Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Summer plans

OK, I promised you some big announcements, and lest I be called a tease, I better make with the news! First of all, the smallest of the three announcements: I have summer figured out.

To recap, Munchkin wants to get a job at the beach this summer, and I would really like her to be able to do that. The complicating factor is that it requires her to live at the beach the whole time, and I can't live there with her. Through some schedule coordination and some changing of plans, though, it looks like it is going to work out.

The real solution is actually her brother. My ambivalence towards him is pretty well documented, but I would never doubt his love for his sister, and he really came through on this one. Originally, he was going to come here for a week in August and then she was going to go there for a week with him.

When I laid out the situation for him, though, he quickly offered to change his plans. New plan: he and his wife and the baby are going to come and spend two weeks in June with Munchkin at the beach. That way I can feel like she is not just hanging out with randoms, and it makes it that pretty much the whole summer is "covered" by someone that is an appropriate enough supervisor (Me, Smoking Hot Roommate, Big Sis and Papa Bear mostly).

Obviously, a two week vacation at the beach house is a pretty nice treat, but this is still kind of a big imposition on him. He is pretty much using up all of his vacation time for the year to do this, and since his wife works part time, she doesn't get paid for any days that she takes off. It will also be the baby's first trip, and a long time to be totally away from home for all of them. So, I really appreciate his willingness to do this, and I know that Munchkin does as well. He is definitely on my good side for a while:-)

And that allows Munchkin to move to the beach for the whole summer. That will be an adjustment for me and for her (more for me...lol) since I will go weeks at a time where I only see her Friday-Sunday when I am down there. There is even one weekend that I won't be there, so I will go almost two weeks without seeing her at all. I am sure it won't be a big deal, but I will just have to make extra sure to talk to her a lot and spend time with her when I am there and make sure I know what is going on with her.

I recognize that this is far from an ideal situation from a child-raising standpoint...she will stay put all summer, but her authority figure will rotate on a weekly basis depending on who is there and who isn't. My readers that have kids around that age are probably shaking in horror at the thought of their kids having that kind of freedom for that much time. I am pretty sure there is no precedent for this, and it certainly doesn't pass the muster of the parenting police.

But let's be honest, the "traditional" ship sailed a long time ago on this one...lol. She is already a very responsible manager of way more freedom that girls her age usually get: she has no bed time and I never wake her up if she doesn't have to get up for something, I don't check on her homework unless she asks for help, I don't monitor her communications with her friends, and I just basically trust her to be a really responsible kid.

And until she gives me some reason not to, I will continue to give her that kind of freedom. She has missed a grand total of 2 homework assignments in nearly four years of school since she came here. She is first in her class and has a grand total of ONE grade below A...she has clearly demonstrated that she understands priorities and responsibilities, and I don't see where I shouldn't let her continue to have that sort of leeway to manage her own priorities.

So, am I worried about the summer? Sure...a little bit. She will need to manage her work schedule and she will have a lot more free time than she does during the school year. It is entirely possible that I end up being there more than I currently say I will;-). But in the end, she has earned the right to spend her summer how she wants to...and if she wants to live at the beach and get a job? Well, then so be it...

Monday, March 30, 2009

When is my next vacation?

Good morning everyone:-) I am back safely and soundly, and didn't lose or harm any children that are either mine or someone else's. So that makes it a successful vacation!

Vacation was awesome! Lots of beach time, lots of friend time and lots of The Boy time. We did some shopping (walking around and looking...not much buying...lots of junk) in Playa Del Carmen, and went to the Mayan Ruins at Tulum for an afternoon. That was actually really neat and I was happy that the girls seemed to appreciate it and not find it super boring.

Mostly, though, we just hung around the house and the beach. We talked about maybe going out one night, possible even up to Cancun, but never really felt motivated to do that. I will blame it on the sun sapping our energy, and an unwillingness to leave the kids home alone:-). I suppose it was also a sign that we just had a lot of fun relaxing and being super lazy. In other words...a great vacation!

I also figured a lot of things out related to School, Summer and my wedding, which I will get to this week as I finalize them. Be patient, my lovelies:-)

First of all, though, fun news on Munchkin's boyfriend. His father has to come to Washington, DC for a couple of days next month, and asked if it would be a good idea to bring his son and then come to Boston for the weekend after that. Sounds like a plan to me! I certainly want to meet the little Frog:-P. And that will certainly shed some light on whether or not we are going to France next summer...

So, that should be fun, I think. Munchkin is certainly excited to see him and to introduce him to her friends (other than the one that knows him already), and I will certainly feel a little better about the whole thing after I meet the kid and his father. I think he basically plans to come up here Friday night after he gets done with whatever he is doing, stay all day Saturday and head home Sunday. So, not a long visit at all, but a nice treat:-)

I guess that will do for today...I should probably pay attention to the conference call that I have been on for an hour now...

