Sunday, December 20, 2009

Have you Hugged your Salesperson today?

If you are in any sort of corporate buying position - ie you have had a call with a salesperson this year then...

Do them and yourself and favor - If they are constantly contacting you over and over - then you have given them some sort of signal that there is a little window of hope that you will sign a contract.

Just answer their emails or call them back and tell them:

"NO, we wont be signing a contract before the end of the year and there is nothing - no discount, no plea, no promotion - that you can say or do that will change that".

Followed up with either:

"I did have some interest but the timing is off so call me next year in X time frame"

or

"Take me off your list, you persistent pest"

***See disclaimer

Most evil sales managers and bosses put in comp plans that force these poor salespeople to act like desperate children at the end of the year. Ignoring their calls and emails will just make them call you again and again and again and again until they have a definitive answer.

JUST SAY NO.

I KNOW there are annoying sales reps out there and they bother me as much as you cause they give me a bad name. This is a profession like any other and there are people who work hard and in earnest because they think they have something that can help people and, wow, they can make a good few bucks fixing someone's problem or helping someone's business too.

Anyway, here is my Christmas Poem to all those prospective buyers out there:

On the 12th day before year end my prospect gave to me….

12 reference requests from current clients

11 new requests for things we don’t offer

10 ignored phone calls

9 out of office email messages

8 cancelled phone calls

7 contract changes

6 more staff to buy in

5 “How about a dis-coooooount?”s

4 Can I have this in 30 days?

3 More hoops to jump thru

2 Questions I already answered

1 “CAN I PAY IN TWO THOUSAND AND TWEEEEELVE?”


***Disclaimer - there are a lot of pushy, poorly trained sales people out there. I know, I deal with them too. And many of them deserve the phone or door to be slammed on their faces. But be nice to the ones who have treated you with respect and have been persistent but not pestering and just let them know your position either way. If you keep ignoring them - any sales person worth their comp plan is still going to put you in the maybe column and continue to contact you until you just say NO.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Up in the Air

Go see this movie...Especially if:

1. You have been laid off (Its like a badge of honor these days?)

2. You travel a lot for work (I mean A LOT, not the annual trade show once a year)

3. You are female (George Clooney = 1 hr 49 minutes on a 30 x 70 foot screen, yum)

The movie is about a consultant (dreamy George Clooney) who is hired to travel around and “downsize” people. Part of the movie focuses on a new strategy for firing people - over web conferences vs. in person.

I didn't quite rack up the miles Clooney’s character does in this move but I traveled at least once if not twice a week for the better part of 4 years for work. I became a whore for loyalty points at hotels and have reaped the benefits of lots of free vacations. I am such a sucker for the contrived loyalty they talk about in the film (What?! A chocolate bar on my pillow and free bottled water! Sure, I’ll drive an extra 25 miles to stay at a Westin!) I actually recognized and/or stayed in at least 2 hotels in that movie. I hope to never travel that much again unless it is by the private jet of my sugar-daddy.

Anyway, there is a scene where they are firing a middle aged guy and he is understandably distraught and upset and asks what he is going to tell his kids.

George Clooney looks at his resume and noticed that a long, long time ago the guy had majored in culinary arts but is some sort of mid-level office worker. Clooney is trying to explain to him that now that he was downsized he had an opportunity to go do what he always wanted to do with his life. He asks the guy a great question:

"What did the first pay you to give up on your dream?"

On the even of my move, forced upon me by the economy, where I have to rent my own home to strangers while I shack up in an apartment - this question really got to me. I cringed as I remembered that wide-eyed idealistic little 21 year old who sold out to the man for a similar salary in 1998.

That scene made me realize that I have had a gnawing sense of failure about this whole move. I mean, 11.5 years ago I graduated from college and came to DC to go do something B-I-G. It’s been so long I don’t even know what hat something is anymore but it’s certainly not close to anything I have been doing for the last few years.

I came here to change the world but 11 years late the world changed me. And I am not sure it was for the better.

I earn a living. I may even have passed on much of a social life for a few years to earn an even better living. I’ve been good at all my jobs – varied as they have been. I work for a great company with a friend who threw out a life boat to me when, as they say in the movie - my old company put me on boat, took me out, pushed me off and let me swim for my life (paraphrased).

So I sit here in my little condo I was so proud to have bought myself 3 years ago and go thru my stuff as I pack and toss out the old box of business cards that had that lofty VP title on them.

As I get ready to start over in a new place, I’m surrounded by moving boxes. I’m getting ready for the move with a little bit of hope, a lot of uncertainty, and a dash of fear.

I’m trying to get through this major change - and resist the urge to build those boxes into a little fort and hide away and never come out...

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Artificial intelligence is so smart

I just got one of those fancy new Verizon Droid phones which is supposed to be a knock off of the iPhone.


For the first few days I could check my Facebook, send emails, use the GPS feature to find out where I was, play a cool golf game, and check out the stars above me with a Google app that maps out the night sky. Pretty cool. Too bad I was unable to make actual phone calls. I finally had to bring it to the store to get fixed. Remember the phones that were connected to the wall and just called people?

Anyway....

The new phone has nifty auto-correct feature when you type out messages that guesses what word you are trying to type and fills it in for you to save you keystrokes.

I must not speak Droid because it never seems to get my words right.

Case in point:

I was sending a text message to my 13 year old nephew to ask his shirt size for his Christmas gift.

My original message was:

"What is your t-shirt size - Aunt Melina"

It came out as:

"What is your re-birth size - Aunt Melons"

Fantastic.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Do Something

I was reading an article about the Fort Hood shootings today and this line made me pause:

"Other unarmed soldiers in the area also began to sprint toward the gunfire."

Most people would run away.

I am always humbled and awed by the bravery of our volunteer soldiers.

As Veteran's day comes up this week, do something-

Donate to a Wounded Warrior Charity, sign up to send a care package to a solider, go up to someone in uniform and say "Thank You", just do something to show these men and women some appreciation.

Here are some ideas:

http://www.soldiersangels.com/ - adopt a soldier and send a care package once a month. You can do this for less around $20 to $25 a package including postage. 1900 soldiers need adopting!

http://remind.org/ - The Bob Woodruff Foundation provides resources and support to service members, veterans and their families to successfully reintegrate into their communities so they may thrive physically, psychologically, socially and economically.

http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org/

http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=content.view&cpid=531 - A listing of other charities that help the troops

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Why I voted for a Democrat

At this point, I just wanted some mechanism to serve as a protest vote against the President and his perfect position of being able to pin everything that goes wrong on the last President yet take credit for anything that goes well (which is what exactly?). And this election provided that chance to me - I pretty much would have voted for anyone with an R next to their name - with one exception...

I did vote for Democrat David Englin for my State Delegate.

While I may not be in 100% support of his more progressive agenda - he is a great example of what our elected representatives are supposed to be - committed to their constituents. Though since he is a Southern Democrat and I am a Northern Republican we actually do agree on a lot of things.

His office made me feel like I was his biggest campaign donor, supporter, and volunteer even when I didn’t even vote for him or give him a penny.

See, I had a little issue with the State of VA - they mistakenly suspended my license.

I was under a time constraint because I was flying to Canada for work and needed my license to rent a car that night. I couldn’t get thru to the DMV in time and so I figured I’d call my elected representative and whine.

I called Englin’s Arlington, VA office at 9:30am. An assistant answered. I explained the situation and how this was affecting my ability to do my job. I hung up pretty much expecting nothing to happen.

I was driving to the airport still not sure what I was going to do when less than 90 minutes later I got this phone call:

"Hello, this is the Office of the VA State Commissioner of the DMV. I am his assistant. We got a call from Delegate Englin's office. Your problem has been cleared up - your license is no longer suspended. We are very sorry for the mix-up."

I almost crashed my car in disbelief. (Yes, I was driving with said suspended license...)

This is how local government is supposed to work. I live in the next neighborhood over from this guy. I could probably walk to his office.

See, when you get past all the inflammatory Glenn Becks and social conservative in the Republican Party you get to the core of what I truly think many Republicans believe but whose opinions are not covered by the media because “Federalism” and "States Rights" just aren't as interesting as big, fat, old white men screaming about guns, Bibles and gay marriage.

Here is the core of that belief - let's not grow a huge federal government and let’s leave more important issues to be decided and governed at the state and local level. I believe that’s what those smart guys who founded our country believed too. There has got to be a clearer line of what the Federal Government pokes its nosy, inefficient head into. And we are blurring that more than ever right now.

Obama and especially Reid, Pelosi and Frank scare me because they have put us on the path to a HUGE (well, Huge-er I mean) federal government intruding on almost all aspects of our daily lives. Once you put in these massive federal programs, you can never, ever, reverse them.

In the VA House of Delegates each Delegate represents 63,000 citizens. During the period that the current U.S. Constitution has been in effect, the number of citizens per US Congressional district has risen from an average of 33,000 in 1790 to almost 700,000 in 2008. I don't like being one of 700,000. I am pretty sure I couldn't just walk in and get an appointment with Senator Warner tomorrow if I tried.

So while I may not agree with Delegate Englin's entire agenda I do like how he treats his constituents. Technically, he works for me. And he showed he takes his constituents problems seriously, no matter what their party affiliation or voting or donor record is. And that’s why he got my vote.

