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Archive for the ‘ramblings’ Category

2014 the year of “one step back”

In education, money, philosophy, ramblings on January 1, 2015 at 1:04 am

I would be remiss if while listing the things and people I’ve lost in 2014 (see: Ding Dong the Year is Dead) I didn’t mention that I lost 30 pounds as well.  There was some good in the year.  I’ve also just sold my car.  It was a 2009 Scion Xb that I purchased new.  I really liked that car.  It was the first and only car I’ve ever purchased new.  With all of my financial issues though, I needed to sell it.  I had been trying off and on all year, but it didn’t sell until yesterday.  I will miss my Scion.  However, being able to sit down at the computer and get caught up on all the bills that matter was a huge relief.  That combined with a small amount of financial aid, some VA benefits for college (that I didn’t think I qualified for, but some how actually do), and moving to a different department at work which will provide for more consistent hours (still part time though) should allow me to keep up with everything.

It is amazing to me how the stress of financial difficulties affects me.  I feel so much better today as I sit down at the computer and am able to pay each bill.  I don’t have to juggle which ones I will pay or try to figure out the absolute minimum I need to send them to keep them off my back a few more days.  I don’t have to be scared of the phone ringing.  I sat down and went through the huge pile of paperwork that had been accumulating on my desk.  I paid my bills, organized some receipts and account information, and shredded all the stuff I didn’t need when I was done.

Make no mistake, 2014 was a terrible year for me.  However, without difficulties our lives don’t change and often don’t improve.  We get complacent and lazy and rest on our laurels.  When life gets hard it forces us to to improvise and take a hard look at what we need, what we want to accomplish, and what we can walk away from.  It isn’t easy.  Those difficulties can seem insurmountable.  But sometimes we have to take that step backwards before we can take those two crucial steps forward.  I believe that I am posed to start moving forward again in 2015 and my wish is that all of you will be stepping ahead with me.

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Ding Dong the Year is Dead.

In death, education, money, ramblings on December 23, 2014 at 7:24 pm

I was noticing that Facebook has started up with the “your year in pictures” thing.  It got me thinking about the year that was.  2014 was probably the worst year of my life.   I lost (in chronological order) my business, my Great Aunt Bea, my dog Lucy, and my Grandfather.  I make about $200/month less than I need for my bills and am slowly drowning in debt.  I am so poor I can’t even afford to drink (that may not be a bad thing but it depresses me none-the-less.)  I live in a town where I have no friends and no real way to meet people with like interests.  The only good is that I have started going to school and hope that I will be able to build a better future off of that schooling.  I hope that everybody else had a better year than I and that next year will be a better one for all us.

Life Update

In education, job hunting, money, planning, ramblings on November 6, 2014 at 3:00 am

After the failure of my business I moved in with Mom who generously offered up her guest room for me.  I spent a little bit of time driving from the west coast to the east to visit with friends.  After that i started job hunting.  It took about 6 weeks to find a job and even that wasn’t great.  Thanks to Obama-care nobody is hiring full time which means you have to somehow figure out how to coordinate two jobs and, in my case, school.  I haven’t been able to do that so I am trying to get by on one part time job that pays about $150 less per month than my bills require.  I bought a cheap car and am attempting to sell my good one.  That will help a little bit from an insurance standpoint and I will be able to pay off my credit cards some.

As for the school bit, yes I have gone back to college.  I am attempting to get an AS in Welding.  There is a big shortfall in welders at the moment as everybody my age and younger went to the university and nobody went to trade school.  The older guys are retiring and there is nobody behind them to step into the gap.  I am hoping this will be a good long term career choice that I will actually be able to live with.  I like making stuff and get a lot of satisfaction from it.  This should let me do that and will hopefully pay a decent wage on top of that.

The job is ok.  I am a lot associate at Home Depot.  I spend my days loading heavy things into peoples cars and pushing shopping carts up a steep hill.  I did lose 30 pounds in the first few months of working there so that is a bonus i guess.  I think I am doing a good job and have had a number of department supervisors tell me to apply for openings in their departments.  I have been doing that and even got to the interview part but it is easier for the store to hire to fill those positions than it is to fill my job so I have been stuck outside for the moment.  A full time job inside with a pay raise would make my life much easier.  The benefits would be great as well as I don’t have any insurance at the moment.

