Friday, January 29, 2010

The Slings and Arrows of Deferred Prorated Feature Revenue

Oh! Curses! I have been suffering the slings and arrows of deferred prorated feature revenue!

When I say these things at work, people look at me like I'm out of my mind. So I say them in my head and then write them in my blog, as you already know I'm out of my mind.

Accounting, despite the hype, is not a fascinating and glorious career path. Steady paycheck? Yes. Wild and exciting adventures, not so much. Thank God I have a fabulous imagination.

For those of you who would like a better understanding of the sort of thing I do at work, I'm about to enlighten you! For those of you who could care less, stop reading now and just wait for my next post.

I'm not going to make you do all of the mental gymnastics, so I'm going to sum up what I do, and then give you the detailed version, which is where the real headache lies. In the cell phone world our revenue goes up or down based on two main things: an increase or decrease in our subscriber base, or an increase or decrease in how much they spend (e.g. the cost of their rate plan).

This is not rocket science. I have all of these nice tables with formulas and percentages and ratios and I look at it and go, yup, that makes sense. And then I have to put it into words. Do you remember word problems in 4th grade math? Sally has seven apples and Dan has nine apples. Tony likes toy cars. How many apples would Tony need so everyone has 14 apples? Who the hell cares? But did you notice I put in that tricky bit about the toy cars which has nothing to do with the problem? Do you remember how your teachers would do that to you, too? Ok, what I do is sort of like that, but backwards. I've got the answer, and I need to put the words together. And I've got to figure out which of my metrics actually apply to the answer and which are perhaps interesting, but not necessarily useful.

I'm going to take a moment and pat myself on the back: 4th grade math wasn't that complicated for me. In fact, math wasn't that complicated for me. I could figure out that problem regardless of which order those three sentences were in. Apparently our auditors had a little less success with word problems, because suddenly it matters what order those sentences are in.

Today's lesson: increase or decrease in deferred prorated feature revenue. Because no one who reads this blog cares what a prorated feature is, and the last time I tried to explain the deferred bit I failed miserably, I'm just going to say that my job is to explain the increase or decrease in revenue. And just for clarification purposes, I am TOTALLY making up these numbers, and I'm putting them in 2011. I'm not making any predictions. This is not a forecast, so don't go making any financial planning decisions based on this blog entry. This is just an example!

Here is what it looks like to me: revenue increased $900k. Or 17%. Subscribers increased 19% Or by 42K. Average revenue per subscriber decreased 2% or $1.12.

This means that revenue went up a bunch. Because subscribers increased more than the decrease in what they spent. I can do that math in my head: +17%=+19%-2%. This is what it looks like on my official reports:

Revenue increased by 17%, or $900K, from $5.29M in Jul-11 to $6.19M in Aug-11. At the same time, subscribers increased by 19%, or 42K, from 221K in Jul-11 to 263K in Aug-11. The difference between the change in revenue and the change in subscribers is explained by the 2%, or $1.12, decrease in average revenue per subscriber from $56.00 in Jul-11 to $54.88 in Aug-11. During this time period, 6% more revenue was deferred to future and future+1 time periods than was recognized in the current period.

Right, because that clears everything up.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

More Playing Around

I received a comment from my aunt telling me that the blue background was hard for older people to read. My mother made no such comment, so I'm not sure if she had an opinion one way or the other. So I changed the background back to that weird gray color that nobody seemed to mind. Yes, Voracious, T, my blog once again looks nearly as good as yours. I just wanted to clarify these changes in case anyone thought I may have developed background-ADD. I haven't.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Miscellaneous Updates