And that's why state and local government works better than an out of touch Federal government sitting atop a hill in a swamp many miles removed from the people it's supposed to serve.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Ahh Memories

I took my car to get inspected today. (You are thinking - "What a boring post..." Remember this is ME...)

My sticker expires tomorrow so I am down to the wire. I had a momentary freak out when I remember last year’s inspection debacle.

Scene: Crisp October Morning, leaves falling lazily to the ground, smell of fall in the air.

Image of me at that exact moment - What a perfect day!


I walk out to my car. Where is my car? Hmm, lemme stroll around the parking lots to look...Still no car...A neighbor sees me standing there with my keys dangling and a confused look on my face and says "They were towing last night." Yea, well thanks, but I live here and have a resident sticker so why would they tow me?

I am about to call the police to report my car stolen but I decide to call the Condo Association (which resides somewhere in Dante’s 9th Circle of Hell)

"Um, my car is gone and I heard y'all were towing last night"

Evil Secretary - "Yes we towed all cars with an expired inspection sticker."

Image of what I felt like at that exact moment -

After much swearing in my head and asking "You mean to tell me I can’t park my own car in my own condo lot where pay you a condo fee of $250 a month to keep my car safe and happy without the threat of being towed!?"

Oh, before I go on I should explain why I was walking out to my car - I WAS TAKING IT TO BE INSPECTED! It was supposed to be inspected the prior week while I was getting some repairs (I ran over a boulder that fell off a landscaping truck in front of me on the highway and my wheels came out looking like PacMan - it never ends for me) but the mechanic forgot to do it so I was scheduled to bring it back that day.

Yes, I really did get my car towed for not being inspected the day I was bringing it to be inspected.

Anyway, once I calmed myself and convinced myself that calling the cops to report my car stolen wasn’t the right recourse nor would throwing rocks thru the Condo Association office window do much to get my car back, I sighed and went to sign posted outside the condo lot and called the tow truck number. Yes, they had my car. They are in fact legally allowed to enter private association property and tow your car if your stickers are expired.

Having been towed when first I moved in as a "Welcome to the Association" gesture (I misunderstood the confusing treasure map they gave me of where I was allowed to park when I first moved in), I knew where to go. I called a cab and paid my $20 and got out.

I approached the doorway and saw broken glass everywhere (is that a bullet hole?). I opened the unlocked door and the tow office was deserted...I went running after the cab driver but he was gone and this was in a scary warehouse area with not another visible soul anywhere.

I called the number on the scrawled sign that said they had moved and was told to walk down a deserted old highway for a mile and a half to get to the new location.

The new location was a little fenced in lot with a guy sitting in a tow truck. No office even. I didn’t see my car...Er? I ask the friendly, I mean surly, driver where my car is and he told me they didn’t have it...BUT I JUST CALLED YOU AND YOU SAID YOU HAD IT! I realized that this man surely had a weapon under the seat so I just backed away a tried to hitchhike a ride back to civilization from an elderly couple that had just picked up their car. They said no.

I called the condo association with a few choice words and was informed that they had changed tow truck companies. So the number on the sign in the lot that I had called was correct but it was different company and location from the one I went to last year. I suppose I should have asked for the address when I had initially called but since I had visited that same location at least twice in the last year, I just assumed it would be at the same place. (I also managed to get a friend's car towed by not understanding the archaic parking rules - a spot that doesn’t say reserved is, in fact, under our condo rules reserved, dummy.)

Since the old people thought I would kidnap them and refused me a ride (love thy neighbor? not in DC) I now have to walk back down the deserted old highway for about 45 minutes to get to the metro and then walk another mile and a half to the other tow truck place across town.

Me at this point:


I get there, slam $100 on the counter and get my little Chevy back.

The next day I noticed the Condo Association office sent all owners a flyer that read "Residents please note that a new Tow Truck company was hired 6 months ago". Thanks.

So that is why I got my car inspected today - one day before the deadline...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Hello US Airways Customer Service, how may I hurt you today?

This Thanksgiving I only need a one way ticket home because I will be traveling on to the old corporate HQ in Cincinnati the following week.

I decided to avoid traveling on “Amateur Days” at the airport on the Wednesday and Sunday of Thanksgiving week ("What do you MEEEEAN I have to take off my shoes and put my toiletries in a baggie?") I'd fly in early in the week and leave on Monday to cut down on unnecessary flying and also maximize the motherly smothering and feeding time.

One Way Flight - DCA to SYR = $564!!!!
(Not even on Wednesday this was for Monday or Tuesday)

Hmmm.
Round Trip Flight DCA to SYR = $100 each way or $200 total

Sucker and glutton for punishment that I am...I just HAD to call US Airways and ask a pitiful and futile "Why?"

"Hello US Airways Customer Service, how may I help you?"

I explain the situation

USACS: "Hem, Haw, um, er, well that’s just how it works. I can book the ticket for you for a $25 charge."

She who just can't let it go (me) "Well, I don't get it, the same exact seat is either $100 or $564 right?"

USACS: "Yes."

SWJCLIG: "Well, I am just gonna buy the roundtrip ticket and not use the return seat."

USACS " Ok, would you like me to book it for the $25 fee?"

SWJCLIG counts to 10 so as not say something that would be used in a future airline customer service training session in the “Dealing with Wackjobs" session.

SWJCLIG: "Um, nooo, but you will have sold a seat that is technically worth $564 to me for $100 and I am not going to use it so you could just sell me the one way ticket and leave that seat open and someone else (obviously a moron) might buy it for $564 so you end up making more for the company!"

USACS: "It doesn’t work that way." And she actually giggled.

SWJCLIG sputtering: "It makes no sense, don’t you want to attempt to try to be profitab...oh forget it..."

Click.

US Airways lost almost TWO BILLION dollars in 2008. Sigh.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Paging the American President? Where are you?

To understand why Obama received the Nobel Peace prize you have to understand the differences between Europe and the USA when it comes to war, peace and government

Europe had two brutal wars in two generations fought on their soil - they were under siege in their cities, millions were killed in their countryside. After the destruction and violence of WWI, the orphaned sons of the millions who died in that war went off to die in WWII. Peace is not some abstract ideal to Europeans.

This is very different from the American perspective during those two wars - we flew our troops over, did what was needed and got out when we were done. There was more bravado to it versus the desperation in Europe. Beyond Pearl Harbor our cities weren’t attacked and devastated by these two wars.

When it comes to the role of government, Europe subscribes in the power of institutions, not that of the individual. Walk down the street in Geneva or Brussels and you will see an alphabet soup of international institutions designed mostly to keep the peace and harmony and avoid another world conflict fought in the European countryside.

Here are some examples – Council of Europe, European Court of Human Rights, European Directorate for the Quality of Medicines, European Audiovisual Observatory, Eurocorps , The European Parliament , European Ombudsman of the European Union. Those 8 organizations are just the ones located in one city - Strasburg, France. I didn’t go thru Geneva, Oslo, Paris, Rome, etc…

In contrast, the US was founded by people who said "I don’t need some institution (King) to tell me what I can do, we are out of here, buhbye!". For the next few hundred years, when people found themselves oppressed or without work, they got on a boat, plane, or hidden path thru the dessert to come live here because they weren’t the kinds people who meekly accepted their fates. Built from this individualism and action – we evolved into a very different country and culture from Europe.

(If you don’t believe me, then go to Italy or France or Spain and ask one of the 25 year olds sitting in a cafĂ© during the middle of the day without a job what its like to still live at home and spend the last 7 years looking for a job. I spent 2 weeks in a small village in Italy with my relatives last summer – I was struck by the complete utter lack of desire or will to even attempt to better oneself by all the young people. Why bother? – the government checks come and its enough to eat, pay for a car, buy clothes and even go on some vacations – what’s better than this? Who needs a job and an education?)

Europe didn’t understand why we went to war twice after Sept 11th. It is not European to go on the offensive. They would have had meetings in Geneva and Oslo and Paris and talked about sanctions and decrees etc...(It didn’t seem to bother Europe very much when we mobilized our soldiers to France and Germany in 1917 and 1941 without too much debate.)

This is why a European Institution gave Obama the Nobel Peace Prize - because he acts like a European and Europe wants to reward and encourage this behavior. He gives flowery speeches and speaks of ideals but hasn’t followed-up with decisive action. I am sure France will give him citizenship in a few years if he asked nicely and he can go be the President of Europe if he wants to. He is much more suited for that job.

The problem is - if our leader is going to act European and we are going to become more like Europe with more government and more talk than action – well, then who is going to play the part of the US and be the decisive leader who will go on the offensive to make things right next time the world needs fixing?

Er, did I say next time? I mean NOW – send more troops to Afghanistan, Mr. Peace Prize, our soldiers are in far more danger from the fact we don’t go to war at 100% anymore for political reasons than from the Taliban. War is bad and peace is good but when you are already in a war the point is to work towards an honorable end that leaves our country and the country we invaded better off, and not do it halfway. It’s not popular, but its what an American leader would do.


(yes, I'm aware some of this post was based on broad generalizations about our cross-Atlantic neighbors, but its my blog, start your own if you don't like it)

(*your hero, the author, was an idealistic 19-year old college student studying in Europe and visited most of these institutions – the highlight being having a martini in the NATO headquarters officer’s club)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Please Exercise Regularly !

