Thursday, August 27, 2009

Getting in shape

The older I get the harder it is to get in shape. And not incrementally harder either, exponentially harder. So for the last 4 months I have been weight training, walking, jogging, and over the last 3 weeks I ran in THREE 5K races all in an attempt to get back to a reasonable shape (round not included).

Look, 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) is a lot harder than it sounds. Oh don't get me wrong, the pace you run is entirely up to you. My dilemma is that I started running with REAL RUNNERS. And trust me, there is a difference. For example, in the first race I started at the back of the 150+ runners and was basically jogging. Midway through the race I passed a few folks and started feeling real proud of myself. However, when the race was over and the results were published I was ashamed to find that I was in the bottom 25%, overall AND for my age group. And I did it in 29:11, DAMN!

So then, I started training just for the next 5K because I'm thinking I've been working out for roughly 3 months so I should be at worst average. Well, the following week I figured I would start at the very FRONT of the race. So, I go right to the front of the 150+ and the only thing in front of me is open road. Hey, I'm figuring that all I have to do is just maintain speed with the pack. Look, this was probably the most embarrasing thing to happen to me in recent memory. The funny thing is I drastically improved my time from 29:11 to 25:46. However, I have never been passed by so many people in my life. I mean, young boys passed me, young girls passed me, old men passed me, old ladies passed me, overweight young boys passed me, overweight young girls passed, and overweight old men passed me (I don't think their were any overweight old ladies in the race). But the point I want you to get is that 2 miles into the 3.1 miles I started getting tired and my brain started telling me to quit and I started listening. But then I saw this overweight old guy running by me and I tried to pick it up and I couldn't. I repeat, I COULDN'T. I repeat, I COULD NOT. At this stage I wondered, what is wrong with me and who are all these people blowing by me?

Then I figured it out. Those are the people I see running early in the morning while I am on my way to the Burger King drive thru to pick up my 2-for-$3 Croissandwiches. I also see them around lunch time running and wonder how is it that these people can get a run, shower, and lunch in 60 minutes when I can barely make it back from Chick-fil-A. I see them later in the evening as I drive home from knocking down a tequila and some nachos at On The Border. These are REAL RUNNERS. I have been going to the gym roughly 2-3 times a week since May and here I was expecting to hang with the REAL RUNNERS in a 5K. What the hell was I thinking?

So, I tell myself that all I have to do is train harder, which I did. Then the following Tuesday (race day) just happens to be the hottest day of the year. 7pm and the race is about to start yet it is 90 freaking degrees IN THE SHADE. I thought to myself, "Ok, I have trained for this and I will break 25 minutes this time." The race starts and within the first 5 minutes I realize that breathing in extremely HOT AIR doesn't bode well for my lungs. My brain started talking to me, "Hey Troy, is that lungs you just coughed up?" At this stage I realized I haven't even reached the 1 mile mark. I started thinking about my Sister's reply when I told her I ran a 5K. "Running is bad for your knees...walking is the best exercise", she said. Thoughts started entering my mind, "Man, she is a GENIUS...I shouldn't be running...I'm damaging my knees." Then I remember, bad knees never killed anyone that I know. Heart disease killed my Father, has a strong grip on many of my family members and is already starting to come after me. And so, I finished in 25:57 which was slightly more than my previous record. But more importantly, I didn't give up or give in.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Microsoft Communicator in the Workplace

So I'm sitting at my desk at work on the day of the Michael Jackson memorial and I get an instant message from the resident slacker at my job via Microsoft Communicator (basically Instant Messenger for the Workplace).

Slacker: Did you moonwalk to your office this morning?

Troy: Shh-mon!

Slacker: And did you start your day with a beat-it?

Troy: Ha! Nope, but I am gonna end it with a thriller.

Slacker: With Billie Jean?

Troy: Not my love...old news, she's out of my life for some time now.

Slacker: You can teach her the ABCs. I've heard they are easy as 1-2-3.

Troy: Or is it as easy as black or white?

Slacker: Sometimes you have to just look at the man in the mirror.

Troy: Whoa, where did that come from? You and your off the wall comments.

Slacker: Hey buddy, do you wanna be starting something?

Troy: Try as you wish, I'm unbreakable.

Slacker: Nah.. you are just a P.Y.T.

