Friday, November 30, 2012

Is Cyber Week (Formerly Cyber Monday) The New Normal?

With today marking the official close of “Cyber Week” it’s a good time to reflect on the trend that seems to have invaded and completely taken over the last days of November.

What’s the Deal With “Cyber Monday?”

“Cyber Monday” is a term for the Monday after Thanksgiving with the idea being that many people take two days off from work for Thanksgiving - Thanksgiving Day and the following Friday. That Friday following Thanksgiving has become known as “Black Friday” because stores that may have been losing money and “in the red” all year make so much money with the surge of sales on this day that their books are now “in the black.”

Around the year 2005, online retailers started noticing a surge on online sales on the Monday after the Thanksgiving holiday. It made sense because the shopping mood carried over to the first day back at work and people who work with computers were using their work computers to do online shipping.

The day became known as “Cyber-Monday” as the popularity of online shopping increased and became mainstream. The first day back at work after the Thanksgiving holiday has become a holiday of sorts in and of itself. It has since grown into one of the biggest shopping days of the year. In fact, the reports are that Cyber Monday 2012 has been the best CyberMonday ever in terms of dollars spent on goods purchased.

Since most people shop online the first week after Thanksgiving, it has now become "CyberWeek." A lot of people do this at work (whether the boss is watching or not).

Even Community Business College decided to pitch in by offering 26% off the tuition of all its classes. This will last all week and be the school's CyberWeek 2012 deal.



The “week” in Cyber Week is only 5 days, of course. Monday through Friday based around the fact that most office workers only work those days of the week.

Cyber-Week is being broken down into its component days.

One group is promoting “Small Business Saturday.” Small Business Saturday is supposed to encourage holiday shoppers to patronize local “real” brick and mortar businesses with an emphasis on the small business shops.

There’s “Green Tuesday,” which is supposed to inspire consumers to make thoughtful, purposeful, environmentally minded shopping choices.

Sofa Sunday is named for the place and time where many people shop with their iPads.

Push Back

It's gotten so exreme that some brave retailers are now declaring Thanksgiving Day to be fair game and have started calling it “Black Thursday” with stores opening during various times on Thanksgiving Day in order to get the early, early crowds. Is that taking things too far? Some think so. As with so many things now, there are always people who try to counter the trends.

This push back is taking different forms.

Landing on the same day as Green Tuesday (there are only so many days in the week from which to choose) is Giving Tuesday, an event designed to encourage people to donate to worthy causes.

And even Buy Nothing Day on the Friday after Thanksgiving being championed by a Canadian activist group where instead of buying things, people are encouraged to not buy anything.

Still, with more tools at hand than ever before, savvy shoppers can get good deals online all the way through the end of November now before the big Christmas rush.

What can defeat this spreading of extreme shopping?


Technology might provide the answer with making stores adapt every day to “Black Friday” deals.

There are, of course, the daily deal websites such as Groupon and LivingSocial and SweetJack. They allow individual retailers to offer more specialized deals every day.

And now smartphones are getting into the act. There are now apps that allow you to price compare on items while you are in the store. That means if you find something you like in the local department store, you can search to see if it’s cheaper on Amazon or even down the street. But stores are getting wise to it and have started sending the ability to send coupons immediately to your smartphone to keep you in the store.

Decide.com 

The website Decide.com is all about leveraging data and technology to help shoppers predict and get the best deals. It uses a text mining algorithms across the world web to enable shoppers to get the best deals on their items possible.


Decide.com

They offer “Decide Score” which is a product rating system. It incorporates millions of user and expert reviews, recency of reviews, and scores from previous models to bring you the most data-driven, unbiased and useful product recommendations.

Decide advises you to buy or wait based on our proprietary price and model predictions. Our price predictions are right 77% of the time, and when they are we save you $101 per product on average.

Someday you may never have to worry about paying a price only to find it cheaper somewhere else at a later time. Price predictions help you pull the trigger on a sale with confidence and save money. Decides prediction algorithms utilize billions of observed price movements and over 40 distinct factors. Another feature allows you set up sales alerts for your future product purchase to be in the know about price changes, rumors and product releases.

So while all the competition is for getting your shopping dollars on Black Friday, CyberMonday and the holiday shopping seasons that follows, maybe in the near future we’ll see these types of deals all year round. Would you really miss getting up at 4 AM on the Friday after Thanksgiving to go stand in long, cold lines? And on the following Monday, you could not worry about missing a great deal while the boss peers over your should to see if you’re working or shopping.