That was the kindly message printed at the bottom of my Sbarro receipt.

I am fast-food free in 2009 but my airport choices were limited to to McDonald's (ew) and one of those chinese buffets (double ew) so I went with a slice of cheese pizza and told myself I could still hold myself to my no-fast food in 2009 pledge since I didn't go for the mystery meat General Tso or the combo meal #4.

All the fast food chains' half-assed attempts at nutrition and health and trying to look like they are contributing to helping us halve our asses are just silly.

I checked out Sbarro's nutrition info since they seemed to care so much about my well-being. I clicked the nutrition tab and got a "Page under Construction" message.

Hmm, after some more research I found out from a few other sites that the cheese slice at Sbarro contains:

460 Calories & 13 grams of Fat

That is about the same amount as:

KFC Fried Chicken - 1 piece (Kentucky Grilled Chicken? Good luck with that re-branding campaign)
Taco Bell Nacho Supreme
Big Mac (540 Calories)

(found at: http://www.livestrong.com/thedailyplate/)

and almost double the amount of fat and calories in any other pizza chains slices
(I checked here: http://www.dietbites.com/calories/calories-in-pizza.html).

What the heck do they put in their pizza? Lard?

Hmmm, so thanks so much for the tip to exercise regularly since you have the least healthy pizza offering on the market.

To burn off that one slice would require at least an hour of most activities from basketball to running etc. and TWO HOURS of moderately fast walking.

And I may or may not have had a second slice....eeeep.

I'm packing granola bars next time.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Thoughts

I remember being late for work that day and hearing on the radio that a plane crashed into the World Trade Center. I pulled into my parking spot at the office a little after 9am and was about to open the car when I heard the DJ say in a hollow voice...

"Oh my God"

"Another plane just crashed into the other tower"

I paused in confusion. What was happening? I rushed into the office. I told my boss what I had heard and he said he already knew that a plane had crashed. I told him it was two planes. He looked up at me, confused. What was happening? We bolted into the conference room to turn on the TV.

We watched the smoke coming out of both towers on the television. I remember how bright and blue the sky was that day.

Then the reports showed a smoke plume in the distance and skyline of DC. No one knew where it was coming from until a few minutes later when they realized the smoke was coming from the Pentagon. What was happening?

I ran to my desk and called my sister to tell her I was nowhere near the Pentagon and was safe. I sent a text message to one of my closest friends in DC who replied back that he was in a basement in a government building in DC and that everyone was scared.

Right after I made that call the phone lines were jammed. I remember feeling relief that I was able to make that call before that happened so my parents wouldn’t worry.

I went back into the conference room and stared at the TV in stunned silence.

Someone mentioned we were about 1 mile from the CIA headquarters. We didn't know what to do. We seemed to be very close to a potential target.

There were three of us left in the room watching Peter Jennings when the first tower fell. I asked my boss "Did that really just happen?" She looked at me and couldn't speak. We watched in silent disbelief. Then the second tower fell. We cried.

There were reports of another plane. Somewhere in the sky. Where was it going? The White House? The Capitol? I still pause for a second every time I see the Capitol dome and say a silent little prayer to the heroes on Flight 93. Who knows if it would still be standing if not for them?

I didn't know what to do with myself so I went back to my desk and stared at the wall. I couldn’t watch the towers fall again and again on the continuous loop they were showing on ABC.

I worked in McLean, VA but lived in Chevy Chase, MD. I would have to cross a bridge and two state lines to go home. The rumor was that no roads or bridges were open.

Around 5pm, I couldn’t take it anymore - what the hell was I doing in the office when the whole world just went mad? I wanted to go home.

I drove up the George Washington Parkway. At 5pm. Rush hour - this road is usually a parking lot. I was the only car on the road besides the VA State Police with their blue flashing lights. I drove slowly. It was eerie.

I approached the Key Bridge. There was a tank on the median. And soldiers in the street. With machine guns. I could see the Washington Monument in the distance across the Potomac. I remember thinking "There are soldiers with guns in the street in my country. In the United States of America. I am an American citizen being stopped at a bridge by soldiers before I am allowed to pass." What was happening?

They waved me across. I made it home.

I spent the evening watching the news, writing frantic emails and making calls to confirm that everyone I knew in NY and DC was ok.

I was thinking of all the firefighters. I confirmed Firefighter Rocco, my brother, was not in harms way here in VA. I remember the haunting sound of the firefighter rescue beacons that you could hear ringing on the TV. At the time, it was the sound of hope – they’d get those guys out.

- Number of firefighters and paramedics killed: 343
- Number of NYPD officers: 23
- Number of Port Authority police officers: 37

That night at about 3am - a car backfired loudly in the street right outside my window. It startled me awake and short circuited my nerves. I didn't stop shaking for hours.

With so many Colgate classmates in NYC, I breathed a guilt ridden sigh of relief when I confirmed that no one I knew was killed.

A few days later I received an email from Colgate that one of my classmates fell while hiking and died. Guilty relief was replaced by great sorrow. This can't be happening. Not now. Not now.

A couple days went by and I was driving down 395 South. I didn’t realize I would be that close to the Pentagon section that was hit. I stared in awe at the blackened and collapsed wall and could barely keep my car on the road. There it was - a few lanes of traffic and a parking lot away.

Friday - I wanted to go to the Memorial Service at the National Cathedral. But I couldn’t even bring myself to get out of bed until late afternoon. I just wanted to sleep for a very long time. And when I woke up maybe I would find out this was all a very bad nightmare.

Saturday, Sept 15th, we had planned a party way in advance to all hell breaking loose. We decided to still have the party. People needed to be together. It was the first day planes were authorized to fly again. Everyone paused what they were doing and stared up at the sky every time a plane flew over.

I went to a flag store earlier that day. They were sold out of flags. The shopkeeper went into the back and dusted off an old box and came out with a bunch of old 48 star flags. We bought him out.

One month later.

Columbus Day weekend. I took a trip to NY. To the site. It was still smoldering. And it smelled like an electrical fire. A tomb. And there were still soldiers in the street in my country. We sent the troops to fight the Taliban in Afghanistan that day.

2 months pass.

We didn’t get any mail for a few days. Anthrax. What was happening? Five people die. A few weeks go by and I came home to a huge pile of brittle and yellow tinted mail. This was the mail that was treated after it went thru the Brentwood processing station where 2 people died. Nobody wanted to touch it.

A few months pass.

Right after September 11th someone spray painted a flag on the big rectangular concrete sign on the Virginia side of the appropriately named "Francis Scott Key" Bridge. A few months later someone painted the words - "Support the Troops" - on the flag.

Time passed and I noticed one day that the sign was changed again. It said "Fuck the Troops" in big black block letters. I continued driving to class but I was troubled all day.

Later that day after class, I started walking from George Washington University up M street thru Georgetown towards the bridge where the sign was. I didn’t know why. It wasn’t on my way home. But I just felt like I needed to go see the sign because I couldn't get it out of my mind all day. On the way I passed an art store. I went in. I don’t remember making these decisions consciously - it just kind of happened that way – that there was an art supply store on the way to the bridge I don’t normally walk past that had a very bad message painted on it.

I bought 6 cans of spray paint - 2 red, 2 white, 2 blue.

I walked across the bridge – the same bridge where a few months ago a tank had its gun pointed at my car and where soldiers stood in the street with machine guns. And I started to paint over the black letters.

People started to honk and yell at me. I realized it looked like I was painting the words on the sign instead of cleaning it up. I got a little nervous since this was my first time at graffiti. I started to work faster. It is very hard to cover up hateful black paint with white and red stripes.

A police officer showed up.

"What are you doing?"

"I’m trying to fix it."

“WHAT. Are. You. Doing?"

"Uhh, I’m just trying to fix it."

I held out my palms - "Look at my hands."

He saw the paint - he saw the colors on my hands.

"If you want to arrest me - can you please wait until I am finished fixing it?"

He looked up from my hands, tipped his hat and said "Ma'am you have yourself a nice day" and got back into his cruiser and drove away.

It took a lot of coats but eventually I painted a nice Stars and Stripes in what was my first and last act of defacing public property. I think I even got the number of stripes right (13). Though I might have excluded a few states as I couldn’t fit 50 stars on my little spray painted flag as I have no sense of scale.

I remember feelng very helpless after September 11th. At the spot where I encountered a tank on my way home from work the day the world changed I had my own little public art therapy session.

Many thoughts and prayers today - for all of the families and victims.

On a typical weekday 50,000 people worked in the towers. The only sliver of comfort in the whole day is that thanks to the way we are in this country - because helping others and bravery are ingranined into us as Americans - it wasn't tens of thousands of lives lost as we all thought it might be that day. The evacuation amongst the chaos was almost orderly as thousands of people walked down flights of stairs. For the most part people who were in floors below the impact of the planes got out. It was the people in the planes, and above the impact floors and in the offices in the Pentagon that had no chance to evacuate who died - over 2,800 people. And the firefighters, police officers and EMTs.

My thoughts are focused on the brave rescue personnel – the ones who ran up into the burning towers while everyone else ran down.


