Friday, December 15, 2006

What to get the boss or coworker for the Holidays

Ok, so this is going to be our shameless plug of the year, but why not get a NET membership for the young professional you work with? Coworkers are the hardest to shop for. Generic gifts don't work anymore. No one wants a plant, or cookies when they're trying to loose a few pounds. NET membership is a great gift. It's a great donation to an organization doing good things in the community (brownie points for you) and the recipient will be pleased to know that that powerful little card gets them over one hundred discounts at area businesses. Not to mention a subscription to Lehigh Valley Style magazine. Mega brownie points.

Click here to order one now.

Come socialize virtually with NET

In order to give members and non-members another avenue to network, the NET has groups on both myspace and facebook. Check it out. Make sure to invite all your friends!

A Big Thank You!

As the writer here at The Afterwork Chronicles, I wanted to thank everyone for their overwhelmingly positive feedback about the blog these past few months. It is much appreciated. I also am happy to see more and more comments popping up.

For those of you who haven't commented, don't be shy. You can even comment anonymously. No logging in required! We love to hear from you.

Don't forget you can also share blog posts with your friends by using the little envelope icon on the blog.

Love The Afterwork Chronicles? Then subscribe to it via RSS feed or via e-mail here.

And, if you really like the NET, sign up for our weekly e-mail to get the latest news about events and more.

Looking ahead, I am always open to ideas and suggestions, about the blog and other NET marketing efforts. And I am always looking for volunteers. Please feel free to contact me anytime.


Vanessa Williams
NET Marketing and Public Relations Committee Chair

Wing night anyone?

Coming out of our organizational meeting on Wednesday, a NET wing night was suggested. So now the NET is on a quest for the best wings in the Lehigh Valley. What's your favorite? Only independently owned local businesses will be considered.

Christmas Light Tours Across the Valley

It's here! The long and eagerly awaited Christmas Light tour put out by Bill White at the Morning Call. He highlights the best Christmas Light house displays across the Valley and puts them conveniently into well-organized tours. It's a great way to snoop around neighborhoods you've never been to before, and get to know your way around the Valley better. I don't know about you, but I always have trouble connecting different neighborhoods together. I've been on his tours before and have had more than a few eureka moments when I realized how to get from one section of town to another. Best of all you can see some of the best lights in town for FREE!! So grab a few friends, some hot chocolate and hit the pavement. You won't regret it.

Click here for the tours.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Betcha didn't know...

Christkindlmarkt in Bethlehem was named one of the best holiday markets in the world by Travel and Leisure magazine.

Financial Planning 101: Save on autopilot for retirement

You can put almost any task on autopilot: making the morning coffee, driving on a stretch of highway and paying bills.

Automatic investing also could become commonplace, especially for twentysomethings (that's us).

A study last month by Prudential Financial Inc., a financial services firm based in New Jersey, found that 66 percent of workers ages 21 to 30 would like to be enrolled automatically in a defined-contribution plan at work, such as a 401(k) or 403(b). (Go us!)

The same number of young workers also favored having their rate of contribution increased automatically every year, as well as have the asset allocation — the mix of stocks and bonds — adjusted for them.

Granted, Prudential, which manages 401(k) plans, has an interest in seeing more people contribute to retirement plans.

But the study indicates that young workers understand the importance of saving for the golden years — and that they may need a little help doing it.

''They've seen [from the generations in front of them] that the traditional do-it-yourself approach isn't achieving the retirement security needed,'' Deanna Garen, senior vice president of strategy and planning at Prudential Retirement.

''They want to be in an autopilot program that's making decisions for them so they don't have to worry about, 'Gosh, do I really know everything I need to know here?''' she added.

A federal law passed this summer makes it easier for companies to put a 401(k) or 403(b) plan on autopilot for workers. In fact, in a separate survey in October, Prudential found that 87 percent of companies for which it manages 401(k) plans were interested in adopting automatic features.

If your employer doesn't yet, here's how to make investing for retirement as effortless as possible:

  • Sign up for your 401(k) today. The advantage of participating in your employer's retirement plan is that the money comes out of your paycheck automatically before you get a chance to miss it. Ideally, put in the maximum amount matched, usually 3-5% of your pay before taxes. You double your money automatically. I can't think of a sweeter deal that has a 50% plus return. It's free money. If it's just too painful to bear, sign up for the plan when you get your next raise which is usually 3% or more if you're lucky. You'll never miss the money.

