The 10 Worst Mother’s Day Gifts Ever

It’s Mother’s Day, that time of year when you let Mom know how much you appreciate everything she’s done for you. But sometimes those expressions of love get lost in translation, like when you somehow convince yourself one of the following gifts will result in smiles and hugs … and not the kind of blowback you haven’t seen since you flunked biology. If you’re looking to rub your maternal unit the wrong way this year, go ahead and wrap one of these babies up. But let’s face it: It’s gonna be tough telling the guys at the office you’ve been grounded.

  1. A Kitchen Appliance. This woman has spent years cramming food down your gob. A kitchen tool will seem less like a “Thank you” and more like a, “Hey, Ma! Can you whip me up another meatloaf?”
  2. Bathroom Accoutrements. The idea of brightening up the commode with a gold-plated toilet brush or beautiful new soap dish is all well and good, but she’s gonna look at it and think one thing: crap.
  3. Lingerie. Unless you have a special relationship with Mom that would bring prosecution in all 50 states, this creepy notion will bring the holiday to a screaming halt … and probably lead to your needing to register with local authorities.
  4. A Gift Certificate. “Dear Mom, I just couldn’t be bothered to put any effort into thinking about what you might want, so here’s this.”
  5. A Pet. Your mom is finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel of taking care of you. She’s thinking pedis and mah-jongg -- not starting from scratch raising a brand-new helpless creature.
  6. Fruit of the Month Club. Not exclusively a bad Mother’s Day gift. This is the kind of monumentally awful gift that can ruin any occasion.
  7. A Fancy Vacuum Cleaner. “It’s time for you to take life a little easier, Ma. Use this!” Well, that might be a functionally sound concept. But for a woman who just spent half her life cleaning up after you, this idea sucks.
  8. Lunch at Any Restaurant With Laminated Menus. While Hooters and IHOP are time-honored institutions, they won’t exactly scream “special occasion.” Any screaming you hear will likely be X-rated and directed at you if you choose to take her to one of these joints.
  9. Automotive Supplies. Nothing says I really am an unsentimental, self-involved son like a brand-new set of white walls!
  10. A Gym Membership. Your mother passes as many health clubs as you do every day. So if she hasn’t signed up for anything yet, she’s not looking for a reminder from you that she needs to get in shape. Stick with chocolates on her special day. You can tell her she’s fat tomorrow.

How to Ace Your Performance Review

Which would you rather face: a sink full of dirty dishes, or your annual performance review? If it’s the former, you’re not alone. In a recent study conducted by Development Dimensions International, sitting through a performance review was ranked ahead of doing housework, paying taxes and having a hangover on a list of situations that employees loathe most. Jazmine Boatman, who has a doctorate in industrial/organizational psychology and is the manager of DDI’s Center for Applied Behavioral Research, understands why: “A lot of managers don’t know how to have these conversations. And people dread the unknown.” The fact remains, however, that your performance review is your opportunity to shine … and to be rewarded accordingly.

Prepare All Year Long
The key, says Ford R. Myers, president of Career Potential LLC, is preparation. The more backup you can bring into the meeting, the better. “Keep a success file throughout the year containing notes and information about all of the good things you’ve done for the company,” says Myers, who is also the author of Get the Job You Want Even When No One’s Hiring. He adds that the success file should not be filled with a list of everyday tasks (i.e., the things you’re expected to do) but rather “the things that go beyond, that produce measurable results.”

Typically, says Myers, “an employee gets a job, puts his head down, and his boss has no idea what he’s doing for the next 12 months.” This approach is especially damaging since the average boss is not in the most generous frame of mind at performance-review time. “He has budgets to meet -- and a boss who’s watching him too,” explains Myers. The upshot? “You need to prove you’re worth more money.”

Make Praise Pay
Whether your goal is a promotion or a raise -- or both -- you’ve got to be proactive. Ryan Kahn, a Los Angeles–based career coach and host of the show “MTV Hired,” says you need to “blow the boss away, demonstrating how you’re bringing extra revenue into the company.” Of course, not everyone can prove he’s generated sales leads or helped the firm’s bottom line. What about the poor chap who’s answering phones? “I would tuck away positive emails, compliments you’ve gotten from customers or others,” suggests Kahn. These testimonials, he explains, will do the bragging for you.

