Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Table Manner Tips Every Guy Should Know

We all remember the basics our mothers taught us about table manners–no elbows on the dinner table and don’t talk with your mouth full. But ever wonder which fork to use for your salad or how to signal a waiter at a fancy restaurant? Read on and learn the basics in table manners that will be sure to impress your date, girlfriend/wife’s parents, employers or whomever you dine with.

Table Setting Placement

In formal settings, all the silverware, glassware, cups, saucers and the like are placed on the table, so it’s often difficult to know which fork to use when or which water glass is yours. As a general rule to thumb, silverware is lined up in the order in which a person will use them, going from the outside, in. For instance, the fork and knife used for the salad are placed in the outermost of the setting, farthest from your plate (with the exception of the spoon). Dessert silverware, if not brought out with the dessert, are placed at the top of your entrée plate. Glassware, cup and saucer are placed to your right, while the napkin, bread plate and butter spreader to your left.

10 Table Manner Tips

Now that you know how the table setting is laid out and when to use each, here are 10 tips for the duration of the meal:

  1. When dining with six or more, it’s polite to wait till roughly 50% of the table has their food before starting your meal. In smaller groups, wait until the entire table has their food, unless food temperature is at high risk in decreasing the enjoyment of the meal, and/or others at the table incessantly insist you begin.
  2. You can and should use your knife to cut large pieces of lettuce or other ingredients in your salad. Nothing is worse than trying to shove a large piece of lettuce in your mouth and having some of it stick out. (No brainer, but this applies to your entrée as well.)
  3. The proper way to butter a piece of bread is to rip off a piece that’s about one or two bites in size, butter it, and eat it. Repeat. Never bite straight into a roll, and refrain from cutting it in half and buttering.
  4. While cutting meat, the correct way is to cut a piece and then switch your fork to your right hand to pick it up. This method is considered the “American” way. Not switching your fork and using your left is called the “Continental” way, and is done most often in European countries. This way is gaining acceptance and I wouldn’t be surprised if one day soon it’s considered acceptable in fine dining. Also, cut meat a piece at a time. Cutting the entire meat up into pieces or cutting more than one at a time is tacky.
  5. Wipe your mouth before taking a sip of your drink. It’s unsightly to see food particles or grease on the rim of your glass. Also, it’s considered rude to take a sip of your drink with your mouth full. Plus, backwash is gross!
  6. When leaving the table during the course of your meal, put your napkin on your chair, not the table. No one wants to see your stained napkin. And at the completion of the meal, place it on the left of your plate, or if your plate has been cleared, in the center.
  7. When in a situation where you have to pass food or condiments to others at the table, pass it to your right, or counter clockwise. Never do a “boarding house reach” across the table.
  8. When you don’t want to swallow a piece of food in your mouth (e.g. a bone or a piece of fat), move the piece to the front of your mouth and use your fork (or spoon if that’s what you were using) to retrieve it from your mouth and into the side of your plate. The only time its okay to use your fingers is when it’s a fish bone.
  9. To get the waiter’s attention, the most polite way is to make eye contact. However chances are they are busy and/or are ignoring you. It’s acceptable to raise your hand to head level, just don’t go overboard by raising it way above your head and wave it about.
  10. When you’re done with your meal, the proper placement of the silverware is to lay them parallel to each other and across the plate with the handles facing the right. To clarify, the ends would be facing 10 o’clock and four. Note: Not all waiters will know this and they still may ask you if it’s okay to clear your plate. At least you appear classy.

After reading this, you may realize you may not have as good table manners as you thought you did. (It’s okay, it happens to the best of us.) And honestly, I’m not saying these are not the “be all, end all” of table manners, but if you follow these tips, you’ll be a step closer towards proper table etiquette.

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Make Yourself Stick With These First Impression Tips

When you’re interviewing for a job, one of the keys to success is your first impression. If you’re about to go in for an interview, maybe its time to re-evaluate the first impression you give off. Do you come off as likable? Do you exude professionalism and charm?

The goal of every first impression is to stick to a person’s brain. You want them to instantly like you and to keep thinking about you hours or even days after your first met them. Here are few things we can all do to give a killer first impression.

Dress to impress. You don’t want to walk into an interview looking like a slob. If you look sloppy, people will assume you do sloppy work. Look neat and presentable. Also, dress so you’ll fit in with the people who are interviewing you. For attorneys that means conservative suits, white shirts, and ties. If your job is more creative, say like a graphic designer, dress so it looks like you’re creative.

Look fit. People are attracted to people in good physical shape. If you’re out of shape, start heading to the gym everyday for 30 minutes of cardio and strength training. Also, quit eating junk and start eating healthy.

Give an impressive handshake. The first handshake is a key part in giving a good first impression.

Focus on speaking. Speak clearly and at a moderate pace. Work on varying your voice intonation. You don’t want to come off as a monotone bore. Also, speak the language of the person interviewing you. Avoid slang and jargon not associated with the job you’re interviewing for. Use proper grammar and vocab that reflects a higher education. If people can’t understand you, it’s hard for them to like you.

