Can Working At Home Work For You?

More and more people are ditching the office and using computers to do their jobs from home. A look at the fast-growing telecommuting trend–and whether it’s right for you.

Sounds good, all right: no commute, and a dress code that includes pajamas. But before you rush to join the 15 million office workers who do all or part of their jobs at home, ask yourself: Are you able to turn your back on a pleading child? Willing to ignore piles of laundry and mounds of dishes for eight hours at a time? Ready to troubleshoot your own computer problems?

You can do it!

You can do it!

You might want to find out, because the opportunity to telecommute could come your way. Increasingly, major corporations like AT&T, Bell Atlantic, Hewlett-Packard Company, and Merrill Lynch are offering this option to attract and keep employees, or to save money on real estate. Some are even providing salary bonuses as an incentive.

For seven years, Carla Trexler was a full-time insurance rep. Then, when she was pregnant with the second of her three children, she started working from home, doing part-time data entry for Office Remedies, a company based in Herndon, VA. “Telecommuting works great for me,” she ,says. “It’s wonderful to have the flexibility to be with my kids.”

Trexler, who lives in Chantilly, VA, set up shop in a small upstairs sitting room, and has adapted her schedule to her children’s. She stops and starts her assignments as her two older kids come and go from school, and she sometimes lets her 4-year-old son, Ryan, “work” beside her on the Family’s PC when he returns from morning preschool. Not the ideal environment for everyone, but a viable one for Trexler, who is paid on a per-project basis; as long as she meets deadlines and quality standards, her employer doesn’t care which hours, (Dr how many, she puts in.

Telecommuters do everything from management work to clerical chores, and according to the experts, those who do it best are self-starters. Even though you’re an employee, “you need many of the same traits as entrepreneurs,” says Gil Gordon, president of Gil Gordon Associates, who advises employers on telecommuting. “Self-discipline, self-motivation, and the ability to work alone” are also necessary, he says.

Still, there are as many different styles of telecommuting as there are telecommuters. Lisa Taylor, a full-time human-resource administrator for Unisys, a computer and information technology company, has a highly structured arrangement. Her company requires that telecommuters send their kids to day care, so Taylor drops off her 2-year-old daughter, Ellison, at a nearby center each morning. Once Taylor returns, she goes upstairs to her office. “I don’t usually go downstairs until it’s time for lunch,” she says.

Taylor says her home is actually a “better work environment” than the corporate cube she left two years age. “You don’t have the interruptions,” she explains. “You still get the phone calls, but you don’t have people stopping by, or the distractions of people talking around you.”

Taylor, who visits Unisys’s Reston, VA, offices just a few times a year to run orientation programs for new employees, has benefited from her company’s enthusiasm for telecommuting. When Unisys converted Taylor’s entire department to that way of working starting in January 1997, each employee got computer equipment on loan, including a fax-printer-copying machine. Unisys also provided each individual with a stipend of about $5(X), which Taylor used to buy a desk and chair. (Note to prospective telecommuters: Not all employers are so generous. Setting up a home office and keeping it stocked with supplies can be expensive.)

This mobile workplace has paid off for many of the 120 people in Taylor’s department who now live in such Far-flung places as Montana, New Hampshire, and Georgia–even Brazil. Anne Gorenstein, a manager in the group who resides in Vienna, VA, says that she saves money on everything from lunch–“for the first time in my life, I am using up leftovers and not having in throw away all those packages of green food that pile up in the refrigerator”–to gas. While Taylor still pays $179 a month in child care–as she would if she worked in the office–she saves more than $700 a year on highway tolls alone, in addition to savings on gas and reduced wear on her car. (As for fixed costs, Taylor admits that after spending the day at home, she’s often itching to go out for dinner.)

Ironically, telecommuters sometimes wind up putting in longer hours than their counterparts. “When you work in an office, there’s a rhythm of people taking breaks, going out to lunch,” explains Arlene Johnson, a consultant for a Boston-based firm that helps corporations design flexible workplaces, and a telecommuter herself. When Johnson first started working from her home in Livingston, NJ, “I’d walk into my office before breakfast and stay there without any breaks until eight or nine o’clock at night.” The discipline that telecommuting requires, she adds, “is knowing when to quit, not when to start.”

Linda Leathers, assistant to the vice president of Georgia Power, says that on the three days a week she works at home, she ends up devoting “about two hours more per day than the company pays for.” But Leathers, who lives in Duluth, GA, says it beats spending three hours in rush-hour traffic en mute to her Atlanta office. Plus, telecommuting allows her little luxuries like going for a run at lunchtime–something she’d never do on an office day “because you have to shower and redo your makeup.”

