Nothing Special, Really

Monday, February 25, 2008

I Might Be Wrong

No Radiohead at Sasquatch this year. You have to at least admit, I was logical about it, I wasn't just some deranged lunatic hoping & praying that Radiohead would magically appear - you can see why I would think they would appear. Anyways, the initial lineup is available, and so far it looks pretty promising. I was already sold based on the combination of how much fun I had last year + the announcement of The Cure many months back, but everything else is just gravy. There will be more additions later for sure (I heard a Mars Volta possibility), but you can check out who's on tap right now here.

As far as the headliners:

The Cure - one of the best performances I've seen was The Cure back on the Wild Mood Swings tour, and that was even back when I hated them. I'm not even nearly one of their biggest fans but I'll never pass up a chance to see them.

R.E.M. - one of those headliners that I'm pretty apathetic about. I've never been a huge fan, but I like a lot of their stuff.

The Flaming Lips - I've still never become a big Flaming Lips fan, and I missed out on their performance at Coachella 2004. If I don't become a fan after this experience, I probably never will.

Other Bands I'm Excited To See: Modest Mouse, Death Cab, The Breeders, The National, Ghostland Observatory, Kinski, plus a bunch of other bands I've heard "of" but don't really know.

Looks like Radiohead will have to wait until August (birthday present perhaps? Hmmmmmmm?) but Sasquatch again looks more appealing than Coachella.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

It's Still Weird

One of my responsibilities at work is to go to 20 times a day because I'm bored. So I've read pretty much every article possible about the Shaquille O'Neal trade. I'm still not used to seeing his name in purple & orange, next to the words "Phoenix Suns".

I officially went on the record a couple of weeks ago supporting the trade somewhat, on the condition that he was healthy. I'm one of a few minority that actually like this trade, and after reading articles about just how healthy Shaq is, and given how well we've played since then (meaning there hasn't been a HUGE dropoff with Shawn's absence), I'm offically going on the record supporting this trade - period.

All the critics are saying "Shaq is fat, Shaq is slow, Shaq is past his prime, Shaq is done." They said these same things when he got traded to the Heat. One year later, they're champs.

Critcs are saying that Shaq can't mesh unless he's the alpha dog, that he'll complain if he's not getting touches. Wouldn't you be complaining about getting touches if your teammates included Ricky Davis, Jason Williams, Antoine Walker, Eddie Jones, Mark Blount, or Udonis Haslem? I don't think he'll be complaining about touches with people like Nash, Amare, Hill and Bell. Definitely not with Diaw on the team (Boris has to be the happiest about this trade, given his affinity for getting as close to the rim as possible before dishing it off). Maybe he'll complain about LB, but that's understandable. The Suns are one of the most unselfish teams in the league, and it sounds like Shaq realizes that.

Critics are saying Shaq can't defend the post right now. Who does he need to defend against?

Duncan? No one can stop Duncan, but I don't see why Shaq can't give us AT LEAST the same defense Kurt Thomas did.

Yao? He can't run with the Suns anyways, and they might not even make the playoffs.

Bynum? The kid is good but he's still limited offensively - and you best believe Shaq's going to step up his game against the Lakers.

Gasol? He's good but just as "slow" as Shaq is.

Boozer? Again, Shaq can give us what Kurt did.

Camby? He scores 9 points a game. He's not a threat.

Chandler? Biedrins? Aldridge? Please.

No, we're not getting a Dwight Howard like presence in the middle, but Shaq can still do the job. More importantly, he helps keep Amare out of foul trouble since Stat doesn't need to guard the post anymore.

I hate to see Shawn go - I'm still not used to him NOT being on the team anymore. He did things on the team that no one else could do. There's going to be times where we certainly miss having him. Did we get full value for him? No - he's a perennial all star at the tip of his prime.

But the way the NBA works today, we weren't going to get full value for him. He's a great player, but he's still a complementary-type player, and I don't see who we could have got for him that would equal his value. We tried KG, but no surprise, they didn't want him. I don't know of many teams who were going to give up almost 18 million in solid assets for one complementary player - yes, maybe the best complementary player in the league, but still just that.

