A new laptop for MMK

A few months ago, I posted a list of a bunch of things I either wanted or needed to buy in the near future. This afternoon, I bought one: a laptop. My current one is fast approaching its 3rd birthday and it’s starting to behave like the last one did before it bit the dust – hot all time, whirring loudly like it’s straining, freezing up more times in a day than I can count. I got a “4-hour sale” email from Dell, logged in through my mom’s United Airlines mall arrangement so she’d get the last few miles she needs for a free ticket (yay!), and bagged a machine with about 12x the RAM (or whatever the hell it’s called now – DDR? memory?) of my current machine for $600 ($529 + shipping + tax, yuck). None of the online coupon codes I googled worked…oh well.

So my current laptop will go into genteel retirement, to be used when I travel or when the new one acts up. There’s just no way I was going to wait until it completely burnt up because it would have too big an impact on my business and add way too much stress to my life until the new one arrived – and I’d be over a barrel about expedited shipping fees and taking a pre-built machine that probably has more crap on it than I want, therefore costing more. Not to mention all the time and money spent hopping in and out of the local Tasty-D-Lite for internet access.

Job Fair: The 2009 version of the bread line

I’d say I live within spitting distance of the Sheraton, except that every attempt I’ve ever made to spit always resulted in a messy dribble. I had a client at noon today who had to battle through a thousand well-dressed people looped around the Sheraton on this bitter cold, windy day waiting for admission to a “Women for Hire” event, which is allowing men for the first time as a concession to the overall unemployment pain. I’ll try to refrain from cracking jokes about renaming the event. Anyway, it’s almost as impossible to move in my neighborhood today as it is on New Year’s Eve or when Clinton hosts his annual humanitarian/charity pow-wow there. It’s an even more depressing sight than my portfolio statement.

Self-employed and Semi-laid off

Yeah, business is not exactly booming. When companies lay off their employees, their employees in turn lay me off (um…is it just me, or does that turn of phrase sound oddly perverted?).  My income has taken a ~30% hit, which means there’s not a lot of wiggle room in my budget. Of course, things will be improving in the expense column over the next few months as I switch insurance associations and move a block or two down the road…we’re talking a $200-$500/month savings. That’s really not easy to do in this city or even this state, and it means I’ll be able to keep up contributions to my Roth IRA or, worst case scenario, take a bigger hit on my income.

Let me ponder aloud…or at least, let me ramble on the ol’ keyboard here…

I keep going back and forth over the idea of learning Rolf Structural Integration. I can’t get the school in NJ to return my calls or emails, but there are programs going on according to the Rolfer I exchanged services with last week (he teaches it). I’m also tempted by a March 15 start date at one of the big schools in Boulder, but the location, schedule and price tag are very off-putting. I’m 90% sure it would be worth the money and worth a student loan (which, knowing myself pretty well, I’d pay off in a year), but dealing with my living situation is another story. Not only would I have another 7 week session looming over me, but I’d be looking for a June 1 lease on a small apartment – like every recent college grad out there. Even in a soft rental market like this, it would not be fortuitous timing. I’d also want the Institute to waive the 3-month mandatory “gap” between the 2nd and 3rd training segments because the next two sets of dates coincide with my busiest periods. There would, instead, be a 5-6 week gap, during which I can either take my much-desired trip to Africa (though I doubt it, because of the $$), or I might be able to sublet a friendly client’s spare apartment if it’s available and at least self-sustain (two massages for him on average plus I have at least one guy who will see me every week no matter where I am in the city…there’s half the rent/utilities/health insurance right there). Of course, all of this is probably moot because I’m pretty sure the registration deadline for March 15 is long past. Really, I just want the school in NJ to freaking call me back and tell me that the program is still active and give me the next starting date!

The sooner I can transition from eeking out a living doing regular massage stuff to turning away clients because I’m booked to the max at a 50% higher rate, the better. I really want to un-lay myself off (again, that sounds a bit pervy).

