The Fiscally Responsible Zombie

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Back there in June, which seems like a lifetime ago, recall I had the fun chance to visit Amsterdam on a work trip? Yay!

While there, I made use of my company credit card because that’s the best way to go when it comes to pesky expense reports.

However, there are a few things that the company says no-no to on expense reports. For example, booze. I mean, how can one have a nice dinner in Amsterdam and not sample the local beer?

One doesn’t and this one didn’t. I sampled. Oh did I sample. No, I didn’t sample Amsterdam’s other claims to fame. I was on a work trip ferchrissakes! But light brown beer was a delightful dinner companion.

So what I did was expense the expensable parts and the not expensable parts I would pay personally to the credit card company. No problem, right?

Upon my return to the States, in the midst of chaos and twelve to fourteen hour days and working nights and weekends on this massive project (the whole reason I went to Amsterdam and Ireland) I managed to knock out my expense report.

Then I knew I would get a bill for about $110 US dollars for the “not allowable” stuff. The beer, mostly. Not gonna lie.

About a week and a half ago, I got a snippy notice from the credit card company. “Second notice”, they said and “we’ll shut off your card in five days unless payment is received.”

I also noticed that they had transposed two numbers in my mailing address.

Well, I got a bit high handed about this. First of all, I didn’t receive a first notice! Second of all, my address is wrong. Third of all, pfft! Or something like that.

I’m still working a lot of hours and so I dashed off a check but didn’t send it. I wanted to talk to my friend who runs the travel program. I needed to know if I could change my mailing address for the card or if she had to. She said I could do it or she could. No matter.

Great! Then life and my insane job intervened and quite a few more than five days passed. Ugh. Over the weekend when I had a few minutes to breathe, I picked up the ol’ phone and called the credit card folks. I knew I needed to take care of this problem like a grownup.

Imagine my surprise when I got a recorded message saying that a payment had been received and my balance was zero.

“Uh oh,” I told the Good Man. “The company paid my bill. Crap. Now I have to figure out how to pay them back. Or will they take it out of my paycheck? Gah. What a mess.”

The next day, I went back to my friend in Travel to figure this out.

“Honey, we don’t pay people’s credit cards. And if we did, just keep quiet about it.” She laughed.

But she looked up my account. “Hmm…” she said, rolling her mouse over the screen. “I can’t tell where this payment came from. Did you do another expense report?”

“No.”

“Hmm. Are you sure you didn’t pay it?”

“Yes.”

“Really sure?”

I thought back to the dates from May 1 through August 15, my head down working this project. The lack of sleep. The stress. The long days and working weekends and not having a single day off in all of that time. The disconnected feeling. The lack of awareness about pretty much everything around me.

“Well. I’ll check my bank account but I really don’t think so.”

I walked back to my desk, logged into my bank and searched for the amount. By golly, there was a payment.

That means that 1) I had indeed received a “first notice” from the credit card company and didn’t remember it and 2) had set up the credit card company as an auto pay from my account and didn’t remember it and 3) actually paid the bill and didn’t remember it.

So that means that when I was wandering around in a zombie-like intense work state, forgetting to eat meals and forgetting to sleep and often forgetting to change clothes and frequently forgetting to even brush my teeth in the morning, I managed to be fiscally responsible enough to pay my credit card bill?

Um. What?

I’m certainly glad that zombie Karen cares enough to pay normal Karen’s bills. I wonder what else I did when I wasn’t even on the planet.

I can hardly wait to find out.











Image found here.




Hot Clamp, I Love You So

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Ok, I have another totally hot photo gadget product review to share. I was not compensated in any way for this. In fact I paid these good people for the right to be one of the first to try this out.

It is no secret that I love photography. That much is clear if you’ve been hanging around this blog for a while.

While I was trained to take photos using a DSLR, I have become more and more enamored of taking photos with my iPhone. I think that Flickr reports the number one camera used by its members is the iPhone.

It’s great to have an always ready to use camera that also makes great shots. So to that end I am also enamored of many of the gadgets out there to help make iPhone photos that much more cool.

There are a lot of little lenses out there, most come in a package of one fisheye, one wide angle and one macro lens. The form factor on these isn’t always great. I have a set that sort of sticks on with a gummy ring and the lens is a magnet to the sticky ring. Ugh. A *nightmare* if I’m outside where it is dusty (hello? New Mexico?). Plus the ring is pretty tiny and hard to use. There are some that are a kind of jelly stick on lenses that are in one piece but offer up the same sort of issues.

Along came the Olloclip and I loved it. The clip slipped onto the phone and voila, the three lenses were all attached and it was good to go. The Olloclip is pretty spendy at $70. The wide angle and macro lenses were great but to be honest, I don’t really like the look of fisheye photos so that lens never got used.

