March 2008 Archives

Miscellaneous

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Couple of things to report/share:

1 - Stinkman

Big isn't doing so well once again. Amy took him to the Vet today for some X-Rays and tests. After $250, we found out: he's in the early stages of renal (kidney) failure, he's got arthritis on his entire spine that's causing him to lose feeling in his legs, he has bladder stones, he's in the early stages of dimensia, he's got two more fatty tumors, and he's extremely gassy (lots of gas in his intestines). Oh, and he's also dropped close to 22-lbs. He's down to 117-lbs.

So, we've got to try and get some weight on him, and that'll hopefully get his kidneys going again. But, that'll likely hurt his spine. But if his kidneys get better, then he can take some pain medications. And the bladder stones - we'll just watch those for now. If they get worse, they'll probably have to do some surgery on him.

Poor old guy.


2 - Work

Still highly uncertain as to what's going to happen. It's one day at a time with everything. I've got my fingers, toes, eyes, etc. crossed that everything works out. I trust our leadership/management and will follow them off a cliff if I had to. It's such a great company, I can't figure out what's happened and why it's so bad right now (other than the fact that our economy is in the tank; the dollar is worth less than the Swiss Franc, something that has never happened ever before).


3 - Workouts

I rode 42 miles on Saturday and ran 6. I rode 26 miles on Sunday and ran 3. Not bad workouts, but my feet hurt so bad after a ride that I can hardly walk, let alone run. I did some research and discovered that the problem was most likely the free shoes that I received when I bought the bike. They're old Nike riding shoes, and just about everyone who has worn them has complained about "excruciating outer-edge foot pain."

So, I broke down and bought a new pair of riding shoes... 2008 models range in price from about $250 - $500. EEEK! I found some 2006 "new old stock" shoes for about $180. Still expensive, but a good deal. Here they are, with my slightly-used set of "spare" pedal clips (also included free when I bought the bike).

I can't wait to try them out this weekend - hopefully the weather will cooperate with my desire to ride some serious miles.


4 - Weather

Guess what? It's raining again! Awesome. Sure wish we'd get some more rain...


Reinforcements have arrived

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Amy's parents are in town this weekend, visiting for the holiday. They brought down some reinforcements from Wisconsin - much to the delight of Karl & Company.

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We went to the Pea Ridge Military Park today - I rode/ran while they toured. Tomorrow I guess we're going to the Promenade to do a little shopping. Weather was great yesterday - high 60's; today it was a little cooler - low 50's.

WooHoo - it stopped raining

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It finally stopped raining - sometime around noon today. Now we can hopefully dry things out... this is what it looked like as I was turning out of my neighborhood today.

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Sorry for the crummy photo - it's from my phone at around 7:25 this morning. That's a golf course...

Sure wish it would rain...

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Not really - I think we've had our fill. They've been closing roads all over the place due to flooding today. Just in front of our office, in fact, the road is closed - it's under about 3 feet of water. The walking trail near our house is completely underwater - there must be 8-10 feet of water covering it. I'd take some pictures, but it's been too dark!

I quit

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I'm done. Game over. End of chapter. Roll the credits. Finito. Adios amigos. Outski.

Seriously - I quit. I give up. What's the point of even trying to get ahead these days, when it's one step forward, 3928123 steps back?

Did my taxes today, and found out that I owe $3,987 to the fed. Why? Who knows. H&R Block thinks it's because Amy's workplace isn't taking out enough in taxes, but she's claiming 0/0 and married, just as I am. Oh, and for the privilege of finding out that I owe a sh*tload to the government, I got socked with a $234 tax prep bill. Here's spit in your eye, Steve.

True, I made a slight amount more than last year, but I had a ton taken out of every check. The difference between my gross and net is more than 39%. That includes some 401k money, but not health insurance, as I pay for my own insurance.

Compared to 2006, I made about 10% more in 2007. Yet, I owe a boat load in taxes, and my cost of living increased by way more than 10%. Health insurance? Went up by 21%. Fuel costs? Increased by more than 30%. Even my cat's food increased in price by 50%. And my property taxes? 25% increase.