I guess that is it for the big stuff.  Doing my best to hang in there.  I do enjoy school and my job most days so that helps.  I will leave you with a picture of me in welding drag.  🙂

20141006_191006

Twinkle in the eye

In business, education, moving, planning, ramblings, therapy, travel on January 6, 2014 at 6:15 pm

I have the beginnings of a plan. It isn’t solid. It isn’t final. It might not even be vaguely realistic. Such is the way of things in the beginning I guess. I am looking at moving up the coast to my mother’s house. (the shame of having to move back in with your mom is something all men rightly fear.) This gives me a little bit of time to sort things out if needed. I’m looking at the community college where she lives. They have two programs for welding. One is an associates degree the other is just for certification. Both teach autocad and have some other more industrial and machining oriented courses as well as well as ornamental ironwork. It sounds like it is right up my alley, creative and anal all at the same time. 🙂 The college has somebody who’s job it is to help vets get what they need. I’m a vet so I approve of this. I will be using him even though most of my questions could probably be handled by admissions. Their new quarter starts in April. I will probably try and go to the east coast for a couple of weeks in the meantime. I hope to get out of the current mess without any debt so the only bills I will have are my phone and my car insurance in the short term. I’ll be able to be a bum for a little while so I want to go visit friends and family (and mooch off of them) for a bit. Hopefully that will give me back the energy I need to go forward. I’ve been pretty isolated from them while living in Santa Barbara. That is probably the hardest thing about the last couple of years. I’ve made some friends on-line through various video games and they have helped out more than they know. (btw MechWarrior online and WarThunder are the two I am currently playing. Both are great, both are free to play. Check them out.)

I am still researching some other options as well. The second one in priority is going back to Montana to attend Montana State University Billings. I attended MSU Bozeman for 4 years and have most of a BA already. I could step in with those existing credits and pursue something else. The Billings campus has programs for software develpment that include programing, app building, and data bases. This is pretty much all the computer oriented options I am interested in and they are all part of the same degree program. It’s a strong possibility if the first option doesn’t work out.

I had hoped to be moving to the Pacific Northwest when this chapter was over but right now it just doesn’t seem to be in the cards. This is more due to money than anything else. Because of the timing of the sale I will be making about $10-12k less than I had hoped. My mom’s house and Billings are the two cheaper options at the moment. There is a third option along that front as well but I have not really begun to explore it as it is even farther away from sister and her little girl and frankly, I didn’t think of it till yesterday. That is to move to North Carolina and live with my Grandfather for a little while. I haven’t asked him about this yet as I know if I tell him I need some place cheap to live he will worry. But I think he would be glad to have me. I can probably pursue any of the above courses in North Carolina as well. But I don’t have residency there and I don’t know how far away schools and programs would be from my Grandfathers house. He lives in a very small town so I would have to commute, probably to the Raleigh-Durham area. It’s an option, and an attractive one, but it’s probably 3rd on the list right now due to the unknowns and the distance from where I want to end up.

That’s it for now. It’s a work day for me and I have to start figuring out what needs to be done for the transfer of ownership at the end of the month, how to get out of my lease, etc, etc.

-h

Sold!

In business, money, ramblings on January 6, 2014 at 1:25 am

I sold my business today. At the end of the month I walk out the door and the new guys take over. I get $25k. $8-9k of that goes to pay of the company credit card. $3k goes to pay off a loan i took out when I bought out my original trouble-making partner. I will have spent somewhere in the neighborhood of $45k of my money and I’ll be leaving with $12k-ish. Sometimes you have to cut your losses. As a very great man once said: “you got to know when to hold them, know when to fold them, know when to walk away, know when to run.”