PS: My flag was there for awhile before the county sandblasted it off eventually.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Ouch

In the hopes of decreasing my bodily softiness that has come with turning 30 every year for the last 3 years I signed up with a trainer. I know this wasn’t part of my lay off recession spending plan but because I can go during lunch and pay cash I got a really good deal on 6 sessions to jump start myself. Plus I have been so miserly all year that I felt it was time to reward myself.  I went to my first session with the trainer and deduced he was trained by the Gulag Academy for Personal Trainers located in Uzbekistan.

The trainer put me on a machine that was basically a mechanical ladder (no, not the mechanical stepper - it's actually a 7 foot tall, 45 degree angle mechanized ladder). Yes, I am paying someone by the hour to watch me climb a ladder - I used to get paid $7 an hour to climb a ladder to paint houses after I got back from walking to school uphill in a blizzard both ways.

Anyway, I also went to my second Yoga class ever. The last one being when I was still in my springier 20s.

Yoga should stand for:

Yea that hurts
Ouch
Groan
Agh!

…which were most of the sounds coming out of my mouth during the 60 minute session.

Luckily there isn’t an “F” in the word Yoga.

I tried valiantly to go from down dog, to cow, cobra, crane and the rest of the zoological poses while trying to breath at the right times (or pant). Then finally to my favorite pose - the corpse pose - where you lie on your back and rest.  I didn't quite get to the relaxing, spiritual part of Yoga as it was hard to let my mind go when I could hear my joints popping and ligaments snapping.

It hurts to sneeze.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Back to Lighthearted fun....

Ok, OKAY, I will stop with the political ranting. And go back to commenting on the ridiculousness of daily life.

I spent some time listing my condo for rent on a multiple sites (if someone wanted to make money they could start a service that lists rentals in more than one site at a time...ahem).

I decided to peruse the "Housing Wanted" section thinking maybe I'd find a suitable tenant.

What I found was a lot of people living in an alternate reality.

A composite of many ads:

"Looking for a 5bdr, 5 bath, gas stove, living room exactly 20'x 25', pale yellow paint, close to metro, walking distance to cool stuff, we have a 75 lb lovable pitbull who is almost house trained (he's a good boy!), smokers but just tobacco and pot, 2 year old triplets.

We are good people, just have some bad credit. Looking for a chance. Please don't call references, we are honest people.

Rent: Can only pay $800 a month or less.
God bless. "

Note for those of you not in DC you can pay almost $2000 for a 1 bdr near the metro that might be 900 sq feet. There is no such thing as cheap rent.

Ummm.....maybe I'll stay or sell...

Here are some actual ads for your reading pleasure....grammatical or spelling errors included:

"I have an unusual request. Im a just coming out and looking for a temp. room to rent, till my house is ready at the end of the year. Im in my forties, clean hardworking. Im also a nudist at heart and would like to have a place where i can be comfortable clothed or nude. Im a quiet easy going guy"

There was actually ANOTHER completely different ad for a nudist the day before...new DC trend? People can't afford clothes in a recession?

Next ad:
"Maybe, you'd like a LIVE-IN GUARD/CUSTODIAN or MANAGER for a property you have! Speak "passable" Spanish and have a chauffeur's license (with Security Clearance: CLEAR Driving, Police and Health Records included)! Prefer NO pets,and NO liquor stores, schools, houses of worship, etc. nearby because I LIKE QUIET and PRIVACY!"

#3
"Looking for a place to crash 2night possibility with a female.
hey 31 year old male construction worker looking for a room to rent in VA possibility with a female willing to do manual labor around the house the most money at this time i could pay is 400 monthly until i get a better paying job please contact me asap if interested i will be checking my email on every hour please no SPAM !! Drug FREE, Smoke FREE, i have no KIds, I have no PETS, I Do drink beer on the weekends occasionally"

I am confused - does he want to live with a female and he is willing to do manual labor or does he want to live with a female who has to be willing to be manual labor? Punctuation placement is such a vital and underutilized skill these days.

#4
"Ideally I'd love to be in contact with an individual looking to rent out a small area of there home. Someone that is nice that has a welcoming environment. Open communication is important as well, there isn't anything you can't communicate to me if we work together we can create a beautiful harmony built on honesty and respect."

I think people are confusing the personal ads with the housing ads. I don't need or want to like my tenant or have them like me - just pay my rent on time and don't trash my place. Honestly, I'd rent to the nudist if he'd cover my mortgage and promise to keep the blinds closed.

Speaking of the personal ads. There are some real winners there too:

"I am a fairly smart person and have collage under my belt"

"I recently won $20 in the DC lottery . We can order in some food, have some cocktails, my treat."

"I had to get this off of my chest ...I've been in dc for 3 years now and i run into nothing but big women who don't want to do nothing but eat or just chill."

I swear I did not make these up nor did I have to scour the ads to find these - they were all some of the most recently posted - sadly, these are typical.

If Craigslist is any indication of the quality of prospective tenants and men I am destined to stay single and live in this condo forever.

Oh my condo listing can be found here for people with good credit who want to live in harmony: http://shirlingtoncondo.weebly.com/

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Very Well Put

I didn't want to reference other full articles as much as I didn't want this to be a political blog but these desperate times when you can be called un-American when protesting the government by Liberals...(Didn't liberals invent marches and protests?)

Anyway, Paglia articulates my chief frustrations - Obama isn't acting like the leader you all thought (and I secretly hoped) he would be. The White House "Truth" websites, calling protesters "mobs" and accusing them of scare tactics, pitching a bill that isnt really a bill yet since there arre not details, etc...If the Right was doing this (and they did do it and they were called out for it) the media would be tripping over itself in glee and burning them at the stake...Oh wait, the right is still being burned at the stake by the media anyway...

http://www.salon.com/opinion/paglia/2009/08/12/town_halls/index.html
Obama's Healthcare Horror

Paglia grew up in Syracuse - so even though she loves Obama I like this article.

Best lines:
"Blaming obstructionist Republicans is nonsensical because Democrats control all three branches of government. It isn't conservative rumors or lies that are stopping healthcare legislation; it's the justifiable alarm of an electorate that has been cut out of the loop and is watching its representatives construct a tangled labyrinth for others but not for themselves. No, the airheads of Congress will keep their own plush healthcare plan -- it's the rest of us guinea pigs who will be thrown to the wolves."

"And what do Democrats stand for, if they are so ready to defame concerned citizens as the "mob" -- a word betraying a Marie Antoinette delusion of superiority to ordinary mortals. I thought my party was populist, attentive to the needs and wishes of those outside the power structure. And as a product of the 1960s, I thought the Democratic party was passionately committed to freedom of thought and speech."

"What was needed for reform was an in-depth analysis, buttressed by documentary evidence, of waste, fraud and profiteering in the healthcare, pharmaceutical and insurance industries. Instead what we've gotten is a series of facile, vulgar innuendos about how doctors conduct their practice, as if their primary motive is money."

Hello Pot - Meet Kettle...

I just can’t get over about the backlash against the people who are exercising their 1st amendment right at these health care forums.

Protests and debates seem to be spun in a much more positive light when it’s a liberal issue.

Protests greet Bush's first speech as ex-president
http://www.reuters.com/article/topNews/idUSTRE52G6PP20090317

“More than 100 protesters chanted "war criminal" and flung shoes in Calgary on Tuesday, angry that former U.S. President George W. Bush was in the Canadian city to give his first speech since leaving the White House.”

No backlash about this to be found anywhere in Al Gore’s Internet.

Oh, I see...THIS is a liberal protest so it’s ok. I get it. Because throwing shoes is nowhere near as bad as raising your voice in a town hall meeting.

You can’t suddenly demand more civility when you have acted in the same way the past.

Hello, Pot - Meet Kettle.

Though if you read this article – you can see the rhetoric is the same but the players are different.

Unions Protest Against Bush's Social Security Proposal
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/01/politics/01labor.html

“The protests are part of a huge effort that labor has mounted, packing congressmen's town meetings with union members, pressuring investment firms to stop backing Mr. Bush's proposal and collecting tens of thousands of signatures to denounce his call for personal Social Security investment accounts.”

WAIT – you mean to tell me those efforts were ORGANIZED by LABOR?

And now the health care efforts might be organized by BUSINESS?

The Horror!

Health care protests 'clearly being orchestrated,' senator says
http://www.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/08/09/health.care/index.html

“…This is clearly being orchestrated, and these folks have instructions. They come down from a Texas lobbyist in Washington." Sen. Durbin (D)

OF COURSE THEY ARE BEING ORHESTRATED – THIS IS HOW IT WORKS! For the LOVE OF….

Wow, I must be a moron to think that people just magically mobilized and showed up for town hall meetings without a leader?

C’mon people, you are smarter than this. Just because you want government to be all pure and idealistic doesn’t mean it really is. This is how our system works and why it has worked for 233 years. Both sides debate and we don’t go tearing off too far in one direction and we get something that works. Yes, this is coming from someone who wants our government to be teeny. It works sometimes when it’s done right.

It’s sad really. We should be happy that people are participating in the process rather than let 435 +1 (the President) bozos make decisions without our input.

It is increasingly arrogant and for the President and Congress to NOT encourage debates.

You can’t lead by idealism and warm and fuzzies – the people should demand details.