Troy: I don't know where you're going with that last comment but if there is a pretty young thing out there you should know the girl is mine.

Slacker: I'd like to jam with you on Communicator about MJ all afternoon but some of us gotta work.

Troy: Work? You? Ha! I want to be where you are...come in when I want, "work" from home when I want.
[Slacker is taking a long time to respond]
Troy: What? Have you resorted to googling songs now? What type of monkey business is this?

Slacker: You think you are a smooth criminal, but you're just a hater.

Troy: Dude, not only am I smooth, I am also dangerous.

Slacker: Say, say, say whatever you want.

Troy: Lots more to say...for instance, did I ever tell you I once dated Dirty Diana.

Slacker: Nope...I'm pretty sure you are still in the closet.

Troy: I'm so far removed from you and your "closet" that I'm a stranger in moscow.

Slacker: Who are you fooling? You are with Ben thinking about butterflies.

Troy: You've got the wrong guy. I'm with a beautiful girl.

Slacker: You are not alone with her, I'm with her too.

Troy: Hey, are you calling my girl a cheater?

Slacker: Her and I have been workin day and night until there is blood on the dance floor.

Troy: Blood?? Can someone say, "in the back?" But if that's your thing, may I suggest you don't stop until you get enough.

Slacker: It's my patented move. I call it the rockin robin.

Troy: Dude, I'm laughing so much I am speechless.

Slacker: Why don't you go ahead and cry then?

Troy: I haven't cried since childhood...I can't even remember the time?

Slacker: Hey tabloid junkie, enough of this crap, I gotta do some work.

Troy: Ha! You finally realized that you can't win huh?

Slacker: Dude, quit it. Someone just walked in my cube. This dialogue in the Communicator window looks bad.

Troy: Who is it?

Slacker: My boss. Had he seen this my ass would have been on the line. Okay, definitely quitting now.

Troy: Look at him and yell, "Leave me alone!"

Slacker: Dude, you're crazy. I want to spend one day in your life.

Troy: Hey, it's just another part of me.

Slacker: Are you sure its not just human nature?

Troy: Enough slacking, back to work. Time to heal the world one Liberian girl at a time.

Slacker: Dude you are a trip. One last song drop and I am done. Like all the great ones, gone too soon.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

It's been a while

What can I say? Not even a good excuse for why I haven't blogged. OK, I have been hitting the gym but that isn't the reason. I have been living more in the real world and less in the virtual world but that still isn't the reason. Writer's block? Possible. Just straight up lazy and lacking any stick-with-it-ness? Highly probable.

Things I have been doing with myself since we last spoke:
1. Switched from Amex SimplyCash Business to Schwab Bank Invest First Visa which just gives a straight 2% back on everything into your Schwab Brokerage account and no foreign transaction fees.

2. Finished reading Enough: True Measures of Money, Business, and Life by John Bogle and I highly recommend. Damn good book...made me want to be a better man.

3. Just started reading The Snowball: Warren Buffet and the Business of Life by Alice Schroeder and so far so good. You know, I just realized that these two books, based on the titles, are pretty much the same thing. Funny thing is I bought Enough for myself and knocked it out in like 2-3 days and upon seeing this the ScriptKeeper bought me Snowball and I'll go out on a limb and say it will take me a while to finish. The thing is HUGE.

4. Carnival hopping: Travelled to St. Thomas, VI for Carnival in late April. Will travel to Washington, DC for Carnival in late June. Yeah, yeah, I missed Atlanta's Carnival at the end of May. Hey, I can't make them all.

5. Finished up my classes for the Spring semester and registered for Relative Value of Securities in the Summer II session. I'm pass the halfway point towards that Masters of Science in Finance and boy don't I want to drop out right about now. :)

6. Removed myself from and I sort of felt like it was turning me into a voyeur (use definition #2, HA!) or something constantly checking up on folks (status updates, latest pictures, etc.). And that is not the kind of person I am or wanted to become. Plus the Movie Snob swears those things are evil and other than him being somewhat extreme we tend to have similar tastes.

