Tuesday, December 18, 2012

what I like about being stuck at the train station

My parents are coming for a Christmas visit.  This is desired, but always leads to a bit of stress -- the stress of combining busy schedules, plus a holiday, plus houseguests.  It led to a conversation between Kathy and me yesterday about how we could better manage the stress of it all.  My parents, like most parents, have things they do that annoy their children. They know this.  I, like most children, have things I do that annoy my parents.  I also know this.  Necessarily, this will lead to conflict at some point.

"You know," Kathy said, "I wish I could just handle it like Diane.  She never seems to get ruffled by this stuff.  What would Diane say?" 

A few years ago, when B was turning 6, we had a birthday party at our house, which involved renting a pony.  This was much less expensive than we thought, and really, what could make a better birthday party than having pony rides in your tiny suburban backyard?  NOTHING.  We were so excited, we invited Diane to the party, even though she was not a first grader (she was, and is, an adult).  She planned to take the train in from New York City, and either Kathy or I would drive down and pick her up before the party. 

Only it started raining, and the pony arrived and made a mess of the backyard, and everyone was clamoring for rides anyway so we had to make garbage bag rain ponchos for 10 six year old kids.  And we completely forgot about poor Diane at the train station.  She tried calling Kathy's cell phone, but who picks up their phone when there is a pony crapping in the rain in your back yard?  She didn't have our address, so she couldn't just take a cab. She was just stuck at the train station. 

(not our train station, but just try to imagine)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

music of the season, from the comfort of your ergomatic desk chair

One thing I love about Christmas is the music, but even I must admit I get a bit sick of it at times.  I recently re-discovered this annual compilation of Christmas music by lesser-known artists, which is refreshing when you have listened to the same version of Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree for the 500th time.  Below is Vol. 1, but there are Vols. 2 and 3 as well.  Since you can stream it, you can at least enjoy the music of the season from the comfort of your office computer, even if you don't enjoy being stuck in your beige cube while the rest of the world is out enjoying eggnog and ugly sweaters.

Note: If the embedded player doesn't work, just click here to stream or download directly!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


I had planned on not writing any more.  To be honest, some of the allure of blogging had worn off when I realized I was no longer as anonymous as I thought.  I found out several months ago that the higher-ups at my old firm had somehow become aware of the existance of the blog, and the thought of them rifling through my relatively private thoughts, a discussion of my vulnerabilities, etc. left a bad taste in my mouth. And as a result, once everything went through the filter of what I would want them to read, I found I didn't have much left to say.  I tried to write a few times since then, and failed.

But, in reality, I missed it.  I miss it.  So.  Perhaps we will call it a lapse and see where things go from here.  Hopefully they have all moved on with their lives and were lulled into a false sense that I wouldn't write anymore based on my months of silence.

In case you're a reader who doesn't know me personally, hello, I've missed you, and I'll give you the briefest of updates, all in terms of facts and figures, although it doesn't say much about what life is like on a day-to-day basis.

Because I like blog posts better when they have pictures,
here is one from London (see update number 2, below)
even if it's a complete non-sequitor. 
Anyone who can explain it is invited to do so.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Sometimes, when I am sad, or stressed, or just need to get away from the office, I walk over to the East River and stare at it.

Thursday, October 18, 2012


Kathy and I have issues with contractors.  Every time we have one, I am shocked.  I wonder when I am going to learn to lower my expectations about this.

I think most people tend to think that they are reasonable.  I am no different in this regard.  I know there are times when I am being unreasonable, and can't seem to help myself, but generally, on this topic at least, no.    And yet, all too often, when we have to hire a contractor for something, we experience the same set of issues:

Getting an estimate.  No one ever wants to give us one.  When we were fixing up our flooded basement, once the first contractor fell through, I called three other contractors for estimates, and only two of them even bothered to call me back, one showed up, and zero returned an estimate.  I thought a full-scale basement remodel was a decent sized job, especially in a recession, but apparently the contractors in our Westchester town could not be bothered.  And, it's not like I only called these people once.  I made multiple phone calls.  For the basement, this threshold issue was so severe that we eventually just did the work ourselves.

Timing.  The first contractor that fell through on our basement did so because he couldn't meet our timing.  And by that, I mean that we received an estimate for the work in August, and in November he informed us he wouldn't be able to start until after the holidays.  I think that six months is an extremely long time to wait with your basement furniture sitting in your foyer.  It was at that point that we said thanks, but no thanks, and I started trying to get other estimates.  We've also had this problem with a painter and a gardener.  Delays of months before they are willing to even get started on our projects.

Communicativeness.  Okay, so maybe I am a little bit horrible at returning phone calls sometimes, but come on.  If someone hires you to do work, calls and leaves several messages that say "When can you start?" I think common courtesy requires a call back in under six weeks.