wwcitizen: (workplace)
This Sunday, Jaguar is running a newly developed ad campaign called "#GoodToBeBad".  The commercials (the 30-sec ad and the 60-second advert) are very well done.  The actors are excellent: Sir Ben Kingsley (in everything!), Tom Hiddleston (Thor) and Mark Strong (Green Lantern!), directed by Oscar-winning director Tom Hooper (The King's Speech).

There's an opportunity to vote for the best ad run during the Super Bowl, which should be good fun.  If you'd like to get involved and vote for the ads (many people only watch the ads anyway and wait for the game results later), you'll have to register (for free) online by 31-Jan (tomorrow).

You can see more info about the commercials and Jaguars at the following site:

wwcitizen: (Uuuuuuh)
Last weekend was a lot of fun with the Fire Sand Jaguar F-Type convertible. My post about it just went live a few minutes ago, in which I purposefully left a thread hanging from the story. It was left from the story because, frankly, it well deserved its own focus.
  1. It seems that my 2004 Passat is cantankerous. 
  2. It wasn’t good writing to distract from the previous post’s theme.
  3. The previous post’s theme was AWESOME!
  4. This current theme is about a jealous Passat.
When I plopped my little butt into the Fire Sand Jaguar F-Type convertible on Friday and drove away from my office for the weekend, of course, my 2004 Samoa Red Passat had to be left behind. After all, no one can drive two cars – safely – at once. It’s either one or the other. I took the other, hotter, faster car out for the weekend.

I’m frankly not sure what, if anything, transpired with my car whilst I was away traipsing around the countryside in the hottest thing on the NJ and NY highways and byways. My old guy was parked all alone in a Mahwah corporate parking lot for 2.5 days. 

Granted, there’s 24/7 parking lot security at my office, so my Passat was fine. He was safe. I’m certain he felt lonely and neglected without so much as a “See ya!” from me.

After turning in my Jaguar from the weekend, my Fire Sand was watching me throughout the day as I walked from building to building.  After work, I got into my old 2004 Passat, happily content with his practicality.  Happy that he’s paid for and that, in large part, I don’t really have to worry about him at all.

Work ended and Matthew was waiting patiently for me at his office 5 miles up the road on the NJ/NY border.  I got on the highway and was carefully navigating traffic, across lanes to the left and back to the right - the normal ebbs and flows of evening rush hour traffic. I kept noticing that my right side passenger rear-view mirror was wobbling.

I used the little turn knob on my side to push the mirror upwards, downwards, sideways and back to get the mirror to snap back into place. I didn’t realize that the actual glass was the wobbly bit. I didn’t realize that the wind was getting behind the mirror and loosening it from the flat plastic base. In an instant, as I was pushing the position knob back upwards, the mirror popped off and flew into the air behind me! I feel like I heard a “clink-clink-splatter” on the pavement to my back right as I sped away unable to stop and make sense of it all.

I exclaimed, “There it GOES!” to no one in particular with my windows open. “THERE IT WENT!” I screamed again to the gas station sign I was passing. Just really to myself – albeit loudly.  It was sort of a helpless feeling, witnessing my 2004 Passat turning into a zombie before me – with me inside!

I smacked my right hand onto the top of my steering wheel and rested my forehead against my left hand with my elbow on the window sill.

“Hope they have a mirror!” I said out loud to the air whipping around through my car, speaking, of course, about the VW dealership on the way home. What an inconvenient and odd thing to happen after such a nice weekend with my Fire Sand Jaguar!

And there it was. My old 2004 Samoa Red Passat was JEALOUS!  Jealous that I took another car home. Fuming that another, younger, hotter vehicle got to see the hilly countryside in upstate NY. Stewing all weekend by himself in a lonely parking lot, scheming of ways to say, “See?! How’s THIS for leaving me behind?! Huh?! You need to pay attention to me!  Spend time with ME for a change, why doncha?! IN FACT, I want something new for ME because I deserve it.”

And so he made me spend money on him.  To the tune of $100!  Honestly, I’ve done the same thing before with a previous boyfriend in a similar situation. I get it.

Needless to say, the parts department at both convenient VW dealerships were either closed or closing before we could get to either. I had to wait to check with the dealership closest to my office till today, but we met “RD” along the way.

“RD” is a short, beefy (clearly) Italian bulldog who works at the Mahwah-local dealership.  Good arms, great tats, and excellent eye contact. Buzzed hair and furry belly. Yes. Furry belly. More on that later… “RD” explained to me yesterday, “Make sure that you push in the new one like this (demonstrating and checking in with me that I was watching him): In the middle… not on the sides. OK?”

“Yes, sir! Not on the sides, but push it good in the middle there.” I quipped without cracking a smile.