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Buenos Dias

Greetings from Mexico! I spent most of the morning on a conference call (fun vacation activity, huh?) and figured that I would drop in and say hi. Because I don't want you all to miss me too much;-)

I hear that it has been really cold and wintry at home all week, which makes me all the more happy about our daily sunset-margarita parties:-P. I'll stop rubbing it in...

That is about all. Beach is beautiful, none of the children have required hospital visits, and we are having a wonderful time. I could totally live here...

Several major announcements forthcoming, but I will hold those until I come back and have everything worked out.

Until then, miss me!

Friday, March 20, 2009

AIG, Q&A, and Vacation

On AIG: Acknowledging the embarrassingly bad PR of the whole thing, can we please elevate the discussion a bit? Let's remember, WE own AIG now. The Treasury is into it for $170 billion, and our #1 goal at this point should be to get that money out, or at least as much of it as we can. How exactly do we plan to do that if we don't pay people?

The first thing I keep hearing is "Why are people getting bonuses for running the company into the ground." Remember, the CEO came on board after the first bailout, which means that he was approved (and possibly even hand-picked) by the Treasury Department for the job of salvaging the company for whatever it could get. If there is anyone left who "ran the company into the ground", then we have much larger problems. The bad people should be gone, and the good people should be left.

He is going to need a HUGE team if he is going to get his job done. And he is unlikely to get any kind of a good team in place if he can't pay people...or if their pay packages are subject to holier-than-thou rants by Congress. Put it this way...if you are a great insurance executive, or a salesman with a huge book, would rather work for AIG (which has no future, and where you get assholes like Chris Dodd telling you that you make too much) or any one of the dozen other insurance companies that would happily pay you to work there?

I think people get hung up on the word "bonus". But really, it is a regular part of the compensation for these types of positions. Let's also remember that many of these people are contractually entitled to their bonuses: i.e., their contract says that they need to reach certain goals to collect certain amounts, and if they hit them, you can't withhold the money. And really, why would you want to? (Side note: how are we going to feel when the Congressional grandstanding leads the top dozen or so people to say "OK, first, we will sue you for what we are owed. And penalties. After we win that slam-dunk settlement, we are starting our own company and cherry-picking all of the best business and best clients for ourselves. And since you broke our employment contract, we are totally and completely within our rights to do that.")

In summary, think of it this way: Taxpayers own AIG. Our goal is to get the most out of it that we can. The Treasury Department installed (or approved) a CEO for that purpose. He says he needed to pay these bonuses to further his overall goal. Why are we questioning him? Either trust him to do his job, or get someone in there that you can trust. And then leave him/her alone to be a CEO. Congress and the President can't be meddling with an insurance company's comp structure or day-to-day business. That is a good way to ensure that we end up losing way more money than is necessary.

One final note: AIG lost $100 billion last year. Congress, on the other hand, took in $2.52 Trillion last year, and spent $2.98 Trillion. So, by the same standard, they lost $460 Billion (it was actually worse, because of the way that they account...$550 Billion is a better number).

AIG could well be profitable this year or next (if any of it is still around.) For the next ten years, Congress has told us that their income statement will continue to get worse than that. And they don't need a bailout...it is always a bailout for them. So...where is the Congressional outrage over their own performance? Shouldn't they have to give back some of what their contract says they are owed?

How about rather than fat salaries and huge expense accounts, we pay Congress based on whether of not we (their bosses) think they are doing a good job? Every year, the voters will examine their performance and vote on whether or not we want to give them a bonus to stay on...seems fair to me, right?


I know that is kind of serious for a Friday. But, since I will be gone, you can chew on that all week;-).

That's right...I am out for another week:-). To answer Aaron's question, I get 26 days off, and I am very good at taking all of them! To be fair, I do a lot of work on weekends and at nights, so it is not all fun and games. I would say in a normal week I probably work 15 hours during "off hours. And I will almost certainly work two full days next week while I am away...even though it is much easier to do so overlooking the ocean...hee hee.

We are leaving tomorrow morning, and should be on a Mexican beach by afternoon. Me and The Boy, Smoking Hot Roommate and The Rocket Scientist, Big Sis and the Brain Surgeon. Papa Bear is coming down mid-week with his brother and his brother's wife. Munchkin is bringing her two best friends and The Body and The Mouth are meeting us there, too. So...full house! It should be lots of fun, and I will try and stay away from things like this.

I may blog once or twice...we will see how it goes.


One final note. I have a lot of kind of newish readers, and I seem to be getting a lot of emails with questions about certain things and certain people. As such, maybe it is a good time for a little Q&A. While I am gone, why don't you feel free to ask me anything that may or may not have been causing you some confusion, and I will answer them all when I get back.