Probably the biggest challenge for a telecommuter is taking her own needs seriously–and getting the cooperation of her Family. For starters, says Gil Gordon, an effective telecommuter requires a separate mom that is fully equipped for all job-related functions. Then she needs to set firm rules. “Make sure that your family’s expectations are in line with your ability to meet them,” advises Gordon. “Don’t let them assume that because you’re working at home, there will be a six-course meal on the table at night, the errands will be run, and the lawn will be mowed.”

Writing Off the Virtual Office

Some telecommuters can take advantage of another source of savings: the home-office tax deduction. If you have a separate space in your home that you use exclusively as your office, you may be able to deduct a portion of your home mortgage or rent, utilities, insurance, and other expenses associated with that office. If you decide to telecommute, be sure to consult with a tax expert or the IRS to determine whether you’re eligible for this break. More information on telecommuting in general can be found on consultant Gil Gordon’s Web site, www.gilgordon.com, as well as on the Web site of the International Telework Association & Council, www.telecommute.org.

How to Get the Boss’s Okay

If you want to convince your employer to let you telecommute, Dallas consultant Joanne H. Pratt recommends writing a proposal describing “what you want to do, how often, and how you will carry out your job.” You also need to spell out costs and benefits to the company. Office Remedies, Carla Trexler’s employer, knows that she has done her work when she turns in a project; but you may have to be more persuasive if your line of work has less tangible results or involves managing others.

You’ll also need to establish how your work will be evaluated. At Merrill Lynch, there’s a company-wide policy that applies to all employees. Telecommuters have formal reviews of their work twice a year, and informal reviews-such as face-to-face meetings with their bosses-more often, according to Eileen Keyes, assistant vice president for alternative work arrangements. Find out whether your employer has such evaluations; if not, create a detailed plan with your supervisor.

Should Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients Exercise

srapRheumatoid arthritis is a disease which cause can’t be really explained. Why do people suffer from it; it can’t be said. Also, there is no sure method or medicament that will work as cure in general, so each person should make one’s own method in order to get help with rheumatoid arthritis. Some people find difficult to move and work with hands and severe cases are even spending their days in a wheelchair. But mild exercise will benefit even such patients who are seriously ill. Swimming may do them good. Of course, a physician and a therapist will suggest what’s best for a person. If there is a possibility, a rheumatoid arthritis patient should go to wellness center or to similar institution that provides similar health care. Physical therapy would definitely be useful for people suffering from RA. Hydrotherapy is great because it’s also pleasant and may make you feel relaxed. Your muscles need rest and relaxation, so hot water can enable you the treatment you need. Also, mild stretching is useful for your muscles. You should avoid heavy lifting but make sure to include mild gymnastics to your morning rituals. If you can walk, take a short walk each morning or evening and then have a bath or take a shower. See some other tips here.

Organic Fruit Juice Fights For Better Functioning Of Immune System

Aronia juice is considered to be one of the best sources of antioxidants that fight the inflammation and infections in human body. It is very popular nowadays and many organic agriculture workers grow this berry. It is good to include the juice into your diet, especially if you have rheumatoid arthritis issues. Changing diet is often part of rheumatoid arthritis treatments so use the opportunity and include this juice into your breakfast. Not only aronia is useful, but also every juice made out of berries. It is best to drink juice that is 100% fruit, without water and without sugar. You may mix flax seeds if you want and also add some other fruit, but try not to add sugar. You may add a bit of honey because it is much healthier than the sugar. So, you may make a juice out of blueberries, cranberries and similar fruit. They are one of the greatest sources of antioxidants and will protect your immune system from infections. If you add a lot of fresh garlic to your salads, your body will really have the right “equipment” for fighting the cold and similar. Fruit juices are also very delicious, so you may enjoy while consuming them.

Finding Alternatives To Anti Snoring Devices

faasdAs much as snoring is a real problem needing varied solutions, there are some snoring problems that can be easily solved by adopting healthy lifestyles. One includes changing the sleep position. Some people prefer sleeping on their backs. This is fine if it offers no trouble. But in some cases, this position makes the base of the tongue as well as the soft palate collapse to the wall throat which causes vibrations when one is asleep. To change this, it is better to learn to sleep on the sides. Alternatively, one can use the anti-snore pillow, or recline the bed with the head extended- this opens the airway passages and can help to reduce snoring or the use of anti-snoring devices.