“Right! Grab onto the sides here (checking in again with me) and once you have it seated and plugged in just right, push it in the middle till you hear it snap. Hear that?” I nodded studiously. “That means it’s in place. Then you can get in and move it around.”

Yeah. I’m not totally sure if those were all the words or phrases he used in that order, but they seem plausible. In that order. In my head. Right? RD did show me and instruct how to insert the new mirror once I got it and his demo yesterday was totally cute.

On the way home last night without knowing whether I’d be able to get a real replacement today, we scooted by Pep Boys to see if they had a mirror I could glue onto the old plastic base.  “MacEnroy”, a handsome 50-yr-old, Latin fireplug, told us about a glass place “around the corner” that could cut out a perfect fit. Sounded good, but no dice; the place was closed – in fact, it closed at 4:30PM and at we got there at 6:15PM.  Ugh. So, we went back to Pep Boys and got a set up for about $10 that would get me through about 2-3 days of traffic, in case I had to wait a couple of days for the replacement mirror to be ordered - better to be safe than sorry!

Turns out the local VW place had one in stock and I picked it up today.  And RD installed it!  Oh, yes. And about his furry belly. I saw his furry belly today when I picked up my mirror from the dealership during lunch. I asked if “RD” was around cuz, after all, he’s the one who explained yesterday; I needed him to make sure it was pushed in just right - from in the middle, not the side.

He installed the mirror and made sure I heard it snap into place.  He wiped his fingerprints slowly off the mirror with this t-shirt and, in doing so, exposed his furry little belly.  When he was done with my mirror, he stood there holding his belly button (for no apparent reason) under his t-shirt as we finished talking. Of course, I couldn't leave until he turned to go back to work. It's only polite. ;-)  Plus, meeting RD and MacEnroy were fun silver linings,

It’s also good to know that my Passat’s got a jealous streak. For the next time I leave him behind for a different car…
wwcitizen: (Uuuuuuh)
This last weekend was stupendous. Stupendous because my company allowed me to spend a weekend driving a Fire Sand 2013 F-Type Jaguar (V6 Supercharged) convertible. Driving that car was an amazing experience. What’s even more exciting is that when this project contract began for me working at Jaguar Land Rover North America, that particular F-Type completely captured me.

One day after I parked my Passat to go into work, I noticed that F-Type for the first time. Why? Because it was a Fire Sand F-Type convertible. "Fire Sand" is a cool term for "burnt orange" or "pumpkin". The color is totally intriguing and the body of the car captivated me completely - it looks like an animal. I took 5 or 6 pictures of the car as if it was parked on some side street in Chelsea (something I’ve done, btw).  On my way home that same evening, I mentioned to Matthew, “I just wanna drive that car for a day. Just one day. Is that too much to ask?”

Well, this past weekend, I did just that!  I had won a raffle at a company meeting a couple of months ago; 12 winners of the raffle would be able to drive a company car (a Jag or a Land Rover/Range Rover) for a weekend. I was one of the winners!

Over those three weekend days, I drove at least 500 miles.  Plus, I drove at least a total of 26 hours – just over a day’s worth of driving. Apparently, “Just one day,” isn’t too much to ask! I got my full day of driving just as I had wished and I got to see the car parked in my space for the weekend (I had to leave my Passat parked in the company parking lot for the weekend. More on that on a later, different post…).

At the initial button push, the Jag growled at me when he started up; his grin was tangible. He had me before the first growl. He had been waiting for me to get inside and push his buttons since my eyes squinted at the sun sparkling off his curves the first time. He wanted to be driven. He clearly didn’t want to sit still or be parked.  I brought his top down and pulled out of the parking space, When I rounded the first corner, he seemed to want more of that curve, so I gunned the engine a bit, He smiled and ate that curve in one bite. And then the next one: CHOMP! He was looking forward to the weekend as much as I was.

I pulled up to get Matthew from work (who now works about 5 miles from my office).  Matthew told me later that EVERYONE walking out of that office building was staring at the car. I didn’t notice them because I was looking at everything in the car – the controls, the lights, windows, the mirrors, and the radio.  Matthew was beaming because he knew I was excited for the weekend.  He got in and put on his seat belt. I asked him one simple question: “Are you ready?”

“For what?” he countered.
I asked him again: “Are you ready?”
“Uh. Yes?” he said apprehensively.

Making sure no one was in front of me, I took off toward the edge of the parking lot. Fire Sand snapped our heads back against our head rests.

“OH JESUS!” Matthew exclaimed. “SLOW DOWN!”
“I’m only going 15 miles an hour, grandpa.”
(^^ That exchange repeated itself quite frequently over the course of the weekend…)

When we were leaving the office park, getting onto Interstate 287 South for a bit and back onto 17 South to go home, there’s a very fun curve and Matthew almost shit a couple of bricks as we rounded it.  The suggested speed around the curve was a measly 25… my boy wanted to take it at about 35 MPH. So, I gave it to him and then some.

