Thursday, April 26, 2007

Boring Story Short

The Husband and I bought a house today. We signed our names 50 bizillion times, handed over a big ol' check, and that was it. The previous* homeowners are renting the house back for a few weeks until their new place is ready, so it looks like May 19th will be moving day. You should stop by and help unpack a few boxes, and then we can all sit around in our hot tub and discuss how much better the house looked before we put our crap in it. It'll be great!

*I first typed "current." Then I realized: we're the current homeowners. This is going to take some getting used to.

Knocking on Wood

In about two hours The Husband and I will be homeowners. Wish us luck!


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Live at the Awesome Dome: The Anxious Pin Cushion!

I hope I'm not compromising my pseudonymity, but this quiz cracked me up. I love "Cat Denton." Now I want to write a whole series of detective novels starring Cat Denton - a no-nonsense gumshoe who just happens to be a blonde bombshell with deadly aim. Also, is "Fruit Hoegaarden" not the worst barfly name ever?

The Unruly Duckling's Aliases

Your movie star name: Chips John

Your fashion designer name is Jennifer Paris

Your socialite name is Jeefer Austin

Your fly girl / guy name is J Joh

Your detective name is Cat Denton

Your barfly name is Fruit Hoegaarden

Your soap opera name is Renee Fourth

Your rock star name is Gummy Bears Cheetah

Your Star Wars name is Jendiz Johstu

Your punk rock band name is The Anxious Pin Cushion

Friday, April 20, 2007

A Very Masculine Blog Post

I've been having some fun this morning with this little internet doodad - The Gender Genie.

You paste in a sample of your writing, and it predicts whether you are male or female. When I used blog entries it almost always correctly identified me as female. However, when I used reports or letters I wrote for work, it assumed I was male. That's particularly interesting to me because the organization I work for is 100% staffed by females, and we write for a female audience. However, the more formal style still read as "male."

The algorithm the website uses to make its predictions is based on a scientific study, which you can download from the web page. In calculating the results, use of the word "be", for example, is considered female. Whereas, using the word "is" is male. "Where" is female, but "what" is male. The keywords seemed very arbitrary.

The Gender Genie gives me a segue to make a point I've been intending to bring up. Recently, I had a brief and frustrating debate with a friend of mine about whether or not some particular thing he said was respectful towards women or not. I realized that we were making different assumptions about a key point of our disagreement. He takes for granted that men and women have innate differences, and I do not.

Studies like the one on which the Gender Genie is based seem to support the innate differences position. However, there are also studies that show that from the time we are newborn infants the way that people interact with us and respond to us is based on their perceptions of our gender. Those early interactions with other human beings are what determine how a disorganized infant brain develops. Societal notions of gender begin to program us down to the level of our neurons from the day we are born. Without the existence of gender constructs, who knows how men and women would be the same or different. There are no control groups.

Assertions that men are a certain way and women are a certain way are just observations about how people respond to conditioning and pressure to conform to societal norms. These insights can be helpful only insofar as we use them to explore and explode the roles that we are all placed in - men and women - because of our biological sex, roles which constrain us and do not respect our individuality and our humanity.

P.S. According to The Gender Genie, this post was written by a man.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Pink Martini

The Husband and I went to an incredible concert this weekend by Pink Martini and the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra. Pink Martini is one of my absolute favorite bands, and I can't wait for their new album to come out next month. Here's how they describe themselves.
Somewhere between a 1930s Cuban dance orchestra, a classical chamber music ensemble, a Brasilian marching street band and Japanese film noir is the 12-piece Pink Martini.
They incorporate musical traditions from all over the globe into their compositions both in the languages and instruments they use. I couldn't even name most of the percussion instruments they were using to produce some amazing sounds. You can listen to their two albums, Sympathique and Hang on Little Tomato on their website.

