Thursday, September 30, 2010

Found: Attic Fashion Treasure!

When I was fourteen, my paternal grandfather passed away. I can't say that I knew him particularly well; he wasn't the warmest person. However, I do have many fond memories of him suddenly opening up and sharing a moment of closeness with me, in a restaurant showing me the trick to getting especially viscous ketchup out of the bottle, or helping me straighten out my (clip-on) tie at my Aunt's wedding. Still, I was fairly shaken by his death, as he was the first of my elders to pass, and especially because my dad took it surprisingly hard. We returned from the funeral with a few items that had been handed down to me, most notably my grandfather's Marine Corps Dress Blue blouse and a few articles of clothing.

This morning, for whatever reason, I was compelled to dig in the attic through my old Tucson clothes box, which I hadn't been through since we moved to Salt Lake nearly ten years ago. Lo and behold, I found my inherited clothes! A couple dozen vintage ties, a tan sports coat, and the crown jewel: a navy waistcoat that fits like it was made for me! Huzzah! Waistcoats, or vests, have recently become acceptable again for those willing to take a little chance in their wardrobe, and it will fit perfectly with my old-school style. In fact, I recently purchased a new suit (which I pick up today! Delightful!), which is a very nice mid-gray solid. Wearing the navy waistcoat with this suit will contrast nicely, and add the extra "pop" at functions like a wedding, signaling that I have "dressed up" a little extra, given that I wear suits regularly.

Thanks for everything, Pop-Pop!

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Good morning, world!

I am proud to announce that last night, I took first place in the college's talent show. There were something like 20 contestants, many of whom also sang and played guitar. How did I stand out? There were two things that really set me apart and, I think, helped push me over the top:

1) I played an original song that I wrote, "Melody Maker," which is coincidentally about writing songs! By portraying myself as a songwriter, and then delivering a solid performance of a decent original work, I demonstrated a depth of talent that went beyond those people simply performing another artist's song.

2) I played harmonica along with guitar, true to singer-songwriter form. This really sizzled.

There were many cheers throughout my performance, not just at the end - a first for me. Also, and I didn't realize this until I was done playing, but this was my largest audience yet, easily over 100 people. Now, maybe there have been times out at the People's Market where there have been more people than that within ear-shot, but these people were all there listening intently, and digging it! This is really a huge boost, one that I surely needed right now. Thanks, everyone!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I'm Tired, World

So I literally just woke up from a nightmare about getting mauled by a pack of wolves. What's worse, I don't need to sit and think "whoa, what does that mean", or seek feedback from some tie-dye skirt clad guru. I know exactly why I had this dream; it was the first thought in my head when I woke up.

I've felt lately like the world is just out to get me.

Let's start with school: I feel totally alienated. Almost everyone at my school is young, so god damn young. Fresh out of high school. And they all seem to know each other, and though I am trying, they don't seem to want to get to know me. Now part of this is my fault. I show up in my suits while they're riding their skateboards around campus; I think the disconnect is fairly clear. They're sitting in a group, getting loud and excited about getting drunk at a party, a party that I desperately want to be invited to, when they get quiet upon suddenly noticing me looking sharp, assuming I'm part of the faculty and that they may have just incriminated themselves. Even the career resource center's business department adviser asks me "why are you all dressed up?" Okay, I get it. Like Conor Oberst said to Amy in the White Coat: "you should look more like us."

Now...Better Living has up and completely stopped talking to me; won't take or return my phone calls, hasn't answered my last few emails, and has even started deleting my comments on her blog. You would think that she had dumped me...oh, wait, she did, but that was last NOVEMBER. We managed, with some early turbulence, to maintain a decent (if distant for my tastes, but hey, that's just me, the dump-ee) friendship. I even recently sent her a note to express my thanks for her graciousness, and my gratitude and happiness that we were able to remain friends. Um...was this yet another fucking case of my being too nice? Was she suddenly weirded out because I wrote in the note that I loved her? Hello, as a friend. And also because, in my world, you don't just stop loving people. Okay, so maybe you do stop talking to them (for some reason), but the love is still there - I sure hope that isn't what started this.

Now, I'm not trying to be bitter. I'm actually trying very, very hard to be positive, hopeful, and optimistic. It just gets hard, especially when it feels like the whole world is after me. I hate to be this wounded animal begging for mercy, but please, call off the wolves.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Thursday Late Edition

Well hello there world! After my pouting yesterday, I figured I would talk about some fun stuff that I did today that help to brighten my spirits a bit. I am officially part of the chicken co-op at school; I will be tending to the school's five chickens every Monday. This entitles me to a share of the eggs but, as I already have eleven chickens at home, I am letting the other co-op members have my share. So, I am essentially doing this out of the kindness of my heart. Good to know there is still some kindness in there...

