Thursday, April 27, 2006

I Could Get Used to This

6:30 – Alarm goes off. D turns it off, gets up to feed the dogs, have shower, eat breakfast and get ready for work.

6:34 – I go back to sleep.

8:12 – D wakes me up to kiss me good-bye when he leaves for work.

8:17 – I go back to sleep.

9:30 – Wake up, get out of bed, have a quick shower, put on clean sweats.

9:45 to 10:45 – Make coffee, play with dogs, drink coffee, check email, eat cereal outside on the deck in the sunshine.

10:45 to 11 – Download music.

11 to 3 – Work on first project for financial consulting company.

3 to 4:15 – Make and eat sandwich, watch part of Dr. Phil, take Bailey with me for 20 minute round-trip walk to get mail, check email again, check blog for comments.

4:15 to 7 – Work.

Amount of money I spent on gas today: $0.00

Amount of money I spent on lunch today: $0.00

Getting in 7 hours of productive work without having to put on real clothes, makeup or shoes: Priceless

Monday, April 24, 2006

I Know This Much Is True

The book referenced in the title is a wonderful read, by Wally Lamb. But that isn’t what this post is about. I’ve been meaning to do a Rants & Raves post for a while, so here goes.

Why is ABC running “recap” episodes of Lost, Desperate Housewives and (worst of all) Grey’s Anatomy? These are even worse then re-runs! I realize May sweeps is coming and you have to save your best episodes for this magic yet made-up TV calendar, but we don’t want to see what amounts to a mash-up of our favorite shows. Stop it already.

Northern California has had enough rain, thank you. Two people have basically been killed by their houses lately, one was crushed by a landslide that took over his property and the other fell to his death when a 10-foot deep sinkhole opened up in his living room. Again, stop it already.

I would love to use less gasoline and buy a scooter, but they aren’t freeway legal in California and don’t have enough power to get me up the windy, steep hill to my house. Then there's the helmet hair issue to consider.

We waited until April 16 to mail our 2005 Federal tax and 2006 1st quarter estimated tax payments. The checks were cashed on April 20. Anybody who is due a refund get it yet? I didn't think so.

I really thought I had more rants…I’m sure more will come to me as soon as I post this. I’ll update as necessary.

Maison candles are heavenly. They last a long time (it says 60 hours on the label but I haven’t been keeping track) and the scents are amazing. My favorite at the moment is called Citron, which is lemon verbena & lavender. I buy mine at Bed Bath & B*yond, but they aren’t selling them online. (Partial rant there!)

I’d like to thank the person who finally convinced the wine industry that screw caps were OK to use on good quality wine.

We are going to see Fiona Apple in late June, an early anniversary present to ourselves. Her latest, Extraordinary Machine, has been on constant rotation on my iPod since it came out last fall.

My new favorite place to spend time online is We already have two large dogs that bring me so much joy, I figure I could use a little more. As in, a little dog, preferably a dachshund or a dachshund mix. So far D isn’t convinced we need another dog, but it isn’t a question of need, at least not for us. The doggies there need me.

My next favorite place online is the Eagle Eye live web cam, which gives you a bird’s-eye view (sorry, couldn’t resist that one!) of an eagle’s nest on Hornby Island, BC, just off the east coast of Vancouver Island. Every single time I’ve logged on, the mother eagle has been in the nest. My thanks to Canadian Expatriates for posting the link.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium also has seven live web cams, including otter, shark and penguin cams. Who says all the internet is good for is porn and stock quotes?

I’ve been looking for a steam cleaner for our tile and Pergo floor for a while now, and finally bought one last weekend at C*stco. Best $100 I ever spent! No cleaning solution, no residue, as easy as sweeping. For the cost of 4 cups of distilled water I cleaned my entire first story in less than an hour. I don’t think I’ve ever looked forward to doing housework before; I’m sure it will wear off soon.