I was going to write a post about the cooking class I took yesterday, but then I found a leak in the garage last night. Aaah, the joys of home-ownership. I will get around to blogging about my cooking class, but I thought this might be a good opportunity (maybe I am turning into a Pollyanna after all) to update my faithful readers on miscellaneous things that have been going on in my household.
  • I did finally get that refund all sorted out with the rental car company. That's the short story.
  • Captain America had to return some pants he got as a Christmas gift, and the replacements have not yet arrived. This is not particularly exciting news to anyone at all, but I'm really looking forward to the arrival of his pants as right now he only has two pairs to wear to work, which means lots of laundry (in the garage where the light doesn't work and there's a leak).
  • We were planning on replacing our windows, but that project may be put on hold while we figure out what to do about the roof situation.
  • We have not gotten our $8,000 first-time homeowners refund yet. I filed this back in October by amending our 2008 return, and I called the IRS in December to find out where our refund was. The woman I spoke to said that it normally takes 16 weeks, so we should not have been expecting our refund until the middle of January. Well, in the middle of January, we received a letter from the IRS stating that we needed to provide them with various documents, mostly just confirming that we bought the house as our primary residence, blah, blah, blah. At the time, I thought the electronic amendment was a little too easy, but really, they couldn't have asked for all of this documentation when I was filing the amendment? Or when I spoke with them in December? I was hoping to receive the refund before I filed our 2009 taxes (which I'm planning on doing on Sunday).
  • I found a leak in the garage. It's not big, and it's in a spot where the inspector told us it looked like there had been a leak, but it was fixed. Or not. I remember when we had our roof replaced in my mother's house. The roof men returned a couple of times before there were actually no leaks. Captain America is going to check if it's under warranty, and I presume handle the scheduling of people coming out to look at it and whatnot. What's odd is that we didn't notice a leak last week when we were having crazy storms. Or in the beginning of December when we were also having crazy storms.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Adventures with Laundry, or the Story of the Thwarting of Virginia's Knight in Shining Goggles

After my very long post yesterday, and my very exciting title today, I seriously doubt anyone will continue to read my blog. That's ok, I already talk to myself a lot. I really was going to cut yesterday's post up into smaller ones--three--one for each resolution, but I guess I never came up with a good way to do that.

This is not entirely a non-sequitur, but I realize it seems like one. One of my old coworkers used to refer to my husband as Captain America. At the time, my husband's ringtone on my phone must have sounded like super-hero theme music, because my coworker would say things like "Captain America's calling you!" My husband's new ring tone, a change due to an upgrade to a new phone with different ring tones, disappointingly does not sound like super-hero theme music.

So, on to the real point of this blog:

A few weeks ago, the light stopped working in the garage. The light bulbs were new, so hubby, aka Captain America, called Uncle Chef (obviously a man of varied skills) to find out what to do. Uncle Chef walked hubby through replacing the switch box. This seemed to work, more or less. The lights worked, but they did that annoying flickering thing that fluorescent light bulbs do when they're dying. Except ours aren't dying. So hubby called Uncle Chef again, and he agreed to come down from the O.C. some time and help out with this project, as it now seems the entire thing will need to be rewired.

Uncle Chef hasn't come yet, and the lighting situation has nearly disintegrated. When we're home during the day (i.e. Saturday and Sunday), we can just do the laundry in the garage with the door open. This is not a step forward when it's dark out.

The light in the garage does emit some light. I suggested to Captain America that he just go get me his night vision goggles and I'd wear those while doing the laundry. How cool would that be?

Yeah, well, Captain America decided that it would just be more sensible for him to hang the cage light above the washing machine. Who knew super heroes were practical?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Follow-up on resolutions, and other things that have been keeping me busy

I know all of you have been dying to hear how my resolutions are coming along, and what's a better time to do a follow-up than January 25? That's plenty of time for me to mess them up, and just enough time for me to figure out if I'm actually doing any of them on a regular basis.

I have been spending more time on the couch, mostly reading and watching tv, and sometimes even napping! I know, I know, the average American spends something like five hours a day watching tv. My husband and I tried to figure out exactly what we'd have to eliminate to have five extra hours for tv-watching. Hubby actually watches more tv than I do, but he's better at getting up and doing things while it's on. As my dear friend, A, can attest to, I cannot CANNOT! do anything else while the tv is on. I'm even bad at eating and watching tv! I'm going to guesstimate and say that during the week, we max out at an hour and a half of tv-watching per day. And it's really more like 45 minutes. We've got other things to do. So what would we have to eliminate to have the extra three and a half to four and a quarter hours a day for tv-watching? Well, the hour and a half at the gym, plus 20-30 min. round trip commute would have to go. The eating dinner at the table like civilized people (20-30 min.) would also have to go. The 30 min., or so, of reading before bed, and the 45 min-1 hour of cooking dinner and doing the dishes would be gone, too. And maybe some of that glorious time we spend sleeping.

