30 December 2008

Are you eating?

So it's been almost two months since I've been laid off, and I've been eating my way through Manhattan.

Dad calls to check in on me every week, and the most recent call went like this:

Me, "Hello?"
Dad, "What are you doing?  Are you eating?  I know it's hard when you're not working, but you need to stop eating, or you'll get fat."
Me, "I'm not eating." (I'm eating.)
Dad, "I can hear you eating.  Stop eating."

28 December 2008

Seven Laid-Off New Yorkers Share Their Stories

Since August, 33,000 New Yorkers have lost their jobs.

I’m a workaholic, so it’s a little hard to step back and enjoy this free time. I’m going back to things that I enjoyed when I was younger. I’ve been cooking up a storm. I’ve been really diligent with Pilates and have taken up knitting again. I’m almost done with a little blanket for my cat.

You have to maintain a positive attitude. It does pass, but it takes time. Many people who were laid off from the big banks may never go back to the financial industry; they just don’t realize that yet. You have to ask yourself, “What is the talent that I offer, and where can I put that to use?” I’m reinventing myself. I want to go into the not-for-profit sector and do something more meaningful with my life. In my mind, as of that day, I retired from the investment services. It just wasn’t satisfying as far as giving back to people, and the current system is not the industry I remember. I’m looking for more now.

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26 December 2008

SharePod

One of the things I hate about iPods is that I can't take music on my iPod and re-upload it to my computer if I ever lose the music on my computer. SharePod is freeware that allows me to do exactly that.

SharePod

19 December 2008

Mancrush

I have a mancrush on Rachel Maddow. I don't know why. I hate political talk shows because they get on my nerves. I like her show though. Maybe it's because she's smart, funny and a real person.

He said WHAT?

This guy is such a tool. I can't believe he quoted Kipling and left out the next line. I wish he'd resign already so we can move on with our lives.


15 December 2008

At least he's consistent...

I love this guy. Even when the market is tanking and the world economy is in crisis, he remembers to hold his grudges. I have to admire that quality about him -- at least he's consistent.

In the bleakest stock market of the past 70 years, when hedge funds and 401Ks alike have cratered, few people are smiling. But short seller Jim Chanos, whose fund is up 50%, is having the time of his life.

On the morning of November 4, Jim Chanos, president of Kynikos Associates on West 55th Street, the world’s biggest short-selling hedge fund, read an article...with irrepressible glee. A colleague had e-mailed him a link. The headline: GOLDMAN FUND LOSES $990M AFTER 10 MONTHS.

His East Hampton neighbor, Marc Spilker, managing director of the Goldman Sachs division responsible for the billion-dollar loss, was finally receiving his comeuppance. In June 2007, Spilker decided to widen the rather narrow footpath from his house on Further Lane to the beach. One afternoon, Spilker dispatched a crew to widen the path by bulldozing the hedges between his mansion and Chanos’s. Chanos was outraged. “I hope this is not a harbinger of how other Goldman senior executives may act when the markets become ‘just not lucrative enough for us!’ ” he wrote to friends at the time in an e-mail that just happened to find its way to the New York Post. Several months after the Post leak, Chanos pulled nearly $3 billion out of his Goldman trading account, costing the bank some $50 million in annual fees, according to a source, and brought a suit against Spilker. (Goldman disputes these numbers.) Now, a year later, as Chanos sat at his Bloomberg terminal reading the Financial Times’ account of Spilker’s recent hedge-fund woes, a smile broadened across his face. He sent out another mass e-mail to his friends, staff, and financial journalists, directing them to the news. “Mark [sic] Spilker (Head of GS Internal Hedge Funds, and Horticultural Hater) strikes again!”

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Women and alcohol

More women are drinking, and the women who drink are drinking more, in some cases matching their male peers. This is the kind of inequality nobody was fighting for. Alex Morris explores this in Gender Bender.

