Wednesday, December 19, 2007


This week I earned my first income for my new business, and in fact, "the check's in the mail" as of this moment!

Which is not to say that the business is profitable, since I haven't yet covered the start-up costs for hiring a lawyer, filing the paperwork with the state, or buying a laptop, but it's certainly a step in the right direction!

I am going to be partnering with an engineering software company to provide customer training and consulting services, and this week I traveled up to Detroit to help with an on-site training class for the first time. They're expecting to have 8-12 training sessions coming up in 2008, so I'm hoping that this will become a regular source of income!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Don't be a BLY

A busy day... I spent a few hours meeting with three of my friends to discuss stuff related to their jobs/businesses. During yoga, a guy in my class appeared to have suffered a heart attack, and I helped convince him that his symptoms were serious and that he needed to go see a doctor immediately. I also had to go get blood drawn for one more test. (Let's see, this makes the 4th time I've gotten stuck in the arm in just 4 weeks. I'm not really enjoying this mutant thing, and neither is my insurance company.)

I arrived at the testing lab at 3:30, and sat in the unattended waiting room for 15 minutes before someone came out to see why I was there. I presented my script for the testing, and she immediately starting looking for reasons why she couldn't draw my blood, mostly because she said that the office closes at 4pm. (Nevermind that the company's brochures and the signs in the waiting room all state that the office hours are 7:30 - 4:30.) First of all, she looked in a reference manual and found that one version of the test required fasting for 12 hours. I told her that my doctor's office hadn't mentioned anything about that. She double-checked the book and found out that there was an alternate version of the test which didn't require fasting. She called my doctor's office, probably hoping that they wouldn't answer, but they did. They said that I didn't need to do the fasting version of the test. Finally, she settled on the idea that the sample would require "immediate" processing, and the next courier pick-up wouldn't be until 7pm, so she said I'd have to go to a different office to have the blood drawn and collected in a timely fashion. It didn't seem worth having a debate about the definition of "immediate" processing, so I got directions to the other office and went on my merry way.

Things got even more aggravating on my way out of the parking lot. When I came to the end of my row of parking spaces, I was preparing to turn right, into the exit lane for the parking lot. As I was glancing over my left shoulder, checking for cars moving toward the exit, I heard a car horn and instinctively slammed on my brakes to avoid hitting a very expensive Mega-SUV, driven by a woman with an attitude as big as her vehicle. (She had just turned right into the parking lot from the street.) She was actually in MY lane, but apparently it's MY fault that her Land Yacht is way too big to navigate a normal turning radius. Obviously, I must be the idiot in this situation, because she actually rolled down her window to scream obscenities at me.

So the moral of the story for today is: Don't be a Bitch in a Land Yacht.

(Thanks for letting me vent.)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

It's Official: I'm a Mutant.

More specifically, I found out yesterday that I have compound heterozygous (C667T and A1298C) mutations for the MTHFR gene. These mutations cause a thrombophilia (blood clotting) disorder. So now I've got follow-up appointments with a whole host of doctors, including a hemotologist and an endocrinologist.

There are a couple of reasons why finding out that I have this mutation is actually good news:

  • It explains the significant medical issues that I've had this year, which have caused anxiety, depression, and grief for both me and my husband. So as weird as this may sound, it actually comes as a huge relief to have some sort of definitive diagnosis, because now we have hope that things can be better in the future.

  • The condition is treatable, and the treatment is pretty simple and very effective-- I'll just have to take baby aspirin and extra supplements of folic acid, B6, and B12 for the rest of my life. (I may also need heparin injections, but not all the time.)

  • By finding this out now, I can significantly reduce my risk of having a thrombosis, stroke, or heart attack later on in life.

  • Since it's an inherited condition, my family can be tested for it as well. And if turns out that some of them are "mutants" too, then they can also reduce their risk of having thromboses, strokes, or heart attacks.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


SmartCars are coming to the USA!

I've been fascinated with SmartCars since I saw them in Italy a couple of years ago. When I first saw them zipping around the streets of Rome, they reminded me of the Friends episode where Rachel adopts a hairless cat, and Joey just keeps saying, "It's not a CAT!" Because, really, a SmartCar is not a CAR. It's more like a Vespa built for two, or a golf cart on steroids.

I think a big part of their appeal is that they're just so darn happy...

Obviously, SmartCars are meant for urban life. Since they're only as long as a normal car is wide, they can park in a parallel parking space with their nose against the curb. To really appreciate their size, you have to see them in context. This SmartCar is parked next to a Nissan Micra, a sub-compact economy car:

But don't underestimate their ability to get-up-and-go! We were doing 145 kph (90 mph) on the Autostrada when a SmartCar strolled past us. (I suspect that many Italians have found ways to circumvent the speed-limiting controller.) SmartCar convertibles are also available, and they also make a snazzy little Roadster.

I've been rabidly anti-SUV for more than 10 years now. (There are so many good reasons why I hate SUVs that I'm not even going to begin to list them here.) So I'm not even upset about gas prices jumping above $3/gallon. I'm just glad that people may finally be thinking more seriously about buying smaller cars! Happy day!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Lunacy & Conspiracy

So the question is: How on Earth did a raving lunatic wind up in charge of an entire country? (Show of hands: Who thinks it's a good idea to change a country's time zone by 30 minutes with only a week's advance notice? I don't see any supporters...)

A few weeks ago at my church, I met a woman from Venezuela. She loves her country, but she doesn't believe that she'll ever be able to go back there, because Chavez is dangerous, and the destruction and chaos that he is creating will probably last for decades. I have to admit that I had a little trouble understanding her heavily-accented English, so I'm a little sketchy on all of the details, but apparently, she believes that the reason that Chavez is still in power is because he gives huge "donations" to Jimmy Carter's charity, which co-incidentally is also responsible for certifying the election results in Venezuela.

According to the Hugo Chavez article in Wikipedia, the Carter Center continues to validate all election results, despite recurring evidence of fraud:

  • General elections were held on July 30, 2000. Chávez's coalition garnered two-thirds of seats in the National Assembly while Chávez was reelected with 60% of the votes. The Carter Center monitored the election; their report stated that, due to lack of transparency, Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE; "National Electoral Council") partiality, and political pressure from the Chávez government that resulted in early elections, it was unable to validate the official CNE results. However, they concluded that the presidential election legitimately expressed the will of the people.

  • Finally, after opposition leaders submitted to the CNE a valid petition with 2,436,830 signatures that requested a presidential recall referendum, a recall referendum was announced on June 8, 2004 by the CNE. Chávez and his political allies responded to this by mobilising supporters to encourage rejection of the recall with a "no" vote.