Of course, I wasn't aiming to spend as much time on the couch as the average American. I was thinking an hour or two a day, maybe more on weekends, would be enough time for me to do sufficient relaxing and unwinding without losing that special je ne sais quoi that is the zaniness of life with Virginia. I'd say, so far, so good!

The second thing on the list is to lead a deliberate life. I'm deliberately spending more time on the couch, but that's not really what I meant. Y'know that diet tip to ask yourself why you're eating whatever it is that you're eating, as in, am I hungry? sad? bored? That's more along the lines of what I meant. Why am I doing this? Did someone tell me to, do I think I'm supposed to be doing this, or do I actually want to do this?

I have a couple of projects that I'm working on, or will be working on, for various reasons. The first is taking a trip to Europe. Why am I doing this?: uh, hello? a trip to Europe, and it totally helps that we have friends there who don't mind putting up with us for two weeks. Or, I should say, they went to college with my husband--he's the one the won't mind putting up with; they just think they won't mind putting up with me. No one told me to do this, and I don't think I'm supposed to do this; I definitely want to take a trip to Europe.

I sent our friends in Zurich a Christmas card, asking them to email me so we could work on the trip. I said something like, we're going to try to come in March. The wife wrote me and said they'd love to have us, if everything works out. Not being fully up on the Virginia-translator, she clearly thought the "try" referred to the trip in general, and not the month in particular. You can bet that if you're our friend, or our facebook friend, and you live somewhere interesting, specifically outside of the US, then hubby and I will definitely be visiting you.

The second project is getting my wedding photos into an album. Yes, I've been married two and a half years now, but there have just been other things to do. Like grad school. And getting a job. And Egypt. And putting the Egypt photos into an album. And buying a house. And moving. Good grief! But enough is enough! I have a box of wedding photos, my planning binders, extra invitations, and various other wedding-related flotsam and jetsam, and I need to do something with it! Why an album? Because they're photos. Has anyone told me to do this? No, and I don't even need to--my mother already made us a very nice wedding album. Do I even want to do this? Well, yes, and no. I'd like to have all of the photos in the album. Which could be a quick process: just slap some double-sided tape on those suckers and stick them on pages. But I also want it to look nice. Y'know, like I thought about it. So this will take time. And the entire surface of the dining room table (my husband loves projects like this). So, I think the end result will justify the time spent. And if I ever feel otherwise, I can always just box up everything again.

On that note, I am not a fan of keeping stuff in boxes. As in, if we have it, but it stays in a box forever, why do we have it in the first place? The only things I can justify keeping in boxes for the long term are the Christmas decorations, and even those come out of the boxes every year. So, I guess, I'll be scrapbooking my wedding photos or discarding them. The end.

As for actively being happier. I think I'm getting more sleep, and that makes me happy. Or at least less crabby. I've been doing more things I like. I just read on the Happiness Project that thinking that you always deserve the best is actually a bad thing because it sets you up for a lot of disappointment. This has me thinking a lot. Partially because I'm waaaay too type-A to be a "good enough is good enough" sort of person, but also because I've always thought, this isn't good enough, this isn't what I want.

For example, I never wanted to go to college. Everybody who knows me knows this. I hated college. Most people I know enjoy college, in general. I enjoyed my senior year. I'm not going to spend the rest of the rant going into how much I disliked college and why (I already wrote a rant along these lines when I read Three Cups of Tea). I will say that despite my attitude, and my misery, I did manage to make a group of wonderful friends, who must have thought I was better than my then state of melodrama, because they truly are fabulous people and I am eternally thankful to them for getting me though my personal hell.

The irony is that I am always encouraging people to go back to school or finish their degree or to get a certification or whatever. Because I believe in education. I think it makes you a better, smarter, more worldly, and more employable person. Which was my whole goal: to graduate from college with a degree that enabled me to get a good job so that I wouldn't have to live with my parents and eat ramen noodles three times a day. (Mission accomplished!)