Meetings Can Equal Moola

As a means of showing your mettle and your monetary value, Myers recommends that anytime you take a new position, you get your boss to agree to a strategic meeting with you once a week for the first three months, and then once a month for the duration of your time on the job. “You want to be working on the projects that are most important to that boss,” says Myers, “and to be of as much assistance to him as you can possibly be.”

Go Above and Beyond (and Say So)
Another terrific way to stand out is to keep a bullet list of all of the things you achieve each month and send it to the boss as an attachment. “Send it on the 30th of every month, like clockwork,” says Myers. “When your boss sees you coming in for your year-end review, she’s going to say: “This is a strong person. We need to retain and reward him; we can’t afford to lose him.”

The best part of all? Once you get a raise -- not to mention your big, fat promotion -- you’ll be able to pay someone else to wash the dishes.

Are You a Tech Geek?

You’d rightly bristle at being called a nerd, but these days it’s practically chic to be labeled a geek. Take this quick quiz to see whether you can count yourself among the few, the proud who know their NVRAM from their H.264.

1) The first thing you do when you get up in the morning is:

a) Pull on your bathrobe and head outside to grab the newspaper.

b) Yank your smartphone from under your pillow and check your messages.

c) Wake up your iPad and surf to Engadget to see what you missed since your last visit, which was at 2:30 a.m.

d) Unclasp your sleep bracelet and launch an app to review how your slumber numbers stack up against the ones from the night before.

 

2) It’s the first weekend in months that you don’t have to go in to the office. You’re going to reward yourself with:

a) A romantic getaway weekend -- just you and your girlfriend at a B&B so remote it doesn’t get cell service.

b) A strenuous mountain hike that will let you put your new Magellan MobileMapper CX through its paces.

c) Back-to-back watching of “Battlestar Galactica” seasons three and four, streamed straight to the TV from your 4 TB hard drive.

d) Deep delving into the product links you grabbed by scanning QR codes up and down the aisles of this year’s C.E.S.

 

3) An abbreviation you use on a daily basis is:

a) AOL

b) ROFL

c) COD MW3

d) TRA (If you don’t know this one, you obviously don’t work for the U.S. DoD.)

 

4) The way you’re most likely to use the word “game” in a sentence:

a) “I can’t believe there’s no game meat on this menu.”

b) “Anyone game for a ride on my new jet ski?”

c) “I finally figured out an untraceable way to game the cable company!”

d) “Dude, Portal 2 is not just a game to me -- it’s my life.”

 

5) When it comes to cameras, your philosophy can best be described as:

a) “Let’s keep Kodak in business! Digital is for sissies.”

b) “Why should I buy a camera when I’ve already got one on my phone?”

c) “I don’t care what the experts say. I love me megaloads of megapixels.”

d) “My life before buying a light field camera is just one big blur.”

 

6) The TV personality with whom you most identify is:

a) The washboard-ab’d Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino of “Jersey Shore.”

b) Walden Schmidt, the Internet billionaire played by Ashton Kutcher on “Two and a Half Men.”

c) Stan Smith, the “American Dad” bodacious CIA operative.

d) Adam Savage, the bespectacled special-effects designer who co-hosts “MythBusters” as well as the new science- and engineering-themed game show “Unchained Reaction.

 

7) If you could meet any historical figure, it would be:

a) Ned Ludd, the rebellious 18th century English youth whose name was adopted by that era’s Luddite movement.

b) Benjamin Franklin, founding father, author, diplomat and inventor.

c) Alan Turing, World War II–era scientist and creator of the Turing machine.

d) Watson, the annoyingly smart computer that won “Jeopardy!” last year.

 

8) You’re all ready for the Olympics this summer, thanks to:

a) Friends who’ve offered you their place just off Leicester Square -- and front-row tickets to the opening ceremonies, diving competition and decathlon.

b) The new flat-screen they’ve just put in at your fave neighborhood haunt, the Regal Beagle.

c) A satellite dish on your roof, which pulls in 880 high-definition sports channels -- providing there’s no reception interference from a heavy rainstorm.

d) Your 55-inch 3-D television and a box of active-shutter glasses. Soon, you and your two best buds -- whom you met while working at the Apple store’s Genius Bar -- will be watching the London games in three friggin’ dimensions.

 


SCORING
Calculate your answers according to the values assigned to each:

a = 1 point

b = 2 points

c = 3 points

d = 4 points

If you scored a total of …
 

8 to 12:

Are you serious? Not even a pocket protector and a ham radio kit could turn you geek.