I tried to "do good" by putting an extra $150/month into an IRA, increasing my 401k contributions, and making $150 in monthly donations to the HSUS and ASPCA. Net result? Steve takes it square in the backside by our good 'ole government. So, what's the point? Screw the world, I quit.

I can't win. No matter what I do. I'm seriously considering having a fire sale of everything I own on eBay and moving to Mexico. I'm sick of giving every last penny to the government. I bust my freakin' butt, save up some money, and then have to fork it all back over. It's like the school bully that shakes you down for your lunch money every day. So, I think I'll change schools.

My favorite line from today's tax appointment? "Well, if you'd increase your IRA contributions by $3500, you'd save another $400 on your taxes." Oh, GREAT! Here, take another $3,500 from me so that I will only owe $3,500 at the end of next year. And while you're at it, how about you kick me square in the groin - and just for good measure, let's schedule two kickings on every Wednesday.

ARGH. I'm so pissed. I want to scream about elventy billion swear words right now.

Scary Stuff

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What a week.

Late last week, our Board of Directors voted to close two of our remote locations. The locations were strictly loan production offices, and dealt primarily in wholesale/brokered residential real estate loans. Back in the day, they did a lot of "subprime" lending and so on. We acquired these locations about a year and a half ago, as the result of a deal we cut with another bank.

Well, apparently the locations weren't real profitable to begin with, and they became even less profitable as the economy tanked and regulations increased in that arena. We tried to keep the locations going, but the losses were too heavy; we couldn't support them any longer. Selling wasn't an option, as there's not much market for such an organization these days, so the decision was made to close the locations.

The Board assembled a small team to drive down to the primary location, make the announcement, help the employees gather their personal effects, and then remove all of the paper files, computer equipment, phone equipment, and so on. The primary office was about 12,000 square feet and employed about 20 people.

I was one of the folks on this small team, and as a result, I had to drive a 26-foot rental truck down to the office and help people on what was effectively their last day. Holy cats - what an experience. After nearly 10 hours of hard work, we'd packed-up 400 boxes worth of paper files, and about 1500 pounds of computer and phone equipment.

As unpleasant as the whole situation was, the people from that office were surprisingly understanding. Some even commented that they were shocked it took so long to happen - most figured the doors would've closed on that portion of the operation long ago. It's a true testament to our bank's leadership - they definitely care about people and tried to keep them on for as long as possible. Something tells me that any other organization would've cut their losses long ago.

Regardless, the experience was extremely scary to me. I couldn't imagine discovering that I no longer had a job, much less discovering that I've lost a job with the best company on the planet. I'm not even sure what I would do, or how I would react. I've loved my new job since day one; the people, the projects, the management, and I genuinely care deeply about what I do, and the impact it has on our customers and my fellow coworkers. I'm not sure I'd be as understanding, friendly, and helpful as the folks that we closed down were. Some of them hung around even after they turned-in their last items - they wanted to help us load the truck and clean-up the offices.

It's sad that our economy has become what it has - which is stagnant. Various people have different perspectives on what's happened. Some blame the war, some blame the global markets; I blame us.


Granted, spending a billion dollars a month in Iraq isn't really helping us out, but I really believe the problem is that we've come to expect everything to be delivered to us for such a low cost that we've driven ourselves out of jobs. Everything is outsourced in the name of saving a buck and pleasing Wall Street. As a result, we've stopped producing tangible goods.

A country like ours, which prospered during the industrial revolution, and continued to excel after WWII by innovating and manufacturing tangible goods can't suddenly flip a switch to "import only" and still expect to be on top of the world for very long. We consume items faster than we could ever produce them, and we demand them at prices that wouldn't sustain any "normal" American's livelihood.

What's the solution? I have no idea. But just a few days ago, I witnessed the impact of this whole downward spiral firsthand - people losing their jobs. It's nothing that I ever want to experience again, so I can only hope that things turn around quickly.