Until then...try to get along without me!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Some serious, some not

I had a parent-teacher conference after work yesterday. I still feel kind of ridiculous going to those things, since there are kids in the high school there that would be less likely to get carded in a bar than I am. Heck, I got asked to the prom three years ago (true story)!

And it was all glowing as usual...seriously, the kid is just about perfect, we have established that. She gets all A's, does all her work, helps other kids with theirs, pleasure to have in class, social leader among her peers and everyone likes her. We can rehash that if you would like;-) but I feel like I have covered it ad nauseum before.

But...I had a really interesting conversation wit the guidance counselor. She asked me what I thought of Munchkin's interactions with her classmates, and then eventually followed up that she gets a little concerned that she doesn't really interact with kids her own age as equals. They very much look up to her, and she operates on a totally different emotional and psychological level. Because of that, her relationships with her peers are maybe different than they would normally be.

Now, the guidance counselor is a total dingbat (she is probably too young to have eaten the brown acid at Woodstock, but maybe there were some leftovers), and I would have politely ignored her, except that I have thought the same thing before. I am not even sure that it is a problem...but I guess I do worry that she will sometimes feel like there are things that she can't talk to her friends about that she should. Hopefully, she can at least talk to me (or one of her pretend sisters...at least once she talked through a friend-issue with Big Sis and never really raised it with me).

So, I am not really sure that there is anything I can or even should do about it. I think it is a valid point, and I could always have her see the child therapist that she saw when she first moved here to see if there is more to it. For now, though, I think I just need to file it away and keep it in mind...

On to less serious things!

It's Final Four time! After my near-miss last year (damn you, Memphis!!!) I am more determined than ever to win it this year. Of course, that doesn't mean that I am determined enough to, I dunno, watch any of it or anything...but you get my drift.

And I have to fill out my bracket by noon, so I will take any helpful hints that you have to offer. Other than picking my alma mater and picking against our evil, snooty rival, I am open to pretty much anything.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Beach Bums

So, I had possibly the best idea ever while chatting with Ally the other day. In anticipation of going back to school in the fall, why don't I just quit my job in May (instead of August) and spend the whole summer at the beach with Munchkin? Maybe I could get a job in the same place and be her boss:-P

OK, so that presents some issues...most notably that the world of leveraged finance pays better than the world of operating a fryolator, and that three month drop in income could be an issue. Not to mention that I am not committed to going back just yet anyway.

Which is too bad, because that would pretty much rule. We'd be just about the cutest pair of beach bums you have ever seen;-). I'd even go back to being a blond and let me hair get super sun bleached...and think of all the ice cream!!! Anyway, not real practical, but a girl can dream, can't she?

This gets me to an interesting point. I had a conversation with one of the partners here yesterday. He is about 60, and getting close to retiring. I asked him when the natural desire to take a summer vacation goes away.

He said "I dunno...maybe when you retire? I will let you know."

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

On the first day of my Presidency, I will...

Short post today...busy.

I think I have hypothesized that certain holidays should never fall mid-week...and I would like to re-iterate that. July 4th? New Year's Eve? St. Patrick's Day? They should be allowed to move around the calendar a little bit. New Year's and July 4th should be banned from Wednesdays, and should be encouraged for Tuesdays and Thursdays since it makes for a really nice four day weekend. St. Patrick's Day, which is not cool enough to get a day off from work, should only be allowed on Friday or Saturday.

When I am President...you can count on this being made into law.

Props to Nilsa for pointing out that dying the Chicago river green is kind of unnecessary. I am pretty sure that it is still flammable... But I still kinda miss it:-)

And have I mentioned that I am going on vacation again next week? Children provide one heck of an excuse to take vacations during their school breaks...although I will fight the urge to take another one for Tinkerbelle's April vacation;-).

Three days and counting...

Monday, March 16, 2009

Still on working

No real news on Munchkin's job front, although we did talk about it quite a bit over the weekend. Truth be told, I am a little stumped on this one, and I am not sure how I am going to work it out.

She really, really wants to live at the beach and get a job. And I don't blame her one bit! Her friends here tend to go away during the summers, so there are fewer people for her to hang out with. She has loads of friends at the beach that she would love to be around all the time, and it is just a more fun place to be in the summer.

I would feel much less comfortable about her having a job around here. I don't really know what she could do, and I don't like the idea of her taking the T somewhere or having to get herself some place 3-4 days a week. She could babysit, but I don't think she likes that idea as much as working with other kids her age. Plus, if she is at work for 3 hours a day, there is a lot less for her to do with the other time than there would be at the beach.

So, I feel like I should do everything I can to make it work. Basically, she wants to be at the beach, and I want to figure out a way to make that possible...I owe her that much. But I can't just leave her there on Memorial Day, see her every weekend, and bring her home on Labor Day. As great a kid as she is, she is way too young to have that much autonomy.

