That Bites

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This is a photo of a regular ol’ highway overpass. This particular overpass happens to be in the vicinity of San Pablo Dam road which is in Richmond, California and is, give or take, twenty miles north and east of San Francisco on Highway 80.

Highway 80 being sort of a main thoroughfare from the East Bay and points farther north and east, such as Sacramento, where I was today for a work meeting. And then drove back home to the Bay Area this afternoon.

In this photo, if your eyes travel along that line to the head of the red arrow, you’ll see what looks like a bite has been taken from the underside of the bridge.

Check it.





That is not normal wear and tear. That is where a big rig hauling a crane violated the laws of both geometry and physics and perhaps California.

The Good Man texted me about this little snafooie at ten o’clock this morning.

By four o’clock this afternoon, traffic was still snarled and I sat there for an hour watching the needle on my gas tank drop. At four dollars a gallon, that burning fuel took a nice bite out of my pocketbook.

All due to that damn bite taken from the bridge. And of course the resulting scattered debris on the other side of the overpass.

This after my spectacular morning when I dropped my iPhone and cracked the screen.

Take all of this and add it together and you have my Wednesday. Which simply bites.

*sigh*

May Thursday treat me less like gum on the bottom of its shoe.




For more on the story, click here



Image copyright 2012, Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons in the right column of this page. Taken with an iPhone4s with a cracked screen and the Camera+ app from a (slowly) moving automobile.



A Different Kind of Summer Day

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Sigh. It’s a beautiful August day outside.

The sun it out but it’s not too hot. A slight breeze dries the little bit of sweat that springs up from running around on the green grass. The pavement is warm on my sandaled feet.

I miss having summers off. Three months of ease and joy. I miss those lazy hot August days, like today, in the waning hours before school starts again. It seemed like summer would never end and Autumn was a forever away.

I miss dry Albuquerque days with powerful monsoon rainstorms in the late afternoon.

Splashing in sprinklers. Chasing lizards. Riding my bike.

Then dashing inside where the refrigerated air was like heaven on earth and sipping sun tea while watching Guiding Light with my mom and sister and often my grandmother too.

I think I had angst back then. I’m pretty sure I worried a lot. I at least got a little worked up over the latest machinations of Reva and Josh in that soap opera world.

But I had kid worries too. What would school be like? Why didn’t I have more friends? Why was my hair mousey brown and not blonde? When mom and dad talked about money problems did that mean something bad was going to happen?

I know I had a lot of angst back then, but in hindsight it seems so easy. So effortless.

What is that saying? “Youth is wasted on the young.” For me maybe not wasted but certainly not appreciated.

On this beautiful August day, I sit in my hard walled office with one glass wall and gaze out to the park across the street. Kids run and tumble and shout and scream and seem to be having a really effortlessly fun summer.

And I feel wistful.

I know kids today have their own worries and in a lot of ways it’s harder to be a kid today than it was way back when. But right now I am gazing out the window as I prepare for my next conference call where we’ll blah de blah for an hour about something that seems terribly important but really isn’t. Right now I sort of wish for a swimming pool, a soft serve ice cream cone and the time and desire to lay out on a beach towel and just soak up the sun.

For just a moment to have nothing to do and nowhere to be and nothing to worry about other than when to flip over so I don’t get sunburned.

That’s summer vacation to me.

Ah well. Back to the conference call. My boss is pinging my mobile phone and asking if I am attending.

I’m attending. In body only. The spirit is floating on a hot pink blow up mattress in the muddy waters of Ute Lake.


_________________________

This photo is not totally applicable to this post, but I went to my favorite royalty free stock photo site and put “summer” in the search box.

This was the first image that came up and it was too compelling to pass up. So there you have it.







Image by Teresa Howes and used royalty free from stock.xchng



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…….