13 to 19:

You’ve got some tech tendencies, but you need to make some changes before you can geek out with the best of them.

20 to 26:

Way to go! You’re an up-and-coming geek. Very few people make it this far.

27 to 32:

Congratulations! You may not get all the ladies, but you are a true Jedi Master in the world of tech geeks.

 

Celebrity Winners of the Best Facial Hair Awards

While the celebrities strut their stuff on various red carpets this month, we thought we’d hand out a few awards of our own. Welcome to the very first Best Facial Hair Awards. The envelope, please!

The Mountain Man Beard Award: Jake Gyllenhaal

Jake Gyllenhaal’s mountain man beard might be long and bushy, but he keeps it combed, expertly trimmed and healthy-looking. When dealing with facial hair at this length, maintenance is key to avoiding an overgrown and unkempt nest full of woodland creatures.

Best Eyebrows on an Agent Award: Saif Ali Khan

There’s nothing worse than a man with barely-there eyebrows. But most Bollywood stars suffer from the opposite problem – overly large or bushy eyebrows. Saif Ali Khan's Agent Vinod looks right - an Indian James Bond, impeccably dressed and styled.

Best Funny Man Mustache Award: Eddie Murphy

While Tower Heist won’t win the Oscar for Best Picture, Murphy’s finely trimmed chevron mustache deserves an award for the way its angular shape balances out his oval face.

 

Best Hair Ball Award: Questlove

If you’re going to sport a voluminous afro) lead and grow a full beard to help balance out the look and avoid looking like you’re wearing a hair helmet. His beard emphasizes his strong jawline, anchoring his incredible hairstyle and bringing the entire look together.

 

Best Eyebrows on a Solo Artist Award: Drake

There’s nothing worse than a man with over-plucked, barely-there eyebrows. Drake’s thick but tidy brows properly frame his eyes, without looking overdone or overgrown. Gentlemen, don’t forget: There should be two.

 

Best Mustache on a Muppet Award: Swedish Chef

You might not understand what the Swedish Chef has to say, but his mustache is perfectly clear. The Chef’s ’stache strikes a delicate balance between his bulbous nose, gaping mouth and wild eyebrows. If you have large features, dainty facial hair will only serve to make things look larger.

 

Best Breakup Beard: Russell Brand

Breaking up is hard to do, but funnyman Russell Brand does it in style. His recent split from pop star Katy Perry has left him with a dastardly, pirate-worthy beard that gives him a brooding look -- an appropriate style for a recent divorcé, if you ask us.

 

Best Performance by a Goatee and Mustache Duo: Kanye West

Kanye West keeps his mustache short, expertly trimmed and narrow to avoid adding weight between his nose and lip. Instead, he turns the focus to his goatee, which emphasizes his strong chin and jawline.

 

Best Rock ’n’ Roll Beard Award: Lenny Kravitz

When you’re a rock ’n’ roll icon).

 

Best Smooth(ish) Stubble Award: John Legend

When you’re a smooth soul singer, you need facial hair that will complement your gentlemanly style while upping your game. John Legend’s perfect short stubble adds a dash of roughness to his boyish face -- but not enough to scare off the ladies.

 
And our awards for most dubious facial hair styles go to …
 

The Trying-too-hard Stubble Award: Adam Levine

Maroon 5 front man Adam Levine has perfected the art of the stubble -- and that’s the problem. It’s almost too perfect. Stubble is meant to look accidental, to sport an air of, “I woke up looking this good.” Levine’s stubble is so evenly trimmed and shaped that it appears overworked. He could use a lesson from Lenny Kravitz.

 

Most Awkward-looking Beard Award: Robert Pattinson

When teenage girls proclaim their undying (undead?) love for you at every turn, sometimes you need to don a disguise just to get a little peace. Nothing can change your look quicker than a beard. Unfortunately, Edward’s -- I mean, Robert’s -- beard looks awkward on his boyish face and drains away his usual good looks. A perfect disguise, indeed!

 

Starting a Business in a Tough Economy

Whether you’re unemployed, underemployed, fearful of a layoff or just bored with your job, at some point you’ve probably thought about starting your own business. And like most people, you’ve probably been held back by a host of concerns: whether your idea is good enough, how to get funding, whether you can live without vacation and medical benefits, whether you even have the chops. Now, there’s one more worry to add to the mix: whether it’s crazy to start a business in the wake of a recession.

