Saturday, December 09, 2006

New Changes

As you may have noticed, I've changed the site's color scheme. I thought the old colors were pretty drab and boring, so I tried to make it a little more feminine and interesting. I think it looks pretty good, but I would like to get some feedback on whether other people feel this way, if I should change anything, or whether I should go back to the old color palette altogether. I'd love to hear what you think, so please comment and let me know what you prefer.

Also, I'm really excited about a new feature that I think will make finding things on the site much easier. I've labelled all of my posts and they're organized by category, on a list on the right side of the page. Thanks for bearing with me while I try out these new features.

Dealing With A Difficult Interviewer

A good friend of mine recently had a series of job interviews (seven in all) with a well-known company. One of these interviews was with a person whose job was to see how well my friend handled pressure. Basically, the interviewer spent an hour challenging everything my friend said. When he saw that my friend went to the University of Michigan, he said that he was an Ohio State fan, and asked him to convince him why Michigan had a better team. He suggested that he must have cheated on a test to get such a high score. And anytime my friend responded to a question with an answer that wasn't totally clear, there were tough follow-up questions until he clarified his point.

Luckily, my friend is fairly cool under pressure, so while he was agitated by the interrogation, he was able to keep it together for the interview. I know that I probably would have been a bumbling mess in the same situation, but his story got me thinking about how one could prepare if they knew in advance that an interview would be very tough.

Many companies are known for using this practice of bully interviewing, and if you do some research online in advance, you might be able to find out whether your company does this. A good source of information is The Vault which features employee surveys from thousands of companies, where people often comment on the interview process.

If you have no idea what to expect from the interview, it certainly doesn't hurt to do as much preparation as you can. If you're in college, check to see if your career development centers offers mock interviews, they're extremely helpful and will give you confidence going into the interview. If you don't have access to such a service, ask a friend or family member to ask you practice questions. Remember, the more confident you are, the better you'll handle any tough questions or awkward situations.

If you do get a difficult interviewer, there are a few things you can do to make the best of the situation. If an interviewer starts bullying you, recognize that they could be just playing games to see how you handle the situation. Do not take anything they say personally, and do not argue back, though you should defend yourself in a respectful manner. Stay calm and take your time answering each question fully and try your best not to show how nervous or uncomfortable you may be. Regardless of whether the interviewer has been told to act horrid or not, you are being evaluated at how you handle a one-on-one situation, and this is your opportunity to show your maturity and professionalism. In fact, a difficult interviewer might even present an excellent opportunity to distinguish yourself from other applicants, many of whom may torpedo their chances with a poor performance.

And as always, no matter how pissed off you are that someone put you through the interview from hell, you should always still send them a nice thank you note within a day or two of the interview. Good luck!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Mascara Woes

The most overhyped beauty product on the market is, without a doubt, Maybelline's Great Lash Mascara. It's one of those products that has been around forever, and it's been on the top of so many "Best of Beauty" lists that a lot of magazines don't even count it in their yearly surveys of top products. It's also the most popular mascara sold in the U.S.

But for some reason, I'd never tried it, until 2 weeks ago when I was given a free tube. All I can say is, what are millions of women thinking?? This stuff sucks!

I did everything I was supposed to: curled my lashes, applied one coat, combed lashes, applied another, combed again... and the results were not pretty. I could not keep the mascara from smearing onto my eyelids, which messed up my eyeshadow and just looked gross. And my lashes actually looked short and stubby (which they kind of are, but mascara has never exaggerated this before) and stuck together for an icky, Tammy Faye-esque effect. A more accurate name for this product would be Maybelline Monster Lash.

I have to admit, I'm not a huge mascara fan to begin with. As a blonde, my eyelashes are so light that you can barely see them when I'm not wearing mascara. Despite this, I still only wear mascara when I'm going out because it drives me nuts. Often, I always forget that I have it on, so I'll go to rub my eyes and get it all over my eyes and hands. And of course, no one carries makeup remover on them, so you have to make due with soap and water. I also hate the fact that mascara is so easy to screw up when applying, when you're trying to get out clumps it ends up on your eyelid, and once the clumps are gone, you there's barely any product left on your lashes.

So after my huge Maybelline mess, I decided to see if there was something wrong with my application, and after washing off my eye makeup, tried again with my standby mascara, Clinique Long Pretty Lashes Mascara.