Some healthy lifestyles to be adopted instead of opting for the anti-snoring devices include losing weight. Most snorers suffer from overweight problems. This does not mean that average or under sized people do not snore. For those who began snoring after gaining weight, this may be a pointer to check on the weight. Another factor that may contribute to snoring is alcohol. It is prudent to avoid taking alcohol if it may be the trigger of snoring. Alcohol is known to reduce resting tone in the back of the throat which may lead to snoring.

Is There Any Way To Prevent Snoring?

Snoring occurs when throat muscles relax during sleep; this obstructs the airways creating vibrations with every breath taken. A whistling sound is produced creating disturbance to a roommate. Snoring can be prevented by throat exercises that tone the muscles to reduce vibrations. A snoring mouthpiece stops snoring immediately; furthermore, you could get a good deal when you buy one, you get one free for your roommate. A number of people who have purchased the mouthpiece were excited with the results. They have given very favorable snoring mouthpiece reviews online. This particular product can be custom made upon request.

Drinking a large amount of alcohol before retiring to bed could facilitate snoring; a number of over the counter sleeping pills could also contribute to the same. A mouthpiece should be used every night to ensure you receive the recommended amount of sleep. Being overweight is another cause of snoring; thick neck muscles obstruct the air passage; it is imperative to lose the extra weight to eliminate snoring in your bedroom. Have a sleep study done to determine the cause of snoring if you are drowsy during the day due to lack of adequate sleep. Check out snoring mouthpiece reviews online before you decide on the best brand to buy.

Snoring Cure Tips

Snoring is not just detrimental to your social life but to your overall wellness, at well. Based on studies, overweight is one of the reasons why a person snores. If your weight is not appropriate to your age and height, you have to make some modification in your way of living. Eating the right food is important in achieving and maintaining the right figure. You must also take on regular exercises to manage your weight. Snoring can also be caused by frequent consumption of alcoholic beverages. Social drinking is not ssbad at all if it is done in moderation. If you are a snorer, you should visit your doctor right away. The doctor will tell you everything that you need to know about your condition, including snoring treatments. There are various methods used to do away with snoring. Some includes invasive methods while there are others that you can use without causing you any pain. These are anti snoring devices like snore ball, throat spray, nasal dilators, nasal strips and snoring pillows. When purchasing any of these items, make sure that you will go for the reliable brand. Conduct a research through your internet access to know the features of the product that you are eyeing for and what to expect from using it.

Temporary Solutions to Snoring

You have probably heard a lot of stories incorporating snoring to marriage failure. You think it’s a very petty reason but in reality snoring can really affect people’s relationship. For this reason, you have to immediately find an answer to your snoring before it creates a negative impact on your marriage. If you are a snorer and your wife has not said anything yet about it, do not wait for it to happen when you can prevent it by taking on snoring treatments. Supposing you are not ready yet to face the doctor, you may settle on anti snoring devices for the meantime. You may choose from an array of products that are designed to temporarily put an end to your irritating snores. Snore ball, nasal dilators, nasal strips, snoring mouthpiece and snoring pillows are just a few of the most effective anti snoring devices that the market offers. Before purchasing these items, try to check on reviews online to fully understand how these products work. Discomforts are expected during the first few nights of using these products but once you get used to it, you will realize why a lot of snorers find salvation through these anti snoring items.

wasIt was the first time that I slept beside my brother and I was shocked to know that he snores heavily. I must say that my brother and I do not have the best relationship as siblings but what I discovered really worries me. I fear that his snoring can result to a serious medical condition. I have heard a lot of stories from friends who suffered from snoring and ended up acquiring heart ailments and high blood pressure because of it. I have to speak to our mother about this matter. If I talk to my brother, I am certain that he will not listen to me. Mom has to convince him to see the doctor. He has to employ home remedies for snoring, too. I believe that not sleeping on his back can help him reduce snoring. He may also use anti snoring devices like nasal dilators, nasal strips, throat spray, snoring mouthpiece and snoring pillows while waiting for his appointment with the doctor. I cannot help not to associate his frequent partying with his snoring. He drinks quite a lot of alcoholic beverages. He has to know that this practice causes snoring and he has to avoid it if he still wants to love longer.

