Animal Rights

Are animals people too? In the eyes of the law, the yeas may be gaining strongly over they nays. Certainly there are some cruelties toward animals that no civilized society can tolerate, regardless of species involved. But should you be able to leave the family fortune to your goldfish? The question was on the table in 2002, when Governor James McGreevey called for the creation of a volunteer Animal Welfare Task Force.

The 30-member group has focused on protective laws, enforcement, overpopulation, the shelter crisis – and, yes, even pet trusts. Hosted by the New Jersey State Bar Foundation, a representative panel makes public their results in "A discussion of the Animal Welfare Task Force Recommendations" on Wednesday, June 8, at 7 p.m. at the New Jersey Law Center in New Brunswick. Free. Call 732-937-7518 or visit www.NJBSF.com.

Sherry Ramsey, chair of the New Jersey Bar’s Animal Law Committee, moderates and panelists include attorney Lisa Weisberg; Stephen Finkel, assistant New Jersey attorney general; Gwyn Sondike of the Animal Welfare Office; Gordon Stull, veterinarian with Millennium Wildlife Services; and Judith Liberman, chair of the Animal Welfare Taskforce.

@lt:Humane treatment. "Basically, the animal protection laws we have are fine," says Ramsey. "The problem is getting the word around as to what they are." But for those who think that animal cruelty is a wrist-slapping misdemeanor, think again. In New Jersey animal abuse can be viewed as a Class 3 felony carrying fines of $15,000 and sentences of three to five years jail time.

Growing up in Staunton, Virginia, Ramsey attended Mary Baldwin College, graduating with a B.A. in communications in l979. After graduating from New York University Law School she served as assistant prosecutor for Monmouth County. Currently she runs her own practice, which specializes in animal rights and domestic violence law. "To give you a perspective on this issue," she says, "I have more work on the animal rights front than I alone can handle."

Hare apparent. As of July 10, 2001, you could endow all your earthly goods, or most of them anyway, to your pet rabbit, serpent, or cat. On that date New Jersey became only the 12th state allowing legal trusts to be established for domestic animals. It had not been an easy fight. Attorney Elenora L. Benz, a specialist in estates and family planning, had lobbied for a pet trust law since l998. A graduate of New Jersey’s College of Saint Elizabeth and New York University Law School, Benz’s Newtown practice had increasingly been asked about such bequests. It was only natural, Benz reasoned, that her clients’ loyal pets should be entitled to receive the caretaking benefits provided by a will. "New Jersey’s pet trust law is sensible and limited," Benz says. All trust money must go toward reasonable care and upkeep of the animal.

All the costs and items of care must be documented and the judges retain the right to set aside frivolous amounts. The greatest amount Benz has aver heard of being left to an animal is $100,000 for the care and feeding of a very beloved horse.

The idea of leaving money to one’s darling puppy is scarcely new. Previously the courts recognized funds left to a family pet, but the will’s wording was typically something like: "I leave my art collection to my friend John in the hopes that he will use the funds to look after little Fifi." Such bequests were totally unenforceable and just invited unscrupulous embezzling. Pet trusts, under the guidelines of the new law, are far more specific, but the pet owner still has to be careful.

Often, to keep the flow of cash coming his way, the caretaker would replace the original pet with an endless line of Fifis. Within a few years, the dear departed’s beloved Pekinese might mysteriously transform into a Malamute. "For this reason, I always tell my clients to implant tatoos or computer chips and take plenty of photos," says Benz.

No pets allowed. One of the most hard-fought animal and pet owners’ rights issues involves housing restrictions. Condo boards often issue detailed lists of the rights of those living in their building, and control everything from the size of flag permitted on patios to the type of flowers that can be grown on balconies. Frequently, all pets are banned from those patios and balconies – and from every other part of the complex as well.

But now owners are fighting back, and are being joined by tenants in apartment buildings and in senior housing. Residents are claiming that their pets are a necessary part of their emotional welfare. Recently HUD has stated that it will fund no housing or apartment complex that denies seniors the right to bring in pets, and replace them.

Overpopulation. No matter how generous the American spirit, it cannot keep up with the rate of domestic animal reproduction. This past year Americans adopted nearly 4 million pets from 4,000 pounds and kennels. The problem: more than 8 million were admitted.

In New Jersey strays generally end up in pounds, where animals are kept typically for only seven days before some decision is made, and into kennels, which serve as longer term facilities. Both serve as shelters and both are woefully overcrowded.

The only hope for a solution is to make pre-adoptive neutering a law, Ramsey says. Such a bill is now pending. A full account of this and other suggested legislation can be found in the November, 2004, report made to the governor at www.animalwelfaretaskforcereport.pdf

Existing laws view animals as chattel – that is, possessed goods worth only their bought price or market value. Running over a neighbor’s dog is judged the same as running over his lawn mower. But attorney Benz thinks change is coming, and credits the new pet trust law with helping it come about. "As long as animals can be named as beneficiaries in a legal will, it seems that they might have standing in the court for such cases as wrongful death suits, when, for example a vet commits malpractice," she says.