Did college disappoint me? Not at all, but I had already set it up as the pit of despair, so it would have been hard to miss that mark.

But I am constantly disappointed by things that aren't my choice at all. I wouldn't choose to be short. I wouldn't choose to wear bifocals. I don't think I'd choose this generation. In fact, I don't think I'd choose to have as many choices as I do (I was just reading in Businessweek how some grocery store chains are going to limit the options for some products (I believe they mentioned beauty products specifically) as studies show that they sell more when consumers have fewer choices. Apparently I'm not the only one who finds the menu at the Cheesecake factory overwhelming.)

Unfortunately, I'm not sure what I'd choose instead. Is it better being taller? I'd be able to reach more things, and some dresses would hang better, but I'd run the risk that my sister and my aunt do, that I'd be as tall, if not taller, than my husband, and, like my sister and my aunt, my sleeves would probably always be too short.

Is there a better generation? Women have more options and choices now than they ever did before. Again, I'm not sure I want more options and choices, but I sure as hell don't want someone else deciding this for me. And I like wearing pants.

I'm going to risk mis-quoting Sheryl Crow here, but she has a line in one of her songs that says "'s not about having what you want, it's about wanting what you've got." I've always thought that was a fabulous attitude, even though I in-no-way embody it. But I'm going to continue to work on it because I've definitely got a lot of good things. And that makes me happy.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Rain Monster in the Garage

My husband came up with that title. Insisted on it, actually.

Wednesday, it was raining like crazy! And, having moved to California from Oregon, I don't say that lightly. I had a couple of errands to run after work, and I don't own a rain jacket, and we can't seem to find any of the three umbrellas I know I owned in Oregon. I know I had at least one of them in California a few years ago. But we can't find them now. So I was totally drenched when I got home. I thought, rather than track all of this water all over the house, I'll just come in through the garage, take off my wet shoes and clothes, and hop in the shower.

Usually, my husband knows when I get home. Frequently he hears me pull into the driveway, or sees my headlights, and more often than I'd really like to admit I do something brilliant and accidentally push the panic button on my car's lock zapper thing, and then the entire neighborhood knows I made it safely home from work.

If all of that failed, the garage door makes a ton of noise, both opening and closing. I entered the garage. I took off my wet clothes. I tried to open the door from the garage to the house. It was locked. I knocked, thinking maybe hubby was enthralled in a sports game or something and mistook all of the noise I just made for wind or neighbors or aliens landing in the front yard or something.

Then I heard the water heater kick into life, and I thought, oh, he's in the shower. I'll just wait. But then I thought I heard him call my name, so I knocked on the door again and called his name. But he didn't open the door, so then I thought maybe he hadn't called my name and that what I heard was the wind or the neighbors or aliens landing in the front yard.

Then this entire interaction happened again. I think I hear him call my name, so I knock on the door and call his name, and then nothing happens, so I think, ok, so he's still in the shower...I'll leave him a text to come let me in when he gets out. He doesn't take long showers, so I figured, at most, I had about five minutes to hang out in the garage...I could start some laundry or something useful.

And then I hear this panicked "VIRGINIA?" and I holler back "Let me in the house!" and he yells "What are you doing in the garage?" and he finally lets me in. And then he says "I thought something was trapped in the garage. I almost got my gun." Lovely.

I said, "Did you see how much it was raining? I'm wet and my shoes are squishy. I didn't want to track water all over the house." Of course, at this point, he had tracked water all over the house, since he hopped out of the shower mid-wash. Nonetheless, this water was likely cleaner than whatever I would have been dragging in.

Wet, cold, and annoyed, he shook his head at me and declared "You're the rain monster in the garage."

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Economy is...funny?

I read a lot. A few nights ago, I came across this article in Businessweek (as an aside, recently Businessweek was bought by Bloomberg and is now called Bloomberg Businessweek. Some of the layout has changed, and something else that I can't quite put my finger on. Not better or worse, but something has definitely changed.).

