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rich-cartoon.jpgLast week, I was watching The Critic, which I consider to be the lighter and cartoon equivalent of Aaron Sorkin's Sports Night.

Anyway, I noticed that the character of Duke Phillips wasn't as funny to me as he once was. Phillips, the exceptionally rich and charming megalomaniac owner of his own broadcasting company, just seemed to bother me this time around.

And it's not that I've matured beyond cartoons. I assure you that I haven't.

It's just...I don't think that outrageously wealthy cartoon characters are all that funny anymore in this economy.

overweight-workplace.jpgWould you pick a thin employee over a smarter (but overweight) one? According to a recent study to detect covert discrimination, the answer is yes.

Researchers led by Eugene Caruso at the University of Chicago used conjoint analysis--a tool more often employed by, say, car manufacturers to figure out how much more a buyer would be willing to pay for a features package that includes GPS--to show that the average person would sacrifice up to 11 IQ points for a teammate with a smaller waistline. Even when test subjects denied any prejudice against overweight individuals, their final choice said otherwise.

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pwmg.jpgLast week for his 40th birthday, Pete Wiltjer received the gift that keeps on giving--identity theft.

A new business name meant new business plastic, but someone managed to get hold of the old card information (he shredded the cards) and rack up some fraudulent charges in California and Canada. Three calls to the bank later, and still only one of the three disputed charges has been resolved. "I can see why they're being nationalized," Wiltjer says of his bank. We won't name names, but let's just say his bank is aptly named.

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Anybody remember GrandCentral, the phone service that combined all your phone lines into one universal number? For the past couple years, since Google acquired it in 2007, its face has been on the side of a milk carton. That is until last week.

Turns out, Google has been working on beefing up the service this entire time. Going live last week for former GrandCentral users, Google Voice adds oomph to an already hefty service.

GrandCentral users enjoyed a single number linked to all their lines, land and mobile; a single voice mail box accessible by dial-in and online, with downloadable audio files; the ability to screen callers with precall prompts; multiple voice-mail greetings; and call recording.

pot-o-gold.jpgToday is St. Patrick's Day, and as the son of an American who was the son of an American who was the son of Ireland natives, I thought I'd write something in tribute to the Irish.

Also because I asked my father about Irish businessmen and women some months ago, and he had quite a response.

My father has long been one of Ireland's heavy promoters. And by that, I mean that we've had many conversations at the dinner table of which great historical figures were Irish, though they were popularly known for being from elsewhere. At Christmas, at my grandparents' house, winter carols turned into lively Irish folk songs.

In fact, I'd use the phrase "lofty Irish nationalism" to describe some conversations I overheard as a kid.
obama-ent-credit.jpgIn a bid to free credit lines aimed at the entrepreneurial sector, President Obama today said the government would increase its guarantees on loans administered by the Small Business Administration.

The president also stated that 21 of the largest banks receiving federal bailout money under the Troubled Assets Relief Program will have to check in with the government monthly regarding their small-business lending efforts.

capitol-building.jpgIt's been nearly a month since Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act 2009. At 407 pages, the bill can be intimidating, so we're helping you dissect it into bite-sized pieces. Read more to learn what the stimulus means for you and how the money from the bill ends up in your pockets.

A huge chunk of the economic stimulus plan is the $80 billion earmarked for clean energy, giving many small businesses the green light. Grants, loans and tax incentives are just some of the ways the government's pushing for growth, according to green expert Glenn Croston in "Stimulus Package Has Green for Clean Energy." Opportunities lie in businesses that manufacture and install energy-efficient systems, which, in effect, create green-collar jobs, reduce carbon emissions and make the U.S. less dependent on foreign energy sources.

manly.jpg"I know what boys like. I know what guys want." -- The Waitresses, from their album Wasn't Tomorrow Wonderful

Sure, vocalist Patty Donahue said that she was what boys liked and what guys wanted in 1982, and the whole song was seemingly just a love affair with herself. But some time ago, this song came on in my sister's car, as do many favorite tracks of the 1980s, and it got me thinking, "What do men like? And what do they not want?"

