Friday, February 29, 2008

Booklets for you

Alright, this is a little random, but here goes...

Ever want to make a booklet from a digital PDF document? Here's a neat tool: "BookletCreator - is a free online tool that allows to create a booklet from a PDF document. It reorders pages so that after printing and folding the pages you get a small book."

You set up your PDF file in portrait mode, upload it here, and it will do all the tricky formatting. You print (double sided, of course), staple, and voila! Booklet!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Creative Selling

LooseTooth

This is great site for a prolific jewelry (among other things) artist. She uses her blog to describe her artwork and her process. The site is clean but contains a lot of stuff, lots of images and a friendly, casual style. The goods are sold through CafePress.com

I think she's found a great work-around the commercial web-site by combining products and not limiting herself by product type. For our artist-clients this ought to be inspirational. It is not a short-cut in the sense that obviously an enormous amount of attention went into this but in terms of using existing tools for good, it's a great example. For artists who may be daunted by the idea of getting started advertising themselves online, getting started as a blog may be a way to go.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Entrepreneurship Vs. The Tax Burden

Each year, the Office of Advocacy of the U.S. Small Business Administration is tasked with documenting the importance of entrepreneurship to the American economy and with highlighting policy issues of relevance to small firms. This report summarizes the publications produced by the Office of Advocacy’s Office of Economic Research in 2007. A copy of this report can be obtained here (PDF). Should you need further information, please feel free to contact Chad Moutray at (202)205-6533 or advocacy@sba.gov.

Yet, this study (PDF) documents the pervasiveness and the magnitude of the tax burden among small business owners in bankruptcy. The data suggest that the tax burden is more pervasive among small business owners in bankruptcy than among consumer petitioners. While less than one-quarter of all consumers in the bankruptcy sample reported tax debts, more than half of individual small business owners reported owing some tax debts. The research summary can be found here (PDF). Should you need further information, please feel free to contact Radwan Saade at (202)205-6533 or advocacy@sba.gov.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Maps of the Foreign Born in the US

Every so often, we'll get a question on behalf of a client who seeks to know the population concentration in the U.S. for a specific nationality. Until recently, I didn't know that the Migration Policy Institute has on their site a series of maps that can help meet this need.

The site is limited, though, in the number of countries that it has tracked. In addition to a map of the U.S. that shows "States with the Largest and Fastest-Growing Populations of Foreign Born (2006)," the site links to county-level maps (in PDF form) for these categories:

1) The foreign born as percentage of total county population, 2000:
Foreign-born population (total)
Foreign born from Mexico
Foreign born from the Philippines
Foreign born from India
Foreign born from China
Foreign born from Vietnam

2) The number of foreign born by county, 2000
Foreign born from South America
Foreign born from the Caribbean
Foreign born from Africa
Foreign born from Iran
Foreign born from Pakistan

In addition, each map has a corresponding link to an article profile that helps interpret the data.
Keep in mind that these maps don't measure the concentration of a particular ancestry (e.g., the number of Americans primarily of Irish descent in the Boston area).

As Roger can attest, the Census Bureau (from which these maps were drawn) offers the means to get more geographically-precise data on foreign-born and/or ancestry populations.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Disease Hotspots

Map pinpoints disease 'hotspots'
By Mark Kinver
Science and nature reporter, BBC News

Map of world's Emerging Infectious Diseases hotspots

A detailed map highlighting the world's hotspots for emerging infectious diseases (EIDs) has been released.


Research shows that many of the diseases we contend with have beginnings in the wild kingdom and offers one more reason to be concerned about environmental issues.
I am impressed that my native Canada is remarkably clear of disease.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

No lights for us

You probably heard that we at the central office lost power yesterday. Apparently it was half the office park and a bit down the road too. Now don’t worry about us - the generators turned on, illuminating staircases and bathrooms and allowing the server equipment to beep incessantly. And since it happened around lunch time, there was still plenty of natural light, especially near Al’s cubical. So we all huddled around, and I got caught up on my newspaper–scanning for mentions of you all (reminder – send me your news items!)

Eventually Jim told us we could go home.