Their concert was a unique event for me. I'm not a very aural personal, and I usually find myself responding most to the lyrics of songs since I'm more verbal. But on Saturday night I suddenly could "see" how all the parts of the songs were fitting together in a mosaic of sound. For a few brief moments I understood how the trumpet and the shekere and the cello and the conga drums all fit together. It was an incredible musical experience.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

My Days as an Accomplice

I used to work for the guy featured in the Justice Department press release below. I was actually an officer for one of his subsidiary companies that dealt with a specific sort of investments. While I was involved with the company it wasn't making any new transactions, and I handled very little money, but my name was all over it. There was a point when I was losing sleep over the possibility of being dragged into the scandal despite the fact that I knew absolutely nothing of any interest. However, I hadn't thought about it for ages until an ex-coworker forwarded me a link to Mr. Kornman's guilty plea.

The main company - for which I also worked - went bankrupt a few years ago due to an unrelated lawsuit by a former executive, but Kornman continued doing business under the name of a different company. If a cheated ex-employee hadn't brought the company down, both litigious, disgruntled clients and a pissed-off IRS were poised to do so. In the end, it was the SEC that really did him in.

This was my first job right out of college. I started there as an executive assistant. Although I knew the firm did some sort of financial consulting, they didn't give any details about their activities until after I had signed about 100 pages of employment contracts. I wasn't crazy about the idea of working for a company that helped rich people avoid paying taxes, but I believed that they were just in the business of giving legal advice - the operative word there being "legal". Knowing what I do now, that was rather naive of me. I truly do not believe that I directly performed any illegal or unethical acts, but my karma took a major hit being associated with that place as long as I was.

At least it motivated me to give up my life as a corporate cog, and I'm much happier working at a nonprofit now. I certainly hope the good work I do my best to accomplish will outweigh the time I spent aiding and abetting - even in a small way - an admitted liar and cheat.

D O J Seal
U.S. Department of Justice
United States Attorney
Northern District of Texas

1100 Commerce St., 3rd Fl.
Dallas, Texas 75242-1699

Telephone (214) 659-8600
Fax (214) 767-0978


CONTACT: 214/659-8600
APRIL 10, 2007


DALLAS --- Gary M. Kornman, age 62, a licensed attorney, licensed securities professional, and tax advisor, pled guilty yesterday in federal court in Dallas to one count of making false statements to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), announced U.S. Attorney Richard B. Roper. The maximum statutory penalties the Court can impose are five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and restitution. He is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Jorge A. Solis on July 11, 2007.

According to the indictment, Gary M. Kornman was an officer of The Heritage Organization, L.L.C. and was a licensed attorney who held Series 6 and Series 63 securities licenses. He operated and controlled Heritage Securities Corporation, a securities broker-dealer registered with the SEC. Kornman sold tax shelters and estate planning services to wealthy individuals and was responsible for the management and operations of Heritage.

According to documents filed in Court, Kornman participated in a voluntary telephone interview with investigators from the SEC on October 29, 2003 regarding its investigation into suspicious trading activity engaged in by Kornman. During that interview, Kornman told the SEC investigators that he did not know who possessed trading authority over the brokerage account for a hedge fund through which he engaged in trading activity in MiniMed, Inc. stock in February 2001. MiniMed was a company that was, until its acquisition by Medtronic, Inc. in August 2001, a publicly traded company whose shares were listed on the National Association of Securities Dealers Automatic Quotation National Market System (NASDAQ).

Kornman’s statement was false. He knew that he personally possessed trading authority over the brokerage account for the fund through which he conducted the trading activity in February 2001 that was under investigation by the SEC. In addition, Kornman admitted that he made the statement intentionally, knowing that it was both false and material to the SEC’s investigation. Kornman also admitted he made the false and material statement for the purpose of misleading the SEC in its investigation into his MiniMed trading activity.

U.S. Attorney Roper praised the investigative work of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Fort Worth Office, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey J. Ansley and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Toby M. Galloway of the SEC.


Free Public Policy Forum: The Feminization of Poverty

The local chapter of the YWCA is co-sponsoring a forum about how national and local policies create barriers for women, especially women with children, to being self-sufficient and living above the poverty line. Registration is free for the first 400 people and lunch will be provided. All the details are below. Here's a link to the keynote speaker's website. She has an incredible story to tell. You should come. I bet you'll learn something new and interesting.