    The recall vote itself was held on August 15, 2004. A record number of voters turned out to defeat the recall attempt with a 59% "no" vote. The election was overseen by the Carter Center and the Organization of American States, and was certified by them as fair and open. European Union observers did not attend, saying too many restrictions had been placed on their participation by the government.

    Other critics, including economists Ricardo Hausmann of Harvard and Roberto Rigobon of MIT, called the results fraudulent, alleging there were "very clear trails of fraud in the statistical record" and alleged electronic voting machines had been reconfigured to allow results to be altered remotely. In response, the Carter Center consulted with Professor Jonathan Taylor, an independent statistician from Stanford University and Professor Aviel Rubin, a Johns Hopkins University computer scientist who both initially concluded that the actual results are within the predicted range and do not of themselves prove fraud. Subsequently, however, the Carter Center admitted Taylor had "found a mistake in one of the models of his analysis which lowered the predicted number of tied machines, but which still found the actual result to lie within statistical possibility."

    The opposition also cited an exit poll which implied the actual results were the opposite of those reported. "Massive fraud" was alleged and the conclusions of former U.S. President Jimmy Carter were questioned.

  • Chávez again won the OAS and Carter Center certification of the national election on December 3, 2006 with 63 percent of the vote, beating his closest challenger Manuel Rosales who conceded his loss on December 4, 2006. After his victory, Chávez promised a more radical turn towards socialism.

Here are some other interesting quotes from the Wikipedia article on the Carter Center, criticizing its involvement in the Venezuela elections:

  • Carter's "continued international work certifying election results has provided essential political cover to anti-democratic forces in the region. Indeed, it might be said that over the past four years, Jimmy Carter has been the most visible and arguably most influential U.S. leader in Latin America."

  • "The [Hugo Chávez] regime delayed and obstructed the recall referendum process at every turn. Once the regime was forced to submit to such a referendum, moreover, it used a fraud-filled voting process to ensure victory. The government did everything—including granting citizenship to half a million illegal aliens in a crude vote-buying scheme and 'migrating' existing voters away from their local election office—to fix the results in its favor. The outcome was then affirmed and legitimated by ex-President Jimmy Carter’s near-unconditional support."

  • "Jimmy Carter ignored pleas from the opposition and publicly endorsed the results, despite the fact that the government reneged on its agreement to carry out an audit of the results. Carter’s actions not only gave the Venezuelan regime the legitimacy it craved, but also destroyed the public’s confidence in the voting process and in the effectiveness of international observers."

So I guess the reason why Chavez is still creating havoc in Venezuela all comes back home to roost. I'm not much into conspiracy theories, but I'm certainly not going to donate any more money to the Carter Center. It's a shame that a noble charity that could potentially help thousands (if not millions) of people from around the world would stoop to participating in such a blatent corruption.

(The woman from church also alleged that the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton have accepted "campaign contributions" from Chavez, but I'm not sure how to determine if that's true or not. I wasn't planning to donate any money to them anyway!)

Monday, September 10, 2007


Last week, I filed the paperwork with the IRS and the State of Ohio, and my new company officially exists now.

Yesterday, I registered my domain name and a friend of mine coached me through getting the domain and email services set up on his server. (Thanks Bakaitis!) I don't have a website yet, but at least I'm heading in that direction.

Today, I made my first sales call, to set up a demonstration of the software for a potential new client on Monday, October 1st.

One of my husband's friends is working on developing a logo, and I'm looking forward to seeing his concepts tomorrow night. Once that's done, I'll be having some business cards printed right away!

Next week, I'm going to be attending a conference with the software company that I'm partnering with. They'll be using the conference to introduce my company as their "Sales and Implementation Partner" for the United States. (They're based in Switzerland, so I'll be responsible for helping them develop a client-base here.)

After several weeks of waiting, I'm excited that things are starting to move!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Negation & Aggravation

The short-sighted managers, directors, and lawyers at The Company (name has been withheld to protect the ignorant) have decided that my husband (S) and his friend (M) cannot take part in our new business venture. To make matters worse, they sat on their conflict-of-interest disclosures for 8 weeks before coming to this decision.

Apparently, The Company feels that the best way to ensure company loyalty is to prevent their employees from participating in any outside work activities, which is a completely asinine conclusion. According to them, M and S are critical to the success of their current project, and they're afraid that this business opportunity might be a "golden parachute" that would provide them with a means of escaping from their current positions.

M and S never intended for this to be an either/or situation. They thought that they'd be able to use their experience and knowledge to do some consulting work, while continuing to work full-time in their current jobs. They both enjoy their work, and they're earning a lot of recognition for their efforts. But by preventing them from participating in our new business in their free time, The Company is forcing them to choose between their current jobs and a potentially even better opportunity.

When my husband received the bad news today, he was almost angry enough to quit on the spot. Unfortunately, that isn't a possibility, simply because we need the practical benefits of a stable salary and affordable health insurance-- the "golden handcuffs" of Corporate America.

But M's wife has a successful career of her own, so they have the financial flexibility for him to work for a start-up company. Added to that, The Company's HR department has been unhappy with his telecommuting status, and they've been telling him that he needs to move back to Cincinnati (which isn't possible because of his wife's work) or face complete derailment of his career. So now he has plenty of incentive to leave his current job ASAP, and I predict that our new company will pick up enough business to make it possible within the next 6-12 months.

What The Company doesn't realize is that they have effectively eliminated all of the influence that they would have otherwise had over what my new company can do. In their conflict-of-interest disclosures, M and S had voluntarily proposed that our new company would not do business with any of The Company's competitors, which basically would have eliminated the entire consumer products industry in one fell swoop. They also specified that our new company would not earn a commission from any sales that we might coordinate between our software partners and The Company.

As an independent entity, I am free from those restrictions-- I can work with any company in any industry, AND I'll collect my standard commission for any new software that The Company purchases.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Home Economics

Every day it seems that there's a new story about how home foreclosures are increasing, resulting in widespread implosions of real estate "bubbles" and threatening the overall health of the American economy. Earlier this year, there were Congressional Hearings on the business practices of "payday loan" and credit card companies.

It starts to sound like the downfall of the American economy will ultimately come about simply because the majority of Americans are bad at math.

Before I start down that path, let me just say that, in my opinion, most credit card companies are sharks and many of their "business practices" are nothing more than heinous usury. (And the payday loan companies are at least ten times worse.) I also know that many home mortgage refinancing companies are doing some pretty shady things. Agents will promise certain terms over the phone, but then at closing, the paperwork will show a different interest rate or hide a boatload of closing costs that are being rolled into the loan, and desperate people will go ahead and sign on the dotted line.