Clinique's LPL doesn't promise ridiculously long, thick, voluminous lashes, as so many products do. It does what it says- give you long, pretty lashes that look natural enough that it looks as if you just have naturally long, gorgeous lashes. No clumping, minimal smearing, easy to remove, this stuff isn't miraculous, but it's reliably quite good, and is a great choice for anyone who prefers a low-maintenance look.

I wondered if I was the only person who felt this way, preferring the fairly unknown Clinique product over the Maybelline monolith. So I did some research on Makeup Alley, and found that the average rating of Great Lash is 2.2, (on a 5 pt scale, very poor) compared to Clinique's 3.6.

So what's going on here? Is this some conspiracy perpetuated by Maybelline's marketers to convince beauty editors and regular women that this is the best stuff out there? Are my lashes (and maybe those of Makeup Alley posters) resistant to the magical powers of Great Lash? I have no idea. But if you've had any positive or negative experiences with Great Lash, or have another mascara that you love, feel free to comment and let me know.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Holiday Party Fashion Guide: Part 2 - Separates

Today's post is the second installment of my holiday party fashion guide, focusing on separates. A lot of women don't like wearing dresses and feel more comfortable in pants or skirts, and you shouldn't feel like you have to wear a dress to a semi-formal or formal party. One great thing about separates is that you can get more bang for your buck by buying pieces that you can dress up or down depending on what you pair them with, so keep that in mind when you're shopping. A sequined tank top that looks fabulous with a pair of wide leg dress pants at a dinner party will look just as great when paired with jeans and boots for a night on the town.

Without further ado, here are some trends for holiday partywear:

Holiday colors: Bright, rich jewel tones are perfect for the season. You don't have to limit yourself to red and green though, any deep color will help you stand out from the sea of boring black. But make sure you wear only one item that's brightly colored or it'll be overwhelming. This bright blue silk blouse would look fabulous paired with black pants or a black pencil skirt, as would this cute red halter. I love that this flattering tank top comes in "starlet red". This silk halter comes in 6 colors, while this multi-purpose v-neck cashmere sweater comes in 12. Pairing a bright top with dark pants or skirt will draw attention to your face and upper body. Colorful pants or skirts (like this one draw attention down and add weight to your hips and thighs, which is good for women with athletic bodies, as it adds curves. Stay away from pale, neon or dull tones, which are less festive.

Rich fabrics: Don't shy away from luxurious fabrics like silk, satin, velvet, lace, brocade and cashmere. The key is not going overboard with the same fabric, like head to toe velvet. This sweet short-sleeved cashmere sweater would look perfect paired with a voluminous skirt. This silk halter top is very flattering with its ruching along the side. These satin trousers would look great with any of the colorful tops I just mentioned, or this super sexy stretch satin top. Lace skirts are timeless, and you can't go wrong with this pencil skirt or this dramatic pleated skit with lace detail.

Sparkle and shine: Embellishments can definitely dress up an outfit and make it more interesting, but don't go overboard. Simple gold detail at the neck of this beautiful blue top adds so much that you should avoid pairing it with any other detailed pieces. These flattering wool pants have a subtle shimmer, while the satiny waistband on this gabardine pencil skirt is just enough to make the skirt stand out. If you want to be bolder with your sparkle, try a sheer sequined tank top, like this one.

Up the volume- As I've mentioned many times, volume is a huge trend for fall, so have fun mixing and matching slim and wide pieces. A fitted tunic sweater with a dramatic cowl neck or a ruched empire waist top would look great with slim, bootcut pants and high heels. And this fluid, empire waist tunic is edgy but still sophisticated. You can feel like a ballerina in a knee-length tulle skirt, but don't pair it with anything else dancer-esque, or you'll look like you've come from performing Swan Lake. And don't be afraid of bubble skirts, many can be quite flattering. The key is that the part around your waist is fitted, and that it's widest at the bottom, around your knees, and not at your hips. Here is a beautiful example. You also have to make sure that your top is fitted, particularly at the waist.

Stay tuned for part 3 of the guide, where I'll discuss accessorizing. If you have any specific questions about what to wear with something, shoot me an e-mail!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Gifts for Guys, Part 2 (Sports)

In my last section, I talked about some great gifts for the video game player in your life. In this post, I'm going to give you some nice gift suggestions for the sports fan. I must give some credit to Bill Simmons (the ESPN "Sports Guy" Columnist) for some of these suggestions- he mentioned a few of them in a previous column (sadly, now available only to ESPN Insider subscribers).

