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Rebranding Employee Communications, Courtesy of Delta Airlines

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn August 1, 2014In: Just for Fun

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Communication is key to success. The better employees understand the objective and the rules for achieving the objective, the more productive they are and the more likely it is that the objective will be achieved.  But communication isn’t easy.  In fact, I’d venture to guess that most of us have been in a workplace where the communication was kept to an inner circle,  where the message seemed to be ever-changing, or where the higher-ups didn’t seem to understand how important communication really is.

Yet, the quest for better internal communication seems to be never ending.  Sometimes, the way to tackle a difficult problem is to start over.  Taking a fresh look at an old problem can remind us that simpler is better.  Speak a language that people understand.  Corporate-speak is just plain alienating to most humans. 

Delta offers a great example of the idea that speaking the language of your intended audience is the key to successful communications.  As a tribute to Delta’s first safety video, which premiered in the 1980s, Delta released an 80s-themed safety videos.  The video’s description explains the idea behind a truly entertaining safety video—”to reward even the most frequent of frequent flyers for paying attention.”

Take a look at the video and ask yourself how you can rebrand your message so that your intended audience actually pays attention. 

Have a terrific weekend and happy August!

3 HR Lessons I Learned In Vienna

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn January 13, 2014In: Just for Fun

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I spent the first half of my recent vacation in Vienna, Austria.  It was my first visit to to Vienna and I found the city to be absolutely enchanting with it deep roots in the arts, jaw-dropping architecture, and irresistible sweets.  Being the employment lawyer that I am, though, I can’t resist writing a post about some of the HR lessons one could learn from Vienna.

Vienna State Opera House

1.  Get out and walk around

I spent hours each day walking around the city.  Although I had a list of sites I wanted to visit and things I wanted to do, I found that some of my best experiences occurred more or less by accident.  For example, some of the best pictures I took on this trip were taken during unplanned walks.

The concept of “management by walking around” applies in the same way.  You can’t know what your employees are doing or what the general feeling is unless you get out of your office and see it for yourself.

2.  Don’t forget the date

In Vienna, the year of construction is displayed clearly on most buildings.  When I arrived, my driver pointed out the differences between pre- and post-war construction.  This was made significantly easier to do by virtue of the fact that the year can be seen clearly from the street.

Employers are well advised to follow a similar pattern.  Although employment lawyers love documentation, we really love documentation that includes a date.  Although we’ll make do with an undated witness statement, a statement that includes a date and signature is far, far more useful.

3.  Try a new angle

We all get stuck in our ways.  One of the hardest things to do is to look at a situation in a truly objective way without any predetermined opinions and without jumping too quickly to conclusions.  Although this is a very, very difficult thing to do, it is an incredibly valuable skill to have.

Vienna’s historic buildings are awe-inspiring.  They are also everywhere.  To really get a sense of any one building, I had to look at it from as many angles as possible.  The legendary Opera House looks completely different when seen from the ground as it does from the balcony of the Albertina Museum, which is just across the street.  Every view was gorgeous.  But I found that some of best images I captured were taken at angles other than straight on.

When dealing with a problem, take a step back from it.  Look at it from the left, the right, and then look at it up and down before you decide how to proceed.  Sometimes, the best approach may not be the one you’re used to taking.

3 Lessons I Learned On Vacation

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn January 10, 2014In: Just for Fun

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Every year, I go away for a few days on January 1st in an effort to refresh following the hectic holiday season. Having had enough of winter by January, I usually head south and spend three or four days with friends and family in Florida. But this year, I took a very different approach. Instead of four days in the Sunshine state, I headed overseas for 8 days. I spent the first four in Vienna, Austria, and the second four in Budapest, Hungary. It was a fantastic trip and I returned refreshed in a different way.Molly DiBianca

Here are three of the lessons I learned during my great escape.

1. Make the Time

I’m sorry to say, this is not a skill I’ve developed very well. The last true vacation I took (meaning more than a long weekend without answering emails and doing legal work) was more than 9 years ago. I cringe at the thought but it’s true. It always seems so hard to get away—there is always so much to do and never enough time. But the idea of work-life balance is that you are supposed to have a life. Vacation (i.e., a time free of work), is part of that balance.

2. Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

Instead of my standard trip south, I chose, instead, to go somewhere entirely different. To two cities I’ve never seen in two countries I’ve never visited. The perspective gained from stepping out of your comfort zone is well worth the initial anxiety about not speaking the language or knowing your way around. Plus, as the saying goes, “nothing risked, nothing gained.”

Challenge yourself and your employees to try new things if you want to promote growth and development.

3. Embrace Independence

My traveling companion had to back out of the trip at the last minute, letting me know about six days before our scheduled departure. As you may expect, I was not exactly thrilled about the change. It’s easier to travel with a companion and I worried that I wouldn’t be up to the challenge of traveling abroad by myself.

I mentioned the change to a friend, who responded, “So go by yourself—you’re sociable!” And right he is! So I took his advice and went by myself.

And I am so glad that I did. It was great to choose my agenda each day based only on what I wanted to do and to see. Would it have been fun with someone to share the adventure? Definitely. But sometimes it’s important to accomplish something on our own.

Teamwork is important but don’t underestimate the value of the solo experience. Being a “party of one” has its benefits.

Why I May Have to Eat My Emoticons

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn September 5, 2012In: Just for Fun

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Most of the time, HR and employment law are serious topics. But, sometimes, they can be seriously funny. Today, I read something that qualified for the latter description. It strikes me as so funny that I just have to share it with you, dear readers.

Regular readers may recall a post I wrote a while back about the dangers of communicating with email. Recent research seems to confirm what many of us have long suspected--that recipients are more likely to give a negative connotation to email than they would if the same conversation had taken place face-to-face.


Some smart folks had suggested that the use of emoticons in emails would help to communicate the tone of the message and could help to prevent unintended negative inferences. I enthusiastically endorsed the idea and admitted that I use emoticons a lot already--probably a lot more than most people in general and almost certainly more than most lawyers.

Well, a survey I read about today may have me eating my words--or, more accurately, my emoticons. According to an article at the Huffington Post, the survey found that emoticons may be sending more of a message than we thought. Specifically, the survey reported that:

"71 percent of women and 90 percent of men said that receiving a winky face indicates the possibility of romance or a first date"

Yes, you read that correctly--according to the survey, including an emoticon in your email is today's pick-up line. And, according to the survey, the technique works! The survey also found that about half of office romances started with an emoticon.

Apparently, I'm not the only one who's been sending the wrong message unintentionally--the same survey reported that about half of office workers say that they use emoticons regularly in emails sent to coworkers. So, maybe it's not just me.

But, so as not to risk sending the wrong message with my emoticon usage, maybe I'll add yet another disclaimer to my email stationery that says:

This email is not intended to convey an intent or desire to engage in any romantic or inappropriate conduct of any kind. Any emoticons used herein should not be interpreted in any manner that infers or implies an intent by the sender to engage in any romantic or otherwise inappropriate conduct.

What do you think--sufficiently confusing, yet effective? Just in case I can't get approval to add the proposed disclaimer, though, let me just say this: If you receive an email from me and it includes an emoticon--winking, smiling, thumbs up, otherwise--I assure you that it is not a way for me to suggest any kind of indecent proposal.

Just so we've got that all cleared up. And, if you found this story to be particularly entertaining, you can thank our friends over at the Alabama Employment Law Blog, whose post alerted me to the story. But chose your email emoticons carefully--you wouldn't want them to get the wrong idea, after all.

A Little Presentation Humor

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn May 18, 2012In: Just for Fun

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Our Annual Employment Seminar has the topic of presentations on my mind this week. Like many of my employment-law colleagues, I do a lot of public speaking. I recently looked back at my speaking schedule for 2011 and was surprised to see that I averaged almost 1 speaking engagement per week. If it was up to me, I'd likely speak even more often but, again, my day job makes that difficult.

Being a good speaker is not easy--even for those of us who love it. It's a craft and, like any craft, requires lots of practice and continued improvement. One guaranteed way to improve is to watch yourself--nothing shows flaws like a live video recording. A less traumatic way to improve is to watch other speakers. By paying attention to what they do well and what irks you can be a very effective training tool.

Here are two videos to get you started in your studies. The first is an updated version of Don McMillan's Life After Death by PowerPoint:

And the second is Every Presentation Ever by Habitudes for Communicators:

Here's hoping your Friday is as enjoyable as these presentations!