Maybe these things should be illegal, but ultimately, I believe that educating consumers about their tricks and traps is probably a better solution than passing more federal regulations. If people would recognize how they're getting ripped off and start talking about it, then these companies would gain or lose business based on their reputations. Right now, no one is willing to step up and announce that, "My credit card payment was due on a Sunday. I mailed it on a Tuesday, it arrived on Friday or Saturday, but the credit card company didn't apply the payment until Monday. They charged me a $39 late fee and raised my interest rate by 5% just because they don't process payments on weekends." Or "Company A pulled a bait-and-switch on my refinance deal, and I wound up paying $5000 in closing costs."

The bigger problem is that most people don't even know it's happening. They don't understand how to calculate compound interest, and they're too intimidated to ask questions about the paperwork at closings. As my friend Tracie says, "Life's hard[er] for stupid people." She used to work in the mortgage industry, so she knows exactly how people get ripped off by hidden closing costs and the sky-high interest rates that are charged for having bad credit.

Exhibit A: When my brother-in-law got divorced, he agreed to buy a house in certain neighborhood so that his son could go to that school system. My ex-sister-in-law couldn't figure out why he couldn't afford to buy a house worth more than $125,000, because she thought that house payments were basically just the value of the house divided by the number of payments, plus maybe a hundred dollars to cover the taxes and 6% [simple] interest.

She's never learned anything about mortgages because her parents actually bought her a huge house and put into a trust fund for her. The problem is that she and her brother are eventually going to inherit a multi-million-dollar company from their parents. When they inevitably run it into the ground, dozens of their employees will lose their jobs, and the economy will bleed from one more small cut.

Most college students wind up buying a new car within a year or two of graduating. But I wonder how many of them actually understand what it means to be "upside down" on a car loan? Every year, credit card companies send dozens of pre-approved applications to every college freshman. Their goal is to make sure that they all walk of of school with $5,000 - $10,000 of credit card debt. Students might be somewhat troubled by the fact that they're so far in debt when they're not earning anything, but the credit card companies hope they they'll build up a tolerance to it until they reach the point where they're comfortable carrying $20,000, $30,000, or $40,000 worth of debt for decades. They might look around and see that all their friends have roughly the same income and debts, so they think they're doing OK, but actually they're just all broke together.

Exhibit B: I had a credit card in college, and initially I paid it off every month, but in grad school, my rent was actually more than my income. (No one told me that I would be taxed on the total value of my research grant. The majority of stipend wound up being withheld in order to cover the taxes from my tuition reimbursement. That's not meant to be an excuse-- It's just an example of a lesson learned the hard way.) So I wound up charging my groceries and living expenses on my credit card, and when I graduated, I had $5,000 in credit card debt on top of my $20k in student loans. I wasn't terribly worried about paying it off, because I was making more money than most of my friends from college. After I bought my house, I slid much further into credit card debt, and I started to lay awake at night, wondering how I would ever pay it all off. I didn't get out of credit card debt until I had been out of school for 5 years. (I'm still working on the student loans, but the end is in sight!)

My parents never talked to me much about budgets, credit cards, or mortgages. I remember my mom briefly listing all of our monthly expenses once, when my sister was complaining about why she couldn't buy all of the stuff that her friends had. When I graduated from college, my dad put $1,000 into an IRA for me, and he walked me through the calculations on how much it could grow by the time I wanted to retire. When I started working, he encouraged me to put 6% of my salary into my 401k, because he knew the company was doing a 75% match. But my dad learned a lot about investing from his dad, and I suspect that most parents never take the time to explain these things to their kids.

Maybe parents don't teach their kids about budgeting and investing because they feel like they're not practicing what they preach, or maybe it's because they simply don't understand the principles well enough to explain it.

Kids (and adults) can't see the value of Algebra or Geometry, let alone a reason to learn exponentials or compound interest. But no one can truly avoid learning about "the most powerful force in the Universe." If kids don't learn how to do the math while they're young, they wind up figuring it out in the school of hard knocks.

I tell the little girls that I tutor, "It's really, really important to be good at math, because otherwise, for your entire life, people will cheat you and take advantage of you. And you won't even know that they're doing it. You'll just know that you're always broke and you always will be."

I think it's time to start requiring a home economics class as a requirement for graduating high school. Obviously, it shouldn't be the traditional Home Ec of sewing, cooking, and all that antiquated stuff. Instead it should cover things like:

  • Monthly Budgets - How much do utilities cost? How much does a typical car cost, including the loan payment, insurance, and repairs? How much do people pay for childcare? What about groceries and eating out at restaurants?

  • Credit Cards - Suppose you buy a computer for $1000, and you start making payments of $100 each month. For a given interest rate, how long will it take before it's paid off? What will happen if you're late? How much will you wind up paying for the computer? Repeat the same calculations for rent-to-own furniture.

  • Mortgages - If you buy a house for $200,000, how much will it wind up costing every month? How much will you pay over 30 years? What happens if you make an extra payment every year?

  • Investments - The company you work has a 50% match, and the average rate of return is 7%. If your salary is $50,000, and you invest 5% of your income, how much will you wind up with when you retire?

  • Taxes - Given a W-2 form and a couple of 1099's, fill out a 1040-EZ tax return. (This skill is important so that people don't fall prey to tax refund loan companies, which are just as bad as the payday loan companies, IMHO.)

So here's my final thought for today:

What do you think?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

More Malcolm Gladwell

I was going to include this list as part of my last post, but it started to get kind of lengthy, so I decided it deserved its own posting. Here are a couple more New Yorker articles from Malcolm Gladwell that I found interesting:

  • Big and Bad - How the S.U.V. ran over automotive safety.
    This should be required reading for anyone who currently owns or is thinking about buying an SUV. And when you're done reading that, you also need to see this for further proof that bigger is not better. (Did I mention that I drive an Integra?)

  • The Risk Pool - What's behind Ireland's economic miracle—and G.M.'s financial crisis?
    Gladwell uses the sociological concept of "dependancy ratios" to talk about the rise and fall of national economies and why GM is bankrupt while Toyota is thriving. (Here's another interesting article by Herbert Meyer that also talks about demographics and population distributions and why they're really important.)

  • The Talent Myth - Are smart people overrated?
    This article talks about the "rank and yank" system that McKinsey put into place at Enron, where employees were ranked into three categories: "The A's must be challenged and disproportionately rewarded. The B's need to be encouraged and affirmed. The C's need to shape up or be shipped out."
    An employer really wants to assess not potential but performance. Yet that’s just as tricky... Studies show that there is very little correlation between how someone’s peers rate him and how his boss rates him... You can grade someone’s performance only if you know their performance. And, in the freewheeling culture of Enron, this was all but impossible. People deemed “talented” were constantly being pushed into new jobs and given new challenges. Annual turnover from promotions was close to twenty per cent... How do you evaluate someone’s performance in a system where no one is in a job long enough to allow such evaluation? The answer is that you end up doing performance evaluations that aren’t based on performance.