With gourmet pet bakeries and doggie day spas popping up in every affluent city and suburb, this idea begins to look anything but farfetched.

-Bart Jackson

Commercialize Your Invention

One fine spring day in l989 in Golden, Colorado, Susan Matthews led her child into their daycare center and noticed an odd assortment of pillows. She inquired about them, and learned that "Oh, that is a special arrangement of pillows we set up to aid nursing mothers." The light bulb clicked on. Quick with a needle, Matthews made a prototype of a single nursing pillow.

The next time you are in Babies R Us or any other infant store, take a look. Matthews’ Boppe pillows are bound to be there. They sell by the thousands, and Matthews" Camp Kazoo company has grossed $8 million in sales. The road from "ah ha!" moment to commercial success was relatively easy for Matthews, but that is not always the case. A host of pitfalls and unscrupulous schemers await any creative soul who has something new for the marketplace.

In hopes of mapping out this minefield and making the path from inventor to business person a bit smoother, Mercer County Community College offers its "Attention Inventors" seminar on Wednesday, June 8, at 6:30 p.m. Cost: $40. Call 609-586-9446. Veteran patent agent Mike Kahn instructs this workshop and assures that no student’s idea or invention needs be revealed. The course covers inventions both inside and independent of the workplace.

Rather than a passive paper handler, Khan is himself an inventor who holds many high tech patents and has several more pending. In the early 1980s, Khan attended Drexel University, graduating with a B.S. in electrical engineering. He then gained an engineering masters from the New Jersey Institute of Technology. After working for a variety of electronics firms, Khan finally found his niche with Panasonic, working to improve television screen display. Under that company’s aegis, his invention career began, and he found himself filing for patents.

"I became fascinated with the process of filing and soon I was called on to help my colleagues file for their patents," he says. Eventually, Khan took the U.S. Patent Office’s professional agents course, passed the test, and today helps new inventors follow in his footsteps. The only truly guaranteed method of protecting an invention is to lock it up in the basement. However, if you want to bring it to light of day and generate a little profit, it is best of be aware of the risks and available protections.

Anatomy of a scam. Rather kindly, Kahn refers to them as "less than scrupulous individuals." These are the rip-off artists who use the inventor’s dream to divest him of his money. The first flyer arrives innocently in the mail announcing "Attention Inventors! Send away today for your free invention kit." With officious professionalism the attached letter explains how the company will evaluate your invention, and if it is one of those rare few deemed worthy, it will assist you in taking it through the patent process.

The inventor replies and then receives his "kit," which asks for a modest sum for market research to see if the product holds value. Then, after praising the new combination potato peeler and sparkplug wrench as equivalent to the electric light, the company asks for a little more funding to do some patent research. Then some more cash is required to fill out the patent forms. Then more cash to file the forms. And so it goes.

Unfortunately, in almost every class, Khan encounters one inventor who has lost money – sometimes thousands of dollars to the this scheme.

Securing your dream. Probably the very best tool against having intellectual property stolen is to keep what Khan calls an inventor’s notebook. This journal should be initiated when the concept first comes into your mind. Accurate dating and specific details are necessary. If you can show a logical progression that led to your prototype on a given set of days, infringers will most likely settle in a hurry.

Secondly, advises Khan, search around a little. Check with manufacturers and retailers of like products. Search the U.S. Patent Office website (www.uspto.gov.) Better to shatter your belief in your creation’s originality early on.

The mighty patent. Obtaining a U.S. patent, or having one pending, protects your invention more like a noisy car alarm, rather than a growling doberman. A patent involves no enforcement against infringement. It merely acts as a judicial tool that you can employ once you have discovered an infringer and subpoenaed him into court.

The burden of proof remains on the inventor. But like the noisy car alarm, the patent does act as a deterrent, which will probably frighten away most of the potential thieves – in this nation, at least.

Filing for a patent can be done by the inventor alone. Khan likens the process to buying a fixer-upper home. If you are good with the kind of tools required, you can save yourself a bundle of time and money. The filing fee is $100, but there are many accompanying costs.

At this application stage Khan urges each inventor to have a working prototype. It helps gets the patent, provides a remarkably helpful selling tool, and the transformation from paper to tangible product, answers a lot of questions.

As a sheer matter of protection, you definitely want to at least have the patent pending before you take the invention and go shopping around. On the other hand, says Khan, remember that all patents are public record. Once you receive a patent, everybody can review your invention in full detail.

Getting help. Those seeking assistance in receiving a patent can choose either a patent attorney or a certified patent agent. Patent agents are professionally trained and tested individuals who know how to write the forms and push your application along. Usually much cheaper than a patent attorney, some agents can get the entire patent process accomplished within for $2,000 to $4,000 – even for highly technical devices. The Patent Office website, listed above, provides a full roster of registered patent attorneys and agents, geographically categorized.