All the cars on 287S saw me coming onto the road and slowed down (or was I going faster than them?).  I got across the four lanes to the left quite safely, but quickly because 17S comes up right after that curve. 

BOOM! We were on 17S heading home.  All the way down 17S and eventually onto I-80E (another Interstate highway), so many people could not keep their eyes off the car. A couple of handsome guys in fun cars (not sports cars, though) raced up to meet my car. They safely kept their eye on the road in front of them, but checked out the car, me, Matthew, the car, me, and then gave me the thumbs up or an “OK” sign with BIG smiles.

We pulled into our building about 30 minutes later and I was able to dash in, change clothes, and head back out to drive down to visit my buddy Joey for dinner. The drive down, with the top down, was almost fully on the NJ Turnpike all the way down. I picked up Joey and we raced off to Princeton.

The best part about all of those routes was that I could drive at least 65. I positioned myself with traffic, so that I didn’t stand out. I also used my cruise control quite a lot, so that I didn’t inadvertently go over the speed limit.  At 65 MPH, it felt as though he was plodding along at about 30 MPH – he even yawned a couple of times when I sped up to pass someone. 

Cops didn’t seem interested in the car at all, which was just fine with me.  Someone at work told me that cops “respect” Jaguars due to the owners/drivers of Jaguars or something, but I noticed that cops – the entire weekend – were uninterested in the car.  I had always heard that if you drive a sports car, beware of cops. So, I was paying attention. I mean, I wasn’t driving erratically, recklessly, or exceptionally fast (except for that one time…). So, there was no real reason for them to approach me as it was. Still, that warning was playing in my head all weekend, which was probably a good thing – given my history with speeding tickets from when I was in high school (different story for a different post…).

Saturday was the friends tour. I drove to four different friends’ houses to show them the car and give them a ride. A couple of them live close to highways, so I was able to show them a little of what the car could do. One of them had never been in a convertible, much less and actual sports car. Two friends weren’t home, so I took a picture of the car in front of their house; at least their house got to see the car!

By Sunday, Matthew had plotted out a route for us to drive up to New Paltz and Kingston, NY, that included highways and country roads. He found a marina for us to visit, a resort (that we might want to return to for dinner, at least), and in the end, I chose for us to return home a different route than how we got to our destination; I-87 (the NY Thruway) was really backed up close to the NJ/NY border and we would have been stuck in tons of traffic. 

Along the way up there and back, there were lots and lots of twists and turns, hairpin curves, mountains, big hills, river vistas, and plenty of onlookers. We had a great time driving all over the place! Here’s a snippet of some of the roads and terrain we traversed along our road trip on Sunday.

Mountain Curves
Hairpin CurvesPalisades Pkwy
Monday morning came a little too quickly when I had to turn him back into the company. He’s been sitting in the same place since I parked him there. Feels like he’s looking at me, winking, and saying, “Ask for another weekend. C’mon! Let’s go!” 

Over the weekend, I took a ton of photos. Here’s a smaller collection of the best of the best from all that driving. We unfortunately had to stop from time to time, of course.

Part of me wishes that hot, fast Fire Sand cat was mine. The other, more practical part of me sat back with a sigh into my 2004 Passat, who’s paid for and running just fine, and drove to pick up Matthew after work. I didn’t really try to push my old guy too far, but from his brakes, I could tell he wasn’t too happy I left him for a hotter, younger, faster guy for a weekend fling.  He’ll get over it.


Sep. 18th, 2013 02:51 pm
wwcitizen: (Rollercoaster Red)
There are many different times in my day or week when all that comes to mind is the strong desire to escape. Somewhere else or some other time draws me into daydreams and longings for being and experiencing something other than the present.

It’s critical to be present and live in the moment as much as possible. It’s those present moments that create the future daydreams and nostalgia, longings and memories of other times, happier or more interesting places, and people.

This escape is nothing specific to me right now or necessarily a reaction to anything going on right now, except that I’d MUCH rather be anything else than sitting at a desk.  I’d rather be out hiking, watching nature do its thing, walking around a lake in upstate NY or down a street in Boston, or sitting in a train in Europe heading someplace I’ve not visited before.  Perhaps it's the ensuing change of seasons that makes me dream.

But, my sitting at my desk right now is a moment that needs to take place in order for those other, better moments to happen and more interesting places or times to be. My present work day will allow me, for instance, to visit another place that Monet painted or where a Vivaldi violin concerto was first enjoyed. Putting in my time now will result in time off and freedom from corporate bounds for a little while.