    Enron may be dead now, but that performance rating system is still alive and well at many other corporations-- GE, J&J, and P&G are just some of the examples that I can name off the top of my head. And other companies continue implement these systems, despite the fact that they have caused many lawsuits and have been widely criticized by business experts.

    Gladwell specifically mentions P&G as an example of a company that doesn't have a "star system," but I disagree with that statement. P&G believes in hiring smart, talented people from some of the best schools in the country and assimilating them into the P&G culture. (They even administer personality tests as part of the hiring process.) And P&G's philosophy of "Up or Out" is well known around Cincinnati. It's especially emphasized in their Marketing division, which is viewed as the most important branch of the company. But even in Engineering, employees are expected to be constantly striving toward an ultimate goal of moving into upper management, and their loyalty to the company will be questioned if they say that they'd prefer to stay in a technical role. P&G may not technically use an "A-B-C" system, but that's only because they prefer to use "1-2-3" instead!

Malcolm Gladwell and Cesar Milan

Malcolm Gladwell wrote an interesting article about Cesar Milan, aka The Dog Whisperer.

What I like about Gladwell's writing is the way that he synthesizes information from many different fields. For this article, he brings in an anthropologist, an ethologist, an expert who studies dance and movement patterns, and a psychotherapist who works with autistic children to help explain why Cesar is so good at working with "bad" dogs. Here's a section of the article that I found especially interesting:

...Before [the dog] fought, he sniffed and explored and watched Cesar—the last of which is most important, because everything we know about dogs suggests that, in a way that is true of almost no other animals, dogs are students of human movement.

The anthropologist Brian Hare has done experiments with dogs, for example, where he puts a piece of food under one of two cups, placed several feet apart. The dog knows that there is food to be had, but has no idea which of the cups holds the prize. Then Hare points at the right cup, taps on it, looks directly at it. What happens? The dog goes to the right cup virtually every time. Yet when Hare did the same experiment with chimpanzees—an animal that shares 98.6 per cent of our genes—the chimps couldn't get it right. A dog will look at you for help, and a chimp won't.

"Primates are very good at using the cues of the same species," Hare explained. "So if we were able to do a similar game, and it was a chimp or another primate giving a social cue, they might do better. But they are not good at using human cues when you are trying to coöperate with them. They don't get it: 'Why would you ever tell me where the food is?' The key specialization of dogs, though, is that dogs pay attention to humans, when humans are doing something very human, which is sharing information about something that someone else might actually want. "Dogs aren't smarter than chimps; they just have a different attitude toward people. "Dogs are really interested in humans," Hare went on. " Interested to the point of obsession. To a dog, you are a giant walking tennis ball."

A dog cares, deeply, which way your body is leaning. Forward or backward? Forward can be seen as aggressive; backward—even a quarter of an inch—means nonthreatening. It means you've relinquished what ethologists call an "intention movement" to proceed forward. Cock your head, even slightly, to the side, and a dog is disarmed. Look at him straight on and he'll read it like a red flag. Standing straight, with your shoulders squared, rather than slumped, can mean the difference between whether your dog obeys a command or ignores it. Breathing even and deeply—rather than holding your breath—can mean the difference between defusing a tense situation and igniting it. "I think they are looking at our eyes and where our eyes are looking, and what our eyes look like," the ethologist Patricia McConnell, who teaches at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, says. "A rounded eye with a dilated pupil is a sign of high arousal and aggression in a dog. I believe they pay a tremendous amount of attention to how relaxed our face is and how relaxed our facial muscles are, because that's a big cue for them with each other. Is the jaw relaxed? Is the mouth slightly open? And then the arms. They pay a tremendous amount of attention to where our arms go."

Gladwell also wrote a follow-up posting in his blog about the New Yorker article, to address some of the criticism that Cesar receives from other animal behaviorists.

And despite all his talk about dominance and being a pack leader, what is striking about Cesar viewed in full context (and this is one of the major themes of my article) is how paradoxically gentle he is. That's why, in the piece, I compare the way he relates to troubled dogs with the way movement therapists work with autistic children.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

J&J vs. ARC

My sister sent me an email about this lawsuit, and I had to investigate it.

I'm still stunned.

Basically, Johnson & Johnson is suing the American Red Cross over the use of the red cross symbol, which has been used by both organizations for over 100 years.

I know enough about intellectual property law to know that J&J doesn't have much of a chance of winning this lawsuit. If they're lucky, it will simply be dismissed before they both spend many millions of dollars on legal fees. If it goes to trial, there's a decent possibility that J&J could lose their rights to the trademark altogether. And even if they win the lawsuit, they'll probably lose much more in the court of public opinion.

Last week, J&J announced major layoffs, and now they've decided to attack a federally chartered charity. Taken together, these seem like bad PR moves for a company whose marketing campaigns proclaim it to be a bastion of ethics and family values.

I had thought about putting in my 2 cents worth on the layoffs last week, but then I decided it wasn't worth it. But in light of this new development, I'm going to go ahead and give vent to I wanted to say, which isn't about J&J specifically, so much as it is about the stock market in general:

I will never understand why Wall Street rewards companies for laying people off. It just doesn't make sense to me that a company should say, "Due to mismanagement and bad planning, we're failing to achieve our financial goals. So we've decided that the easiest way to still make our numbers is to eliminate employees." (They never decide that maybe the officers and upper management need to take pay cuts or something crazy like that.) And investors say, "Oh, that sounds like a great plan! I'm sure the company will be much stronger after it shoves a bunch of employees out the door (along with all of their knowledge and experience) and decimates the morale of the remaining employees."

Friday, August 10, 2007


Who's your favorite superhero? Why?

I used to think I didn't have a favorite superhero, but then I realized that Hermione Granger would qualify. She does have magical powers, after all...

I think she's one of the best female characters to appear in a novel since Jane Austen died. She's obnoxiously smart, unflinchingly loyal, tactlessly honest, and unpredictably fiesty, all rolled into one.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

It's Just Stuff

Two weeks ago, a house fire made the news here in Cincinnati. It was news-worthy for two reasons:

1. Eleven firefighters were injured while fighting the fire.

The fire was so big that 10 or 12 fire departments from different areas of Cincinnati were called in for support-- It was classified as a four-alarm fire. A couple of my friends are firefighters, and they know a some of the guys who were involved, so they heard a bit more about the fire than just what was reported on the news. Apparently, a group of firefighters had gone inside the house, to try to fight the fire on the third floor. (Most of the water from the hoses outside wasn't getting through the slate roof.) Luckily, they were in the process of retreating to the second floor when the flashover occurred. After the explosion, most of the firefighters were able to get out of the house on their own, but two guys got lost inside, and several other firefighters went into the house to find them and bring them out. One of the guys had gotten stuck to the floor because his gear melted. A total of eight firefighters wound up being hospitalized because of their burns.

