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    All articles Copyright (c) Joan Iaconetti 

    DIVERSION Magazine, travel adventure: 

    FORTUNE Magazine, management how-to   

    COSMOPOLITAN Magazine, careers  

    NEW WOMAN Magazine, psychology                     

    First-person adventure travel 
    DIVERSION Magazine     
    (c) Joan Iaconetti


    Like hang-gliding or bungee-jumping, the exotic pastime of shark diving is best anticipated from a distance. Let me in that water!  What a rush!   (Think how impressed my friends will be!) 

    Then reality hits, as you peer down at 18 gray-tipped Caribbean reef sharks circling under the dive boat...patiently, or impatiently, waiting for their lunch. I'd managed to avoid thinking about this hard fact, despite the non-diving Frenchwoman on board who was asking each of us in turn, "But you are really going to do zis? Go in ze water wiz many sharks? But it is dahn-gerous, no?" 

    Well of course it's dahn-gerous, Suzette--that's the whole point. After hundreds of dives in the Caribbean and worldwide, all that pretty coral was beginning to look just a little too familiar. I was counting on a cage-less shark dive put the thrill back into scuba for me.  

    No pretty coral on this dive, however--just a flat sandy bottom, with no distracting rocks or sea fans that a gluttonous shark could mistake for a missed canape. We were all gasping at the story of the diver who'd had the bad luck to be in the path of a descending piece of dead fish thrown overboard...the shark who snatched it veered just a little too close to his face for comfort. 

    I took my place in the last quartet of divers descending together, the strategy being that one diver might look too much like a wounded seal lion. Four divers, however, are less likely to be mistaken for anything edible. And then it hit me--what in hell did I think I was doing? I was about to jump deliberately into shark-infested waters. 

    Now I've been among herds of elephants and galloping musk oxen in Africa, but viewed them from the relative safety of a LandRover. To be surrounded by eating-machine sharks, only a swimsuit between my body and theirs, felt a thousand times more vulnerable. Yet looking closely at them, I forgot to be afraid. Sharks are perfectly, elegantly beautiful; sleek, graceful, and curiously identical, like highly burnished pewter struck from a master sculptor's mold. They flew motionless through the gin-clear water, barely moving their tiny fins. It was only their eyes that were frightening--ice-blue, cold and lifeless, utterly devoid of feeling. Compared with sharks, widemouth bass are cuddly as Muppets. 

    Then fear crept back in. What the crew didn't tell us in the briefing on deck was that once we settled ourselves on the sea floor, the sharks would be circling behind us, as well as in front of us. We were certainly eyeballing them; I guess they had the right to do the same. But the truly chilling moment came after the reef sharks did their straight-out-of-National-Geographic-videos feeding frenzy. The bucket of dead fish had been devoured in less than a minute, and when 18 hungry mammals looked around for more food, the first thing they saw was...us. 

    Fortunately, like the 100,000 divers who'd gone bravely before us, we survived. The divemasters had reassured us, "reef sharks are scavengers--they eat only garbage and carrion'" (In fact, scavenger sharks who mistakenly chomp a surfer's leg will actually spit out the healthy limb rather than eat it. Not that it's much consolation to the surfer.) The simple fact is that sharks are essential to marine ecology; without them, the ocean would quickly turn into garbage soup. ... 

    But it's a mistake to relax too much when 640 sharp white teeth are still darting about between you and your dive boat. I should have been kneeling with the rest of the divers on the sand, but hadn't strapped on enough weights; instead, I was floating stomach-down about a foot above the sandy bottom. 

    Then I committed the fatal New York mistake of making eye contact with a potential predator. Its cold eye caught mine for only a moment, but in that instant I realized this shark had my number. As it circled behind me, I did the only sensible thing: held my breath, squinched my eyes shut, and prayed desperately that the whole situation was a dream. Two seconds later, I felt an unmistakable bump against my swim fin. 

    My heart stopped. It can't be, it just can't, it just can't, I prayed, and prepared to bid farewell to my right leg. A second later I opened my eyes to see the shark gliding past me, close enough to touch. No doubt about it: a shark encounter puts the thrill back into scuba for even the most jaded diver. Would I do it again? Absolutely--though that might be tempting fate. A fin-bump is as close as I care to interact with a live shark, thank you. But from now on you can call me Jacqueline Cousteau.     ##  

    Business travel, ghosted for 
    FORTUNE Magazine                                                    
    (c) Joan Iaconetti 


    (OR MORE)


    The bad news: the [early-90s] recession continues its long-playing run across the country. The good news: It's created a buyer's market for travel managers, with vendors hungry for your business. The better news: Though corporate travelers grumble at first about a newly-tightened travel policy, managers report cooperation is surprisingly high. 

