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This Just In ...

Kevin Fischer is a veteran broadcaster, the recipient of over 150 major journalism awards from the Milwaukee Press Club, the Wisconsin Associated Press, the Northwest Broadcast News Association, the Wisconsin Bar Association, and others. He has been seen and heard on Milwaukee TV and radio stations for over three decades. A longtime aide to state Senate Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature, Kevin can be seen offering his views on the news on the public affairs program, "InterCHANGE," on Milwaukee Public Television Channel 10, and heard filling in on Newstalk 1130 WISN. He lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their lovely young daughter, Kyla Audrey, in Franklin.

Store windows in downtown Milwaukee: Oh, is it Christmas?

During my fill-in stint for Mark Belling today at WISN, one of our segments dealt with why people no longer like to shop at large indoor malls. One woman said the malls lack the holiday feeling. She particularly was saddened by the lack of holiday window displays in downtown MIlwaukee. They've been just about non-existent. Not so in New York. Here are some pictures from the New York Times:

Lord and Taylor

Gingerbread houses are part of the Victorian-themed display at Lord & Taylor this year. (Photo: Lia Chang/Lord & Taylor)


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Thank you again, J.Gravelle

I appreciate your guest blogs today. Seems there's no tar and feather crowd this time. Must be that holiday spirit, but with who? J. or  the readers?

J. will return to This Just In before the end of 2008.

Survival in a Lousy Economy

Back at the turn of the 21st century, I was an I.T. guy working in financial services.  Then came the "dot bomb" and ensuing market crash.

Both my sector AND my profession went bust simultaneously.  In essence, I found myself on a sinking ship with a cement life preserver.  I literally went from riding in town cars on Wall Street wearing a three piece suit, to driving a tow truck in the inner-city wearing overalls in a matter of a few months.

But not everybody in my sector was hit hard, nor was everybody with my skill set.  My biggest problem was that I hadn't diversified myself enough to adapt to the rapidly changing business and technical climates.

There's little as motivating as lying under a rusty Plymouth on the thin shoulder of the interstate with semis rumbling past a few feet from your head.  Since then, I've gotten back into the computing arena while keeping a keen eye on the health and status of various sectors, and knowing what sorts of skills become critical in hard times.  I am confident that I have learned what it takes to navigate the turmoil ahead, and I'm happy to share that knowledge with you now.  You don't have to be a computer geek to get something out of this advice.

First off, understand that a downturn means everybody has to learn to do more with less.  That goes for businesses, too.

No matter what your field, keep track of any way(s) you've come up with to improve efficiency.  If you've devised ways of doing things faster, better, and/or cheaper, don't keep it to yourself.  Make note of it for the future, and make mention of it when the opportunity arises.

As an example, I'm often asked to automate processes, or consolidate data into reports for clients ("analytics" and "metrics").  Often, these processes and reports were being done manually by several people per company, usurping weeks of man-hours per year.  It's not enough that I deliver the requested applications or numbers.  I need to also emphasize the savings to the client.  Companies see this as a "cost-benefit" relationship, and it's vital.  If you're saving a company more than you cost them, they can't afford NOT to use your services.  But it's up to YOU to be able to demonstrate that sort of value.

Secondly, some skills increase in demand (and in some cases, entire businesses thrive) in bad economies. has a great report, broken down by region and employment type, entitled:  The Top 25 Most Recession-Proof U.S. Job Candidates available here.

It's not all nursing and computer programming either.  There are a wide range of skills that will remain (or emerge) in demand.  Know what the opportunities will be, and allow yourself the flexibility to move into those types of roles.  Which brings me to diversity.

Appreciate the wide scope of your own existing skills.  If you're "just" a short-order cook, assess what your job entails in its entirety.  Are you asked to keep an eye on the perishables and submit new orders when a certain foodstock runs low?  Then your experience goes beyond "cook", and includes inventory control and management, ordering and receiving, and even vendor relations in the "restaurant and food services sector".  Don't define yourself too narrowly.

