Just Another Blog
Monday, April 30, 2007
News at 10
I am still sick with a cold that is taking a little too long to go away. Part of that is my fault. I thought I was feeling a bit better on Friday and went to happy hour with my sister and her fiancee. Six hours and three bars later, I finally made it back home. It turned out to be more than I was ready for.
We started at Lola which continues to impress me, even though it turns out they don't carry Jagermeister. From there we headed to North Star. That's Kyle's (from the Wynkoop, who I don't know but a few of my readers do) new place in the neighborhood. The menu there seemed limited and expensive although we didn't eat anything. The beer I had was just fair. I'll give it one more shot, but I wasn't very impressed. We eventually ended up at Edgewater for big schooners of beer and pizza after getting shut out by the crowds at Sushi Sasha and Proto's Pizza. It was a good time, but I'm still paying for it in coughs and sniffles.
The highlight of my weekend came on Saturday when I took a late afternoon nap on freshly washed sheets with the warm afternoon sun on my back. I found it very relaxing and rejuvenating. I know sunshine on the male back is supposed to be good for T-levels. I feel like I could use a boost as I've seemed to be lacking in any sort of sex drive or passion over the past couple of weeks. It could be my cold or the stress of work or the lack of a love interest, but I've just felt flat and limp as of late.
We just got word that we're having a department meeting at 10. Presumably it will be to learn about the disposition of the company. Any news is good news. The uncertainty of things has everyone on edge. I hope it's not just another reminder to stop with the gossip and rumor mongering. I suspect and hope that this is the beginning of the end.
Update: The meeting was nothing. Department head / VP / General Counsel gave her notice this morning and will be gone at the end of May. It's a personal decision a long time in coming. The announcement would seem to offer no insight into what the future holds for the rest of us. The replacement process might give us a slight idea. I hypothesize that if the replacement is one of the current staff attorneys, that suggests that they are unable to hire a quailified person from the outside due to the internal turmoil and possible pending sale. Or maybe it would suggest that one of the current attorneys has been adequately groomed for the job. I don't think that's the case though. She said the president was surprised by her decision and that to the best of her knowledge there is no succession planning to cover this situation (a fact that bothers (from a business man's perspective, not personally) but doesn't surprise me) Who knows. In any case, I don't know anything more now than I did two weeks ago when I found the suspicious papers.
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
I found this story via Digg on the reported effects of marijuana use to be interesting. They make it sound like it can be a downright enjoyable experience.
I've read my share of CIA books over the past couple of years, and I always find the clandestine training, research, and missions to be fascinating. I think that since I feel that most of my interactions with the outside world are largely a ruse, I like to believe I'd be well suited to similarly pretend with foreign assets. Too bad I don't speak fluent Russian or some other helpful language. Any way, here's a good story about how the CIA got some of the Americans out of Iran during the hostage crisis back in '79. The lengths that they went through to ensure the operation ran smoothly are humorously impressive.
I've got a cold coming on, and it feels like it might be a nasty one. It's not so much that I feel terrible yet, but rather the way it has been slowly building over the last two days and the fact that my initial counter-attacks seem to be failing. Tomorrow is take your kid to work day, so it would make a fine day to stay home. Of course, I could probably inflict more harm by going to work and sneezing and sniffling all over the little brats. Since my company doesn't offer sick time, I believe they would want me to come in. I'll probably suck it up and go in. If it makes my immuno-compromised (organ transplant) boss uneasy, I'm sure he'll close his door tightly or maybe even just leave and work from home. He gets that opportunity. Also, I'm tickled by the possibility that the company could announce mass layoffs on the day that mommy is showing little Billy how she endlessly enters data off of one screen onto the other screen. That would be precious. At least it would be a true learning experience for the kid with regard to the fickleness of life in corporate cubedom.
