EB: Giving ’em the business!

Brain dumps from the original Bonehead.


I’ve been pretty lucky for the past few years – my rent increased at all… but that wasn’t always the case!  A few years ago while living down in Florida I had the misfortune of watching my monthly payment increase anywhere from 60-95 dollars with each annual renewal.  Also, during that time, the price of gasoline increased roughly a dollar per gallon… and at 12 miles-per-gallon, and if you want to know what THAT feels like just grab a handful of Short Curlys in a nice firm grasp and just yank as hard as you can.

Unnecessary and definitely uncool.

You’re right – my bad.  I think being away for so long has made me a bit overeager?  Sell the truck would be the conventional solution but maybe not when I already own it.  Book value is maybe four grand and buying a new vehicle is going to mean taking on a new note.  Even with the savings in gas expenses it would take years to begin to recoup any of it.

Anyways, all of this got me to thinking about the conceptual nature of how this financial stuff is supposed to work; and wondering if it’s really “supposed to work” at all?   Let’s go back to the rent thing for a second.  During those three years where my rent kept going up, let’s say I held down a job and maintained status quo… nothing special but not below average either.  I could then reasonably look forward to the average run-of-the-mill, 3% annual increase right?  That’s, of course, taking alot of ‘givens’ into account – such as the company I work for being in good enough financial standing that they’re actually giving out annual increases, but what the hell… let’s go wild. 

So to fully flesh out this scenario, let’s say I’m earning an above average salary, ok?  We’ll call it 50k per year just to simplify the math.  At the end of one year that’s an additional $1,500 to my yearly base and then at the end of year two that’s an additional $1,545 – that’s a gain of $3,045 from year one to year three by having some good days and some bad days, not getting promoted and not getting canned.  Now, before we get into some full-contact Buzzkill, I should mention that all of these are pre-tax numbers.  Once you reduce that by the national average of 30.8% to pay taxes that leaves an average of about $1,050 per year, or $87.50 in take-home income each month.   

And now to bring it full circle: back to the 12 mpg gas guzzler and the annual rent spikes.  Eighty-seven dollars a month would set me just about even on that annual rent increase if the price of gas wasn’t continually on the rise… but it is.  Or maybe I’d break even if I’d been good enough to warrant a four or five percent raise in that hypothetical scenario. 

Whatever.  Enough with the IF’s.  You remember Ed?  Remember that line he used to say?  If my aunt had balls she’d be my uncle!  Enough with the damn IFs.

Right.  So, again, how is all of this supposed to work?  When you think if pulling even, financially or otherwise, you’re thinking of average, right?  But even starting with an above-average salary the only way to break even is to be exceptional.  I’m no numbers wizard and it’s quite possible that I’m missing something here but it seems to me that something in this system is broken. 

Just to be clear – I’m not suggesting that our taxes should lowered because cutting into the profit margins just isn’t allowed… lower taxes would only mean that less gets done.  Besides, many “civilized” nations actually charge a higher percentage than the U.S. does.  What I want to understand is how does the average American citizen financially survive in our present conditions?



June 21, 2008 Posted by | Observations, Work | 4 Comments

Just win, baby.

Awhile back I took some kind of online, professional personality test and, among other things, it said that I "do not suffer fools well", meaning, more or less, that if you're in charge and I have to take orders from you you'd damn well better know what you're doing. All that reminds me of an interesting event from a few years back.

In 2000 I was working a .com, which by itself was pretty hot – you could open up a company called "We Sell Shit.com" and you were practically guaranteed to make millions!  It was fast-paced and spontaneous and the company was young both in age and in personnel demographic.  In retrospect, I like to refer to that environment as being very 'Free Willy', and of course I mean that in more ways that one…

So, anyway, that's the background.  A local announcement comes out that my entire department is going to participate in some sort of all day team building exercise.  There were 18 of us in total so we were broken out into three teams of six members each, let's call them A, B and C for the sake so simplicity; all pretty standard stuff so far, and there was a tangible sense of anticipation in the air as none of us have any idea what we're about to get ourselves into.  I stroll in that morning just as the event is about to begin and I'm the last person to be announced onto Team C.

Too much build up… get to it already…

Patience!  It's getting good!  Team C so far had a pretty impressive cast of characters including my boss' boss, the VP of the whole damn dept.  Just as I'm assigned onto Team C, a friend of mine, hearing that I was her teammate, shouts out: "We got Barber??", then waging her pointed finger at our opposition, followed with "We're going to win!!"

Oh, how very League of their Own.  Did anybody whack her with a baseball glove?