Firefighters do this kind of stuff every day, and we don't thank them nearly enough!

2. The house was located in Indian Hill, the most prestigious area in Cincinnati.

And it wasn't so much a "house" as it was a "historic mansion." It was built in the 1920's by the Kroger family. According to the news, it was one of the most valuable properties in Indian Hill. Again, I have some inside information, because I've been there a few times-- The owner is one of my dad's college buddies, and he's hosted several reunions for the "Bishop Street" gang.

Photo from the Cincinnati Enquirer

The house wasn't just huge, it was beautiful-- a work of art. The foyer looked like something out of Gone With the Wind. It had a marble tiled floor and a big sweeping staircase, and there was room enough to stash a grand piano out of the way in a corner of it. I have no idea how many bedrooms there were in the house. I tried counting once, but I wound up getting lost, and I'm not sure I found them all. The bedrooms that I saw were all furnished with gorgeous antiques, and the rest of the house also contained some unusual stuff-- several old phonograph machines (the kind that used wax cylinders), rare books, etc. In a nutshell, the house and most of the things in it are simply irreplaceable. That kind of craftmanship doesn't exist anymore.

The news crew, with their typical sensitivity and tact, interviewed him that night. Now keep in mind, his house was still burning at the time. As nearly all of his personal possessions were being destroyed right there in front of him, this is what he said:
"There's a lot of stuff in there, but, oh well, it's just stuff."

Frankly, that amazes me. I think it's a truly awesome attitude, and I don't know how many people could take that point of view, under those circumstances.

Now of course, you can say, "Yeah, but it's not like he's going to be out on the street. He's got insurance. He can buy new stuff." And I'm sure that's very true. But my impression of him has been that he's the type of guy who's pretty fond of his toys. (And he has a lot of toys. What you can't see in the news photos is the huge garage on the property, which is separate from the house. In it, he has an amazing car collection that has to be worth millions of dollars. Remember that car in Ferris Bueller? He has two Ferraris like that one, in red and black.) And he keeps his extensive gun collection in the basement of the garage. Because that's where the shooting range is. It even has moving targets, like the police training facilities you see on TV. (I got to shoot a Tommy Gun there-- It was COOL.) So you can imagine how big the garage must be.) OK, so maybe I'm wandering a bit off topic here, but the point I'm trying to make is that he has lots of stuff. And it's the kind of "stuff" that almost anyone would love.

My step-father has a few unique sayings that have been etched into my psyche over the years:

  • Life's not instant pudding.

    (I was 25 before I realized that no one else in the world has heard of this expression.)

  • Just remember-- You can be dead right.

    (He said this a lot when I started driving.)

  • It's just stuff. It doesn't love you back.

    Most often, when he says this, he's referring to cars. (In fact, he hates cars, and that feeling does seem to be mutual.)

To a certain extent, I think the concept has rubbed off on me a bit, I don't want to own a car that's so nice that I won't feel comfortable lending it to a friend. I like my car-- It's been very reliable, it gets decent gas milage, it's fun to drive, and it's small enough to get into just about any parking space. (For the record, I have a 2001 Integra.) But if it got stolen or wrecked tomorrow, it wouldn't phase me all that much.

But my house burning down... ...that would be really, really difficult for me. In all honesty, I love our house. And the thing is, it's only a couple years old-- It could easily be rebuilt. We don't own any priceless antiques. I only own maybe a half-dozen pieces of jewelry that have any sentimental value at all. But I really like a lot of my stuff. Maybe I even love some of it.

I don't think I'd be able to stand there and say, "Oh, well, it's only stuff."

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Preacher's Gift

Have you ever felt like your job has taken over your soul, and your life is spiraling out of control?

You're not alone.

Please set aside 40 minutes, and listen to this.

Monday, August 06, 2007


A few years ago, a couple of our friends introduced us to a game called Carcassonne. Through that game, we discovered that a revolution has taken place in the past 10-15 years, and the heart of the revolution is in Germany.

Dozens of new games are introduced in Europe every year, and they're generally much more interesting and challenging than anything you'll find in stores here in the US. Forget games like Monopoly, Life, and Trivial Pursuit. Eurogames are about strategy, not random luck or obscure knowledge. Many of the creators of these games have become so well-known that the game companies advertise their new games by issuing press releases like this:
Los Altos, CA; Paris, France - January 29, 2007. Days of Wonder, a leading publisher of top-quality board games, today announced their newest game, Colosseum™, designed by critically acclaimed game designer Wolfgang Kramer and Markus Lübke.

There's a whole Eurogame sub-culture-- Go to Board Game Geek and see for yourself. As a proud member of that sub-culture, here's a list of Eurogames that I can recommend...

Board Games:

  • Carcassonne - by Klaus-Jurgen Wrede

    Ahhh, the gateway drug! This game is fairly easy to learn, and it's sort of like working a puzzle, only you're doing it in competition with other people. While we were on vacation this summer, we taught this game to my grandparents. My 84-year-old grandfather (who loves puzzles) won every game.

    There are also a few expansion sets that you can buy for Carcassonne, which subtly change the mechanics of the game. I recommend Inns & Cathedrals and Traders & Builders. Or you can just skip a step and buy the Big Box.

  • Settlers of Catan - by Klaus Teuber

    This game became so wildly popular that it spawned a whole series of expansions, extensions, and spin-offs. I like this game a lot, but the learning experience is a little tougher than Carcassonne. The game board is made up of tiles, which are shuffled and dealt so that the map is different every time you play the game. Each player gets to place two settlements during the first two rounds of the game, and your success in the game depends a lot on the locations of your first settlements. The unfortunate thing about playing the game for the first time is that you won't understand enough about how the game works to make good decisions about where to place your first settlements. But you'll enjoy the game a lot more the second time you play it! What I like is that there are a lot of different strategies that can win the game-- It's not just about who can build the most settlements and cities.

  • El Grande - by Wolfgang Kramer and Richard Ulrich

    While Carcassonne and Settlers of Catan can bring out a little healthy competition in some people, El Grande is an all-out melee. This game involves a lot of strategy and planning, and yet every plan that you start to execute is instantly obliterated by every other player at the table.