I have taken at least four econ classes, but I don't recall ever learning about the misery index. And I think I would remember that sort of thing because it sounds so funny--like something I'd say. As in, well, the misery index is at a 7.8 today. Two because I have to make dinner, 3 because the bathtub needs scrubbing, 1.8 because, well that's just inflation, and 1 because my sister is annoying. Of course, annoying=living, so maybe the misery index is just a 6.8.

Anyone care to guess what the misery index actually is? I'll give you a hint: one of those things I listed is included. Another hint: the pic answers the question! That's right! The misery index is the unemployment rate + the inflation rate. Yes, thinking about that is enough to make anyone miserable.

The article says this rate is rising, which is especially problematic because "the anxiety generated by the actual or anticipated loss of a paycheck alongside accelerating prices could leave average consumers unable or unwilling to spend enough to keep the economic recovery alive."

For those of you unfamiliar with general economic tenets, or for those of you who, for whatever reason, don't think your brains work the same way as economists' brains do, here's a news flash: you can't save your way out of a recession. I'm not actually an advocate of the buy, buy, buy mentality, but I do understand that for the economy to work, people have to buy stuff. And not just stock. Although, if any of my readers have an excess of cash right now, I strongly suggest you invest it. Call me if you can't come up with any ideas on your own.

I'm not going to rehash the article I cited; after all, if you're really interested, you can just read it (it's short). The really important bits are that the misery index is 11.8 right now, with inflation being the 1.8, or about 15% of the total amount. This is important because in other recessions, inflation was a much larger component of the misery index. And given the jobless nature of the nascent (and questionable) recovery, the misery index might stay high.

During the great depression of the 1930's, government spending eventually led to a recovery. Among other things, the Tennessee Valley Authority was created, which was a recovery agency designed to modernize the area. Also, WWII created a lot of jobs and then educational opportunities that enabled families to grow and spend a lot.

Except that we're already at war, and it's not helping the economy, and we have a gigundo budget deficit, so it's not like the government can afford to fix things like bridges and roads, or build really useful things like public transportation systems.

If I were an optimist, I'd actually see all of this as an opportunity. No, I'm not joking. I've read Malcom Gladwell's Outliers: The Story of Success, and for those of you who haven't, here's the general synopsis: people at the top really aren't better than the rest of us, they're just good with a lot of lucky breaks. As in Bill Gates couldn't have founded Microsoft if he had been born in a different generation, had different parents, grew up in a different state, etc. He's hella smart, sure, but he's also hella lucky.

Another case Outliers makes is for merger and acquisitions lawyers in New York. Most of the really good ones are Jewish, born around the great depression, and went to public school in New York. Here's the deal: they had access to arguably the best educational system in the world during a time when birth rates were low and really, really smart women still couldn't get a better job than teaching K-12, so they had a crazy good education. And then, because they were Jewish, and the traditional WASP-y secondary schools wouldn't admit them, they went to City University in New York. And then, because they were Jewish, the traditional WASP-y law firms wouldn't take them, so they had to take what jobs they could get. And the traditional WASP-y law firms wouldn't touch M&As because that was considered undignified business. So in the 1980s, when M&As started to grow, and in the 1990s when M&As became really big business, those same stupid WASP-y law firms had to turn to the lawyers they rejected, because they had been doing this sort of "dirty" work for decades. Thus people who would have been good lawyers anywhere became great (and rich) M&A lawyers.

I'd like to take a moment and back up to that bit where I said "and really, really smart women still couldn't get a better job than teaching K-12," because I had a male college professor say the exact same thing: that he wouldn't be nearly as smart and well-trained as he was if he didn't have very smart female teachers who just simply couldn't be the doctors/lawyers/CEOs/whatever they should have been. He is rather chauvinistic, and implied in his discussion on this issue that because women now can have other careers, the quality of education in America has declined. The three women in the classroom were really pleased with this. Did I mention it was an MBA class? Right, because we were selfishly depriving his children of a good education by thinking that we were worth not just one, but two degrees.

Ok, so that was a major digression.