Employees beware. You may think you discovered a four-in-one widget alone and everyone at the shop, including the CEO, may call it "yours," but if you invented it on your employer’s lab bench, odds are that you’ve got no claim. Usually your salary and the supplies provided by the employer are considered adequate remuneration to allow him ownership of any item created on his premises.

Those whose work involves creating new products – from software to electronics to greeting cards – probably signed such a forfeiture clause in their original work agreement. But be careful, some of these agreements can last for up to two years after you have parted with the company. Your inventive rights are bargaining chips and should be considered seriously when selecting an employer, and when drawing up a contract of employment.

Legend has it that the ancient Greek sculptor Pygmalion created a statue of such beauty that he fell in love with it. Anyone who has ever taken the product of their mind, united it with their hands, and brought it to fruition understands this tale. It is a dream you can touch. Taking that next step – moving your dream out into the marketplace – provides an equal, but far more dangerous, thrill. There is always the chance your invention will be the next Boppe pillow and that the wealth of Camp Kazoo lies just around the corner.

-Bart Jackson

Appreciating Depreciation

However grudgingly, the IRS does admit that time turns assets into losses. That new car, crane, or building you purchase is not eternal and will eventually wear out and require replacing. For that reason, building owners can claim the deduction of up to 2.5 percent of their real estate’s purchase price over the course of 39 years. But recently, old laws have been disinterred and depreciation has become a whole lot sweeter.

From the manufacturer with a multi-million dollar plant, right down to the 10-person PR firm operating from a 1,000-square-foot office condo, physical property remains one of the most complex tax issues. Owners who want to make sure that they are getting the maximum deduction can pick up information at "Getting More Value Out of Your Real Estate," a talk taking place on Thursday, June 9, at 5:30 p.m. at the Hilton in Woodbridge. Cost: $55. Visit www.ICREW.org or call 973-622-3545.

Sponsored by the Industrial Commercial Real Estate Women of New Jersey, this seminar’s speakers are Sefi Silverstein, a CPA with East Brunswick accounting firm Wiltkin & Guttenplan, and Jeffery Bernstein, partner with J.H. Cohn’s Roseland office.

For companies holding in excess of $2 million in real property, Bernstein offers a substantial and often overlooked depreciation angle: cost segregation.

"It does definitely represent a very substantial tax savings, but this is not some loop hole that you can step through blindly," says Bernstein. After 25 years of guiding others through the tax labyrinth, Bernstein has witnessed the whole depreciation structure evolve, with all of its complexities.

Growing up in Kinnelon, Bernstein earned his undergraduate degree in accounting from the State University of New York in Binghamton, followed by an MBA at Hofstra. After working for New York accountants Touche Ross & Co, and a mid-size Manhattan firm, Bernstein joined J.H. Cohn, where he has worked as a tax specialist since l988.

Depreciation: old and new. As any asset, including real estate, becomes obsolete, broken, or worn out, the company takes a loss. Such losses were typically offset by taking a small, variable percentage allowed by the IRS over 39 years. Then in the late l980s companies began depreciating separately for different parts of the building – floors, doors, office fixtures – at different rates.

Accountants called this "componentizing" and it allowed the taxpayer to shorten the number of depreciable years and thus get a higher percentage rate for a given category. The system was complex, but the IRS allowed it.

Then in l997 the Hospital Corporation of America carried this segregation of depreciable items to its logical conclusion. It separated out of its building all things labeled "personal property," such as carpets and office furniture, and depreciated them at a much higher rate, leaving rest of the building to fall into the 39 year, lower percent category.

The Internal Revenue Service called foul, and disallowed the HCA claim. HCA sued and won. Eighteen months later the IRS bowed to the court’s ruling, admitted that HCA had established a legitimate process, and cost segregation for depreciation officially began.

Segregate and save. Suppose you have just purchased and adapted a $10 million plant for your business. The IRS now allows the cost of that property cost to be split – or segregated – into four separate cost categories. On two of them your depreciation time can accelerate, meaning a shorter depreciation term and greater deduction on that portion of the $10 million investment.

The four categories run as follows: land, improved land, building, and improved building components or "personal property." The land can be further divided into improved and unimproved land. The improved land, including investment for paving, parking lots, special drainage, curbs, lighting, and other infrastructure, are sifted out and receive an accelerated depreciation to 15 years.

The building plant similarly gets segregated into the regular building and the personal property categories. As a rule of thumb, personal property are those parts of the plant that are special purpose modifications for your business. Bernstein notes that the divisions here must be precise.

For example, the wiring for regular overhead lighting falls into the regular property category, while heavy electric lines used to power certain machinery may receive an acceleration of up to full depreciation in seven years. "It is not unusual to save 15 cents on every dollar invested using the accelerated depreciation calculation," Bernstein says.