But the Olloclip and I got along great. I used the wide and the macro quite a bit on my iPhone4s. Photography life was fabulous.

Until I got an iPhone5. Then the Olloclip didn’t fit anymore. I was not really in the mood to blow another $70 so I figured I’d make do with what I already had in my kit (i.e. the sticky lenses, ugh).

Then I heard some rumors on Twitter about a company working on a lens kit that was like a clip or a clamp which meant it could be used on any make or model of phone, regardless of size, shape and thickness and if I desired could even be used on a thin point and shoot.

Well sign me up! Only…the product, called Mobi-Lens, wasn’t available yet.

Images could be found on the company’s Kickstarter page. I had not yet taken a foray into the world of funding a Kickstarter, so I thought I’d give it a chance. For just $40 I was able to choose a red clip that came with wide angle and macro. The fisheye lens is a separate clip so no need to order that.

So here we go, the cost is more reasonable, I don’t have an extra fisheye lens lying around I will never use, and this clip will work on generations to come of whatever phone I choose to have.

Yes, please!

The Good Man warned me that one of people’s biggest complaints about Kickstarter is that even if the project gets funded, oftentimes investors never see results from their investment. The product or project just never comes to fruition.

I read the Kickstarter page carefully and I watched the videos and I felt like these were decent people who had a great idea. They already had some finished test product and they just needed money to go into production.

SO…yes…I took a gamble with forty of my hard earned dollars. This was back in October.

A few weeks ago, my gamble paid off when this little beauty arrived:





It’s so pretty! It’s red! It has really nice glass lenses!

It is very easy to use and I’ve only begun experimenting with it.

So far I think this is the best macro cell phone lens of all the brands I’ve tried (and I’ve tried a lot!).

Here is a test shot of my work keyboard:





Pretty great!

I have much left to explore with my little Mobi-Lens but so far I am totally hooked and totally in love. I am happy with my lens and I hope this company continues to blossom.

They gave me an awesome lens and made me a believer in the power of a good project on Kickstarter. Win!




———————-


Image of Mobi-Lens Copyright 2013, Karen Fayeth and taken with an iPhone5 and the Camera+ app.

Image of keyboard K Copyright 2013 Karen Fayeth and taken with an iPhone5, the Camera+ app and the macro Mobi-Lens.

Both are subject to the Creative Commons license found in the right column of this page.




Friend, Grant Me Absolution

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It was, on a Fall day in 1988 that I first crossed paths with the girl who would become my best friend in the whole wide world. Mother of my god kids. Forgiver of all my aberrant behaviors. Supporter of my dreams.

She is the best.

It’s now twenty-four years later and she’s still closer than family and knows me better than I know myself.

Several months ago, over iced tea on her back patio near Radium Springs, she invited The Good Man and me to come out to New Mexico for a summer camping trip. Now I adore camping and was totally on board. The Good Man and I were already talking about flying or driving and how long we should stay.

And then life does what it does. It got in the way.

When my best friend asked me to spend some time in Quemado, it was February and I had nothing on the calendar that would inhibit a vist.

Five months, lots of overtime hours, and three countries later, my outlook wasn’t as clear.

So I was a bit sad to have to tell my friend that no, I wasn’t going to be able to go camping. I had just got back from London and The Good Man was up to his eyeballs in alligators with work too.

And money is always a question mark.

Damn it all to hell…we just couldn’t swing it.

I was supposed to be out there charring marshmallows and hiking where there is no mobile signal over this past weekend.

*sigh*

When I was still in flux about going, I happened to get an email from a joint called The Uptown Theatre in Napa. This is where I saw Rosanne Cash and Hugh Laurie and it’s rapidly become one of my all time favorite venues for live music.

Seems this little ol’ band called The Mavericks have reunited and were doing a show at the Uptown. The same weekend I should have been going camping.

The Mavericks are more than a fantastically talented band, they are an integral part of my life and the life of my best friend and our friendship. Their album “Music For All Occasions” is a landmark in our world. We love this band. A lot. Their music sums up a lot of what the late 1980’s and early to mid 1990’s mean to both of us.

It’s a soundtrack to our most cherished memories.

So when I saw they were playing a show nearby, I hedged my bets. All along, I planned to go to New Mexico, but I bought the not very expensive tickets too. If I lost out on the tickets in favor of New Mexico, so much the better. If we couldn’t swing camping, then The Good Man and I would take in a show.

Eventually we had to make the tough choice to stay back in California while my dearest friend and family went out to the woods and enjoyed the best of New Mexico.