So that was our afternoon. Do you have a plan for when the power goes out? If you need extra help, the CDC has created a handy web page, “What You Need to Know When the Power Goes Out Unexpectedly.” Read it now, and be better prepared for your next outage.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Historical Technological Future

I've been enjoying the Modern Mechanix blog. It featured Face Masks for Arctic War (Jun, 1940) on January 28; Death Ray Machine Is Invented by Cleveland Scientist (Sep, 1934), plus FILMING TABLE TOP EARTHQUAKES (Dec, 1935) on January 27; Letter Chopper [think shredder](Aug, 1935) AND Electric Glove for Police Stuns Victims With 1,500 Volts [think taser] (Sep, 1935) on January 26, 2008. The blog started on October 18, 2005 with Mechanical Willie (Aug, 1934), a Westinghouse gadget that combined crooning with housework [think Rosie the Robot on The Jetsons].

Monday, February 18, 2008

Consumer Fraud and Identity Theft Complaint Data

This is a 92-page PDF file recently released by the Federal Trade Commission. It provides all kinds of data for 2007, summarizing the 800,000+ complaints of consumer fraud and identity theft received by the FTC's complaint database (known as the "Consumer Sentinel").

I've often wondered what the Consumer Sentinel contains regarding specific companies. This database exists as a tool available only to law enforcement agencies across the U.S., for use in any investigations that they might be undertaking.

Up until page 20, data is presented on a national level for a variety of categories (e.g., "Number of Internet-Related Fraud Complaints," "How Identity Theft Victims' Information Is Misused," etc.). The rest of the report focuses on complaint data broken down by state (New York is on page 53).

I've blogged about this before, and, unfortunately, I'll feel compelled to blog about next year, too. Be careful out there.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Copy Cats & The Originals

It sounds like a band but they are two slide shows available at www.businessweek.com

The first is a look at knock-offs of first class designs. It is interesting that in some cases it looks as though the copiers are trying to maintain the slightest difference in the design. Some things like the quality of materials/finshes etc were not duplicated but some things that would seem to be easily copied - size and shape - were not and I wonder if it is to differentiate from the original.

Plagiarius Award 2008
Award Winning Fakes
At the world's largest annual consumer goods fair, organization Aktion Plagiarius shames makers of knockoffs by singling them out
By Jessie Scanlon

The second slideshow is the originals: designers who have developed green-er products - often very pretty ones.

Green Design
Hot Green Products
Apple's new MacBook Air makes an impressive eco-conscious statement—as does an array of other recent items ranging from flashlights to diapers
By Paula Lehman

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Welcome to the Neighborhood

Josee noticed today that you can see her house on Google maps. Not just the roof as captured by satellite – it's the front door and the recently trimmed shrub. Mine’s on there too (apparently I wasn’t home, my car isn’t on the street). In fact, there are now street level views of most of the Capital Region.

To check it out yourself, go to Google Maps, and click on the “Street View” button. Areas where street view is available will appear in blue.

So far it looks like they’ve only captured the Capital Region and NYC, but stay tuned, and I bet many of your front doors will show up soon.

In related news, GIS fans will have some new data sets to check out. Layers depicting neighborhood “boundaries” are the latest and greatest in geographic information systems. Although neighborhood boundaries are frequently fuzzy, in many cases this information has been gathered from local real estate experts, and areas are allowed to overlap. Read more here: Neighborhood Boundaries: The Next Big Thing in Geographic Data.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Solving Customers' Problems to Create Relationships

"Unfortunately, more and more of our target markets are turned off by the old sales pitches and will look for true help elsewhere." This article from Small Business Newz suggests relationship-building with customers as a way of improving the bottom line.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Norms and Ratios

Back in early December 2007, I sent out an email to the advisor population of the New York State SBDC. It concerned how advisors used norms and ratios data when working with clients. Over 120 people were asked this question, and I received 37 responses.

What I didn't do, obviously, was tell you about the answers.

In short, the question was this: We at the library typically provide you with the last three calendar years of norms and ratios data. We have four distinct sources for this information, but "norms and ratios" has seemingly become synonymous with "RMA". Did you, however, actually need three years' worth, or was the most current year enough?

Four were squarely on the fence, where one year or three years applied, depending on the circumstances. Of the remaining 33, there were 19 who said that one year was more than adequate, while the other 14 said that three years of data was still necessary.

Back in the early 90s, in the infancy of our library, we asked the advisor population of the time the same question, and the large majority said "three years". That's why it became policy.

Given the underwhelming majority of the "one year" votes, however, I'm not inclined to change our long-time policy. We'll continue to provide three years of data. If you don't need it, then you're (obviously) not obliged to use the older stuff.