Cautions and caveats. Remember that you are dealing with the IRS here and the agency does not like you saving money at government expense.

While accelerated depreciation deductions are now accepted, tax examiners demand scrupulous adherence to the determining process. Bernstein explains that the segregation into the four categories must be performed by an outside engineer and it is wise to have the depreciation results performed by an accountant familiar with this system. This does not include all tax accountants. Those accounting firms who have such specialists typically work with certain engineers to create a unified package.

The actual codes defining what forms "personal property" as opposed to the main building itself are murky at best. Not all improvements automatically qualify for accelerated depreciation. Carpets qualify, but other types of flooring do not. Kitchen hoods for stoves qualify, but overhead lighting and bathroom fixtures do not. New boilers do not qualify, but new computer rooms do. In fact, one of the most popular uses of personal property cost segregation is for technical centers for all types of businesses.

"I suppose the company accountant could take a stab at reading the engineering report and doing the whole thing alone," says Bernstein, "but boy, I think you are really asking for trouble if you try." Extra savings. With cost accelerations brought up to five, seven or fifteen years, it is not unusual to save hundreds of thousands in depreciation dollars, says Bernstein. And the benefits don’t end with new buildings. Cost segregation can apply to physical assets purchased in years past. Employing the same method of determination, the new depreciation rates can be brought forward and applied to this year’s 1040 form.

Also, many purchases qualify for an additional depreciation rate of up to 50 percent under a special federal bonus plan. "After 9/11," explains Bernstein, "the government was trying to urge companies to rebuild and provided this special depreciation incentive for purchasing equipment and real estate within the next five years." As with any tax code as a whole, depreciation is a confusingly shaped beast, molded by conflicting pressures from many sides. Except in special cases, Bernstein does not recommend the expensive hassle of cost segregation for real estate worth under $2 million. On the other hand he does advise all size businesses to give the depreciation tables and other deductions a very hard look. Says he, "There’s a whole lot of money to be saved out there."

-Bart Jackson

Innovations From the Far Side

He was thrown out of his first job for being too creative. Jeff Tobe looked at his initial paycheck from the Chubb Insurance company and realized one big problem: it was too small to pay his rent. Tobe’s solution? He auctioned off his paycheck and the $1,000 note netted him $1,200 in ticket earnings. He met the rent and all seemed fine until the state nicked him for running an unlicensed lottery and the stodgy folks at Chubb decided they didn’t need anyone publicizing the paucity of their remuneration.

As Tobe’s supervisor handed him his severance check, the man smiled and said "Don’t worry, son, I’m sure you’re going to do just fine." And he has. It quickly became evident that Tobe’s brain was roiling with ideas for the sort of innovation that many companies seek. He examines the process that runs from creativity to innovation in his keynote address, "Coloring Outside the Lines," which opens the New Jersey Communication Advertising and Marketing Association’s annual conference on Thursday, June 9, at 8:30 a.m. at the Sarnoff Corporation. Cost: $100. Call 609-799-4900 or visit www.NJCAMA.org.

The seminar, "Creating Innovations in Communications," features breakout sessions with Roman Bodnarchuk, president of N5R, a Toronto-based marketing company; Dave Montfried, communications vice president for Met Life New York; Colleen Farrell, marketing director for New York Cares; and Judy Katz, founder of Katzcreative.com. Growing up in Canada Tobe attended the University of Western Ontario and graduated in l980 with a B.S. in political science. From there on he never stayed quite within the lines again. Following his fleeting relationship with Chubb, Tobe moved south to Dallas and opened up an advertising agency. While claiming to be a total novice, he managed to garner beverage giant Seagrams as a client, and was soon handling all of its promotions.

In l992 Tobe’s friends convinced him to take up a career in corporate training and speaking. He moved to Pittsburgh, set up the training service "Coloring Outside the Lines," and has recently published a book of the same name, "Coloring outside the Lines: Business Thoughts on Creativity, Marketing and Sales." The book is illustrated by his nine-year-old daughter Janet and is a gift to all seminar attendees. Before beginning the book Tobe did something often overlooked – he listened, conducting long interviews with more than 300 top performing sales people. "I had frankly considered myself a great salesman," he says, "but these people were world class and I wanted to learn what made the difference."

Defining the edge. Tobe distilled five pervasive skills and traits held by all those who simply were unbeatable. Foremost was that they were all creative – they always had a second answer, perspective, or solution for the customer. Also, they probed constantly, asking the right questions to home into the client’s exact need. Third, they all listened intently, which led to the next trait: they all understood the potential client totally, beyond just his product need. Finally, the top performers were experts at marketing themselves. Each one had developed a selling persona, but he never let it conflict with the customer’s buying style.