I also went to an open house at a CPA firm. The highlight: the firm's national recruiter complimented my tie. Twice! It was a brand new tie that I got out at the state fare. A new company out of Ogden, "Neck Strings" was there selling their not-too-shabby ties for a jaw-dropping 2 for $15. While these ties aren't actually made locally (they design them here and have them made in China), the quality is up there with designer ties from Nordstrom or Dillards, which come from China anyways but cost $50-$70. Score!

Sometimes, it is the little things that make all the difference...

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Happy Birthday to Me

Well, I can't say this is exactly the happiest birthday I've ever had. I think I am officially over the hump in that I no longer look forward to this day each year.

"Oh, cheer up," you say, "this is your day!"

Well, I am claiming birthday immunity.

That is all.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Those Silly Chickens

So we have eleven chickens, who give us around 7 lovely eggs a day. Yum. One in particular is "my" chicken. She's a turken, a particular breed of chicken that has no feathers on its neck, causing it to resemble a turkey. Fitting her look, and her status as one of the alpha chickens, she is named "Reverend Mother Helen Gaius Mohiam", after the Dune character of course.

Well, recently, she has been "brooding", which is a term for the silly chicken behavior of staying in the coop and nesting on top of the eggs all the time. Also it can include acting crazy and hostile when not nesting on the eggs, as another of our chickens demonstrated last year, but Helen has been pretty docile. She just stays inside, always on top of the eggs, to the point that we wonder how all of the eggs are even getting under her. Does she move to allow the other hens to lay? Or are they laying around the coop, and then she gathers the eggs to her nest? Hmmm...

Well, this morning I went outside and there was Helen, running and scratching around in the outdoor run, like a normal well-adjusted chicken! Let's hope she keeps it up, and that her brooding days are behind her. Also, maybe this is a sign that my own days of "brooding" and being "cooped up" might be coming to a close...

Ah, the simple life of a silly chicken!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Another Week

Here we go, starting another week of school. This one promises to be full of more work than fun activities, but isn't that the point? Still, let's look back on the fun times I had last week to be reminded that there may be more fun times ahead:

1. Accounting Resume-Writing Workshop: A managing director of the local PriceWaterhouseCoopers office individually critiqued our resumes and then offered up many helpful hints about what to include and what not to, particularly when seeking a job in public accounting. My resume is pretty solid; it certainly doesn't hurt that a professional writer helped me put it together.

2. Campus Garden Open House: So my nifty little college started a nifty little organic garden a couple years ago, and this year they added chickens! I stopped by to meet the organizers and volunteer my help in caring for the chickens (since we have eleven of them at home).

3. Casino Night: I stayed late at school on Wednesday to participate in the student government's 'Casino Night'; I played in the Texas Hold 'Em tournament, staying in until about half the players had been eliminated. For quite a lot of the game, I was chip leader at my table. But, as usually happens when I play Hold 'Em, I got kind of bored and started making silly bets to spice things up. I feel good, though, because my stupidest and most costly bet furnished the lone tired professor participating with a ton of chips, getting him back in the game.

4. Meet the Firm Night: A panel of six professionals from different accounting firms, Goldman Sachs, and even the FBI came and spoke at the school. The main point I took away: I need to get a master's degree and my CPA license as soon as possible in order to really work in my chosen field in a capacity that will really suit me. Oh joy.

5. Theater Society Opening Social: Lately I've found I don't enjoy movies or television very much, but live theater continues to intrigue me. Now, I haven't acted since high school and I've only ever been to a hand-full of plays, but it is something that does intrigue me, and, the theater kids are all (as expected) very personable. I enjoyed myself very much getting to know some new people and playing charades.

So there you go...the fun fun times for him. Hopefully I can find some engaging social stuff to do this week in between the homework assignments!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Getting my Rushmore on

Now that I am back in school, there is a lot more going on in my life to stimulate my mind and occupy my time. However, I am only taking three classes, and there is still a lot of empty space each week. I've decided to fill this with all manner of clubs and activities. I realized at the beginning of this semester that my last year or so at college is really my last chance to make a lot of hip young friends all at once. Now, this wouldn't be such an issue, as I prefer to maintain a small group of close friends whom I am truly devoted to...but, my small cadre of near-and-dears has managed to first implode and then evaporate right out of my life.