Would that I were a business traveler again. I used to LOVE to travel for work. It was exciting to visit and discover new places or get to know a particular place far away from home. I loved having special places in other towns that I discovered and would visit when I was “in town” for a business trip.
Most if not all the places I used to frequent for dinner, lunch, drinks, or over-nighting in Brno, Prague, Budapest, Bratislava, and Ljubljana, and even Vienna, Linz, or Salzburg – work trips – are most likely gone and part of history. The same is probably true in Leipzig, Berlin, Chicago, Houston, and Winston-Salem.
Having visited Ephesus and many ruins in Greece, Germany, and Italy, I often wonder how many cities I've visited in my lifetime will be relics and ruins of my time five or ten centuries from now. How will the earth’s surface or climate change that defines the future earth?

For those people who painted pictures in their kitchen in 300 BC, what did they daydream about? Did they ever want to escape and see or do something different than they were doing?  I wonder how many kids or artists with whimsy wrote their names on the inside of tiles before placing the tiles in a mosaic in their houses, like I used to do when I helped my dad build rooms or fix a wall. 

All over the place from Singapore to Kaua’I, Hawaii, I've planted my initials somewhere, all the while thinking, “Who will find this? What will they think? Will they look up my name and try to find out anything about me? What else will I leave behind that they will be able to find?”

It seems part of human nature to want to leave some kind of stamp on the world for future humanity. Is that all humans or a select few? It’s a select few whose existence echoes through the centuries – like Homer. Of course, not the “Homer” of Springfield, but will Matt Groening’s work survive the centuries?  Will school kids in AD2357 watch those shows in awe of “the way things were”?  Or will Space Balls inordinately be the societal ruler by which our generation’s Weltanschauung will be measured?

See?  All I wanna do is escape and be elsewhere doing something else, but simultaneously leave my mark somehow, somewhere, someway.
wwcitizen: (Lincoln Tunnel)
This morning at QuikCheck, the cashiers were trying to lure customers into visiting any QuikCheck at lunchtime for a free submarine sandwich. In order to get the free sub, you had to succumb to a hand stamp.

I had stopped there for veggie snacks on my way to work. It's a "quik stop" off the highway. I overheard the cashier explaining the "Sub Club stamping program" to a female customer ahead of me: Once the cashier stamps a customer's hand, the customer can go to ANY QuikCheck today to receive a free sub sandwich for lunch. The female customer didn't seem to be heading to work (wearing jeans and a polo shirt) and even seemed to consider getting stamped for a free sub later. But she declined.

However, that QuikCheck gets a LOT of business folks throughout the morning on their way to their office. How could QuikCheck possibly expect that these business folks (like me) would want a "Sub Club Stamp" on their hand when they're heading to work (I don't know if that was the title of the program, but it sounds funny...).

My excuse? As I glanced dramatically at my hand and tie, I replied in a short burst of overacting, "Oh, I coudn't possibly have a stamp on my hand like that at the office. **sigh** Thanks, but no thanks."  <-- Not that I would return to any QuikCheck for a free sub for lunch today.  I wouldn't have returned to any QuikCheck even if they had offered some other form of "program conformity", like a paper coupon because I eat my lunch at work.  But, I if I had given the real excuse, I couldn't have been so audibly and visually dramatic this morning. It was invigorating to give the pretense of being high maintenance.  B-)

Somehow the previous customer's lack of enthusiasm left a morning drama void that I had to fill.

The whole thing was strange this morning. Even the cashier was visibly bothered and annoyed at having to ask me to stamp my hand - she even knew I was going to say, "Oh, huh-uh."

I'd never heard of any store offering a hand stamp in the morning for something free at lunch. Stupid campaign.
wwcitizen: (Car in the Country)

I am so irritated and flustered. I had just gotten off the phone with Matthew and turning off the highway onto the exit for the street where I work. There's always a back up at that exit.  I noticed this morning that the turn off traffic was backed up more than normal. I thought, "I'll cut through the Burger King or the diner parking lot and come up the back way onto my street (something I've never done before).

So, I turned into the Burger King parking lot, where no one was because it's closed this early in the morning, but out of the corner of my eye I see a car - don't know what kind. I get to the entrance to whatever the back street is leading up to "my" street, stop completely, notice that there's an "Entrance Only" thing for the Burger King parking lot and think, "Oops".

I make a right turn, safely - with no one behind me, and go up to the merge onto my street. Then I notice that there's an SUV DIRECTLY behind me. I mean like ON MY ASS. This SUV is RIDING MY ASS all the way from when I turned right and jerking back and forth.  I thought, "Oh, could this guy be seriously full on road rage this early in the morning?"

I almost felt like pulling over to the side of the road to let the guy pass.  Instead, I make a legal merge/turn onto my street go over a bridge (that goes over the highway), stop at the next traffic light - fine. This guy is still ON MY ASS. Even through the light, he's lurching forward, jerking back and forth, and I think, "Jeez, fella, calm the hell down and get around me."

