Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Vitamin D and BKK

My energy levels have tanked recently. I seem to have enough energy to read, but not enough for much else. A friend mentioned taking vitamin D for hand weakness, which I've started to have, and I know that if I make vitamin D via tanning I feel a lot better, so I started taking some this weekend and I've had much better daytime alertness and evening tiredness, from just a couple days of taking it.

I saw a rheumatologist this morning who actually seems interested in helping me figure out what's going on. He took a really comprehensive history and asked some very good questions. Right now, he's trying to research to figure out what tests to do. in the meantime, I'm not sure how much vitamin D I should take, but we'll see.

In the meantime, I'm really hoping I'll feel better soon because I invited myself along with my friend to Thailand. If you have any advice on which airlines are better for transpacific flights, sing out. I need to book my flight to Bangkok ASAP.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Campsite Rule

I've had several things to say recently that leave a better taste in the mouth than my last bitter ranting, but am having a patch where I'm feeling a tad overwhelmed. I'm trying to remember that not every post needs to be a major production.

Tonight's update is inspired by the SWE seminar I attended. A local entrepreneur (4 'e's in that word!) gave a talk on how to network and it's the first helpful seminar on that topic I've been to. It also reminded me how important it is to keep up with the people I already have in my web and like to talk to and that would be my loyal readers here.

What I learned tonight:

Getting Started
Allow myself time and space to assess a room before joining a group. Walk around (with a small plate of food or cup of courage) and just assess what's going on. See who looks fun or interesting to talk to; see if there's a group of 2 or 3 whose body language is open and/or engaging. Don't be worried about looking like a single freak walking around by myself - and I won't now because I'll be on my assessment mission, not just going around in a 'pleasesomeoneloveme' panic.

Breaking the Ice, solo
With a group of 2, one can always ask to "cut in". It's funny and pleasant and allows them the option of saying "maybe later" if it's not a great time.
Other recommended lines that I like: "what's your all time favorite ethnic food?" "What trends do you see coming in your business?" "What do you find exciting/rewarding in your line of work?" "What got you interested in [your area of expertise]"?

Breaking the Ice, partnered
Another strategy is to attend a place with a partner, but split up for 15 or 20 minutes. You each work the room singing the praises of the other person, then get back together and approach the people again as a pair, where they're already predisposed to like you and know something about you and whom your friend has already found to be pleasant conversationalists.

Exit Strategy
Instead of running for the bar or bathroom, use the "Campsite Rule" of "Leave 'em feeling better than when you found 'em." When the time is up - and leave them wanting more, not wanting to shuck you - politely say "thank you for sharing your [experience, expertise, opinion, story], [you're a great storyteller, that was fascinating] and I really enjoyed speaking with you". And move on gracefully.

The seminar advice dovetails with something I learned from Tina Fey's interview with Terry Gross on rules of improv. "When do you join in a scene?"
"When they need you."

I really could have used this advice a month ago at the all-engineer's engineering society dinner when I couldn't seem to find anyone to speak to and felt like a freak hovering near people to see if I could break in. Now I have "permission" of sorts to hover to see if there's a place for me in someone's conversation, rather than trying to force my way in somewhere uncomfortable. Even if the first minute is uncomfortable, a few general-but-specific open questions at the tip of my tongue will help.

So what's your favorite ethnic food of all time?
Or rather, what's your favorite way of keeping up with long distance friends?

Friday, April 1, 2011

Taxes and Deadlines

Got the Roth funded for 2010! Thanks again to my friend for letting me know about the income cap workaround. Because by the time I can spare enough funds for a Roth, over paycheck to paycheck, I've hit the income limits. Yeah, yeah, poor baby. But I find it pretty frustrating that after buying one of the ten cheapest condos in my county (which is now worth half of what I paid for it) I have to supplement my income with stock options to get unrestricted disposable income. (Restricted disposable income going to food and gas.)

When I check against national statistics, my income puts me in the top 20% of earners and possibly in the top 20% of households. Granted, this is national, not local, and I have always contributed to my pre-tax retirement savings, but I seriously can't imagine trying to live comfortably on half of what I make. I'd have to downgrade from my condo (rated as 'affordable housing' in the area) to the mobile homes next door or rent a room in someone's house. I'm sorry, but a single person in her late thirties, with an established carreer, with a technical degree from one of the country's top universities earning in the top 20% of earners shouldn't be feeling as lower middle class as I have. In the last year, I've started to feel more regular middle class given that I was able to hire maids and an organizer and a trainer at the gym, but that was because my company's stock skyrocketed and I sold some options and all of that money was unrestricted disposable income.

Maybe my perception is off, but shouldn't I at least feel like I *could* by a car worth more than $20K, like I *could* afford a home on my own that's bigger than my 720 sq foot 1 bedroom condo? Like I *could* hire gardeners if I bought a bigger place? I don't so much have a problem with living within my means as being upset that my objectively considerable means don't get me enough margin to save without pain, or shop in moderation without worry.

This year is different. It's the third year of my adult (whole?) life that I've had freely disposable income. I'm inclined to dispose of most of it given that my retirement savings, diversely invested in the recommended "smart" options would have done better had I shoved cash under a mattress or bought scratch lottery tickets. Playing by the rules doesn't seem to have gotten me where the rulemakers promised and I'm feeling a little bitter about that.

But at least for 2010 I was able to save money in a Roth by making a post-tax contribution to an IRA then rolling it over into the Roth, thereby utilizing the legal loophole on earnings limits. And I can afford someone else to do my taxes.