World’s Largest Office Party

Programming Palindromes

Trenton Computer Fest: Now in Edison

African American Media

Safety for Santa:

NJ KidCare

Stressed Parents?

Beyond Tenant-Landlord Disputes

Clearing Your

Dry or Wet Parties?

Corrections or additions?

Eggnog Networking

These articles by Barbara Fox and Teena Chandy were published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on December 16, 1998. All rights reserved.

Many of this month's holiday parties are official networking events, but here's how jobhunters can turn any festivity into a networking event without having people think you are a boor. Sheree Butterfield, an account manager in the Forrestal Village office of Drake Beam Morin, suggests that you find out ahead of time who will be at the party, so as to target specific people you want to meet.

Say nothing unpleasant about your former employer. No bitterness, anger, or accusations -- they will do you more harm than good.

Try early in the conversation to draw out other people about what they do for a living, the first step to evaluating whether they can be useful members of your network.

Be interested in non-work subjects as well -- shared friends, interests, schools etc. "This is the stuff of solid connections and is usually excellent as an icebreaker when you call them at work.

Don't hand out resumes. Get a business card and ask if you can call during business hours.

Keep the actual work inquiry short, unless someone is questioning you and is truly engaged.

Get around the room before you spend much time with one person. "Quickly, amicably, and efficiently turn over every stone and move on."

Don't hide the fact that you are actively looking for a job.

Don't forget it's a party. "Desperate is not attractive."

"The key to networking at social events," says Butterfield, "is to understand that finding social connections is just as important as finding professional ones. If you remember that, no one will mind if you talk a little business."

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World's Largest Office Party

The Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital will benefit from the World's Largest Office Party that will be held at the Hyatt Regency, New Brunswick on Wednesday, December 16 at 5 p.m. Admission: $10. For more information call 732-873-1234, extension 6656.

New Brunswick celebrities will be joined by Keith Van Horn and Kerry Kittles of the New Jersey Nets and WABC-TV personality Joe Nolan in a friendly celebrity bartender "tip competition." The Hyatt is offering a special rate of $79 per room for attendees, besides door prizes, a trip to London, and complimentary parking.

The 70-bed Children's Hospital at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, a part of the UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School offers more than 45 pediatric specialities and subspecialties. A new Children's Hospital building that will combine the hospital's six existing pediatric and adolescent units into a single, state-of-the-art facility is under construction.

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Programming Palindromes

A sonnet can be considered a "constrained" poem because it is required to adhere to a particular rhyming scheme. Even more constrained are poems written to algorithmic rules, as with a palindrome -- a word or sentence or number that reads the same backward as forward (deed or 1991, for example). Mike Keith, who formerly worked at the Sarnoff Corporation, will discuss how to experiment in new art forms on Thursday, December 17, at 8 p.m. at the Sarnoff center.

Keith's topic for the Princeton ACM/IEEE-CS chapter meeting is "Algorithms, Computers, and the Art of Constrained Poetry and Prose." The meeting is free; students with their parents are welcome, and refreshments will be served. For information on the meeting or reservations for the pre-meeting dinner at the Rusty Scupper at 6 p.m., call 609-924-8704.

Keith, an electrical engineer from New Jersey Institute of Technology, Class of 1977, has a master's from Stanford. After a stint at Bell Labs he spent the 1980s at Sarnoff on the team that developed the first PC multimedia hardware and software (DVI technology). When Intel bought DVI he joined Intel Corp., but left that company in the spring of this year to be a freelance writer, mathematician, and consultant on software and intellectual property issues.

Writing according to algorithmic rules, says Keith, has been popular since Greek and Roman days, but today's composers of poetry and prose can tap a variety of exciting tools, ranging from lexicographic tools on the Web, to various PC programs, to special-purpose computers. He will survey the field and provide examples useful to engineers, writers, and those who qualify for both categories.

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Trenton Computer Fest: Now in Edison

No more will you need to ride a shuttle bus to get to the Trenton Computer Festival. The 1999 show has been moved from Mercer County College (which required parking at the adjacent county park, necessitating the shuttle) to the New Jersey Convention Center in Edison. The date has also changed, to the first weekend in May, Saturday and Sunday, May 1 and 2.

Scheduling the show at the college and the park had been an aggravation to the computer show organizers ever since the show outgrew the College of New Jersey (Trenton State) and moved to Mercer County College. Created in 1976 by the Amateur Computer Group of New Jersey together with Trenton State, the show is known as the oldest and largest show for personal computer users. As a non-profit educational corporation, it benefits the various computer clubs that help out with the speaker program, special events, program, and banquet.

