Ocean Yields Unsuspected Treasure

Safe Harbor In the Pension Sea

9-11 Angels

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This article was prepared for the October 10, 2001 edition of U.S.

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Take Time by the Tail

Lots of dreams go unfulfilled for lack of a big chunk

of time in which to accomplish them. Lots of projects fall further

and further behind for lack of an uninterrupted hour in which to get

them done. This does not have to be so, says Cathy Nissley,

founder of Newtown, Pennsylvania, marketing and corporate

communications

firm CIC Creative. "Instead of thinking `This is going to take

12 hours, so I’m going to have to wait,’ break it down into 15-minute

pieces," is her advice. "People think anything less than half

an hour is useless," she says, "but it’s amazing what you

can get done in 15 minutes."

Nissley speaks on "How to Do Twice as Much in Half the Time"

when she addresses a meeting of the Central Jersey Women’s Network

on Thursday, October 11, at 6 p.m. at the Oakland House Restaurant

in Red Bank. Cost: $28. Call 908-281-9234.

Nissley graduated from Drexel University in 1975 with a degree in

design and merchandising. After working as a product manager for

several

corporations, she started her company in 1993. Her advice on time

management comes from personal experience. By the mid-1980s her career

was taking off, but it was taking too great a personal toll.

"I had no time for myself," she recalls. "I had a long

commute. I was not sleeping. I was not eating properly. I was

miserable."

The key question in her life became "How can I better utilize

time?"

Her answer was to start keeping a journal, writing down what she was

doing all day long. She found that she spent "a lot of time in

colleagues’ offices bitching and moaning about the boss." Cutting

out that time wasting, energy sapping activity, she found time to

take a walk in the middle of the workday. She also scheduled in

meetings

with a nutritionist, and began to feel better.

Taming time, says Nissley, involves "making a conscious decision

to take back your life." She offers these tips for doing just

that.

Be decisive. "Being indecisive is a huge waste of

time," says Nissley. "If you can’t make a decision, it

snowballs."

She suggests setting boundaries, staking our parameters, making a

decision, and then moving on. For instance, if you need to hire a

contractor, make a list of what you expect him to do, when you need

the project completed, what you are willing to pay, and what terms

are acceptable to you. "Avoid back and forth," says Nissley.

It sucks up time, and it creates stress too.

Delegate. "It’s very difficult to let go of things

you are used to doing," Nissley says. Anyone who takes pride in

the job he does is likely to feel uncomfortable giving up any part

of it, yet failing to do so is a sure way to quickly get into time

debt. As soon as a project comes up, begin to think which parts of

it could be outsourced. Get in the habit of concentrating on core

tasks, and passing peripheral jobs on to subordinates or

subcontractors.

Avoid the pitfalls of perfectionism. "There is no

such thing as perfect," Nissley declares. Trying to achieve that

goal is fruitless, and one of the biggest time wasters of all. She

sees this in her business when a client insists on rewrite after

rewrite,

only to return to something very like the original copy. For most

business tasks she says, "good is good enough."

Don’t procrastinate. Jobs deferred are jobs that only

grow bigger and bigger. If a task is not worth doing, don’t place

it on the to do list. If it is worth doing, schedule it in, and get

it out of the way.

Just say no. Possibly the most difficult word in the

vocabulary

of every worker is "no." Whether toiling in the halls of a

multinational or working from what used to be the household laundry

room, everyone is under pressure to take on more. Failing to

confidently

enunciate that two-letter word causes oceans of time to disappear

in ways that are rarely satisfying. Acknowledging the difficulty so

many of us have in turning down requests of all kinds, Nissley offers

some painless strategies.

"Schedule conflict," she says. "Those are the only words

you need." Don’t elaborate. Don’t apologize. Just confidently

announce that a schedule conflict makes it impossible for you to pinch

hit at the meeting, pick up your neighbor’s dog at obedience school,

or babysit for the boss’s adorable twins on Saturday night.