He finally does and pulls along side me. He's apparently an off-duty cop - not even in an undercover cop car!! I glared at him and soooo wanted to say, "Dude! Calm the fuck down!"

But, I didn't. He stays driving next to me, looking at me then back to the road for like a block. He's swerving and jerking his car as he keeps turning up his hands to look at his speedometer and back at me. All the while, I'm driving around 35 mph in a 40 mph zone.

He speeds up, passing me, but has to stop at the next traffic light and eventually turns left. So, it seems as though he was trying to make me speed and go over the speed limit or do something illegal, so that he could pull me over or something. I did nothing illegal - even in the BK parking lot, really.

There was no sign stating "No Thru Traffic", which some lots have if they're on the side of a highway.  And the "Entrance Only" sign is a private sign - not installed by the city, but possibly monitored by town cops. That's the only thing I could imagine was this guy's beef, but he couldn't really nail me on it.  Maybe I came into the parking lot too quickly. Who knows?

The only thing I could imagine being an issue is, the NJ statute that reads, "Operating a motor vehicle on public or private property to avoid a traffic control signal or sign". But, I wasn't avoiding a traffic signal; I was avoiding the backup of exit ramp traffic heading to the same signal I was ultimately heading towards, just from the other direction.

UGH!! That type of cop behavior pisses me off so much! Enough venting. Thank you for listening.

wwcitizen: (Car in the Country)
This is now my fourth week starting off at the North America Corporate Headquarters for Jaguar Land Rover. It's interesting work being a Senior Project Manager and Business Analyst for them. There's lots of work to be done, that's for certain.
It's also interesting working for a company where most of its employees can't seem to afford one of their products. But, there are plenty of opportunities to drive the cars, whether as part of the corporate fleet for work-related travel or as a demo run for a new car that's coming out.

I just missed the opportunity to drive an F Series, which they allowed employees to test drive the week before I joined up. Here's a video of the car traveling around France. VERY HOT!!
wwcitizen: (Car in the Country)
Well, we're off tomorrow for a second round of Ptown in the off season. The trip should be fun and still pretty low-key in town. Last weekend was the event, Out of Hibernation, which is a bear run during the St. Patrick's Day weekend. I heard it was pretty fun and they had some great fundraisers around town.  We're done packing and getting ready for everything, including our hair cuts, which we'll get tomorrow morning.

Matthew's hair has to be at about the same length as a month ago.  He's doing a scene this time that precedes (in the story's time line) that he shot a month ago.  Between walking from the street into a bar, his hair can't all of a sudden appear shorter than it was outside. That would be really funny! Never know, though; I might be called in last minute to be background! That'd be cool.

Here's the weather forecast for the next few days.  I'm hoping that it's not as wet as is predicted; last time was snowy and wet enough!!  I'm also hoping that maybe we could get into a different town, say on Sunday, like Wellfleet. They have GREAT oysters from there this year. They're HUGE and delicious.
Fullscreen capture 3202013 80634 PM.bmp
One of the best things about this trip is that we're leaving on Thursday this time, so will have Friday in town and then the weekend. Traffic (knock on wood) will be better than on a Friday through Connecticut going up and returning in the evening should be a breeze; at least it was last time.
wwcitizen: (Photo Avatar)
Here are pictures of Matt and my experience in Burbank, CA, in July for a quick trip to appear on the Red Carpet for Bear City 2. It was such a fantastic experience that generated a LOT of memories (and photos) very quickly.  Check them out and enjoy!  I only ask that if you re-use or re-post any of the photos, please give me credit for the photos.  Thank so much!  
wwcitizen: (Default)
Matt got a Ladders.com job description today. He read it to me and I just had to share it:
Fullscreen capture 8102012 45743 PM.bmp

Doesn't this equate to ANYONE who is on the Romney campaign?  Also, I find it really strange that they want someone who's got a strong desire to influence Christian entrepreneurs.  Just seems kinda cultish, doesn't it?    
wwcitizen: (Car in the Country)
Matt and I have had a long discussion over the last 2-3 years about my car. Every once in a while, he'll pick it up again and we start deliberating.  Yesterday, I picked up my car from Firestone, where I've gotten a few things done on it over the last month:
  • New battery, 2 new tires (with rotate/balance), Oil/filter change (synthetic oil and recycle the old)
  • 2-3 different electronic and systems diagnostics
  • Brake fluid and fuel line flushes (good to do if unused for 2-3 years!!)
  • Coil, spark plug, and belt replacements: alternator, power steering, and fan (check engine light was on)
We've been using my car more and more over the last 2-3 weeks, too. Matt still complains that, "It's not new and flashy and 'modern'" (i.e. no Sirius/XM, no steering wheel volume/radio channel control, no GPS, no dashboard screen display, manual headlights, etc.).  But, I think he realizes that it's a good decision and my car's fine - not awesome, but fine. From my point of view, we can go on more vacations happily without a new monthly car payment hanging over my head.

