Monday, December 22, 2008
Here's hoping for an uneventful trip--though with airlines what they are, that's probably a tall order!
We got a late start on the morning and essentially accomplished nothing--NOTHING--on Saturday. It was hard to get out--the sidewalks were still terrible, and it was so warm inside. A no-brainer! Though we did have to head out eventually, for Christrees' and Brendan's surprise party. That event was a nice one, and worth braving the bitter cold and snowy sidewalks--much of the usual gang was there, plenty of silliness and all that--and as it turns out, ole fancy-pants Erin is a fan of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer! Wonders, they never cease.
We left around the time I ran low on beer and felt a bit loopy, and woke up Sunday to the beginning of what is now a good ole blizzard. Well, that's Maine. If only snow were a valuable natural resource, this might be a state flush with money! I did manage to visit Jake, Allie and Hokie for a bit to watch some football and catch up, and now watch the evening come under a blanket of frozen drops. Another week begins.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Last night went to the Daigles' for tree trimming, which is an activity I haven't done since high school (since normally the trees are fully trimmed by the time I get home from school/visit). We had some good treats while listening to holiday music and making the place all festive. We also had something to celebrate, as Erin had earned Magna Cum Laude, despite her attempts to be all humble by calling it Magna Colada and acting like it was no big deal. Having never even made cum laude myself, I think it is a big deal!
Today among my errands I went to get a new phone. So I ask the good fellow at Radio Shack if I can still access the numbers saved from my old phone. Here's how it went:
Brando: Good fellow, once I activate the new phone, which you seem to be doing now...
Clerk: Yep, almost done.
Brando: I'm wondering, can I still get the numbers I have saved from my old phone?
Clerk: Certainly, good sir. You just won't be able to make or receive calls from the old phone.
Well, I get home and sure enough, can't get to those numbers! Which means the next few days I'll be slowly adding numbers as friends call and email. Dammit!
Monday, December 15, 2008
We need to produce more of that, and make it our contribution to all future "Happy Hours At Home" that will hopefully become a weekly event. By getting our friends and well wishers to taste the beer we brew, we can build up a ready market for low cost, high quality suds. This I believe is how Adolph Coors and Phil Pabst and Johnny Rolling Rock got their start.
Friday, December 12, 2008
My sore throat is a mysterious thing now. During the day it hurts almost not at all, but at night it becomes seriously painful and stays that way until morning. Only extra strength Tylenol makes it tolerable. What sort of throat ailment only happens at certain hours of the day?
At this point, I have no faith in my immune system. I've been working on this thing (with tea, vitamins, oranges, etc.) for weeks now and the throat is the same as it was on day one. If I knew any medical researchers I'd suggest they do a case study on me. I could be carrying some mysterious new ailment. In fact, I think I am! I shall call it: "Brando Syndrome". Set up the next Jerry Lewis Telethon, folks! Help fight Brando Syndrome today.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
More likely the opportunities will be in major metropolitan areas (like NYC) or in the Sun Belt (like North Carolina, or Texas) so it's possible that this will be my last winter in Maine. But it also means I may have to sell my condo before long, and this isn't the best market for doing so. Had I known a year ago what I know now, I wouldn't have bought. Still, now is the time for figuring out what to do next.
Here's hoping that 2009 brings some bright prospects.
As an adult, I see nothing good about the snow--it means hazards on the roads, slippage on the sidewalk, and having to dress practical rather than nice. There has yet to be designed a good shoe for the snow and ice and salt that actually doesn't look like shit. And unless your head is shaved down to a crew cut or less, a winter hat means forget having your hair look nice.
Some people try to defend the snow. Let me demolish these arguments in turn.
Point: But Brando, I like to ski and snowboard!
Counterpoint: They invented artificial snow for the slopes, and besides why should everyone suffer risk of injury and stranding in inhabited areas simply so a tiny part of the population--upper middle class white people--can enjoy a hobby in the mountains? Besides, you can have your snow up there. I just don't want it down here at sea level.
Point: But Brando, isn't the snow pretty when it falls?
Counterpoint: It is, and if the snow simply melted upon contact with the earth, I'd have no problem with it. But a brief moment of enjoying it while it's falling quickly becomes weeks or even months of the crap on the ground.
Point: I don't care, I look good in sweaters!