What Dave Barry Taught Me About HR

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn May 13, 2012In: Just for Fun

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I had the pleasure of attending an event last week at which humorist Dave Barry was the keynote speaker. As you may be able to deduce from my lunatic-like grin, I am a big fan of Mr. Barry's. I was very excited about hearing him speak and had been looking forward to the event for several months. I wasn't disappointed. Dave Barry was hilarious. The audience was doubled over in their chairs with laughter for most of his talk.


After the event was over, I reflected on the lessons that could be excavated from his talk. What words of wisdom could be parsed from the humor and held like fragile gems of truth to be used later? If you've read Dave Barry's work, either as a columnist for the Miami Herald or as the author of a few dozen books, you likely know the answer already. None.

That's right. Dave Barry didn't impart any words of wisdom or gems of truth. He didn't lecture about the ways in which we could all work to improve the world. And he didn't prosthelytize any political position. He just made us laugh. He told funny stories that were funny because they were true. And the stories made us laugh.

So, what does this have to do with employment law, or human resources, or the modern workplace? In some ways, a lot. I don't know about you, but there are days at work that I wish would be over sooner rather than later. Work can be stressful. And so can life. But the things that raise our blood pressure, usually, are trivial when viewed from the right perspective. The key is in getting the right perspective.

The next time you find yourself grinding your teeth over the day-to-day aggravations of life, try to take a deep breath and relax. Maybe tell yourself (or someone else) a lousy joke that makes you laugh. Or pick up a Dave Barry book and laugh out loud as you read. And remember, things are almost certainly not so bad.

Friday Funnies: Motivational Poster of the Future?

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn March 2, 2012In: Employee Engagement, Just for Fun

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Sheldon Sandler took the picture below during a recent trip to Granada. Yes, it's a real picture of a real sign on the outside of a real factory.


Admittedly, the picture evokes mixed emotions for me. Part of me cheers, happy for the employer who attempts to set a positive tone for workers about to start their workday.

On the other hand, though, the sign seems to send, well, a bit of a mixed message, doesn't it? Nothing like beating someone with a baseball bat imprinted with a motivational message as a technique to motivate workers, right?

Either way, the sheer extremity of the sign makes me laugh. And that's enough of a reason to post it as this Friday's Funny. Enjoy and have a great weekend!

Friday Funnies: Edison's Take on Job Interviews

Posted by Lauren Moak RussellOn February 17, 2012In: Just for Fun

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The job application and screening process is key to finding and retaining valuable employees. As employment attorneys, we talk a lot about the Do's and Don'ts of job interviews and background checks. So, when we came across Thomas Edison's job interview quiz, we thought it was worth a look.  What we discovered is that we couldn't get a job with Thomas Edison. Could you?

Don't Hate Me Because I'm Brilliant: Part II

Posted by Lauren Moak RussellOn January 12, 2012In: Hiring, Jerks at Work, Just for Fun, Newsworthy

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You may recall our previous post about a young lawyer who sued his former employer. The lawyer, Gregory Berry, had sent an email to the firm's partners, in which he stated, "it has become clear that I have as much experience and ability as an associate many years my senior, as much skill writing, and a superior legal mind to most I have met." Not surprisingly, Mr. Berry's arrogance was not well received, and he lost his job. He then sued his former employer, seeking over $75 million in damages.

Mr. Berry must have been stunned, then, when his lawsuit was dismissed earlier this week. The court dismissed the suit on the grounds that Mr. Berry had executed a valid release of his claims in exchange for a $27,000 severance payment. Consequently, his claims were barred. The court rejected Mr. Berry's argument that he signed the "unconscionable" agreement under economic duress.

But this story isn't over! In keeping with the self-aggrandizing attitude evident in Mr. Berry's email, he left the Courtroom before the Judge had finished issuing her ruling. She has now ordered the parties to attend a hearing on January 24, for purposes of considering a contempt ruling against Mr. Berry, reports Above the Law.

So what is the lesson to be learned for employers? Well, I suppose there's the idea that there's no way to guarantee you won't get sued. Despite the existence of a valid severance agreement and a substantial cash payent, the law firm still got hit with a lawsuit--and the aggravation and expense that goes with it. If there is a lesson here, it may be that you can never be too selective in your hiring decisions.