“You just adjust what you’re saying,” ... “Sometimes I’m like, I’m an alcoholic. Sometimes I’m like, I just drink a lot. Workaholic. Alcoholic. Workaholic. Alcoholic. How do you know if you have a problem?” She takes a sip and shrugs.

I don't have anything against women that drink. I fall into the demographic of women that drink and drink often. I barely drank in high school or college. I started drinking in my mid 20s and my tolerance has grown since then.

I started drinking as a way to socialize both in and out of the workplace after college. When I began to work long hours in a high pressure male-dominated environment, I started to drink more.

I drank in part because I was overworked and overstressed. When I'm short on personal time, I tend to party harder to compensate for my lack of free time. I loved the rush of working under intense pressure, drinking and partying until I was so tired my eyes couldn't stay open, forcing myself to get up after 3 hours of sleep, still hung over, only to repeat the process. Being that busy and exhausted allowed me to avoid thinking about how I didn't have a life besides work. I didn't have to reflect on whether I was "happy." The rush of always being on the go, of always being under pressure, of always being extremely busy, of always having yet another crisis to solve was addictive. I loved the sudden clearheadedness and certainty I had for every decision I made. It helped me feel like I (and my job) made a difference in the world.

Then again, I'm always at my best in emergencies and under extreme pressure. The more I'm overscheduled and stressed, the more I want to take on more both professionally and personally. If I worked 14 hour days, I'd start training for a marathon. If I worked 12 hour days and was training for a marathon, I'd start volunteering at a local elementary school once a week. If I worked 12 hour days, was training for a marathon, was already volunteering at an elementary school, I'd start swimming every other day just to see how far I could push my body. See the pattern? People (me) with personalities to tolerate extremes are attracted to jobs that demand those extremes. Short of doing drugs, which I have neither the interest or aptitude for, drinking heavily was the fastest and most socially acceptable way to burn the candle at both ends.

Then, there was the matter of gender and environment. In a male dominated environment, drinking was sometimes the only thing I had in common with my male counterparts. I had no interest in sport spreads, gambling or golf, and my co-workers could care less about windsurfing, sustainable agricultural practices or the latest Barbara Bui collection. So, we drank because that was the one way we could all show how big our BSDs were. Sometimes, I won. Sometimes, they won.

While the reasons I started drinking are similar to some of the reasons women drink in Morris' article, I wouldn't have kept drinking if I didn't like it. Fortunately for my liver, I no longer drink for any other reason than because I want to, and I try not to drink to excess. As Morris points out, there's nothing wrong with women that drink. It's just notable and somewhat unfortunate that women feel they need to drink in order to fit in with their male counterparts.

However, even without the pressure of fitting in with male counterparts, women have started drinking as much if not even more than males. Statistics have shown an increase of women that binge drink, which is unhealthy. But, while it's true that binge drinking isn't good for you, the general American definition of binge drinking for women is 4 or more alcoholic drinks in a row. Four (or more) drinks in a row seems like a normal night out with the girls, so perhaps I'm proving Morris' point. Which probably also explains why I don't think increased number of women drinkers is a big deal, although I do find Morris' article interesting.

Excerpts I found interesting:

That more women are drinking, yes—more than 48 percent acknowledge having had at least one drink in the past month (up from 42 percent in 1992). But beyond that, the women who drink are drinking more. The number of women who identify as moderate-to-heavy drinkers has risen in the last ten years, while the number of women who say they are light drinkers has declined. At the same time, men are reining in their drinking, meaning that the gender gap of alcohol consumption is narrowing all the time.

“As women ‘immigrated’ into the culture that was once unique to men...they picked up a lot of the same mores and attitudes and behaviors and ideas about what is socially acceptable that men had previously held. We call this acculturation—people adopt the drinking attitude and behaviors of the dominant culture.” Which explains why researchers have found that women in the demographic closest to being dominant (young, white, middle-class, educated) are leading the charge in terms of increased alcohol consumption.

