomy economy. Standards of talent have not decreased, which means that from an artistic point of view, the theatre continues to thrive.
It is a fact that in this economy, people still make a living by working in the theatre. It may true that actors have to accept gigs that pay less than they’re used to, but to be working in a show means a steady paycheck for the duration of that contract. Out-of-state theatre gigs and tours help people save money since they don’t have to worry about paying rent for however long the contract is (as long as they sublet their apartment or any similar alternative). Also, many theatre people have other jobs to help pay the bills. These jobs are flexible and don’t go out of style, whether it is working at a restaurant or offering services such as photography, web design, or music or dance expertise to fellow actors. Let’s be honest: someone working in the theatre probably knows what it’s like to have a smaller salary than someone working in corporate America, so a year of slightly less pay is manageable.
If the economy has scared anyone out of a career in show business, it hasn’t ended the life of the business itself. In fact, Broadway has adapted to the economic climate. Sure, intimate or experimental musicals such as 13, [title of show], and most recently The Story of My Life have all failed on the Great White Way, but there are only four empty houses on Broadway currently (that’s a low number of empty Broadway theatres). The focus of shows playing on Broadway has shifted to uplifting tales during economic hardship (like Mary Poppins, In the Heights, and the brilliant Billy Elliot) or family-friendly crowd pleasers (The Little Mermaid and Shrek). I realize that four of the five shows I just mentioned are based on movies, but this is a way the theatre has redefined itself to stay afloat. If this is not Broadway’s proudest trend, at least it has kept itself alive. (More screen-to-stage Broadway transfers coming up: Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5 and the U2/Julie Taymor Spider-Man musical, with Sister Act, The First Wives Club, Ghost, The Addams Family, Catch Me If You Can, and Slumdog Millionaire in the works.) This isn’t the first time a gimmick put Broadway back on its feet. In the aftermath of 9/11, jukebox musicals helped bring people back to the theatre. One of the original jukebox musicals, Mamma Mia!, is still playing worldwide and was turned into one of the most successful movie musicals ever.
The times reflect and reshape every medium within the entertainment industry. The requirements of a theatre professional are always changing, economic crisis or not. Of course, it is wise to be a bit more conscious about money right now, but the theatre is far from dead. I’m currently working at a dinner theatre in Florida with actors who are happy to be employed and audiences who relish a good night at the theatre. I’m also returning to that suffering theatre I worked at last summer for one of their biggest seasons yet in terms of the caliber of their lineup of musicals. The economy has claimed some victims in the theatre world, but this is all part of the natural evolution of theatre itself. Broadway will survive, the theatre will prevail, and the show must go on.
Steven holds a BFA in Musical Theatre from Emerson College. Originally from Long Island, he is currently performing in Thoroughly Modern Millie at the Show Palace Dinner Theatre in Hudson, FL. He urges everyone to support the performing arts in any way possible, especially in schools. Check out his blog, Penguins and Procrastination.
The other day, while watching the evening news (something I try to avoid these days), I saw a sobering statistic – that unemployment in California is now in double digits. I instantly burst into tears.
I have a job I hate. And thanks to the sucky economy, I can’t quit.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful for my paycheck. Two of my good friends, who used to be my managers and mentors when I worked for an enterprise-software company, were both let go within weeks of each other. They have mortgages and kids and spouses and tuition to worry about. I only have myself.
But that doesn’t change the fact that I can’t sleep at night or that my stomach is continually upset.
I really, really, really want to quit. And I can’t. Unless I’m willing to cash out my (quickly shrinking) 401(k) and hope I find a job before it runs out. Or unless I’m willing to put everything I own in storage and just live in my car until I find a new job. I’ve been sufficiently aggrieved to seriously consider both options.
My personal recession actually started 4 1/2 years ago, when the company I worked for was acquired, and I took the severance package. This big chunk of change represented a second chance to pursue the dream that originally brought me to Hollywood in the first place. You see, I’ve always dreamed of being an actor. And most actors live in a constant state of recession while they go on pointless audition after pointless audition, hoping for that one big break. Meanwhile, the endless, exhausting stream of going-nowhere activity makes it all but impossible to hold a steady, well-paying job. It’s literally Hollywood or bust.
After my severance pay and unemployment ran out, I started working as a contract freelance writer, making half of my corporate salary and paying twice as much in taxes. I compensated with credit cards. I charged my rent. I charged my food. I charged my acting classes. By the time I finally accepted that Spielberg wasn’t calling, I was $69,000 in debt. It was time to go back to work, and I took the first job smoking: a position as a marketing communications manager with one of the companies I freelanced for.
It was a nightmare from the start. Nearly the entire management team turned over, and the people who brought me in quickly left. The new regime pigeon-holed me into a role so limited, I felt like a bottom-of-the-org-chart peon.
No problem. I’d just keep looking. And in a few months, I’d be on to something more challenging and fulfilling.
I didn’t count on the global recession. It came early to Los Angeles, thanks to the Writers’ Strike. In October 2007, there were lots of jobs to apply to. In November, when TV production halted overnight, jobs were instantly hard to come by, even in fields unrelated to the entertainment industry. The housing bust, which brought down Southern California-based companies like Countrywide, simply made a bad situation worse.
Eighteen months after I started the sucky job from hell, I’ve only had three interviews and no job offers.
Am I discouraged? You bet I am.
Anita is a take-charge marketer with 10 years’ experience in the technology sector. She lives in Los Angeles and holds a B.A. from Yale University. Check out her resume and portfolio.