Monday, November 12, 2012

A Day To Remember - Veterans Day

Today is a day for recognizing of military veterans. Technically, of course, yesterday was Veterans Day – November 11th. Today, being a Monday, allows the holiday to be included in a three-day weekend and so some observances are moved to Monday from Sunday.

It’s good for us to remember the meaning of the holiday and to recognize the sacrifices that have been made by a few for the good of all. Veterans day, formerly known as Armistice Day, or Remembrance Day (or even Poppy Day), is an excellent opportunity to do that.
The courageous men and women and their families serving our country take time out of their lives to serve us and make sacrifices every day.
With parades and memorials at cemeteries and even the retiring of old flags, there are a lot of activities available for those interested in conducting observances of the day.

Community Business College tries to do its part to help veterans and current service members. The school participates in the “Thank You For Your Family’s Service” scholarship and the Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts (MyCAA), to help eligible military-related students cover the costs of attending training and job placement assistance programs.

As part of its military friendly practices, Community Business College is also currently offering veterans and military-related job seekers a free “Job Search Tool Kit” which includes package a professional resume review, a job search guide, and a one-month world language class, where students can learn any one of 15 languages online.

Community Business College
Military Friendly School
For its efforts, the school, along with the 1,738 other colleges, universities and trade schools bade this year’s Military Friendly Schools’ list as determined by G.I. Jobs Magazine.

When remembering those who served and still serve today, we also mustn’t forget military families. Families are the rock upon which military members depend. It’s important to remember that families of military members sometimes have more difficult social challenges than even the military members themselves.

Military life can be very disruptive. Many people oftentimes overlook the sacrifices military spouses and their children make and the important role they play in the defense of our country.

Being a military kid often means you move from school to school in different parts of the world as you follow your military parent’s new station assignments.

It’s a sacrifice that most families are willing to make because the rewards of serving your country outweigh the downsides, but it’s an overlooked part of military life.


Ways to Observe Veterans Day

The first way to observe Veterans Day is to not forget what Veterans Day is really about. It’s not, as some stores may want us to think, a warm up for Black Friday shopping. It’s a holiday dedicated to honoring armed service veterans.

Some people like to make a family tradition of attending a memorial service or parade or sending a package to a member serving overseas. Some will read a different book written by a veteran each Veterans Day so as to remember those who didn’t make it home and those that did.

Fly the Flag
Veterans Day is a good day to put a flag up the flagpole. It's a classic gesture and one that still works. Seeing the U.S. flag waving in the breeze in the front of a home provides a constant reminder of the day and its importance.
Say “Thanks”

Despite a recent NBC article about some veterans and soldiers who feel awkward about being thanked, most active duty service members and veterans like to be thanked for their efforts. As long as the thanks are sincere and not too ostentatious, veterans and military service members accept the thanks courteously.

A good approach is to mention that you’re thanking the veteran and all those who served.


Send a Care Package

People who are currently serving overseas sometimes feel forgotten by the folks at home. Even with today's high-tech communications devices, the distances involved in deployments can bring a sense of isolation and loneliness. They enjoy receiving a care package of little items from the states. They also really enjoy receiving letters and notes.

When the school sends care packages to the troops, the responses are always warm and appreciative but the items that really stand out are the cards and letters.

The letters don’t have to be long but they should be personal. Describing yourself and where you live is a good start. Including a heartfelt word about why you’re writing is good and letting the recipients know you’re thinking about them is a good subject to include in the letter.

If you’re not sure where to send the care packages, you can use “Any Soldier.” Any Soldier is a military support group that receives specific requests from service members for items to be sent. The requrests are usually unit leaders on behalf of their squads who describe which items are missed from home the most or what items are in short supply (for example, baby wipes are popular where there’s lots of sand that needs to be cleaned out every day).
Visit the website www.anysoldier.com for more details.

By the way, the Post Office will no longer deliver packages addressed litterally to “any soldier” so you should get the name and correct delivery address of your intnded recipient.

Another option is to visit your local chapter of Blue Star Moms. Blue Star Mom groups are support groups for people who have children in the military.


You can also ask local churches and other places of worship, who usually know of families who have someone serving overseas.

A big advantage to using an already established group is they can also tell you what is possible to send and what is not. When putting together items to send, you have to keep in mind not only postal regulations (which have gotten more restrictive over the years) but also to be sensitive to the rules of the respective host countries.

Support Military Families Stationed Overseas
Community Business College students and staff also send expired grocery coupons to overseas military families. The coupons don’t have to be expired but a lot of coupon cutters end up with leftovers they don't use and would otherwise just throw them away. Due to a special rule, military families overseas are allowed to use the coupons at base commissaries for up to 6 months after their printed expiration date. Sending a few over with a note of appreciation is a great way to brighten someone's day.