Change quotient. Creativity leads to change and change invariably leads us out of our comfort zones. To remain in the coziness of the traditional mode, Tobe says, businesses commonly erect anti-innovation walls. They may develop internal myopia, focusing on only the immediate problems. Executives may be infected with psychosclerosis – a hardening of the attitude, which greets each new idea with "We’ve been down that road before." They may reflexively intone the five most petrifying and costly words in all commerce, "Sir, it’s not our policy."

Each of us has our individual ability to cope with varying amounts of change. As C.S. Lewis pointed out, we look forward to the changing of the seasons, but we also rest secure in the permanency of each season being the same as last year. Tobe agrees to this balance, but feels that most of us strangle our company’s creativity by not working to expand our change quotients and be more tolerant.

Creativity vs. innovation. "I cringe every time I walk into an ad agency and see a door marked ‘Creative Department,’" says Tobe. "Everyone, including your receptionist, should be working creatively. And if she is not, fire her." For Tobe, creativity is the mindset that says if it ain’t broke, break it and build it better. It is that juice that leads to a constant flow of ideas. Innovation is the next few steps that gather the ideas together, sift for the best nuggets, and assemble them into a working plan or prototype. The processes are different, but should not be relegated to separate teams of individuals.

Service vs. experience. One of the innovative marketing trends Tobe points out is the shift from customer service to enhancing the entire customer experience. The former asks "What can I do for you?" The latter works to improve every touch point between customer and company, making it more to the customer’s liking. You can get your coffee at McDonalds, where the customer service is excellent. It comes hot, quick, cheap and if you don’t drop it in your lap, it tastes just fine.

But instead folks increasingly flock to Starbucks, where the act of settling into a nice cup of Java becomes a whole – very pleasant – experience. There are comfy chairs inviting you to stay, fun machines to watch, T-shirts with odd sayings, and a clubby atmosphere. Everything from the cup design to the website sets an interesting, we-know-what-you-want tone.

Tobe warns that customers today have evolved into a more skeptical group, armed with more sophisticated tools. Thus the buying experience companies provide must go beyond net price. Is the website not just easy to peruse, but does it establish itself as an information resource? Does the voice mail lead the caller back to another contact? Is the branding not only distinct, but inviting, such as Gateway’s black and white cow box?

Tobe logs over 165,000 miles annually, training executives to increase their creativity and innovation quotients. "Every human being has the passion to create," he says. "It’s simply business’s job to encourage this basic trait and take the risk."

-Bart Jackson

Media to Go

‘Good listening" has come a long way since the days of hiding a transistor radio under a pillow at night back when the Beatles were first making it big. Today anyone without headphones on the train, in the neighborhood, or at the mall is fast becoming an anachronism. "People love music and can’t get enough," says Douglas Dixon, independent technology consultant, author, speaker, and contributor to U.S. 1 Newspaper. They want to listen all the time, "while sitting on the train or doing millions of things that involve sitting, standing, walking, and waiting."

But choosing a portable media player that suits individual needs in a constantly morphing marketplace can be a frustrating experience; it makes selecting a shampoo from an overflowing supermarket shelf look easy. Bundled together in mix-and-match sets are capabilities like listening to music, recording words and music, looking at photos, showing film clips and movies, playing video games, and talking over cell phone. Products vary according to price, size, and array of features.

For those who find the choice bewildering and for the more sophisticated who want to understand today’s marketplace for portable media, Dixon speaks to the Princeton PC Users Group on "TV in Your Pocket: Portable Media Players and Phones," on Monday, June 13, at 7 p.m., at the Lawrence branch of the Mercer County Library, 609-882-9246.

Dixon traces the development and transformation of handheld devices back to the FM radio, where users were subject to the whims of station programming and the tastes of a particular DJ. In contrast, today’s portable players enable listeners both to select their own music and to listen whenever the mood strikes. Music comes from downloads and from copying CDs with the help of a computer (called "ripping").

Although the recording industry has been complaining about its CD sales, Dixon observes that many are still being sold. Rock artists from the 1960s are still on tour, and new technology has been a "huge boon for independents and small bands, who can distribute over the Internet and develop fan bases," he says. This is a bounty for listeners, and a boost for musicians. "People have gotten jobs in Hollywood by doing fun, exciting demos, spreading them over the Internet, and getting job offers," adds Dixon, who calls this phenomenon the "viral spread of fun and interesting things."

What is difficult for the consumer in this new market is that the industry is in flux and has not settled on standard product forms.

"All these companies are trying to figure out what consumers want, so they are making a wide variety of products," says Dixon. "They are guessing what set of features, physical size, and price point will be attractive to consumers." Even a single product, like Apple’s iPod, is coming out in a variety of forms with different features. "Eventually some conventions will develop within the industry," he predicts, citing the cell phone industry, which seems to have settled on three standard forms: clam shell, stick, and Treo or Blackberry

organizers/cell phones.

