Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Have you ever heard someone talk about the next shoe falling? My grandmother used to describe the phrase as lying in bed at night, hearing a shoe drop on the floor in the apartment overhead, and waiting and waiting and waiting for the second shoe to hit the floor.

That works well as an example of anticipation or anxiety. That is, unless you live under . . . .

a centipede.

Working for my company has been like living under that heavily-shod centipede. Last year our stock tanked, well in advance of the general financial collapse. No, it wasn't a harbinger of the collapse. It was, however, a harbinger of what was to happen to my company. Our stock hit $.19. That's right, nineteen cents. We were delisted from NYSE.

Delisting triggered a call on our debt. We were told we had to pay off the interest and the principle by mid April. Something around a billion, more or less.

Then came our Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing in February. We thought we had a white knight all lined up to buy the company. The white knight led us to believe he (it?) would keep the company in tact. White knight vanished along with the white rabbit, down a hole and into darkness.

Enter several companies to pick over my company's still-warm, still-twitching carcass. One company offered to buy the arms. Another wants the legs. Still others want units in Europe and Asia. And all at fire-sale prices.

On Tuesday we were told that the company will be broken up -- if the bankruptcy court approves and the companies don't disappear like the white knight did -- and that those of us in corporate IT will be out on the streets.

Now, I'm all for walking the streets, but this is the kick in the pants I need. No more worrying about the centipede and his multiple shoes. More like multiple kicks from said centipede to get me focused on writing, free-lancing, and pursuing that elusive agent for my books. Seriously pursuing the agent gig. That's opportunity kicking me.

Stay tuned. I may still be in the corporate fold until the deals close, or I may be out by Friday -- but I'm not going to look for another corporate gig. Three strikes and I'm out!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Reoor! The Ultimate Insult

I thought going to the vet last week was the ultimate insult, but my female human outdid herself last night.

It was warm and I was bored inside. I'd had two lap naps, one on each human's lap, all the head noogies and ear scratches any cat could handle, and napping on the floor held no attraction. I sat patiently at the door until my female human opened it to let me out.

I stopped on the sill. My female human "helped" me out with a gentle nudge under my tail. Of all the nerve! She shut the glass door behind me. I meowed pitifully to be let back in, but she ignored me. Eventually I tried to climb inside. That's when she saw me.

My female human had put me out, but not noticed the screen door was closed. So, I was trapped like peanut butter in a sandwich between the glass door and the sliding screen. She finally opened the glass door; I immediately fell on my nose.


Monday, March 9, 2009

Thinking and Speaking

Over the past several days, I have had very stimulating discussions with several friends about the current state of our economy. And I've been reading an interesting book on thinking without thinking. (More on that later.)

I talked with one girlfriend whose mortgage is seriously under water. She bought high, improved higher, and now couldn't short-sell if she tried. And she's in a fast growing county that doesn't have much unemployment. Yet, her condo isn't worth nearly what she paid for it. Moreover, the builder isn't finished with the complex. In her purchase contract, it was spelled out clearly that the builder couldn't turn the property into rentals, yet there are more renters than owners in the buildings. There is a limit on pets, particularly in the size of dogs. Rottweilers do not make the cut!

She wasn't complaining. She was paying her bills, working, buying what she needed if not what she wanted, using her employer-supplied healthcare plan, and generally living within her means. It's too bad she doesn't qualify for any help under any of the current government plans, but she doesn't. So, she marches on, not looking for anything but a chance to break even in the future.

Then there was my friend who makes well over $160,000 a year. Her house isn't under water. She has a good (!) job. She drives a newish car. She takes trips. And what did she say on the phone? "What about me? Why don't I get anything in the bailout?"

I wanted to shout, "it's because you don't need it, jerk." But she's a friend so I bit my tongue. I did send her Michelle Singletary's column, "Hey, Bailout Snivelers: Hush. You Don't Need It." I hope she takes the hint, but I have my doubts so.

One friend was thinking and then speaking. The other was speaking without thinking.

And that brings me to the book I'm reading. It's Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell. Yes, it's a best seller and after digging into it, I can see why. He talks about instant impressions, what he calls thin-slicing, as an accurate way of understanding a situation. I highly recommend it. I have Outliers and The Tipping Point on my book table as well. Once again, it's nice to know that there are people who think deeply, yet write in a way that the rest of us can understand. Thank you, Malcoml Gladwell. Keep on thinking!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Meow Post from a Three-toed Bitch Kitty

I actually have the normal compliment of toes, but that's what my female human calls me when I'm behaving like a typical CWA (calico with an attitude).

Yesterday, I woke up on the wrong side of the catbox. Maybe it had to do with the cat carrier suddenly appearing in the living room. Maybe it had to do with the fridge calendar with "Nikki to Vet" on it.