So I'll get on with why this might be an opportunity. First of all, just like during the great depression, people are planning for, and having, smaller families. This is a big help on so many levels. First, parents with fewer kids will be able to spend more time raising each of them. Second, teachers will be less stretched, mentally, emotionally, and time-wise and therefore will be able to provide a better education to smaller classes (I am not knocking teachers, or blaming them. I have many friends and relatives who teach. It's a tough career, but it would be a little less tough if there were a few less kids in each class). Third, by the time these kids get out of high school, all of the boomers should be both retired and old. Retired boomers will open up job opportunities. Old boomers will need stuff to make their lives better (remember, the boomers were that huge generation born after WWII who are used to having a disposable income, and are likely to live to their 80s...this will open up huge markets in medical care and devises, as well as home aids, and probably a number of things that have yet to be imagined).

I know, this doesn't really help the unemployed or underemployed right now, and it doesn't make anyone feel better about their significantly smaller portfolios. Also, estimations suggest that the economy will never recover to the excess of the dot-com boom or the housing boom. (Personally, I'm going to reserve judgement on that one.)

Eventually, however, the economy will get better. And in the mean time, there's nothing misery loves more than company, except maybe a sense of humor.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Life is Full of Minor Dissapointments

That's what my mother always used to say, and it never really made me feel any better. I'm not Pollyanna, so getting the smaller piece of cake, for example, didn't lead me to think, well, at least I get cake. One should be able to cut a cake into x number of equal-sized pieces. In theory, an infinite number of equal-sized pieces. So getting a smaller piece than someone else just makes me wonder why life is unfair in places where it doesn't even have to be.

But one of my resolutions is to be actively happier, so I'm going to try to be one of those people who think, Yess!!!! Cake!!!! Because, even though I understand both geometry and fractions, when I cut cake, inevitably the pieces will end up being of noticeably different sizes. I'm going to hope that through the karma of the universe, sometimes I'll end up with the bigger piece. And if not, I guess my jeans will fit better than the guy who did end up with the bigger piece. Maybe it's more like life is full of tradeoffs.

In my on-going attempt to be more environmentally sound, and because a lot of our tupperware was beginning to be of questionable soundness, I bought some new food-storage containers. Specifically, two lunchbots, that we haven't tried out, and some containers from preserveproducts that say they are seal-tight, but they aren't. Both yesterday and today my soup leaked out of them. (Pollyanna: at least you have soup). Right. Back to the real world.

The lids are screw-top, and when I screwed it on, it didn't seem tight enough to be "seal-tight," but having never used this product before, I just though, hunh, well we'll try it. I guess it's possible that "seal-tight" doesn't mean water-tight, but that's at best a narrow distinction. It's also possible that some user-error came into play and that I just didn't screw the lids enough. I'm sure the containers are great for non-liquidy things, like fruit (which I can attest to, has worked very well) or mixed nuts. I might even give them a go with something in pasta and sauce.

Or, I suppose I could just use them for cake.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

My Neuroses Validated!

At lunch yesterday I was reading an article entitled "The Checklist Manifest" from the magazine, The Week.

I am a checklist nut. I have grocery lists, book lists, Christmas card lists, list of things to do today, lists of things to do this week, lists of things to do this year, lists in my head, lists on paper, lists at work...and the list goes on.

A girlfriend of mine and I once had a conversation with her husband about this. Both of us, depending on circumstances, will even have lists of our lists (this was useful, for example, when planning my wedding). Her husband, on the other hand, just does stuff. When he mentioned this, it was a totally implausible idea to me. Do something that's not on a list? If I did that, I argued, I'd never get the things on the list done.

I will concede, that sometimes it's more useful to just do something than to write it on a list and then schedule the time to do it. Mundane things, like taking out the trash and emptying the dishwasher, seem logically to not need scheduling as much as simply doing.

One of my favorite things to do is to take my to-do lists and consolidate them. I'm not kidding. It lets me see what I have accomplished, it lets me re-evaluate what still needs to be done (I don't need to get my brother-in-law a birthday present, for example, if my husband has already done it), and it lets me better plan for what remains to be done.