Also new is a professional organizer to handle the nitty gritty details. A Kendall Park-based business, KGP Productions LLC, is managing the show this year -- with plenty of volunteer help, nevertheless, from the various computer clubs. Founded in 1980 by Keith Gordon, KGP Productions runs computer shows on the east coast nearly every weekend (http://www.pcshow.com).

To apply for exhibit or fleamarket space (500 and 1,000 spaces available, respectively), contact Marin Light at marinlight@earthlink.net or 800-631-0062 or go to the website created by Sol Libes, co-founder of the festival, at http://www.tcf-nj.org. Parking will be free.

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African American Media

Twin Visions, an African American publication based in Newark and the Coalition of Colored People Publications (CcpP) is hosting a presentation, "African American Advancement in Media/Publications," on Thursday, December 17, at 6 p.m. at the Gateway Hilton, Newark. Dorothy Leavell, president of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) will discuss the issues minority owned publications face and their effects on the African American community. Contact Howard Scott at 973-642-2888 for more information.

Publisher and editor of two midwest newspapers, the Chicago and Gary Crusaders, Leavell leads a fierce campaign for a fair share of advertising dollars for the African American press. In 1997, says Leavell, advertising budgets were in the millions for several government agencies such as the Postal Service ($168 million), the U.S. Army ($83 million) and Amtrak ($33 million).

However, Leavell says, African American newspapers have been virtually excluded from this and fights to end this discriminatory trade practice. Currently she is taking on the Office of National Drug Control Policy, which launched a $195 million Nation Youth Anti-Drug Campaign exclusively in the white media. NNPA, an association with over 200 member newspapers, founded in 1940, is based in Washington.

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Safety for Santa: Check Those Toys

Teething rings were in the news this month when those made with phthalates were recalled. A report issued by the New Jersey Public Interest Group (NJPIRG) focussed on the growing hazards of toys containing the toxic chemicals known as phthalates that are added to make certain plastic toys softer. These toys are banned in several European countries; exposure to phthalates is considered especially harmful for children under three.

Another worrisome report came from the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), which reported 13 toy-related deaths that occurred nationally in 1997. The victims ranged in age from five months to six years. Choking on small toy parts, balloons, and small balls was reported in 11 of the toy-related deaths.

NJPIRG, CPSC, and the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs are issuing toy-purchase warnings. "Making this holiday season safe for children means starting with safe toys," says Peter Verniero, state attorney general. "Parents should screen all toys before making a purchase. All toys children receive as gifts should also be carefully examined."

Read the age and safety labels on every toy before buying. These labels tell parents if the toy is safe for their child. Keep in mind, safety has nothing to do with a child's cognitive ability. Simply, toys that are suitable for older kids are unsafe for younger children.

Check all toys for sturdy construction before making a purchase. Make sure small parts will not break off.

Avoid toys with sharp edges and those that can be shot or propelled.

Avoid items that small children can choke on such as balloons, and balls, blocks and toy parts that are smaller than 1.75 inches in diameter.

Avoid toys that make loud or shrill noises that can damage a child's hearing.

Get a free copy of the state's toy safety tips by calling 800-242-5846. Another useful hotline, sponsored by CPSC, is 800-638-2772 (http://www.cpsc.gov). Or call NJPIRG, a non-profit, non-partisan statewide environmental and consumer watchdog group, at 732-932-3281 for a copy of the 20 most potentially hazardous toys.

Other websites that offer valuable information about toy safety:

http://www.familysafety.atla.org, the Association of Trial Lawyers of America.

http://www.swartzlaw.com, World Against Toys Causing Harm (W.A.T.C.H.).

http://www.safekids.org at National SAFE KIDS Campaign.

In this year's "Trouble in Toyland" report, PIRG lists 20 dangerous toys discovered during a survey of toy stores conducted nationwide and pays special attention to the federal Child Safety Protection Act, which requires toy manufacturers to explicitly label toys that present choking hazards. It also requires that warning labels be clear, noticeable, and placed on the portion of the package most visible from a store shelf.

These toys on the NJPIRG "20 worst" list have small parts and could cause children to choke: Equity Toys' "Babe the Pig and Friends Bedtime Babe," Fisher Toys' Free Wheeling Construct Team, balloons marked "Baby's First Birthday," Playskool's Talking Pay Phone with plastic coins, "Movie Star Gold Jewelry" sold at Toys-R-Us, and a "Floating Eyeball" sold at Zany Brainy.

