Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Into everyone's life a little bad economy must fall

I was either extremely fortunate or psychic to pick my BigFinance firm coming out of B-school. I'm going to go with my predictive powers just because I can pat myself on the back that way :-) I am also fortunate that I work in transitions (aka acquisitions) so there will be plenty of work for me over the next 18-24 months. So while the other BigFinance here is not doing so well I should remain gainfully employed. A definite factor when considering I will be taking maternity leave at the end of March!

But, like the rest of you, I'm sure, I have not been so lucky with my financial portfolio. It's not like I don't expect to work for another 30 (eek!) years but losing 1/4 of my retirement savings is making me nervous. I know, I know, the market is awful for everyone...but it makes me feel like the past 7 years of savings was for naught. I should have just taking the cash and put it into CDs! Yes, Mommy's Esq Husband, I know that it's better to put it into the market, but it doesn't make me feel any better.

The last big market blip for our generation was the Internet bubble bursting. I survived 4 layoffs at SmallResearch and I was even in sales at the time. Husband is still there and it doesn't sound like there are going to be any immediate layoffs. But the last blip didn't affect the overall soundness of the market. I never felt like things were spiraling out of control. And that's what is particularly scary about this credit crisis. I am far from a financial expert (even with B-school) but I do know if banks can't lend to each other we are going down a path we may not be able to recover from. The delta between the Fed rate and LIBOR (what banks use to lend money to each other) is 3.5% when usually it is lest than 1%. That is a huge swing and indicates that banks are leery of the financial stability of other banks. Not good. Interestingly, financial firms pressured the government to allow deregulation and now we are in serious trouble. Hopefully the recent consolidations and failures will slow down and the market can start to correct itself. But until there are buyers for the iffy mortgage backed securities, there will be no market correction. The politicking with the package proposed by the Treasury Secretary is driving me nuts. The economy needs the bailout. It's that simple. Do I want to be paying for others' mistakes with my taxes? Heck no. But better that than even more bank failures and job losses.

One thing we have to keep in mind is that money is still really cheap. Yes, really! Think about it. When our parents first bought their houses in the late 70s or early 80s, they were paying interest rates in the double digits! Can you imagine paying a mortgage with 17% interest? No way DH and I would be living where we are now if that was the case. Of course, home prices were a lot lower then too, commiserate with the higher interest rates. So now people expect low interest rates which is why everyone freaks out when the Fed raises rates. But if it wasn't for cheap credit, people wouldn't have interest only loans and the rate of default wouldn't be as high!

Ok, enough of my financial rant. Like I said, I am far from an expert on this. I can only hope that the market corrects itself in the next 2-3 years (yes, I think it will take that long) and I stop losing so much in my portfolio!

DH and I have not noticeably cut back on expenses yet. We haven't been worrying about losing our jobs or not being able to pay for the baby supplies. What about the rest of you? How nervous are you? What about your parents who have to be close to retirement (if not already there)?

Fall TV Shows (wrap up)

It seems so long ago that "Must Watch TV" created a monopoly for NBC, doesn't it? You know, I still watch Friends reruns and still LOL. Yes, really LOL. While I do enjoy How I Met Your Mother it doesn't have the same consistent funiness of Friends. That's probably why 99% of the shows I watch are dramas now.

Grey's Anatomy is still a must for me, especially now that Meredith and Derek are officially together and Shonda Rhimes has promised that while it won't be paradise, there will be no more Roses either. This is another show that DH watches with me. DH really wants Private Practice to fail and bring Addison back into the fold. I kind of agree but poor Tim Daly can't catch a break. It's one cancellation after another for that guy!

I will occassionally check in on Ugly Betty but to Helen's point in her post the show has lost a lot of flair for me. It was quirky and cute and now just plain annoying. But considering my DVR holds 80 hours of TV, it will probably stay on the list for now.

Friday is my geek night. Yes, I realize I am geeky all the time but I take it to extremes for TV. If there is a Stargate Atlantis on, I'll tape it. I'm looking forward to the new show with Amanda Tapping (who looks so different as a brunette!), Sanctuary.