So, I am aspiring to get involved on campus, and to get to know others who are as well. This is a difficult task at my school. First of all, I transferred in as a junior, having already earned my associate's degree at the community college. This puts me at a social disadvantage, as my peers have already been going to school together for two or more years. Complicating matters further is the fact that I live off campus. The kids in the dorms even have a term for this, which I find has some derogatory connotations: "commuter". To make things even worse, I am attending a prestigious liberal arts college. The sort of students that go there are, by and large, eccentric weirdos and hipsters. While this is certainly more of my crowd than say, the lunatic sports fans who populate the public university, they aren't the easiest bunch to get to know.

I liken the majority of students at my school to New Yorkers - everyone walks around with their head down, in their own world. If you stop someone and engage with them they will perk up and be very friendly and helpful, but once this interaction is over and done with, they want nothing further to do with you and continue right back on their single-minded path. This is not to say that they are an anti-social bunch, but they are mired in what appears to me to be a rigid system of cliques and coteries, one that is particularly distrusting of outsiders.

I could go on and on (and often do) about how frustrating this is for me, a genuine, direct, no-nonsense person who honestly wants to get to know nice people for who they really are and build lasting friendships with them. Complaining, though, doesn't get anything done, so I have been (and will continue) taking action to get myself involved. I'll wrap up by saying: Look out kids, here I come!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Things I Like: Accounting

I am in the second semester of my junior year as an accounting major, and I after some recent reflection, I'd like to reaffirm my happiness with my selection. Textbooks often refer to accounting as "the language of business", and I think that as a well-established scientific system, it also functions as the rules of business. Knowing the rules enables one to effectively play the game.

When my enlistment in the Marine Corps ended several years ago, I knew that I wanted to do something in business. I had come to this realization when it occurred to me that every job out there belongs to some kind of business. Further, almost everything in life functions like a business, at least on some level or in certain ways. I was pretty ignorant when I started college, and without a lot of direction; "business" is, like I've said, broad and far-reaching. So those first few classes definitely informed my choice, one of which happened to be Financial Accounting 1.

I'll admit, at first I didn't get it. I was perplexed by the double-entry system, wherein every transaction is recorded twice, effecting two different accounts. This is the system of debits and I losing you already? Further complicating the matter, transactions are recorded in a journal, a chronological list, and then later posted to a ledger, a collection of all the different accounts and their balances. Still not getting it, eh? Okay, so here is the thing - some accounts (usually assets, like cash or a house, and expenses, like your electricity bill) have a debit balance, while others (liabilities, like your mortgage loan; equity, your net worth as an individual or the book value of owners' stakes in a business; and revenues, like your paycheck or sales) have a credit balance. sure look confused - I did too!

This is where it all fits together: the entire system is based on the accounting equation, which states that:

Assets = Liabilities + Equity

So...those double entries each effect, in some way, both sides of the equations. Therefore, the equation stays balanced. Okay, so I know that no one except people familiar with accounting have any idea what I'm talking about. But that's okay, I don't think anyone is reading this blog anyway (*wink*). Still, when all of this finally clicked in my head, I knew that I had found my education path and my place in the world of business. Why? Because the equation has to balance. Everything is assigned values, and though these change, the equation stays balanced. You can be relatively sure that everything is at least mostly right if your accounts all balance out.

This is all very basic stuff; I think I have just poorly explained the first two days of class. It gets so much better. These accounts and their balances are used to prepare financial statements, which tell you all sorts of things about how a business (or, say, your personal finances) are operating. You can then do all manner of analysis with the data, giving you even more valuable information. Management and the marketing department can talk all day about pricing strategies and their big new global initiative (and I don't mean to downplay those people and disciplines; they are extremely important), but the financial statements lay it out plainly to see for those who know how to read them. The "Rich Dad, Poor Dad" book series by Robert Kiyosaki, though mostly a giant fluff piece by a hustling snake oil salesman, did contain one great piece of advice: "Learn to think in financial statements". If more businesses stopped to think about exactly how that decision they're making is going to impact not just the bottom line, but the intermediary steps on the financial statements, and how that is going to impact all the various means of analyzing and comparing and projecting...well, I think we'd get far less stupid decisions.