Saturday Night Linguistic Rant

I think the term “Recession” was coined in the 80s to avoid its sound-alike D-word. Now there’s an aversion to the R word and we’ve been given “economic downturn”. What an understatement! That makes it sound like a fiscal frown instead of the manic money panic it really is. I say “Down With Downturn!”

And while we’re at it, could we also ditch “put yourself out there”? I’m tired of people telling me it’s my fault I’m single because I don’t “put myself out there” – gee, thanks for the trite, unsolicited women’s magazine advice. I wasn’t bemoaning my status, and I’m especially appreciative that I don’t have any children – it’s hard enough worrying about my own survival during this Manic Money Panic, but for those who have more than just themselves to take care of…yowza.

Update: Venus blades

I got an email from P&G customer service today assuring me that this issue would be raised with the team and I will receive compensation by mail in 2-3 weeks. Not sure if that means a check or coupons for free replacements, I’ll keep you posted. Either way, as an 7-year user of this product, I’m very glad I spoke up.

And a little note about last night’s Rite Aid experience…the cashiers were still clueless, but the manager knew, well, too much. The fine print is illegible on the print-out coupon, but I checked online where it’s clearer: their in-store coupons only apply when the item is not on sale. It would appear that most Rite Aids haven’t picked up on this. Just my luck. I think I’ll have to start frequenting a new Rite Aid anyway, because I’m tired of being looked upon like a criminal for using coupons.

I was in a gambling mood this morning

Complete novice idiot that I am (though I’d like to prove my own self-deprecating assessment wrong!), I decided to pick up 1000 shares of AIG this morning @ 51.7 cents a share.  It’s a gamble I’ve been contemplating for a few months, actually, on the basis that the government has proven that they will not let AIG go under and is pretty heavily invested in its resurrection. I said I’d wait until the Dow hit a scary low number, and today was that day. I’m ambivalent about whether I hold in long- or short-term. My last choice has already bombed out (GE @ $17).

Update: Rite Aid Customer Service

Well, I must say, I’m impressed.

I emailed their customer service late Tuesday night about rejecting their own coupons as “new store policy”, and when I didn’t hear back, I called the 800 number this afternoon (2 minutes later I got a follow-up email to my online complaint…figures). The rep promised that the regional manager would call me within 24 hours. He actually called 2 hours later while I was with a client and left me a detailed voicemail. I contacted his assistant, who obviously called the local store manager immediately because my phone rang 5 minutes later. He apologized for my experience, I expressed understanding that the staff were mystified and therefore suspicious of the coupon, he said he’d make sure they were all aware that these things are legitimate. He asked the name of the cashier who gave me a hard time, but I played dumb – I’m telling you, Gipsys is by far the smartest, most helpful member of their entire cashier/stock staff who now recognizes me on sight with a smile and a wave. She did not lie to me – it was clearly a store politics situation where the manager was looking to save face, so I didn’t give her name and instead mentioned a very unpleasant assistant manager who works Mondays…and whom I intimidated into accepting my coupons with an icy tone and educated vocabulary that was very much at odds with my semi-bedraggled appearance (I always look bedraggled, it’s a choice – it keeps me safe from unwanted male attention…yeah, issues, whatever).

Still, I think I’ll spread the coupon love around two Rite Aids, because I do manage to get a $20 order for less money than I’ll get back in rebates – a convoluted way of saying “for a profit”. I was actually feeling a little guilty about this coupon behavior, given Rite Aid’s dire economic circumstances, but I was watching CNBC earlier and CVS just put in a great quarterly report — and I’d go so far as to say more people work that system than any other. I figured that’s why Rite Aid started putting out $5-off-$20 coupons…because it works so well for CVS.

Uh-oh, I’m turning into one of those pain-in-the-ass coupon crazies, aren’t I. Well, in my defense, it’s not like I’m arguing over 50 cents…my last order involved the rejection of 3 x $5 coupons. That’s not pocket change to most folks.