My Daughter’s Search for Skin Tag Removal

niceskinI was surprised to see my daughter in front of the computer early this morning. She has never done that before. When I asked her what was keeping her busy, she told me that she was trying to find an answer on how to remove skin tags. I did not know that she has skin tags on her neck. All I noticed was her sudden change of fashion sense. She never wore turtle neck shirts before. But these past few days, I always see her wearing this kind of clothing and I find it really weird. The weather is really hot now and it’s not appropriate to wear turtle neck shirts. Now, I understand why she prefers this attire. She is trying to hide her skin tags. I wish she can have that removed the soonest that she can. It seems like it’s affecting her confidence a great deal and it’s painful to see her that way. She is a very passionate daughter and sister. She is a good friend, too and she deserves to be looked up to. With all these skin tags on her neck, she is not likely to get the kind of treatment that she deserves.

Remedies to Skin Tags
When looking for ideas for how to remove skin tags, there are many things that you must take into account. First, you have to consider how severe your skin tags are. Skin tags are not detrimental to your health. No one has ever proved that this can be dangerous. You can either ignore it or have it treated. There are people who do not mind having skin tags, especially if these are not noticeable. But there are skin tags which need to be removed because its size has made it so apparent that one can no longer prevent it from being noticed. Different ways to remove skin tags can be availed of. If you do not want to dole out money for it, you may stick to home remedies. Tie it off using dental floss and pull it out. You may also use sterile scissors to cut it off. On the other hand, the market offers a variety of skin tag removal products. Find out which among these products you can truly depend on in terms of safety and effectiveness. Meanwhile, you may also pay your dermatologist a visit to find out which treatments he can offer for the immediate removal of your skin tags.

I cannot blame my girlfriend for acting weird these past few days. She used to be active, full of life and always confident. However, when she found out that she has skin tags on her face, all these qualities that I really liked about her suddenly went away. Now, she’s very timid and she does not seem to have self-esteem at all. She prefers to stay at home even if I try so hard to convince her to go out and hang out with our friends. I do not think I can let her act this way for a long time. In fact, it is already affecting our relationship. Sometimes, I think she cannot feel that I am just here for her. To assure her that she is with me during these trying times, I want to help her out find the most effective way on how to remove skin tags. I told her of a place where she could find a dermatologist. My skin doctor guaranteed that she can help my girlfriend get through it in no time. I cannot wait to see the result. I am really excited to see her coming back to life the way she was when I first met her.

Economic Woes Hurt The Trade

Economic woes may be keeping Asia’s big spenders away from Rodeo Drive and Madison Avenue, but surprisingly, the high-end boutique business is still humming in both New York and L.A.

The reason: an influx of American tourists and a growing base of local customers.

Retailers such as Chanel, Hermes and Lacoste are seeing more tourists from Russia and South America in their stores, but the strongest growth has come from local customers and American shoppers.

“I don’t think there’s one particular ethnic group that has replaced those Asian shoppers,” said Tony Cherbak, a retail analyst and partner with Deloitte & Touche. “I think it’s basically these businesses are drawing from their basic demographics, especially Rodeo Drive, which has a hard-core following from its central demographics on the west side and Bel-Air.”

Marion Davidson, vice president of marketing for Hermes, said, “There are fewer Japanese customers, but those who are visiting the stores are spending quite a bit more. The sales growth we are realizing is principally coming from California residents, who seem to be very enthusiastic about our new stores in Southern California.”

Interestingly, Hermes reported only this week that the company’s volume grew in Asia in 1997. The growth was attributed to the fact that the Japanese last year didn’t travel to their traditional destinations elsewhere in the East, thereby concentrating their purchases in Japan.

Hermes has opened two stores in Southern California in the past year — a flagship on Rodeo Drive and a unit at South Coast Plaza in Orange County.

The U.S. accounts for 15 percent of Hermes’s sales.

Another Hermes spokeswoman said, “I think the timing of our opening the new stores has made us really lucky, and we haven’t seen the decline that a lot of other people have seen because we’ve had such a surge in local residents. But who knows, it could probably hit us like it’s hit everyone else, sooner or later. We do have an increase in Russian and South American customers. We’ve seen that a little bit more, though, in New York than in Southern California, in which we really do still see a lot of the Asian customer and a lot of locals.”

Jack Kyser, chief economist for the Los Angeles Economic Development Corp., said he is seeing more European tourists in Southern California.

“Tourism is becoming more democratic. If you go to the Third Street Promenade, you hear all sorts of languages spoken,” he said, referring to a pedestrian mall in Santa Monica adjacent to the Pacific Ocean.