7. Fell in love with Nature's Path Pumpkin Flax Plus Granola. I usually eat it with soy milk as a a cereal or just straight up as a snack. Who knew something this good for you could taste this good? I especially like the fact that it has generous amounts of 3 things I look for in my new GET-FIT-STAY-FIT diet: fatty acids, dietary fiber, and protein. Found it at my new favorite spot: Costco. Isn't that place just awesome?

8. I know this conflicts with my #6 but I have taken up Twitter or maybe I should say the TwitterFon app on the iPhone. See, I use it primarily to stay on top of NFL news. I follow Peter King (my favorite Sportswriter), Rich Eisen, Chris Mortensen (this guy tweets constantly), and Ross Tucker. Obviously, I just read the news updates these guys push out. And as you know, the NFL is one of my FAVORITE things.

9. Did I ever tell you that 9 is my favorite number? Well, it is.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Hitting HENRY hard

As a proud member of the Ways & Means Committee I was called in and instructed that my blog entry on HENRY was a slap in the face of my membership. As a result, here is my attempt to rectify the situation.

Here is how a single filer (HENRY) who makes above the $75K-phase-out-to-$95K-cutoff can still take advantage of the $8K tax credit for first time home buyers who buy a home between 1/1/09 and 12/1/09.

First off, LEGALLY shelter as much of your money from the IRS as possible:
  1. Max out your 401K contributions - $16.5K (great time to buy)
  2. Medical & Dental paycheck deductions - ~$1K (conservative guess of $1K for HENRYs)
  3. Max out Health Savings Account contributions - $3K (NOT use-it-or-lose-it)
Total sheltered is $20.5K.

Second, in this economy you should be able to find the maximum amount of $3K in stock losses above any capital gains to apply towards income.

  1. $3K in capital losses above capital gains applied towards income.
Total offset to income is $3K.

Grand total is $23.5K. Hence a HENRY who makes a salary all the way up to $98,499 (minus the $23.5K gives us $74,999) is still able to get the FULL tax credit and a HENRY who makes a salary all the way up to $118,499 (minus the $23.5K gives us $94,999) is still able to get a partial tax credit.

Of course, I am sure other ways to shelter money exist such as Flexible Spending Accounts (Medical Expense & Dependent Care) but these are the ones that quickly come to mind where you run no risk (use it or lose it) of losing the money you sheltered. Additionally, you may have other income such as interest and dividends so please consider your exact situation and account for ALL sources of income when performing these projections.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Tough economic times

Friday morning during a super-A$$ economy with annual shareholder meeting taking place in the coming week you wake up as normal to get ready for work. The phone rings. It's a co-worker who is actually off today because of the required 10 days off per fiscal quarter due to the economic downturn. They ask you if you are already at work and you say that you are on your way. They claim that they just read their emails and the head of the department just called a meeting with 5 minutes notice. You think, "WTF, that would mean 8:45am...most of the department, like ME, gets in between then and 9am." Then you start doing that layoff calculus in your head: Friday + Payday + Annual shareholder meeting next week + Early morning short notice meeting = HOLY SHITE!

So now you start contingency planning with regards to personal files you have stored on your company provided laptop most especially the ones for the $3400 class you are taking where you have all your homework including the case study due on Monday. "Shite, when was the last time I backed up to my USB disk?" "Double shite, fireburn school files what about my tuition reimbursement?" "Triple shite, I just booked that 7-day-Caribbean cruise?" "Sweet, my lease ends this month and I haven't renewed yet."

Then you get to work late missing the meeting and find out the meeting was just to give everyone in the department a heads up that layoffs are taking place throughout the company and for right now our department is safe. Meanwhile you are thinking if I was 10 years older and in worse health I may have had a heart attack to find out I am safe...for NOW.

Back at your desk, you don't even feel good about having survived another day since you are learning of folks you know in other departments that didn't make the cut. And let's face it, all the slack has long been gone. These are good-to-great workers who just find themselves on a project or in a business unit that either requires too much capital, not generating enough profits in the short term or both. Your sorrow for them fades when you start thinking that this is what it is going to be like every so often until the economy picks up. You tell yourself that it is best to move on from this paralyzing thought process since all it does is make you sit in fear. But while trying to move on and stay positive you can't help but wondering, "Am I currently in the on deck circle?"

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Who is HENRY?