So there you go, world. I like accounting. It works.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

War Story Wednesday: Gentlemen VS Modern Discourtesy

In these modern times, with facebook and twitter serving as the means of communication for many young people, I worry about common courtesy going by the wayside. The symptoms are everywhere to be seen: people don't RSVP to events in advance, because who knows what kind of tantalizing text message might invite them to something better at the eleventh hour? Grown men have feeble handshakes and avert their eyes when being introduced because most of their introductions happen electronically. People don't know how to conduct themselves at a fine restaurant or a dinner party, because most of their meals are wolfed down hastily whilst watching television or checking their favorite blog.

Now, I won't claim to be an expert on these matters, nor will I attempt to outline all of the myriad rules and customs of courtesy. But I can offer some tips, and generally admonish the public to be more courteous to one another. So here is some helpful advice, bits I've learned from my father, Better Living and her cultured friends, and the Marine Corps:

  • When meeting someone new or when you run into someone you haven't seen in a while, firmly shake their hand (but don't crush it; this does not demonstrate your manliness, it makes you an ass), and always look them in the eye. I cannot stress this enough; you should always look people in the eye. It not only displays your confidence, but shows your respect and that you are mentally present and engaging with the person.
  • When you are going to an event that has been planned in advance, for god's sake turn your phone off and participate with the others present for the duration of the event. If you have to have your phone around, for an emergency or some such, keep it on vibrate. If you receive other calls, ignore them, and if your important call comes through politely excuse yourself and take your call in private. I don't care that everyone else is texting at the dinner table or in the middle of conversation; this is incredibly rude.
  • Never point at people. It makes them uncomfortable, probably because it is a dead giveaway that you are talking about them to someone else. If you really need or desperately want to identify someone else from a ways off, gesture with your whole, open, flat hand. Get your hand ready to karate chop, then, with your palm facing up, sweep your arm in the direction of what you are trying to point out. I know this is a minute detail, but seriously, don't point.
  • When someone goes out of their way to do something nice for you, hand-write them a thank-you note. Mail it through the postal service if possible, or hand deliver it otherwise. They went out of their way to help you, so you should go out of your way and go beyond an email to say thank you. A good guide to when and what to write can be found here.
Doing these simple things will get you started being a more courteous and thoughtful person. People will notice.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Things I like: Cufflinks

Okay, so I proposed to share my limited knowledge about fine mens clothing, and the single item that launched me into the wide world of tailored suits and custom shirts was french cuffs and cufflinks. I received my first french-cuffed shirt and cufflinks as a birthday present some years back from Better Living, and so began my 'fancification'.

Okay, let's start at the very beginning. French cuffs have a "double cuff" - twice the amount of fabric at the cuff that is folded back on itself. Also, french cuffs have no buttons, just button holes, and must be fastened in some manner. Enter the cufflinks. So why do I like french cuffs and links? Well, there are two main reasons, which are both actually very practical. The first is, a french cuff seems to me to more properly fill a suit sleeve. It just seems made to fit; it takes up the whole space and makes the sleeve conform nicely. A french cuff sitting rightly in the sleeve will provide a nice skeleton for the jacket sleeves, making the buttons and their little flap of fabric actually stand up. The second reason is that good cufflinks (mine are sterling silver and pretty chunky) weigh the shirt sleeve down so it doesn't ever get stuck up in the suit jacket; it hangs perfectly on your wrist at all times.

Now, there are some choices when it comes to what kind of links you want. The cheapest option, and I think it is pretty fashionable, is "silk knots". These are little fabric knots which take the place of proper cufflinks; I like them and would probably buy some if I ever saw them in a shop. They allow a dash of color to get added in, which does admittedly perplex me a tad, but I've seen them around and they look handsome enough. Then there are the double-stud style of metal cufflinks; these have a larger stud that goes on the outside of the cuff connected by a curved metal band to a smaller stud on the inside. Now, some people prefer these as you get "double the mileage" out of your links as there are flashy studs on the inside of your cuff as well as the outside. I prefer the final option, toggle cufflinks, over the double-stud style for a number of reasons. First, they are the most plainly obvious. There is no doubt that yes, those are in fact cufflinks, not elaborate buttons or snaps or some such. Second, the straight metal bar and the toggle really make the cuffs take a nice shape: a nice, crisp "kissing cuff" where the two sides of the cuff are snug and flat against one another. The curve in the metal link on the double-stud style (necessary because otherwise the link would be really short and difficult to get between those four buttonholes) tends to, in my opinion, leave the cuff rather loose and unshapely, letting the extra fabric puff out to each side. This makes them look, to me, sort of like unbuttoned barrel cuffs. This loss of definition defeats, for me, one of the major advantages of the french cuff I espoused above: the shape.

Alright, that's all for now. I'll try to get some fun pictures up in the future.