As a follow-up to my Ambition post, I’m pleased to tell you that I’ve worked with the educational folks who keep track of compliance for my certification status, and it turns out I am still active after all. I had some of my credits going towards the wrong time period.

I am about to start on my first stand-alone project for my friend’s financial consulting company, I sign the paperwork and pick up my laptop on Tuesday. I’m still juggling three other clients as well, but I am hopeful that by the end of the year I can focus all my time and attention on this new venture. In the meantime, I will be treated as a regular employee for tax purposes by them so it won’t increase my quarterly estimated payments. I still have such low self-esteem at times, having so many people wanting my services is doing a lot to keep those condescending voices in my head in check.

Finally, a few days ago I put my entire foot in my mouth and hurt the feelings of a true blog friend. My intentions were noble but the execution was very poor. Right now I am reading and commenting on blogs with focuses on adoption – both those who are adopting domesticly and internationally, and adult adoptees -- donor egg, IVF, pregnancy, recurrent miscarriage, and POF, among other things. I have absolutely no personal experience with any of these things. Yes, I’ve been through the infertility trench and I’m still finding mud in nooks and crannies, and will be forever, probably. Even without personal experience, I hope that I can offer something in the way of compassion to you all. Bear with me while I live and learn.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

What Fuels Us

Much ink has been spilled lately on the price of gas in the U.S. For me, it’s not so much the cost -- it is what it is and you pay it or you don’t drive -- it’s the rapid rise in the price that makes me crazy. A jump of over 20 cents overnight is unjustifiable in the absence of a catastrophe somewhere.

Having said that, our prices here in the U.S. are actually much lower than in many countries. A few countries, like Venezuela and Iraq, have prices that are a lot lower.

The main factor in price disparities between countries is government policy, according to AirInc, a company that tracks the cost of living in various places around the world. "Many European nations tax gasoline heavily, with taxes making up as much as 75 percent of the cost of a gallon of gasoline. In a few Latin America and Middle-East nations, such as Venezuela and Saudi Arabia, oil is produced by a government-owned company and local gasoline prices are kept low as a benefit to the nation's citizens."

I did a bit of research and put together the following list of current average gas prices around the world, converted to U.S. currency and converted to gallons from liters (most other countries sell “petrol” by the liter), listed most expensive to least.

Amsterdam, Netherlands: $7.12
London, U.K.: $7.03
Oslo, Norway: $6.80
Copenhagen, Denmark: $6.68
Paris, France: $6.04
Athens, Greece: $5.12
Sofia, Bulgaria: $4.24
Santiago, Chile: $4.20
Hamilton, Bermuda: $4.10
Queenstown, New Zealand: $3.73
Vancouver, BC, Canada: $3.52
Johannesburg, South Africa: $3.32
Hilo, Hawaii, USA: $3.30
Los Angeles, California, USA: $3.00
Singapore: $2.52
Salt Lake City, Utah, USA: $2.48
St. Petersburg, Russia: $2.23
Beijing, China: $2.12
San Juan, Puerto Rico: $2.01
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: $1.50
Lagos, Nigeria: $0.62
Baghdad, Iraq: $0.40
Caracas, Venezuela: $0.15

No doubt you’ve seen the General Motors’ “Live Green Go Yellow” commercials touting their E85 (85% ethanol blend) alternative fuel. This sounds like a great idea, fuel from corn! However, things are not always what they seem.

According to the Green Car Congress website: “Because ethanol has less energy than gasoline, engines consume more to deliver equivalent power—in other words, burn E85, and your fuel consumption increases.

As an example, the 2006 Chevrolet Tahoe FFV delivers 13 mpg combined when burning E85 and 17 mpg combined when using gasoline—in other words, due to its lower energy content, ethanol imposes a 23% fuel consumption penalty in this vehicle. The Chevrolet Impala FFV delivers 19 mpg with E85, versus 24 mpg with gasoline—a 21% penalty.