H-E-N-R-Y = High Earner Not Rich Yet

Well, it all depends on your definition of high earner because I would definitely not put myself anywhere near there. But in either case, this isn't about me. This is about all the folks who graduated from college with lots of student loans and a "high paying job." What exactly is a high paying job? If you ask the IRS that would be anything above $55K which is where they start phasing out single filers for deducting student loans. The hard cut-off is $70K.

So for example, you finish college after busting your rump for 4-5 years and now have $32K worth of student loans to show for it. But you're one of the lucky ones, you managed to find a job that is paying you $60K to start in the always-expensive-cost-of-living Northeast.

Funny thing though is that after hearing your whole life about student loan tax deductions you realize that at your salary level this doesn't amount to much. You don't worry about it though as you put your nose to the grindstone and try to be the best employee ever. Three years later due to well earned raises you cross the $70K cut-off limit. You think no-biggie since you never really got much back from that measly deduction anyway. However, it still is a painful reminder to get that letter from your loan provider pointing out how much you paid in interest the previous year. I mean, those bastards are just rubbing it in your face that you won't be able to deduct any of that interest paid.

Two years later, you start thinking about buying a home because it is the prudent thing to do and there are no income limits on the tax dedcutions for interest paid on your home. But in the Northeast, your 5 years of prudent savings doesn't even look like it could be 10% of the selling price of the homes. Yeah, even in this downturn. And you wanted to put 20% down because you heard of all the no-money-little-money down horror stories. But wait, what about that news clipping you saw that spoke about an interest free $7500 loan from the Gov now expanding to possibly a $7500 grant (via tax credit) and you think, "Cut me a slice of that pie!" So as a good citizen you go to their website and read the fine print which clearly states that earners above $75K are phased out until a hard cut-off at $95K. So, using your salary numbers you do the number crunching and then it hits you.

HENRY, he is I and I am him.

Redbox + iPhone = Obvious Winner

Every once in a while I have to throw someone a bone. And today I toss one out to Redbox who has been very good to me over the past 8 or so months. A Redbox app for the iPhone is so blatantly obvious I feel as if it has already been done but no one told me. Look, I will just walk you through one quick scenario where having a Redbox app on the iPhone is sheer geinus.

Redbox-Iphone App Scenario:
Monday morning and my plane lands in Ssacramento, CA and upon touching down I remember that I have to return two Redbox DVDs (The Rocker - 3 stars, Pineapple Express - 2 stars) that I have in my backpack which I picked up last night for the sole purpose of watching on the plane ($2 for 2 DVDs for 1 night) using my laptop. While I sit on the plane waiting to get off I open up my Redbox app with the 3G turned on and see that the nearest Redbox is less than 10 minutes away using the iPhone's GPS capabilities. I then hit the map it function which opens the iPhone's Maps application to get an understanding of the turn by turn directions I would need to get to that Redbox location from the airport. Hmmm, it's actually in the direction I am heading, SWEET! While in the app I see that the free 1-day rental Monday code is also posted which reminds me that I wanted to get The Secret Life Of Bees (hey, it's Black History Month). While still on the plane, I use my Redbox app to check to see if it is available at the location I already planned on visiting. It is, SCORE! I'm now being hustled off the plane so I pack my iPhone away and race to the rental car terminal forgetting to reserve my movie. Finally I arrive at the Redbox location and there are about 3 people in front of me. I overhear the couple in front of me saying that they hope that The Secret Life of Bees is still there. Instantly I pull out my iPhone and open the Redbox app and check to see if it is still available at this location. I see it is and since I already created and registered my account I am able to quickly hit the RESERVE button. My sincere apologies to the couple in front of me as I can't help but giggle when they get to kiosk and see that The Secret Life of Bees is gone. I return my two DVDs from the previous night and grab The Secret Life of Bees and head out to dinner with my Rancho Cordova compadres.

Hey yo Redbox, why is this not happening?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Troy at the Theater

Folks have been asking me to do movie reviews and some others have been emailing/texting asking if I have seen Slumdog Millionaire so I figured I would kill these and other related topics with one blog entry.

First off, I must have been singing the praises of Da Box way too much. Everytime I go to my local Redbox lately there is a line. All my Redbox using friends claim that there are lines at their local Redbox as well. A family member called me all the way from Dallas to tell me that Dallas-area folks must be reading my blog because the TWO Redbox kiosks at their grocery store has a line. So from now on, my message to you is: Redbox SUCKS!