Who else were we going to trade? Diaw? Who wants him at 9 million a season (including us, now)? Banks? No one's going to bite on his $4 millon contact. Amare? Hmmmm...

We probably could've had KG for Amare last year. Nash, Bell, Hill, Marion, & KG, with Barbosa & Diaw. Could have been a championship team. We'll never know. But instead of giving up a 24 year old superstar, we give up a 29 year old complementary player. I've been frustrated with Amare in the past, even earlier this season, but there's no question that he can be one of the most dominant players in the league. Marion never was and never will be that. Even if this doesn't work out, we've still got a strong young core of Amare, Barbosa & Diaw instead of just Barbosa & Diaw.

The West is stronger than ever before, and it's full of teams that were going to give us problems considering how our team was built. Yes, I know, injuries, suspensions, they all had an impact in the past. Maybe if everything go perfectly, we're the defending champs this year.

Maybe if Joe Johnson isn't injured, we win it in 2005.

Maybe if Bell & Amare aren't injured, we win it in 2006.

Maybe if Amare isn't suspended, we win it in 2007.

But all of you naysayers, the ones that want Shawn back on the team, do you really think that this year looked any easier now that we're all healthy? Are you really that confident that, with Marion on the team instead of Shaq, that this was our best chance to win it? Maybe that's why it's easier for me to accept this trade, because I don't think this was going to be our year. Our record is strong, but weak against the toughest West teams. The Lakers are better. The Hornets are better. The Jazz are better. And the Spurs & Mavs are still the Spurs & Mavs. We - we were not better. We were just the same. And I don't buy that being the same was going to get us there.

Not to say that Shaq is a sure thing. It's a gamble. A big gamble. A Big Aristotle sized gamble.

After all these years, we, as Suns fans, find us in the uncomfortable position of rooting for Shaquille O'Neal to lead our team to the promised land.

But I'm willing to believe that it's going to happen.

And it starts tonight.

Financial Advice Needed, Part 2

So I guess cashing out my pension is a bad idea. That seems to be the gist of the response from those that I've heard from. Mark, I like where your head is at, but you're in the minority on this one.

(Don't worry, I'm sure I can find a bit of severance to tuck away for some strippers).

So now, the second question, and this is a bit more open-ended; what should I look for when it comes to choosing an IRA? If it's not apparent enough, I'm a dolt when it comes to investing money; I have been all my life. I'm starting to read a bit more about IRA options, but I'm interested in hearing from those who know about this than I do. And Mark too.

Is there a particular bank or firm that offers an IRA that's significantly better than other options? How do you feel about the standard IRA vs a ROTH IRA? Or is it not to late to change my mind, cash it out, let it ride on black and hope for the best? Let me know.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Financial Advice Needed

Among the several critical decisions I have to make in regards to my future (lack of) employment, there's also the option of cashing out my pension. Since I'm not retiring, I either have to roll it over into an IRA or cash it out.

Everyone and everything I read says DON'T DO IT! but I'm wondering if, in my case, I should.

The cons of doing so are basically:

A) I lose 20% because it's taxed as income

B) There's an additional 10% I must pay on my 2008 taxes

C) It's a large sum that I have set aside for retirement that I will no longer have.

So the mostly current value of the balance is reduced by 30%. In my case, we're talking about $2500 that I lose from my potential retirement fund.

But, here are the pros of cashing out, IMO:

A) It's about an additional $5k in my pocket right away that

B) I can apply to reducing my current credit card debt

As great the temptation is to take the $5k and go spend it on strippers & blow is, I would rather spend that money on reducing my debt. I plan to use a portion of my severance (which is about a 90% probability that this will be my final decision, rather than relocate or find a job in the stores) to apply towards my credit cards. Here's my reasoning

1. That amount is better served paying off debt at a higher interest rate than putting it in an IRA, which assumably would be at a lower rate than my credit cards.

2. Reducing my debt frees up income faster to re-invest in a 401(k) or IRA in the future.

Is it worth it to take a step back in my retirement fund to drastically reduce my current debt? I really want to start building my retirement account, but I don't think it makes sense to pass up this chance to pay down some credit cards, even if I am losing 30% of the value of the balance.