What do you get a sports fan as a holiday gift? There are some things that come to mind that initially sound like good gifts. Tickets to a game could be nice, but that might also obligate you to actually go to the game with the recipient (unless you make it clear the gift is for him to attend with a friend). Also, for non-sports fans, it's often hard to tell whether you're getting a good deal or not, or whether you're even buying tickets to an event that the recipient would like.

So, there are definitely some more affordable and safer choices. I am a big fan of giving sports-related books, as they're affordable and it's hard to go wrong choosing one, as long as they come well-recommended. Here are a few excellent sports books that most sports fans will appreciate:

How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization: This is a fun sports book masquerading as intelligent political commentary. Regardless, it's a fantastic book filled with great anecdotes about soccer fanaticism around the world, and how soccer and much of 20th Century history are intertwined.

Love Me, Hate Me: Barry Bonds and the Making of an Antihero: This is a great book about one of the greatest (but most unpopular) athletes in history. Not a tough read, and a really great book to get for any sports fan.

Chocolate Thunder: The Uncensored Life and Time of Darryl Dawkins: This is a great (and extremely cheap) book for any basketball fan, filled with hilarious anecdotes about the NBA in the 1970's and 80's. It's certainly not a standalone gift, but is a nice throw-in or stocking stuffer.

Also, there are a few sports-related TV DVD sets which would make great gifts:

Playmakers - The Complete Series: This was an amazing TV series about a fictional pro football team that was a major hit on ESPN a few years back. According to some reports, the NFL successfully pressured ESPN to take it off the air (perhaps because it hit a bit too close to the mark).

The White Shadow - Season 1: The White Shadow was a great series about a white former NBA player coaching an inner-city high school basketball team, and comes highly-recommended from both myself and's Bill Simmons. I'd definitely recommend it for basketball fans.

As far as movies, there are plenty of excllent sports movies that would make great gifts, but one needs to be very careful, as most diehard sports fans will have seen most of the best sports movies. However, if you're going to opt for a movie, has an excellent ranking of the best sports movies ever made right here. You can be assured that virtually any of these 20 great films would make a great gift.

Anyway, best of luck on finding a great gift for the sports fan in your life. Feel free to post any comments and questions- I'd be happy to offer more guy gift advice.

Handling Rejection

Yesterday I was rejected from an internship that I REALLY, REALLY wanted. Naturally, I was very disappointed, and I called up my family and friends to cry and make excuses about how obviously biased and stupid they were not to pick me, when I was PERFECT for this. Finally, though, I pulled myself together and decided to move on. Here were some of the things that I found helpful in getting over the rejection that I recommend:

First, let your feelings out. Call someone who knows how important the job was to you and talk about how you feel. The same methods that work for getting over an ex-boyfriend work well for getting over a job: try not to focus on what you're missing, talk about the negative aspects of the job, and consider other options. But just hearing someone else tell you that better things will come along makes a huge difference.

Distract yourself. Moping around the house all day drinking wine and eating ice cream in a Bridget Jones-esque binge isn't very healthy, and you'll probably just feel worse the next day. Go see a movie, hang out with a friend or go to the gym and work off your frustration and excess energy. Being around other people and staying active will keep you from focusing on your disappointment.

Be Proactive
. Within a couple of hours of getting the rejection call, I went online and searched for similar internships and wrote down a list of people I could contact for networking. While some people may not want to even think about continuing their job search the day of a rejection, I know that I felt a lot better just knowing that I had more options, some of which were very exciting. When you're able to focus on setting new goals, you're more likely to forget your old failures.

Of course, it always takes time to get over rejection, so don't be afraid to give yourself some time and space. But no matter what, dwelling on the situation and beating yourself up over it doesn't help you at all. It's much better to try to look ahead and consider the many options that are still out there.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Rant- Britney Spears's Post-KFed Fashion and Beauty Choices

I don't know if it was hooking up with backup dancer turned pro wrestler Kevin Federline, firing all her stylists, pregnancy, rebelling against the expectations that pop stars and actresses be stick-thin and look perfect at all time, or just an inherent trashiness that made Britney Spears go from being the hottest singer in the world to this mess:

It seems like every outfit she wore for the last couple of years included an exposed thong, Cheeto-stained, too-tight clothes and very dirty hair. Though I've never been much of a Britney fan, she was looking pretty pathetic, and I felt bad for her. So, like every other person on earth, I was happy to hear that Britney Spears filed for divorce. She was getting such bad press, it seemed like by the age of 25 her whole career was over. Breaking up with uber-loser Kevin Federline seemed like a great opportunity for her to get her image and singing career back on track.