And thanks to the power of compounding, the more time you have to invest, the less money you need to put away.

Say, for example, you shuttle $40 every other week to your employer's retirement plan for 40 years. Assuming your investments earn an 8 percent return annually (which is about right if you have a good mix of mutual funds), you'd accrue nearly $270,000 by the time you're ready to retire. And $40 is a little on the low end, most of us can spare a bit more.

Wait a decade to start making contributions, and you'll have to sock away more than double the amount each paycheck to get the same sum.

  • Invest in a target-date retirement fund. If you need help allocating your investments, consider a target-date retirement fund.

Here's how it works: You pick a fund whose date matches when you want to retire, such as 2030 or 2040. The fund invests in bond and stock funds based on that retirement date, automatically adjusting the mix so that you don't carry too much risk as you get ready to retire — or invest too conservatively when you're just getting started.

In other words, it's a way to have professionals manage the portfolio for you without having to pay the steep costs.

Plus, more employers now offer this type of fund.

  • Don't worry that you're not a pro. Finally, some young workers wait to jump into the market because of inexperience. Don't let the market intimidate you.
Another way to save for retirement is to open a Roth IRA. Currently if you meet the requirements (which most of us as young professionals should) you can contribute up to $4,000. The benefit of the Roth IRA is that even though you pay taxes on it now, as it grows you won't pay taxes on it later. This makes perfect sense for young professionals who are usually in the lower or middle income tax brackets.

More here.

Allentown makes plea for Casino

In an impassioned plea for financial aid to one of the state's most cash-strapped cities, Tropicana Pennsylvania and public officials Wednesday implored state regulators to license a slot machine casino in Allentown.

Pawlowski said the struggling city desperately needs the tax revenues a casino would generate. ''Allentown needs these jobs,'' he said.

Projected to create 1,300 jobs, the $550 million casino complex would be built in phases on about 23 acres formerly owned by Agere Systems off Union Boulevard in east Allentown.

In its first phase, the casino would include a gaming floor of 100,000 square feet with 3,000 slot machines, a 250-room Marriott hotel and 11 restaurants and lounges. The first phase would not have retail space, so casino visitors would be encouraged to patronize nearby businesses.

We want to work with the downtown, not put them out of business,'' said Aztar Corp. Chief Executive Officer Robert Haddock, who testified on behalf of Tropicana.

Aztar has five casinos, including one in Las Vegas and its flagship Tropicana resort in Atlantic City, N.J. The company is being acquired by Columbia Sussez Corp., which owns several casinos and dozens of hotels.

Tropicana anticipates its first phase would open at the end of 2007, which would make it one of the first stand-alone slots parlors in the state to be up and running. The first phase, estimated to cost $325 million, would be completed in September 2008.

The second phase, expected to be finished no later than five years after the first phase, would add a day spa, 10,000 square feet of retail space, nine more restaurants and lounges and up to 2,000 more slot machines.

Tropicana's testimony lacked the glitz of some of its stand-alone competitors, including its nearest rival, Bethlehem's Sands BethWorks Gaming, whose officials gave elaborate video presentations and came armed with sketches and models of their projects.

But Tropicana's testimony included some of the most zealous pleas for a license. Proponents argued that Allentown is in more dire financial straits than its competitors, and because of its prominence in the Lehigh Valley, has a greater impact on the region's economy.

''The bottom line is Allentown needs this project,'' Pawlowski said, adding that the city lacks Bethlehem's economic revival opportunities and has a higher level of poverty.

Moreover, Allentown's financial problems affect the rest of the area, and if those problems aren't fixed, Bethlehem and other local communities will also suffer financially — even if Bethlehem is awarded a casino.

A tax-sharing plan lawmakers passed this year will ensure that both Allentown and Bethlehem reap tax benefits regardless of which city hosts a casino. But Pawlowski pointed out, ''The benefits are clearly weighted to the host city.''

The two proposals for Lehigh Valley casinos are competing against each other, two proposals in Monroe County and one outside Gettysburg. Pocono Manor wants a casino in Tobyhanna Township, Mount Airy wants one in Paradise Township, and Crossroads Gaming wants one in Straban Township, Adams County, near the Civil War battlefield.

Two stand-alone casino licenses are available for sites outside of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Most gaming experts believe one of the licenses will go to the Lehigh Valley, because the area is expected to generate some of the largest gaming revenues in the state. Only one of the Valley projects will get a license, because state law requires stand-alone casinos to be at least 20 miles apart.