Perhaps this is just part of my personality, or perhaps it's a skill-set that goes hand-in-hand with list making, but I'm also very good at planning/budgeting. Both time and money, and probably anything else that can be budgeted. Case in point: last February, hubby and I took a trip to Egypt. I gave us a budget of $5,000. We came in at $5,120...only 2.4% over-budget. And a large part of that variance had to do with a camera mishap and the fact that we bought a disposable camera in Giza.

Because I make lists, and manage my time accordingly, and have been doing this for years, I'm very good at estimating how long it will take me to do things. I get a tremendous number of things done on a daily basis. An exhausting amount, actually. And they're usually done fairly well.

People have poked fun at my list-making neuroses, but I think I've just been validated. And, as my mother says, a little OCD is a good thing.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Best Salad Dressing Ever!!

My husband has an uncle who's a chef. And Uncle Chef lives nearby. I'm a lucky girl.

Uncle Chef makes a mean salad. I know, I know, how hard can a salad be? Well, he has some sort of lettuce-drying process that I can't figure out, but he insists it helps the dressing stick to the lettuce. And of course, he manages to cut things so that they display well, whereas in my world, if the salad lands on the plate, well, that's presentation. Additionally, he'll even personalize the salads, if, say, you don't like tomatoes, he'll leave them off. Yes, he actually hand-plates everyone's salad. I, on the other hand, dump all the veggies in a bowl and everyone is expected to fend for themselves.

Still, Uncle Chef seems to like me.

We hosted Christmas dinner at my house. Uncle Chef asked what he could bring. Without hesitation, I said Salad! And then I promptly reminded him that my sister has celiac disease (to which he says "I KNOW what your sister can eat!!"). He ended up bringing a Gorgonzola cheese to put on the salad, so I took him aside and asked that he make Sis's salad separately...Gorgonzola is in the bleu cheese family, and something in the process involves flour. Again, Uncle Chef says "I KNOW what your sister can eat!!" His plan, all along, was to have the cheese on the side for people to decided how much, if any, they wanted. I have to remember that a) Uncle Chef takes food allergies very seriously, and b) he also seems to like my sister.

Uncle Chef makes his own salad dressing (of course he does). And the salad dressing MAKES the salad (and anything else you want to dump it on). He showed my husband how to make it this Christmas, and hubby told me yesterday. It's so easy, even I can manage it:

Mix equal parts balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
Add minced garlic and Dijon mustard to taste.
Add salt and pepper, to taste, if you must (but I don't).
Mix really, really well.

It is sooooo good! Last night I put it on steamed broccoli, and then I inhaled the broccoli. I don't like vegetables. But the dressing is so good, it might even make peas bearable.

Playing Around

I've been playing around with the look of my blog, which basically means that I've been changing the background and font colors. I'm very tech-savvy. I made changes on my laptop, but I noticed the color-scheme doesn't look as good on the desktop.

Would you mind letting me know if this background/font combination is better or worse than the old one (I thought the white background was too white, and the fonts too pale)?


Sunday, January 10, 2010

Resolution Update

Well, I'm apparently doing a pretty good job of keeping resolution #1. I say that more because there hasn't been anything too exciting happening lately, than because I've actually been spending a ton of time sitting on my couch. Although I have been spending more time on the couch than I usually do.

Here's a run-down of some of the things that have been going on in my household since the start of the new year:
  • The Ducks lost. This was nearly devastational.
  • Year End=long hours at work.
  • Remember my blog about how SDG&E would send you a free energy-saving kit? Well, ours arrived this week, and hubby installed the aerators yesterday. The pressure is good, but there's this slightly high-pitch sound. I can't quite decided if it's annoying or just different.
  • Yesterday, I tutored my learner. I volunteer with the LEARN program though the San Diego County Library system. I like my learner a lot, but I don't think I'm a very good tutor.
  • I bought travel books for Switzerland and Rome, where hubby and I plan to spend two weeks in March! Yay!
  • We went to see Sherlock Holmes, which turned into a bit of an adventure. It was one of those things where everything worked out ok in the end, but nothing went according to plan. The short version is that the restaurant we wanted to go to was closed, we thought the theater was closer to our house than it was, and we were in the weirdest row I've ever been in in the movies: at least four people got up in the middle of the movie.
  • We had "Family Fun Day" today. When my sister is involved, family day involves a trip to the gym. Hubby went to the gym today, but I did not. At any rate, here's what today's fun day involved: a trip to Costco and hanging up the curtains in the purple room. Maybe sometime I'll take some pictures of these, but the curtains are leaf-patterned, and sort of resemble tapestry.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Why I'm a fan of the App Economy, even though I don't own an iPhone

I just finished reading this article on the "app economy." The gist of the article is that apps are big business.