    We have a friend who has been nicknamed Glinda (the Good Witch) because she is the epitome of sweetness and light. When we sat down to teach her this game, my husband said, up front, "This game is all about scheming, back-stabbing, and sabotage." She said, "Oh, I'm probably going to lose. I'm never any good at stuff like that."

    Yeah, right.

    She kicked our butts, and she did it with a smile on her face!

  • Puerto Rico - by Andreas Seyfarth

    The downside to this game is that it takes awhile to set it up, and it also takes a decent amount of time to explain the rules to new players. But the upside is that once you start playing, you're going to have a good time. (Plus you get to say, "P'whertow R-r-rico!") Like Settlers of Catan, there are a lot of different ways to win, so you can experiment with a new strategy every time you play.

  • Ticket to Ride - by Alan R Moon

    Like Settlers of Catan, there are several different versions of this game available. (We have TTR: Europe.) This is probably the simplest of all of the Eurogames that we've played, and it's one of the easiest to learn, so Ticket to Ride may eventually replace Carcassonne as the game of choice for introducing our friends to Eurogames. On the luck vs. strategy spectrum, Carcassonne and TTR are weighted a bit more toward luck, while the other games listed above are almost pure strategy.

  • Tigris & Euphrates - by Reiner Knizia

    We've only played this game once so far, and it made my head swim. The rules aren't terribly complicated, but the mechanics of the game really challenge your mind. To say that it's complicated is an understatement. Reiner Knizia is a mathematician and one of the more famous game designers. (Lost Cities and Lord of the Rings are two of his other games.) There are certainly plenty of Tigris & Euphrates fans out there, but I wouldn't recommend this game to a newbie.

  • Lord of the Rings - by Reiner Knizia

    This game is really unique because everyone works together to try to beat the game. Or rather, you're trying to beat the odds, which are stacked heavily against you. Beware of the Mines of Moria!

Card Games

  • Lost Cities - by Reiner Knizia

    This is a very simple and elegant two-person card game. And one of the best things about this game is that you can play it online!

  • Citadels - by Bruno Faidutti

    This is one of my all-time favorite games. It only takes a couple of rounds to get a feel for how the game works, and the mechanics are very well-balanced so that there are pros and cons for every character and every strategy. And it's a very portable game. You can easily make room for it in your bag, so you can take it with you when you're travelling, and you don't need a big table to play it.

    NOTE: If you buy Citadels, I recommend getting the character cards laminated. They get handled a lot during the game, and they can start to wear out. Plus, it's makes it easier to keep them from getting mixed in with the other cards.

Where can I buy Eurogames?

I linked everything to Funagain Games because they've got a really great website-- They include photos, summaries of the rules, and magazine reviews for almost all of the games, and they allow customers to write their own reviews. (I'm amazed by how much thought and effort people put into their reviews.) Their prices are pretty fair, and they've got an excellent selection.

and Time Well Spent
As far as I can tell, these two companies generally have the best prices, and we have a couple of friends who have recommended them. I haven't bought anything from either company yet, simply because I feel a certain amount of loyalty to Funagain Games. (As I said before, I like their website, and they also have a "frequent buyer" program, and I'm a sucker for that sort of thing.)

They carry some of the more popular games, and of course their selection is growing all the time. But games at Amazon are generally more expensive than at Funagain Games or Fair Play Games.

So go have some fun!

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Frustration & Faith

I've been meaning to write up this posting for quite awhile now. (My first attempt was back in January.) I think that there are two reasons why it's taken me so long to get around to it:

  1. I needed to dedicate a fairly sizeable block of uninterrupted time to doing it. (i.e. You may notice that this posting is rather long.)

  2. I think I needed to be ready to let go of it. What I'm trying to say is that I couldn't write about all of this while I was in the midst of it. But now I feel like I'm ready to mark a moment, kind of like a memorial, and move on from here.

In the past year and half, I have had to really struggle through some serious questions about who I am, how I define my self-worth, and what my purpose is. Throughout this period, I've had a playlist on my iPod called "Frustration & Faith." Now, as a general rule, I don't look to pop music for philosophy or counseling, but these songs either say how I was feeling, or they say things that I needed to believe in. And somehow I just feel like I should share this...

  1. Bad Day - by Daniel Powter

    When things at my job were at their absolute worst, this song seemed to be on the radio every single time I got into the car. And since I had literally a 5 minute commute each way, it also seemed like something more than coincidence. The song is actually way too upbeat to describe how I was really feeling-- I think the only lyrics that specifically applied to me were:

    You're faking a smile with the coffee to go
    You tell me your life's been way off line
    You're falling to pieces every time

    That part reminds me of going to get coffee in the cafeteria at work every morning with my friend Gus, which was invariably the high-point of my day. The rest of the day was always miserable.

  2. Meant to Live - Switchfoot

    Maybe we've been living with our eyes half open
    Maybe we're bent and broken

    We were meant to live for so much more
    Have we lost ourselves?
    Somewhere we live inside

    We want more than this world's got to offer
    We want more than the wars of our fathers
    And everything inside screams for second life

  3. Tell Me Who I Am - Steve Manuel

    Cause I know I'm not the sum of what everybody says
    And I'm not a magazine, or what my body image is
    I've got to be more than my job
    I've got to be more than my address
    More than living to get by
    Or trying to impress...

  4. Out Is Through - Alanis Morissette

    My tendency to want to run away feels natural and
    My urgency to dream of softer places feels understandable

    The only way out is through
    The only way we'll feel better
    The only way out is through

  5. The Beautiful Letdown - Switchfoot

    It was a beautiful letdown when I crashed and burned
    When I found myself alone, unknown and hurt
    It was a beautiful letdown the day I knew
    That all the riches this world had to offer me
    Would never do

    In a world full of bitter pain and bitter doubts
    I was trying so hard to fit in, to fit in,
    Until I found out
    That I don't belong here
    I don't belong here
    I will carry a cross and a song where I don't belong
    But I don't belong

  6. Martyrs & Thieves - Jennifer Knapp

    And I know they are wrong
    When they say I am strong
    As the darkness covers me

    So turn on the light
    And reveal all the glory
    I am not afraid
    To bear all my weakness
    Knowing in meekness
    I have a kingdom to gain

  7. Maybe There's a Loving God - Sara Groves

    I wrote a previous post about this song, and it just continues to be a favorite of mine.

  8. In the Palm of Your Hand - Alison Krauss

    I'd rather be in the palm of Your hand
    Though rich or poor I may be
    Faith can see right through the circumstance
    Sees the forest in spite of the trees
    Your grace provides for me

  9. Faithful to Me - Jennifer Knapp
    This simple, acapella song was a late addition to this list...

    All the chistles I've dulled carving idols of stone
    That have crumbled like sand 'neath the waves.
    I have recklessly built all my dreams in the sand
    Just to watch them all wash away.