This President is fanning the divisions – by pitting insurance and Pharma* companies as the bad guys and having people come up and tell their one-off sob health care stories. And most importantly, he is fanning these divisions by not giving us ANY details on the actual plan. I've been online for HOURS and can't figure out anything beyond "More of the 15% of people without health insurance will get insurance, and the rich people are paying for it".

For every sob story, there are 1000 people who can say "Um, yea, I pay my premiums every month and when I go to the Doctor my insurance company pays for it and for my pills too...Well, I pay for some of it but not too much when you think about how much it really costs...Funny how that works..."

Are there some problems? Yes. Do we need to do something? Yes? Do we need to do everything and do it fast? No. Do we need to know the exact details on how this will be done, costs, etc...YES.

What is so wrong with that?

I hope the debates get louder until we get a solution that is viable and sustainable without unfairly putting the entire burden on hardworking people who happen to make more money than someone else.


*I also believe (and I am entitled to my opinion, don't yell at me, be civil! hahah) that Pharma companies are being unfairly demonized by people who do not understand how much time, risk and money it costs to discover a new drug.

More than $800 million and 10 years (found on Al Gore’s Internet).

It costs a lot of money to pay for people who are smart enough to do the research, do the research, do the trials, get FDA approval and go to market. I will concede they could spend less on advertising but other than that – the first pill costs $800 million – is it so wrong for a company to have assumed a 10 year almost $1billion risk to charge $400 for 30 days of pills? Most of you will say yes - but explain to me why?

And, generic drugs, which cost less, have a lower standard (set by the govt) of effectiveness. I don’t recall the actual numbers but there is a 10 or 15% swing in how less effective a generic can be compared to a brand name. I recently switched from a brand name ($250 a month to my insurance company and $60 a month for me) medication to a generic ($10 a month) and suffered from a lack of any actual effect and very bad side effects. I prefer the more expensive pill - and I should and will pay the difference. In all fairness, my insurance premiums should go up because I choose the more expensive treatment. I see nothing wrong with that.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Mob vs Rally

How come when Conservatives take to the streets to protest its called a "mob"?

(I'm offended as an Italian-American, smirk...)

"Democrats say Republicans staging town hall protests"
http://edition.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/08/05/town.halls/


"I have never had neighbors cut off with the Republican-organized mob-type conduct of last Saturday," Doggett told CNN in a statement.


...But when Liberals march and protest its called a "rally"?

"Hundreds in Chicago rally for health care reform"
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/chi-ap-il-healthcarerally-i,0,3996767.story


Actually I think its called the 1st amendment in either case. And debate is good.


Friday, July 24, 2009

Ho-ooold Meee Nowwww - I really want to tell you I'm Sorry...

Ok, boys - enough with the testosterone fest...act like grown-ups.

Charges Dropped, but Henry Louis Gates Seeks Apology
www.nytimes.com/2009/07/22/us/22gates.html

Officer at eye of storm says he won't apologize
http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2009/07/23/officer_at_eye_of_storm_says_he_wont_apologize/

Obama regrets remarks in racially charged case
“He did not say he had apologized to Crowley, but his words were regretful.”
http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20090724/ts_nm/us_obama_race_6

Here is some help since all three of you were absent from kindergarten the day they taught the lesson on saying sorry when you mess up…

http://www.perfectapology.com/ – “If you need to say "I'm sorry" but aren't sure how to start, then you've come to the right site!”

Officer Crowley - Just say you are sorry for putting an older man in a cane in cuffs when a stern lecture would have sufficed.

Professor Gates - Just say sorry for not respecting a simple police order and over-reacting to the people who were just doing their best trying to protect your property.

Mr. President - Please just say sorry for calling the police stupid.

If women were in charge this would've never happened.

First - A woman wouldn't have tried to break in - she would have whipped out her cell phone and called a locksmith. Then she would have gone over to a neighbors and they would have just hung out on the other lady's porch drinking a glass of wine while waiting for the locksmith.

Second - A female cop would just have let the alleged-burglar-turned-homeowner have their tantrum and let it pass since she is used to dealing with the same behavior from her two-year old.

Third - Even a female President wouldn't have spent so much time gabbing on the phone as President Obama. He is really racking up the minutes to the Cub's pitcher, the Professor and the Cop. Is he gonna start calling America's Got Talent winners too?

Can one headline that isn't a matter of domestic stability or national security pass without an official White House comment or phone call from the President? Can a month pass without a prime time news conference?

Everything isn't a crisis and every issue doesn't warrant a Presidential response.

The health care system is not going to collapse if our elected representatives head off to Martha's Vineyard for August Recess without passing a bill. Our system was built on a slow deliberative process with checks and balances and it's generally worked for 230+ years.

Remember the last President who ruled like everything was a crisis? We ended up with the Patriot Act, 2 wars and Guantanamo Bay.

“Obama is a perfect extension of Bush's worst trait as president. In the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the Bush administration pushed through the Patriot Act, a massive, transformative piece of legislation that plainly went unread even as Congress overwhelmingly voted aye. Bush whipped up an atmosphere of crisis every time he sensed a restive Congress or a dissatisfied electorate. And at the end of his tenure, he rammed through the TARP bailout at warp speed, arguing that the United States yet again faced catastrophe at the hands of an existential threat…Bush learned the hard way that running government as a perpetual crisis machine leads to bad policy and public fatigue. Obama's insistence on taking advantage of a crisis to push through every item on the progressive checklist right now is threatening to complete that cycle within his first year.” Matt Welch & Nick Gillespie Reason.com
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/17/AR2009071702093_pf.html

C’mon Mr. President - rise above - before everyone tunes you out. Or maybe you were also absent from kindergarten the day they read the story about Chicken Little and the sky falling?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Citizen's Letter Writing Campaign to Congress

I don’t care if you believe in the concept of government health care or not – the real point of this letter writing campaign is to slow down the process and make sure we are getting the best solution - not the fastest or most politically motivated one.

Average citizens like us are the ones who will pay with our wallets, jobs, and health. We do not have the resources of the big pharma companies, the hospital lobby, the unions, the doctors lobby etc. All we can do is mobilize - one letter at a time to make ourselves heard.

There is no way our representatives have read or have had any true debate about these 1000+ page health care bills they are rushing to pass.

Please join this letter writing campaign to ask your representatives in Washington to find a bi-partisan solution to this problem that will factor in the quality of care as well as the costs.


1.GO HERE TO FIND OUT WHO YOUR REPREENTATIVE AND SENATORS ARE ALONG WITH THEIR ADDRESS:
a.Senate - https://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm
b.House – https://writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml
2. CUT AND PASTE THE LETTER BELOW INTO WORD
3. CHOOSE THE APPROPRIATE GREETING (1. FOR SENATE, 2. FOR HOUSE) AND DELETE THE OTHER ONE.
4. FILL IN THE BOLD SECTIONS WITH YOUR REPRESENTATIVE AND SENATORS NAME AND ADDRESS AND YOUR NAME.
5. PRINT, SIGN, STAMP, MAIL TO YOUR REPRESENTATIVE AND BOTH US SENATORS FROM YOUR STATE
6. FORWARD TO EVERYONE WITH COMMON SENSE WHO WANTS TO MAKE SURE OUR CONGRESS MAKES A CAREFUL, THOUGHFUL AND INFORMED DECISION BASED ON WHATS RIGHT FOR THE PEOPLE AND NOT FOR THEIR NEXT CAMPAIGN



1. To Your Senators:
The Honorable (full name)
(Room #) (Name) Senate Office Building
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator (last name):

2. To Your Representative:
The Honorable (full name)
(Room #) (Name) House Office Building
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Representative (last name):



My name is (your name) and I am writing to ask you to thoughtfully review the health care bills before you. I am concerned at the speed to which this very complicated and serious legislation has raced through Congress.

Unlike most letters you get, this one is not to telling you how to vote.

This letter is request from a citizen to ask you to SLOW DOWN the process. I am concerned that 1000+ page bills are being rushed through committees without enough due diligence.

I am concerned about the cost of this plan based on the report from the Congressional Budget Office.

This Congress has only been in session since January - I can’t imagine all of the committees with jurisdiction over health care have had the time to hold hearings and invite doctors, patients, economists, insurance and pharma execs etc to testify to hear all sides and find a workable solution.

Health care is a very serious issue - please search for compromise and make sure that you have done homework on the details before voting for any bill that will affect the lives and livelihood of all Americans.

All I can ask of you, as my voice in Washington, is that you weigh the benefits against the costs and support a bill that makes sure we take care of the health of Americans in a way that doesn’t adversely affect the economy or imposes taxes on business and result in more lost jobs.

Please don’t let bi-partisanship or politics drive your decision. It’s just too important.

Sincerely,
YOUR NAME
Contact Info (Optional)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A Poem - Chirp Chirp

I will not Twitter, I will not Tweet
I don't think you all should care about my every feat
Like when I woke up, what I am wearing and what I will eat

I will not tell you what I doing at every moment
I just don't understand everyone's enjoyment
In hearing about their buddy's every bowel movement

No one should think themselves so important to humanity
That they need share everything through this technology
Remember the online world can't replace a real community

If you only want to hear from me in 140 characters or less
If you think that picking up the phone to call is useless
I can't agree, cause I don't think friendship should be so effortless

Hearing an old friend's voice would be much more sweet
Seeing you in person would be really neat
I will not Twitter, I will not Tweet

Monday, July 13, 2009

I guess I'll just get a 3rd job instead...