While I was not happy to have the absolutely wonderful Joan of Arcadia cancelled for the Jennifer Love Hewitt vehicle, Ghost Whisperer, I find myself enjoying the show. Yes, I know it was 3 years ago but I can hold a grudge! JLH can cry so prettily! And at the drop of a hat...I wonder where I can get those fake eyelashes. I have heard (spoiler!) that the powers that be are going to kill off her hot paramedic husband. I will not be happy if that's the case.

And finally, as Mommy, Esq, call it - Num-three-ers. Yes, I do like Num3ers. It was actually the first show that DH and I watched on our flat screen TV with kick ass surround sound. It has the best surround sound of any other show. Seriously.

Now that I have completed the rundown of my TV shows, what do you all like that I haven't considered? Odds are, I've probably watched at least one episode :-)

DH - now that you read how many shows you watch with me aren't you surprised you still have time for sports???

Sunday, September 28, 2008

DH's High Flying Adventure

This is a post from two years ago when I gifted DH with a tandem sky dive for a wedding/birthday present. Enjoy!

The Journey
DH and I rolled out of bed at about 8 AM which is ridiculously early for a Saturday morning. The need for caffeine was high but so was DH's excitement level. I have printed out directions from the company's website, Google Maps and Mapquest just to make sure we know where we are going. This will be the first time that we cross the border into South Carolina. We know we are in a different type of country after we get off the highway for the remaining 20 mile drive into the middle of nowhere. If by nowhere I mean lots of trailers and junked cars on the side of the road. The strains of Deliverance echo in my head. Unfortunately they are drowned out by DH's radio selection. Hard core rock emanates from the speakers. DH assures me it is this or Christian music. I would have taken the creepy religious lyrics over head pounding rhythms any day. But he's driving so what can I do?

The Skydiving Center

After crossing over two sets of railroad tracks and passing by a very large corn field, DH and I arrive at Skydive Carolina! It is very important to remember that exclamation point. It is integral to the whole experience. After parking the car, DH proceeds to empty out all his pockets and give them to me to hold in my bag. Coincidentally, before we left the apartment that morning I made sure that I had a set of keys and pass to get into the garage. I also make sure that all of Jeremy's insurance policies were up to date with my name as beneficiary. You can never be to careful. As we walk through the pebble filled parking lot, DH stops at the trailer that is really a bathroom which is located about 50 yards from the hanger. This will be the first of many bathroom breaks for DH before he puts his life on the line. Nerves, anyone? We head over to a building labeled "Manifest" which is across from the hanger and a shack that is named appropriately enough, the Snack Shack. Those clever, crazy skydivers! There are a few other people on the deck of the Manifest lounging around just waiting for their opportunity to jump out of an airplane. Surprisingly, no one looks particularly insane. DH and I check in with one of the women manning The Manifest (I have this real urge to call it The Manifesto but things are weird enough at Skydive Carolina! without involving Karl Marx. The woman runs DH through the massive amount of paperwork that he needs to initial, date and sign. Many of you may not know this but Jeremy is very conscientious about reading the fine print before he signs anything. I'm sure Mommy, Esq. would approve. He gets through the first page and a half and an announcement comes over the outside speakers that everyone who is here for their first tandem jump needs to report to Bill who will take us to the training room. The woman tells us to finish up the paperwork later and kindly lets me know that I am welcome to sit in on the training with DH. I'm sure they do this to all the people who accompany the crazies who are planning to jump. There is always the chance that I could be infected and they could score a few hundred more dollars.
The Training

Bill is an older gentleman on the far side of 50, probably passed 60 in fact. He leads us into a small room that has 10 folding chairs. There are pictures and news articles all over the room highlighting the sheer exhilaration that is jumping out of a plane at 14000 feet. I am not impressed. I can tell at this point that DH is getting a little nervous. He's not shaking or anything but is laughing just a bit too loudly at Bill's lame jokes. And he is not alone. Bill says that he has over 7000 jumps. He was in one of the military groups and specialized in air drops. He loved the adrenaline so much that he is still doing it 35 years later. While he is entertaining the crowd all I can do is stare at his very wrinkly, sagging knees. Seriously the man could really benefit from a knee lift. I'm sure it is a legitimate plastic surgery option. Bill fiddles with the AV equipment as as he does so he explains that in this video we are going to learn about lawsuits. Yep, not how to actually prepare for jumping out of a plane but, as he puts it, why the contract Jeremy is signing means that "you can't sue us and even if you do sue us you can't win". DH and I spend a few seconds muttering to each other about the merits of that statement. According to the video (which highlights their skydiving attorney) we can't sue them, the instructors, the pilot, the equipment manufacturing and the cook of the Snack Shack should anything bad happen. Now, I am no Mommy, Esq. but I have to believe that no matter how iron clad a contract is that there is always room for a nice lawsuit. The video now over, Bill launches into his speech about what exactly each person has to do when preparing for a jump, actually jumping and then landing safely. He talks about a mile a minute. Given my experience with Mommy, Esq's speed talking in childhood I have no problem following what he says and fill in any blanks for DH. About 15 minutes after we enter the tacky classroom, all of the attendees are now ready to jump. I'm like, that's it? Seriously? I know that DH will be jumping with another person but what about the practice jumps off a low stage? Shouldn't there me some kind of physical practice? Nope. Everyone is good to go.
Welcome To The Land Of Weird