    Through another day, another trial,
    Another chance to reconcile
    To One who sees past all I see.

    And reaching out my weary hand
    I pray that You'd understand.
    You're the only one who's faithful to me.

  10. Word of God Speak - MercyMe

    I'm finding myself at a loss for words
    And the funny thing is: It's okay.
    The last thing I need is to be heard
    But to hear what You would say

    I'm finding myself in the midst of You
    Beyond the music, beyond the noise
    All that I need is to be with You
    And in the quiet hear Your voice

  11. To Be Free - Steve Manuel

    You can live by the book, but it's slavery
    You can try, try hard, to do right
    I would pray that I would be given bravery
    Just to live out my heart in the light

    I want to be free
    I want to know life
    I don't want to live afraid to die
    I just want to kill the fear in me
    I want to let it go
    I want to be free

  12. Open Your Eyes - Snow Patrol

    My bones ache, my skin feels cold
    And I'm getting so tired and so old
    The anger swells in my guts
    And I won't feel these slices and cuts

    Get up, get out, get away from these liars
    Cause they don't get your soul or your fire
    Take my hand, knot your fingers through mine
    And we'll walk from this dark room for the last time

  13. This Is Your Life - Switchfoot

    This is your life
    And Today is all you've got now
    And Today is all you'll ever have

    Don't close your eyes

    This is your life
    Are you who you want to be?
    This is your life
    Is it everything you dreamed that it would be
    When the world was younger
    And you had everything to lose?

  14. Perimeter of Me - Dividing the Plunder

    Well, I'm frightened by how easy it can be to live so long
    Going from one thing, to the next thing, to the next,
    'Til months have gone
    And you realize you have really not done anything at all
    At night you fall asleep believing you've just climbed
    So you could fall

    And I don't believe that "Who I Am" is something I can find
    It's whatever I create with what I do with all my time
    It's who I choose to love with all my heart, and strength, and mind
    And whether I believe that what I have is really mine

  15. Giving In - Steve Manuel

    No more fighting, please
    No more pointing at me
    No more mourning who I'd hoped I'd be
    No more defending
    None of this wishing I was right
    No more concessions to my appetite

    I'm giving in, I'm giving up
    I won't let my pride into it
    And like cool wine poured from a crystal cup
    I'm giving in
    I'm giving up

  16. Better Days - Robbie Seay Band

    Wherever your are, breathe out, and breath again
    And know that life is hard, but it's worth breathing
    Listen to me now, for Love, oh Love
    Is waiting for you, just to say:
    Here come better days

  17. The Long Day Is Over - Norah Jones
    To me, this song is just a promise of something to look forward to-- That no matter how bad things get, there will eventually be an end to it, and a well-deserved rest. A feeling of coming home.

Blog Consolidation

Since Blogger is now offering the "Label" feature, I've decided to consolidate my three blogs down to just this site. My other two blogs were:

  • YKYAAW... - Dedicated to those moments when Reality smacks you across the face, and you realize that you ARE, actually, an Adult...
    ...whereas the rest of the time you just feel like a kid who happens to have had more than 18 birthdays and is pretending to fit into adult society.

  • Wonder - verb 1. to speculate or be curious to know about something
    2. to be in a state of amazed admiration or awe, especially at something very beautiful or new

I've moved all of my old posts here from the other two blog sites, and tagged them accordingly. Thanks for reading!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Business Structures 101

After all of this research, it looks like the structure that will fit our business model better is an S Corporation rather than an LLC.

It all has to do with the fact that we want to get paid wages for the number of hours that we spend working for the business. As it turns out, the IRS is very sensitive to LLCs that make "special allocations" to give profits to members in ways that don't simply represent their ownership interest in the business.

The IRS guide says, "The rules governing partnership allocations (IRC section 704(b) and its accompanying regulations) have been criticized as being some of the most difficult and complex."

Oh, yippee, sign me up for THAT!

So instead, we're going to be an S-Corp, which allows its shareholders to be treated as employees, and it has certain tax advantages over the two LLC models as well. (You don't have to pay the 15.6% self-employment tax on profits.)

Because I'm sure you were dying to know!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

You know you're an adult when... start your own company

This week, I'm in the process of filing out the paperwork for our LLC. The three of us (myself, my husband, and one of his friends from work) will be providing sales support, customer training, and consulting services on behalf of two software companies that make special engineering applications. For right now, I will be the only one working full-time for the new company, since they're both keeping their corporate jobs, but they'll also be doing some part-time consulting work and providing their expertise with one of the software applications.

There are lots of things to learn about starting a new company. Today I put together a summary to explain our options to my partners. (Yes, of course, I could explain this all to my husband without typing it up, but our other partner lives in New Hampshire.) And they say that the best way to learn something is to synthesize it, so I guess I'm benefiting from this experience as well.

Here's what I've learned so far this week:

  1. LLC's have a choice between being taxed as a Partnership or as a Corporation.

    • Partnership - The IRS default is for an LLC to be treated as a Partnership for tax purposes, which is also referred to as "pass-through" taxation. As far as taxation goes, this is pretty straightforward. The owners of the LLC simply pay personal income taxes on whatever money they receive from the business. They still have to file tax forms for the LLC every year, including Schedule K-1 forms, which summarize the profits (or losses) for each member, but the LLC doesn't actually pay any taxes to the government.

      In this model, owner-members of the LLC are not considered employees, and they do not receive a salary or wage. Instead, they generally get paid by receiving their share of the profits, based on the amount of capital that they have invested. Members can, however, create "special allocations" in their operating agreements, to redistribute profits in ways that are different than just the percentage of the business that they own, but they have to be able to convince the IRS that there are legitimate business reasons for doing so. We're planning to do a special allocation because we all want to get paid a fee based on the number of hours that we work for the company, but beyond those fees, we plan to split the profits equally, because we're all contributing equal amounts to get the business off the ground. My next step will be to check with a lawyer to make sure this is all legit in the eyes of the IRS!

    • Corporation - The downside to this option is that the tax situation gets more complicated. For this structure, it is assumed that the active members receive salaries from the business, and that a significant amount of the profits will be reinvested in the business from year to year. The business writes off the member's salaries as an expense, so the business isn't taxed for that amount, and the members pay personal income tax on their salaries. That's simple enough. But when it comes to the profits, things get a bit more convoluted. The LLC pays taxes at a corporate rate (just 15% for up to $50,000) on all of the profits generated by the business, and then individual members pay additional taxes (aka "double taxation") on the profits or dividends that they receive.