E85 pricing tends to track with gasoline pricing, for a number of reasons. Add in the increasing demand for ethanol both as a standard blending component in gasoline as well as in higher-concentration E85 blends, and the price delta between E85 and regular gasoline may not be enough to offset the decreased fuel efficiency vehicles deliver when running on E85. According to the most recent (September 2005) Alternative Fuel Price Report from the DOE, E85 averaged $2.41/gallon and regular gasoline averaged $2.77 for that reporting period—a 13% difference.”

Well now, that doesn’t really sound like it’s worth it, does it? I’m not a scientist, or a socio-economic expert, but I do know that we are going to run out of oil, sooner rather than later. You can make a car run on just about anything, including used cooking oil (known as “biodiesel”) and ethanol, a major by-product of (among other things) sugar cane. Why aren’t the car manufacturers jumping on this bandwagon and offering vehicles already set up to run on alternative fuels? Because they don’t have to. I don’t have any answers here, just venting and throwing the topic out there.

I took this picture in Hilo, Hawaii when we were there in September, I had never seen a 4 on a gas sign before. I think I will soon see it again, and a lot closer to home.

Monday, April 17, 2006

This Day in History

Unbelievably, it has been one year since my brother was killed in a car accident.

Every time something happens to dredge up the muck from my childhood I think I am prepared...I've been wearing rubber boots for many years now. But somehow, despite the armor I constantly don, I am hurt, again. Now April 17 has been added to several other days every year when I have to reach out for support and reach inside for strength. You'd think the death of someone who caused me so much grief would be a welcome reprieve. Perhaps if I felt like any kind of resolution had been reached between us I would at least be able to grieve like other family members. Instead, I either feel nothing, or I am angry and hurt. My only consolation is that, if he ever abused his daughters, or later, if he were abusing his step-daughter, or had contemplated it, the cycle has been broken.

Tomorrow, April 18, marks the 100th anniversary of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire. Visit the 1906 Earthquake Centennial Alliance for information on events and activities in the Bay Area this week, and for some very valuable earthquake preparedness tips. There is even a ballet entitled "Earthquake" being performed by Diablo Ballet.

The brick street twisted under the pressure from the earthquake causing the trolley rails to separate and raise from the ground. Photo courtesy of the Oakland Museum of California.

San Francisco City Hall in ruins. Photo by W.C. Mendenhall from the USGS Library.

We're not ready for the next "big one", there really isn't any way to be truly ready for a cataclysmic event, and that goes for personal catastrophes as well.

Sunday, April 9, 2006


I assure you I am working on the first installment of my "memoir" posts, but I'm finding it slow going. Mostly because I want them to be good, meaningful, a means to an end, interesting...maybe I'm kidding myself but I look at this blog as a form of publishing, and I don't want to disappoint my readers or post anything that I would be embarrassed to read later. I sometimes lose track of the fact that this blog is about me and ultimately, for me.

Having said that, I find myself struggling with the question of career and ambition, or lack thereof. I'm a very goal-oriented person, or I used to be, which is why I spent the majority of my life involved in competitive sports and activities where my efforts resulted in a tangible result. A ribbon or medal. A letter grade. A score. A title.

Like most people, I've spent the last 20 years carrying around a large chalkboard listing Things to Accomplish, and I've been able to put nice fat checkmarks beside a lot of them. Some of them got erased or modified, and some of them I tried at and failed, but they remain on the board just in case.

I used to care a lot about my work. After high school I went to business school for a year and a half so I could learn how to use the business machines of the day. Anyone reading this remember Telexes? I knew I wasn't college-bound, there was no money for that, even though I breezed through school and probably could have gotten a scholarship, it just wasn't even on my radar. I got my first job when a friend decided to leave her office with her boss and they needed a quick replacement. I started out as the receptionist and ended up 5 years later as the office manager and an expert on Canadian securities filings. This was an office of half a dozen public mining companies listed on the Vancouver Stock Exchange with U.S. oil and gas subsidiaries.