I will get some of that money back. My soon to be ex-partners have some personal debt on the company card and that money will be paid back. I have the guarantee of their new partner that a portion of their share of the profits will go to me until that debt is settled. In the mean time though, I have to eat that cost. My ex-partners will get the exact same dollar amount (actually a touch more) of shares in the new business as they had in the old business. They should be in a stronger place now then they were this morning. I don’t think they really understand that. I believe that their expectations were still too high. Mine were when we started but reality has a way of beating down expectations. While reality has been working on me the last 7 or 8 months it just showed up at their house today. As things stand though the only one losing money on this deal is me. My conscious can except that. I would hate to bring everyone down with me just because I failed at something. Having said that, I did fail at this. The business made money the entire two years but it was never quite enough for us to get ahead. It was just enough to keep stringing us along as the company slowly did worse. I was at a point where I knew what we had done wrong and I knew what needed to be done to fix it. Unfortunately I didn’t have the money to fix it. It was quickly becoming one of those “it takes money to make money” situations. Anyway, that chapter of my life will soon be over. There is no point in beating myself up over it anymore. Easier said than done. 😦 My friend Chad says that I always do things the hard way. He’ll be happy to know I haven’t changed much in the 25 years I’ve known him.

I have no plan for the future right now. I have a couple of ideas but nothing is fully researched and I have no idea how realistic those plans are. One is go back to school and get a degree in programing. One is to take some tech training and become a DBA. Both of these will build on my previous experience as a sys admin and government contractor. The third option is get a welding certification and do that. This is the one that appeals to me the most, but it is also the biggest unknown of the bunch. I’ll try and keep you up to date as I explore these three options. For now though… I’m scared.

-h

Pissed

In business, money, ramblings, therapy on January 5, 2014 at 6:44 am

I own a business. I have two minority partners. I started it a couple years ago with a different partner, a friend. We will call this fellow Bob. Bob’s friend Barney was where our business opportunity started. He had a larger business and wanted a smaller independent business in a specific market. He though Bob would be good at it. Barney thought it would take $10k to start the business. I ended spending closer to $20k to get the business started and another $5k to move back to the US. When I got back I was told that Barney had also spent money to get things going. I was told this number was between $6k and $8k and that I would be provided with all the receipts. I said that we would try and get him paid back but I was a bit alarmed that the $10k start up actually cost closer to $28k. In the mean time Bob has realized he didn’t like the business and owning a company means that you have to do a lot of work. It isn’t just ordering around other people. He essentially threatened to tank the business unless he got bought out. He didn’t bring any money to the table in the first place. He was supposed to be bringing managerial experience and time (while I was still working my day job on another continent). It turns out he was pretty worthless on both counts and I keep learning about stuff he lied to me about. Bob wanted $15k to walk away. At this point I don’t have $15k. I have about $5k. I use that and I borrow money from family to come up with the rest. Bob is gone.

Bob and I had a friend in common. We will call this friend George. George was between jobs and driving around California in a beat up RV with his girlfriend (how about Abby for the girlfriends name) at the time. While I was still out of the country Bob had asked George to come help out getting the new business up and running. George and Abby drove down and helped Bob out. When I get there it turns out that Bob wasn’t paying George or Abby and he was requiring much more out of them than he was out of himself. Most of this comes to light when Bob leaves. Because George and Abby had helped out I gave them the opportunity to buy into the company. For $15k (the amount I paid to get rid of Bob) the could become %50 owners. We agreed they would have 2 years to pay off the $15k. In the mean time they would be treated like half owners and they would be paid as half owners. This was a mistake. I will never do this again. I tried to do the right thing by the people who did the most to help while getting everything up and running. It was still wrong.

The first year we made decent money. We spent some that we shouldn’t but we had every expectation that things would continue in the same vein. Barney did not get paid back. He didn’t get any receipts to me until after the summer rush was over. During the winter we broke even most months and lost a little bit in February. We had enough put away to survive the winter and handle a couple of emergencies. The second year the money was much worse. The business still made some money but not enough for the good times to continue. I had planned on paying Barney back in whole over the summer but we just never had any real extra money. We were paying our bills but not making any extra. In the meantime the building our business is in has problems. Much of the work that Bob and Barney had done was done very badly and sometimes with the wrong supplies and parts. I am spending money having to redo everything that Barney had contributed money for. We survive the summer but winter is coming. George has been pretty much worthless through most of this while Abby has worked hard but disagrees with me about everything and wants to fight about it. Combined they have paid $4.5k of the $15k they owe.