The Feminization of Poverty
A public policy forum presented by the YWCA of Metropolitan Dallas
and The J. McDonald Williams Institute

May 7, 2007
11:00 a.m.-1:30 p.m.
Doubletree Hotel, Campbell Centre
8250 N. Central Expressway
Dallas, TX 75206

The concept of the Feminization of Poverty is based in data showing that female-headed households account for a disproportionately larger number of households living below the poverty line when compared to male-headed households. Simply having a job does not guarantee living above the poverty line. Currently, more than 400,000 female headed families in North Texas are experiencing the impact of the feminization of poverty.

The YWCA and the J. McDonald Williams Institute will be holding a policy forum on this significant issue. Please join us for a discussion about how living in poverty affects the lives of women and their children, told by women who have been affected by it firsthand.

Our guest speaker will be Cupcake Brown, a litigation attorney at Bingham McCutchen in San Francisco. Cupcake is also the author of the New York Times best-selling memoir A Piece of Cake (Crown Publishers). She has been featured on numerous radio stations; on television shows ranging from CNN and PBS to CBS’ “The Early Show” and “Montel Williams;” in numerous newspapers, including the New York Times; and in many magazines, including Entertainment Weekly, California Lawyer, Essence, Ebony, Marie Claire, and JET. Glamour Magazine named her its “Hero of the Month,” and O: The Oprah Magazine profiled her as a “Phenomenal Woman.”

Registration Information
Click here to register. Participation is free for the first 400 individuals. Additional participants will be charged $30 each.

Spread the Word
Download a flier to share information about the Feminization of Poverty public policy forum with your colleagues.

Become a Sponsor
Download sponsorship information.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Operation Really Big Sweater: Quagmire Averted

It's a little late for my 1/4 year deadline, but I finally sucked it up and finished the ridiculous, enormous thing.

This is a good lesson on the importance of gauge. The gauge should have been 2.5 stitches per inch. Mine was evidently 2.23 stitches per inch. When I measure it over a few inches it seems to be perfectly accurate, but over 6 inches or more the difference becomes apparent. Being off by a fraction of a stitch resulted in a sweater that is 12% too big by my calculations.

I will always be much more particular about my gauge in the future, but working with 2 strands of a very bulky yarn probably compounded the problem. For example, the more normal sweater I wore to work today has a gauge of 8 stitches per inch, so being off by .27 stitches per inch on a sweater like that couldn't possibly compound itself to such a degree. . .right?

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Not Holding My Breath

As I expect will happen infinity more times, moving into the new house (assuming the purchase goes through) has been delayed by a couple of weeks. The sellers found a house to buy, but they can't move in until the middle of May. Although our closing date is supposed to be April 26, they have requested to rent the house back from us until May 13.

Letting them stay a little longer makes perfect sense for us since we have a lease on our current place until the end of May. There's no reason why we should be paying to have two houses for an entire month. But the impatient, petulant part of me wants to tell them, "No! It's MINE, and you can't have it any more." Of course the kind and reasonable part of me wouldn't dream of putting them out when we have a perfectly good - not to mention paid for - place to stay.

Despite the fact that it's considerate and practical, I'm still disappointed to have to wait a little longer to have the house to ourselves. I've mostly been looking forward to putting in a vegetable garden and doing some landscaping. Maybe they'll let us come play in the yard before they move out if we ask real nice.

Monday, April 02, 2007

A Universal Problem

From Found Magazine.

You should spend some time clicking through the archives. Everything on the website was discarded or lost and found by someone who submitted it - to-do lists, abandoned photographs, love notes crumpled up and left on the sidewalk. It's surprisingly touching and funny.

Almost Home

The sellers of the house agreed to make almost all the repairs we were requesting, including the whole potentially-bursting-into-flame thing. So, the contract is finalized, and closing is set for April 26. This in no way means that we have run out of things that could go wrong.

There could be some claim on the title of the house we are not aware of.

The survey of the lot could reveal that we're on the neighbor's property or they are encroaching on ours.

Our financing could fall through.

Any one of the parties involved could just screw up.

I really want to get excited about this, but I'm walking that fine line between realistic and pessimistic. Until we actually start moving boxes in, I'm going to have a hard time believing that this is actually going to happen.

When we first started looking at houses, the real estate agent gave us a binder with lots of information about the whole process. One of the documents described 110 things that could go wrong. Unfortunately, I figure we can only rule out about half of them at this point.