No anti-big government commentary. I am just going to outline my experience working with an Obama program as a cautionary tale. The only thing I wonder is "What if this was a serious medical issue and I had government health insurance?"

Since this a lay-off blog this is on topic. My income was cut in half with my new job. Yay. I have been dealing with it by cutting a lot of things. I can't cut my mortgage – WAIT! Obama to the rescue!

I found out, according to the guidelines, that I should easily qualify for the Homeowners Stability & Affordability Act loan modification program.

And for the record - No, nein, Non, Nai, or whatever language it’s still NO - I don’t see any contradiction in taking government money when its there...I just don’t think it should be there at all. But since it is - I want mine.

Technically if you have lost your job or lost income and your monthly mortgage payment is 31% or more of your gross monthly pay your lender and the guv'mint are supposed to modify your loan to get it down to 31%. Sounds simple. My loan is 40% of my new salary. Woohoo.

6/16/09 First call to the "hotline". 888-995- HOPE. (awww). I am asked repeatedly if I want a modification or a refi. “Um, I dunno, aren’t you supposed to figure that out for me, Mr. Hope Hotline guy?” It was obvious at this point they someone had just rented a few floors in a building, bought 10,000 phones and trained people to ask questions off a script. (I did confirm this later - its a 3rd party company that slapped a call center together after the big White House announcement)

He really had no clue. Finally, I just let him stick to the script and gave all of my financial info to Miguel. He said I’d get a letter in two weeks.

I was little put off by his cluelessness so I called Citibank directly and was transferred to a Refi guy who told me I didn’t qualify for anything and I needed to refinance immediately. It became obvious he makes commission off my refinance and not my modification. I said to him that according to the 31% rule, I qualify and it doesn’t make sense to refinance cause my payment actually goes up and I have to pay fees. I am now on this guy’s regular call list and he won't leave me alone after I told him repeatedly I will not refinance under any circumstances. He gives salespeople a bad name.

6.17.09 I decided to try again cause I was a little worried about what number I actually called the day before and who I just gave all my info to. I spoke to Linda, a very nice and optimistic woman, who told me I should have no problem qualifying and to submit my info online and fax it immediately. So I did ($25 for the fax).

6/18.09 I notice on my mortgage sign-in page a notice that my "Modification is being worked on, give it 30 days" Wow, progress!

6/30/09 I get a phone call from Kimberly. "We need to get all of your information." "Um, I gave it to Miguel AND I filled out the online form which I faxed in." "We need it again..." This takes at least 30 minutes each time. Kimberly told me that the qualification depended on your current gross income and your current expenses.

7/12/09 I arrive home to three letters from Citibank. All form letters, all the same and dated June 30th with July 1 postmarks on two and July 2 postmarks on 1. The letters said they have been trying to reach me but were unable too…Huh? I talked to Kimberly on the 30th. I was concerned because the letter said that I had 7 days to respond but I had been out of town and that time already passed. I called over the weekend but the phone just rang and rang – no message.

7.13.09 I warn you, your head my explode just reading this. This is a 3 hour ordeal.

I got a busy signal when I tried to get thru to the “Mortgage Outreach Support” (MOS) 877 #. I kept trying and finally got thru and was put on hold for 15 minutes before Mrs. Valentino answered. I could barely understand her because of an accent. She told me she needed more info from me and proceeded to ask me the same questions Miguel, the website, Kimberly had already asked me...

Then I was immediately told I didn’t qualify but not given a reason. I asked to talk to a supervisor. The supervisor, informed me that I had to call the refi people to exhaust all options. I calmly (I was still calm at this point) explained that I tried to refinance and my payment would go UP. She told me it was a “special refinance office" and I had to try before they would review my case. Ok fine.

She transferred me and the guy immediately told me that refinancing wouldn’t lower my payment. I told him I already knew that but I had to go through the “process” and could he please mark it in my record and tell me the next step. He had no clue what I was talking about. There was no “special refi”. So, the refinance office doesn’t talk to modification office.

I called the main Loan Mitigation office at Citibank instead of the MOS # because I couldn’t get thru to the 877 # again. Edward said he couldn’t help me that all he could see is that I was denied but it didn’t say why. He told me my record was tagged as "special" (awww) and to call the 877 # and gave me an 866 alternate #. The 866 # didn’t work.

My head is about to pop off at this point.

I called the 877 #. On hold for 25 minutes. Got a person and immediately asked for a supervisor. She transferred me back to the hold line. 15 minutes later someone came on! She couldn’t hear me. I frantically checked my phone to see if I had it on mute. I didn’t and all I heard was “Hello? Hello, Is anyone there?”. Then my cell phone died. I went and got a glass of wine.

I counted to 1,000 (10 wasn’t going to cut it) and I called back. I’m a glutton for punishment.
35 minutes later I got a person! The SAME THING happened!!! I was on a different phone, a landline this time, and she couldn’t hear me. Something is wrong with their phone! Then I heard a CLICK.

End of story. So much for "Hope for Homeowners". More like frustration, angst and incompetence.

PS: (I did confirm the MOS phones were not working properly after one more feeble call to Citibank)

PPS:It's not just me...
A LONG WAY HOME: Getting a loan modification to avoid foreclosure not as easy as advertised
http://www.lvrj.com/business/48727237.html

Sunday, June 28, 2009

There should be an IQ test in addition to an Age Requirement to buy alcohol...

I realized not enough is happening to me these days for blog fodder and I didn't want this just to be a political blog (sometimes I read the news and I just can't help it though)

Anyway, lately I don't have full stories to write but just one or two observations that I feel the need to share...

Man buying beer from beer cart on golf course from VP, Beverage Operations (er, beer cart girl):

"Is the beer cold?"

Me: "Yes"

Captain Obvious: "That's because of the ice"

Me: " "

It causes me mental anguish ,and even slight physical pain, sometimes to not be able to answer how I really want to but I can usually peg people who don't like sarcasm and he was one of them. I think reading people well is one of my best talents - so just went away, banged my head against a tree a couple times to level the IQ playing field and moved on.

Actually, maybe I was a little too wound up because later that day I put my foot through a glass door at pro shop. I was carrying a case of beer and used my foot to open the door when I heard it pop. Luckily it was safety glass and my foot didn't go through but the good people of Fairfax County had to pay for some overtime for the guys to fix it.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

64 years of Government Run Health Care

Article excerpt FROM MAY 1945

VETERANS CRITICAL OF THEIR HOSPITALS; Thousands of Complaints on Treatment, Food and Other Conditions Are Received SEVERAL INQUIRIES BEGUN Some Objections Viewed as Justified, Others as Partly or Wholly Unfounded Senate Inquiry Begun

May 17, 1945, Thursday

Within the last few months thousands of complaints about the treatment of veterans in hospitals under the jurisdiction of the Veterans Administration have been received by members of Congress, the Veterans Administration itself...


Article excerpt from June 2009

VA Medical System in Shambles, Veterans Groups Say
With Veterans Affairs hospitals giving botched radiation treatments to nearly 100 vets and exposing 10,000 to HIV and hepatitis viruses, veterans advocates and lawmakers say the VA health system is in dire need of proper oversight and funding.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

And that is what happens when government gets invovled in health care...64 years later and they haven't quite figured it out.

Let's throw a trillion dolars at it and see if that helps.

Is anyone else scared? I am.

- Average age of a VA government run hospital is 49 years
- Average age of a private hospital is 12 years

Which hospital do you want the ambulance to take you to?

Obama wants a government solution by year end. This issue needs real debate and shouldn't be shoved through Congress so the President can cross it off his to-do list. Oh but he promised he would if you voted for him? He also promised you he would not raise taxes.

Isn't a tax on a benefit a tax?

Hmm, see below.

Fall 2008
"For the first time in American history, he wants to tax your health benefits," Obama said on the campaign trail last fall. "Apparently, Senator McCain doesn't think it's enough that your health premiums have doubled. He thinks you should have to pay taxes on them, too."

You all just loved that in the debates - "McCain is so evil. Obama is so awesome - he is such a good speaker too."

You all fell for his overly melodramatic campaign rhetoric and pandering "...for the first time in American History...". Cue the ominous banging drum...Sheesh.

March 14, 2009
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is signaling to Congress that the president could support taxing some employee health benefits...

Hullo?

Is anyone paying attention here? End the love fest soon before it's too late.

Let's do some real analysis of what is being proposed, how much it costs, what the alternatives are, who is affected and how its going to be paid for before we let Congress spend $1 trillion.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Seeking a Title

I'm stuck on an unhappy theme tonight.

Observation #1.
You know the recession is bad when...
I heard a radio ad for a cemetery yesterday. YES, a cemetery. I know advertising is struggling but how cheap are radio ads now that cemetery's are buying up 30 second spots? And is business down enough that they need to advertise? This recession is more far reaching than we all thought apparently...

Observation #2.
From the Washington PO-Bama...My favorite newspaper. To use as kindling.
I will admit The Post does one thing very well - The Sunday obituaries.