Schadenfreude—Employment-Law Style

Posted by Lauren Moak RussellOn March 11, 2011In: Just for Fun

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In today's litigious society, it's always nice to take a step back and appreciate the problems we don't have--even if that means indulging in a little schadenfreude. In that spirit, I give you the story of Jill McGlone, a civil servant in Norfolk Virginia. calendar and clock

Ms. McGlone has sued her former employer for wrongful termination. Generally an employee's allegations of wrongful termination don't raise eyebrows,  but this case presents unique circumstances. Ms. McGlone was terminated in 2010, after a 12-year paid suspension, during which time she allegedly received approximately $320,000 in compensation. It is also alleged that during her suspension, McGlone continued to receive benefits and annual raises.

It's still unclear how Ms. McGlone's situation was allowed to continue for 12 years. It appears that after she was suspended in 1998 for alleged workplace misconduct, her supervisor never resolved her employment status. The issue was not reviewed again until 2010, when a new director was appointed to oversee the agency for which Ms. McGlone "worked." Since Ms. McGlone's situation came to light, five other individuals have been terminated for allowing her suspension to continue unresolved. Possible civil and criminal charges are still being considered.

The moral of the story: don't suspend your employees with pay for 12 years, and be glad you're not being threatened with litigation for correcting the situation!

2010 Holiday Gift Guide: Coworkers and Office Mates

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn November 29, 2010In: Just for Fun

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Back by popular demand is this year's edition of the Holiday Gift Guide--ideas for gifts you don't want to buy for people who don't want to receive them. Ah, don't you just love the holiday season?  And, this year's shopping list is posted appropriately on Cyber Monday--the day that 20% of Americans are expected to be shopping online--many of them from the comfort of their office.

 Holiday Gifts for the Office

First up is the Blabber Meter.  This is a gift that everyone can use.  We all have at least one office mate or coworker who just doesn't seem to understand that the workday means that there's work to do.  You know, the one who, when he walks the halls, everyone suddenly grabs their phones, shuts their doors, or tries to appear to be deep in thought in the hopes that the conversationalist will bypass their cubicles and they can actually get some work done. 

The Blabber Meter purports to help solve the problem of the overly chatty coworker.  Next time the blabbermouth stops by "just to say 'hello,'" start the Meter running.  The desk clock converts into a meter to track the cost of the time wasted by endless blabber.  Lawyers know that every minute matters--this is a great tool to help others see the clock in the same way. $24.99



Holiday Gifts for the Office

The second gift on this year's Gift Guide is the ID Blocker.  Although it may look like a gag gift, this is an incredibly practical tool.  Basically, it's a stamp (that's right, the kind you use with real ink).  Instead of shredding documents that contain sensitive information, such as social-security numbers, financial accounts, or other confidential data, you can use this nifty low-tech gadget to "redact" it.  Just stamp over the information you want to hide - the stamp contains "thousands of tiny symbols that block out whatever is under them."  In this day of oversharing and ever-evading privacy controls, this is a great solution to a problem anyone who uses paper all day faces regularly.  $19.99



Holiday Gifts for the Office

Third on the list is a particularly snarky gift--my favorite kind.  There are 47 different cards in The Daily Mood, each representing a different mood.  On the front of the card is a Smiley, which alerts your office mates to your mood that day.  On the back of the card, which faces you at your desk, are informative quotes and definitions.  The way I see it, communication is key.  If you're feeling snarky, your best bet is to let others know about it in advance.  With this gift, your coworkers will never again have to guess the answer to the question, "How are you today?"  $9.95





Fourth on the list is the I'll Be Back Notepad.  There's nothing wrong with keeping your personal life personal.  But that doesn't mean that your coworkers don't need to know when you'll be back.  Don't keep them guessing--it's annoying.  Instead, stick one of these notes on your door or computer monitor to let others know when you'll be available and, of course, that you're sorry you missed them.  $4