Any thoughts?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

False Alarm?

According to this guy, my post from yesterday is dead wrong.

I really don't know how reputable this guy really is - I might the only one holding out faith until I actually see the lineup, but I still am.

I'm going regardless & I will still have an amazing time, it just might not be the end-all, be-all of festivals like I thought it could be.

(BTW, if you're wondering if there's a correlation between the frequency of my blog posts & the status of my employment, yes there is. Most of us here in my department, including yours truly, are essentially in "who gives a shit" mode from now until May).

Here in Seattle, even the criminals are trying to go green.

Why flee in a getaway car when you can reduce carbon emissions using a bike?

Wonder if he recycles them when he's done....

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god.

The rumor will be confirmed. It hasn't yet, but it will be.

Radiohead is coming to Sasquatch.

How do I know this? Consider this:

1) Sasquatch is presented by Live Nation

2) According to this article, Radiohead's North American tour this year is also presented by Live Nation

3) Also according to that article, there are still dates to be announced for the western part of the U.S. (Radiohead has already confirmed a stop in "Seattle")

4) Radiohead is concerned about reducing their carbon footprint on this tour.

5) Last year, Sasquatch made a big hullabaloo (what an awesome word) about being carbon neutral

6) R.E.M. is rumored to be another headliner

7) Thom Yorke and Michael Stipe are good buddies

8) Apparently, Sasquatch will be a 3-day event this year. The Cure are already confirmed as one headliner. R.E.M. makes two, Radiohead makes three.




Coachella can go suck a big fat one this year.

(except for you, Portishead...please come join all the cool people at The Gorge in May.)

Monday, February 11, 2008

End Of An Era

Hey everyone. I've got a lot of things I want to write about, it's just a matter of finding time away from being lazy to write about it. Work hasn't allowed me much time to post either - the past couple of weeks have been our busiest. But, at least work will be giving me plenty of time in the upcoming months to write blog posts until my heart's content.

You see, I'm probably getting laid off.

I alluded to this in my last post, linking the article regarding Macy's decision to consolidate a few of it's divisional headquarters, including the one here in Seattle. What this means it that the majority of support jobs that our "corporate office" provides (really, we've never been a corporate office - divisional office is probably more fitting) will be folded into the San Francisco divisional office. This essentially provides me with 3 options;

1. Accept a position with the company here in Seattle at the store level

2. Relocate into a new position, most likely in San Francisco

3. Accept a severance package and move on to a new job

There are still many details that need to be worked out, but most likely, I will be choosing option 3.

The first option is somewhat likely, but there are very few Store HR positions available. A job as HR Assistant is not equivalent to my current position but it about double the stress & workload. HR Manager seems to be next in my career progression but they usually prefer to have experienced HR Managers in the Seattle stores, and I'm not willing to transfer to Wenatchee or Idaho Falls or Bozeman to be an HR Manager. There is always an option of transferring to a sales manager position in the store but that is a worst-case scenario - being a sales manager at Macy's is not part of the vision for my career.

Relocation is the least likely option. I love the city of San Francisco.......(I'll pause to give you time to make your gay jokes)......... and would be open to living there, but the cost of living is greater & I don't know if we would actually be able to live in the city. I moved to Seattle to be in an urban area, and aside from our apartment being on the smaller side, I LOVE where I'm living right now. I'm essentially in Downtown Seattle, with everything I need in life (except for Target) within walking distance. If I were to move to the Bay Area, I'd probably have to live somewhere like Daly City or Alameda. I'm not quite willing to do that. I'm open to the idea of moving somewhere else but I want it to be on my terms. Well, mine & Wac's terms.

The last option seems most likely, not just by choice, but by circumstance. My severance package should give me close to three months salary, ample time to find a new job without reducing my quality of living. I would be lying if I said I haven't thought about just taking a month or so off to live off severance, but in reality, the best case scenario would be to find a job immediately afterwards & apply my severance package to things like paying off credit cards & opening a savings account. I've got a goal to reduce the majority of my debt by 2010, but a severance package could accelerate that to 2009. Being able to do that would be absolutely HUGE.