Winter is here. We are making enough to cover the business’ operating expenses but not enough to cover our expenses. I make just enough to pay my rent but nothing else. Barney wants his money. He now claims that we owe him $13k. Now is when I start hearing about stuff that he paid for but I was told lies about from Bob. I had already decided that I was done at the end of the next summer. I would use whatever money we made over the summer to pay off the company credit card and any other bills that I could. When my apartment lease was up at the end of the summer I was leaving. If George and Abby wanted the company they could have it as long as my name was off of everything. Barney shows up out of the blue and wants a meeting.

While talking to Barney, he asks if I really want to keep doing this. I tell him no. I am ready to leave at the end of the summer. He offers me $25k for the business and we forget the debt to him. I said that I have partners and I need to know that they will be taken care of. Barney says he will talk to them and offer them jobs with the opportunity to buy in to his business. I suggest that the $4.5k George and Abby have already paid in might be transfered to Barney’s business. He says giving them a partial stake worth that much as part of the deal is a possibility. He agrees to meet with George and Abby so that they can talk and hammer out their side of the deal. Getting the three of them together was like pulling teeth, but it finally happened tonight.

I went to meet with George and Abby after their meeting tonight and find out how it went. George is pissed. He says he refuses to work for anybody else and will only work if he is the boss. He is pissed that Barney wants more than $15k total for him to be a %50 owner. Barney also (quit rightly) wants the money up front rather than payments. George wants the money he gets from this business so that he can continue to work on other projects. He doesn’t do anything for the business at this point accept the bare minimum expected from an employee. It sounds like he is trying to tank the whole sale while blaming this on everybody else. He keeps talking about all he has done for this business and how terrible it will be if he doesn’t get a %50 ownership out this deal. It’s my fault apparently. He has been paid as a %25 owner (Abby was paid for the other %25) while he only paid for about 1/3 of that over 18 months or so. I don’t see where this sense of entitlement comes from. I’m ready to sell the entire thing regardless at this point. I’m so pissed. I try to take care of these people and they just use the opportunity to stab me in the back and blame me when things don’t work out perfectly. Opening a business is risky. I knew this going in. George and Abby were told this when they were offered a share. Coming out of this with no debt is not the worse thing that can happen. They were paid for 2 years. They got to live in a beautiful part of the company and I hope learn a lot about business in the process. For George to tell me that if I sell this business that he has gotten nothing out of this after all his hard work is such bullshit. His hard work lasted all of a month and since then he has been a burden, not a help. He was paid and I tried to do right by him once again even though it screwed me when I did the first time. The only person coming out of this with less than they went in to it is me.

I can’t afford to walk away from this company right now. I have a lease I can’t afford to break. I have some debt on a company credit card. I owe Barney money. If I sell the business to Barney that gets me out of the money I owe him but not out of the company credit card. Each of the three partners has about $2k on the card. George has the most. Abby and I are probably about even. The card is a company card but was opened in my name. I know from past experience that this means I am responsible for this card, not the business. So it needs to be paid off and the account closed or at least my name taken off of it before I leave. I still owe a couple thousand on the $10k loan that was taken out to buy off Bob. I could use the money to pay off all this other stuff and walk away. But I can just as easily pay off Barney over the summer and let George and Abby have the business (and any other debt it has as long as my name gets taken off of all the credit cards and bank accounts) after August and walk away. Either way, I’m out and I have no money. The best option for me is to sell the business at the end of the summer as I originally discussed with Barney. I use the summer income to pay off the credit card and take the $25k on my way out the door. The company pays off George and Abby’s personal debt on the credit card in exchange for their shares in the company. They come out of it square. Nothing gained, but nothing ventured either. I come out behind no matter what. But at least with some money in my pocket I will be able to do something else. I am so pissed tonight after talking to George that I want to just kill it all right now. Declare bankruptcy on the company and walk away. I won’t, but God do I want too.

