Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Summer is Nearly Upon Us – Please – No Visible Panty Line with White Pants!

Summer is Nearly Upon Us – Please – No Visible Panty Line with White Pants!

Few things ruin an outfit more flamboyantly than a visible panty line (“VPL”). This is not solely an issue for women. Some of the most flagrant offenders are men wearing colored or patterned boxers with light colored summer trousers or shorts. Take my word for it – this is not a chick magnet.  Really, red boxers under yellow shorts look more unfortunate than one could ever describe!

Offenders of the female persuasion apparently forget to look in that full-length mirror that should be mounted on the closet door before leaving the privacy of the boudoir.  Reasons for the VPL include pants that don’t fit correctly, the wrong style of under garments and inappropriate color.

The best solution for all is a thong in a color closest to one’s skin-tone. I know, some of you think a thong is either uncomfortable, only for the young or unseemly in some other way. But really, if you aren’t willing to try it, I am begging you to reconsider the wisdom of wearing white linen pants. Commando is NOT an option for white linen pants.  For comfort I recommend buying a size larger than your normal panty size, although both Soma and Victoria’s Secret offer several comfortable, no-show styles.

And while I am on my soapbox about under-garments, I am pleading with those of you who prefer to eschew undergarments to resist trying on trousers in retail establishments. I’ve had the unfortunate experience to accompany such a shopper who thought nothing of soiling garments they did not purchase and thought I was hyper critical for mentioning that civilization requires certain courtesies – such as wearing panties to try on pants! Whew! So relieved to have that off my chest!

So let’s recap – select appropriate underwear. Look in the mirror before heading out the door to ensure there is no VPL. And please, do not try on trousers in a store if you are going commando. Really, be considerate.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Master of the Game – Watching an Old Pro Lead the Dance at Mediation

Master of the Game – Watching an Old Pro Lead the Dance at Mediation

I’ve worked in the insurance industry for more than 30 years and have developed certain advanced skills at the art of mediation. But today I had the privilege of watching a master of the game bring a day of negotiations to the conclusion we’d had little expectation of achieving. It was a long, tedious battle involving strategic planning, intestinal fortitude, knowing how the deck was stacked, exploiting relationships and patience.  This is not a game or the faint of heart.

Because of confidentiality agreements and discretion, I will not disclose the names of any participants; however, I will state that the negotiators involved are all tough, experienced veterans of high stakes games. And I call it a game because mediation is similar to a chess match or a game of poker.  Which piece do I move and where do I move it? Do I reveal my cards or hold them close to the chest? It is critical to know when to hold them and know when to fold them.

Today the cards were stacked in our favor. But, that is not always the deciding factor in a negotiation. There is a lot of nuance involved in a negotiation process. Today I learned a lot about the significance of long-term relationships and leveraging credibility. The participants in this mediation were all smart, well- prepared, ethical, legally astute individuals with the ability to separate the wheat from the chaff. The case involved allegations of malpractice by litigators. It happens because professionals have bad days or weeks or months or years. We all make mistakes. But sometimes those mistakes cost others a lot of money. In this case, two insurance companies paid a lot of money because of adverse rulings that the insurers believed resulted from the failure of the law firm to act with a reasonable standard of care.

After hours of failing to engage in any meaningful negotiations, the mediator brought the two adversarial chief negotiators together, individuals with a relationship spanning 20 years. They met in a conference room, set forth their positions, the pros and cons, and weighed the evidence. The master had the upper hand and played it beautifully. The parties retreated to their conference rooms. We waited. And waited. And ultimately, an agreement was reached. It was masterful to watch.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Book Review: “Explosive Eighteen” by Janet Evanovich

Book Review: “Explosive Eighteen” by Janet Evanovich

I love Stephanie Plum, the Jersey girl from the Berg who works as a bail bonds enforcer for her cousin Vinnie, and her coterie of eccentric friends, family members and FTAs (Failed To Appear).  Of the 18 books in the series, I’ve loved 16 of them. Both 16 and 17 seemed a bit stale to me and I hesitated about buying Explosive 18; but I’m glad I did.  

While Explosive Eighteen may not be as fabulous as the earlier adventures, this book still made me laugh out loud.  I am bit bored by Stephanie’s indecision with regard to the two men in her life, Joe Morelli the sizzling cop and Ranger the mystery man who wears all black.  I mean really, pick one and move on.  But despite the retread plotlines, Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series remains engaging. I enjoy the familiar characters that have come to feel like family- Grandma Mazur and her fascination with funeral home viewings, Lula the former ho’  with a passion for “Cluck in a Bucket” and donuts who accompanies Stephanie as she tries to capture the elusive and bizarre FTAs, and the ever faithful hamster, Rex.