When I moved to California I got a job with a real estate investment trust (REIT), picking up where I left off in securities, adding in investor relations. I started off as the bottom person in a team of 5, and once again, 5 years later when the company folded I was the lone person in the group with a huge range of responsibilites. My next job was at a small high-tech company, the first of many in Silicon Valley. This is where the job of administering employee stock plans came to the forefront and I felt like I needed additional training. Fortunately for me, a national certification program had just been established, similar to a CPA, and the headquarters for the program was right here in the Bay Area. My employer paid for the extensive program, which took a year and a half and involved passing three levels of tests. I was one of the first 100 people in the country to receive the designation of Certified Equity Professional.

There are a couple of local companies that still won't hire anyone without a degree, no matter what your resume looks like (*cough* G++gle), but this has kept me in well-paying jobs for the last 10 years, and it was important to me to keep in good standing by completing the required educational requirements. This wasn't that hard, as my employers would pay for me to go to seminars and meetings.

Unfortunately, my employers kept changing. Let's recap my employment history in California, shall we?

Company #1 - dissolved when the commercial real estate market crumbled in the mid-90's (laid off)

Company #2 - eventually went private, changed their name and is barely hanging on (left before the shit hit the fan

Company #3 - moved their headquarters to Texas (left for opportunity with internationally known internet company)

Company #4 - got acquired by a large multinational conglomerate (laid off)

Company #5 - died a slow, ugly death after misguided merger, no longer exists (went in as a consultant, made the mistake of becoming an employee, stayed far too long)

Company #6 - former Silicon Valley high flyer, arrived too late to make any money (laid off)

Company #7 - got acquired by large software company (laid off)

Company #8 - was the acquiror of #7, was brought back as a consultant after being out of work for 5 months, have been there for 3 years

At this point my friends and colleagues are beginning to refer to me as Typhoid Mary, which is terribly ironic considering that's my mother's name (and we all know how I feel about my mother). #4 broke my heart, I really loved that company, we felt like we were on the cutting edge. When we got acquired by a company we all felt was an internet joke it was very hard to deal with. At that point I started to become a little more guarded, and I've not allowed myself to become emotionally invested in a company since then (this was in 1999!), but I still loved my job. I was good at it. Or at least, big parts of it. Stock options and all the trappings that come along with them is a complicated business involving legal, tax, accounting, education, administration, outside vendor relationships, etc. etc.

Ten years ago this job was mostly dealing with legal and administration; now, due in large part to the sweeping changes brought upon by Enron and other corporate scandals, the job is largely tax and accounting-based. I've wondered a lot over the years how I ended up where I am today (an independent consultant in this field) as I am really not a "numbers person". I HATE math actually, and I struggle with that part of the job. Now that it's become such a huge part of the responsibilities I'm expected to be an expert at, I'm losing both my ambition and my enjoyment for the work.

That took a long time to say that for the first time, I've let my designation lapse into inactive status. I have to pay for all of my own educational activities now, which makes it difficult to keep up, but honestly, I just don't care that much anymore. Noone has ever asked me to prove that my designation status was current, and I know many very good people in the field who don't have it at all.

As a consultant I've been able to pick and chose the jobs I want or don't want, and I've chosen the jobs that are interesting and fun to me, which has meant I am sorely behind in the critical accounting and taxation areas.

When we first started trying to have a baby it was my goal to work part-time and/or be able to work from home. I've accomplished that, but now more than 5 years later, I have no baby to take care of, and having to pay the extra 15% federal tax on my self-employment earnings means we can't save anything. I am afraid that at this point I really don't have the skill set required to be able to do a good job for any company that would hire me to administer their stock programs. Could I get some further education in those areas I am behind in? Sure. But that would take money and the desire to do so.