Barney wants a meeting tomorrow. I don’t really know what his take on the talks today is. I don’t know if he wants to wait till after the summer is up. It didn’t sound like that was his plan after talking to George. But I can’t really except anything George has said at face value right now. If he wants it right now, I need $55k. As the sole owner of the business he should more than make that up over the summer. That would let me pay off the credit card and break my apartment lease. I would pay George and Abby back their $4.5K so that they have some money in their pocket to survive off of. George has expressed interest in the corporation I formed. I would be happy to remove myself from that and give it too them as part of the deal as well. Once I’m out I don’t really care what happens to it.

I wasn’t going to write up most of this. I was planning a blog on the final deal and maybe some of the behind the scenes stuff and lessons learned. But nothing personal. Nothing somebody could look at and say “he is talking about me. and he isn’t being very nice.” But I was so angry about everything tonight on top of the stress of dealing with this day-to-day that I needed to get it out. There will be another blog or two on the subject I’m sure. But for now, I’ll let this stand as it is. I hope everybody else’s new year has brought more promise than mine has…
-h

Integrated Searches

In ramblings, social commentary on December 26, 2013 at 12:06 am

So… I clicked a link to read about Ingrid Lederhaas-Okun, the Tiffany exec that was recently sentenced for stealing millions of dollars worth of jewelry. The first note worthy thing about this is that she got a year in prison. One year for millions in theft. How much do you get breaking open an ATM? I’m guessing the punishments would not be linear in there relationship to the amount stolen.

The most important thing about this has nothing to do with her sentence though. Clicking the link brought up a Bing search page with a number of articles on the sentencing. To the right it brought up her LinkIn profile and resume. 🙂

Ingrid Lederhaas-Okun
Entrepreneurial executive with more than twenty years of proven leadership in Merchandising with an extensive knowledge of the Global Luxury Goods Market. Motivational management style with a record of building and retaining high performing teams to achieve company goals. Proven leadership in management of Design, Product Developmen…

www.linkedin.com

Experience
Vice President
Tiffany & Co. · 2010 – 2013
Vice President of Design & Product Development
Tiffany & Co. · 2004 – 2010
Director of Design & Product Development
Tiffany & Co. · 2003 – 2004

I’m guessing her knowledge of the stolen Global Luxury Goods Market is also extensive. And she should probably start floating that resume so she can find a new job when she gets out. What I really find interesting and what this search proves is how everything is so interconnected and there is so much info about you on-line that you never know what embarrassing item will pop up when somebody does a search for you. I guess this is probably a little bit counter-intuitive coming from somebody who blogs about the nuances of his life but you really should be careful about what you put on-line. Once it’s there, it’s there forever and clicking “private” doesn’t mean anything. Once posted, it is public. Be careful.
-h

Another Day

In ramblings, therapy on December 24, 2013 at 10:09 pm

As an adult the holidays have been a tough time of year. Most of the time I’m far away from the people I want to spend Christmas with. Often I have little money to send the gifts and things I would like to send. All too often Christmas is merely the day I am most reminded that I am alone and not with my close friends and loved ones. This year is no exception. There are reasons that I am where I am. I quit a very easy and well paid job that I hated and moved here to start my own business almost two years ago. The business is surviving. I can’t really say more than that. I know that for a new business surviving actually means I’ve done better than most. For the moment though, the business is a source of stress rather than joy. Abject failure or success are more easily dealt with than continuing the struggle for an uncertain future. The struggle is the hardest bit for me. I think I deal with failure better than I deal with uncertainty. I’m guessing that is true for most of us.

I got up a bit late today (I was up till 4 am last night playing video games with some friends online). But I did get up and took a shower, brushed my teeth, and shaved. That is the hardest thing when depressed. Getting up and taking that shower when you know that there is absolutely no reason that it will matter. So getting this far is like spitting in depression’s eye. It is a small victory, but large victories are built on the little ones. Because I live in paradise, the sun is out. The palm trees are swaying in a gentle ocean breeze and the birds are singing. I have the doors and windows open and the sun is streaming in. It is not very Christmas’y but that helps in a way. It makes it feel like just another day.

