Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A pesky problem

Normally I don't drink on a weeknight. It isn't that I think it is wrong or judge people who do, but really it isn't something that I normally do. I mean occasionally I might have a glass of wine with dinner or something a little harder if there is reason to *celebrate. Tonight neither situation is relevant, but as I write this a whiskey and coke is sitting two feet away on the coffee table. The reason is the story below.

*After every UNC loss I like to have a little Jameson on the rocks. Last year I might have a drank a little bit more than normal because of everyone's favorite runner up in the NIT.

This morning I was enjoying my cereal and oj and I heard a little rustling in our fireplace. I didn't think much of it until a squirrel popped its head out. At this moment I don't know who was more startled; me or the squirrel. *He ran out into our small duplex and scurried around until going into the bedroom. He was definitely afraid of me as he jumped from the floor to the bed to the lamp looking for a safe spot. Thankfully I was able to prop open the front door and then successfully lead the squirrel to the door. He happily (assuming) ran away in our front yard.

*I am assuming the squirrel was a he just because I don't want to use he or she every time. Sorry.

Anyway, that story was pretty funny when I retold it to M and some of my coworkers. I laughed about the situation and my reaction. The work day went fine and I was thinking it was going to be a little side story. Well it turns out that was just the beginning since when I came home the same squirrel (I'm assuming) was standing there in the middle of our living room next to a broken piece of stained glass and a turned over potted plant.

This time I was prepared and since no shotgun was available I grabbed a broom and chased the squirrel up and out through the fireplace. Then I spent the next 30 minutes cleaning up the squirrel hair and poop as well as the things he messed up around the place. It seems like every where I looked there was something else turned upside down that I hadn't originally seen. M came home and helped with cleaning up. We both were slightly upset about having this small rodent ransack our house. In terms of a having a squirrel in the house I didn't think it could get much worse.

Of course you probably know where I am going with this since it did get worse. M went to go clean behind the wine bottles in our kitchen. Little did she know that the squirrel that I thought had gone up the fireplace had actually come back down (before I blocked off the fire place) and was hiding out in the kitchen. When M got too close the squirrel jumped out in a way that can only be described as being shot out of a canon. M screamed in a way that would make any horror movie producer proud and I immediately jumped on the couch. The squirrel ran underneath the same couch I was perched on and M and I frantically discussed our strategy.

The strategy that we agreed upon was that she was going to open the front door and then I was going to try and move the couch out to startle the squirrel into moving. That didn't work as well as expected since the squirrel seemed content to stay behind the couch. In that moment M suggested that I move the couch in to try and get him to move. Well caught up in emotion I slammed the couch pretty hard into the wall. The rustling stopped. We slowly moved the couch away and saw what can only be described as a barely moving squirrel on it side. Upon further review the squirrel was barely breathing and did in fact die. It is weird to even write this, but I killed a squirrel with a couch.

Now if you have never been in this situation before here is a quick recap of what you do with a dead squirrel in the corner of your house. You panic. You call your jerk of a landlord, who proceeds to complain about his "bad day" and how he hasn't "even had dinner yet" while suggesting I wait till 8:15am to call his secretary to take care of the issue. You start calling all the pest removal companies that Google pulls up. The last one ended up being the most successful option since we were able to get a hold of Michael Tucker of Wildlife Removal Services who according to his business card is licensed, insured and experienced. That worked for us.

Michael came by our house and for $75 removed the squirrel, gave us advice and even cleaned up the small pool of blood from the badly damaged head. Even though I didn't know the social protocol I tipped him appropriately for all of this since what he did was something I wouldn't want to do for$75. He was about as nice as you can get and was extremely helpful cleaning up the squirrel and providing advise. If you ever have an animal in your house and you live in Minnesota I would call Michael at 952-884-3707.

Anyway, the exciting night ended and I am here enjoying my whiskey and coke (I might have a 2nd) and watching Ken Burns special on baseball. Hopefully this will be my first and last blog post on squirrels.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Sports Update - the pinnacle?