In this episode, Stephanie has returned from a less than romantic vacation in Hawaii with an envelope that makes her the target of a couple of fake FBI agents, a terrorist, a grieving hairstylist and the real FBI.  As always, the story is improbable and the situations contrived with Stephanie and Lula botching attempts to bring in the crazy FTAs all while trying to avoid capture or worse by the bad guys in madcap ways that are reminiscent of movies from the Golden Age or an I Love Lucy episode.  I enjoyed the book.  It is funny. And despite my comments about the series, I know that I’ll be at the front of the line to buy the next installment because these are the only books that routinely cause me to laugh out loud. And that is priceless!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Movie Review: “Django Unchained”

Movie Review: “Django Unchained”

It was not until I saw “Inglourious Basterds” that I came to appreciate Quentin Tarantino. I did not like  “Pulp Fiction” or “Kill Bill”. “Reservoir Dogs” held no interest for me.  I still have difficulty understanding why some individuals, generally men, will watch “Pulp Fiction” over and over and over. But “Inglourious Basterds” got my attention.  I loved it. And I loved the tour de force performance of Christoph Waltz.  So, when I saw that the incomparable Herr Waltz would be in the cast of “Django Unchained” I knew I would have to see it.

Part of the fascination with “Django Unchained” was, of course, the controversy. The Hollywood moguls decided it was “insensitive” to release such a violent movie shortly after the unfortunate events in Connecticut. It is filled with violence. There is a lot of violence.  Some of it is horrifying. But, some of the violence is enormously entertaining.

Once again, Christoph Waltz gave an engaging performance. This outing he portrayed Dr. King Schultz,  a  German bounty hunter that travels with a wagon topped by a delightful huge tooth on a spring. Schultz comes upon the slave Django, interpreted by the wonderful Jamie Foxx, and liberates Django to help him identify some outlaws worth a huge bounty in 1858.  After spending some quality time together, Schultz agrees to assist Django in locating his wife, Broomhilda, a German-speaking slave who is now under the control of the brutal Calvin Candie, a plantation owner in Mississippi who is evil personified. It is the scenes with Candie (whose plantation is called….Candyland), played with oily, disturbing disregard of human life by Leonardo Di Caprio, that are the most disturbing.

“Django Unchained” is a unique film that could only have been filmed by Tarantino. It is an ode to spaghetti westerns, a morality tale that portrays the unconscionable cruelty of slavery, a comedy, and a triumph of good over evil. It is bloody. It is disturbing. There were a few scenes where I had to cover my eyes. But it is engaging and funny. It is over-the-top. I loved it and truly believe it was one of the best movies of 2012. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Office Politics – Unavoidable in Any Workplace

Office Politics – Unavoidable in Any Workplace

My employer engaged an outside vendor to present a course in dealing with office politics. I participated in the first module of the webinar this afternoon.
While much of the information conveyed in the training is familiar, what is most astonishing is the fact the corporate world is embracing such seminars.  And the way the course is presented is interactive. Even for one who has been navigating or attempting to navigate the corporate environment both successfully and less successfully over the course of a 25 year career, the initial module has been helpful in identifying how my perceptions and attitudes have changed.

I attribute much of my conversion in attitude and approach to activities outside the workplace, which have transformed my view of life.  Additionally, as a seasoned veteran of workplace machinations, I’ve learned through trial and error that certain approaches are adverse to my overall contentment and ability to attain my number one career goal, which is to be gainfully employed until I am ready not to be.  I’ve learned discretion and a certain amount of political savvy – when to keep quiet, how to adjust to changes, just enough to keep myself at the top of my game, appreciated, noticed, respected.

Many employees leave perfectly good jobs with the explanation that they hated the office politics. They change jobs with impunity with the misguided belief that the next place will be better, cleaner, more transparent, less political, and that one’s work will be recognized for its brilliance and just speak for itself. But that isn’t reality. It is necessary to engage in the process to thrive.  The best approach is to accept that it is everywhere and learn how to navigate the waters.  I, for one, am grateful that my employer values me enough to teach me the tools to not just survive but thrive within the system. Apparently, I’ve exhibited enough political awareness to merit some additional honing of my skills. Since you can’t avoid the game, embrace it!