We head back to The Manifest where DH finalizes his paperwork. We're told that he isn't going to be in the first group jumping as there were too many people who checked in ahead of him. Not knowing how much time we have we decide to check out the Skydive Carolina! store. Upon entering we see two dogs lying by the door. Being dog people we proceed to bend down and talk in baby voices while petting them. We direct a few comments about their cuteness to the sales clerk who mumbles something back. Not really understanding, I look up and quickly glance away again. Why, you ask? Well, I'm not sure how many of you have seen the movie Mask but she is the female version of Rocky. Her lower face is either hideously deformed or she was in a serious accident. Her jaw wasn't really on straight and she didn't appear to have any teeth. She was also drooling a lot. Don't get me wrong, she seemed like a very nice person but it's not every day that I'm confronted with images like that. I'm no Mother Theresa or Angelina Jolie to actively seek that out in third world orphanages. We look through the pathetically small selection of tee-shirts and find one that is not obnoxious and buy it for DH to remember his experience. Transaction completed we head out to the tables by the Snack Shack to wait until his name is called. And to have a smoke too. Ah, I love the South. There were ashtrays everywhere! It was like they were encouraging smoking. I think that it is no coincidence that many of the skydive instructors are smokers. It's like they don't get enough of a thrill from falling 150 miles an hour, they also have to play with death through nicotine and tar. While we are sitting there, a tall, lanky, mulleted shirtless guy with one leg starts playing basketball. Looking beyond him I see an older gentleman who is also missing a leg. I nudge DH and ask him if he thinks they got that from skydiving. He is not amused.

DH's Big Jump

After waiting under the hot sun for about 40 minutes, DH's name is called. In the interim I spend my time reading and DH strains his neck looking up in the air for the divers that just went up. He's chain smoking at this point. Fortunately everyone lands safely. I feel better, don't you? My job, aside from being the adoring wife, is to document this whole experience via my digital camera. I traipse along after DH as he proceeds into the hanger to "suit up". He is introduced to his instructor, Chuck, who picks out a flight suit for DH. Chuck will be jumping in shorts. Once the flight suit is on, then comes the harness. He has DH try on a leather helmet with goggles to make sure his glasses won't fly off in mid jump. At this point the videographer, Robin, joins us. It is Robin's job to follow DH and Chuck around and film the whole experience. He will jump with them and take pictures of the experience. Now, I think that I have a pretty accurate gaydar but I can't tell if Robin is two steps off Broadway or two steps off the Valley. Either way he's high energy and "totally stoked". The announcer tells us, "Jumpers, please head out to the plane." I snap a few more pictures of DH as he cross the gate beyond which "NO SPECTATORS ARE ALLOWED". I wave a few times and the plane heads up to 14,000 feet. I'm sure DH will make you all watch his video and describe the exact experience but let me sum it up for you. 14,000 feet: jump. Free fall. 5,000 feet: deploy parachute. Land. The whole thing took about 15 minutes. I spent a lot of time staring up into the bright sun trying to look for the tandem jumper with shorts. I had no idea what color DH's shoot would be (ended up being a patriotic red, white and blue) so I spent a lot of time taking pictures of random jumpers. DH lands and proceeds to shoot the shit with his instructor and videographer for a while. He is the last one through the gate back into The Land Of Weird.