"After balloons, small balls are the second leading choking hazard," says Rachel Heller, consumer coordinator for NJPIRG. "While most manufacturers should be commended for complying with the new law, parents should not assume that all toys on the store shelves this holiday season are safe or adequately labeled."

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NJ KidCare

The state has announced a new program, NJ KidCare, to help meet the health care needs of children in New Jersey who do not have health insurance coverage. A comprehensive package of health care services that include well child and other preventive services, hospitalization, physician care, lab and x-ray services, prescription drugs, mental health services, as well as dental, vision, and hearing services will be provided through health maintenance organizations (HMOs).

Children 18 years of age and under, who have not been insured for a period of 12 months or more, may be eligible. Eligibility is based on family size and income. Premiums and co-payments, depending on the family's income will have to be paid by some families. For more information or to receive an application call 800-701-0710.

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Stressed Parents? Call the Family Helpline

Governor Christie Whitman, who knows a little something about raising children, has issued tips to parents for the holidays, tips she presumably either helped write or edit.

Do something physical as a family as an outlet for pent-up feelings of frustration. Take your children out for a walk or play in the snow.

Vent frustrations privately. Go to another room and close the door when you need to scream or cry.

Take advantage of free community events and attend as a family. (Check the Preview section of this newspaper for ideas).

When all else fails, call the Family Helpline (800-THE-KIDS) to talk to someone without revealing your identity. These and other tips will be in a pamphlet that must be distributed, thanks to a new law, to each parent of a newborn child in the hospital. The material is to be prepared by the Department of Human Services in consultation with the Department of Health and Senior Services. "This resource for parents," says Whitman, "will help them understand exactly what can constitute child abuse or neglect, as well as offer tips for preventing a tragedy in their home.

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Beyond Tenant-Landlord Disputes

Last week in the Between the Lines column we told the story about why U.S. 1 Newspaper does not normally cover controversies that fall in to the category of "tenant-landlord disputes." We gave the number to call for the State Division of Consumer Affairs (609-757-2840 or 201-504-6200), which can investigate and prosecute patterns of consumer fraud.

Here is another number: 609-278-1652. It is the new hotline run by Consumers for Civil Justice, a coalition of citizens and organizations based at 108 West State Street in Trenton.

The CCJ hotline can help solve consumer problems concerning dangerous products, environmental pollution, toxic hazards, car insurance, health coverage and malpractice, women's issues, and workers' rights.

"The hotline is basically a one-stop shop for all of your consumer problems," says Peter P. Guzzo, CCJ's executive director. "Once consumers explain to CCJ what their problem is, CCJ will put them in contact with the correct organization or state agency that can solve their problem. Our goal is to be clearinghouse for all consumer problems in the state."

"We have 15 organizations on our board, and 26 more are represented on committees. They bring their own stories to the table," says Guzzo. Among the member coalitions are Mothers Against Drunk Driving, groups for health and allied health professionals, groups that represent state colleges and Rutgers University faculty members, American Association of Retired Persons, and the Fraternal Order of Police.

One of CCJ's high profile fights was protecting the rights of victims (such as from asbestos or AIDs-tainted blood) to sue. Guzzo says CCJ is not connected with any industry, and it accepts contributions from both individuals and organizations: "We are a very low budget organization, and we mostly have in-kind contributions," he says. The Civil Justice Foundation donated $10,000 to start the hotline.

Most problems, he says, can be easily solved with a quick phone call, but some people have problems with no cure. CCJ hopes to bring those problems to the attention of the legislature so that bills could be based to change some of the current laws that CCJ feels are unfair. "We are not a political action group, but we do lobby to try to influence policy makers," says Guzzo. "We bring the victims to the legislators. We don't have a lot of money, but when you bring the victim, `that's power.'"

To reach Guzzo directly call 609-883-7481; fax, 609-883-1982. Home page: http://www.njccj.org.

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Clearing Your Criminal Record

If you have a criminal record that haunts you each time you fill out an application for a job or school, here is good news. New Jersey law provides a limited right for persons with one or very few convictions to clear their record and start afresh.

"Clearing Your Record -- A Six Step Guide to Expunging Criminal Records in New Jersey," written and published by Legal Services of New Jersey (LSNJ), provides basic information about how to clear, or "expunge," a record of arrest or conviction. To obtain a copy, write to LSNJ at 100 Metroplex Drive, Suite 402, Edison 08818-1357, or call 732-572-9100. It costs $15 including postage and handling.