Prior to Asia’s current economic crisis, tourism had already been eroding somewhat, and 1998 figures are expected to reveal sharp decreases. The latest figures available show that the number of tourists arriving from Asian countries to the U.S. dropped from 1996 to 1997, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. From Hong Kong, the decrease was 8.3 percent; South Korea, 0.4 percent; Thailand, 10.7 percent, and Malaysia, 0.3 percent. The only Asian country to show a slight increase in tourists from 1996 to 1997 was Japan, growing from 5,182,555 visitors to 5,367,578 during this period, a 3.6 percent increase. However, Deloitte & Touche’s Cherbak expects to see a “drastic decrease” in Japanese tourists compared with 1997 because of the way the yen has continually weakened against the dollar.

The number of tourists from many South American countries increased from 1996 to 1997: Argentina jumped 22 percent; Brazil, 10.9 percent; Venezuela, 9.1 percent; Colombia, 27.2 percent; Chile, 13.5 percent; Peru, 11.8 percent, and Ecuador, 26.2 percent. And the number of tourists from Russia visiting the U.S. rose 7.7 percent from 1996 to 1997.

Plenty of those Russian and South American visitors are hitting Lacoste, according to Daniel Barth, president of Lacoste USA. He said the company has experienced “a slight decrease in Asian customers…[but] our local customer clientele is very much picking up. It depends on where we are. In Florida, it’s the South American clientele.”

At the New York Lacoste boutique, in the last six months, there has been an increase in Russian customers, Barth said. “Probably before, they were buying more European brands, and now they’re coming much more to the U.S.”

John Morris, vice president of Softlines Retail Research, a division of Prudential Securities, said local shoppers are making up the bulk of the customer base, replacing Asian tourists for many high-end boutiques.

The prime market for many high-end boutiques is people 45 to 64 years old, and that group is scheduled to grow 32 percent from now until the year 2005, at an annual growth rate of 3 to 4 percent, Morris pointed out. The amount that these customers are spending annually on apparel is also up from recent years, with this group now allotting 4 percent of their budget to clothes, up from 3.7 percent in 1993, he said.

Alain Teitelbaum, president of Comite Colbert, which represents 75 French luxury goods firms, said that in the U.S., “Russia is emerging.”

“Last year, we had some strong growth from Russia, and South America is now appearing on our radar screen,” Teitelbaum said.

The biggest drop in international customer traffic has come from Korea, Hong Kong and Thailand, he said.

At Giorgio on Rodeo Drive, there has been a 20 percent decrease in Asian traffic, said John Schulman, director of merchandising for Giorgio.

“Our biggest increase has been in local shoppers, people coming back to Rodeo Drive. We definitely have gotten an increase of Russian visitors, but a lot of them are actually residents now. They’ve emigrated to Los Angeles,” Schulman said.

There are also South American visitors shopping at Giorgio, but Schulman describes this as “steady, not a giant influx.”

Sales to Asian tourists are also down at Gucci, said Pat Malone, president of Gucci America.

“Really, what’s happening with us is we’re aggressively pursuing the local clients in each of the markets. Because we’re taking an aggressive stand in the ready-to-wear areas, it’s a natural growth,” Malone said. European tourists are hitting Gucci’s New York, Beverly Hills and San Francisco locations, but the local customer base is especially crucial in smaller markets such as Dallas and Boston, she said.

Chanel has also seen a drop in Asian customers, with more tourists coming from within the U.S., especially Florida and the Midwest, said a spokeswoman.

In New York, there is more of a presence of South American shoppers from Brazil and Venezuela. There are also more tourists visiting from Portugal and from Russia, she said.

But while New York and L.A. are weathering the Asian economic storm, business in Hawaii continues to be extremely difficult due to the dramatic drop-off of Asian tourists to the state.

“Interestingly, for many of the retail segments, Hawaii has been hurt the hardest by the Asian crisis because of the tourist element they typically derive from Asia,” said Cherbak. “Hawaii is not getting nearly as many visitors as they have in the past from Japan and the other Asian counties.”

Hawaii hasn’t been able to make up the difference with domestic customers because of its distance from the rest of the nation.

“Airfares from the mainland have gone up. It’s $600 now [from Los Angeles]. It makes it much more difficult for families to think about Hawaii as a tourist destination,” said Cherbak, pointing out that until a few months ago, round-trip airfares from Los Angeles to Hawaii were as low as $300.

As reported, Polo/Ralph Lauren said last week that one reason retail sales dipped 5.7 percent to $102 million for its fourth quarter is because of weakness from its Hawaii units due to economic woes in Asia. Lacoste recently closed its Honolulu boutique, and Louis Vuitton reported last month its Hawaiian business was off 12 percent through early April. Gucci reported weaker U.S. sales than expected, due to lower sales in Hawaii, and pulled out of a duty-free location there.