Monday, April 23, 2007
PMTD: Irony and Corporate Double Speak
My company does an annual employee appreciation week in the fall called People Make the Difference. They also use the slogan throughout the year at pep rallies, in corporate communications, and on a sporadic basis to remind the worker drones how valued our contributions are. The gist of the message is always that our firm offers our clients a valuable service but that service would be meaningless without the dedicated legions providing the personal touch. It is our employees who bring real value to the services we provide.
Bleach! It may not surprise you to hear that I find the message to be bullshit. I'm not above waving the corporate flag or being proud of whom I work for, but lame corporate platitudes and the feel good corporate psychology of month isn't enough to win my buy-in. It's fine to say that your people make the difference when you really encourage your people to solve your clients' problems and give them the flexibility to implement creative solutions, but I don't see that here. I don't see a company that tries to be a customer service leader. I compare the way that I was trained and supported as a phone rep at Merrill versus the way that the frontline people that I support here seem to be trained, and I find that while both companies may trumpet superior service, only at Merrill were people given the training and tools to really do that. There's a secondary issue that since none of the employees here are 6, 7, 24, 63, whatever registered, there's no need to hire people who are smart enough to pass those sorts of exams. And so they don't. And so [some of] the employees don't necessarily have a certain base level of knowledge or education to come up with creative solutions - to actually make a difference.
In a business where people really did make the difference, it would be hard to imagine a sale of the business without the employees who were so critical to the operations. The papers left laying on the printer suggest that this business is about to be sold without any of the people going along - just the accounts and the technology. People don't make the difference; assets under management make the difference. Clients make a difference too. And client trading platforms really make a difference. People, not so much.
There's still been no confirmation that the papers I found mean what I interpret them to mean, but the lawyers around here are sure scurrying around and spending lots of time with outside counsel in a way that suggests that something is going on. Besides being unable to sleep, I'm having a harder time than normal focusing on getting work done, especially work that is long term in nature.
Sunday, April 22, 2007
I am nervous and upset about loosing my job. It woke me up in the middle of the night on Friday and kept me tossing and turning last night. The last time I was out of work, I ended up in a credit card debt hole that I still haven't climbed out of. I feel a certain sense of hopelessness. Oh well, I'm sure it will all play out alright in the long run.
Friday, April 20, 2007
There was an article in an industry magazine (no online link) on Tuesday that reported the imminent sale of the division of the company that I work for. TD Ameritrade is the reported buyer with Schwab and Fidelity as reported second-tier suitors. It was enough to prompt our president to send out an email highlighting that there were no on-the-record sources for the article and calling the entire piece speculative. Because the buyer and seller are both public companies, Reg FD says there can be no mention until it becomes public knowledge. The article suggested that a deal was likely to be completed by today.
Our part of the company has known for some time that corporate was investigating a sale, spin-off, realignment, or continuation of business as usual. We were originally told to expect an answer by the end of the first quarter. Apparently negotiations and planning have taken longer than expected and many people around here are on edge. I was figuring we most likely faced realignment to another part of the company based upon our profitability and potential for greater integration with other corporate entities. Our parent company has grown over the last 20 odd years through a series of 100+ acquisitions that now work as 77 loosely related companies. My division is arguably the most loosely related. This scenario would probably have afforded me the most job safety but would likely have signaled a lengthy and likely tumultuous period of change management.
After reading the article though, a sale makes the most sense. The two (out of four) parts of our division that make the most money would be valuable additions to any of the suitors and especially to TD Ameritrade as they yearn to catch up to Schwab and Fidelity in the custody business. But I work for one of the parts that doesn't make as much money and that has a very significant legal risk footprint with lots of associated ongoing litigation. It's a part of the business that wouldn't be particularly attractive to the aforenamed bidders, but which might make sense for another niche trust custodian in the market. The article had reported that our corporate parent and TD Ameritrade both confirmed that talks fell apart earlier in the year when TD wouldn't buy all parts of the business. Corporate told 'em all or none. I hypothesized yesterday after seeing the article for the first time that TD will buy the whole business and nearly simultaneously spin-off the directed-custodian IRA business to another party.