Dixon first started using computers in high school, but at Brown University "got totally into it." The university had a new program in computer science, which was very active in computer graphics – "the visual aspect of computing." After graduating in 1977 with a degree in computer science, Dixon worked in video and digital media at Sarnoff and Intel. Although he began as a software developer, he notes that "some people do it all their lives and some burn out." He cast himself as one of the "burnouts" who moved on to product development and product and project management.

Over the past five years Dixon has been transitioning to a different perspective on the same set of technological fascinations – writing about them. While still employed full time, he started writing white papers, technical articles, and press materials about products. Now he is a full-time writer, speaker, and consultant, focused on making new and cutting-edge technology "understandable and useful for real people," according to his web site, www.manifest-tech.com.

The portable audio capabilities that Dixon is excited about have three technological homes: portable music players, personal digital assistants (PDAs), and cell phones. In his talk Dixon will try to make sense of these three product formats by moving, step-by-step, from simpler to more complex products in each category.

Portable music player. Right now the simplest of the portable players is the iPod shuffle from Apple, a little box with controls but no display. It is used to download songs and take them along for anytime listening, and may also include an FM radio. Described as a "lipstick-sized" player, it falls in the $100 range and is for an individual listener, with headphones. As its name implies, it mixes its owner’s songs up, delivering them in an ever-changing random form. Add a display, and spend another $100 or so, and users can see what they are listening to and make choices from available material. Other options, in more expensive models, include microphones and photo storage and display.

PDA or Personal Digital Assistant. When the list of desired capabilities grows large, it may be time to think of a PDA, or hand-held computer, advises Dixon. Although people used to think of the Palm Pilot as just an organizer, more and more it is a multimedia device, with enough memory for songs, photos, and even videos. Cell phone. Cell phones are expanding their features and taking on characteristics of the PDA by providing access to the Internet, taking pictures, and even adding music. For the moment, however, cell phones are somewhat limited by their relatively small screens.

"The categories are starting to overlap," says Dixon. "The good news is that there are so many options. The bad news is that you have to choose." He offers a number of considerations that might go into a decision:

Quantity of music needed. How much music the user wants depends on the distance to be traveled and time away from a computer. The smaller versions of the portable music player provide enough music for a short daily trip or a jog around the neighborhood; selections can be changed by hooking up to a computer. For a week-long business trip, a larger device, with a longer battery life, and thousands of stored songs might work better.

Desired features. The choice of features depends on the idiosyncrasies and work requirements of the user. A salesperson who shows product videos to customers would need a fair-sized screen and sufficient memory. A cell phone with a small screen might be fine for personal use, but would not work well for sharing baby pictures with relatives.

To share music with a group of friends, a tiny device with headphones would have to be ditched for a paperback-sized screen, with a speaker and a larger display. To show movies, a smaller screen might be fine to entertain kids on an airplane, but to watch as a family, a larger screen is necessary.

Other considerations. Cost is, of course, always a factor in all purchase decision. Size in itself is also an issue – how much of an increment in size is worth the trade up in memory and additional features. Another issue is whether the user is looking primarily for an individual or a social experience with the device.

Dixon advises potential buyers to weigh the tradeoffs and visit stores to get a sense of the different options available. It can also be a good idea to attend talks like his, where there are no disinterested or aggressive salesmen, and where there is plenty of time to ask questions. The marketplace offers a confusing array of products in a big range of prices. With the help of a little research and an expert guide, however, it is entirely possible to find a device that exactly marches to your tune.

-Michele Alperin

Women in Politics: Still Battling

‘It is not seemly for a woman to discuss matters openly in public places," the early Christian missionary, Saint Paul, warned the good church people in Corinth. That was 59 A.D. and Paul was a proudly professed celibate for whom the opposite gender remained as foreign as Chinese musicology. Yet after two millennia it is amazing to see how many pieces of Paul’s old bias still linger.

Today, the American woman entering politics faces many additional hurdles, and New Jersey assemblywoman Linda Greenstein has cleared them all – but not easily. Greenstein along with fellow assemblywoman Joan Quigley discuss those specific challenges confronting women legislators in "Women in Politics" held Tuesday, June 14, at 9 a.m. at Douglass College’s Hickman Hall in New Brunswick. The talks by Greenstein and Quigley are part of the Girl’s Career Institute, a program that runs Monday through Thursday, June 13 through 16, sponsored by the New Jersey State Federation of Women’s Clubs (732-249-5474, www.njsfwc.org).

"The greatest problem facing women seeking office is that people don’t think there is any problem any more," says Greenstein. Somehow the public holds the perception that the feminist revolution was launched in the l960s, won gloriously over the next three decades, and is now an issue long past. Certainly, there is some justifiable pride in the statistics. In l975 the New Jersey legislature held three women in the senate and six in the assembly. Today those figures have doubled with six senators and thirteen assemblywomen holding seats. Likewise on the federal level, l975 saw only two women in Congress and not a single female Senator. With the last election, 14 women senators and 69 congresswomen now grace Capitol Hill.