In cases where you genuinely would like to help out, maybe by sitting

on a committee or taking a turn manning the Little League hot dog

stand, but feel doing so would be too much in the immediate future,

Nissley suggests another strategy. "Say `Not now’," she

suggests.

"Say `This is not a good time, but leave me on your call-back

list’."

These are graceful ways out that protect your time, and reduce the

stress that comes with thinking up a series of creative excuses.

Watch those phone calls. Nissley says it is a good

idea to write down the length of each call for a week or two.

"It’s

amazing," she says, "how fast time goes when you’re talking

on the phone." Beware of compulsive E-mail checking, too. Schedule

in specific times of the day to read and answer E-mail, and let the

instant missives sit quietly in their in-box between times.

No matter what, there will remain but 24 hours in day. The

trick,

says Nissley is to analyze how you are spending them. "Don’t ask

`Where did the day go?’" she urges. "Find out where it

went."

Top Of Page
Ocean Yields Unsuspected Treasure

As the saying goes, we know more about the backside

of the moon than the bottom of the ocean. But Peter A. Rona,

professor of marine geology and geophysics at Rutgers University,

says that "the vision is changing rapidly, with major advances

in ocean exploration. And we are discovering that there are processes

and living ecosystems in the deep ocean that are as essential to the

balanced working of the earth as the rain forest is on land."

On Tuesday, October 16, Rona speaks on "Marine Mineral Resources

for the New Millennium," at the Frick Chemistry Laboratory at

Princeton University, at 5.30 p.m. A dinner at Prospect House will

follow the lecture. Call 609-258-5202.

Rona, who has been engaged in the exploration of the deep sea floor

for almost his entire career, has just returned from deep diving

expeditions

in the middle Atlantic and the Hudson Canyon, a submarine canyon that

starts at the mouth of the Hudson River and runs some 400 miles out

into the Atlantic. The lecture will be illustrated with slides of

the deep ocean.

"The ocean is the future," says Rona. "It covers 71

percent

of the earth, and is largely unknown." With a Yale Ph.D. in

geology

and geophysics, Rona started out in oil exploration, but was quickly

drawn to the oceans as "the last frontier on earth." Before

coming to Rutgers to build programs in marine science, he was the

senior research geophysicist at the U.S. Government’s National Oceanic

and Atmospheric Administration, working from its laboratory in Miami,

Florida.

Rona says recent major advances in ocean exploration have revealed

the amazing world of heat-tolerant microbes. Living in deep oceanic

hot springs, the microbes have enormous potential for use in medicine

and industry.

"These microbes have a whole different life system," explains

Rona. "They are completely independent of the energy from

photosynthesis,

which sustains most of the food chain base, both on land and in the

shallow oceans. Their energy comes from chemicals that well up from

the earth’s interior and discharge into the hot springs on the floor

of the deep ocean. This is an entirely different ecosystem — we

call it a `chemosynthetic’ ecosystem."

The heat-loving microbes have been found to contain a whole new

spectrum

of compounds, enzymes in particular, that are finding applications

in a number of industries. The National Institute for Health is

currently

researching some enzymes for potential cancer curing drugs, and

another

useful enzyme is used to replicate DNA, for use in identification

processes in forensic and other investigations. Other applications

are in high-temperature industrial processes, such as enhancing the

flow in deep oil wells.

The fast-expanding research in oceanography has resulted in the growth

of myriad marine-related industries, with commercial opportunities

blossoming in marine products and equipment, instrumentation, and

natural products from the oceans.

A number of leading universities, including Rutgers, have programs

in marine sciences for those wishing to pursue a career in

oceanography.

"There are new technologies emerging constantly," says Rona.

"There is a whole new world in the ocean depths, and these

technologies

will emerge at an accelerating rate as we explore the oceans. Right

now it’s a great age of ocean exploration."