Use the person’s name. Using the interviewer’s name makes the conversation more personable. It also shows that you were paying attention during introductions and that the other person was important enough for you to memorize their name. However, avoid overusing a person’s name. Too much name use is off putting because it sounds fake and a little bit creepy.

Let the person know you’re listening. If it looks like you’re not listening, people will be turned off. Give subtle hints that you’re listening such as looking the person in the eye, nodding, and saying an occasional “I see.” Also , ask questions about what someone had just said. It shows you’ve been paying attention and that you want to know more about what they’re saying. Finally, don’t interrupt.

Shine the spotlight on the other person. The secret to charm is directing attention away from you and on to the other person. Avoid blabbing about yourself and start asking questions about the other person. Great questions to ask in an interview include:

  • “How did you end up at (name of company)?”
  • “What drew you to (name of company)?
  • What do you like most about working at (name of company)?”

You’ll not only get key insights about your potential employer, but the questions also require the interviewer to talk about themselves and people love talking about themselves.

What other things can we do to give a good first impression? Drop a comment and add to the conversation.

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The 10 Weirdest Facts about American Presidents

potus seal

This week we celebrated Presidents’ Day, a holiday which itself has a weird and winding history. In honor of all of the U.S. Presidents who have graced the White House and fearlessly led our country, here (in no particular order) is a list of 10 of the weirdest things you (probably) never knew about some of our Commanders-In-Chief.

1. Franklin D. Roosevelt (President #32) was related in some way to 11 former U.S. Presidents.

2. James Garfield, the 20th president, was a professor of ancient languages; he was also ambidextrous. He is said to have been able to write in Latin with one hand while writing in Greek with the other.

3. John Tyler, the 10th president, fathered an impressive 15 children. He was in his 70s when the 15th child was born.

4. The tall stovepipe hat that Abraham Lincoln (President #16) is usually depicted wearing was, in fact, a useful wardrobe device. He stored important papers inside of it.

5. Our 17th President, Andrew Johnson, was born poor and could not read until the age of 17, when he met his future wife and she tutored him in reading, public speaking, and mathematics. He was later very nearly lynched in Virginia and forced to flee his home in Tennessee when he opposed the South’s secession from the Union.

6. The 22nd and 24th president, Grover Cleveland, was drafted in the Civil War but paid a substitute $150 to take his place so he could stay behind to care for his mother and sisters. Unlike Bill Clinton who would dodge the military draft nearly a century later, Cleveland wasn’t widely criticized for this move: the Conscription Act of 1863 expressly permitted such a substitution.

7. Calvin Coolidge, the 30th president, was reported to be a very interesting character. When not having his head massaged with Vaseline during breakfasts in bed or riding his own mechanical bull, he was ringing the White House doorbell and then running off to hide.

8. So far, all American presidents have claimed ancestry limited to one or more of just seven nationalities: Dutch, English, German, Irish, Scottish, Swiss, and Welsh.

9. Grover Cleveland was the only president to openly admit that he had fathered an illegitimate child. When the allegations came out during his presidential campaign, he instructed his staff to tell the truth about the child. In reality, it was never determined whether Cleveland was the child’s real father; he paid child support because he was the only single man among the mother’s suitors.

10. There were four presidents who were not actual presidents of the United States: Sam Houston, Mirabeau Lamar, and Anson Jones were all presidents of the Republic of Texas. Jefferson Davis was President of the Confederate States of America.

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Green cars: The un-dirty dozen

Four Honda models made the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy's annual list of the most environmentally-friendly cars.

Lowest base price: $24,590
The Civic GX is especially green for two big reasons. First, it's very fuel efficient, getting about 36 miles per gallon-equivalent of fuel. The second reason is that runs on compressed natural gas, not gasoline. (Hence, the gallon-equivalent number.)

Natural gas is cleaner-burning than gasoline and it also contains less carbon than gasoline per unit of energy. That means less C02, blamed as a contributor to global warming, coming out its exhaust pipe. Altogether, that gives the Honda Civic GX the highest "Green Score" rank, a spot it has held for five consecutive years.

Since you're unlikely to find a natural gas pump at your corner gas - as in gasoline - station, Honda also sells an at-home pump that taps into an owners home natural gas line. Plan your trip carefully if you go far from home, though.

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Image:5 Silver US Dollars 1896.jpg

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Bible story comix featuring giant killer robots

Mecha Manga Bible Heroes is a series of graphic novels featuring "action-packed mecha-manga art and adventure-filled tales from the Old Testament." Shown here, the cover for #1, the David and Goliath issue.

The characters, stories and themes remain the same. Only the setting has changed – to a futuristic world of robots, aliens and advanced technology!
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Never Lost, but Found Daily: Japanese Honesty

Anywhere else perhaps, a shiny cellphone fallen on the backseat of a taxi, a nondescript umbrella left leaning against a subway door, a wad of cash dropped on a sidewalk, would be lost forever, the owners resigned to the vicissitudes of big city life.