"App," by the way, is short for application, not Apple...although I've often pondered the question: if Apple were called something else, would we call apps something else? Unfortunately, I've failed to come up with another fruit and digital term that start the same way. Yet another reason why I'm in accounting and not marketing.

I do not own an iPhone for a few very basic reasons: 1.) I'm currently with Verizon and don't feel the need to switch carriers just for a fancy phone; 2.) The exclusive deal between Apple and AT&T will eventually end, and then, in theory, other carriers will start to sell the iPhone; 3.) I work for another cell phone company, through which I also have a cell phone; and 4.) I've been reading about the huge shortages of bandwidth that AT&T has been suffering, and I would really prefer not to pay $100+ a month for a service that may, or may not have connectivity.

At this point, I should also preface this rant by saying that I've never actually used an app. I'm pretty sure app makers aren't too concerned about this, since I'm sure I'm not the target audience of most of their apps, namely someone boring, uncool, and cheap. On the other hand, there are a number of free apps that I would love to try out if and when I get an iPhone.

One is the Amazon Mobile app. You use this app to compare a price in a store to the price on Amazon's website. But, you have to have connectivity to do this, which is why Amazon doesn't need to charge for this app: if the price of the item is cheaper on their site, a customer can just order it right then and there from the iPhone. Bingo! Amazon still makes money.

But that's not the full reason I'm all in favor of an "App Economy." I'm a capitalist at heart. I've heard the arguments about how there's really no such thing as the "free market economy," and I even understand, in theory, why socialism is a nice ideal, even though it will never work. In general, capitalism says, you work hard, you get ahead. Now, we all know that isn't always true, and it's hardly a fool-proof model, but as far as I can tell, it's the best economic model humans have come up with yet.

On the other hand, I'm a hopeful, albeit hessitant, environmentalist. An economy based on the buying and selling of stuff creates a lot of waste, and a cycle of needing more stuff. (A short side-rant: it drives me crazy that it's actually cheaper for my husband and me to buy a DVD than to see the movie in the theater. We don't want to own it--we just want to watch it once! It's a good thing I like the library).

Apps, on the other hand, aren't stuff. They're services. And many will argue that to create both a sustainable and profitable economy, we need to move away from one based on the manufacturing of stuff and towards one based on services.

Case in point: the app game Farmville, which is also available on Facebook. My understanding is that Farmville is actually free to play. Whenever I see someone's Farmville status on Facebook, I think, you've got to be kidding me! Go out to your backyard and plant something! But Farmville earns it's parent company, Zynga, money because people will actually buy virtual farm-related items from them. For example, recently Zynga added sweet potato seeds to it's offerings for $5 a packet. Who would spend $5 for a packet of virtual seeds? Apparently 80,000 people, because it "pulled in more than $400,000 in three days." For a virtual item, that once the code is written, costs nothing to duplicate!

Additionally, apps have a lot of flexibility: programmers can get immediate feedback from users, so they can continue to tweak the app to enable the best experience.

Yes, some waste is created: people will probably go out and upgrade their phones, and the developers need computers, etc on which to work, and the cell phone companies will need to continue to develop their bandwidth as more and more people switch to smart phones. However, cell phones and computers are recyclable (and people would continue to buy and upgrade them even without the apps), and cell phone companies would have to build out their bandwidth anyway (and while we're talking about it, the cell phone industry is already a service industry).

In conclusion, based on my highly-scientific, and completely mathematically-based argument, an "app economy" will both generate a lot of revenue for companies, while at the same time act as a relatively environmentally friendly business model.