The Aftermath

DH is practically jumping out of his skin with adrenaline. He strips (dirty!) out of his flight suit and we're told that it will be 15 minutes before we will have the CD with video and stills. We sit at the picnic tables and people watch as he tells me about the whole experience. He definitely wants to do it again. I'm a nice, loving wife who has an insurance policy on her husband (which will be increased dramatically) and I tell him that this could be his "thing". Most people pick up golfing but DH has skydiving. He's all about the rush, I guess. Finally, CD in hand, we walk back to the car and say good-bye to Skydive Carolina! It was an interesting day and if DH has his way, it will be repeated in other states. I don't plan on accompanying him again.
Footnote: Two years later and DH has yet to repeat the experience but he still wants to do it again.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Fall TV Shows (continued)

I have finally found my replacement for the X-Files and it is the awesome Fringe. So far it has the best of the X-Files with its creepy plotlines and mysterious Pattern. Will it be ruined like the last two seasons of the X-Files with revealing too much and contradicting itself in feature movies? I hope not but Fox has really struggled with the genre since its forays into Millenium and the Lone Gunmen. I think they should move it to Friday nights (Sunday would be better but they'll never break up the cartoon monopoly) because Tuesdays will be tough. At least its paired with the ratings grabber of House.

I'm on the fence about House this season. I was entertained by his hiring process (firing 36 people to get 3) but am hating the newbies. The best one, CTB, was killed off at the end of last season. I haven't cried that hard since Robert Sean Leonard killed himself in Dead Poets Society. I hope that the difficulty in the House/Wilson bromance will shake things up.

DH and I will also likely check out the cuteness of Eli Stone. I am worried for the show because it didn't have much competition with the lack of new episodes last spring. Anegline Jolie's ex is surprisingly endearing as Eli and his relationship with his brother is very realistic for TV. Sassy Admin can tone it down a little though.

Wednesday is the sacred night for Project Runway. I have been watching this show since the first episode and will willingingly follow it to it's new home at Lifetime. Unfortunately while I love that we had two seasons so close together, it has resulted in the worst group of contestants yet. I have full on hate for two designers in particular: Kenley and Suede. If I hear Suede refer to himself in the third person one more time I may just reach through the TV screen and rip his head off. As for Kenley, between her annoying laugh, over the top confidence and dismissiveness of Tim Gunn, I am actively rooting against her. If Jerrell (dispite his penchant for showing his man cleavage and awful taste in headware), Leanne and Koto don't make the final three I will have lost all confidence in the judges. Fotunately Heidi Klum Seal shares my hate of Kenley so we should be OK.

I also recommend Bones as an excellent Wednesday night TV option. I am surprised that it's on at 8 PM with the shocking amount of disgusting goriness they show but I love me some David Boreanaz. Who knew he'd be a much better as a comedic FBI agent than brooding vampire? I guess now that he can do scenes in daylight he's much happier.

I'll probably tape Private Practice but it had better get much better or I'm done. Pushing Daisies is my cutsie show of the moment but I have doubts it will last past this season. It's just a little too quirky for network TV.

A definite must that even DH loves is Dirty, Sexy, Money. It made the yummy Blair Underwood relevant again (although playing a scion may be beyond his acting skills) and you cannot turn away from a show that gave us chillax to use in our daily lexicon. I question casting Lucy Lui but she's excellent as an uber bitch so it will probably be OK.

Fill It Up!

It took me about 15 minutes longer than normal to get to work. I'm sure those of you with much longer commutes are rolling your eyes but when it's 30 minutes door to door, that's a big deal! Why, you may ask, did it take 50% more time? It wasn't an accident, as my trusty NPR announcer told me, or a particularly slow school bus. No, it was 20 or so cars lined up on the street to get gas. That's right, we are having a serious gas shortage in Charlotte and reports have been flowing in about price gouging and fights breaking out over the pumps. http://www.charlotteobserver.com/100/story/210621.html

There are three gas stations on the same corner about a mile from our house and not a single one had gas yesterday. DH had to fill up the SUV (the gas light had been on for days - don't freak out Natalie, it all worked out) and he ended up driving around for miles before he found a gas station that actually had gas. Surprisingly, despite price gouging reports, I have not seen an increase in prices. It's been pretty steady for the last two weeks at $3.99 a gallon. There was an initial increase to $4.50 or so when Ike first hit Texas but it settled back down. How have gas prices compared in your areas?