And most dramatic was the Chapter 11 filing in March of Liberty House, which operates 11 department stores and 25 resort and specialty stores in Hawaii and Guam. The store cited Hawaii’s “no-growth state,” increased competition and the recent slowdown in Japanese tourism.

The INS Hits LA’s Garment Industry Hard. Rock Hard.

The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service staged one of the biggest investigations and sweeps of undocumented workers in the Los Angeles Apparel industry in March and April, leaving the industry reeling in the aftermath.

The investigations sparked a debate among manufacturers and contractors, who often fight a losing battle against the sophisticated network of fraudulent work-authorization documents, and industry leaders, who claim that they have been unfairly targeted.

Since the operation began in early March, the INS said it has formally reviewed the hiring records of some 75 garment-related businesses, which employ more than 7,000 workers. To date, according to the INS, its investigators have found potential problems with the work-authorization documents submitted by more than one-third of those workers.

The agency obtained warrants and investigated 10 companies, which subsequently fired a total of 1,061 workers based on suspicious or outright fraudulent work-authorization documents, according to Richard Rogers, Los Angeles INS district director. He noted that there were also 418 apprehensions.

Under the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, employers who knowingly hire persons not authorized to work in the United States are subject to substantial fines.

The INS has not fined the employers but is continuing its investigation. Unless the agency can prove that the owners did not go through a due process to ferret out fake documents or that they knowingly hired undocumented workers, the manufacturers will not be fined, according to Rogers. Fines range from $250 to $2,000 per individual.

Steve Nutter, regional director of UNITE, pointed out that only one in seven workers was undocumented based on the INS survey.

“It’s significantly lower than most would have predicted,” Nutter said of the results.

He noted that the union has never been in favor of workplace surveys or raids. Even if they escape the fines, manufacturers still have the burden of replacing and training the lost employees, which can be costly.

“For the employers who were surveyed, it’s a significant threat because it is costly to replace workers,” Nutter said.

At Harkham Industries alone, INS agents arrested 75 undocumented workers in one sweep in late April.

Uri Harkham, owner of the company which makes Jonathan Martin dresses and sportswear, said that he had recently let go more than 150 workers after an INS audit of the firm’s employment records turned up questionable authorization documents.

Harkham told WWD shortly after the raid that he had a “rude awakening” because some of his workers were using false social security cards. But he stressed that he did not break the law.

He also chose to take part in the INS’s electronic verification program, which provides a swift and reliable means for employers to verify the work eligibility of their new hires.

Rogers said that there are currently only 300 employers across all industries in the state who are participating in the program.

At first glance, the verification program seems like the perfect solution for employers who are burdened with verifying their workers’ documents.

But at least one industry leader, Joe Rodriguez, executive director of the Garment Contractors Association, claimed that employers are reluctant to participate in such a program because of the agency’s use of strong-arm tactics in the past.

Although the INS hit two to three of his member contractors during the most recent round of sweeps and handled the investigations professionally, Rodriguez said that the agency’s reputation still lingers.

“They actually made appointments and did not come in unannounced or run a roughshod raid,” Rodriguez said. “But the baggage that the INS carries has employers leery of any contact.

“They (employers) have heard the story before: `I’m from the government and I’m here to help you,’ ” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez isn’t overly sympathetic, though. He said that the INS’s actions shed light on a much larger industry problem: piecework.

“With piecework we are not attracting legal, educated residents,” Rodriguez said.

He added that there is a definite shortage in legal, documented sewers in the industry, which is stunting the growth of many contracting shops.

“We have to draw from a new labor pool because the pool of immigrants has dried up,” he said.

Richard Reinis, executive director of Compliance Alliance, which represents more than 15 major manufacturers, said that the verification program is not accessible.

He noted that it is not offered in the diverse languages that comprise the industry.

“It also forces them to take an extra step and that is not an easy one to take,” Reinis said of manufacturers coming forward to use the program.

Echoing the views of many employers, Reinis argued that the 1986 Reform Act placed “an unreasonable burden on employers to become INS agents themselves and document experts.

“That legislation combined with the sophistication of illegal immigrants in obtaining (false) documents lends itself to a problem that is not easily solvable,” Reinis said.

He contended that the effort to lessen the industry’s attractiveness to immigrants has failed. “The vitality of the market is extremely strong despite the actions of the INS to reduce the magnetic appeal,” Reinis said.

He noted that the use of illegal immigrants is reprehensible and needs to be rooted out, but he said that manufacturers have taken steps to that end.