Within a day or two of announcing her divorce, she was photographed all over New York with a new blonde bob (looked a little wig-like to me, but definitely a step forward) and a very chic and modest, if a bit tight around the hips, black dress. The belt is very stylish and gives her more of an hourglass shape, and the boat neck and knee length show off her post-baby weight loss in a sexy, but not over the top way. You go Britney!

Unfortunately, after a good start, Britney has fallen back into her old ways. She's fired her stylists and publicist, and the results speak for themselves.

First, it was the hair extensions. Granted, the majority of women in Hollywood have extensions, but they also have their hairstylist style their hair in such a way as to hide the part where the fake hair is glued and then fused to their real hair. Exposing your extensions is like advertising that your breasts are fake- there's an unspoken rule that dictates that you pretend you're 100% real. On top of this, they're just ugly, cheap looking extensions; her hair looks stringy, the color washes her out and you can see each individual extension.

Then she started hanging out Paris Hilton, who by comparison, looks modern, put-together and sophisticated. Perhaps Paris decided that she wanted to makeover her own image, and found the one person who would make her seem classy by comparison. But who am I to speculate about the inner workings of Paris's mind.

Britney's dress (if you can call it that) appears to be the world's sluttiest ice skating costume, and it does nothing for her figure. Her breasts look squished and droopy, the too-tight fabric makes her waist look wider and the dropped waist and itty-bitty length of the skirt thicken her hips and legs. I was going to write that she would look much better in pants, but then I came across this picture:

If she got rid of the tie and the fabric was different and not so skin-tight, this outfit would be pretty good.

I don't mean to totally trash Britney. As I said, I think it's fantastic that she ditched her worthless husband and that she's trying to get back in the game. No one should be a has-been at the age of 24. But unfortunately, she's completely going about this the wrong way.

If you've recently lost weight and feel great about your body, you should show it off, but wearing skimpy clothing doesn't make you look better. As Britney shows, unless you have a perfect body, tight fabrics and no coverage tend to highlight your flaws.

The most beautiful women in the world know that nobody can look good when they're partying non-stop. When you're drinking a lot and not getting enough sleep, you look old and tired, your skin and hair look bad, and you tend to just look like a mess. On top of this, you're not as focused on your career (the NY Post reported that Britney's skipped out on recording sessions), and you get to be known as just a party girl and not a legitimate artist/actress (just look at the fall of Lindsay Lohan as a prime example).

Everyone keeps talking about how "Britney's back!", but I think it'll take some major lifestyle changes for her to accomplish that. And hiring a stylist, publicist, personal hairstylists and makeup artists, an entourage with the sole purpose of helping her look fabulous at all times would certainly help her hold her own next to Hollywood's hottest women. I'd like to see her succeed, but it's obvious that someone needs to be there to protect her from herself.

Gifts for Guys, Part 1 (Video Games)

I've been constructing different gift guides based on varied interests, but I realized that I didn't have enough ideas for gifts for men. I decided it would be best to bring an expert in, so today's post was written by my boyfriend, Andrew. If this goes well, I'll consider promoting him to the position of occasional guest poster.

Trying to find great gifts for women can be an exercise in frustration- aside from the usual suspects like gift cards and books/movies/music, we guys are often at a complete loss when it comes to finding a nice, thoughtful gift. On the other hand, guys are simple- when it comes down to it, 98% of guys love one of the following two things: video games and sports. So, to find a great gift, all you have to know are some items in those areas that are hot right now. Today I'll tackle video games, and tomorrow I'll talk about sports-related gifts and what to do if your intended recipient doesn't like either video games or sports (inconceivable!).

Video Games

Expensive and Hard to Find: What are the hottest products in video games right now? Well, clearly the Playstation 3 ($499-599) and the Nintendo Wii ($249, but selling on eBay now for up to $400-500), both of which are out of stock virtually everywhere right now. The PS3 will almost definitely be impossible to get through the holiday season (and likely well into 2007), but there is a good chance that Wiis will be available at retail in time for a Christmas gift. This is an expensive item, but if you're considering a gift in this price range, it's really almost impossible to go wrong with this hot system.