I feel like I am faking it at this point. I am negotiating right now to work as a consultant for an old friend, he worked for Company #1 with me way back in the late 80's and is now co-owner of a financial consulting firm. If I end up working for him I would be an employee of the firm and they would send me out to various clients, which means I would not be self-employed any more. Maybe going to work for someone I like and respect will force me to get my ass in gear and make sure I am back on the cutting edge. Did I mention I hate change?

Wednesday, April 5, 2006

Northern Sky

My father-in-law emailed us this amazing picture of the sunset at the North Pole with the moon at its closest point. I just had to share it, along with the perfect song to listen to with it.

Nick Drake -- Northern Sky mp3

Men in High Places

From WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A Department of Homeland Security official was arrested Tuesday night on charges of using his computer to seduce a child after he allegedly struck up sexually explicit conversations with a detective posing as a 14-year-old girl, authorities said."

At age 55 I shudder to think how many times he's done this in the past without getting caught. Another quote from the CNN story: "Authorities believe he could have held similar conversations online with others, the sheriff said, because at some points during online chats he would address the detective by the wrong name." Do ya think?

This story comes on the heels of the testimony on Capitol Hill of a teenager telling how he was lured into child porn over the internet. The internet is a wonderful tool, but it has made it a lot easier for predators to find and meet their victims. Like the Homeland Security guy, many even feel safe enough to use their real names and give out real phone numbers, if they think they will get what they are looking for. Thankfully there seem to be more of these sting operations taking down these predators, but there are so many out there. You'd think it would be easier to find them, given the fact that a simple program can find the IP address of any computer in the world.

I don't know where I'm going with this...I feel compelled to warn parents and children of the dangers out there, but I don't want this generation to grow up thinking they can't trust anyone.

Monday, April 3, 2006

You Are Not Alone

April is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month, I bet you didn't know that. I didn't know it either until last night when I went to my favorite locally-owned bookstore and saw their huge sign and a table full of books on recovery.

Although sexual assault is one of my personal curses and causes, it hit me that it's important to say (or write) a reminder to all women and men out there who are suffering -- YOU ARE NOT ALONE. There is no such thing as a unique experience. I've had many people say to me regarding my struggle with infertility, "Don't give up!". I always resented this sentiment, as genuine as the speaker might have been. I would never recommend to anyone struggling with any issue to continue indefinitely. I would say instead, don't give up on yourself. There are people who care and who can help, you just need to reach out your hand.
Divorce Resource Center
Exhale (After Abortion Resources)
Infertility Resources
NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness)
RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network)
Sexual Abuse Support Groups

I am not a member of nor have any affiliation with any of the groups or links offered. This is just a small sample of the available resources. Don't despair that you won't ever get over whatever it probably won't. But you will get through it. You may come out of the ditch on the other side dirty, gasping for breath, maybe even bloodied, but you will continue to slog through, one step at a time. I am a survivor. You are too.

Simon & Garfunkle -- Bridge Over Troubled Water mp3
Peter Gabriel & Kate Bush -- Don't Give Up mp3

Saturday, April 1, 2006


I love to learn about the history of words, places and dates. I've found some interesting theories on the origins of April Fool's Day.

From The Museum of Hoaxeswebsite: "The most widespread theory about the origin of April Fool's Day involves the Gregorian calendar reform of the late sixteenth century. The theory goes like this: In 1582 France became the first country to switch from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar established by the Council of Trent (1563). This switch meant, among other things, that the beginning of the year was moved from the end of March to January 1. Those who failed to keep up with the change, who stubbornly clung to the old calendar system and continued to celebrate the New Year during the week that fell between March 25th (known in England as Lady Day) and April 1st, had various jokes played on them. For instance, pranksters would surreptitiously stick paper fish to their backs. The victims of this prank were given the epithet Poisson d'Avril, or April Fish. Thus, April Fool's Day was born."

There are many, many songs with fool or even April fool in the title or lyrics, but this is my favorite.
Merrymakers -- April's Fool mp3