But before you raise your fist in a victory salute and chant what a long way we’ve come, consider the totals. In both the state and federal legislatures, less than 16 per cent of the members belong to the gender that makes up 51 percent of our population. And despite New Jerseyans’ view of themselves as progressive, Greenstein points out that New Jersey’s percentage of female legislators ranks in the bottom 10 states in the nation.

"It’s not talked about much, even among us women," notes Greenstein, "but there definitely exists a glass ceiling when it comes to women taking the seats of decision – in the legislature and in politics in general." Much of this may be due to the fact that women typically enter the field and play the game differently than men:

Purses in the ring. Individuals enter the political arena for a host of separate reasons, but over the years, legislators themselves have observed a few generalizations. Women most often get into politics because they are passionate about one issue, institution, or cause and see politics as a tool. "While gross generalizations are foolish, I think men more frequently step into politics because it will be good for their business, social standings, or other reasons, and then they select their causes when they get more involved," says Greenstein. This does not mean they serve any less devotedly.

Greenstein herself followed a more issue-oriented path into public service. After graduating from Vassar in l971 with a degree in psychology, she headed for Johns Hopkins, planning a psychology Ph.D. "Somewhere after my masters degree, I felt lured by law," Greenstein says. She received her law degree from Georgetown and began work in Philadelphia and then in Trenton in the prosecutor’s office.

"In my case, it was Plainsboro Township that got me started in politics," says Greenstein. "Here I was in this growing community, with an excellent school system and I just wanted to somehow get involved with it all." Greenstein joined the Democratic Club, and in l992 she got elected to the West Windsor-Plainsboro school board, a post she held for three years. In l995 she won election to the Plainsboro Township Committee, and after five years of town service, a friend suggested she look to the state.

"I didn’t have any political analyst," Greenstein says, "but I looked at the situation and said to myself ‘maybe this seat could be won by a woman – by me.’" Taking on the campaign as a full time job, she began attending the meetings and speaking by day, then personally writing letters on into the night. In 2000 she was elected to the State Assembly, representing the 14th district, which entails much of Mercer and Middlesex counties. Greenstein now chairs the Judiciary committee, is vice chair of the Federal Relations committee, and has acted as assistant majority leader since 2002.

Party animals. "Men tend to be more interconnected," says Greenstein. "It seems more frequently as if they run with the party and draw their power by making party alliances." Additionally, many of the men in the state legislature also hold dual offices such as mayors, and school board positions. This is less often the case with women, Greenstein feels.

Women are more likely to enter the political arena later in life than men. Many of her fellow female state legislators are retired or come to politics after a substantial professional career. Rather than work their way up as aides and through party positions, women’s issue-oriented agendas may set them somewhat apart.

The feminine touch. Greenstein is the first to state that there are no women’s versus men’s issues in the legislature. "It’s not so much that women separately propose certain bills, but rather their presence on the floor brings a different perspective and new considerations into the body as a whole," she says.

Family and health issues have taken a great leap into the limelight with the increase in women politicians. Again, Greenstein notes, this is less due to women introducing the legislature, but their encouraging their fellow lawmakers to see this need and find solutions.

Lady challengers. For the woman seeking to enter politics, Greenstein warns that you will have to toss more than your hat in the ring. "When I started, I felt what I call a fire in the belly that drove me to work and win. If you don’t have it, don’t bother," she says. The hours are endless and the responsibility crushing. Fortunately, Greenstein is ably aided by her engineer husband, Michael.

"He works a room better than I do," the assemblywoman laughs.

The other requirement Greenstein suggests is people skills. Legislators are constantly mixing with constituents to find out what they want, integrating it into a solid proposal, then returning to the constituents and helping them understand what has been achieved. Interestingly, Greenstein places her legal experience as a secondary skill for public service. Of course lawyers are going to be drawn to making laws, but a law degree is certainly not a necessity.

Society has slowly come to believe the proof set before it. Women are strong enough to run marathons, smart enough to guide great nations, and wise enough to discuss issues openly in public. They are also just as capable as males of being corrupt or initiating war. In short women are individuals of random abilities and it would be a shame to overlook this 51 per cent of nation’s talent pool in seeking the best public servants.

-Bart Jackson

New Jersey: Beyond Exits and Tomatoes

New Jersey has been the butt of jokes almost since it became an English colony in 1664. "New Jersey is a barrel tapped at both ends," one of the first known New Jersey jokes, is attributed to either Benjamin Franklin or James Madison, according to Marc Mappen, editor of the "Encyclopedia of New Jersey."

Mappen, a cheerleader for all things New Jersey, talks about some of the little known but important facts about the state at the Business Council Breakfast sponsored by the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, June 15, at 7:30 a.m. at the Conference Center at Mercer County Community College. Cost: $25. Call 609-924-1776. "New Jersey is Not Just the Sopranos," is the title of Mappen’s talk.