Mid-Priced Gifts: For a good gift in the $40-60 range, try getting a highly-reviewed game for the system the recipient owns in a genre they like. Head over to Gamespot's Reviews Section and try to find games with ratings of at least 8 or higher. Amazon's Video Game Section has a great selection of games. Make sure the game you're buying is for the right system, and surreptitiously check to make sure that the recipient doesn't already own the game. Warning: your significant other may be suspicious of your sudden interest in video games.

Budget Gifts: These kinds of gifts vary by system, but there are a lot of desirable items you can get in the $10-20 range. For a Wii owner, look into a Wii Points Card, which can be used to buy classic games for the Wii online. For an XBox 360 owner, consider a Xbox 360 Live 3 Month Gold Card, which can be used to extend an XBox Live membership by 3 months. There are similar budget items that are worth considering for other systems, most of which will be appreciated by most people who own the system.

Anyway, tomorrow I'll talk more about gifts for the sports-junkie, and some other excellent guy gifts. Feel free to post comments and questions- I'd be glad to provide some more specific advice.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Excuses, Excuses

A couple days ago I was walking into the cafeteria with a friend, when we ran into a mutual friend I hadn't seen in a few weeks. I asked him if he and his girlfriend (who was also there) wanted to join us for lunch, and he said that he was meeting some people and wouldn't be able to. That was fine, and my friend and I got our food and sat down. We ended up a few tables away from the guy and his girlfriend, who were eating and studying alone. I wanted to catch up with them, but didn't want to interrupt their work, so we ate our lunch and left without saying anything to them.

Though I obviously don't know the whole situation, I was mildly annoyed that my friend wasn't just honest about why he didn't want to eat with us. It would've been totally acceptable for him to simply say "I've got a ton of work to do, could we grab lunch together next week?" Either way, I wasn't offended, but it did make me think about how one should handle this kind of thing.

It seems like people often feel like the reason why they can't do something isn't legitimate enough, so they invent an excuse that someone can't argue with. I know I do it all the time, even with people I really like; I have a paper to write, a meeting to attend, I already made plans with another person, etc. In reality, I usually would just rather hit the gym so I can unwind from my day, call my Mom, or watch the Dancing With The Stars finale. It's nothing personal, I just don't feel like hanging out at the time.

Unfortunately, these little white lies can often come back to hurt you. For instance, if you say you're too ill to do something and run into your friend at another party that night, you're going to have an awkward situation on your hands. It's easy to lose someone's trust this way.

So what do you do if you're in this situation? Well, it depends on who is inviting you to do something. With a close friend or family member, you should be able to say, "I'm just not really in the mood for doing anything today, but how does Saturday work?" without the other person feeling offended or annoyed. You can also always try to find some middle ground, like stopping off at a party for a short time. The person will appreciate that you at least made an effort.

With anyone you like and hope to see again, it's important that you do tell them that you would like to do this thing with them another time, and suggest a date when you can do it. If you continually put off people, they'll think you don't like them and will be hurt.

If you want to see the person again but don't want to do what they suggested, you should tell them nicely and suggest something else to do ("I'm not really a party person, but if you'd like to get dinner sometime, that would be great").

But of course there are times when someone you really don't like keeps inviting you to do things. This is a tricky situation, assuming you don't want to hurt the person's feelings. You can hope they take the hint by always having an excuse for why you can't go, or you can ignore their invitations. Or you can just suck it up see them every once and a while. I think that unless this person is completely dreadful, you should try to see them occasionally, making sure to carefully orchestrate the situation so that you're doing something you like. You should also make sure you have an excuse for getting out of the situation within a reasonable amount of time ("I'm sorry, I can only stay for a half hour, I've got some work to do").

Overall, if you're going to make an excuse for why you can't do something, try to keep it as close to the truth as possible. You can also initially make a vague excuse ("I've got a lot of stuff to do tonight", even if that stuff means giving yourself a pedicure and cleaning out your fish tank) and hope that they don't press for specifics. Most importantly, if you are forced to lie, make sure that they won't be able to see you doing something very different from what you said you'd be doing (such as the partying when you say you're sick example).

And if you're in a situation like I was, where it's obvious that someone just doesn't want to do something right then, try to be understanding and not bully them. I hate it when people say things like, "Are you totally sure you can't come? What is it exactly that you're doing? You can't stop by right after that?". This puts someone in a very uncomfortable situation. If it seems like someone is lying, let it slide.