Counterpoint: Only fat people look better in sweaters than they do in anything else. Try laying off the Twinkies. If you're not fat and you look good in a sweater, you'd look even better in a normal shirt.
Point: Ooh, but I love a winter wonderland!
Counterpoint: Fuck you.
Point: Snow is just something that we all have to deal with, if we live north of the Carolinas. Why not just cope with it and make the most of it?
Counterpoint: I do make the most of it--it's important not to let the snow keep you from going out and about, or finding enjoyable indoor activities. But that doesn't mean I have to like the snow itself.
Here's hoping for a mild winter for a change!
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Not this time. The sore throat came the 26th of November, so as usual I started my curative routine which continued through Thanksgiving weekend. Only this time, the sore throat stayed, being very painful in the morning and late at night and only a mild annoyance during the day. At no point did the sinuses get clogged, or sneezy, or coughs, or fever. Curious! And then it continued for what is now almost two weeks. Something's afoot, so time to go to the doctor and see what this is.
Brando: I gots me a sore throat. Or "thorat" if you prefer.
Doctor: Any other symptoms?
Brando: Yeah, all the sudden I can't dance.
Doctor: For that, I can only prescribe ten days of tango.
Brando: Just out of curiosity, you're not planning to quit your day job, are you?
So the Doc took a thorat swab, found it wasn't strep throat, which is good because strep sucks, but bad because at least with strep, you know what it is and you can take antibiotics which sounds a lot like "robotics" and makes me think of superpowers. Instead, I have what he suspects is just a long lasting virus that my immune system has been unable to destroy yet. For my trouble (and about an hour delay in the waiting room!) I got advice to take some heavy duty Tylenol.
I really should have become a doctor!
Friday, December 5, 2008
This Onion piece--particularly the third satirical quote--captures it perfectly. It's really sad when people have that little regard for the lives of others when rushing to save money on these bargains. If aliens were watching over such an episode to determine whether humankind was worth sparing, it's hard to imagine they'd be favorable.
Anyway, if I ran a Wal Mart, I'd equip all my employees with tasers. Sure, there'd be a lot of unauthorized tasing going on (especially when one considers how many ex-cons and teenagers work at Wal Mart). But it'd still be pretty neat to see some yuppie get tased next time he tries using an expired coupon.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Friday night we headed to NYC, met with Andy, Jer, Gwynn and the baby, who was quite cute and didn't cry much. Which is more than I can say for Gwynn's bad dog! The dog was of course barking constantly, but we didn't let that get in the way of our conversation. That's just how we are.
Stayed over at my sister's in Brooklyn, then headed into town Saturday morning, where we took Erin around the various neighborhoods of NYC, and Lou and Jer met with us as well. It was a relaxing Saturday afternoon, and we briefly saw Erica and her baby daddy, Aaron, before rushing uptown to meet the parents for dinner. We were 20 minutes late though, because the traffic was blocked up and the tourists were out in full force, looking in wonder at novel new things like sidewalks and glass. And taking pictures of each other, looking at sidewalks and glass. Is there anything worse than a tourist? Maybe a terrorist.
Dinner was very nice though, and we saw an off-Broadway show, before heading back to Westchester. Sadly, I suffered a pretty severe stomach ache which kept me up most of the night, though it was gone by morning. The sore throat was still there though.
On my birthday morning, my folks made us Eggs Benedict, and we hit the road at noon on Sunday after Thanksgiving. That is, the belly of the beast! Traffic was blocked up from NY to the end of the Mass pike, which meant a 5 hour trip became an 8 and a half hour trip. Ungodly! I was thoroughly exhausted by the time I made it home. At least it was a fun weekend though.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
1) Charming town, with plenty of old-style New England character.
2) Strong social network.
3) I own my condo here (something I'm still kicking myself for, considering this market).
4) Summers are very mild.
1) Job market sucks relative to anywhere.
2) Taxes and cost of living are still way high. Anyone who doesn't think so is either not paying taxes or not buying their own stuff, or has never lived anywhere else.
3) Winters are horrible. There is nothing "charming" or "beautiful" about snow and ice on the sidewalk that requires you to wear rubbers and dig out your car. There is nothing remotely cute about your nose freezing off if you're in -10 degree weather for a minute. And it lasts way too long.