"Since lawyers are rarely essential for getting a record cleared, Legal Services offices with the resources to serve only one in four clients seeking help, usually cannot provide representation in such cases," says Melville D. Miller Jr., LSNJ president. "This handbook is one of several LSNJ publications intended to help our clients help themselves."

Contrary to what many people believe, a record of an arrest can hurt as much as a conviction. It is as important to clear an arrest record as the record of a conviction.

An eligible person may file a "Petition for Expungement" in the Superior Court in the county where the arrest or prosecution took place. In six steps, the booklet tells you exactly what to do.

Step 1. Are You Eligible? When you file a "Petition for Expungement" you must not have any charges pending or otherwise still open.

To be eligible to expunge an indictable conviction (crime punishable by six months or more), you must wait at least 10 years from the conviction, payment of fine, completion of probation or parole, or release from jail, whichever is later. To expunge a disorderly persons conviction (crime punishable by less than six months), you must wait five years. The statute allows for up to three disorderly persons convictions to be expunged. To expunge a conviction for a violation of a municipal ordinance the waiting period is two years.

Motor vehicle convictions may not be expunged. The reason for this is that they are not considered criminal offenses, by instead are violations of the Motor Vehicle Code. This includes driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Convictions which cannot be expunged include murder, kidnaping, aggravated sexual assault, robbery, arson and related offenses, perjury, false swearing, and conspiracies or attempts to commit such crimes.

Also, convictions for the sale, distribution, or possession of any controlled dangerous substance with intent to distribute (other than for less that 25 grams of marijuana or 5 grams or less of hashish) cannot be expunged. However, a person who was 21 or younger when convicted, may get special consideration for certain convictions.

If you were arrested for any offense but not convicted, you are eligible for an expungement at any time. However, if you were found not guilty by reason of completing a pretrial intervention program, you must wait six months. If you were found not guilty by reason of insanity, expungement is not permitted at all.

Step 2: Locate Your Records. To prove your eligibility, you will need the following information:

* The date of your arrest

* The statute(s) and the offense(s) for which you were arrested and convicted

* The original indictment, summons, or complaint number

* The date of the conviction or the date the charges were dismissed if you were found not guilty

* The specific punishment or other disposition

You can go to the Criminal Management Office in the county where the arrest or conviction occurred to locate your records. The booklet provides a list of county prosecutors' offices with addresses and phone numbers that will help you obtain this information.

Step 3: Complete the Forms. The "Petition of Expungement" states that you are requesting an "Order of Expungement" and states why you qualify. The booklet provides the forms and complete information on how to fill them up. The Superior Court judge assigned to your case will schedule a hearing between 35 and 60 days after receiving your petition.

Step 4: File and Serve the Forms. The booklet provides a list of the county offices where forms should be filed, along with telephone numbers. There is a filing fee of $52.50. The guide also provides the list of law enforcement officers to whom the forms should be served.

Step 5: Go to the Hearing. If an appearance is required, get to the court on your assigned hearing date at least 15 minutes early. The judge may ask you some questions and will decide whether to grant or deny you an expungement. If there is no opposition, the judge will, in most cases, grant you an "Order of Expungement."

Step 6: Use the "Order of Expungement". Immediately mail one copy of the "Order of Expungement," by certified mail, return request requested, to the superintendent of state police; the attorney general; county prosecutor; chief of police or other head of the department where the offense was committed or the arrest was made; chief of any other law enforcement agency of this state which participated in the arrest; the records division of any institution, if any, in which you were incarcerated; and the identification bureau in the county where the arrest was made, or where you were incarcerated

You are now entitled by law to answer any questions on job applications, school applications, credit applications, military service applications, and the like as if the arrest or conviction never occurred.

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Dry or Wet Parties?

Corporate holiday luncheons are replacing dinners, suggests Scott Sechrist, executive director of the Metro Employee Assistance Service, so as to de-emphasize the use of alcohol. Based at Campus Drive in University Square, MEAS is an employee counseling, assistance, and referral program. Sechrist also predicts there will be fewer `drinking' designed invitations, self-service bars, kegs, and punches in which alcohol content is not easily determined.

If you hold your party at a restaurant, limit the number of drinks employees can have for free by providing drink tickets.

For a free copy of holiday tips and non-alcoholic recipes, call 609-396-5877.


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