I was thinking to myself the other day about how this might be it. This might be the pinnacle of my life as a sports fan. The reason for thinking this is because everything seems to be working out for my favorite teams. Here is a rundown:

Duke Basketball - They won the 2010 National Title and are ranked #1 in almost all 2010-2011 previews like this one from ESPN. They have a really exciting guard based team (Smith, Singler, Dawkins, Irving etc) coming back next year that includes the brother of one of my favorite players Stephen Curry. Also, in addition to that they signed a recruit from Brandon, Mississippi (Tyler Adams) and look to be the frontrunners to sign the #1 ranked player (Austin Rivers) in the Class of 2011. It is amazing how things have changed in a year since at this time last year I was lamenting the state of Duke vs. UNC.

Miami Redhawks football - With two wins they have already doubled the amount of wins from last year. Sure they aren't up to the same level as they were in 2003, but this year's team has definitely made progress from last year. Also, bonus points have to be given to keeping the Florida game close for all four quarters.

Miami Redhawks hockey - back to back Frozen Fours.

Nebraska football - I am not the same Nebraska fan as I was growing up, but it is still nice to see the Cornhuskers do well. This year they have had a great start to the season and are currently ranked 6th in the AP poll.

Utah Jazz - They are coming off another 50+ win season and improved upon the previous year by making it to the 2nd round. The team showed signs of progress last year, but that isn't the most exciting thing. Nor is the most exciting thing the rare Jazz lottery pick of Gordon Hayward. The thing that really makes me want to count down to the beginning of the NBA season is that the Jazz traded for Al Jefferson. Jefferson has been one of my favorite players since I saw him play in the Coliseum in Jackson, MS. I am expecting big things from him now that he is paired with a real team/organization/point guard.

Miami Dolphins - The Dolphins are 2-0 with two road wins against the Bills and Vikings. I was able to cheer on the Fins at the Metrodome this past Sunday and saw a really impressive defensive performance.

The Defense has been incredible with Cameron Wake providing an great pass rush, Karlos Dansby living up to his free agent contract and also great play from Koa Misi, Vontae Davis, etc, etc. Misi, Davis and Wake were highlighted by Peter King as some of his Defensive Players of Week 2 in his Monday Morning Quarterback column.

However, the most shocking thing of all was the play of former 1st round bust Jason Allen. He had two interceptions and looked like the best player on the field. This is the same Jason Allen who was regulated to only playing on the special teams pretty much since he was drafted in 2006. If Allen can now be a productive NFL player, maybe the Fins should think about bring back John Avery and Yatil Green? Anyway, I am not completely sold on Miami due entirely to the fact that the offense has been dreadful under Chad Henne. Still things are also looking up for this team and it should only get better on Sunday when they play on ESPN against the Darrelle Revis less and possible Braylon Edwards less Jets. Ted Cook's will be served at 7pm for those Dolphins fans are interested in stopping by for the game.

Minnesota Twins - While it is a little disappointing that there won't be another fun game 163 like last year, I think all Twins fans will be ok with a better chance of advancing far in the playoffs. This year's team just clinched the AL Central title with a week and a half to go. They became the first team to clinch a playoff spot and are only a half game behind the Yankees for best record in the American League. It has been a fun baseball year with the new ballpark, new players (Thome and Valencia specifically), Delmon's improvement and the return of Liriano. They have been winning and because of that they have gotten some national attention including this post on the team, this post on Gardy and then this cover story from this week's Sports Illustrated from the best writer in sports Joe Posnanski. SI cover, which features a great view of M's office building below:

Let's see how the Twins and the rest of my favorite teams do in the next 365 days.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Personal Finance - the salary question

My parents came and visited Minnesota over Labor Day weekend. The trip included Prairie Home Companion at the Fair, a roadtrip to Red Wing and a Twins-Royals game at Target Field. Also, we all went out to eat a few times. During our last meal (our grand finale as my Mom would call it) at Salut on 50th and France we had an interesting conversation about personal finance. Specifically the topic of salary came up.

