30 November 2008

Uh oh, gold diggers may soon have to find real jobs!

With the market in serious trouble, well-to-do bankers and hedge fund guys in search of arm candy is harder to come by.

...being unemployed is not hot. Real estate broker Sammy, a 37-year-old "single girl in the dating scene" (who would rather keep her real name private so that her boss doesn't know she's a gold digger), wrinkles her nose in disgust. "Will I knowingly date somebody who is in the sh--ter right now? Probably not." Sophie agrees, "I would never go out with someone who came up to me and said, 'I don't have a job.' " Emilaya shakes her head. "No, no, no." Even the non-English speaker shakes her head no. It's universal: No banking job, no service.

Engineers Explain Women

25 November 2008

Thank goodness for good friends!

In "Is Urban Loneliness a Myth?" Jennifer Senior explores living alone in the the Big Apple:

Manhattan is the capital of people living by themselves. But are New Yorkers lonelier? Far from it, say a new breed of loneliness researchers, who argue that urban alienation is largely a myth.

There are good public-health reasons to be concerned about loneliness. In the last couple of decades, researchers have started measuring the effects of social isolation, and they aren’t pretty. There’s been an avalanche of studies, for instance, showing that married people are happier and healthier, while the odds of dying increase significantly among the recently widowed, something known as the “widowhood effect.” There’s evidence suggesting that strong social networks help slow the progression of Alzheimer’s. There’s even better evidence suggesting that weak social networks pose as great a risk to heart-attack patients as obesity and hypertension. There’s also evidence to suggest that the religious people who live the longest are the ones who attend services most frequently rather than feel their beliefs most deeply. (It’s not faith that keeps them alive, in other words, but people.)

Studies show that loneliness is associated with morning surges in cortisol, the stress hormone, and increased vascular resistance, which results in higher blood pressure. They also show the lonely drink more, exercise less, get divorced more often, and have more family estrangements and run-ins with the neighbors. And they’re fatter. In one of my favorite experiments described in Loneliness, students were divided into two groups and told to evaluate … bite-size cookies. Specifically, researchers took aside each of the kids in one group and told them that no one wanted to work with them, so they’d have to work on their own. The others, by contrast, were each privately told that everyone wanted to work with them, but they’d still have to work on their own because it would be impossible to work with so many people. Then all of the participants were handed a plate of cookies and told to evaluate them. On average, the ones who had been told they were universally liked ate 4.5. Those who had been told they’d been universally rejected ate 9. “Is it any wonder we turn to ice cream,” the authors ask, “when we’re sitting at home feeling all alone in the world?”

Given how many New Yorkers live alone—in Manhattan, 25.6 percent of households are married, whereas the national average is 49.7—one would think we’d be at an increased risk for practically all these conditions. But Cacioppo points out that loneliness isn’t about objective matters, like whether we live alone. It’s about subjective matters, like whether we feel alone. To determine how satisfied people feel with their relationships, research psychologists generally rely on a twenty-question survey called the UCLA Loneliness Scale, which breaks down our connections into three groups: intimate (whether we have a partner), relational (friends), and collective (church, colleagues, baseball teams, etc.).

The results of these surveys have crucial—and positive—consequences for urban environments. Loneliness, it turns out, is relative. Widows are likely to feel better in a community with more widows (Boca Raton, Florida, say) than a community with only a few single elderly women. And singles are likely to feel better in a town with more singles … like New York. It’s true that marriage is still the best demographic predictor of loneliness. But Cacioppo stresses it’s a very loose predictor. People can have satisfying connections in other ways, after all, and people in bad marriages might as well be on their own: Cacioppo’s latest study, based on a sample of 225 people in the Chicago area, shows that those in unhappy marriages are no less lonely than single people, and might even be more so. Nor do rotten marriages do much for your health. A couple of years ago, Cacioppo teamed up with Linda Waite, co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially, whose conclusions about the health-positive effects of the institution drove feminists and fatalists like myself into a tizzy. They recruited a new pool of sample subjects and more or less asked the same questions Waite originally did, but also inserted questions to see if their participants were lonely. And what did they discover? That married people were indeed healthier—if they weren’t lonely in their marriages. If they were, the health benefits were so negligible the researchers considered them statistically insignificant.