Laying on the printer today I found a stack of papers that seems to support my conclusion. The papers are a series of schedules that you might expect to be attached to a sales contract detailing certain aspects of the transaction. The topics include items such as Reportable Events (none), Code Section 409A (this deals with deferred compensation accounts and the only note says Corporate), Environmental Matters (none), Excluded Customers (JR or SS to provide information), Conduct of Business (here is a cryptic note that suggests the sale of the assets of the part of the company that I support), Reorganization (dividend to transfer excluded assets) Filings (Colorado Division of Banking Consent, FDIC change in control, FDIC Bank Merger Act), WARN (this stands for the Workers Adjstment and Retraining Act which requires employers with 100 or more employees to provide notification 60 calendar days in advance of plant closings and mass layoffs. The note reads Corporate is monitoring.) Consents (target company shareholder consent), Resignations (obtain list in Word from DB), and the most damning of all - Employee Benefit Matters (Do we need this schedule if there are no "transferred employees").
I don't know if I'll find out today whether I'm losing my job soon, but I have little remaining doubt that I will be losing my job soon. That does not necessarily make me unhappy. I don't hold out much hope for a good package since I've only been here 26 months, but I'll take what they give me and up to another 13 weeks on the government dole after that.
Buying the War
I'm looking forward to watching this next week. In retrospect, it will surely be as damning as it is now obvious.
I suspect though that in political circles the war in Iraq will be seen as a great success. It demonstrates that policy need not be based on facts and that facts need not be an impediment to executive branch policy. When the end goal is clear, there are a lot of ways to get there. I'm sure future pols of all stripes will review the success that Bush and Rove had in getting to the dessert based on little more than a desire for revenge and a sense of gung-ho imperialism.
A comparison between Rove and Goebbels seems most apt. I don't know Rove's history of how he got to where he is, but his ability to direct and control the media would seem to have little precedent. It may be argued that both men were savvy geniuses who at their very heart of hearts were bad men. The tv program will be interesting from the standpoint of hearing from those who have been victims of the manipulation.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
I think I've figured out what's wrong with my leg and my stunted healing progress. It's my stride. I need to lengthen my stride. It explains everything!
Before I got hurt, I had a very long stride that I developed walking up and down the hill on the way to and from work everyday. Well, part of it was the hill; part of it was a regular need to hurry to get there on time; part of it dates back to the days of pal-ing around with Vince who walks extremely quickly, especially for a smoker. In any case, I had a long stride and was perceived as a fast walker.
After about 14 weeks of not walking, being on crutches, and, finally, using one crutch, my legs weren't kicking out the marches the way they used to. Early on, one of the limiting factors to my walking was the fact that my hamstrings on my bad leg had shrunk significantly. I physically just couldn't extend my leg all the way straight. I've been at a point for a number of weeks now where I feel like my hamstrings are about back to where they were, and I continue to focus on stretching them. So why then do I still sort of limp? Why do I still keep having the discomfort in my knee? Why in the world do I have that awful knot in my good leg that always hurts when I walk? Why do all my shoes fit differently now? The doctors didn't touch my feet. Why do I get new blisters in weird places from shoes that never bothered me before? Why do I so often get all wobbly and off balance for no reason when I'm just walking along? Why won't the tendinitis in my bad knee go away?
So much would seem to be fixed and explained by the stride.
The knot - which more than anything else has really had me freaked out (since it seemed so unexplainable, constant, and painful) - is in the middle of a muscle group that seems to connect from my hip to my good knee. Why would it knot up there? That's the middle of a long muscle that stretched to its fullest everything time I took a big step up or down that hill. When I stopped taking big steps, that part in the middle never got stretched out. It just got all balled up and was rarely needed. As I strive to take bigger steps, I hope to feel that knot just pull itself right apart. A problem? No, a frayed knot.
The knee on the other side has been bothering me since Hawaii with an unrelenting case of tendinitis. A big step with the good leg means a big step with the bad leg, and I could feel the difference with the big steps on the bad side too. My tendons apparently still remember the feel and layout of the old connections which makes sense since the surgeon had said the tendons hadn't been damaged. By not taking big steps, I've been irritating them and had them rubbing and moving in ways they weren't used too.