      So essentially, if you're reinvesting most of your profits, you might save money by being taxed at a reduced business income rate rather than paying taxes at the personal tax rate. (With pass-through taxation, you wind up paying taxes at the personal tax rate on profits that you never really received because they were reinvested in the business.) The good news is that you can change from Partnership to Corporate taxation at any time, by filing a simple form with the IRS, but the BAD news is that you're not allowed to convert back to Partnership taxation for at least 5 years. So generally, most LLC's don't make the change until they're well established and making a significant profit from year to year.

  2. Management Methods - LLC's have a choice between Member-Managed or Manager-Managed.

    • Member Management - Most LLC's are managed by all of their members, and this is exactly what we want to do. The key requirement here is that all of the members (owners) play an active role in managing the business. Otherwise, everyone's share in the business could be considered a "security" (i.e. an investment, like stock, where you expect to make a profit based on other people's efforts) and then you might have to file for an exemption with the SEC. Or, worse yet, you might not get an exemption and you'd have to comply with all of the disclosure requirements.

    • Manager Management - This structure allows an LLC to be managed by a) a subset of the LLC members; b) a mixture of some members and some non-members; or c) a person (or group) who isn't a member. In the case of Option A, an LLC could be managed by two members who work in the business full-time, while three other members (who aren't interested in actively managing the business) just invest money and hope to make a profit. Option B - An LLC receives some capital from an outside investment group, and, in exchange, that group asks to have one of their partners or employees involved in running the business. Option C - The owners of an LLC hire a CEO to manage the business on their behalf.

      In the case of Manager Management, the shares in the company will certainly be considered securities, but there can be some tax advantages for the non-managing members. Members who are managers of an LLC have to pay self-employment taxes, including the full tax amounts for Social Security and Medicare. (If you're an employee of a corporation, your company pays half of these taxes for you.) Non-managing members get to skip these.

P.S. I am not in any way an expert on this subject, and I am certainly not offering any legal or tax advice here. I just thought that this was sort of interesting, in a convoluted sort of way, and since I had already done the work, I thought I'd share it, in case anyone out there is interested in learning something new. Or not.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

God Hates Shrimp

I probably shouldn't be doing this, but it's just too good not to share...

My sister has a science blog that discusses ocean ecology and overfishing. In her most recent posting, she had a link to the God Hates Shrimp website.

Yep. It's true. Shrimp are an abomination. So are lobsters, crabs, scallops, and clams. Roadkill is also verboten, and, as my friend Tracie likes to point out, we're also not supposed to boil a goat in it's mother's milk. (See Deuteronomy 14:21. In fact, you might want to glance through all of Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy before you start making any plans for dinner.)

But wait, it gets even better! From that website, you can find a link to this website, which you can bookmark under either "Irreverent" or "I'm SO going to Hell for this..."

Of course, don't forget to check out the link to Real Church Signs.

And so my work here is done. Have fun, and don't get into too much trouble!

P.S. My sister's blog is called Shifting Baselines. I think it's informative and entertaining, so I recommend checking it out once in awhile. And in all seriousness, please spend a little bit of time exploring the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch website and their Pocket Seafood Guides. If you're going to eat fish, pick something like Tilapia and not Orange Roughy or Chilean Sea Bass.

Life, in a Nutshell

I realize that it's been a very long time since I've posted anything on this blog, and there are some very good reasons for why I haven't been writing. This past year has been extremely difficult, and it seems like most of the things that have happened were just too personal and too emotionally draining to try to share on a blog. But since these things were major events in my life, I would have felt dishonest if I had continued to write about trivial stuff, pretending that everything was OK and normal when it clearly wasn't.

So here's the (simplified) update of everything that has happened in the past year:

  • Jobs - I no longer work for a Fortune 50 company, and I hope that I never will again. For awhile I worked part-time for a small company (~20 employees) and that was a learning experience too. After that, I took some time off. Now I'm working on starting up my own LLC. I'm really, really excited by the idea that I'll be working for my self, from my home. I'll have a hard-wall office with a door and a window-- the dream of every cube-dweller-- and I'll also have the option of working from my back deck or pretty much anywhere else I want to be. There's no dress code, I can bring my dog to work with me, and I won't have to worry about what my boss will think if I have to go to a doctor's appointment or if take an hour and a half to have lunch with friends.

    My self-confidence was really shaken by losing my "dream job" last year, but I've come to realize that I am an intelligent, responsible, hard-working, talented engineer, and so I deserve something better than being treated like a replaceable cog in a corporate juggernaut that grinds out far more bureaucratic sludge than productive results. I hate corporate politics, and I hate that my roles have been defined and my worth has been determined by managers and directors who are inept at best. (I won't even try to describe the worst bosses... I know. You know. We'll leave it at that.) I know that I can be far happier and more productive working for myself, and I now I see that my true "dream job" is SO much bigger than anything that could fit into a 6x6' cubicle.

  • Pets - I am no longer the proud parent of a tubby tabby and a cross-wired wiener dog. We still have the dachshund, but my sweet fuzzy cat was stricken by cancer at Christmas time, and she died in March. At the same time, I suffered through a difficult health issue of my own, and I wound up depressed. I tried some medication, but the side effects seemed as bad as the symptoms, so I quit my job and got a puppy instead.

    Her name is Bella. The rescue folks told us that she was a Border Collie / Golden Retriever mix. Now that she's grown up a bit, we think it's more likely a that she's a Border Collie / Labrador Retriever mix, since she looks just like a small black lab, but with white toes. We've been talking about getting another cat, but I think we'll probably wait until Bella settles down a bit.

  • Travel - I have done a quite a bit of traveling in the past six months or so.

    In February, we did our annual ski vacation in Tahoe. There couldn't be a better group of friends to ski with, but things went badly for me at the end of the trip, so the memories of this trip aren't as fond as they have been in previous years.

    At the end of April, I tagged along on my husband's business trip to Zurich, so I got to wander around the town while he was working. I really enjoyed Switzerland, and since my new LLC will be partnering with a software company there, I hope that I'll be able to go back again.

    In June, we went back to Longboat Key for a week with my mom's extended family. This year we got to spend time with my mom, my grandparents, my grandmother's sister, her three daughters, two of my aunts, two of my uncles, two of my cousins, and one of my cousin's kids. The weather was nice. I got to feel tall for a week. It was a good trip.

So that's my life, in a nutshell. Now that things are looking up, I have a feeling that I'll be writing more often. Not to mention that now I'll be able to blog from work without having to worry about getting busted by my boss and I can blog about work without violating any stupid corporate policies!