Saturday, December 31, 2005

And so it goes

There's a Billy Joel song by the same title. "And so it goes." It's sort of a bittersweet song, one I identify with, corny as that may be, and a fitting way to ring out the year that has been bittersweet to say the least.

At the beginning of the year I was a little cash poor and generally without a care, in June I hit a bus, a breakup and a turning point, in that order, in July I started this blog, in August I went to the Coldplay concert, learned that people will give you change when you pay with cash and contributed to the Katrina effort, in September I started a new job and reported my biggest 1-month net worth gain to date, in October I met J and panicked that I may like him (which is not a good thing when you are determined to avoid romance at all costs and die alone), in November I went to an Indian wedding and in December I went a little crazy with the credit cards.

But all that's behind me. It's time to start anew. I used to wonder why there was such a big hoopla around New Year's. It's just another day after all. You go to sleep, you wake up the next morning and if it wasn't for a 4 digit number that changed by 1 nobody would be any the wiser. So, what's the big deal? Now I think we need something like New Year's as much for psychological reasons as financial. Just as it allows businesses and governments to close out an accounting period, it allows individuals the chance to close a chapter in their life and start another. Sometimes it's more like a paragraph than a chapter, and then sometimes .. like now ... it's a new start, in ways both big and small, some that I know of , some that I hope for and some that I cannot see.

I am a reluctant New Year's party goer. I like the getting dressed part. The new dress, the strappy heels, the demure but dangly earrings, the long, fluttery lashes and the sparkling raspberry lipgloss. I even like the drinks, and the food (occasionally), and the music. And of course, if I am going to someone's party it's because I like them. It's just all of it together and people in party hats screaming "Ten!.. Nine!.. Eight!.. Happy New Year!" in unison that makes me want to throw my drink at someone. I don't know why that is. Maybe I am lacking in the proper New Year's spirit. But anyway, I have a party to go to. Maybe it's for the good. This way when I wake up tomorrow there will be no doubt in my mind that this year is done and over with. It has to be. We celebrated its demise.

Tomorrow I will post my last net worth update of 2005 and some changes for the next year. To my sporadic readers who undoubtedly land here through nothing but vagaries of fate and despite their better intentions of reading something more relevant or informative or at least marginally entertaining, and who succumb to the power of my prose only because it's too painful to look away ... einen guten rutsch!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Mushaboom

I tend to go a little crazy around holiday season. I am the person that you hear people talking about. Some people go crazy around holiday season, they say. Cut up your credit cards, they say. Cut cut cut. They are really all just talking about me.

Went out to buy a gift for J late last night. Came home with stuff for myself. That's what good girlfriends are for. Not that he minds. I think he gets a kick out of the fact that I can go from thoughtful woman to self-absorbed little girl at the drop of a hat. Of course, our relationship is still new so naturally he finds everything thrilling. Give it a few more months and that will change. Jaded? Who, me? Now what makes you think that?

Xmas gift from me to me:

Madhur Jaffrey's Quick & Easy Indian Cooking - $16.95
This gorgeous writing journal, bound in genuine apple-green croc embossed leather, "Handmade in France, Italy, using centuries old techniques" according to the little label - $24.95 (one can't put a price on centuries old techniques)
Let it Die (CD: Feist) - $9.95

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Holiday and Vacation spend

One thing I will say about my current job. I actually have time for a life. It's an interesting change from before. For the greater part of my career I have worked in small startups or rapidly growing companies where 120 hr work weeks were not unheard of. Now, I actually get to go home by 6 or 7 pm. I don't quite know how to deal with that. So while I am figuring out how to enjoy my free time more and stress about what's not getting done less I can turn my attention to the aftermath of the holidays. Technically, the holidays are not over yet but most of my shopping and trips are done so it's time to tally up the damages.