Wednesday marked the last day of licensing hearings, one of the final steps before casino licenses are awarded Wednesday.

More here.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The real scoop on online dating sites

Consumer Reports:

Of the five sites — AmericanSingles, eHarmony,, True and Yahoo Personals — only True states that it checks the background of applicants at registration, screening information against a criminal database and public marriage records.

With each site, you start by answering questions about yourself and your potential mate, checking boxes to indicate a wide range of preferences. Each site also adds a space where you can describe yourself and the person you seek.

Three sites — eHarmony, True and Yahoo Personals — offer a compatibility test, which they use to try to pair members based on far more than likes and dislikes. The computer-processed tests are optional at True and Yahoo Personals and required at eHarmony. At eHarmony, you can be deemed unmatchable, and rejected.

You can peek into each of the five sites before opening your wallet. All of them offer advice — what to post in a profile, tips about online-dating safety — that is free to anyone. Basic one-month subscription fees range from $25 (Yahoo Personals) to $60 (eHarmony).

As for privacy, the site's policies varied. Although a spokeswoman for AmericanSingles told us the company ''does not sell its members' personally identifiable information,'' neither does the site promise that that information ''will always remain private.'' states that it may share your personal information with other companies whose names are displayed on the site, who in turn may use it ''in accordance with their own privacy policies.'' For its part, True has been certified for privacy and security protection by more than one independent group. All the sites, meanwhile, let you block e-mail from certain members or report bad behavior.

All the sites, too, renew your subscription automatically unless you cancel directly. Most, however, won't grant a refund if you bow out early. What's more, your profile could remain active and viewable on these sites until you notify customer service to remove it permanently.

Which site best meets your needs? That depends on what you want out of the relationship:
  • If Internet dating gives you pause, try True, whose screening of members and customer-friendly privacy policy make it especially reassuring.
  • If you favor matches close to handpicked, eHarmony is a good bet. (Although NET has heard that eHarmony is being investigated for fraud.)
  • If you just want the basics, try (The one promoted and approved by Dr. Phil) or Yahoo Personals, which have a simple, well-organized setup.
For more about online dating and valuable tips and tricks click here.
More here.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Ethnic Eats: Touch of Thai

Touch of Thai
123 N. Second St.

Food type: Thai

From the Morning Call:
"With dishes such as ''kang khew wan'' (chicken, eggplant, mushrooms and bamboo shoots in green curry over white rice noodles) and a fruit salad of jackfruit, longon, lychee and rambutan, there's nothing typical about this eatery, at least in the Lehigh Valley."

Quakertown foundry site to become park

Quakertown leaders have finally decided to take the borough's largest undeveloped piece of land, once an environmental blight, and add it to the park system.

The board voted last week to set up a new park planning committee to review the 15.3-acre parcel and make recommendations for things such as landscaping, walking paths or a band shell.

No structures will be permitted on three acres, according to the vote, so the borough can keep land in reserve for other possible uses in the future.

The borough purchased the property in 1987, three years after the old Krupp foundry stopped production.

A new post office was slated to be built there, but when workers began digging footings they found contaminated soil. The Krupp site ended up on the state's hazardous sites cleanup list, and eventually was subjected to a multi-million dollar cleanup.

More here.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The NET's Ultimate Holiday Special Guide

So all your favorite shows, Lost, Grey's Anatomy, Desperate Housewives, House are all on hiatus and there is absolutely nothing on TV right? Wrong! Yearly, the month of December delivers all those holiday classics we've all grown to know and love. From those great claymation classics, to new favorites - we've got em all. Here is the best complete listing we could come up with, if we missed any please add them! Print it out and keep it by your remote. Happy Holidays!

The NET’s Ultimate Holiday Special Guide

Mon. Dec. 11
8:30 pm Holiday Windows 2006 HGTV
9 pm The Year without a Santa Claus NBC

Tues. Dec. 12
12:30 am Holiday Windows 2006 HGTV
7 pm The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus ABC Family

Weds. Dec 13
7 pm Rudolph’s Shiny New Year ABC Family
8 pm I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus ABC Family

Thurs. Dec. 14
7 pm The Little Drummer Boy ABC Family
7:30 pm The Little Drummer Boy Book 2 ABC Family
8 pm The Polar Express ABC Family
9 pm What’s with that Christmas House? HGTV
10:30 pm The Polar Express ABC Family