One of the downsides of homeownership is it reduces your mobility. Being on a job hunt sucks anywhere, but especially so when you have to worry about making your mortgage payments. True, I can still sell, perhaps for not much less than I paid, or perhaps by keeping it on the market for a bit, and for the right job it would be worth that hassle. But it's not as easy as if I was just renting now.
Monday, November 24, 2008
The next morning, Erin had a bit of a cardiac event, so we headed up to her folks' place to check out the heart monitor and contact her doctor. (The heart rate was well above normal and fluttery, so the doctor said to check again at 5PM and if it was still like that we'd have to go to the emergency room.). It was looking dicey at one point, but then all of a sudden her rate dropped back to normal, and the situation was under control (although she was quite exhausted). Meantime, we watched the Patriots play the Dolphins and then saw some of the original "Rocky" and had some pizza. That was our Sunday.
Friday, November 21, 2008
As they say, the Chinese use the same word for "crisis" as they do for "opportunity"--and that word is "crisi-tunity".
Four and a half years ago, when I first came to the firm (and Portland, for that matter) we had a growing, big client and a practice group that was expanding. (It would double in size during the time I was here). Of course, those years were gravy--I was consistently meeting billable hour targets and getting the bonuses. But alas, the collapse of the securitization market meant an implosion in the credit industry, and this caused a precipitous dropoff in work earlier this year, requiring us to let go of two employees almost immediately. The hope was that we could hold on until more work picked up, but this sadly has not happened as more and more banks cut back. Finally, the axe had to fall on me and another of our attorneys, bringing the practice group down in size to handle a smaller workload. Unfortunate that this has to happen, but understandable. It's just not a good time for this economy.
Where to now? That's the tough question. My experience is in a niche area of law, but that niche is hurting right now. I'm going to have to find something somewhere though.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Nichole at least had an excuse for the carb-loading, she has two soccer games tonight. Way to make me feel guilty, Chole! Though tonight I have a more important task, namely to come back with the car to take my paintings and framed diplomas out of my office. A day from now and the idle period begins....
Portland could really use a series of underground tunnels (perhaps lit by glass skylights and some electric lighting) for this time of year. Maybe I need to drop by city hall, and propose it, sort of like I'd be doing the city a big favor.
Brando: Hey, city commissioner, my crew and I just got done putting in an amazing tunnel system for Del Mar, Minnesota. Don't bother looking that town up on your atlas because it's unlisted.
City Commish: Really? Why are you telling me this? And who let you in my office?
Brando: Yeah, the tunnel paid for itself in a few years, since they set up stores and vendors in the tunnels, and they saved on having to plow sidewalks and get sued by people falling on ice.
City Commish: Hmm, I always dreamed of not getting sued so much....
Brando: And that's not all! If you act now, we can do it with a minimum of overcharges!
City Commish: Sold!
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
But I guess my main reaction to all this is "well, this is the economy, it sucks, and I need to hit the ground running pronto" rather than "EEEEEEKKK!!!" There just isn't time for being unprofessional. I'll have plenty of time to be unprofessional during my time off!
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
1) If you got laid off due to budget cutbacks, it implies that your employer wasn't doing their job. After all, you had been hired to benefit the company, and the company should have been able to pay you, right? If you're a good employee and they have to let you go, then they must have screwed something up in the way they ran their business.
2) If you got laid off because you're no longer worth more to them than you're costing them (in salary, benefits, office space, extra coffee, frustration) then it implies you're not that good a bargain for the next employer, unless they pay you less, or give you less office space, cut back on your coffee, or somehow get you to work harder. Even though the previous employer hadn't been able to do these things.
3) If you got let go because you were running a cockfighting ring in the breakroom, then your new employer has to wonder about animal rights laws, laws against gambling, and the large number of Guatemalans who keep wandering past reception.
It's sort of a pointless question, since it really doesn't matter if you got laid off for a "positive" reason (such as budgetary cutbacks), and if you got laid off for a "negative" reason (like washing your socks in the coffee maker) you're certainly not going to say so in the interview (this could be found out by examining a police record, or asking the former employer when checking references. Anyone who doesn't provide a former employer as a reference, well that you have to watch out for.).
The time off will be partly used in creating a web comic, one in which photos will take the place of drawn panels, and dialogue will be filled in (either in bubbles, or in text below the panels, depending on what works). The whole project will require a webmaster (to get the whole thing up), a photographer, and "actors" to pose in the panels. A new medium shall be exploited!