It’s through efforts like these that we can remember the fallen and those who gave up portions of their lives to serve their country.

Happy Veterans Day.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Colds and Flu at School - Prevention

It’s the time of year we dread at Community Business College – the onset of cold and flu season.

We try everything we can to avoid getting and spreading colds: hand sanitizers stationed strategically around the campus, sanitizing facial tissues in each classroom, Lysol used to clean fixtures. But still it happens. Someone will catch a cold and then it spreads.

What to do?

Is the winter cold secret cure right in our pantries? Some say apple cider vinegar is the key to staying healthy and shortening the lengths of a cold or flu. One of our instructors, who teaches the customer service classes, suggests gargling with two-teaspoons of apple cider vinegar in a glass of water. It can be a quick way to lessen a sore throat. She says drinking the mix every day is even healthier and mixing some honey in it makes it taste a lot better.


Can it be that simple? Anecdotally, people have found that while apple cider vinegar might not be a miracle cure that completely eliminates all symptoms, it can be a good method to lessen some of the symptoms. And a dose a day may contribute to preventing colds in the first place.

    The Recipe:

        The 1 – 2 – 3 Apple Cider Vinegar Drink
        1 cup of warm water
        2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar (unfiltered if possible)
        3 teaspoons of honey.
        Stir all ingredients together until honey is completely dissolved.
               Optional: a shot of lemon juice to give it a fresh flavor.


The Theory

The goal of drinking apple cider vinegar is to fight off infection. The theory is the vinegar does this by simply keeping fluids where they belong: in your body’s cells, not in bacteria.

The body becomes more alkaline during a cold and the vinegar will help to re-balance the body’s acid level. Viruses don’t care much for the body’s normal acidic pH level and acidic ingredients can help with that.


Digestion Boost

Good digestion leads to good health. Two teaspoons of apple cider vinegar added to a glass of water at each meal is supposed to be helpful in maintaining the health of your digestive tract, and in turn, the all-around health of your body.


By eating foods that are sources of potassium, such as fruit, berries, edible leaves, broccoli, edible roots, and honey, and apple cider vinegar the body can maintain cardiovascular and bone health. Potassium is also good for the body enzymes required to have a strong metabolism.


Circulation Is Important Too

People with improved circulation report better mental acuity and clearer thinking.

Apple cider vinegar might assist with that. Being high in potassium, it keeps the soft tissues of the body supple and flexible. That’s a good thing because flexible circulatory systems keep the blood flowing and gives the body and brain all the oxygen they need to operate at peak efficiency.

The old axiom that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure is a good way to approach this cold and flu season.

Apple cider vinegar may not be a cure all, but, (dare we say it?) it is certainly nothing to sneeze at.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Dec/Jan Solar Pro Magazine Arrived Today

We just received our shipment of the December/January 2013 issue of SolarPro magazine. This magazine is one of the main publications in the solar industry.

The magazine comes out every couple of months and has articles on new technologies, new laws and what's been happening the world of solar and photovoltaics.

SolarPro Magazine

Sure, interviews with members of the San Francisco Department of Building Inspection may not sound like an exciting read to a lot of people, but if you're in the industry, it's good to keep up with what's going on.

That's why Community Business College does things like handing out free magazines and subscriptions to its students and graduates.

One of the most important things we teach in all of our classes at Community Business College is to practice lifelong learning. There's always more to learn in an industry because, now more than ever, there are technological and procedural advances in every aspect of work. From solar panel installation rules to new ICD-10 coding for medical billing and coding to updated Microsoft Office software, those who don't keep up will be left behind.

If you're interested in receiving a free copy of the latest issue of SolarPro magazine, stop by the school's admission office and just ask for one at the front desk.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

As you may have read on the Community Business College Twitter feed, we had another examinee pass the Microsoft Office Specialist Excel Expert exam yesterday. The goal of the certification is to provide people a chance to show others (e.g. current bosses, prospective employers, patronizing computer-savvy high school children) that they know their stuff. It’s been a way for employees to differentiate themselves in competitive job markets and broaden employment opportunities by displaying advanced skills.




Why Excel Certification?

The Microsoft Excel certification is part of the set of Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) certifications that is offered by Microsoft. Community Business College instructors have certifications but they’re not just designed for the academic community.

Microsoft Office Specialist certification can also lead to increased job satisfaction. Research (conducted by Microsoft, of course) indicates that certified individuals have increased competence, productivity, and credibility.