I don’t have the energy to deal with attempting to fix the 3D printer today. I feel like it is probably going to be a lot of work and effort for little result. I don’t want to deal with that on top of everything else. So I need another plan. I started the day with pizza (as good as any holiday meal in my opinion) and watched an episode of James May’s Man Lab (the best show on television right now.) I am going to do a little bit of cleaning I think. I’ll practice playing my bass and I am going to organize my tools. I had a lot of space at my last place and so I had a couple of large tool boxes to keep things straight. At my current apartment I have much less space and my tools have just been thrown in some tool bags and a box. The big tool chests are at my Mom’s house and I am constantly picking stuff up from there or dropping off stuff I don’t think I’ll need. The end result is that I have everything jumbled together. So I’ll do some organizing and clean up any tools that need it. This will leave me in a better spot to start working on the 3D printer when I get to that point. In the mean time it will give me a good result and some job satisfaction for the day. Everything in it’s place feels good.

Tomorrow I’ll go down the local watering hole and meet with some other friends that are far from home for the holidays this year. Maybe I’ll see a movie (Walter Mitty looks very good). In the mean time I’ll take care of today. I’ve got things to do. After all it’s just another day.
-h

philosophy and you (somebody)

In philosophy, ramblings on December 21, 2013 at 10:10 pm

I’ve been forced to add a new category to my blog: philosophy.  I never really expected to need it.  When I started this it was meant more as therapy for personal issues.  A private diary with the possibility of some sort of anonymous dialogue.  It then evolved into an easy way to update people on how my 3d printing experiment was going.  Recently I’ve used it to address issues straight from the pages of Facebook.  And while Facebook is fine for quick updates and Seinfeld like observations. (I mean, what is up with Seinfeld’s name being in my spell checker?) It is not as good to deal with actual dialogue.  It is more like the modern press, a series of contentious headlines with no real content or possibility of actual discussion.  So I have decided to use my blog to occasionally delve into the issues I feel need more than that contentious headline. I do understand this is more of a one-sided dialogue than Facebook is but I am hoping that being able to spell my thoughts out completely without having to directly contradict any one person will make up for that.  If you are not on the defensive automatically hopefully you will be more apt to actually read what I am trying to say.  Most of the time though, it will just be crafting fluff.  I don’t plan on making this an overly serious place where thought will be required every day. 

On a side note does saying “you” rather than “somebody” make a discussion more contentious?  Does it feel like I am accusing “you” of some misdeed or other?  Should I be using “somebody” instead? 

Adendum

In philosophy, politics, ramblings, social commentary on December 21, 2013 at 9:41 pm

Apparently I am not as clear in my writing as I should be. I was accused of preaching hate by someone who is important to me for my last post.  So let me try and make myself understood a little better.  EVERYBODY deserves to be heard.  EVERYBODY deserves a voice.  It does not matter if they are saying what you want to hear.  It does not matter if they disagree with you.  It does not matter if they are stupid, racist, or a Red Sox fan.

You do not need to listen.

But you should.

You should listen.  The first reason is just practicality.  You should always know what your enemy is thinking.  But more than that, those people are not necessarily your enemy.  And if you listen, actually listen to what they have to say you might realize that.  You might find common ground to build a dialogue.  You might both want the exact same thing but are going about it differently using different language.  And finally, things in life change.  One day you might discover that your child is gay or even that you are gay.  You might be a rich ad exec one day and be fired and bankrupt and depending on food stamps the next.   Or maybe you grow up poor but get drafted into the NFL, record a hit record, or invent that little doo-dad that the world can not live without.  Your point of view can change dramatically at any point and for no reason that you can predict ahead of time.  That group of people you are dismissing today maybe your only support tomorrow. (in a side note, the Dallas Buyers Club is an excellent movie and is about this very topic.)   If you are Christian remember that while you may be able to use the Bible to justify speaking against any number of people different from yourself, nothing is more central to Christianity (or Taoism in my case) than acceptance and forgiveness. I’m not trying to pick on Christianity here. It is simply one of the few religions I have in-depth knowledge about.

I think most of us agree that there is a line that once crossed certain language is unacceptable.  The problem is that none of us can agree on where that line is.  I think that if we were to take a poll we would discover that the location of that line differs dramatically from person to person.  Because there can be no consensus on where grey turns to black we must accept that ALL language needs to be allowed.

You do not need to listen.

But you should.