Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Musical Fences

When my neighbor told me that his next home improvement project was going to be pvc fence installation, I expected the white picket fences made out of plastic that they have now. It looks quaint enough. But if you've ever tried to run past with a stick hitting every slat, it just doesn't have that same satisfying sound as the white, wooden picket fences.

That was a few days ago. When I arrived home from work today, I wasn't expecting to be greeted by a series of PVC piping of various diameters poking up along the edges of his property. The way that he had them connected together at their tops made his entire property look like it had become protected by a bizarre plumbing arrangement. I have to say that it is very eye-catching. And when you run past his new fencing with a stick striking every pipe, it sounds a lot like a melodic tune from a Blue Man group CD.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Tell Me How Cold I Will Go ...

Ok. So the electric company has almost double my monthly bill this month. I'm not turning on the heat to my home yet as Autumn descends upon us. How cold it will have to be before I flip the switch? Read and tell me here...

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Through My Mind

When I made my debut into the 1959 world of burgeoning innovations, my mother put me in a monstrously huge pram and showed me the sites of her world. Yes, I know that, as a baby, everything seems disproportionately big and then shrinks as you grow older. (In fact, lately I've noticed this shrinkage has been getting worse -- my bank account, my hair, my attention span. I've gotten to where I'm afraid to look at myself naked.) But back when I was a baby, well, if my pram had had a motor, I'm quite confident I could have given NASCAR a run for their money.

Fortunately, I was born into a very inventive age. Six years later in 1965, Owen Maclaren put his engineering talents to work and developed the first umbrella type stroller. I didn't know anything about it until twenty years later when my (now former) wife convinced me that we had to have one -- she was pregnant. So, it was my beautiful baby daughter who got to ride in this evolved Maclaren stroller.

Her baby carriage was a technological marvel that would have made you think of the Transformers. Reaching into the depths of our car, I would whip out a cane that had wheels at the end. With a flick of the wrist and a few sounds of "Eenk Ank Ornk Onk", my cane magically transformed into a magnificent stroller capable of carrying an adorable baby, parental life-support in the form of a 50 pound diaper bag and several sacks of groceries. (The "Eenk Ank Ornk Onk" was my modified scream as I sometimes clumsily pinched my fingers in the metal frame during its transformation. Those words were much preferred to the earthier phrases that my innocent child gleefully parroted after my first painful outburst. I wonder what Optimus Prime says when he pinched himself while transforming?)

Oh well, those sweet days of buggy rides are now gone. Perhaps when I'm in my eighties, I'll return to a stroller fitting my age. Hopefully, you'll find me throttling downhill in an adult sized hamster ball in pursuit of the sound barrier ...

Saturday, October 18, 2008

McCain Roasts Obama ... Good time had by all

Even though I don't have cable or satellite, my friends keep me up to date on the best entertainment shows. And, thanks to YouTube, a friend sent me videos about John McCain's hilarious roast of Barock Obama at a charity dinner event. In case you missed it, here is the first part:

I put the second part here

Update On The New Owners

Back in March, I wrote about our new corporate masters taking over where I work. Back then, we refer to them as "liberators". Hopes were running high that all of our hard work would no longer be used solely to fill the bank accounts of the old owners. In fact, the new owners talk about rewards and bonuses. It felt good to go to work.

So here we are seven months later. There are fewer of us now and we're all working even harder to keep the business running. Aside from that, little has changed. Just new faces implementing even more discouraging work practices. I never expected employee morale to be lower than it was seven months ago. Yet we seem to have entered a second dismal basement that was attached to that first basement of employee despair.

Let me give you an example of what we're looking forward to at the moment. When Christmas rolls around this year, the plant will be closed and we will be unpaid for almost two weeks. It's going to be tough giving any one in corporate holiday card this year. I don't think there are any cards that say "Thanks for Ho, Ho, Ho'sing my Paycheck!" Or, "That lump was supposed to be in my children's stockings and not in my throat as I choked back the tears of trying to make ends meet."

There are probably very good explanations for what is going on at work. But no one in management is talking. More and more it seems to be about guys who own a business with workers as a necessary evil instead of a management team who are leading a group of motivated employees into rewarding ventures. Guess which one has a chance of being around years from now?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

One of Those Rare Days That I Can't Relive

On one breathtaking autumn day, I traded the stuffy confines of my house for the Presidential Mountain Range of New Hampshire. My living room became a carpet of off white, golden yellows, deepening reds and dark greens. My walls and ceiling were transforming as a sunset darkened the heavenly blues of the sky and brought forth brilliant streaks of orange and violet in the clouds. My entertainment system had become the orchestrated drama of a life-giving sun slowly reaching down to kiss the twilight of the horizon. I sat in the home theater seating of a majestic mountain side as the thunderous songs of birds and crickets and frogs crescendoed into sudden silence as the last arc of sunlight slipped behind the end of an adventurous day. It was a moment that you want to live repeatedly but can only hope that the fuzzy memories of your mind will let you relive that the unspeakable joy in your spirit always.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Big Boy Pants: Then and Now

Ah, the joys of aging as a guy. When we were little, getting to wear big boy pants meant that we had graduated from diapers. As our years cross the half-century mark, getting to wear big boy pants means that our waist has expanded beyond its youthful girth. Oh sure, we could slimmed-down. But nobody is making cheeseburger and beer diet pills. Think of all the money we would spend on those tasty treats. Sadly, the diet industry's loss is our gain... which explains our new big boy pants.

Friday, October 03, 2008

TED Spread said "I tried to warn you!"

Have you ever heard of the TED spread? No, it's nothing pornographic or a reference to one of Congressman Barney Frank's special friends. In the futures trading arena, you monitor the difference between the interest rate on US Treasuries contracts (T-bills) and the London Inter Bank Offered Rate (LIBOR). This gives you an idea of how risky credit is in the general economy. T-bills are the risk-free standard while LIBOR relates to the credit risk of lending to commercial banks. The difference between the two rates is known as the TED spread (T-bills + EuroDollar futures contract). The greater the difference, the greater the belief that bank loans have become a riskier undertaking.

The TED spread had historically fluctuated between 0.1% and 0.5%. In 2007, it jumped to almost 2%. Last week while Congressman Frank reported that they had no warning about the impending financial meltdown, TED skyrocketed over 3.5%. Apparently, Mr. Frank forgot his participation in 2003 and 2004 congressional hearings on impending crisis situations with Fannie Mae and the banking industry. His take back then? "Crisis, there's no crisis" as he fought Republican attempts to impose more regulations on Fannie Mae.

Anyway, as I promised, the TED spread is nothing pornographic. The obscenity lies with those politicians who purposely ignore or, worse yet, seek profit from misfortune that falls on the rest of us.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

In The End, I Saw The Rider On A Terrible Horse. His name was "Insurance Salesman"

So ... people are worried that banks are going to stop lending them the money that these same people put in banks in the first place. Or so the news constantly reminds us lately. On this scary but unsubstantiated tidbit of information, investors are selling their stocks to put the money under the mattress and in jars that will be buried in the backyard. The only investment vehicle that looks good for a change is whole life insurance. Apparently, all this doom-and-gloom, end-of-the-world news has caused the demand for life insurance quotes to skyrocket. Insurance salesmen (and women) have been moved from the ranks of the Maytag repairmen into people in demand. Maybe this is the sign of the end times. I imagine we can expect reports of frosty weather descending upon the netherworld any day now.