Community Business College Microsoft Office Software Suite


For employers who are looking for specialized computer skills, Microsoft Office Specialist certification provides skill-verification tools that help assess a person's skills in using the Microsoft Excel spreadsheet program. It’s also nice to have an official-looking certificate with the Microsoft logo to hang on your wall. The boss might tell you that you don’t know what you’re doing, but you can point to it and say that Bill Gates’ Microsoft says you know what you’re doing.


Excel has come a long way…

The days of VisiCalc are gone, of course. For the uninitiated in personal computing lore, VisiCalc was the first spreadsheet program for home computers. It was also the first “Killer App” - a good reason to pay a thousand bucks (or more) for a box that nobody else in the house seemed to think had much potential. There was really no practical need for a home computer – word processors could do your word processing and typewriters were getting pretty sophisticated. Games could be done cheaper on game consoles and sometime the graphics were a LOT better. The Internet was still just a twinkling in DARPA’s electronic eye.


Surprisingly, it wasn’t word processing but spreadsheet software that made the whole home computer revolution possible. There was nothing else that could do spreadsheets like a personal computer. And so the worksheet became the face that launched a thousand-thousand PCs.



Since those days filled with simplistic dreams of what spreadsheets were for, though, they have come a long way. From PacMan games programmed in Excel to “extreme couponer” organizers to “million-dollar idea” business plan templates, Excel has shown its versatility. The program has become so specialized that it’s official certification exams have been broken into two tiers.

“Core” Excel Versus “Expert” Excel

The Microsoft Office Specialist exams come in two versions – Core and Expert. Core covers the basics of spreadsheet layouts and is designed for regular users to get certification. The expert exam gets more advanced, obviously.

For most people who come to Community Business College, the core exam is what they’re looking for. Learning Microsoft Excel is not difficult but as someone once said, “it takes a few minutes to learn but a lifetime to master.” When first learning Excel, it’s also a good time to put your hours of game time to good use, especially if you’ve played Battleship. Battleship, by the way, is an excellent way to understand the coordinate reference system Excel uses. At Community Business College, we’ve seen Excel students who have played Battleship and those who haven’t (yes, it’s true, some people have never played Battleship). Those with the “Battleship background” pick up on how Excel functions a lot faster than those who don’t.


The core exam is the exam that covers the fundamental and most common uses of Excel, such as:

· Formatting Cells and Worksheets

· Creating Cell Data

· Cell Functions

· Changing Worksheets in a Workbook

(By the way, Community Business College offers some free materials if you’re interested in taking the exam, just ask us for a copy of the Microsoft Excel study guide).

If, however, people want to prove they are true Excel aficionados, test takers will tackle the expert level. Expert exam certifications demonstrate proficiency in the more advanced Excel features and uses.

The other advantage of buying a Microsoft Excel expert voucher (they cost the same as the core voucher), is once you pass the expert level exam, you are on your way to becoming a Microsoft Office Specialist Master. The master certification is an extra certification received after passing all of the following Microsoft Office exams: Excel and the Microsoft Word expert exam and the MOS: PowerPoint exam and MOS: Outlook exam (either the Microsoft Access, OneNote, or SharePoint exams can be substituted for the Microsoft Outlook exam).

We’re glad we had another candidate pass the Microsoft Excel expert exam and is on his way to becoming a Microsoft Office Specialist Master. By the way, the way he passed it was he purchased the MOS exam voucher with retake. We strongly encourage test takers to do this because, although the voucher with retake is initially a bit more expensive than just the single voucher, it can save money in the long run because it gives you two shots at passing the exam without having to pay full price for each exam. This can save you money in the end, especially for examinees who have never taken one of these interactive exams before.

Once again, congratulations to our newly minted Microsoft Excel expert and good luck to all those in the future who plan to take the exam!





Friday, November 2, 2012

Did you realize that November is a national blog month?
Someone has determined that November 2012 shall be a "National Blog Posting Month" (or NaBlPoMo) for short. There's even a logo to make it official:


National Blog Posting Month logo
 Writing is an exercise we teach at Community Business College. Good writing is good for the reader and it's good for the writer.

Like any skill, writing takes practice of course. Creative writing takes even more practice and finding the right guidance is important. But is it worth the effort?
For most people, the answer is "yes." From blogging to writing and publishing e-books, today there are more outlets for budding writers than ever. It just takes some time and effort. Many non-writers are finding they can become published writers with just a little hard work.  Read this article for an example of the value of writing during NaBlPoMo.

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