Close friends and family - $505.98
Various other things (for gift paks mostly) - $317.56
Home baked cookies & 1 or 2 small gifts for coworkers - $50
Bldg concierge - $50
Maintenance guys - $50
J's gift - $100 (budgeted)

Total - $1073.54

Vacation

Tickets to India - $75.45
Water & snacks in various airports - $11.50
Black belt sudoku (to have something to do on the long flight) - $7.56
Small sketchbook (to have something else to do) - $3.95
Tacky mystery novel (to have yet something else to do) - $6.50
Taxi ride from the airport to accomodation in Bangalore, split three ways - $3.71
Accomodation in bangalore - $0 thanks to the bride's very generous family
My share of the joint wedding gift for the bride & groom - $50
Some glorious roadside "dhava" food - $5.95
Andaman package tour - $650
A couple of cab rides on the island - $11.50
Shopping (a couple of CDs, a very nice raw silk CD carrying case, paks of colorful bindis, a beautiful wooden replica of the dancing girl, a saree which I plan to turn into a dress, a fabulous ink "fountain" pen drawn all over with Indian kings and queens, some cushion covers for mom and batteries because I forgot to pack extras for my camera) - $83.93
thank you dinner to J for chauffering me back & forth from the airport - $37.44

Total - $947.49

At a glance

Holiday gift budget = $800
Vacation budget = $1700 - $154.6
Cost of gifts = $1073.54
Cost of vacation = $947.49

Friday, December 16, 2005

Sweet, sweet foreshadowing

A few months ago when I turned down two other job offers to accept the Microsoft one I asked myself if I was making the right decision. It was a decision based more on some kind of fascination with the software giant rather than any concrete reason to work there. The last thing I said was "Decisions based on impulse tend to be short love affairs. Foreshadowing perhaps? I hope not."
Well, I guess it was foreshadowing. There are ups and downs in every career but surely this is a little too soon to be battling disillusionment. Decisions, decisions. It's not a bad place to work but it's not the creative freedom I was craving nor a very organized or open work environment, which surprised me. There's a lot of my vs yours, no clear accountabilities and a lot of last-minute heroics every week which could easily be avoided with better processes but that doesn't seem to be a priority. Being here I can almost see how it took Microsoft so long to fix the problem with the old Windows crashing all the time.
It's still a good place to work by many people's estimate. I guess it depends on what you are looking for in an employer. A great 401k plan, ESPP, full medical/dental, access to professional books and training, free Pro Club membership, free drinks, subsidized food (and a pretty good menu - you can order ribs for lunch at the cafetaria for crying out loud), laid back, casual environment and the ability to set your own hours. I have a coworker who regularly comes in at 10 and stays past 6 and another who is here at 6 and out by 4. But it's also got the pace of a much too big company. Slow, sluggish and somewhat disorganized. I am used to the more fast-paced energetic environment of startups and I feel stagnant. Maybe I am just in the wrong part of the company. I don't know.
Coming from an idyllic long vacation has a way of throwing life's little nuisances into sharp focus. In a few days I will probably go back to being fairly happy with the state of things as they are but right now I feel disgruntled. But hey, that's the nature of the office worker. Just ask Dilbert.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Back on the Chain Gang

Oh how time flies when you are having fun. Or in my case, when you are jetlagged and can't remember your password. Seriously, isn't it high time we moved on to retinal scans or neurological pattern matching or some other such hi fi method of user identification? All this having to remember passwords when you are trying to battle a haywire body clock is very annoying, particularly when you have an endless array of meetings to go to at the same time. Ah, the joy of the first day back at work after a long vacation. It's life's little way of reminding us that we are all but little clogs in the wheel and no more free than an ant hoarding food for a long winter.
Talking of which ... a) it's cold, b) I have no idea how much I spent in the last 4 weeks other than very, very vaguely and c) I have a plan for next year which involves more than "I would like to save more and spend less without sacrificing the little things that make life enjoyable."
Onwards and upwards. Or something like that.