"There have always been a lot of New Jersey jokes," he says. Late night talk show hosts love to make jokes about us. Lately they have been able to add to their material by drawing on the state’s most famous fictional family. "A lot of the country’s ideas about New Jersey are shaped by this TV show about a dysfunctional mafia family," says Mappen, and he wants to set the record straight.

New Jersey has been a home for business and industry almost since its inception, says Mappen. The large number of well-known leaders and significant inventions flowing from the state, the only one of the contiguous 48 completely surrounded by water on three sides, shows just how important a role the state has played in our country’s history.

New Jersey’s "firsts" range from culturally important, such as motion pictures with sound, to economically significant, such as the invention of Teflon, to items that are a little more esoteric, such as the first complete dinosaur skeleton and the first intercollegiate football game (between Rutgers and Princeton in 1869).

Others New Jersey "firsts" include the phonograph, electric light, and movies, all invented here by Thomas Edison, the transistor, drive-in movies, the first long distance telephone call, the first successful submarine, the bar code, the Colt revolver, the first successful telegraph transmission, the first frozen fruits and vegetables for the mass market, the first salt water taffy and the boardwalk, the first baseball game, and instant coffee.

Mappen, like many famous "New Jersey people," was not actually born here. A native of Massachusetts, he has, however, adopted New Jersey as his own. Along with editing the "Encyclopedia of New Jersey," Mappen is the author of "Jerseyana: The Underside of New Jersey History," and "Murder and Spies, Lovers and Lies: Settling the Great Controversies of American History." He is also the editor of "Witches and Historians: Interpretations of Salem, " and has written articles for the "New York Times," the "Los Angeles Times," and "Rutgers Magazine." He had also appeared on the History Channel.

Mappen has a doctorate in American history and was an associate dean at Rutgers University for a number of years. He is now the executive director of the New Jersey Historical Commission.

Mappen says that his "top 10 favorite New Jersey people" are Woodrow Wilson, president of the United States as well as a Princeton University president; President Grover Cleveland; William Livingston, first governor of the state of New Jersey and a founding father of our country; Alice Paul, a women’s rights pioneer; Paul Robeson, an athlete, scholar, entertainer and civil rights crusader; entertainer Frank Sinatra; inventor Thomas Edison; jazz composer and performer Count Basie; Molly Pitcher, a Revolutionary war heroine; and Selman Waksman, a Rutgers University scientist who received the Nobel prize in 1952 for the discovery of penicillin, "the first of the modern wonder drugs."

"Cultural diversity" may seem like a 21st century issue, says Mappen, but it is one that the people of New Jersey have dealt with since the state’s inception. "The mid-Atlantic colonies of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York were different from most of the other colonies in that they were settled by very diverse groups of people," he says. In the Colonial era, Dutch, Swedes, and Finns, as well as Africans, English, and Scottish settlers lived side-by-side with the Native Americans who were already here. The Civil War era saw German and Irish settlers, while in the 19th century people from Italy and Eastern Europe made up the greatest number of immigrants to the state. In modern times immigrants from Asia, Latin America, and Africa have settled in New Jersey in great numbers, enriching the state.

But what about New Jersey today? Why would a business want to move to New Jersey? There are dozens of reasons, says Mappen, from geographical to economic to cultural.

Economic riches. New Jersey is well-known throughout the world for its high tech industries, says Mappen, from the pharmaceutical and chemical industries to its role as the home of Bell Labs and the telecommunications industry. This employment base gives New Jersey one of the best-educated workforces in the country, he adds, and along with it, the "highest per capita income in the nation."

In fact, if New Jersey were separated from the rest of the United States, says Mappen, its citizens would have the second highest per capita income in the world, ranking only behind Luxembourg. Diverse geography. Despite New Jersey’s small size it has a very diverse geography, Mappen says. "We have a coastal plain, mountains, a piedmont. We have the Pinelands and the Highlands. Despite the state’s dense population, we have over 2,000 different plant species growing

in this state. That is really remarkable considering its size."

Cultural advantages. The diversity of New Jersey’s population not only makes it easy for immigrants from many backgrounds to feel welcome here, it also adds to the cultural diversity of the area. "Religious diversity in New Jersey dates back to Colonial times," says Mappen, "and today you can find almost any religion practiced here." The number of theater companies, dance companies, museums, and historic sites are added attractions that can help businesses to draw new employees to the state.

Despite New Jersey’s reputation as one long chain of suburbs, Mappen says New Jersey citizens have a great deal of loyalty and identity with their townships and boroughs. "There are 566 municipalities in New Jersey, each with its own fire department, police department, and mayor. While some people will debate cost versus identity, pride in their town is very important to New Jerseyians," Mappen says. "We are devoted to home rule and autonomy."

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