The transition from high school to college marks the greatest increase in substance abuse among women, and the more educated a woman is, the more likely she will be to drink throughout her life. “College campuses are the place where drinking norms are set for educated individuals,” says Jon Morgenstern, a professor of psychiatry and vice-president at the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse. “The rate of drinking is astronomical. College is really a training ground for becoming an alcoholic.” And these days, the gender gap on campus is reversed: Fifty-five percent of college students who meet the clinical criteria for alcohol abuse are female.

The rate of frequent binge drinking increased by 124 percent between 1993 and 2001 at all-female colleges. When Amstel Light began marketing directly to women, its sales volume reportedly went up by 13 percent. Suddenly, alcohol commercials weren’t just of the big-breasted, mud-wrestling lineage. A Dewar’s ad from the era showed a lovely young woman donning her work clothes while a bare-chested man slept in the bed beside her. Tagline: “You finally have a real job, a real place, and a real boyfriend. How about a real drink?”

...Alcohol ads appeared during thirteen to fifteen of the most popular shows among teenagers and increasingly in women’s magazines, where according to Jernigan, in 2002 girls 12 to 20 saw 95 percent more ads for alcopops than women 21 and above. New alcopop flavors proliferated, Jell-O shooters showed up in grocery-store aisles, and companies rolled out vodkas in increasingly exotic flavors. “How many guys are going to drink a strawberry vodka?...There’s a clear effort by the industry to create products for female drinkers. And it has had an effect.”

Drinking has become entwined with progressive feminism. “I don’t think that the drinking in and of itself is feminist, but I do think that it comes from a feminist place, that it can bolster one’s sense of herself as liberated... You know, the whole point of Third Wave feminism is that individual choice should not be judged. If you choose to opt out and be a stay-at-home mom, then that’s your choice.” And if you choose to drink yourself unconscious in some random guy’s bed, that’s also your prerogative. To say that you shouldn’t would be paternalistic hand-wringing, implying that a woman needs to be protected from herself.

But the paradox of a woman exerting her power by making herself, to one degree or another, incapacitated does not read as a disjunction to most of the women I spoke with. On the contrary, a woman’s control over her life—and the decision of when and how to lose that control—seems to be the point.

He said WHAT?

I've lived in a rent-stabilized walk-up apartment in downtown Manhattan for the past four years. I've noticed that rents in nicer units near me have fallen. Since my rent is rent-stabilized, I expect it to be slightly below market.

Plus, my building is pretty neglected even by New York City walk-up standards. My neighbor's dog urinates daily in the hallway, and no one cleans it so the building reeks of urine. We have a rodent problem. There is a hole in the corner of my bedroom floor so I can look down into the unit below mine and hear everything that goes on there (and vice versa). Our bathtub leaks. Our front door lock is broken, so I installed a deadbolt which is the only lock we use on our door.

In addition to our problems with the general care of the building, the building has been subject to several acts of crime. In 2008 alone, our neighbor was mugged at knifepoint by a man waiting in the stairwell. The apartment on the floor above ours was burgled via fire escape.

The management company and super have been generally unresponsive to our requests to have the dog urine cleaned, the hole repaired and the lock in the front door replaced, but we have not complained too much and are low maintenance tenants. When I began to take stock of the cost of living right after I lost my job, I called my management company to ask if they would consider lowering my rent by $200 so it was back in line with my rent in 2007.

I'd noticed tenants in my building had been moving out (probably for the reasons listed above), and the unit across the way from my apartment had been empty for at least 3 months so the management company was losing money on a monthly basis. The way I saw it, it would be expensive for me to move out, but in the long run, I'd make up the loss of my deposit through the lower rent and nicer amenities. It'd be costly for my management company if I moved too. Yes, I'd forgo my deposit of two months rent, but in the long run, the management company is required to spend a minimum of $5,000 to fix up the apartment before they can take on a new tenant, and the unti wouldn't be able to command the same rent I was paying (even at 2007 levels) for the next tenant. A decrease of $200 would this bring my rent back in line with the market and would also help me considerably with my short term finances until I found a job.