I think that the scariest thing is that I remember filling up the Chevy Corsica with gas at $0.85 a gallon. And I'm not that old! Really, I'm not... DH and I are fortunate that we don't go through a lot of gas on a weekly basis because of my short commute and the fact that he works from home. So the sharp increase in prices over the past two years has not negatively impacted us. Also, houses are newer in Charlotte so few of them have oil as the primary heating source. I can't imagine how much money I would have to pay out during the winter if I was still living in Somerville or Medford.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Fall TV Shows

Now that the Yankees have guaranteed that they won't be making the post season (sorry, honey!) that means I can wheedle my way into controlling the majority of TV watching...although my husband will tell you I do it regardless of the Yankees' chance to score a World Series ring. I have been a DVR fanatic for years since DH gifted me with the best Xmas present ever - a Tivo. Sadly the move to a house with legacy satellite and an older Tivo box meant that I had to give up the fun "booping" (if you have one you know what I mean!) and live with the not so great DVR provided by BigSatellite. But like the beloved Tivo I can record two shows at one time while watching another pre-recording one which allows for the potential to tape hours and hours of shows on the networks and major cable channels. So I decided to showcase, by night, what shows I watch and recommend. This is the first installment. Please don't judge on how much TV I watch. Yes, I know that will change once we have a kid (though I secretly hope it doesn't)!

Given that there is football all day and I have to keep DH happy, I don't get to watch a lot of TV on Sunday. I'm usually curled on the couch with a book while he yells at the TV and tells me how my FF team is doing. But, if I can sneak in during the hour break between games, I love watching, "My House is Worth What?" and "House Hunters". They have the benefit of being 30 minutes which translates into 15 minutes once you cut out the recap segments and the annoying overview of the aspiring homeowner.

I do record Gossip Girls for it's matinee showing at 6 PM. I can't record on Monday because of DH's requirements for MNF. Gossip Girls is totally awesome and feeds my need to see lots of pretty, rich people getting into crazy situations.

I'll probably record "Desperate Housewives" and "Brothers & Sisters" but I am not committed to those shows. More of a way to pass the time if I have nothing else to watch.

I have the issue of juggling TV recording with Monday Night Football. There is no way to record two things at one time and still sit through the game so I have to prioritize. Fortunately, DH loves "Heroes", "Boston Legal" and (wait for it) "How I Met Your Mother" so we watch those together later in the week. I am looking forward to the resurgence of "Heroes." All signs point to a much better season than last season. I have heard that they are bringing in another "Veronica Mars" alum which is fine by me! Too bad they've misused Kristen Bell so badly. Rent Season 1 of "Veronica Mars" if you don't believe me.

"How I Met Your Mother" is probably the most underrated comedy on TV. How is it possible that the smarminess of Charlie Sheen gets recognized with high ratings but the LOL lines that Neil Patrick Harris gets doesn't? I still laugh when I think about "Slap Bet" and "Slapsgiving" and the Price is Right episode. Pure comedy gold, people. Go out and rent the first few seasons and start watching this show now so it doesn't have to resort to any more cheap Britney Spears casting stunts.

This is the last season of "Boston Legal." It is also probably the last successful David E. Kelly show. Yes, I went there. For those who don't watch it, I am not surprised as it features actors "of a certain age." But the man love between Denny and Alan is a beautiful thing to watch. The show better go out with a final balcony scene or it will not be true to itself. Even DH wants to drink Scotch and smoke cigars when he sees Denny & Alan doing it. The plot lines are ludicrous and the "law" cases are pathetic but the actors are phenomenal.

OK...more to come later this week with other days. I reserve my right to add or delete shows based on the success of new ones. Thank goodness so few shows are premiering this year! It's a full time job, people. Now, how can I get paid for sitting on my ass watching TV???

Joining the world of blogging

I have loved reading so many other people's blogs that I thought I would start my own. Well, that and because several family members and friends were nagging me. I'll leave you to ponder which one actually decided me...

I have no specific plans for this blog. I anticipate that I will blog about my life, my interests (primarily TV and books) and perhaps some social commentary. I hope that readers will find it to be interesting at the least. If I'm lucky I might have some guest bloggers like dear hubby. I look forward to your feedback on the blog!