The fifth gift on the list this year is one near and dear to my heart--the Deluxe Lunchbox.  Anyone who knows me knows that I never leave home without food.  Ever.  I have no qualms with lugging a small Igloo cooler with me to a day-long training session.  Of course, this accessory makes me look more like a construction worker than a lawyer, so I'm particularly excited about the idea of legitimate, "grown-up" version of the lunchbox--especially a version that is actually large enough to hold enough food to keep me in a good mood through a long day of seminars.  The stacked design is all about functionality--4 small and 1 large containers stack together and prevent food from being tossed around or mixed together on the road.  You can even fit a bottle under the strap on the lid of the box.  $30Holiday Gifts for the Office  


The last gift on this year's list is the To Do Tatoo.  I'm a notorious list maker, as many of my readers surely are.  One thing I don't do, though, is scribble on my hand--although I've certainly been tempted.  With this kit, you get 12 "To Do" forms that you can apply to your hand, or elsewhere, and a skin-safe washable ink gel pen with which to fill in the various items.  It's a perfect gift for someone in your office who constantly misses appointments or due dates--or who is always asking to borrow a piece of paper to make a note.  $7



See also:

2009 Holiday Gift Guide: Technology Edition

2008 Gift Guide: Office Mates & Coworkers

A Season for Giving: How Ready Is Your Ethics Policy for the Gift Season?

What To Do If Your CEO Is A Ninja

Posted by Lauren Moak RussellOn September 22, 2010In: Just for Fun, Social Media in the Workplace

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   comic book martial artist

This is a question that executives at Apple are probably asking themselves right now as the   result of an unfortunate confluence of events. Apparently, it all started when Steve Jobs, Apple's CEO, visited Japan over the summer. During the same time, an individual was stopped at the airport, attempting to carry  Japanese throwing stars  onto a private plane. A Japanese tabloid put two and two together, and now Apple is in the position of having to deny that its CEO has clandestine job aspirations.

The story has spread so far over the internet that a Taiwanese company has created a "reenactment" of Jobs being stopped by airport security. The fictional Jobs then morphs into a ninja, and attacks airport security.

While Apple's predicament is more humorous than harmful, it is a reminder of the damage that can be done via bad press on the internet. This is another great reason to have a social media policy in place that asks employees to report negative information they find on the web! And a really good social media policy may have the added benefit of ferreting out the secret ninjas in your workforce.

The Importance of Office Space

Posted by Adria B. MartinelliOn August 13, 2010In: Just for Fun, Policies, Wellness, Health, and Safety

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How important is office space to employees?  Very important, apparently, according to this article discussing a "summer office swap" conducted at a Boston-area advertising agency.  During the summer months at this forward-thinking firm, nearly every employee switches office space based on a lottery system.

There were a small number of managers with offices, and regardless of how high their pick was, they could not keep an office. However, who did get the office appeared to depend on an elaborate bartering system, which resulted in more lowly office types offering services such as babysitting, car washing, and coffee retrieval in exchange for a seat in a coveted manager office.clip_image002

The article is a good reminder of how important office space is to employees. More than a few employment discrimination lawsuits have been based, in part, on the office (or cubicle) an employee is assigned to.

In 2003, there was a Delaware case involving a plaintiff who filed a federal lawsuit which entailed, among other things, his objection to an office space “auction” at University of Delaware – where the best offices would go to the highest bidder and the money raised would go into a fund for use of the Department.

More recently, I had a case where among a plaintiff’s evidence of “retaliation,” were claims that she was given a “dirty, dusty cubical walls filled with dust mites.” And of course, who can forget the movie Office Space, and Milton, whose most prized possession was his Swingline stapler, and whose cubicle was continually moved until he was eventually wound up in a dimly lit basement among the boxes.

The legal profession is one of the last standouts where a good portion of the employees – lawyers and paralegals – typically have real offices with doors: associates have window offices, partners have bigger window offices, and paralegals have interior window-less offices. I know this is unusual for most of corporate America. But as the Boston Globe article illustrated, even among cubicles there is a hierarchy: those closest to the window, most shielded from foot traffic, etc.

Employers should keep in mind the importance of office space to employees, and what a difference small changes can make. In this era of layoffs and belt-tightening, there may be simple and relatively inexpensive ways to reward your employees and keep them happy: think about small ways their work environment can be improved. Many (indeed most) employers are not cut out for the “summer office swap” conducted by the Boston firm – if this was ever attempted in a law firm, I’m quite certain it would result in a revolt that would make the Pakistani lawyers revolt look tame. Nevertheless, consider what might work for your workplace: access to natural light, modest levels of privacy, can go a long way to build employee loyalty.