It is not really a safety issue: there is almost always someone in the house (Smoking Hot Roommate's aunts, uncles and cousins, etc). On the rare days that there was no one there, she could stay at a friend's house. My concern is that, while she knows all of those people, I don't feel like it is fair to sort of pass off parenting to a whole mess of random people all summer.

As a rule, I am not terribly comfortable with her being there for a couple of days at a time without me, Smoking Hot Roommate, Big Sis or Papa Bear. They count as parents;-) And as I ask everyone about their tentative summer plans, there seem to be at least like 6 weeks where none of us would be there.

So...you can see my pickle. She is better off at the beach. She wants to be at the beach. But I have to figure out a way to get her there...

Anyone want a summer-long babysitting gig? It doesn't actually pay...but you get to hang out on the beach all summer...

Friday, March 13, 2009

Earning her keep

Chicken fingers last night were awesome. Two of my girlfriends met us, and I hadn't seen them in a bit, so it was really fun to catch up. There were actually a few things that they needed to fill me in on that were not Munchkin-appropriate, so I got the last 10% of the conversation this morning by email. Oh, the things that men do...hee hee.

No huge weekend plans. The Boy and I are planning on going on an early St. Patrick's Day bar crawl, but that could very easily get cancelled (or at least cut short). Hard to imagine it not turning into a complete shit show, and I am not sure how I feel about losing Sunday to a hangover. Munchkin is going to be at a friend's house, which really doesn't effect the decision (on one hand, it is the chance to be off the leash for a night; on the other hand, it is the chance to be alone at home all night...)

I guess we will see how it goes.

OK...I leave you this week with a discussion topic. Munchkin says that she wants to get a job this summer. Overall, I think it is a great idea, and I am happy that she wants the responsibility and the independence. She will be 14, which is old enough to work in Massachusetts, and I think it would be good for her.

It's not like we are talking about 14 hours a day in a coal mine, either (although 14 year olds are allowed to work 40 hours a week when school is out...surprising). It will most likely be 3-4 days a week, for a total of maybe 15 hours or so, max. Plenty of time to learn about taxes;-)

There is an issue, though. For a couple of reasons, she would most likely work at the beach and spend the whole summer down there. I think she is more likely to find a job she that she likes (and that is good for her) in a seasonal place, and she will most likely need to work on weekends when wherever she is working will probably be busier. So, a job around here that would require me to leave her in Boston on weekends is a no-go.

The issue then is that, if she has a 3-4 day a week job, she would have to pretty much stay down there all summer. I have left her there for weeks at a time before, but the idea of only seeing her on weekends for the whole summer is a little disconcerting. She won't really be alone...there is almost always some family member or another down there (or I could make sure that someone was), and she has enough friends down there that she could stay with their families on the odd nights that no one was around.

But it still seems like kind of a lot... Thoughts?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Boys at Work

I don't really write about my work friends very much. I am not sure why, since I spend an inordinate amount of time with them, and they are generally very entertaining. For some reason, I just never seem to spend much time on them.

You know about Boss Foxy, and of course Big Sis. And you met Admin briefly a while back. And the one guy that hates me. But most of my interactions at work are usually with the VP's and Principals that I do the most work for.

First thing, they are all guys. Other than Big Sis, Boss Foxy and one associate, the other 20+ people on the Investment team are guys. Papa Bear has made it a key long-term objective to change that, but it is a really slow process, and it just isn't an industry that tends to encourage female leadership. We also haven't really added new people in a while, so it is hard to change the makeup with no turnover.

Second, they are kinda out of control:-). In a totally cute way...but they all have a little bit of the alpha-Investment Banker in them. That requires them to do everything at 200 miles an hour in the most competitive way possible. They can't just go out for dinner, it has to be 24 oz. steaks and endless glasses of scotch. They can't just play golf, it has to be for 10 different wagers on every hole.

Third, they love me:-). They get a little weirded out that I am sort of the boss' daughter (and they were always super intimidated of Smoking Hot Roommate, and were not always enthusiastic about her hanging out with us) but I think they always appreciated that I met lots of girls for them whenever we were out...lol. One of them is married to a girl that he met because I made friends with her in The Place almost five years ago.

I used to go out with them much more often, and I sort of miss it. Before Munchkin showed up, we probably went out once a week...usually until some god-awful hour of the morning. There were a few occasions where we ended up at Foxwoods for no apparent reason and with little hope of getting any sleep before work the next day. I guess maybe I don't miss it that much;-)

I don't want to say that they are like big brothers, because that seems like kind of an overused phrase. Plus, I already lead the league in pretend siblings;-). But they did all feel the need to approve of The Boy before I was really "allowed" to date him... And they definitely look out for me. There was at least one fist fight on one of those casino trips because one of the randoms that we had accumulated over the course of the night made an inappropriate comment.