Monday, November 17, 2008
What tips do I have for trying to live on less during these tough financial times?
1) Return all returnables to the grocery store. This is rather piecemeal--you could return a hundred bottles and still not have enough to afford a six pack. Makes more sense to buy less bottled beverages in the first place.
2) Eat out less. Gonna have to do that. Still, grocery costs are surprisingly not that much less than costs of eating out. In any event, portion control is the key.
3) Use library instead of buying books. Well, I can't remember the last time I bought a book--normally I reread what I have, or read books borrowed from friends, or read online.
4) Postpone any big purchases that can be put off. I guess no new car for a while, and no new suits (I do have a couple good suits for interviews. I just wont' have to buy new suits for work, which is just as well, as most places are going casual these days).
5) Use cheapest gasoline option. Makes sense, though I drive so little anyway it won't make a huge difference.
6) Rent out spare room. This is a tricky option--after all, if I end up moving away I may need to rent the entire apartment, and it may be easier to rent it as a whole rather than room by room.
Looks like lean times ahead.
Seriously though? Wouldn't it make more sense to just give the cash directly to the employees of these defunct car companies, paying them to not work? At least then they wouldn't be wasting steel and glass on making cars that won't sell.
Friday, November 14, 2008
So while that was all going on, I couldn't help but think, "Brando" I said to myself (that's what I call myself during my darkest moments. And my lightest moments.), I said "what sort of small business should I be running for my own benefit?" After all, I always say that the real fulfillment and security is in having your own business.
But of course now, the government is preparing to nationalize the auto industry (since it worked so well with Amtrak) and the financial industry is basically saying to the government "thanks for the several billion dollars, now we can pay out bonuses to our rich executives who caused the problem. Hey, can we get a pony?" In other words, other words which I should have used instead of that rant, the economy is in Suckville, which is the seat for Suck County in the state of New Suckvania. So this would be a terrible time to start a business, right?
Not necessarily, my hasty-to-conclude-things friend(s)! There's something that economists call "counter cyclical businesses" and I don't know what that means exactly, but let's just say that some businesses will thrive when the economy's bad. Like, the guy whose business it is to fix clogged toilets. Who on earth ever says "well, money's tight, I'll just leave that clog for a few more weeks"? No one! And if I'm wrong, make sure I never rent a room to that guy.
But also, when the economy's bad, people drink. A lot! So maybe at some point my business partner Mark and I will find a way to produce or sell booze. That's one industry that's not about to go to China. When's the last time you drank Chinese whiskey?
- Good friend, saved Jeffy from drowning that one time
- Efficient parallel parker--saved friends plenty on meters
- Bought flowers on seven occasions in sixteen-month period
Now that I'm looking for work, it opens up a lot of possibilities--stay in Maine? Move to bigger city? Move somewhere I've never lived? Move to warm climate (but with the tradeoff being that giant spiders live in warm climates)?--but the biggest problem is that I bought a condo earlier this year. Ack, the one flaw!
There's not enough tequila in the world . . .
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Erin: My fambly and I are going to go see a modern dance performance.
Me: Neat! I'll be home watching TV and maybe having a beer! Though I'm not sure what kind of beer.
Erin: Do you want to come with us to see the performance?
Me: Sure, so long as you're not just inviting me because you feel sorry for me sitting home and watching TV, since I do enjoy the Thursday Night Lineup and need to make more space in my fridge...
Erin: No, I understand your way of life....
Me: What makes it "modern" dance? Isn't "bump and grind" techinically "modern"?
Erin: (grumble grumble)
Cultural evening, here I come!
So we're setting up a "happy hour club" except unlike most such clubs, this one:
1) Holds the regular happy hours at people's house/apartment;
2) Requires that rather than random strangers just respond to flyers, any invitee has to be known to someone who is already a member of the group; and
3) Will not be completely lame.
Is this all about weekly happy hours, rotating from home to home? Yes. But in a more accurate way, no. Because we plan to do so much more! Remember how "Fight Club" started with, well, a fighting club, and then it turned into a soap business and then somehow they blew up a bunch of buildings and SPOILER ALERT the Ed Norton guy ended up with that goth chick? Well, we're not going to quite do that, but I thought it was a cool movie and you should see it if you haven't.
But we do plan other events, charitable events, professional networking, road trips--but we need some nucleus to start the whole thing. Stay tuned!