“In our data,” adds Lisa Berkman, the Harvard epidemiologist who discovered the importance of social networks to heart patients, “friends substitute perfectly well for family.” This finding is important. It may be true that marriage prolongs life. But so, in Berkman’s view, does friendship—and considering how important friendship is to New Yorkers (home of Friends, after all), where so many of us live on our own, this finding is blissfully reassuring. In fact, Berkman has consistently found that living alone poses no health risk, whether she’s looking at 20,000 gas and electricity workers in France or a random sample of almost 7,000 men and women in Alameda, California, so long as her subjects have intimate ties of some kind as well as a variety of weaker ones. Those who are married but don’t have any civic ties or close friends or relatives, for instance, face greater health risks than those who live alone but have lots of friends and regularly volunteer at the local soup kitchen. “Any one connection doesn’t really protect you,” she says. “You need relationships that provide love and intimacy and you need relationships that help you feel like you’re participating in society in some way.”

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06 November 2008

Escape from NYC

If I don't find a job soon, I may have to try and find an affordable way to escape to some place sunnier. NYC is depressing in the winter when I don't have an income!

NY Mag offers suggestions for sunny escapes for all budgets, but for someone with a negative income flow, it'll still be a stretch.
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05 November 2008

Surprise, you've been rightsized!

Yeah, that's right.


And, by rightsized, what they actually meant was, downsized.

As in: You have been laid off. Now, get out.

Not surprisingly, just because they called it rightsized didn't make me feel any better about being downsized. It might have made me feel worse. Except that it's not sunk in yet. Because, I'm not upset yet.

As of 10am this morning, I made the walk of shame from my office building down the street to the building that houses my former company's HR department.

I was joined by 3,199 other rightsized employees that made up the 10% reduction of the 32,000 large workforce that the company promise earlier last month. Each of us carried bankers boxes, duffels and shopping bags full of personal items quickly gathered from our desks in the few minutes we had between the time we were told we'd been laid off and the time it took to return to our desks to turn off our computers and leave the building.

We didn't have to speak to each other, we didn't have to make eye contact, and no one had to ask where the other was headed. We were all able to tell who was on the walk of shame with us. We were all able to tell who expected the axe to fall, they were the ones who walked with a spring in the step, relieved that the uncertainty was finally over. We were all able to tell who had hoped they'd be the ones to be asked to leave, they were the ones with expressions of hope, who saw this as an opportunity to pursue their dreams. The saddest to see, however, were those it took by surprise, evidenced by the subtle stoop of defeat in the shoulders, the shopping bags crammed full of banking tombstones, the crystal paperweight presented to employees that have been with the firm for at least 10 years, awards presented by financial associations and preschool drawings with bold headings that read "To: Dad."

Us 3,200. Strangers to each other, and strangely united. We didn't speak to each other. No one was in a talking mood. We didn't make eye contact. Guess no one was in a looking mood. Stone faced, everyone gazed resolutely ahead as we headed to HR.

HR was all business. We walked in, turned in our employee IDs, blackberries, laptops and corporate cards. In exchange, we got our severance packages.

Package is a generous word.

As I left HR, I ran into some former colleagues walking in. We exchanged hugs and made tentative plans for lunch along with lame half jokes about how we'll now have time to have lunch.

Now that we're unemployed, we'll have time to do the things we've always secretly envied others for having the time to do. Our secret envy was also our secret source of superiority and self worth. Our lives were so busy, our jobs so important to us, we never had time for anything other than work.

"So, now we have tons of time, want to do lunch next week?"

"Sure," I say, "let's do lunch."

Welcome to rightsizing.

03 November 2008

A cat obstacle course?!?

WTF! I am strangely fascinated and weirded out at the same time.
An official blueprint for the obstacle course set up last week at Madison Square Garden during the CFA-Iams Cat Championship’s Feline Agility Competition. Revi (pictured), a five-month-old Maine Coon kitten from Richmond, Texas, finished in eight seconds, beating out 29 feline rivals to win the race (which is separate from the best-in-show contest). Her prize: 60 pounds of cat food.

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