They also still buy me lunch almost every day (including miserable days like yesterday when they go out and bring it back for me:-D), and I never pay for anything when I go out with them. Which is only fair...they make way more money than me! In exchange, I help them with their girl troubles and meet girls for them (for the single ones), and pick out birthday and Christmas presents for their wives and girlfriends.

So, I am not real sure what to call them all...but I have loved working with them, and I am happy that I can call them all friends. Even if they are bad for my liver;-)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Is 27 Dresses attainable?

I got word yesterday that my taxes are done, and I am getting a nice refund. Whoo hoo! Surprisingly, this is actually kinda new for me...in years past I got much smaller (or no) refunds. We changed the way that I file this year, but I will spare you the details (unless you really, really care.)

So...kind of an open question to all of you...how many weddings have you been in? As a bridesmaid or groomsman or flower girl or whatever. And more importantly, what seems like a reasonable, normal number? I have been in four, and I feel like there are another 5-6 that I will likely be in at some point.

But I am seriously worried that Munchkin is going to set some kind of a record for this...

She was a flower girl in my cousins wedding. And a bridesmaid in her brother's, Smoking Hot Roommate's and Big Sis'. She is my maid of honor. And now her favorite teacher (and soccer and basketball coach and all-around buddy) has asked her if she would be in her wedding this summer. Not really as a bridesmaid, but she wants her to do a reading and to be part of the wedding party.

That would get her to six weddings...at age 14!!! She will definitely be in BFFg's wedding whenever she gets married, and at least a few more cousins...which could possibly get her to like 10 before she gets to college! I am not ruling out the possibility that she breaks the number set by Katherine Heigl (just about my least favorite actress, btw) in that asinine move last year.

This is ridiculous, right? I mean...I feel like most people are probably in like 4-6 weddings over the course of their life, right? Am I way off on this?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Work?!?!? WTF?

Can someone please explain to me why it is that work keeps getting in the way of me wasting time? I mean...c'mon, this is getting ridiculous? I thought we had a deal...you overpay me, and I look super cute in my suits every day. It really seemed like a win-win! I don't know why you had to go and ruin our arrangement like this...

Given the status of the labor market, I should stop complaining. That doesn't mean that I will, just that I should;-). OK, I will.

Guess what tomorrow is? Tinkerbelle's 10th birthday:-) Would you like to guess what I got her? I will give you a hint...it's a trip to Disneyworld:-P.

It is not lost on me that she is now just about the age that Munchkin was when she moved in with me (Munchkin was 10 years and a couple months). Fortunately, I don't see any set of circumstances in which I have to take this one in, too... So that's good;-). One teenager at a time, please.

It is amazing how different they are while still being sort of similar. They have the same temperament and the same kind of outlook on things, but they are really, really different. Honestly, though...the difference is in Munchkin. Tinkerbelle is a pretty normal girl of her age, and thinks and acts like most fourth graders do. Munchkin just works a little differently than other kids...and having the other little one to compare her to really makes me appreciate those differences.

OK, I am sort of rambling...and it has taken me like three hours to write this, which is a good sign that I should be concentrating more on the work that is distracting me;-).

Monday, March 09, 2009

There are few problems that an 80 minute massage can't solve

So......here is New England for you: Last Monday we got a foot of snow. Tuesday and Wednesday were bitterly cold (like 20's and windy). Thursday and Friday were pretty nice, Saturday was about 60 and very, very springlike. Sunday was similar; a little cooler and a breezy. Today is 32 and snowing. Later on, the forecast is promising "Icy". So in the last week we have had two snowstorms, and two days where people were out in shorts and flip flops (60 feels really, really warm at the end of winter.).

We are into the crazy time of year where temperatures can fluctuate anywhere within about a 50 degree band for a few months. Unfortunately, the standard is "cold and rainy" for the next month or so, which is pretty annoying...but you can all curse us during our lovely summer.

Anyway, the weekend was absolutely awesome "vacation" was just about the best idea I have had in a while. They offered in-room massages, but that actually kinda creeped me out a little bit, so we had them in the spa instead. 80 minutes, which was an absolute dream (he may have spent a couple of minutes snoring;-)) I felt like I had just had a bowl of Quaalude soup by the time it was done.

We wandered over to PF Chang's (all of this is within a block or two) and had a pretty light dinner...at least as light as you can have at a Chinese restaurant (really just some munchies: dumplings and chicken lettuce wraps). Then we got some stuff at Finale to bring back to the room.