I would describe our family as having good communication on finances. Not great, but good. My Dad and I talk pretty regularly on stocks and certain strategies. He has provided not only an excellent financial example, but also has provided sound advice. Also, he got me hooked on Money magazine, which is now one of those things I look forward to every month. Let's just say that I am happy to have been brought up in my family.

There is one thing that hasn't been discussed often in my family and that is the salary question. I think I might have told my parents my starting salary at Target and maybe let my salary at Honeywell slip at one time. However, I have never once known what my parents made, which never concerned me as a kid, but now I find slightly surprising. It is one of those things that is not talked about and is a topic that makes my parents uncomfortable.

Why is that? Why is the topic of salary such a tough subject? The only reason I think it is such an important question is that people place so much importance on it. In some ways people can define themselves by their salary. They literally place their worth on what they are worth to a company. This shouldn't be the case for a number of reasons, but from a strictly financial perspective salary is only part of the total equation. Knowing someone's salary doesn't mean you know how much they spend, how much they save or what their parents have or have not provided for them. There are plenty of people that immediately come to mind who either don't have a salary or have a very small salary who live in expensive houses and go on wonderful trips.

One advantage to people sharing salary information is that it empowers you in salary negotiations with your current or future employer. If you know the going rate for someone of similiar background then you might be pleansantly surpised (your salary > friend) or might realize that you should ask for more money.

Of course the reason people don't do that is because of social norms. There aren't many people out there who want to make others uncomfortable. This is a real concern if the salary question might lead to answers of amounts that are very different. However, I think most of those amounts should be anticipated. A cashier at Taco Bell obviously makes less than than a dentist. If the difference is that large then it probably doesn't matter one bit if either knows each other's salary. Where it does make a difference is when people are in the same or similar fields. And for that I propose something unique: I will tell anyone who asks my salary as long as you also tell me your salary. I don't take great joy or discomfort in my salary and don't think I will have any problem disclosing that information to a trusted friend. Maybe I will? If I do have reservations then I will admit that I am wrong and as M would probably tell you that doesn't happen too often.

Monday, September 13, 2010

New job

I realize it has been awhile since I posted and an even longer time since I posted something non-sports related. No excuses on the front. Anyway, I would like to update everyone on something (work) I don't normally write about. You see after 37 months as a Demand Manager of Combustion it is time for me to take my talents to the new SAP team at Honeywell.

For those of you who are confused let me break it down for you. I am part of the SAP rollout for the ECC team with a primary focus on APO. The ECC team of course is part of ACS, which is one of the main businesses of Honeywell Corporation (ticker symbol HON). I hope this is clear for everyone since people at work use these acronyms without ever defining them. You either have to get a chip implanted into your head (very painful) or pick up what the acronyms mean through context, which is kind of like trying to learn the Egyptian language without the Rosetta Stone.

Anyway, in all *honesty I am excited to be joining a new team. This project should be a learning experience for me and worst case scenario is that I figure out I really hate working on projects. It comes with it a 13 month commitment, which means M and are staying in Minneapolis through at least October 2011. My joke is that will be enough time to see the Twins win back to back World Series.

*Does anyone else hate it when people use that phrase? Taken literally that phrase could imply that everything the person said before that moment was one big lie. The only phrase worse than that is of course when someone says "Can I ask you a question?"

I hope all is well. I have future posts coming up that I am tossing around. The topics include but aren't limited to; personal finance and the salary question, John Stockton vs. Steve Nash, the Twins 2010 review, fantasy football (I'm a genius - I took Arian Foster in the 4th round. I'm an idiot - I took him a round after I took Jonathan Stewart) and a few commercials that have been good (Ore-Ida) and bad (Michelle Bachmann). If you have a preference on what I write about it next just let me know.