But here in Tokyo, with 8 million people in the city and 33 million in the metropolitan area, these items and thousands more would probably find their way to the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Lost and Found Center. In a four-story warehouse, hundreds of thousands of lost objects are meticulously catalogued according to the date and location of discovery, and the information put in a database.

Smaller lost-and-found centers exist all over Japan, based on a 1,300-year-old system that long preceded Japan's unification as a nation and its urbanization. More recently, it has apparently survived an economic slump that has contributed to the general rise in crime.

Consider that in 2002 people found and brought to the Tokyo center $23 million in cash, 72 percent of which was returned to the owners, once they had persuaded the police it was theirs. About 19 percent of it went to the finders after no one claimed the money for half a year.

If the original owner is not found after half a year, the finder can claim the object or money. But most finders don't bother making any claims, and the objects and proceeds usually end up going to the Tokyo government.

Hitomi Sasaki, 24, sporting a suntan and a nose-pierce, found $250 in a tray under a plant outside the restaurant where she works.

''I always hand in something I find, like purses,'' said Ms. Sasaki, who had come to claim the money after waiting half a year. ''I imagine that a person might be in trouble, losing money or a purse.''

''I used to live in Chicago, so I can tell you how wonderful this is,'' she said. ''Inside the center, I saw a woman come to pick up an umbrella today. Only for an umbrella. It's something almost impossible to imagine in other cities in the world.''

Children are taught from early on to hand in anything they find to the police in their neighborhoods. So most of the 200 to 300 people who come to the center every day take the system for granted, as did Tatsuya Kozu, 27, who had just retrieved his leather business card case.

''I'm glad,'' he said. ''I just dropped by here to pick it up, since my office is nearby.''

On a recent morning, shelves were heaving under bags containing lost items that spoke of the rhythms of commuting life: keys, glasses, wallets, cellphones, bags. A small bicycle helmet with ''Suzuki'' on it and a toy horse testified perhaps to a child's fickleness.

Skis and golf bags attested perhaps less to misplacement than to an abandoned hobby; unclaimed wedding bands perhaps spoke of the end of something larger.

Wheelchairs and crutches were harder to explain, though Nobuo Hasuda, 54, and Hitoshi Shitara, 47, veteran officials of the lost-and-found system, had well-rehearsed lines.

''I wonder what happened to the owners,'' Mr. Shitara said.

Mr. Hasuda said with a smile, ''If they didn't need them anymore because they got better, it's a good thing.''

One floor was a sea of umbrellas, the most commonly lost item -- 330,000 in 2002, or 3,200 for every good rainfall -- and, at a rate of 0.3 percent, the least reclaimed.

The low rate is an indication of how rapidly Japan has grown rich in the span of a few generations. ''In the past,'' Mr. Shitara said, ''one person barely had one umbrella, or a family had to share one. So your father scolded you if you lost an umbrella.''

Everything changes. Mr. Hasuda remembered that at a local lost-and-found center decades ago, people brought in cabbages, radishes, oranges and other vegetables and fruit they had found. Because the products would spoil, the police sold them at a bargain to the finders. Nowadays, fearing contamination, the authorities immediately dispose of any food.

The item with the highest return rate -- 75 percent -- is the cellphone, which has flooded the center in the last three years. Owners typically call their own phones, or the center traces the owners through their subscription and sends a notification postcard.

The lost-and-found property system dates to a code written in the year 718, according to Hideo Fukunaga, a former police official who wrote a book on the subject, ''Notes on the Law on Lost Property.''

Back then, lost goods, animals and, mysteriously, servants had to be handed over to a government official within five days of being found. After a year, the government took over the belongings, though the owner could still reclaim them. The code stipulated that people had no right to keep lumber found adrift in a flood.

In the 18th century, finders were given more rights and were rewarded with a certain value of the found property. Finders who did not hand in objects were severely punished. According to Mr. Fukunaga's book, in 1733 two officials who kept a parcel of clothing were led around town and executed.

A new law was created in the late 19th century and then reformed most recently in 1958. Currently, a finder must hand in an object to the authorities within seven days, or lose the right to a reward or ownership. In the case of lost money, if the original owner is found, the finder has the right to claim 5 to 20 percent of the sum, though usually it is 10 percent.

Today, the authorities are thinking of ways to update the system by creating an Internet listing of the items at all lost-and-found centers nationwide, or at least those in Tokyo. The system's survival, though, will depend less on technology than on simple honesty.

Last June, Tsutomu Hirahaya, 55, a photographer, found 13,000 yen -- about $120 -- on a counter at a betting booth. He handed over the money to an employee and left his name and address. A few weeks ago, he received a postcard from the police informing him the cash was his.

''I feel uncomfortable holding another person's money,'' Mr. Hirahaya said ''I think many Japanese people feel the same way and hand over something they find. I think among Japanese there's still a sense of community since ancient times.''

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