I'm getting blisters because I walk funny when I take smaller steps. I had figured out that I was walking funny, but I couldn't figure out how to fix it. When I stand in place, I tend to stand with my left foot pointed straight ahead and my right one angled slightly outward. When I started walking again, or maybe always when I walked slowly, I walked that way with my right foot not coming down cleanly heel to toe. Taking long strides and concentrating on my form helps ensure a more natural stepping motion and rolling of my foot to better align with its design. My shoes fit fine, and the blisters will relent once I quit rubbin' my feet around in 'em at weird angles. I'm thinking the better stepping motion might help with my wobble too.
The longer stride also changes the way that my weight is carried over my knee. You'll recall that it was the weight-bearing surface of my lower left leg that was shattered. I continue to feel discomfort that I believe is coming from the area at the top of that bone where the artificial bone graft was done. I still can't bear much weight beyond my own body weight. When I carry in groceries, I load all of the heavy stuff to the right side. I can't go up the stairs two at a time without pulling along on the railing because of the pain that emanates from that point when pressure is applied. My theory, based upon my limited observations this evening, is that the longer stride, by changing the placement and movement of my body as it moves over my knee, will allow all of the parts and surfaces to move and rub together the way that they used to. That will hopefully relieve whatever continues to irritate the graft area. Once it heals completely, I'll be able to add back strength and power.
I came to this revelation part way through a brief walk this evening just up to Meade Street and back - just to the street, not to the bar. I'm not entirely sure that lengthening my stride will really cure all that ails me, but I sure am excited by the possibility. I couldn't keep up my big steps all the way home. My hamstrings and feet have become accustomed to the shorter steps. My hamstrings began to tighten, and my feet began to cramp. It was one quick walk, one time, but suddenly, I could feel that knot tugging apart, and I could feel a big difference in how my feet felt in my shoes, and I could feel a different sort of stretching on both the front and back of my bad knee, and suddenly, all of the problems seemed to be tied to a common solution.
Time will tell.
I just read the most wonderful story. Grayson by Lynne Cox tells her story of a workout swim in the ocean one morning when she is 17. The entire book encompasses less than five hours worth of time, and it takes even less time than that to read it. During her swim, Lynne meets a baby gray whale along with dozens of other sea creatures. Her descriptions of the water and the creatures and the sky are simple and wonderful. Her writing style is straightforward, direct, intelligent, and beautiful. This is the style of writing that I would strive for in this style of story. It's all just very nice. A couple of the Amazon reviewers knock the author for the feel-good positivisms that she spouts while swimming. I'm the first one to be cynical about the power of positive thinking, but I did not find her asides at all distracting. I found them to be very much in line with the feelings of wonder and awe that I have felt when deeply enmeshed with nature. Such a nice story. I'll definitely be grabbing her other book once I get through my next couple of reading assignments.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
I went to see Iggy and the Stooges last night. It was a last minute decision largely because I had completely spaced that they were coming. I had heard that they really weren't quite the same given the passage of three and a half decades or so, but I figured they were big enough legends that it warranted my going. I may well go see Morrissey in a couple of weeks based upon similar logic.
I missed the opening band completely because I needed to take a nap before I went out. I felt pretty old needing a nap, but I figured Iggy probably naps too.
I thought it was a really good show. Seeing them do I Wanna Be Your Dog was pretty special. They didn't play that long - probably only 10 songs or so. They rocked well in that time though. Iggy looked pretty good. I saw a recent photo of his face and thought he looked about 90, but his body was in decent shape. Seems that the right heroin diet will do wonders for your abs. I'm sure it's from neglecting food and the rigors of throwing up. Still, he looked good as he writhed topless on the speakers. He sounded decent too. Granted their songs don't necessarily require him to be a great vocalist, but I liked what I heard.