Some surveys, then, don't result in any changes at all. Thanks to all who responded, and my apologies for taking this long to letting you know how things panned out.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The Online Books Page

There’s been a lot of talk lately about electronic books, what with new portable readers and digitization initiatives. We’ve sent some of you links to Google books, but it often seems that the pages that would be most helpful are precisely those not included! Wouldn't it be nice to have a directory of free online book resources?

For those of you willing to take the online reading plunge, librarians at the University of Pennsylvania have put together an index of freely available online books, The Online Books Page.

They’ve indexed more than 30,000 books on the internet, and the records are searchable by keyword, author, title, subject etc. There are also special features – like banned books and prize winning books online. I did a quick search for “marketing” and turned up a small handful of books, including a link to Plug Your Book! Online Book Marketing for Authors .

And around we go…

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Humor, allegedly

There is a recent article in Forbes magazine, delineating the ruckus that Madison Avenue ad man Jerry Della Femina has found himself in. In the January 23, 2008 edition of Della Femina's weekly Hamptons newspaper, The Independent, editor and columnist "Rick Murphy wrote what purported to be a column written by Barack Obama headlined 'Why I Should Be Our Next President, with a photo of the actual Obama and an overline that was blatantly racist," Forbes' media columnist James Brady writes. I became aware of the imbroglio early on when an SBDC staffer sent me a copy of The Independent column. The previous week's column on Hillary Clinton, for which the paper has also apologized, still had a working link as of February 5.

The pieces never made any sense to me because the tasteless stories - yes, I can send you copies, if you want - seemed out of place in what is essentially a Pennysaver-type adzine publication, albeit for the Hamptons. The story has gone from a local to national attention - see also USA Today and Alec Baldwin's posts in the Huffington Post - making the paper, published over a dozen years, a bit of a laughingstock. This seems to belie the adage that "there's no such thing as bad publicity." The offensiveness of the issue aside, I suppose the business lesson here is that it is dangerous to let an ill-considered, peripheral part of the operation endanger the whole magilla.

Monday, February 04, 2008

2008 Industry Outlook

Years ago, when I was a newbie librarian (newbrarian?), a staple on the reference shelf was the annual "U.S. Industrial Outlook". Put out by the Department of Commerce, it ceased publication several years ago.

Periodically, though, the private sector puts out reports like the "2008 Industry Outlook". Deloitte issued this in late January. Its layout reminds me a lot of the old "Industrial Outlook," in that you get a snapshot view "the entire spectrum of industries that Deloitte serves" (which is pretty broad).

You're not going to get in-depth information here - it's not intended to be a market research report, nor is it covering the same depth as, say, Standard & Poor's Industry Surveys reports. However, if you want to get a snapshot perspective on how external factors (e.g., the Presidential election, the rising costs of energy, etc.) are affecting certain major industries in the U.S., this is a good place to start.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Conundrum

I was born in Massachusetts, and about 90% of my extended family still lives there. They live for the Patriots, and are just living the dream right now.

I recently married a fan of the Giants, who comes from a family filled with like-minded souls. They, too, are feeling good about life.

You can see, then, how selecting my rooting interest in the Super Bowl on Sunday can be complicated. It's a classic dilemma - not forgetting my roots, or knowing that cheering against the wife can result in a long, cold winter of sleeping in the garage.

I sought help from the people here at the central office for the New York (note emphasis) SBDC. Here's what they say will happen:

Al NY 28 NE 24
Roger NY 24 NE 17
Amelia NY 24 NE 21
Tammy NY 27 NE 24
Mary NY 24 NE 21
Jim NY 35 NE 31
Andy NE 27 NY 17
Cheryl NE 31 NY 21
Jinshui NY 28 NE 27
(he says “it’ll be close” – I made up a score for him)
Martha
(who's not here today - but she signed an email recently with "Go Patriots")

Fran & Josée left before I could ask.

Brian is a Bills fan (“The Only Football Team in New York”). He wants them to win.

That doesn't help me. I find it remarkable that a team from the largest market in the country is portrayed as the lovable underdog, while the team from the Boston area (a place not known for an abundance of confidence) plays the villain.

The heart says the Giants. The head says the Patriots. As a reference librarian, I tend to trust my head.

Patriots 35, Giants 17. Let the grief begin.