Here’s the good news. First, all entrepreneurs face those same fears on the road to building a company. Second, many Fortune 500 corporations, including Procter & Gamble, IBM, General Motors and FedEx, were founded during a period of economic uncertainty. “If you launch your business during a difficult time, you know what you can do on a lean basis,” says James King, state director of New York’s Small Business Development Center. Then once the economy starts to bounce back, he says, you’ll be well-positioned to succeed.

We asked King and Rex Hammock, founder of SmallBusiness.com and CEO of the custom media and marketing firm Hammock Inc. -- based in Nashville, Tenn. -- what it really takes to stop working for the man and become your own boss.

Tip No. 1: Seek input.

For starters, you should run your business concept past a few impartial observers before pouring your whole self into it. “Family and friends are not going to give you an honest answer,” says King. And even if it is a great idea, you must remain open to the possibility that your better mousetrap simply might not catch on. If that turns out to be the case, adds King, be prepared to adjust and compensate.

Tip No. 2: Check yourself.
Feeling ready? Put yourself to the test. This online quiz, created by the Small Business Administration, will help you ascertain whether you truly have the drive, perseverance and skill set you’ll need to see your business succeed. Even if you don’t, the SBA offers tips on how to build those credentials. Take advantage of this advice before diving in.

Tip No. 3: Go it alone.
The simplest approach is a start-up with you as the sole employee. Says Hammock: “For consultants, contractors or freelancers, the opportunities are many. Companies are using contracted services to fill in gaps in their workforce.” Being an independent contractor often means you call your own shots and name your hours and fees. The downside is loss of vacation and medical benefits -- though there are ways around that. For medical coverage, seek out programs offered through industry member organizations or groups such as the Freelancers Union. You may have to forego vacations for a while, but once you have a solid client base, you should be able to afford a few weeks of unpaid leave.

Tip No. 4: Find financing.

Less simple, though not impossible, is the path for capital-intensive startups. Hammock warns that these are tough times for getting a loan. “Banks are requiring more personal guarantees and financial collateral than I’ve seen in my nearly 30 years of owning small businesses,” he says. But King claims it’s still doable. “The money is available,” he argues. “You just have to prove the case for it.”

How? Get your ducks in a row by putting together a solid business plan. If you’ve never written one and need direction, avail yourself of the largely free assistance of organizations such as the Small Business Development Center (or SBDC, which maintains help offices in every state in the U.S.). The better prepared you are, says King, the more likely it is that the major financial institutions will work with you.

Another prospective source of financing is credit unions, which picked up much of the small-business lending slack when big banks put on the brakes in the aftermath of the global financial meltdown. Depending on the amount of funding needed for your venture, you can also seek economic support from friends and family, from so-called angel investors or from venture capital firms.

Finally, King advises that you raise or borrow enough money to provide your fledgling company with adequate cushion funding. It may take you longer to turn a profit than you expect, and you don’t want to be left penniless mere months in.

Tip No. 5: Don’t super-size.
Once you’ve hung your shingle, avoid the temptation to grow too quickly. This is particularly true for companies that start making money sooner than expected. “Say you open a restaurant and it quickly becomes a hot spot,” posits King. Before you know it, you’re excitedly adding seating and staff. But chances are good that you’re merely experiencing a new-restaurant bump, and that customer traffic will soon come back down to earth. “If you misjudge that,” warns King, “it can be a disaster for your business.”

Tip No. 6: Beware of the competition.
When you do start to grow, competitors will likely appear where none existed before. “Someone else is going to try to replicate your success,” says King. He recommends going back to your business plan and adjusting it to respond to the new conditions. This will help you stay a step ahead of any changes that could affect your bottom line.

Tip No. 7: Focus on the right components.

The smaller you are, the more you’ll be building your new company’s reputation on the basis of two essential factors: quality and service. “Trying to compete in an arena where price is the only factor in your clients’ purchasing decisions is a train wreck waiting to happen,” says Hammock. “If you can help a customer or client be better at something they want to be better at, you’ve cracked the formula for long-term success.” In other words, make your clients look good, and you’ll look good too. And if that prospect doesn’t have you thinking about punching in your current job’s time card for the final time, nothing will.