They usually spotlight one person and write a long article abut their life. Its always something very cool like someone who escaped a concentration camp, swam to America and has been running a shoe shop on Capitol Hill where every President since Kennedy sent their shoes to get shined. Or something like that...

One thing that has always bugged me though is the Post will always put the person's job title under their name:

Jane Smith
Office Clerk

John Doe
Auto Mechanic

Joe Smith
Lawyer

DC more than any other city, I think, is very title driven. In NY people are money driven. You could be an "investment associate" but you're making 6 figures. In DC people love their titles. So you might be an "Second Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of Commerce" making $24,000 a year but you proudly hand out your business card at every opportunity and also mention you have a security clearance.

Note: You better address people the right way in this city or Senator Boxer will yell at you. Even if you served just one term of Congress (2 years) you are to be addressed as "Congressman" for life.

Typically the rest of the obit read as follows "Joe Smith passed away Friday. He was a lawyer with Smith, Johnson, Brucker, Johnson, Hippopotamus & Frank firm in DC and retired in 1972. He is survived by..."

Usually these people have been retired for 20 or 30 years but the job is what is in bold under your name if you happen to kick the bucket in DC.

It used to make me wonder what I would want under my name? At this point, it would say "Sales Representative". Ick.

But what about Good friend? Charity Fundraiser? Ornery Blog Writer? Helped an Old Lady Across the Street Once? World Traveller? I like the last one.

First question usually asked of a stranger in DC "Soooo, where do you work?"

People focus on work too much here. And then they spend two hours a day getting to and from work. I don't think I have ever been right for this city and its title driven ways. Or maybe I was in my early 20's and have mellowed. Or getting canned from my job put things in perspective. Or maybe it was reading the news last night and realizing that sometimes people don't make it home from work.

All day, my thoughts have been with the families of the 9 people who died on the Metro yesterday.

But even when writing about this tragedy the Post did something to support my point about where this city's priorities seem to be...It wrote a nice tribute to the 9 victims. Well, 8 of them anyway...Each victim got a little bio/tribute. General Wherley got a nice bio but his wife who died with him on the train got no bio. She was referred to as the wife of the general.

I made a comment to the Post on their website about this. "Hey, where is Mrs. Wherley's tribute? She deserves something too" My comment got deleted. I wrote a comment about my comment getting deleted and they put my original comment back up.

I noticed a few hours later that the story had been updated:
"Wherley's wife, Ann Wherley, 62, a mortgage banker, was also killed."

All they added was her title...

(PS: I pray that the families of the 9 victims, with time, can find peace again)


(PPS: I am bipartisan in my media criticism. FoxNews.com did something dumb today too. See anything wrong with this picture below?)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Papa's Day

Someday, I will hit the road as a one-women show with funny stories about being thre first American Alvaro and growing up in my Italian immigrant home. My problem is I have a bad memory as I can't usually remember where I put my keys much less being 9 years old. But today I reflect on little on my dad, Giuseppe.

When I was a pain in the neck teenager I didn't appreciate the uniqueness of my family.

I mean no one else had homemade sausages curing and hanging from the ceiling of their garage? And most kid's dads come home with chocolate Easter bunnies on Easter whereas my dad came home from a farm with a butchered baby lamb in a garbage bag (hey, its a tradition...)

My dad grew up in in a small town in Southern Italy in the 40's and 50's. He was only a toddler when American and German soldiers marched thru his town. He was the oldest of 4 boys when his mother died. Nonno remarried making him the oldest of 5 boys bestowing a lot of responsibility to help support the family on him. He was 29 when he packed up mom and and two little kids onto a boat and moved to this country.

I only found out in recent years that before he came to the US - my quiet, law abiding father, who consistently drives BELOW the speed limit as a general practice, was quite the hell raiser. Maybe he is trying to stay under the radar of the law...

First, he spent a few years in Germany working in factories with my uncles in the 60's as their were no jobs in the village. Then he stowed away on a ship for Australia! He hid on the ship but fortunately for me, my brother, sister and 5 nieces and nephews he was caught and spent 7 days locked up before getting a one way ticket back to Italy and subsequently married my mother.

When he moved to the US (also by boat) he brought as many traditions as he could with him.

If you are in Liverpool and drive by the house where my parents live and look around back you will see his "farm". He manages, in his tiny backyard to take up almost every square inch with a huge vegetable garden - basil, garlic, tomatoes, a small grape vine, zucchini, various types of lettuces, pole beans, rosemary, a pear tree, a fig tree and I am sure I am missing a few others. My parents eat from this garden for most of the year.

Of course, in my older and wiser years I appreciate and admire this sustainable and homemade way of eating...I didn't quite get it when I was growing up (Why cant I go to MacDonald's?!).

A few stories...
#1
Dad would grudgingly drop me off at soccer practice after he finally conceded to his hard headed American-born daughter that she be allowed to play sports in high school. One day, someone tapped me on the shoulder and asked "Um, what's your dad doing?". To my 14 year old horror - there was dad - bucket and knife in hand on a little hill behind the soccer field at Liverpool High School harvesting dandelion leaves for dinner. At the time, I was mortified as I vaguely recall someone asking "Can't your family afford to eat?" (teenagers are cruel). Of course, now Whole Foods sells this delicacy for $5.00 a pound. So there.

#2
Every October fruit flies would buzz in my ear. In my house. It used to be, back when I was growing up and there were a lot more Italian immigrants of dad's generation in Syracuse, you knew where all the Italians lived because every fall there would be a pile of purple stained grape crates on the curb for the garbage men to take. All the Italians would ship in cases of Zinfandel grapes from California to make their own wine.

Now many of you probably have visited a winery. Well, those giant warehouses with gleaming stainless steel tanks is not how you make home brew. Imagine a barrel that has come apart at its planks. Now put a screw like mechanism on top that when turned slowly by pushing a pole around it in a circle over and over tightens the barrel together squishing the juice out of the grapes. That's an old fashioned wine press. My dad has a little 10 x 10 foot room in the basement and he would make a red and white barrel of wine each year. Before every lunch and dinner dad would go down to the basement and bring up a bottle of wine. It tastes great though sometimes I have to mix it with ginger ale as its a little strong! It will also fuel a car in an emergency if you run out of gas. Once I was old enough, Dad would supply me my wine rations in empty vodka or soda bottles for me to take to Colgate or DC.

#3
One time, while making said sausages mentioned above - my dad decided he wanted to smoke them for more flavor. So he brought down the gas grill to the 10 x 10 room with one tiny 1 foot by 1 foot window and fired up the grill to smoke the sausages...One visit to the hospital for carbon monoxide poisoning later he decided not to smoke the homemade sausages anymore.

All these memories have to do with food. Well, we are Italian.

My parents are the typical American immigrant success story. My dad mowed a rich guy's giant lawn (it took days to mow the whole thing) as one of his jobs for a few years. Said rich guy found himself on the wrong end of his mistresses gun and took a bullet in the head. That job went away. Then in the mid-80's, he got the coveted factory job at GM. Then that factory closed. So he commuted from Syracuse to Rochester in the dark for years to work the night shift. Then that plant closed. So he got a bachelor pad in Buffalo and commuted each week from Syracuse to Buffalo to work at the GM plant in Tonawanda. Needless to say I didn't see Dad much when I was growing up because he was either sleeping during the day to work the night shift or driving all over NY to work.

A few years go, he retired. And since he packed about 5 lifetimes of work into his life to support us all, I hope he gets 5 more lifetimes to enjoy his retirement and continue to bring a little piece of Sinopoli, Italy to Upstate NY - making his wine every fall, and making his homemade sausages (unsmoked), and tending to his beloved garden out back.

Happy Father's Day, Dad.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Political Rant


This picture is what led to this rant. ugh. THIS is our leadership? UGH.


Dear Rush/Newt and all the other white haired men who think they speak for the GOP-

I want small government too. That's why I am a Republican - difficult as you make it these days.

I want the government out of private business and my wallet.

Individual freedoms aren't just economic. They are personal.

You can either have big government or not have big government - But you can't have it both ways .

And by not having big government that means you stay out of people's bodies, churches and closets in addition to their wallets.

Its simple. Small means unobtrusive so stop obtruding (is that a word?).

We can't be led by a bunch of old men who believe that life begins the moment the man unhooks a women's bra.

We can't be led by a bunch of people who believe religion should have a place in government as long as its their religion.

We should celebrate and respect that if two people pledge to love each other and support each other and build a life together than it doesn't matter if their parts don't fit like the Bible says they should. Let them get married.

"Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves" Abe

Will anyone have the guts to stand up and take this party back and swing it away from divisive social issues?

Remember the GOP stands for the Grand Old Party? Lets take the emphasis of of old and put it back on Grand. Remember - the party of Lincoln and all that? The party that stood up to slavery?

Where is a leader when we need one?

Maybe I should run this party? But I need my AARP card apparently.

And just to make sure I get to keep my GOP card:

Dear Obama and Nancy (3rd in line, help us all),

Entitlement is a dirty word. Stop it. Its "Life, Liberty and the PURSUIT of happiness". Pursuit does not equal guaranteed happiness. The government at its best needs to make sure everyone has equal access to the starting line but it shouldn't decide who gets to win the race.