When I explained this to my management company, I got the run around. After several tries, I spoke to Paul S. His response was, "I don't understand what an extra $200.00 would do for you if you no longer have a job. It sounds to me like you just made up being laid off as an excuse to renegotiate your rent."

I didn't think it was any of his business, but I explained I had a little severance. Paul then said the decision wasn't his to make, and I needed to speak to Mark W.

I called Mark W. every day for the next two weeks. He was always "out of the office." I left him a message each time I called. He never called me back.

Eventually, I received another call for Paul S. Mark W. had asked him to call me. I restated my request, and Paul S said "he would ask." He stepped away from the phone for 30 seconds and came back to tell me, "Mark says no."

I'm pretty certain Mark didn't say anything and that the management company just doesn't want to entertain my offer. It was pretty unprofessional for them to give me the run around -- if they didn't want to negotiate, they should have told me no upfront.

14 December 2008

He said WHAT?

"I want to put this in that."

That's what he said to me at the end of our date the other night.

A date that began with a dinner where I tried to order a salad as a starter.

He wanted us to share a starter and an entree, which I was happy to do.

I wanted the salad.

He "suggested" several times that I order the hummus or the chicken lettuce wraps instead because it was more value for the money (a salad was "just lettuce and croutons").

Unwilling to have to negotiate for my dinner, I decided if he didn't want me to order the salad, I'd just share the entree with him and forgo the starter. We ended up sharing a salad and entree for our dinner.

By the time the movie ended, it was late. He walked me home and wanted to come upstairs. I was tired and had an early day ahead of me, but he had tried SO hard to be sweet that night. After having known him for only three months, I knew it was difficult for him to part with money spent on someone other than himself. I let him up but warned him it was only for a few minutes because I really needed to go to sleep soon.

We sat on my couch, channel surfed the telly, talked and cuddled a bit. It was all very PG-13.

Despite his many personality traits that are incompatible with mine, he's smart and has interesting ideas. The conversation was good. His attempts to get me to lay down on the couch with him were not so great though.

He interrupted me mid-sentence and said, "I want to put this" (grabs his crotch) "in that" (pokes my crotch with his forefinger).

I kid you not. It really happened. The date was officially over.

13 December 2008

Happy Bday, W!

Happy bday, girlie! W's bday two weeks after the fact, but we're celebrating nonetheless!

12 December 2008

I was born a pain in the ass

Parents are so funny.

Since I was rightsized at the beginning of last month, my Dad has called me every Friday night to "chat." He inevitably asks me if I've found a job yet. Of course I haven't found a job yet, as the economy is on the verge of a financial meltdown. Every firm is job cutting, not job creating! His question adds to my general sense of discomfort and anxiety over the uncertainty of my future income stream. I mean, how will I pay for rent or feed myself???



When I spoke to my Dad last Friday, I promised him that he'd be the first person I'd call once I found a job, but only if he would stop asking me about it every time we spoke.

I think he understood because when he called tonight, he made no mention of my job search or employment status. Instead, he asked, "Any news?"

I chuckled at his question. To give him credit, he "technically" didn't ask me about employment. He's purposefully literal. Wily.

I must be my father's daughter, because I can be stubbornly obstinate. I "misunderstood" his question and filled him in on the mundane details of my life. We both knew what he was dying to ask.

I appreciate Dad's restraint, even if he couldn't quite seem to let go of his concern about my ability to support myself. I guess parents can't help but be parents even when their children are full grown.

As for grown children? Well, I guess I can't help but be the same ornery pain in the ass kid I once was either.

It looks like Dad and I will probably keep having our weekly "chats" where both of us will continue to ignore the proverbial employment elephant that's the third caller on the IP phone with us. At least until I find a job, that is.

04 December 2008

Man tries to pay bill with spider drawing

Trust Aussies to have a wicked sense of humor. If I don't find a job soon, I may have to attempt to pay my bills this way too!

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(The letter reminds me of Letters from a Nut.)

01 December 2008

This is what I've been doing

now that I am unemployed and have free time.