Uhm… no.  Apparently, once again, my reputation for being fiercely competitive had preceeded me and just my presence on the team was enough to generate excitement!  Then as we exit our office on 33rd street we're given the mission: Each team is handed an instant camera and a list of 12 scavenger hunt locations.  Our mission is to take photographs of each location on our list and meet back at a pub on Amsterdam and Seventy-Something street by 5pm.  The first team back with as many photos as possible wins.  And to make sure our photos aren't pulled out off the internet or something like that, members of our team have to appear in the photos!  Furthermore, each team's list was slightly different from the others so you couldn't follow another team around Manhattan and just outrun them back to the pub.  Cute, huh?


Teams A and B took one look at their respective lists and took of sprinting towards the nearest subway station.  Just as my team was about to do the same I stopped everyone in their tracks.  Now, as far as not suffering fools well, this VP guy wasn't a fool at all… not hardly, but he was new to the team and caught up in the spirit of fun so he was probably just wrapped up in the excitement of the game.  Me?  I play to win at all times, period.  Our list involved going as far north as Yankee Stadium and as far south as The Statue of Liberty and ten more stops in between!  We've got to cover over 11 miles of the busiest streets in the country with approximately eight million people in the way, and we've only got 6 hours to do it. 

I took one look at the list and said to myself, 'It can't be done'.  I re-read the rules again and the wording about "the team with the most pictures wins" indicated to me that the challenge was meant to be impossible.  I leaned over to Mister VP and told him I needed his credit card.  He gave me a funny look.  I told him I had an idea and I just needed him to trust me.  Now, I'm aware that I took a gamble there – at that point in our relationship all he knew about me is whatever he heard about me when he took over the team because we really hadn't interacted directly very much yet.  Relying on The Rep twice in one morning?!  Anyway – he tried to look as trusting as possible and handed me his corporate card, then me and my boy Wolf walked across the street to the camera store…

The losers of the event were amazed when we showed up at 5pm with all 12 photographs.  They took turns inspecting our list to make sure we had to cover as much ground as they did, and inspecting out pictures to make sure they weren't Photoshop'd.  When I finally told them how we beat them they were really pissed.  They say we cheated; I have somewhat of a militaristic mindset so I said we were faced with an impossible challenge and had no choice but to adapt and overcome.  They didn't care for that answer too much so I replied with another of my favorite sayings:  Fuck 'em.


March 28, 2006 Posted by | Personal Revelations, Work | 2 Comments

Doing it for free.

About a month ago a potentially catastrophic event happened at my job.  This is going to be a bit difficult to write about because I don't know all the details of what went on and exactly what could have gone wrong but that's ok because it has no bearing on where we're going with this.

Late one Friday night about a month ago I was home relaxing when I saw an email come in on the work line: Sandy, a co-worker on the West Coast was processing a work order that, for whatever reason, absolutely had to be completed that night.  In his email he explained that the order he was working on was too big to be finished that night and would have to be completed later. 

You see, sometimes it's more than just words on a page; sometimes it's a bit less like a crossword puzzle and more like a word hunt… the message is in there but you have to go get it because it won't just jump out at you.  When I read that seemingly harmless message I found an implication that bothered me: There's a big order that needs to be done tonight and me and Barber and the rest of this team can't handle it.  We've failed.

 Uhm yeah.  This is the part where all those hormones get to flowin' and Barber starts to get that look in his eyes…

Recently my state's lottery went up to $50 million and I was talking with a friend about what kind of stuff we'd do if we got that kind of grand payday.  He looked at me funny when I told him I'd keep my job but I really would and I'll tell you why. 

  • Although my job affords me little opportunity to learn anything new, it does require me to engage my mind and to execute tasks at blinding pace and that, to me, can be fun!  It's clearly not something I want to do for the rest of my life but because of the difficulty involved, sometimes it's fun when I can dig in and prove to myself that I've still got it. 
  • More importantly than that is the fact that I love my team.  Department?  No.  Division?  No.  This is a team in the truest sense of the word.  We've got nearly 20 people and there is No Dead Weight on this team.  Not only do we have fun, agreeable personalities here but everyone is tactically proficient – even the new people!  Everyone freely shares information and everyone volunteers to help each other whenever the load is imbalanced.  It's an amazing environment.

When I read that email something stirred.  Sandy was telling outsiders that my team, our team, couldn't get it done.  It was somewhere around 11pm that Friday night when I excused myself from my phone call and logged on to help him out.  We coordinated over IM – he took the high level stuff and I took the grunt work.  It took about two or three hours but we got it done in time. 

Before going to sleep I saw the correction email he sent out informing everyone that we got the job done.  I slept well that night.



January 30, 2006 Posted by | Work | 5 Comments