The answers are not in Washington - they are in the individual innovators and the private sector if the government doesn't choke it to death before it has time to save us all. At its worst, government stifles innovation and progress - why innovate and take risks if we all end up with the same in the end anyway?

Handshakes and hugs aren't viable national defense strategies.

Making money isn't wrong, bad or evil. People with money aren't wrong bad or evil.


And to both sides - two things:

1. One can be Pro Life and Pro Choice. This one issue shouldn't define every single political candidate in every single election in this country. There are other important issues in this world. There are ways to protect both life AND individual freedoms. Not everyone will be happy with compromise but not everyone is happy now watching the two extremes define the issue. So do the jobs you spent millions trying to get. And LEAD, don't follow (the money).

2. Can we disagree without being disagreeable and avoid the personal attacks? Our problems are serious so do your jobs...or your pink slip comes in the next election then you'll know how it feels. The VA max unemployment benefit is $378 a week. How's that sound? Can you live on that? That will barely pay for your Viagra, GOP "leadership".

(Note, I know I didn't mention Michale Steele above as a GOP leader? Who the hell is that most of you ask? Exactly - He is a follower who got voted in as the puppet chairman of the RNC. He does useless things like boycott Letterman and apologize to Rush. When he acts like a leader I will call him one.)

Rant over. But that picture was too good not to have fun with....











Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Adventures in Mobile Refreshment Delivery

So the stress of the beer cart job drove away the person who was supposed to work Memorial Day weekend so I had to fill in. Seriously, she positioned the cart in the path of a tee shot and got drilled when the ball went thru the Plexiglas...Amateur.

Anyway, I kept track of some stats this weekend since I spent 3 days beer carting and playing golf:

Names I was called:
Sweetheart
Sunshine
Hey
Beer Girl

(I have an MBA dammit)

Top Dumb question asked:
"Are you just a beer cart girl, I mean what else do you do?"

Wise Ass response #1 - "Actually by day I am just a beer cart girl. By night I fight crime and patrol the skies in my invisible plane"

Wise Ass response #2 - "Actually I majored in mobile refreshment delivery in college, with a minor in why don't you just shut the hell up?"

I passed a good quarter of an hour coming up with more names for beer carting. My favorite, possibly coming from the the Pentagon, is: "Ambulatory Alcohol Attack Force Unit"

Though speaking of synonyms, I do want to give credit to the guy who referred to his beer as "putting juice".

Times I was hit by Golf Ball - 1 (due to poor beer cart positioning)

Pars - 1
Putts - 4,345,674,334
New Putter purchased - 1
Inches shaved off Putter to accommodate midget size - 4

Propositions - 1
Propositions refused - 1

Times I told same dumb joke to different foursomes to increase my tips - ashamed to tell

Animals seen:
Snake!, Raccoon, Turtle, Blue Heron, Cardinal, Bluebird, Lizard (2), Chipmunk, Deer (5), Robins (10000), Squirrels (12324546565)

Golf Balls Found - 14
Golf Balls Lost - 3
Net - 11

I am thinking of forming a new charity - The Alliance for Abused and Lost Golf Balls. People really don't make much of an effort to look for their lost golf balls anymore. Who will speak for the gently used and dimpled Maxflis, Nikes and Titlelists?

Monday, April 13, 2009

From VP to Beer Cart Girl

Well, this was supposed to be my layoff blog. My layoff was brief but the effects of the recession on my little part of the world are not. I like the new job - cool company, great people, good product, and its related to GOLF. But sadly, it came with a pay cut. And I have been trying to deal with lifestyle changes that I am slowly starting to realize may not be sustainable in DC. It may be time to move. Plus I am very much over the traffic, high cost of living, overworked way of life here. Cherry Blossoms and free museums aside - I think I will be better off in a smaller city/town.

But the prospect of starting over in a new place also hurts my brain and kinda scares me so instead I have made some more cuts to sustain living here in DC for awhile longer until I decide what to do with myself.

My Mantra is : There is no shame in this economy.

Changes I have made:

1. Cuttting coupons - yay, geekdom. I save at least $7.00 a grocery trip now. I am wondering why I didn't do this sooner. I almost hugged the cashier the other day when I saved $20 off my bill. Though it is a time consuming process and sometimes I don't really need/want to buy two 3lb boxes of Cheerios to save 50 cents but I stick to what I need and it seems to be saving me some cash.

2. Cutting down my Direct TV package to 30 channels instead of 3,000. I really only watch The Simpsons and House anyway. Plus, I felt like at least 5 channels just had different permutations of Law & Order marathons on all the time anyway. Law & Order Original, Law & Order SVU, Law & Order CI, Law & Order DMV, Law & Order Parking Meter Reader, Law & Order Health Inspector, Law & Order Civil Court Baliff..ok I will stop... ANYWAY...I read a lot more now. See #3.

3. Library instead of Borders - I have read through most travel books, Dean Koontz and re-read every John Grisham book in the last few months (I can blow through 200 pages in a night, I read really fast). My overtaxed brain is full of worry and doesn't need anything heavier than that these days. I was going to read Ann Rand's Atlas Shrugged but I can find stories of the government increasingly asserting control over industry in the Washington Post instead...

The next 3 changes are part of the book I am thinking of writing: "The Recession Diet - How to Keep Your Wallet Fat and Your Ass Thin"

4. Only 1-2 meals out per week. Sucks for the social life but pants have emerged from the back of the closet that I haven't worn in awhile. Recession diets rule. Tip #1: Eggs are cheap and good for you. Tip #2 - If you haven't ever worked in a restaurant kitchen and seen this first-hand - multiply the amount of butter you THINK a restaurant adds to your meal by 10 and then add in half a stick. Per serving.

5. Gym visits replace dinner out time - I am on week 6 of going to the gym 4 times/week minimum. Long lost muscles are re-forming. I don't have any set workout, I just have to go 4 times. Getting there is the hardest part but once I am there I am shamed into my workout by seeing everyone else.

6. Herb Garden - Well, I had this last year but it def saves lots of $$$ and it helps with #4 as I cook a lot more now.

and finally...

7. I drive a beer cart on a golf course on the weekends. I have to admit - I kinda enjoy it. I get to drive around outside on a golf course all day and watch people whiff the ball. I can now predict with pretty good accuracy, just by watching the practice swing, if the person will top the ball and/or which direction they will shank it to. Golf Lesson #1 - Keep your head down people!

My standard line that gets the big bucks is "Well, I used to be a VP but was laid off so I drive the beer cart on the weekends now....". There is nothing to be ashamed of in this economy. So next time you are out on the course, at Starbucks or getting your pizza delivered - tip the person who served you generously...you never know if that person used to be the head of a division of Bank of America or something.

Actually as a side note - the course is a Fairfax Country Course. It is an incredible example of government efficiency. Yes, I am commending the government here. Well, it is the local government which is my favorite kind. Seriously, this is a great idea. Besides the grounds crew and the managers, the place is mostly staffed with volunteers who basically barter their time for free golf. It's am amazingly efficient system that saves tons of tax dollars. More please.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

L.P.G.A.

LPGA in my case stands for: Little People Golfing Awfully

I love to play golf. It's now my one main hobby since I got too old and slow and soft and wimpy to play soccer anymore. I would rather have it be me against ball than me against Sweeper, Keeper or that errant blade of grass that I tend to trip over.

If it were up to me, I'd play golf every day. I don't have enough people who can take 6 hours away from wife, husband, babies, jobs to play as much as I want to so I usually hit Langston Golf Course early on the nice weekends solo. Langston was one of the first African American Golf Courses - built in 1939. Very historic. And I love to play there because I am usually the only white chick who shows up to play so I can sweet talk my way onto the back 9 to avoid getting paired up with creepy people (this could be a whole blog entry on its own). Anyway, the starters are all old retired guys who call me "baby". I don't need a staid, snooty Country Club with a dress code - I just need Charlie to greet me with "You playing 9 or 18 today, baby?" and I am good to go. They also deep fry their hotdogs. If you have never had a deep fried hot dog you must try it at least once in your life. Crispy, drippy, goodness.

Anyway, I did find some old friends to play with last week. And playing with friends means playing with booze.

Since I don't normally drink when I play solo, I didn't realize how beneficial Bud Light could be to my game. I have been reviewing my round and have come to the conclusion there that there seems to be a perfect amount of alcohol that should drink when I play golf...Unfortunately, I just don't know exactly how much that is.

Let's review my round:

Hole #1 - Sober - ball goes backwards
I have never seen this before but I made contact on my second shot after a beautiful drive off the tee onto the fairway...and the ball took off a few feet in front of me, hit the ground and spun three feet farther back from where it started. I am amazing.

Middle holes - A very nice beer buzz - Par, Birdie
Hmmm, I may be onto something here. Relaxed muscles and the attitude of "who cares where my ball goes, the beer cart is on its way!" seems to work well for my swing.

Last hole - Post-switch from beer to a vodka - Ball goes in water.
I picked up my 6 iron TWICE by mistake and hit with it cause I thought it was the 9 iron. I was sitting the best 9 holes of my life prior to that little mis-understanding between me and my clubs. I need a caddy and his name may or may not be Captain Morgan.

I will have to study this more to come to a proper conclusion of the perfect amount of booze I need to break 100. It willl be a long hard road but I am commited to it.