Movie ratings are assigned by myself (regular guy), Movie Snob (indie-artsy perspective), and the ScriptKeeper (female perspective).

Slumdog Millionaire - Great movie set in India that shows the road traveled all the way to the game show, "Who wants to be a millionaire?" Had the ending not been so "Hollywood" it would have been a strong competitor for best movie of 2008. This is a great choice for the regular movie viewer who wants to baby-step their way into indie-artsy films in the future. Troy: 5 stars, Movie Snob: 4 stars, ScriptKeeper: LOVED IT!

Happy-Go-Lucky - Dark comedy that is definitely not for the average everyday movie viewer who just wants to be entertained. This is a great movie to see with folks where you then go out for drinks or coffee after. Definitely spurs one into taking a look within. Definitely the best movie of 2008 for the indie-artsy crowd. Troy: 5 stars, Movie Snob: unseen, ScriptKeeper: LOVED IT!

Nights in Rodanthe - OK, so the ScriptKeeper dragged me to see this "romance" movie. And surprisingly, even though the ending was somewhat predictable it was better than I thought. Troy: 3 stars, Movie Snob: UNSEEN & PROUD OF IT, ScriptKeeper: LOVED IT!

Tell No One - French foreign thriller that is my vote for the best movie of 2008. And I have to give props to the Movie Snob (for the 100th time before he calls yet again for referral credit) who recommended it to me. This is just a great movie in every way measurable. Keep in mind that this movie is in French so you will have to read subtitles. But trust me, you will not be disappointed. Troy: 5 stars, Movie Snob: 5 stars, ScriptKeeper: LOVED IT!

Gran Torino - Social drama with Clint Eastwood playing the part of a WWII veteran who is somewhat stuck in his old school ways. My first thought leaving the theater was that Clint Eastwood wins the oscar for best actor after this performance. I mean, he IS the movie. The funny thing is that even though the movie is a drama it was more like a comedy with racial and ethnic jokes serving as the subject material. Movie Snob claimed he was noticing that some folks were laughing a little too hard and too long at his theater down in JawJuh! :) Troy: 5 stars, Movie Snob: 5 stars, ScriptKeeper: LIKED IT!

PS: The ScriptKeeper would also like you to know that she LOVED Sex And The City.

We thought Chris Rock was joking...

Remember when Chris Rock said the following in Never Scared?
Oprah is rich, Bill Gates is wealthy. If Bill Gates woke up tommorow with Oprah's money, he'd jump out a fvckin' window and slit his throat on the way down saying, "I can't even put gas in my plane!

German tycoon Adolf Merckle commits suicide
By Markus Nagle Markus Nagle

BLAUBEUREN, Germany (Reuters) – German billionaire Adolf Merckle has committed suicide, in despair over the huge losses suffered by his business empire during the financial crisis, his family said on Tuesday. The media-shy billionaire, whose family controls some of Germany's best-known companies, was hit by a train on Monday evening, local officials said. "The desperate situation of his companies caused by the financial crisis, the uncertainties of the last few weeks and his powerlessness to act, have broken the passionate family entrepreneur and he took his own life," a family statement said. State prosecutors from the southern city of Ulm said Merckle, 74, left work on Monday and died after being hit by a train near the town of Blaubeuren. He left behind a suicide note to his family, they added. There was no sign of anyone else being involved, they said. In 2008 Merckle was ranked as the world's 94th-richest person and Germany's fifth-wealthiest by Forbes magazine. Read more:

Well, like they always say, truth is stranger than fiction. Look, I know I'm supposed to have lots of comments and questions to add to this and the truth is I actually have too much. But instead of listing them, I'll just repeat what a friend emailed me back regarding the article. It reads much better than anything I would have ever said:

I am not really surprised by this article. There are many people who place their happiness, self-worth and existence in the perceived and notoriety of their riches. Perhaps he would've lived happier if he shifted his thoughts to the many people he was able to bless with employment, donations and the many contributions that his riches afforded others. I find as I age that the true meaning and sustenance of my life is not how much I have in the bank but rather how many people I managed to be a blessing to daily.

Damn, you blessed at least one today. Thank you.