Which meant The Good Man and I went to Napa. Being Catholic raised, the guilt was overwhelming. Both my best friend and my best guy should have been with me that night. It felt wrong to be at a Maverick’s show without her. Like I was being both a bad friend and a bad person.

That said, I still enjoyed the hell out of the show. This band is amazing! I last saw them back in 1998 when I had just moved to the state of California and seeing them live was a tonic to my confused, tortured soul. My friend and I lamented back then that she wasn’t able to come out for that show.

And here I went and did it again.

Gah!

Every day I’m checking the band’s webpage to see if they have added any dates. If they come anywhere near New Mexico or Northern California again, we’re are going! No if’s, and’s, but’s or international demands from my Boss.

We’ll bring the godkids too. They need to know what we know.

Confession is good for the soul, right? I hope so. I called my best friend yesterday but her phone went right to voicemail. That means she’s still out there where email and Facebook and all the rest don’t really matter.

If I don’t catch her by phone maybe she’ll see this post and know that I went and saw our favorite band without her (again!), but I was thinking of her the whole time. And that’s the truth.

Plus, I’ve done way worse things over the course of our twenty-four years and she’s forgiven me. I think we’ll be all good.

Should I tell her that I had tickets in the second row? Hmm. Maybe not.

Should I tell her that I met and had a nice chat with Robert Reynolds after the show? No, I probably shouldn’t.

That might be pushing it a bit.

_______________

A couple photos from the incredible show:




Lead singer, the amazing Raul Malo




Original members, reunited. Raul Malo (l), Paul Deakin (c), Robert Reynolds (r)



All images Copyright 2012, Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons license in the right column of this page. Photos taken with an iPhone4s and the Camera+ App.



My Official Opinion On The Matter

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Been reading up on this whole Facebook IPO debacle.

Oh so very ugly.

As I think about it, I am reminded of my old NMSU Finance professor Dr. Hawkins, and his Ten Investment Rules.

And so…my official comment on the FB disaster?

Keep #5 always in mind. And #7 too.



Originally posted December 29, 2010

________________

Sometimes, the cranky old man is the smartest man in the room

Back in the good ol’ days, that wild time known at the 1980’s, I was full of youthful optimism, and I was attending New Mexico State University.

My undergraduate major was Finance.

Ooh, those were heady days when I wanted to be a stockbroker when I grew up. This was back before I realized that “stockbroker” and “salesman willing to sell underperforming securities to your family in order to make commission” were synonymous.

While the dream was still alive, I took courses at NMSU from some really fine professors with a lot of experience.

Among them, several courses with Dr. Lowell Catlett, now the Dean of the College Of Agriculture, and a noted expert on futures trading.

There was also both undergrad and grad level classes with Dr. Clark Hawkins, a man who had actually worked as a commodities trader on the NYSE floor. In his words, he had tried pretty much every investment vehicle out there…and lost money on ’em all.

Dr. Hawkins was a strange little man. Wiry, small of frame and nasally of voice. He referred to himself as “Uncle Hawkey.” He often told us that, as Finance students, we should have our Wall Street Journal under one arm and our financial calculator under the other.

And this was to be done while wearing a t-shirt imprinted with “Uncle Hawkey’s Ten Investment Rules”.

At the end of each semester, he gifted us with a copy of the ten rules.

Recently, I was searching around in all the old boxes under my house, picking through my crap looking for things I can sell on eBay.

How ironic, then, that I should come across my framed copy of Uncle Hawkey’s Ten Investment Rules in my search for something to sell for money.

Well, I sat down and read the rules.

Goddamn if Uncle Hawkey wasn’t right. He was right then. He’s right now. Right is right.

Now…snap your Wall Street Journal in place, put your finger over the “future value” button on your financial calculator and get set.


Uncle Hawkey’s Ten Investment Rules:


1. Don’t invest in things you don’t understand.


Ah, every single customer of Bernie Madoff…take note!


2. Remember the fundamental mathematical rule of finance.


You know what? I don’t.

I suspect this was about future value and present value of money. He was a stickler on that.

Because I understood and could calculate time value of money, I kicked the salesman’s ass when I bought my first car.

I got that salesguy demoted because he was such a dunce. Thank you Uncle Hawkey.


3. Know the difference between investment and speculation.


Oh I remember this one. I rant about this one. A lot.

Let me just say his own words, with the same shouting nasal tone…

INVESTING IN THE STOCK MARKET IS THE SAME AS GAMBLING!

If you do not think putting your money in the stock market is gambling, then you need to re-examine yourself and your money.

Sure, it may return better odds than Vegas, but not always.

For those of you wailing and gnashing your teeth in the current economic downturn because you had all your money in the stock market, I suggest you get this rule tattooed on your arm and look at it daily.