I CAN read, ya know!

And then there were the obvious tricks to keep me contained. Doors to the bedrooms where I take my morning nap - closed. Doors to the outdoors - not opened on demand. My human didn't get it. I know when the day is going to get worse. And I DON'T LIKE IT!

I allowed myself to be loaded into the carrier - had no choice really. Maybe it would only be a check up. I hoped it wasn't going to what my humans call "camp" and I call "jail." Turned out to be a check up, shots and BLOOD WORK.

I didn't mind the nice girl taking my temperature. Well, not as much as what would come later. The vet was running late, so I took a nap on the cold metal table, my head resting on my human's stomach. Then HE came in, all smiles and laughter. I knew it was all a sham.

He peered into my eyes, mouth and ears. Even places where no one but me looks - and licks. By now, I had about had it. I started hissing. Like, hey, that's a warning. I'm getting pissed off! He didn't take the warning. He touched my tummy. So, I scratched him. I'm still armed after all and he had it coming.

He didn't get it. Shots. They weren't so bad, but blood work! That was the last straw. I bit him through the towel that was supposed to protect him from me. NOTHING protects anyone from me when I'm really pissed off.

Finally, after about a year, my human took me home, released me from the carrier and tried to pat my head. Reorrr, pfsst, pfsst. She backed off. I took a nap outside in the sun and ignored all her attempts to make nice.

It was a horrible, terrible, no-good, very bad day. I think I'll take another nap.

-- Nikki

Monday, March 2, 2009

Final Island - Barbados and Return

I don't know if I loved Barbados the best or if what we did on Barbados was the most fun we had. Either way, our group of 11 hardy vactioneers chartered the Heat Wave, a catamaran that offered plenty of snorkling, lunch, and all the drinks we wanted. (If you are getting the idea that our new friend Suzanne liked to drink, you'd be right. She hit a homerun on this excursion.)

We boarded the catamaran, settled down to sail along a gorgeous coast to a beach setting where we snorkled and looked at beautiful tropical fish. Yes, the creatures from the black lagoon jumped in the water, emerging later looking foolish but happy.

We moved to a different site for more snorkling. This time, the men who ran the Heat Wave threw out fish pieces to attract green turtles. We romped in the water and had to be dragged back onto the boat. We enjoyed a wonderful meal, had some local beer, and eventually made our way back to the Boatyard beach. There, our party bade farewell to the Heat Wave and broke into two groups -- those who hadn't had either enough sun or enough to drink, and those of us who looked like lobsters in spite of 85 SPF sun block. I was in the latter group.

Reluctantly, the group reassembled on the cruise ship, relaxed and dressed for dinner. We had a day at sea ahead of us, before returning to San Juan and one last day together.

Terry and I spent our last three days in San Juan walking around forts and the old city. It was so beautiful that we couldn't get our fill. We took a night kayaking trip to a bioluminescent pool, traveled through a mangrove forest, and returned to our car minutes before a tropical storm wiped out the later paddle tours. We even had another tourist take our picture at the top of a fort with the Caribbean in the background.

All good things have to end. So does my recap of our cruise. I hope you enjoyed your journey with me.

Grenada -- Or Just Another Perfect Day in Paradise

Suzanne redeemed herself. For Grenada, she recommended a trip to a series of waterfalls. I've seen Bridal Veil Falls in Yosemite, and the smaller falls on Dominica, so Terry and I passed. Our friends loved the tour, though, so Suzanne is safe.

Terry and I toured St. George's, the capital. Once again, the city was bathed in sunlight and pastel colors. By our third island, they all began to look alike from our stateroom. However, we walked into town and turned toward the forts located to the right of the port area. Within walking distance, especially if you're both urban hikers (we are) and/or mountain climbers (we aren't), the forts overlook the harbor.

From the fort we had a perfect view of the deep-water harbor; however, the juxtaposition of the cannon and the tour ships offers a significant message: spend lots of money or else!!!

Grenada is the spice island of the Grenadines. We prowled the spice markets and came back with several gifts for our friends who love to cook. My favorite was two ounces of ground saffron for $2.00. Try buying saffron for that price at Trader Joe's or Kroger.

We spent the afternoon near the pool onboard ship, resting and reading. I took some time to look at what others were reading. By and large, the men were reading Baldacci, Grisham, Dale Brown, and history. Women were deep into Janet Evanovich, Debbie Macomber, Jodi Picoult and Jane Austen. And then there was the very serious woman reading Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar. I don't know I'd pick that for a vacation, although it remains one of my favorites.

As we got ready to sail, a local tanker entered the harbor. Even the boats were brightly painted.

Next, Barbados!