I think we were back by about 7:30 and just spent the rest of the night hanging out in bed and in the tub. We ate chocolate, drank some wine and just enjoyed each other's company. Topics of conversation shall remain private, although at some point soon I have to write a couple of very, very long posts explaining some things.

He may have also...um..."conducted a thorough study of my body art"...

Then we slept in our giant, incredibly comfortable bed, woke up to some more spine-rocking sex, and went back to the spa for breakfast and facials. I managed to convince him that his manhood is not in jeopardy if he got a facial (hee, hee...and no, I did not have to resort to "if you get a facial, you can give me one";-)...that's gross, get your mind out of the gutter!). And then we packed up for the long trip home:-P.

All in all, it was a really nice way to spend a day, and I highly recommend the concept if you feel like getting away without going anywhere!

Special bonus points to anyone who knows the archives well enough to figure out what Sportscenter story got me all excited last night, too:-)

Friday, March 06, 2009


I'll lay off the heavy stuff today because it is Friday and I am in a lighter mood. Chicken fingers last night:-) Just me and Munchkin, and she had some things that she needed to talk through. Nothing at all serious, just some basic seventh-grade social stuff that she has totally under control but needed to say out loud to confirm that.

Short version...the boys at school are getting antsy because she won't "date" any of them, on account of the French boy. I use the quotation marks because they don't actually go out on dates, they just sort of announce that they are "going out" and that is pretty much it. There is a party next week that qualifies as a major social event, and there is one boy that really wants her to go with him, and her friends want her to go with someone, and well...I won't bore you. She's got it under control.

Kind of a fun weekend planned...I am taking The Boy on vacation without going more than a couple blocks from home. As I have sort of passed over here, he has had some shit going on lately, and he is in desperate need of some time to unwind a bit. We are going on vacation in a couple of weeks, but that will be with Munchkin and the whole gang, so I wanted to try and get some time just for the two of us.

As such, we are checking into a hotel for the night tomorrow to pretend that we are on vacation:-) And yes, the hotel is basically on the other side of Boston Common from our apartment. Between the two of us, we have a bunch of points accumulated and some of them are set to expire pretty soon. It seemed like a good idea to cash them in before we lose them, and to take advantage of one of the posher downtown hotels. I have hour-long massages scheduled for tomorrow afternoon, and a tentative plan for facials on Sunday morning (he may need some talking into on that).

Beyond that, there is no agenda at all. We may stay in bed all day, or we may hang out at the pool, or the sauna...whatever he feels like. I just want to give him some time to relax and be pampered a bit. And no, this is not just a cheap excuse for me to artificially generate some hotel sex (although, if that is not on his agenda, I may pout):-P

And that, my friends, is about it for today. I hope everyone has a nice weekend:-)

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

So what will work?

Nilsa raised a legitimate beef yesterday...that I had a lot of criticism and not much in the way of solutions. Here, then, since she asked;-), is a four point plan Economic plan for President Obama.

1) Drastically reduce this most recent stimulus! I know that there is a large feeling that government should be "doing something", but sometimes the best thing to do is very little. This stimulus is really very similar to the one that Bush rolled out last spring...which didn't work in exactly the same way that this one won't. Stop trying to save bad institutions...their shareholders shouldn't be bailed out...just take over Citibank and whoever else can't function, break them up and sell them off in an orderly fashion. But don't just start splashing money all over the place in hopes that it will "prime the pump" or "jump start the economy". It won't. Obama was fond of chiding the opposition to this bill by saying "The American people want action." That is not really true...the people want results, not necessarily action.

2) Fix the financial regulatory infrastructure. Let's remember what the real problem is here...failure of financial markets. Government CAN address that. Once banks are healthy again, let's try to prevent this from happening again. The financial regulatory matrix is totally broken...there are too many regulators and too much wasted energy and not enough oversight that works. Tear it up, and rebuild it for our current environment. And while you are at it...we need to change our anti-trust ideas, too. Forget about monopolies...if a company is "too big to fail" then it is simply too big, period. Capitalism without failure is like Christianity without hell, and we need to be able to let the losers fail.

3) Fix the budget. The governments income statement is so bad it is hard to believe that it is real. Total revenues of $2-2.5 trillion, and total outlays (not even counting the stimulus) of $3.25 or so. Imagine that you make $50,000 a year. Now imagine that you spend $65,000 a year, and borrow the extra $15,000. Every single year. And there you have our Government. In the long run, the economy can not be strong if the Government's finances are that weak. And there are only two ways to do this...raise taxes or cut spending. Yes, it's painful, but there is no easy way out of this.

Here is the best part...and I really, really want one of Obama's acolytes to defend this fact (which comes from the recently proposed budget, page 114): His current plan calls for deficits of at least $500 billion every year through 2018. And, he has NO INTENTION of shrinking the structural deficit, at all. In 2014-2018, he is planning on deficits of 570, 583, 637, 636, 634 and 712 BILLION dollars. This is his "new era of responsibility"?