Finally, take every opportunity at self-promotion.  As an entirely hypothetical example, you could find a popular online forum and perhaps surreptitiously find a way to let lots of people know that your current contract is up at the end of the year, and as such you are happily inviting inquiries from potential client companies interested in procuring your services.  Try and let them know that you're anxious to put your track record of six-figure cost savings to work for them in the uncertain months ahead, and that having you on their team will give them a critical advantage in any type of market.

Oh, and be certain to end your message with a blatantly self-serving signature that includes your contact information.

Like this:

J. Gravelle
Sr. .NET Software/Services Developer
Retail & B2B Pharma/Health - Financial Services - Manufacturing and more

Gravelle prides himself on his subtlety

Did'ja Thank Your Ancestors?

It's a holiday weekend, so you'll excuse me for dusting off this Fox6 Political Featured posting from Thanksgiving 2007 instead of doing any real heavy lifting today.

Okay, even if you WON'T excuse me, I'ma do it anyway.  Here's an excerpt:

I'm thankful that my Irish ancestors never marched downtown anywhere waving the flag of Ireland and demanding bi-lingual education. If they did, I might be speaking in the Gaelic tongue today. Frankly, I don't even like the phrase "Gaelic tongue". It reminds me too much of my early years living on Milwaukee's east side. Note to young men new to the area: don't sunbathe alone in Juneau Park. Just... don't.

I'm thankful that my French ancestors never marched downtown anywhere waving the flag of France. They might have met up with my Irish ancestors, and joined forces. The next thing you know, we've got a hybrid of Bastille and St. Patrick's Days on the calendar. You don't want to mix the two. You'd have bus loads of drunken party-goers either surrendering themselves to the authorities in Germantown or ravishing area potato farms.

I'm thankful my ancestors on both sides abandoned their native cultures and became practicing members of the American society, taking only the pride and recognition of their heritage with them. I'm glad there are no French or Irish-speaking sections of metro-Milwaukee where my relatives and I could have isolated ourselves from the English-speaking mainstream of American life, fostering a climate of anti-social hostility through self-imposed segregation, and producing generation after generation of English-illiterate children whose best survival option would entail joining one of the notorious Franco-Erin street gangs easily recognized by their signature berets and matching gold-buckled shoes. I shudder at the thought of these corkscrew and shillelagh-wielding thugs recruiting my children into their circle of societally disconnected malcontents, even though I'm not really certain what a shillelagh is.

I'm thankful my Celtic ancestors have forgiven the Romans and Gauls for enslaving them, and haven't clung to history as an excuse for my family's succeeding generations to fail. As much as I'd reeeeeeally like to blame all the cr*p I pulled in my twenties on western Europeans, I'm pretty sure that me being a loser was my fault, and not due to the suffering of my greater-grandparents at the hands of Petronius Maximus. If I couldn't let it go, it'd make Italian-fest uncomfortable, not to mention all the time I'd waste going from booth to booth demanding free MalOcchio pendants as reparations for the suffering of my people.

Lastly, I'm thankful for you, the faithful reader of my weekly diatribes, without whom I'd-- I'd um-- okay, to be honest, I'm pretty wrapped up in myself, so I might not even notice. Except that maybe there'd be fewer emailed death threats. That'd be nice.

I'd definitely be thankful for that.

Happy (belated) Thanksgiving everybody...

J. Gravelle

Gravelle is also thankful for the chance to play in Mr. Fischer's online sandbox from time to time

I Don't Know How to "Bell"...

.....but Kev does.

Whenever he fills in on WISN, Kevin drops me a note saying "I'll be Belling on _(date)_."

He's ostensibly turned Mark Belling's last name into a verb, which I suppose, makes him a "Beller."

Let's hope he never fills in for Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk.

- J. Gravellle

Gravelle is Fisching today. Or is it Fischering?


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