Fri. Dec. 15
1 am What’s with that Christmas House? HGTV
7 pm The Year without a Santa Claus ABC Family
8 pm Santa is Comin’ to Town ABC Family
A Christmas Story TCM
9 pm Rudolph and the Island of Misfit Toys ABC Family

Sat. Dec.16
7 am Dear Santa ABC Family
8 am Jingle all the Way ABC Family
10 am Scrooged ABC Family
12 pm Mr. St. Nick ABC Family
2 pm Santa Baby ABC Family
4 pm Christmas in Boston ABC Family
5 pm White House Christmas HGTV
6 pm Three Days ABC Family
Holiday Windows 2006 HGTV
8 pm Christmas Do-Over ABC Family
Prancer AMC
Home Alone TBS
10 pm Christmas Do-Over ABC Family
Prancer AMC
12 am Picking Up and Dropping Off ABC Family

Sun. Dec. 17
8 am Prancer AMC
9:30 am Richie Rich’s Christmas Wish ABC Family
11:30 am I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus ABC Family
1:30 pm Once Upon a Christmas ABC Family
3:30 pm Twice Upon a Christmas ABC Family
4 pm A Christmas Story TCM
Home Alone TBS
5 pm What’s with that Christmas House? HGTV
5:30 pm Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas ABC Family
7 pm A Charlie Brown Christmas ABC
7:30 pm Santa Clause 2 ABC
8 pm Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas ABC Family
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation TBS
10 pm National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation TBS
10:30 pm Rudolph and the Island of Misfit Toys ABC Family

Mon. Dec. 18
2:45 am Prancer AMC
7 pm Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town ABC Family
White House Christmas HGTV

Tues. Dec. 19
7 pm Frosty’s Winter Wonderland ABC Family
7:30 pm Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey ABC Family
8 pm Prancer AMC

Weds. Dec. 20
6 pm What’s with that Christmas House? HGTV
7 pm The Year without a Santa Claus ABC Family
8 pm Christmas Do-Over ABC Family
A Christmas Carol TNT

Thurs. Dec. 21
8 pm Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas ABC Family
Rudolph the Red-nose Reindeer CBS
10 pm Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas ABC Family
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation TBS

Fri. Dec. 22
10 am National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation TBS
7 pm Rudolph’s Shiny New Year ABC Family

Sat. Dec. 23
7 am Blizzard ABC Family
9 am Snow ABC Family
11 am Christmas Do-Over ABC Family
1 pm A Mom for Christmas ABC Family
2 pm A Christmas Carol TCM
3 pm A Christmas Romance ABC Family
8 pm Eloise at Christmastime ABC Family
10 pm Home Alone III ABC Family
10:30 pm National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation TBS
12 am Scrooged ABC Family

Sun. Dec. 24
4:30 am Holiday Affair TCM
5 am A Christmas Carol TNT
8 am Christmas Story Marathon begins and runs until 7:30 pm on Dec. 25th on TBS
10 am Eloise at Christmastime ABC Family
12 pm The Little Drummer Boy ABC Family
12:30 pm Leprechaun’s Christmas Gold ABC Family
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation TBS
1 pm Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July ABC Family
3 pm The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus ABC Family
4 pm The Story of the First Christmas Snow ABC Family
4:30 pm Nestor, the Long-eared Christmas Donkey ABC Family
5 pm Pinocchio’s Christmas ABC Family
6 pm Jack Frost ABC Family
7 pm Frosty’s Winter Wonderland ABC Family
7:30 pm Twas the Night Before Christmas ABC Family
8 pm Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town ABC Family
9 pm The Year without at Santa Claus ABC Family
White House Christmas HGTV
10 pm Rudolph’s Shiny New Year ABC Family
Holiday Windows 2006 HGTV
11 pm The Little Drummer Boy ABC Family
What’s with that Christmas House? HGTV
11:30 pm The Little Drummer Boy Book 2 ABC Family

Mon. Dec. 25
1 am White House Christmas HGTV
2 am Holiday Windows 2006 HGTV
3 am What’s with that Christmas House? HGTV
6:15 am A Christmas Carol TCM
8 am Holiday Windows 2006 HGTV
10 am What’s with that Christmas House? HGTV
12 pm The Christmas Secret ABC Family
White House Christmas HGTV
2 pm The Christmas List ABC Family
4 pm A Holiday to Remember ABC Family
6 pm Three Days ABC Family
8 pm The Polar Express ABC Family