4) Fix entitlements. See #3 up there? Now imagine that you have promised to spend $70,000 next year, $75,000 the year after and so forth. Now you really have our Government. There is no such thing as "fiscal responsibility" with a permanent re-structuring of the inflows and outflows of Social Security and Medicare. And again...there is no magic bullet: we either have to cut benefits or raise taxes.

We have to stop thinking about "The Government" as if it is not a collection of the people. Relieving personal debt in favor of Government debt doesn't help the Country. It benefits some individuals in the short-term, but it harms all taxpayers in the long-term.

Here is the thing...there is no quick solution to this. We are, as a nation, over-leveraged (i.e., too much debt). De-leveraging is a painful process, and while you can put the pain off, you can't make it go away, and in fact can only make it worse by postponing it. My problem with Obama's plan so far is that he is proposing that we fight over-leverage with even more leverage. It doesn't really require a PhD in Economics to see why that is a bad idea...

Now, a couple of people have said "Oh, but most economists think this is a good idea." First of all, there is absolutely nothing that "most" economists agree on. Ever hear the old expression...if you put two economists in a room, you get at least three opinions? You find three people that call themselves "economists" who love this idea, and I will find ten who hate it. But none of them will be able to cite an example of this type or program having the effect that this one is aiming for.

OK, this is already too long. Short version? There is no easy solution...we are going to have to suffer some pain to get through this, and while we can shift that pain around, we can not avoid it.

If you would really like, I could tell you about how Baby Boomers have ruined capitalism, imperiled democracy and why they are a scourge on Humanity...maybe tomorrow;-)

OK...have at me.

That "O"? It is the giant hole in the Federal Budget

OK...I wanna talk politics today. I threatened to do this several weeks ago, but never got around to it. And since I have little that I feel comfortable writing about today, you get my thoughts on what has happened since the election.

First of all...quick note, but I am pretty sure that the President violated some securities laws yesterday with his "Stocks are a great investment" speech. There are all sorts of rules about who can say things like that, and who you can say them to and how. Needless to say...unlicensed, unregistered advisers are generally not allowed to make blanket investment recommendations. Actually, no one is allowed to make that kind of recommendation...

Anyway...the "stimulus package". As you likely recall, I was sort of on the fence about Obama at election time. I voted for the other guy, but didn't feel real strongly about one over the other. By inauguration day, I was pretty excited for the new voice, the new ideas, and the new people...it was pretty hard to avoid all of the warm and fuzzy feelings floating around.

But it didn't take very long to remind me that, while I very much like Obama, I just don't like his policy ideas very much. And boy, is this one a doozy!!!

Let's recap: in addition to the $350 billion that George Bush had authorized but not spent yet, Obama had Congress approve an additional $787 billion stimulus, plus a growing number of other outlays that are growing towards another trillion dollars or so (his mortgage plan comes out today with more money in it). In total, by the time he is done, he will have spent about $2 trillion in "stimulus" money.

That is $2 trillion that we don't have, by the way...

My problems with this:
1) It won't work. The whole thing seems to be based on The New Deal, which was a wonderful means of restoring faith in government, and worked very well as a long-term investment in infrastructure, but was a complete failure as an economic "stimulus". Is Obama's next plan going to be war with Germany? Because that worked really well. Anyway, since he has established no means of measuring success or progress, we wouldn't know anyway.

2) It will actually make things worse. Obama is right about what got us into this problem: living above our means at the personal, business, municipal, state and federal level for way too long. So, his solution is to do the same thing for a while longer. He is simply shifting the burden from lower levels up to the federal level...but guess what? We have to pay for that, too!!! If you pay down one credit card by transferring the balance to another, you haven't improved your overall financial position!

3) Building on #2, it will slow the recovery. We have now established the precedent that bad companies and bad industries can line up at the government trough to get survival money. What does that accomplish? It perpetuates bad companies and bad industries. I understand that we need to save the banking industry to prevent complete societal meltdown. But that doesn't mean that we need to save management at Citibank and Bank of America. It doesn't even mean that we need to save those institutions...and it certainly doesn't mean that we need to save their shareholders! Why do Citi and B of A (among others) still have any shareholders equity? Since the government now holds all the risk and all of the responsibility for additional capital, why don't they own the whole thing? Or at least the market value of what they have put in.

And the auto industry...is there anyone...ANYONE...who sees any hope of saving the three US automakers in anything close to their current state? And further, why should we? Whether or not those three companies exist next year will have no bearing on the number of cars manufactured in America, sold in America or driven in America. They will just be made in Mississippi and Tennessee instead of Michigan.