April Fool's Day for Employment Lawyers

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn April 1, 2010In: Just for Fun

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Courtesy of Someecards, home of some of the most sarcastic, yet endearing, online greeting cards around:

Happy April Fools Day Employment Law Style

Happy April Fool's Day!

2009 Holiday Gift Guide: Technology Edition

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn December 9, 2009In: Just for Fun

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The 2008 Holiday Gift Guide was so popular, I've been waiting all year to revisit the topic in improved form. This is the first part of the Guide and includes all of the technology that your favorite lawyer (or other thinking professional) could possibly hope to receive this year. Happy gifting!

Amazon Kindle DX $489

With its 9.7" display, the most recent iteration of this wireless reading device is nearly twice as large as its predecessor. Its generous memory enables you to store up to 3,500 books, which you can download wirelessly without any monthly fees, annual contracts, or other subscriptions. Native PDF support allows you to carry and read all of your documents on the go. image

If the price tag seems a bit high, you may want to consider the Kindle (sans DX), which, in its most recent version (i.e., the latest "generation"), costs a mere $249. For the significant savings, you'll get a significantly smaller display (6") and memory (1,500 books), but the rest of the package is nearly identical.

The DX was marketed to lawyers and others who have not yet been able to let go of their legal pads. The idea, as I understand it anyway, is that the larger-sized DX model would feel more like a notepad, thus serving as a closer substitute. Whether or not that idea will be successful, I haven't got the foggiest. It comes down to personal preference as to: (1) size; (2) memory; and (3) price.

Kensington SlimBlade Trackball $129image

This wireless mouse is downright gorgeous. I own an older model Kensington trackball and couldn't imagine my office life without it. Its stationary design means you don't ever have to move the mouse all around the desk again. Instead, a slight flick of the fingertips enables you to navigate effortlessly across multiple applications and within the most complex documents. Yummy.

Thomas Pink Commuter Tie $100image

The classic haberdashery offers a gift perfect for the dapper gentleman who prides himself on maintaining an impeccable image. The tie, available in several colors, is designed with a "small yet subtle pocket" on the back. The pocket is just the right size to house your iPod Nano and an extra-fabric loop keeps all wires out of sight and close to the body, leaving your hands free to read the Journal on the train ride into work. 



Electronic Windshield De-Icer $25image

Even those people who are crazy about winter (ugh!) don't like to stand in the cold in the mornings just to scrape the ice off of their car windows. This handy gadget makes the snowy weather that much more bearable for all of us. 

The de-icer plugs into the car's outlet and has a 14' cord, which is long enough to reach the front and rear windows of most vehicles. The retractable handle means you can store it easily in your trunk and there's even a built-in light, which is particularly convenient for those pre-dawn trips to work.

Flip UltraHD Minicam $199

Please don't say that you don't have a Flip minicam and please, please, please don't say that you don't know what it is. Flip makes pocket-sized camcorders that are so easy to use, you'll hardly believe that it's a descendent of those mammoth-sized camcorders of yesterday that were lugged in carrying cases the size of suitcase to soccer games and Grandma's house. T

hey cost next to nothing and easier to use than most point-and-shoot digital cameras. Granted, you can shoot just 60 or 120 minutes (depending on the model) of footage but, really, who needs more? 5 minutes of precious memories is probably more than enough. And after you yell "Cut!", you simply plug the camera into your laptop's USB port and, Voila!--you're video is saved on your computer and ready to upload to YouTube. What could be simpler? image

If you don't have a Flip camera yet, now is the time. Just in time for your holiday spending, Flip has introduced a new and improved line of its "minicams" with HD--nothing but the best for your techie, right? It comes in a 60 minute ($149) or 120 minute ($199) format.

If you want to be really sporty, go for the MinoHD.  For $229, you can get 120 minutes of HD video in tiny package and even customize it with your own picture on the shell. (pictured above).

Other, holiday-related posts:

'Tis the Season to Avoid Disaster at the Office Holiday Party
Alcohol and the Office Holiday Party: Tips from the Dep't of Labor
The Risk of Identity Theft Is Higher Than Ever This Holiday Season

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