Monday, February 28, 2011


Thank goodness I have very little effect on the world, my previous post notwithstanding. (I hope all the attention given across America for that particular cause saves just one life that would have otherwise been taken away by the effects of an ill society.)
For weeks after my post about Earth Fare, I did not see one of the cashiers that I had blogged about.  Oh, you are thinking right... it's a strange mind that would link a blog that no one reads to the disappearance of a cashier. I have no defense to that suggestion.

I'm reading a book called Flash Forward for fun. There have been too many serious books on my Sony Reader. The TV series was based on this science fiction book I am reading. Time travel type stories always have paradoxes and flaws that bother me. This show in particular had them in abundance, but because I like time travel shows of all sorts, I watched it and liked it, until the show disappeared without an ending. I'm savvy now and realize the broadcast networks will never deliver what they promise. They are too wrapped up in current ratings to see artistic significance, kind of like politicians are wrapped up in the next upcoming election to do much good for our country in the long term. Some of the greatest TV shows of our time had to struggle in the beginning to be recognized as worth a future risk. Continuing shows have ended in mid story for a while now, with the networks showing little compassion for viewers who want to believe (that the show will have an ending.)

The book, Flash Forward, is a little different from the TV series. The book is more scientific and the paradoxes are questioned a little more tightly, yet they fall apart under scrutiny. If you could see a snapshot of the future, say a 2 minute slice of time, wouldn't it be somewhat likely that you would change something so that this snapshot would inevitably be imperfect?  Say, you could break a mirror that you saw in the flash forward. While the book does a great job of chasing around the paradoxes, the TV show was more entertaining. It wasn't lighthearted but it was just more entertaining by not chasing the paradoxes so much.

In the television show, the pivotal character tries to change his future and has the ability and money to flash forward at will. He tries endless flash forwards to find a path where changing an action might help him escape a fate that is impossible to escape, no matter what pathway he chooses.

Meanwhile, I still have this poor cashier in limbo. Could my minute actions have caused some future consequence that was detrimental to her? Did the manager Brad read my post? What about the comment I left? It was unlikely that either of these were important, but where the heck was she? She was trying to keep things together, though she was straining under the stress. It was a stress I identified with very certainly as you can tell by the fact that I was worried about this at all. Additionally, things had gotten better at Earth Fare right after I posted and commented in the comment box. The problem was that right after that this cashier was nowhere to be found, and I frequent this store a lot for my observational base of knowledge. Then finally, there she was. I was never so happy that I was unimportant.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

It Gets Better

Two of Wanda and my finest friends are in this video. I have been a victim of bullying myself in various parts of my life. Once the bullying of a superior where I then worked was so bad that I questioned for at least a year what joy I had in life. There seemed to be very little. I looked at other workers, even workers doing much more labor intensive lesser paying jobs and wondered, "Why can't I just be like them?"  Over time, it got better, much better. If I hadn't stuck around and persevered through this crises in my life, I would have never known the wonderful life I have today. At the time it seemed hopeless, but it was far from that. That time became one of the most important learning experiences in my life. Much of the enjoyment of the life I now lead is the result of my appreciation  of what I now have as compared to what I didn't have before. It gets better, I promise. Things change, you guide your life forward to a better place and you appreciate it so much more when you get there.

My wife and I, living in the southern United States where intolerance towards gay people is much more profound, have never hidden our complete support of the right of everyone to be who they they want to be. We hope we have affected a few to realize that a new world stands before us. We support our beliefs in our politics and we support our beliefs through our conversations with coworkers, friends, and family. If you've listened to the stories about our cruises, you know. All of them involved our gay friends and all of them were life changing events. It's hard not to find inner change when you are with deeply loved friends.

Thank you Jonathan, Steven, Michael, and Danny for the whole new world we found in your friendship. Jonathan and Steven were there when I decided to ask Wanda to marry me. They shared our joy, the greatest joy I have ever known. They were there for our honeymoon cruise. They have been phenomenal friends and loving friends from the first time we met. Yes, life is good. If you don't feel that way now, realize that it does get better, and it will feel that way to you someday, if you let yourself reach that someday.

Monday, February 14, 2011

May a nearsighted sand flea suck syrup off your short stack.

Please forgive the last post which belonged in Michael's Aimless blog. Here, in this blog, I'm supposed to be amiable, not confusing. Being amiable is quite a problem when you get older, as is my memory, thus the mistake. I have no problem at my job or in Dillards or Earth Fare, my favorite lunchtime stops. Heck when we moved away from being so close to my work, it actually increased my amiability. Before I could slink home and "rest" or basically take my mask of amiability off. Isn't there a cliche in there somewhere? At any rate, I feel much better when my break from work is more amiable. The cashiers at Earth Fare, a "healthy" supermarket, and the salespeople at Dillards know me quite well and I am part of their amiable day.

Recently, they cut staff at Earth Fare. One lady, whom I already knew as the "dirt lady" ( her self created nickname, not mine ) was laid off. This lady taught me all I needed to know about composting and thought of it as her duty to mankind to spread the word about dirt. She was so happy when she got a job at Earth Fare in the produce section. Her education was miles above the job she got in our post Credit Default Swap - Collateralized Debt Obligation apocalyptic world, but she was happy, for a time. Who could blame Brad the Earth Fare manager's cutting back of staff? It is equally important to keep the store in Auburn with profit as it was is to employ people, not matter how friendly the company's philosophy is.