The ocean basins have long been regarded as passive containers, a

view which accounted for mineral deposits on continental shelves such

as sand, gravel, heavy metals, and gemstones. Of these minerals, sand

and gravel for construction and desalination of seawater are growing

fastest as materials necessary for survival, and diamonds have

developed

into a major industry off southwest Africa.

"The advent of the theory of plate tectonics in the 1960s changed

our view of ocean basins from passive sinks to active sources of

mineralization,"

says Rona. "The constant movement of the ocean crust at plate

boundaries creates heat, which drives the hydrothermal circulation

systems below the seafloor."

In this recently discovered environment live the heat-loving microbes,

which currently fascinate scientists and industry alike with their

promise of enormous potential benefits.

"These microbes are sources of novel organic compounds that have

many applications to industrial processes," says Rona. "But

the microbes themselves appear to be one of the most ancient forms

of life on earth. They are being investigated as relating to the base

of the evolutionary tree of life, and may indeed be a key to the

origin

of life itself."

— Gina Zechiel

Top Of Page
Safe Harbor In the Pension Sea

No sir, it absolutely does not apply any more. All those

401(k) pension planning percentages you have worked out so carefully

and have finally fed into your debugged software are now going the

way of the floppy disk. Come January, 2002 all pension laws change

dramatically.

But that’s all right. You’ve been keeping up, and know all the nuances

of the new law, don’t you? If not, you may want to keep an irate

bookkeeper

and employees’ rep away from your door by attending the pension

seminar

on Tuesday, October 16, at 8 a.m. at the Central Jersey chapter of

World-wide Employee Benefits (WEB) Network at the New Jersey Hospital

Association Conference Center at 760 Alexander Road. Barry Kurtz,

whose firm, Pension Advisory Services, designs plans for the

Oppenheimer

Fund, Merrill Lynch, Prudential, and Dreyfus, speaks on

"Innovative

Pension Designs: Hype or Heaven?" Cost: $40. Call 609-538-1943.

Few items in the benefits spectrum offer as many misunderstood options

as pensions, and few understand them better than Kurtz. Brooklyn born

and educated, Kurtz studied Shakespeare at the University of Alaska.

He carried the bard’s sharp wisdom with him through a business in

Vermont and then into his own firm, Pension Advisory Services, which

provides services to investment and insurance companies.

Can you work out your own pension plan? "Well," says Kurtz,

"yes — the same way you can do your own corporate taxes. Just

get the form and fill it out." But those who do run the risk of

stumbling blindly into the pit that ensnared one of Kurtz’s clients.

It began for this unnamed northern New Jersey gem dealer when he

visited

Switzerland and discovered a fabulous diamond. Its price glistened

as brightly as its facets. A real steal. Swiftly, he phoned his

bookkeeper

and panted into the phone, "Wire me the $350,000 from the pension

fund. We are going to make a real investment for our folks’

retirement."

"No," the bookkeeper replied.

"What do you mean `No’? he bellowed back.

After a great deal of arguing, and a hasty return flight home, the

gem dealer learned that his trusted bookkeeper recently had stolen

the entire $1.2 million pension fund. A low blow certainly, but only

the first.

Our employer had bonded himself and his partner, but never his sweet

and trusted bookkeeper. Thus, the fidelity bond did not insure his

loss. Further, his bookkeeper, by then tucked safely away in a state

prison, sent word that she wants her pension. Our crimson-faced

employer

called in Kurtz. Kurtz shook his head and informed him that the way

he had mis-written his benefits contract, the pension must be paid

regardless. So to this day the unhappy employer shells out $1,000

a month to his larcenous former bookkeeper, the very person who made

with his fund.

Few employers make such ghastly blunders — or have such bad luck.

But, notes Kurtz, there are host of pension alternatives that many

employers don’t examine, to their detriment.

The new 401K law. This law blows the old 15 percent limit

off the 401K retirement plan. Beginning in January, says Kurtz,

employees

of participating firms can defer all of their salary, except for a

nominal tax share, into the 401K. If, for example, your wife works

for you, receiving a $20,000 annual salary, and your household does

not need her salary to pay the monthly bills, she can put $19,000

into the 401K plan, saving only a small remainder for tax deduction.