In total, all repairs ran me about $1400. I've not spent more than $500 on my car's maintenance in 4 years, also paying it off 4 years ago. That means, insurance and registration notwithstanding, I've retroactively spent around $40/month for the last 4 years to have my car. My car's now good to go for at least another 70-90K miles; aka 5+ years. That means, too, that without further repairs, the monthly "charge" for my car would work out to be less than $20/month for 8+ years. Why get rid of it, if it does what we need it to do - get me from point A to point B safely and comfortably?

I don't need a new car and I'm happy about that. I love VWs and I love my Passat. They're good, solid cars.  Last week, I even got about 28-30 MPG (miles per gallon) to go to Princeton for dinner with a friend.

When I pulled my car away from the car wash a few weeks ago, it sparkled and made me smile. I kept looking at it thinking, "Wow, what a beautiful car!" 
The only problem with VWs is the VW service department. VW service departments SUCK! They SUCK big time. I've told a couple of them how badly they suck, why they suck, and why I couldn't wait to go somewhere else because their service department sucks - all of them that I've dealt with. They suck because 1) they won't take you right away, 2) you have to schedule an appointment, 3) if you don't schedule your service appointment, you get "punished" and can't pick up your car for DAYS. DAYS!!  4) when you leave your car there for service for days, the charge goes up exponentially - not for storage, but because 5) they keep "finding other things" to do. 

With Firestone, the first time I took my car in for a battery, basic diagnostic, oil/filter change, and new tires - on a Friday at about 1PM. I had the car back by 6PM.  When I took my car in this last time, it was at about 4:30PM when they close for the weekend at 7. I knew it was going to take some time, so I told them, "No rush."  They got it back to me at the end of the very next business day. How great is that?!  On TOP of that, Firestone gave me a $125 discount (!!) for being "inconvenienced" once (the shield underneath had come unfastened the first time I went there and they gave me a coupon for my next visit). At the VW dealership's service center, I would bet $10K (tee hee) that the work would have taken 4-5 days and cost me an extra $2000 at least.

I'm very happy with my decision.  If the car lasts me another 5+ years, then, that's $25K+ that I will have saved. One thing that my father taught me that I've learned is about choosing a car wisely and not spending too much money on them, because from the moment you drive them off the lot, they become a quickly depreciating asset.  Well, I appreciate my VW and it's sticking around with me as long as it'll have me.  :-) 
wwcitizen: (workplace)
The Magic of Doing One Thing at a Time - Tony Schwartz - Harvard Business Review

Good points in this article. How many times do we get overwhelmed by our work, technology, and interests that we lose sight of the big picture or get bogged down in the details.


I've extracted some highlights from the article.  If you're a manager, here are 3 policies worth promoting (which you can still emulate in your own professional life, even if you're not a manager, but that others will notice and possibly imitate):
1. Maintain meeting discipline.

2. Stop demanding or expecting instant responsiveness at every moment of the day.

3. Encourage renewal.

Consider these 3 individual, boundary-setting behaviors for yourself:
1. Do the most important thing first in the morning, preferably without interruption, for 60 to 90 minutes, with a clear start and stop time.

2. Establish regular, scheduled times to think more long term, creatively, or strategically.

3. Take real and regular vacations.

wwcitizen: (Car in the Country)
Matthew wants me to buy a new car. I don't need a new car. Matt keeps pointing to new cars or "new to me" cars and saying, "I will buy you a car!"  Not bragging, but I could walk into a car dealership today and pay cash for a car and drive away - even without trading in my current car. I.AM.NOT.GOING.TO.DO.THAT!  Suze Orman would also say my decision is sounder and more financially responsible than Matt's suggestions.

Matthew hates my car - a 2004 VW Passat (uniquely colored Samoa Red, the color of Shiraz or Chianti wine).  He hates my car because the battery keeps dying (explained more thoroughly below).  He also hates my Passat because it doesn't have Bluetooth, a 6-CD changer, a nav system, or the pizzazz of a new, 2011+ car - whatever the model. 

Matthew also remembers that I frequently took my car in for oil changes, tire rotations, new tires, and brakes upgrades.  For the first 3 years of owning the car, I was traveling 100 miles a day to/from work; aka 2000+ miles a month!! It made sense for me to keep my car running properly and in tip-top shape. I wasn't taking my car in for fixes or repairs; it was standard maintenance that any good driver and responsible car owner goes through. I would have done the same with ANY car I owned at the time. Having to rely so heavily on a car "drove" me to look for a job in the city where I used public transport to commute - not a car. 