My knee seemed to hold up all right with the little bit of dancing that was to be had. I was pretty nervous a few times about being able to get up if I got knocked down, but it never came to that. I was more active than I've been at other shows since the fall, but I still can't kick and skank like the old days. By the end of the night, I could barely walk. I took a cab home instead of dealing with walking to the bus stop. I'm pretty sore today too, but I'm gonna make it.
I'm glad I went, and I was glad, if somewhat surprised, to see a whole lot more people than were in attendance at the Buzzcocks show a few months back. Upcoming shows include Dick Dale in May and Dinosaur Jr at the Lodo Music Fest, which I don't think is until June. Maybe Morrissey in May. Perhaps a few others too - there's nothing that I'm really all that excited about, but I do enjoy spending my entertainment dollar on live music.
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Recent Movies, quickly
Eddie Murphy - Delirious - Edgier and funnier in 1983.
Little Miss Sunshine - Character development - better than Departed.
Grizzly Man - He knew he'd be eaten.
All of these old links are brought to you by Google Notebook. Great way to keep track of all those little things you mean to go back to at some point.
Few would accuse me of having any in abundance. This article rings a nearby bell. I'd like to find something to be passionate about. A job. A girl. Something.
How Do You Compare?
"I believe, if we take habitual drunkards as a class, their heads and their hearts will bear an advantageous comparison with those of any other class. There seems ever to have been a proneness in the brilliant and warm-blooded to fall into this vice." — Abraham Lincoln, 1842
My father thinks I should date a girl from work as long as she isn't in my department, a subordinate, or above me in the chain of command. The ones I might be interested in aren't.
Pretty much everything you need to know about female ejaculation.
I think dating at work is generally a bad idea. I've had bad experiences with it that included too much deception.
NY Times article on the keys to sexual desire suggests women may tend to be "sexually ambidextrous".
But, to be fair, I've had wonderful experiences with it that included lingerie and handcuffs.
Also from The Times, a scientist suggests women have sexual preferences but not a sexual orientation.
When I was a bartender, I never got laid because I was a bartender. I do suspect that the skills have helped subsequently, however.
"I'm gonna need $24,000. It's for my vagina." It's 9 minutes long, and I may be the only one to find it funny. And really, the last few minutes aren't very funny. But it's called Goodnight, Vagina, so that's something.
I have been playing with an idea for many months to start an anonymous blog where I could write all of the sexually charged stories, scenarios, jokes, and funny thoughts that always seem to be near the front of my mind without much worry that they might be associated with my name in a Google search the way this post is. I would put the Google adsense ads on there to see what I could generate with all my naughty keywords.
MRI images of coitus were big on the internet a few weeks ago even though the study dates to 1999.
Here's a funny video about sexual consent forms. Article 17? I'm down for at least 15 minutes.
One last - a song ('cause I need it). Gimmie Some Action!
Breaking news - New American Idol sex tape coming soon!
I have a strange suspicion that if you kept digging, you might find a lot of stories like this. I continue to be amazed by how corrupt this administration is.
Just got me a nice hair cut, so here's a song.
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
This might be a old one, but I hadn't seen it before: 100 Best Punk Songs poll.
I probably would have voted for #9 -- maybe #3. But it was #11 that brought me to punk.
It appears most likely that my little sister is moving to England. Harrogate is a town in North Yorkshire, and it looks like a fine little place for me to go visit. She and her fellow are thinking they'll move there in early June and do a tour of duty for about two years. Interestingly, I'm fairly sure they're going to the same place with the same company for the same tour of duty that Dan and Steph did. But it's all secret so who knows what those aerospace engineers are really doing. I don't care: I'm excited to have an excuse to visit and a cheap place to crash. I'm very excited for them and hope they can get the logistics all worked out so they can make the job come together (as it's not quite a done deal yet).
I like the State Department's new, plain-spoken advisories on traveling abroad. It's nice to see a little wry humor peek out from behind the bureaucracy.
Monday, April 02, 2007
First off, that's some good reporting. Trade 5 for 15, and do it today.