Lonnie Kane, president of Karen Kane Co., questioned the actions and timing of the INS.

“It seems small change to do raids in relation to what occurs at the border,” Kane said. The raids and investigations would be more understandable if unemployment was high and illegal workers were taking jobs away from qualified legal workers, he explained. While he denounced the use of illegal workers, he also denounced the INS’s recent actions. “With the sophistication and forgery of documents it’s extremely difficult to determine the validity of documents,” Kane said.

The INS would have a bigger impact with investments into more pilot programs than with raids, he added.

As a member of the California Fashion Association, which has a membership of 190 companies, Kane was surprised that he wasn’t aware of the INS verification program.

Although he has a system in place to detect forged documents, he said that it is inevitable that some will slip through undetected.

“Will we hire someone one day with forged documents?” he asked. “It is impossible not to.”

Ghost LA Just Haunts Me

Given the level of pre-opening excitement, Tanya Sarne has high hopes for her newest Ghost store, a 3,500-square-foot unit that opened Saturday at 125 North Robertson Boulevard here.

“I made my clothes for California,” said Sarne, owner of the British women’s wear company. “This is my biggest business here. Our clothing is perfect for the L.A. climate and the L.A. mentality. It’s machine washable, and everybody in L.A. has washing machines.

“People in New York think they’re trendier and sharper, but our best sales have always been in L.A.,” she added. Ghost is sold at Neiman Marcus and Theodore in Beverly Hills.

A measure of that popularity is that some people — including young Hollywood actresses — didn’t wait until the opening to buy the company’s signature viscose designs.

Sarne bumped into Gillian Anderson last week at The Ivy, a popular restaurant just a few doors away from the store, and brought her in for a profitable preview.

“Gillian bought more in one afternoon than I’ve sold in the Paris store in a week,” Sarne said. Anderson purchased $10,000 worth of clothes, including a double-layer skirt and a poppy tulle dress that retails for $240.

“This poppy tulle does well at Barneys New York,” Sarne said, laughing as she recalled that her staff was too busy unpacking clothes to fawn over an actress, even one “willing to pay retail.”

Roseanna Arquette and Joely Fisher also stopped into the store last week to try on outfits, Sarne said.

A few days before the store’s opening, one man knocked on the door seeking admittance, but since the cash registers weren’t yet working, he placed six shirts on order.

The night before the opening, Ghost hosted a party for more than 250 people inside the store.

As guests inspected Ghost’s designs, which range in price from $100 for a silk crepe camisole to $8,700 for an embroidered full-length gown, Tara Subkoff, an actress who appears in the movie “The Last Days of Disco,” said the store opening was “like a New York fashion party in Los Angeles.”

Allison Eastwood said she was there “because I love Ghost.” And Carolina Herrera Jr. pointed to her friend and said, “He dragged me out.”

Other celebrants included Vidal and Ronnie Sassoon, Sandra Bernhard and Carol Alt.

Sarne declined to project a volume for the new store. Ghost did $11.4 million at wholesale worldwide last year. Sales at retail were about $39.1 million in 1997.

Sarne, who has been looking for retail space here for some time, said one reason she wanted to open a store here is that she lived in the city from 1969 to 1972.

There are two Ghost stores in London, including a 3,500-square-foot flagship that was the prototype for the Los Angeles unit. A 600-square-foot Ghost unit opened June 9 on the Rue de Jour in Paris.

The stores have a clean look with rosewood floors, stone walls and frosted glass shelves and railings. The Los Angeles store also has a small garden with bamboo lining the walls.

LA Art: Getting Better All The Time

Los Angeles is a city of image and imagination: a vast urban expanse filled with buildings and streets, yet relatively free of famous landmarks. There is neither an Eiffel Tower nor a Times Square, no Big Ben or Golden Gate Bridge to symbolize the complex essence of the city. Ironically, its recognizable landmarks such as the Hollywood sign, City Hall, Watts Towers–even Sleeping Beauty’s Castle at Disneyland–carry powerful connotations that transcend their association with Los Angeles.

The city lacks a concrete identity. Intangible and often transcendent qualities such as light, air, smog, and sunshine have come to define it. Despite its impressive environment, surrounded by mountains and perched at the edge of the Pacific Ocean, the face of L.A. is virtually anonymous.