4. Don’t invest or speculate in financial securities that you can’t easily find quotes on.


Dangling participle notwithstanding….Uncle Hawkey was right.

Once again, I’m looking at you friends of Mr. Madoff….paging investors of Mr. Madoff….


5. Don’t buy a closed end fund on initial offering.


Oh yes, everyone gets oh so very excited about IPO’s. Especially during the dot com boom of the early 2000’s.

Look how well that worked out for most people.

Right.

But Uuuuuncle Haaaawwwkkkey, people in his class would wail…what about _____ and they’d name some company.

And by tracking the history of the stock price, he’d show them how they were wrong. How the price would be driven up on IPO and would, over time, settle back down.

He recommended waiting out an IPO for a company you liked, and buying the shares after the initial flurry of the IPO wore off and the stock had settled down.


6. Be skeptical of people who say they can forecast the future.


Well, if more folks did this, then people like Jim Cramer would be a lot less interesting, wouldn’t they?


7. Don’t do business with a man you can’t trust.


Too true. I would also substitute “man” with “company.”

(And for 2012 I would substitute “man” with “egomaniacal manchild“)

And yet…how many of us do anyway? (*coff* AT&T *coff* Comcast *coff*)

Honestly…it’s getting a lot harder to find honesty these days.


8. If the brokers are pushing it hard, it probably should be avoided.


So simple. So true. Yet….

Paging followers of Mr. Madoff!

(seeing a trend here?)


9. Long range planning gives the dangerous notion that the future is under control.


Oooh, this one hurts.

Remember how great things felt in, oh, say mid-2008? When we all had some money and maybe a big mortgage on a great house and the financial future looked, well…bright?

Yeah.

I broke this one. Uncle Hawkey, wherever in the world you are now, I give it up to you.

You knew. You always knew.


10. Don’t lose money.


Well sh*t. I broke this one too.

However. Slowly but surely, it’s coming back.

Because Uncle Hawkey warned us about short term and long term.

My wise investments will, eventually, find their way home.

And finally….


11. (Bonus rule) Remember Rule 10


Fair enough.

And so…as we slowly but surely dig our way out of these ugly financial times…

May we all remember Rule #10

Thank you Uncle Hawkey.




As a post script…

In my senior year of undergrad, Uncle Hawkey decided to go on a sabbatical from teaching.

He invited us, the students that he had so tortured, to join him for happy hour at El Patio. Ah, that venerable old Mesilla Plaza bar (former home office of the Butterfield Stage).

Uncle Hawkey slapped down a credit card and said we could have all the beer we wanted. Nothing else. Only beer.

Oh, the pitchers flowed that day, and Uncle Hawkey paid for it all.

Maybe all of us college students were, on that day, a good investment.



Back In The Swing of Things

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So, I’m back in the office after a week in Costa Rica. UK Boss is in country. The pace is back to normal. Whatever that means.

Today I sat down with the boss for a much needed, long over due one-to-one session.

It was about halfway through our hour chat that Boss Man said the words that chilled my soul.

“Right, so I just got the schedule for annual reviews. You’ll need to communicate dates to your staff. Self assessments are due by mid-June.”

Just like that. That’s all he said. Easy, breezy and calm.

Meanwhile, the sound of screeching demons and terror howls echoed in my mind.

Yes, it’s that time of year: Performance reviews.

I’ve been doing this manager gig for most of a decade, and still, performance reviews are the hardest thing I have to do every year.

Mainly because I don’t just blow them off and write canned phrases. I actually put in a lot of work on my performance reviews for my team.

I give performance reviews the way I wish they were done for me.

But never are.

That said, just because I care about them. Just because I put in effort. Just because they matter does not mean I actually enjoy writing them.

It’s hard work. Add to that, since I am a middle of the pack manager and not the big boss, I don’t get the set the raises and bonuses. I give input on my team but someone else makes the budget.

So I get to convey raises and bonuses that someone else has decided.

And they so rarely match what my employees deserve.

So I have to write a performance review to match the budget and not the actual performance of the employee.

Often, this can be the least gratifying thing I do all year.

That said, performance reviews are one of the things that separate the wheat from the chaff, the men from the mice, the mangers from the dilettantes.

Writing and delivering a meaningful performance review is what makes me a better manager. I think.

Oh, and in other news, my boss attended some up with people type of training class last week. I said to him “Hey boss, I’m having a problem with this risk assessment.”

“No Karen, as I just learned in my training, there are no problems, only opportunities.”

The fact that I didn’t take that opportunity to kick him in the shins shows the power of my personal and professional growth over the last year.

I’m sure that will show up as a positive on my performance review this year.

Opportunities my ass…….