Such deferment applies up to a specified dollar amount.

The old ’86 reform. This law afforded a particular type

of safe retirement harbor where upper salaried employees were no

longer

bound by the pension dictates of the lower paid workers. Previously,

those designated as high-salary employees (company officers and staff

paid over $80,000 per year) had to follow a pro-rated formula which

basically limited their retirement deferment to 125 percent of the

average percentage of chosen contribution other workers made into

the plan. If the lesser-paid employees lowered their contribution

to the plan in a given month, the higher ups were forced to follow.

This tie is now broken.

Negative Election. This is an ideal strategy for battling

worker inertia. Instead of offering a given pension plan to all

workers

to vote on individually, the plan is simply published in-house and

employees are told that unless they specifically deny this plan, they

are automatically opted in. This enables swift, all-at-once adoption

of the firm’s new pension plan, without waiting for individual sign-up

dates.

Safe Harbors. "The concept is old," remarks Kurtz,

"but the number of variations are infinite, and each employer

needs examine the number, category, and salary range of his workers

before rubberstamping someone else’s formula." You can run a basic

match plan where every employee who has worked, for example, 1,000

hours, receives a 100 percent match of his first one percent

contribution,

on a sliding scale up to a match of four percent. Or you can fix the

plan with a straight three percent match across the board.

Beyond these core pension designs, a lot of very clever and

carefully strategized options are available. Within the past decade,

money management plans have proliferated in every aspect of business.

Most of us swim in a sea of options whose differences we can scarcely

calculate. While we may blanch at the idea of dumping our golden years

into the hands of some outsourced "expert," decisions must

be made. And sometimes it pays to have a veteran guide you into the

right game. After all, retirement need not be a crapshoot.

— Bart Jackson

Top Of Page
9-11 Angels

The Realtors Disaster Relief Fund is providing

families of the victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks with

payments for residential mortgages or rent for up to three months.

The fund was created by the National Association of Realtors with

the New Jersey Association of Realtors cooperating to respond to the

needs of New Jersey residents. An application is available on the

Internet at njar.com

The New Jersey Conference of Mayors has established a

charitable relief fund to help support families who are victims of

the attack on the World Trade Center and to assist in the recovery

effort.

The U.S. Small Business Administration is providing

low-interest

loans to New Jersey small business owners who may have suffered

economic

hardship as a result of the attack on the World Trade Center.

Assistance

is available in six counties, including Middlesex County.

Small businesses may be eligible for disaster loans up to $1.5 million

for the SBA. Interest rates can be as low as 4 percent with terms

up to 30 years. Small business owners can obtain information by

calling

609-989-5232.

The Mercer County Bar Association, along with Trenton

law firms Jerrold Kamensky & Associates and Robin K. Lord,

and Philadelphia-based International Computer Consultants are

sponsoring a golf outing to benefit the September 11th Fund. It will

be held at the Jericho National Golf Club in Washington Crossing,

Pennsylvania, on Monday, October 22. Call 609-585-6200.

Cafe Colore in the South Brunswick Shopping Mall is

donating

all revenue from Sunday, October 14 through Wednesday, October 17

to the American National Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund to the aid

the relief efforts at the World Trade Center.

Piper’s Pub in Skillman held a fundraiser on Saturday,

October 6, to aid survivors and victims’ families recovering from

the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks.

On Wednesday, October 17, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Ice Land

in Hamilton is holding an event called "Skate Against Hate."

The skating center will collect a $10 donation at the door and will

give all proceeds to the New York State World Trade Center Relief

Fund.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has donated an initial

$5 million to aid families and communities disrupted by the violent

acts of September 11. The first grant will be directed to the

immediate

needs of the victims, their families, and the affected communities.

The foundation efforts will be coordinated with those of other leading

organizations — like September 11th Fund.


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