Every artist responds to the vagaries of the city in a unique way, but themes recur. For this show, the works were arranged into three conceptual and thematic groups: observation, imagination, and motion. Beginning with works in the observation category, I started the show off with a lithograph by David Hockney. Perhaps no other artist has defined our perception of 20th-century Los Angeles as much as this artist. Pool I, the work I chose to feature, is an aqueous blue print depicting the comer of a swimming pool. The diving board casts a narrow, abstract shadow into the pool’s depths as the water’s surface reflects a shimmer of patterned crosshatching. Hockney’s ability to take a simple subject and transform it into a meditation on space, place, and drawing–the crux of his work–is beautifully illustrated.

A meticulous untitled watercolor from 1986 by Peter Lodato and Helen Lundeberg’s Double View, an acrylic on canvas, were hung near the Hockney print Both are interior/exterior views and capture a quality of dreamy light and timeless atmosphere particular to Southern California. From different generations (Lodato is considered part of the 1960s Light and Space School, while Lundeberg is a Southern California arts pioneer who first received national recognition in 1935), these two artists relate directly to each other and to Hockney through the abstract geometry in their work and their emphasis on space, volume, and light.

Installed nearby were examples by three other artists that also emphasize the special light found in L.A. Malibu Canyon Road, Fog, a tonal, foggy landscape by Larry Cohen; La Omega From Sunset Strip, a small-scale nocturnal view by James David Thomas; and Across the Street, Palm Trees, a smoggy view of palm trees and power lines seen across rooftops at sunset by Stephanie Sanchez, exemplify the show’s vapor theme. From different traditions, eras, and disciplines, all three of these artists, plus Hockney, Lundeberg, and Lodato, arrive at a strangely similar coherent synthesis of the surreal sense of the fight and atmosphere of L.A.

Dreams and fiction are qualities natural to Los Angeles. The city’s most prominent industry, Hollywood, holds powerful sway over what is perceived as real. As a result, imagined or invented locations are often portrayed as observed reality in paintings. This characteristic comes full circle in the work of Michael Chapman, John Kilduff, Gifford Myers, Astrid Preston, Frank Romero, and Stephanie Sanchez. Often based on direct observations of the complex, jumbled streetscape, their artworks use its buildings, billboards, and urban grid as compositional tools and starting points to freely interpret the city. Kilduff and Sanchez offer a faithful, “true” depiction: Their portrayals are both straightforward recordings of the visual information before them and studies in abstract patterning. Chapman, Myers, Preston, and Romero, by contrast, reinvent the city while telling its story; their works are ripe with allusions and hinted narratives. In Chapman’s Houses in Long Beach, the 1920s apartment buildings and the parked cars in front of them seem alive. They interact yet still hide their secret, like people standing in a crowded line. Astrid Preston’s Mask of Night portrays dark trees and roadways illuminated by streetlights–a familiar nighttime scene in any suburban neighborhood. Her depiction conveys a naivete that contradicts its sinister sense of foreboding and suggests an untold story.

Fiction is the subject of Mark Bennett’s 1995 ink and graphite drawing Home of Francis “Gidget” Lawrence. The drawing depicts the floor plan of the home of the main character of the 1960s sitcom Gidget, as the artist imagines it. This fiction is then twisted by “locating” the house at an actual address identified in Pacific Palisades, within the context of the physical and real city of L.A. The result is a fiction based on fiction based on reality.

Movement, too, is a natural state in LA. Constantly in flux, with a landscape that actually moves, the city celebrates motion and change as its civic persona. The works by James Doolin and Robin Palanker illustrate this particular feature. Doolin’s Connections and Palanker’s Interstate 5, picture the powerful, sweeping bridges and overpasses that make up much of the city’s omnipresent freeways. These conduits, canals, and arteries are the city’s lifeline, linking it in a swift transportation web, but they are also massive unbending constructions looming large and still on the landscape. Ironically, Palanker pictures a towering freeway overpass broken, collapsed, and rendered useless by a recent earthquake

No show about L.A. would be complete without a work by Edward Ruscha, an L.A. icon and creator of icons. Included in “City of Vapor” was his succinct pastel Hollywood is a Verb, a depiction of those words in block letters floating over a solid-tone background. This piece sums up the ambiguity of L.A. by presenting an amusing contradiction and play on words: an obvious reference to moviemaking, the city of Hollywood itself, and the frenetic nature of both.

In Los Angeles, the earth–terra firma elsewhere–moves and shakes, and the clear blue sky is hidden beneath layers of fog and smog. Fictions seem real and the actual wakening world dreamlike and surreal. As these qualities converge, the artists who live and work in this elusive city strive to interpret its effects and capture the true reality of Los Angeles.