In addition, I'm becoming more comfortable with the idea of moving on. I've been with this company for almost 12 years now. This is the only company I've worked for since high school (aside from the year or so I was still working at Dairy Queen). It's probably time to give myself the chance to try something new. I've been hesitant to do so, fearful that I'd be making a mistake & suffer a setback that would put me into an even bigger hole. But if it's opportunity that's being forced on me, there's not much more I can do. Moving on will be sad because I'm finally starting to grow comfortable in my job. I enjoy working with others in my department, I've got a great boss that allows me to work at my own pace, and I was excited about using this year as a stepping stone towards a promotion. But, unfortunately, the stakeholders are not happy, so our careers are the casualties so that they can fatten their pockets just a little bit more. Just gotta roll with the punches.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Impending Life Changes

If you're reading an article like this and wondering if I'm affected, the answer is yes.

We just found out earlier today. More on that sometime next week.

This Better Work, Steve

You know I'm blogging about this. I have too much to do at work today but I have to talk about this.

Marion & Banks for Shaq. My first thought was probably yours as well: "WTF? Why are we giving up an all-star on the tail end of his prime for a slow former MVP on the tail end of his career?"

You might be surprised to hear that I'm not that bothered by this trade.

First, this trade is entirely dependent on Shaq's health, and that's something that bothers me. Of course, our medical staff is full of miracle workers (see: Amare, Nash, Hill) so if anyone can keep him healthy, we can. But I don't like the thought of trading one of our top players for someone who's been recently injury prone. It's not like we're a deep team to begin with.

Assuming that, this trade works for a couple of reasons:

1. Shaq can be the low post defender that we still need. I do like the idea of Amare being a help-side defender. He's shown he can be a shot blocker but he's not a physical defender, nor is Skinner. Shaq should be able to at least duplicate what Kurt did. After what Al Jefferson and Tim Duncan have done to us recently, it's obvious we need this. Marion's an important part of this team but we still have Hill & Diaw at small forward.

2. This won't hurt our ability to run like a lot of other people are saying. Our running game is not dependent on all 5 players running - it's about quick outlet passes and fast players on the wings. It hurts not having Marion out there, but conceivably, Amare can take his place since he's not defending the basket as much.

3. The potential for better chemistry. Marion's unhappiness won't be a distraction any longer. Shaq is a professional & is on good terms with Nash. I don't know how he'll adapt to being a 3rd-5th option but anything has to be better than being in Miami right now.

Here's what I don't like about this trade.

1. Marion's value cannot be duplicated. Losing Marion's versatility as a defender is going to kill us, especially against point guards that Nash can't defend (which is most of them). I imagine Grant Hill will be asked to take Marion's place in this role, but that will obviously be a downgrade.

2. I don't know if I see Shaq & Amare effectively coexisting on the offense. Granted, Amare is more of a face-the-basket player than he is a post-up player, but I wonder if Shaq will take up too much space on the block. I'm not as concerned about Shaq's speed down the court as I am his lateral speed.

3. We now have the problem that other Miami, LA & Orlando had - the Hack-A-Shaq strategy. In close games & in the playoffs, I think this could have a huge effect on how our offense operates.

4. Financially, we're adding on an additional year at $20 million for Shaq. How did we go from not being willing to pay an additional $8 for Kurt Thomas to the point that we gave away two 1st round draft picks to get rid of him to taking on additional salary for Shaq? I know it's not additional salary, but we have completely mortgaged our future for a championship. In two years, are we going to be in the same place as Miami now?

We had to do something, and I don't know what other trades were available that allowed us to trade Marion but benefit our team. I would've liked to get Gasol but it looks like Memphis wanted guaranteed cap space (if we could guarantee that Marion is going to opt out, Gasol might have been ours). I doubt any other team in the West would trade with us. In the East, there's not much out there we could get considering Marion's contract. The question is, what's better: standing pat with the current roster or taking a chance on Shaq? The past couple of years haven't worked out too well, and even with a healthy roster, this year looks even tougher.

But of course, this all has to with how healthy Shaq is. If he can't stay healthy, then it looks like the next couple of years will be nothing but early playoff exits...again.