Yet I found a break in my amiability. It didn't start when the dirt lady was fired. It started more when I saw how desperate a cashier was to help a customer who could find no other employee to help. The customer had walked to the cashier and interrupted her in her equally desperate attempts to quickly service a long line alone. She was working hard and frustrated because she was great at customer service and had no help. There were chinks in other employees who previously had been kind and gentle. Now they were rushed and hurried and looked depressed.

I wrote a note in the suggestion box about too few employees. Usually, or maybe always, these notes were put on a bulletin board along the side of the entrance of the store. I'm not sure anyone read these things except for me and other "store analysts." :)  The comment is responded to by Brad in a section under the store customer comments and it is posted on this board. The comments range from glowing to ridiculous, but always there is Brad's responsible reply. My note contained a comment that the "morale" of the staff was low. I carefully put line's in Brad's reply space so he would have no way to write a reply. I even signed it "Michael" so he would know exactly who had commented. He knew me from the past. I figured it was a message from me to Brad.

Then surprisingly, the message was there on the board. Brad had taped a piece of paper to the bottom covering my lines, so he could comment. "We are all over this."  Sure enough the amiable nature of the employees was bolstered and soon new employees were showing up to replace some laid off one's, I guess. Now I don't think my little comment caused all of this. I think there was a shakeup of employees going on anyway. Everyone was coming up for review. See, I ask pertinent questions of cashier's who tell me things about their own experience. I guessed that if my favorite employee was up for review and worried, the majority were facing reviews as the store opened at the same time, and a shakeup was in progress.

At any rate, my favorite employee made it through her review. "Yes!" she exclaimed. Wanda and I were in the store and I deserted Wanda and went straight to this employee to ask how the evaluation had gone. (Wanda is a terrific wife. She understands my idiosyncrasies like no other person in my life.) She is non parenthically my soul mate. Ummm..  Wanda...   not the employee. :) 

I knew if this employee had not made it through the process, Earth Fare was doomed. While I miss old employees who I don't see anymore, I am startled by new employees who are trying to learn the ropes. They too were out of jobs, and have a wonderful opportunity. But I'm sentimental about the employees I never see anymore.

My moment of non amiability was progressive for me.

I'm reading now about the short sellers who profited from the financial collapse. You would think they were terrible people, but not really. They saw the problem coming and placed their bets. They led a lonely existence for a few years until the market proved them right. I, too, led a lonely life with my opinions telling people that things could not continue this way. People thought me pessimistic. The market did very well during the time I thought it couldn't last. I had cried wolf. But towards the end I was so confused but I knew that we couldn't sustain this spending level with the wars and tax cuts. Now we face deficits to keep us out of the depression and the inevitable question as to when we stop them. People oblivious to what just happened still want tax cuts. 

 Pessimistic as I can be, I was not nearly as intelligently pessimistic as these guys who figured out how to bet against the economy, specifically with credit default swaps on collateralized debt obligations based on subprime mortgages. It can drive you nuts reading about this stuff but the terminolgy was the first step in the process to confuse people who were ignorant enough to be on the losing side. Many of the investment banks also fell in this category themselves. 

Not knowing these specifics, I did know things seemed exuberantly irrational. It is progressive in nature to read about these financial guys. And  I do think the amiable side of me is growing a bit as I soften on politics and preconceived ideas, and get nearer what I trust to be some kind of truth. It's a truth about one particular aspect of our lives that has always been fascinating to me. At least this subject is much less rancorous than politics, but less amiable than say, bowling. People who need help with resumes and job applications where I work seem surprisingly more amiable as a group. Individuals can be very desparate though. I am lucky to have the job I have and I know it.

Basically, the world is never what we think it is, but more like Plato saw it. We see shadows of reality on the wall of the cave.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Various resources: Effects of Executive Compensation

Back in 1997:

Note especially examples of subprime mortgage securitization.

Gretchen Morgenson today:

Nothing special here folks, now move on along, nothing to look at, move on along:

From Wikipedia:

The Financial Crisis has had a relatively small net effect on executive pay. According to the independent research firm Equilar, median S&P 500 CEO compensation fell significantly for the first time since 2002. From 2007 to 2008, median total compensation declined by 7.5 percent.[34] A sharp decline in bonus payouts contributed most to declines in total pay, with median annual bonus payouts for S&P 500 CEOs dropping to $1.2 million in 2008, down 24.5 percent from the 2007 median of $1.6 million. Additionally, 20.6 percent of CEOs received no bonus payout at all for 2008.[34]
On the other hand, equity compensation changed little from 2007 to 2008, despite the market turmoil. The median value of option awards and stock awards rose by 3.5 percent and 1.4 percent, respectively. Options maintained its place as the most prevalent equity award vehicle, with 72.2 percent of CEOs receiving option awards. In 2008, nearly two-thirds of total CEO compensation was delivered in the form of stock or options.[34]

I'm just playing with this idea of excerpting books I am reading:
Excerpt from The Big Short
You can back up and go forward a few pages. Back up to at least Green Tree. Steve Eisman is the subject of this book who actually looked into the Prime Mortgage Securitization problem before it became the Financial Crises.

Steve Eisman today:
now trying to get us to see another problem that crops up just at the right time to make money off of the poor, this time the out of work poor and ignorant, their unemployed status caused by earlier monemakers taking advantage of the poor and ignorant with the subprime loans.