I decided to just ask someone who had experience advertising to men.

"Guys don't want to read wedding content about flowers or cake," Chris Easter, 25, told me. This, of course, opened up a manly door of manly insight.

sleazeballs.jpgFor those of you who golf and who also have a little anger about the $50 billion swindle that will likely put investment fund manager Bernard Madoff in prison for the rest of his life, one entrepreneurial concern might have a little bit of comic relief.

Sleazeballs LLC is peddling a Bernard Madoff golf ball. It has his name, "Bernie Madoff," and likeness printed at the sweet spot. It promises "maximum hypocrisy," "optimum spin for maximum duplicity," and "two-faced pretension."

lipstick-pig.jpgEarlier this week, an enlightening account of Bear Stearns' sudden collapse hit bookstores everywhere. The title, House of Cards: A Tale of Hubris and Wretched Excess on Wall Street, aims to capture attention, and it says a lot about how the public's opinion of bankers and financial institutions has changed over the past year.

The reputation of the once-esteemed financial services sector is in tatters, and the case hasn't been helped by flagrantly gluttonous actions on the part of industry veterans like former NASDAQ chair Bernie Madoff, who bilked investors out of an estimated $65 million; and ex-Merrill CEO John Thain, who spent $1.22 million on an office renovation (one dubious purchase was a "parchment waste can" that cost $1,400), even as the company was hemorrhaging money.

Billingsley-m.jpgCommunication. It's the lifeblood of any good relationship--business or personal. Nobody knows that better than business owners. They talk, write, e-mail, Twitter, blog, and yell and scream. But what about subtle communication? The kind nobody senses is being carried out. What if your hands could say everything you want to say with simple movements and gestures?

In the first of a two-part series on business owners and secret hand signals, I take a look at Sherman Billingsley, a man who in his heyday from the 1920s through the 1960s was famous for both the club he owned and his ability to communicate secretly and silently with staff via complex and covert hand signals.
pwmg.jpgWhen Pete Wiltjer offered me a front-row seat to the rebranding of his company, I didn't realize it would also be a front-row seat to a catfight. But that's what seems to have broken out in the wake of his crowdsourced logo project.

Since Wiltjer chose his new design last week, our blog comments have seen more sniping than the last 20 minutes of Full Metal Jacket. It's come in all shapes and sizes, mostly from people who are put off by the process or who just flat-out don't like the design. He's more than happy with the results either way, but seeing the backlash has given him yet another chance to show his clients he's willing to take his own advice.

mask.jpgEntrepreneur Charles "Mask" Lewis (pictured), co-founder of mixed martial arts brand TapouT, died in a car crash early this morning in Newport Beach, California, a publicist for the clothier confirmed.

The collision happened about 12:57 a.m. when the 2004 Ferrari 360 Modena Lewis was driving apparently spun out of control and hit a light pole, according to Newport Beach police. Lewis might have been racing the driver of a 1977 Porsche, who stopped but allegedly fled. The Ferrari appeared to have been split in half.

timothy-geithner.jpgU.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told members of Congress last night that stimulus funds for entrepreneurs are on the way, with a Consumer and Business Lending Initiative and increased federal backing of SBA loans forthcoming.

The closed-door meeting with Democratic lawmakers laid out Geithner's plans to shore up a core, job-creating sector of the U.S. economy--small business.

The plan takes its cues from the Term Asset Backed Securities Loan Facility and aims to, as Geithner has said previously, "get credit flowing again" for small-business owners, consumers and students.
banks-community.jpgCitigroup's announcement that it made money during the first two months of 2009 is welcome news on Wall Street, which has been a good-news-free zone for weeks on end. And while Citi's CEO said the bank is operating at a profit, which led the Dow to surge 300 points by midday, it's pretty obvious that for the rally to sustain itself, consumer sentiment is going to have to change.

What also needs to change is consumer perception of large banking institutions. People aren't going to easily forget corporate retreats on the taxpayer dime and executive bonuses for executives who oversaw the near collapse of venerable institutions. But what's been bad for big banks has been good for community banks, according to a report from the Independent Community Bankers of America.