    No matter your budget and policies, notes Eva Winn, communications manager for Castrol, Inc., in New Jersey, "There's always a way to save money on travel." Below, some tips from true-life corporate drama: 

    1. "Our people used to stay at no fewer than 26 Houston hotels; now they stay at two," says Norma Rohrback, manager of travel services for Amerada Hess Corp. "Consolidating meant a savings of about 40% off room rates." Submitting RFP's to major travel agencies (AmEx, Thomas Cook, etc.) can suggest numerous ways to consolidate and re-negotiate services; volume business means even better rates. 
    3. Consider bringing an outside travel agent on-site. Several managers noted that when employees see and know the people who do their travel planning, they're more amenable to cost-saving changes. 

    4. Institute a company credit card, used solely for business expenses, and put an ATM in the lobby--no more bothering accounting with piles of illegible receipts and cash advances. (Reimbursement is quicker, too.) 
    5. Hunting and Tracking in the Corporate Jungle: Credit cards also mean easier tracking of costs and suggest future consolidations. "If my NYC trip cost $1000, and yours cost $500, we can probably identify a happy medium and still save money," notes Helen Scoggins, corporate travel manager of Comdisco in Rosemont, IL. Credit reports also list who rented a car but racked up few miles, and who took a non-approved upgrade "that may have cost only $4--but multiply that by a thousand travelers," noted another manager. "Tracking costs helps everyone see the larger picture and control costs." 

    Asked how he cuts air costs, sales/service manager Peter Zeleny didn't miss a beat: "We make them walk to the airport now," he deadpanned. But seriously, folks, the National Starch and Chemical Company, using several of the methods below, now pays only $400-480 for a domestic business ticket--compared to the national average of $560. 
    7. Group Therapy: The 2-for-1 ticket offers on some international flights work as well with colleagues as with companions. Group fares, of course, can be negoiated on your most heavily traveled routes. 9. City-Pairs discounts: These aren't trumpeted by the airlines, but now you're in the know: firms who guarantee volume corporate travel to frequently-flown city-pairs (especially less popular cities/routes) can negotiate discounts on Y-fares. 

    11. For example, "Is this trip really necessary?" Computer programs (or sharp eyes) can alert travel managers when many travelers fly to the same city on the same day. Forewarned, unit managers can reduce travel by as much as 50%; some companies now travel internationally only when absolutely essential. 

    "Would you consider staying over Saturday, rather than making two trips?" "We never require this, but many travelers agree to; they understand the need to contain costs," says Betty Atwood, corporate travel mgr. with Denver's Manville Corp. 

    "Will everyone please cut his travel expenses by 10%?""Our president said he didn't care how we did it, as long as we did it," says Mike Caravello, corporate travel manager with American Family Insurance, in Madison WI. He was pleasantly surprised to see how willingly his colleagues cooperated with new departmental recommendations. Interestingly, several managers noted that simply instituting (or formalizing) a travel policy--even if it's lenient and not closely enforced--resulted in employees automatically tightening their travel belts a bit. 

    -- Does anyone really need a rental car when the plane lands after business hours? Save a day's charge by taking a taxi or courtesy van to the hotel; pick up the car there next morning. 
    -- Amerada Hess Corp. issues a newsletter to announce changes in policy and general "travel smarter" suggestions. Castrol and American Family Insurance send questionnaires, via letter or E-mail, to ascertain travelers' priorities and preferences before instituting policy changes. Result: increased acceptance of recommended vendors. 

    Finally, keep in mind that a one-stop coach flight at 6 am may save $140 over a later nonstop route--but beware low traveler morale: It can turn into costly traveler rebellion. "The whole point of travel," notes Eva Winn of Castrol, "is to get the employee to the meeting, yes--but rested and ready to do a good job."     # #

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    Psychology how-to 
    NEW WOMAN Magazine                                                       
    (c) Joan Iaconetti 



    Sure, you know about affirmations--you've seen Stuart Smalley (comedian Al Franken of Saturday Night Live) do his famous bit, "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!" 

    Is it possible that using affirmations--positive, repeated statements about yourself designed to increase your confidence--can really improve anything? Affirmations have been touted as a miracle by some ("Change your whole life in ten minutes a day!"), and scoffed at by others as just more feel-good twaddle ("It's pseudo-brainwashing. If it worked, we'd all look like supermodels.") The truth, of course, lies in between. 

    Simple affirmation techniques--when done with concentration and persistence--are in fact a powerful psychological tool for change. But while anecdotal evidence is easy to find, it used to be impossible to prove. The real news about affirmations today is this: A growing body of rigorous medical research shows compelling scientific evidence that they work. 