Matt leases his cars; he doesn't provide his cars with the same intensity that I did when I was driving so much more (explained below). He takes his car in for maintenance before a big trip, like up to Provincetown or Newport. He's never (to my knowledge) had to get new tires or brakes.

Since the beginning of 2007, I think I might have driven my Passat 4000 miles. Maybe. And the car has about 74K miles total on it now (roughly 120K km).  I haven't driven my car at this point since getting a new battery in June 2011. The time I drove the car before that was to get a new battery the June 2010. Matt think the CAR is the reason that the batteries keep dying; the batteries die because Matt doesn't like to ride in my car, so we take his leased Acura SUV everywhere. In the grand scheme of things it doesn't make sense to drive his lease as frequently because for a lease, you wanna keep the mileage low.

While I have entertained the thought of a new FIAT, a SMART car, or any of the electric cars out there (even Ford!  YIKES!), it doesn't make sound financial sense. Electric cars are a no-go, since we don't have electricity at our parking spots.  I've entertained the thought of trading in my car for a one-owner used car, but frankly, all I need from my car is to get from place to place when Matthew is either teaching or if I want to go somewhere when he doesn't want to go. 

Matthew wants us not to be a one-car family, which I kind of get.  His reasoning isn't very convincing or compelling IMHO since we have a modicum of public transportation here - more so than when I lived in Trenton. There are extremely rare instances when we really want to do something without the other present.  I, frankly, don't really want to go and do anything without Matthew, but he seems to think that we need to do things apart from time to time.

It'll cost - TOPS - $800 for me to get my car up and running.  That $800 would cover a new battery (if needed), new tires, new oil gaskets, new spark plugs (I think that was the total run-down). That $800 expenditure would prepare my Passat to support my personal transportation needs for at least another 5 years. In that 5 years, I can save enough money for TWO cars and lots of vacations.  I'm firmly standing my ground and making sure that I keep my Passat. There is no good, sound, fiscal reasoning to getting a new car right now.

I work from home as a consultant; i.e. there is no commute and no distinct job guarantee.  I would possibly need a car to go somewhere maybe, perhaps, possibly once or twice a week. Honestly, though, for the things I "must" do without Matthew, I'm happier planning a day for us to do the things together - using his car.  If I'm desperate for his car usage, I can drive him to school, use his car for errands, and pick him up again. I think that's happened three times in the last year.

Am I right or am I right? 
wwcitizen: (Feel Like an Ass)
1st 2012 conference call: I put my phone on mute because I'm recovering from cold. I was listening to others presenting their status when I had to cough and snort a big loogie... and then I realized that I wasn't actually on mute. Hoping that no one knew it was me!!
wwcitizen: (Photo Avatar)
Camera - check. Tripod - check. Flood lamps - check. Packed bags - check. New business cards - check!

We're heading to Atlantic City today to perform my first-ever paid freelance photography gig! It's so cool and I can't wait to get in there. It'll be a small party venue for portrait shooting for a friend.

A friend of mine was coordinating a party at a casino for his company and he thought of me, knowing that I was unemployed. I felt so honored that he'd think of me! He asked if I could "take some shots" of the party he and his company is hosting tomorrow, Mar. 25, at a casino. What's interesting is that this was serendipity-do! This friend of mine didn't really know that I was setting up to do professional portraits for friends, family, and possibly full-on clients.

I said, "YES!" immediately before I checked what I was doing that day. I had nothing else planned other than doing my taxes (ugh!) and Gayme Night with the boys over here, but we have worked around Gayme Night - taxes will have to wait.

Wouldn't this be fun if it turned into something long-term and profitable? I have created a business card that we'll put on the table where we log the folks with their photos. Check it out - my own Photoshop creation!

I don't think I'll be posting any pictures of the actual gig online, but I will of Matt and me and my friend who's coordinating the party, as well as some pictures of AC while we're there - supposed to be beautiful days! This should be fun, eye-opening, and hopefully something for the future! Wish me luck!
wwcitizen: (Which Way To Go)
This is the beginning of a work-related set of posts I plan to do. The purpose of these posts will be to explore what elements of my past careers I've really enjoyed, why I enjoyed them, and what aspects will be useful or marketable to new employers or useful in going into business for myself. These work-related posts might end up being four posts. I'm not sure, but this will be fun and useful for me, I think.

Up to about 6 years ago, I was living a happy professional life in Trenton, NJ, and working in Princeton at a software company. It was wonderfully fun to work there. Just about everyone I worked directly with was in their 30s or 40s; our founder at the time was in his early 50s. I worked at the company twice over 6 years and loved it. The company's founder hired me back within my Client Services department in late 2000 as manager of the department.