4) Inflation...yay! You can not add $2 trillion dollars to the money supply and expect the currency to remain stable. In other words...take out 30 year mortgages while the money is still cheap; in four years when inflation is 7-10% annually, you will thank yourself.

5) Deficits. Obama is now projecting that, at no point during his first four years in office, will the deficit be as small as it was in any year of George Bush's administration. I think that W has a really good claim as the most fiscally irresponsible President that we have ever had, and Obama has basically announced that he plans to shatter that record. And, just for the record, you do not "inherit" a deficit...you make your own budget, big guy. The Buck Stops Here.

Anyway, that is me ranting...I have more, but that is enough for today.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Looking inwards

First, a note...how big a sap am I that the video for "1,2,3,4" by the Plain White Tees makes me cry? I have often acknowledged that I get emotional over stupid stuff sometimes, but this could be a new low for me. Maybe it is just the Chicago in it...

I am having kind of an introspective day today, and I am not really sure why. I think it might actually be the snow, which makes the city look absolutely stunning on a bright, sunny day like today (says the girl who doesn't have to drive on half-plowed streets;-)). When there is a lot of snow on the ground it absorbs sound, so everything is quieter and more peaceful. And that makes me thoughtful.

It makes me think about The Boy, whom I love so very dearly, and who is so perfectly and unfailingly good to me. I hope I can bring him the same happiness that he brings me everyday, but it makes me sad that there are things I can't help him with. You can't solve every problem with a hug, a really nice back rub, or breakfast in bed. Love, unfortunately, does NOT conquer all. I can be there as best as I know how, but there is a constant feeling of helplessness that wears on me.

It makes me think about my own future plans. Do I wanna go back to school? Do I wanna keep doing what I am doing? Do I wanna go in a totally different direction? I wish there was something that I felt passionately enough about that it made me willing to forego the obvious benefits of my current career.

It makes me long for summer...for Friday night drives to the beach and Saturday evening cocktails while the sun sets. I just feel like things get better in the summer.

It makes me think about my mother. About years I wish we could take back, and years I wish we could add on. But maybe it is better this way, I am not sure that I am really missing out on anything that was actually possible. Memories don't have to always reflect reality. Still, there are times I wish I could call her. Or some more idealized version of her.

It makes me think about how fortunate I am, and wish that my good fortune could be transferred to some other people. Not in the major life-changing sense, just that I wish I could get people out of their ruts sometimes.

And it makes me think about what is really important, and what gets more of my thoughts than it really should.

Anyway, I am rambling...but that is just what you are gonna get today;-)

Monday, March 02, 2009

I liked the weather yesterday morning much better...

Well ain't this a bitch...apparently I am being punished for enjoying the nice weather a little bit too much last week, because Mother Nature is bitch slapping us today. We were greeted by something like a foot of snow this morning, freshly fallen overnight. Quite the rude welcome back for me! Not for Munchkin, though...she gets the day off from school. Hopefully she will cook dinner:-D

So, vacation was awesome...just a really, really great time! I'm happy that I got to do that for Tinkerbelle...every kid should get to Disney World! Mostly, I am just really grateful that we got to spend the whole week together. It's really the little moments that end up becoming memorable...like, after we went to the store on Wednesday, we stopped for dinner at a random little pizza shop and split a small cheese pizza and an order of mozzarella sticks. And we giggled a lot:-) Obviously not the most significant event of the trip, but it is just a nice moment that I will always remember.

The weekend was great. Munchkin and Smoking Hot Roommate got to the house at about 5:00 on Thursday, just in time for dinner and sunset cocktails...(one minor design flaw...the house faces west, so the sun sets in front of the house, but the ocean is on the east...so you can't sit on the deck and watch the sun set over the ocean...wrong side of Florida!!! And yes, that was my biggest problem last week and you can call me out for my bitching all you want;-))

Beyond that, we pretty much hung out on the beach and wasted time! We did go for a boat ride on Saturday, which was pretty fun...the neighbor had a new boat so we joined them for an afternoon ride. I am not a huge boat person, but it was still pretty fun. Some other neighbors had a bunch of family down and had a huge cookout on the beach on Friday which we also dropped in on for a bit.

That was about it for the excitement, though...the rest of the time was spent sunning, eating, drinking and reading trashy magazines. Oh, I am seriously considering an all-out ban on Munchkin wearing a bikini until she is 21. At least if there are any teenage boys within 3 miles...

Back to the grind today, though...and there was a lot of work waiting for me. And I am in serious need of some Boy time (and I don't just mean that sexually!). I have a little mini-surprise planned for him next weekend, which is not terribly elaborate but should be a really good time. He needs a vacation very badly!!!

Speaking of that vacation...is it too early to talk about my next one? In three weeks...? Yea, I will keep that to myself for now:-) I don't wanna sounds tacky.