    Many of these studies are detailed in psychotherapist Peggy Huddleston's new book Prepare for Surgery, Heal Faster (Angel River Press, Cambridge). Huddleston, who holds a Master's degree from Harvard Divinity School, had long been convinced that affirmations were effective in promoting her patients' healing...but how could she prove it to the skeptical physicians she sometimes worked with? She reviewed medical studies supporting affirmations, and found this: 

    - A Kentucky psychologist studied 24 patients who had the same back operation done by the same surgeon. During surgery, 12 heard "it's a good idea to relax your pelvic muscles, so you won't have to use a catheter to urinate while you recover." The others heard only "It's a beautiful day." Of the latter control group, 5 of the 12 needed a catheter; none of the affirmation group needed catheters, a situation that has a 3 in 1000 chance of occurring naturally. 
    - At a leading London hospital, women undergoing abdominal hysterectomies who heard healing/reassuring affirmations during surgery recovered faster, had fewer complications, and left the hospital sooner than the non-affirmation control group. 
    - A similar study in Scotland found women used 23% less morphine post-surgery than the non-affirmation control group. 
    - At Emory University's School of Medicine in Atlanta, a doctor and his anesthetist were so skeptical of the above results that they replicated the study. Result? Exactly the same findings 
    - Bernie Siegel, MD, author of the bestseller Love, Medicine, and Miracles (Avon), always talks encouragingly to his cancer patients while he operates on them. He often asks them to bleed less, or to "'lower your heartrate to 84, please.' I love to see the look on the operating team's faces when they see the digital readout drop to precisely 84." 

    Unbelieveable? Not at all. Decades ago, Milton Erickson, MD, a respected pioneer in therapeutic hypnosis, theorized that all lasting change takes place in the unconscious, that part of our brain that creates dreams. Our parental "programming" and early childhood memories are permanently stored here, in large part forgotten by our conscious minds, explains Rokelle Lerner in Living in the Comfort Zone (Health Communications Inc.). "When frightened children hear their parents define a screaming fight as 'we were just having a discussion, and these dishes broke', they learn to distrust their own senses and discount their fears," says Lerner. 

    "If they see their parents with a "You can't win for losing" attitude, they decide This is the way it is, and will always be. "Unless people uncover and change those buried feelings, (through therapy, hypnosis, or affirmations), they run our lives." 

    Every psychotherapist knows a client can talk a problem to death--but until she's ready to confront and change the painful, often irrational fears behind it, otherwise intelligent people continue to smoke or choose the wrong mate, overeat the wrong foods or take a job with yet another tyrant boss. The conscious mind obviously knows better--but it's the subconscious that runs us, agrees Anna Wise, in her new book The High Performance Mind (Macmillan). "For permament changes to take place within the subconscious, the subconscious must be accessed. Just thinking about the problem and talking about it does not cause effective healing." 

    The same principles apply, whether you're on an operating table or sitting on your couch. Effective affirmations--preferably written--require regular repetition. If the idea of writing "I now desire only healthy foods, and only when I'm hungry" 20 times a day smacks unpleasantly of writing "I will not talk in class" on the blackboard, consider this: You help yourself whenever you focus energy on what you hold truly valuable. ... (etc.) ## 

    Career how-to 
    COSMOPOLITAN Magazine                                    
    (c) Joan Iaconetti



    Time is money, time flies, time and tide wait for no woman. Where do your precious hours go? 

    Are you worried that you shouldn't be stealing the time it takes to read this magazine when a hundred other responsibilities are waiting? Relax, and take this mini-quiz. True or false? 

    1. If I really put my mind to it, I could probably find quite a few ways to save time. 

    2. The most efficient person is the most effective at getting the job done. 

    3. I just don't have enough time. 

    4. The busiest people get the most done; there's no substitute for hard work. 

    5. The most effective people plan their work. 

    Do you believe all of the above are true? Surprise: every single one is a myth of time management, says expert R. Alec Mackenzie. Here's why:

    1. No one can "save time in a bottle," as the song goes--you can only spend it. What you spend it on is the important thing, which means setting priorities and making a to-do list each morning. 

    2. Efficient isn't effective if you're doing things that don't move you closer to your top-priority goals. Get in the habit of asking yourself management expert Alan Lakein's question, "What is the best use of my time right now"? 

    3. 'Tis a paradox: we never feel we have enough time, yet everyone has all the time there is! Most "time shortages" are curable with better organization and planning of the 168 hours available to you each week. 

    4. Activity does not necessarily equal results. See #2, above, and learn to "Work smarter, not harder"--especially with your computer. Helene Barasch of Select Travel in Melville, Long Island, NY is "always surprised" when she hires new help from other agencies: "So often they were underutilizing their computers, making flight reservations with them, but not invoicing or doing itineraries or booking hotels with them." Yes, training takes time, but the dividends pay forever. Furthermore, "Almost any computer program will let you enter your own personal queues," says Mary Ellen McCarl of All About Travel in Leawood KS. 

    "When I've sent documents or brochures to clients, I put the information into my computer tickler file. Once a week, or any time an operator puts me on hold, I'll review the files and later do follow-up." Talk about more efficiency and less frustration--"I'm sitting in front of the computer anyway," says McCarl, "and when I write it down on paper, it just gets lost on my desk."Delegate tasks to your assistant, training her to know your habits and needs." 

    5. The most effective people plan their time, not their work. Otherwise you fall victim to Parkinson's Law: "The work expands to fill the time available for its completion." Skeptical? Say you were offered an all-expense-paid trip to Paris or Tahiti--provided you got next week's work done this week. Do you think you could manage it?  ... (etc.)  # # 

    For hard copy or clips of these or other articles, contact me: 
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