Even with all the organizational and company culture changes over the years, the account management position was for certain one of my most favorite jobs. I dealt with software, the internet, and all production groups within the company to make sure that the clients were getting what they paid for. As an Account Manager, my main focus was clients in regards to training, implementation, up-sell, technical support, innovation, documentation, and software QA & testing. Marketing and I worked together closely on Requests for Proposal (RFPs) - responses to prospective clients.

I also worked closely with sales in many capacities from pre & post-sales calls, product training for the sales staff, and client transition from sales and contracting to account management. In fact, I came up with the idea and implemented it initially for a Sales Support Group to begin. Once I worked out the processes of elements of Sales Support, my involvement within that capacity was given to someone else who took the position. I then returned fully to Client Services. While I worked with the sales staff as Sales Support, I traveled extensively (which I loved!) and helped reduce the typical 9-18 month sales cycle down to 6-9 months!

My Sales Support concept was for the Sales Support person to be the more technical and customer-focused voice championing the clients' needs within our company together with sales negotiating and writing up the contracts. The sales staff used their company contacts to get in the door of prospective clients. Once we were in and sales was ready for demonstrations and consultative services, Sales Support would work beside sales and help guide the prospective client into a contract. Of course, with the technical and client-focused background of Sales Support people, they were also be heavily involved with Marketing in the RFP process. After I went back to Client Services, the Sales Support became more of an administrative function rather than the active, consultative role I had initially envision and implemented.

Even though my primary focus at the company was account management, I used my education background in web-based instructional design, training design & development, training coordination & facilitation & results assessment. I always used elements of project management in Client Services. In the PM capacity, I was charged with creating the implementation process, which included transitioning clients from sales and contract signing into account management. I helped clients develop methods of marketing the new software in their organizations. I worked closely with my clients to make sure that their implementation went smoothly and people began using our system.

The most exciting aspects of this job were 1) the diverse requirements of the job, 2) the many hats I was able to wear, 3) the clients I had (mostly all Fortune 500 and 1000 companies), and 4) my colleagues. I imagine it'll be hard to find a new job that will help me remain a jack-of-all-trades within their organization. Maybe that will come with time once I'm there, if I get a new job. That "IF" remains out there because Matt and I have been talking about working together and we have begun working together on some projects.
wwcitizen: (Feel Like an Ass)
About time for these settlements!! Pfizer, IMHO, is soooo corrupt.

Said Pfizer's Sr. VP & general counsel, Amy W. Schulman, "These agreements bring final closure to significant legal matters & help to enhance our focus on what we do best - discovering, developing & delivering innovative medicines to treat patients dealing with some of the world's most debilitating diseases..."

All of Pfizer management is so keen on dishing out loads of bull to the public. It's amazing to me that with so many FDA lawsuits over the years for illegal marketing (Viagra, Bextra, etc.) that they haven't lost more public love. It's also amazing that the FDA's not slapping them for more money. Keep an eye out for Pfizer TV and radio ads. When I was working for them (3 yrs), the company was always under fire for illegal marketing campaigns. It never makes me feel good about my company when everyone's against them - legitimately!!

Such bullsh*t!

LOVE THIS: "Combating health care fraud is one of [the Obama] administration's top priorities," Assoc. Attorney General Thomas Perelli said in announcing the settlement. He said it illustrates ways the department "can help the American public at a time when budgets are tight and health care costs are rising."

It would be fantastic if the feds can make drug prices fixed along with general health care reform. Right now the sky's not the limit for new drug research. There is no reason in this world why less money can be spent on drug R&D and still find new and better cures. If a limit is set by the feds on R&D, then pharma companies will have to find new and less expensive ways for creating drugs.

As long as necessity is the mother of invention, spending limits on R&D are the surrogate of lower drug prices.
wwcitizen: (workplace)
All this time whenever I posted something about my workplace (back when I had gainful employment), I selected the picture of the black building, thinking it was One Liberty Plaza. I've recently realized that that wasn't my building at all, but the Hilton Millennium Hotel two buildings down! The building on the right is Century 21. In the end, who really cares - it was close enough to make the impact, but now it's funny to me.
wwcitizen: (Which Way To Go)
Today, I have a phone interview (in about 30 minutes actually) for a contracting job and I'm pretty excited about it. It would be a 2-3 month assignment working from home for a Canada-based reinsurance company (yeah, I know - boring), but I would be training technology. And traveling some around the globe - maybe to Cyprus, Geneva, and South Africa. It would definitely be fun and interesting.

Prepping for this interview has taken more time than most others I've had recently. I've got notes, I have screens open, and I've tweaked my resume - again - and created a new version for myself.

Hoping this comes through - it would be a nice set up for the summer.


wwcitizen: (Default)
Stephen Lambeth

May 2017

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