December 31, 2008: Downer for New Years

Well, the year is finally ending.  Everything has been so hectic that it wasn’t until this morning that it actually occurred to me that today is New Year’s Eve!  Now there is a first.  I don’t think that I have ever completely forgotten about the day before!  Ha.  I knew that tomorrow was a day off from work but I didn’t think at all about that meaning that today was New Year’s Eve.

Oreo and I woke to the phone at eight this morning.  So much for getting some sleep.  Up after four hours.  I need to go back to Frankfort just so I can get some sleep, apparently.

I didn’t know that it was expected to snow today so when I got up and looked out the window I was a bit shocked to discover that it is completely white out and that the snow was coming down pretty quickly and heavily.  By nine thirty the snow plows were out around Chapel Hill keeping us clear.  The Mazda was covered by ten.

The snow is going to disrupt the weekend plans for us a bit.  It is expected to snow all day and through the night so driving (with a headlight out no less) through the night and snow all the way to Frankfort tonight seems like a really bad idea.  I will have to get up early tomorrow morning and hit the road once they get the roads clear as it is not supposed to snow tomorrow until late at night.  At least I have a safe window in which to drive.

Today was amazing slow at the office although I guess that should be expected as the market closes early and everyone wants to escape to the parties.  The market did well for the short session today as we close out one of the most financially disasterous years in history.  Oil is dirt cheap (excuse the pun) and the dollar is pounding the Euro in end-of-year trading.  It’s time to head to Europe everyone, this is one of your best chances in a very, very long time with the dollar being so strong and fuel being so cheap (history’s cheapest, perhaps.)  Aer Lingus has been having consistent New York to Ireland and New York to England fairs of just $169 each way all season (seriously – and since you avoid Heathrow to avoid the high taxes too) and your dollar goes farther in Europe now (about 60% farther than when Dominica and I were there just a year ago.)  Get off your duffs and travel America!

Time-Warner Cable and Viacom (MTV, Nickleodeon and other crappy channels) are in a pricing dispute and the Viacom channels might go off the “air” in the giant Time-Warner cable regions tomorrow.  Personally, I say thank goodness.  I’m not a cable subscriber nor am I currently in a TW region but its nice to see someone fighting against the high cost of cable and doing so with a bully of a media producer who makes the biggest load of crap available today.  Do some people seriously want to watch this stuff?  Time-Warner’s argument is that Viacom’s channels are seeing lower and lower viewership while they are attempting to increase their prices, which hardly puts Viacom in a good bargaining position.  I find this one interesting as a complete outsider to the cable television market.

I would like to see Viacom go away altogether and the cable market collapse and let us just move on to Internet television already.  I am so tired of waiting for people to get up to speed on decades old technologies.  Once we all switch we will have more overall money focused on a single infrastructure component lowering overall costs and increasing service levels while saving money to customers in the end.  Rather like leaving VHS cut the cost of owning movies at home by about 80% (seriously, a $20 VHS tape in the 80s that would wear out after three views is replaced by a $8 DVD today that lasts a very, very long time – that’s quite a price drop!)

What will be really interesting is if one or more of the other major carriers (Cablevision, Cox, Comcast, etc.) decides to stand by Time-Warner and refuse to carry Viacom channels without a price-cut to match lower viewship.  It wouldn’t take much to back them into a corner.  A media producer with such a weak channel lineup doesn’t have much leverage.  It isn’t like going to the web will garner them any significant revenue since they don’t run programming that people choose but rather just ran the crap that people watch while there are commercials running on other channels.  Once you are sitting at the computer there are more exciting things to do, like balancing your bank account or cleaning out your keyboard, than watching VH1 programming!

Today was a heavy cleaning day for me.  I vacuumed yet again as I am now doing every day – hey, I have to get some value out of my Kirby!  I mopped in the kitchen for what I believe is the first time since we moved into the new house.  Boy did that need it!  I waded through paperwork that needs to be filed, put away boxes, moved stuff between floors, etc.

The weather got bad and the roads were becoming problematic (not horrible but definitely not good) so as soon as lunch time rolled around everyone working at the New Jersey was sent home and those of us working elsewhere covered for them as most of them expected drives of an hour or two.

My night ended up being pretty crappy.  Just as we were wrapping up work the CEO of the company sent out the most insulting and patronizing email I have ever seen come from an executive.  Basically he told he that we all suck.  He pointed out that even though we have across the board pay cuts started today that the company is “pay for performance”.  That means that he just said that everyone getting the “across the board” cuts with “no exceptions” doesn’t deserve the pay that they were getting and that every single employee, even those who have no power to make business decisions that have screwed us this past year, is at fault for the company’s bad performance and now we have to take a cut because of it.  To make things even more insulting, the cut today only affects the people who worked really hard and were not cut a few months ago.  So technically he is saying that the people who were singled out for good performance have to be cut because they are the problem.

I don’t mind the cut itself.  I mean it really is crappy but its necessary.  But then, for no reason, the CEO comes out and to end a crappy year decides to be a total jerk and mock everyone taking the cut and acting like he can pass the blame onto us and that when we don’t perform up to par that the company says we are doing great, says that nothing is wrong and then delivers a paycut anyway.  I can’t believe that he thought that it was okay to send such a mail.  It was a massive slap in the face to every employee and consultant at the company who have tried at all to be good employees for the company.  The only people it doesn’t directly attack and the lazy, worthless employees who really aren’t earning their keep.  What a good message for the CEO to send.

I decided that there is nothing to lose around here, this company is doing horribly and layoffs are coming at such a pace that no one is safe, so I decided that something needed to be said.  So I sent an email to the CEO outlining exactly why his email was such an outrage and why people would be so hurt by it – and on New Year’s Eve too!  He timed it within minutes of the paycut going into affect so there is no hiding his target audience.  It’s hard to believe that such an email could have been an accident.  It felt like a lashing out of someone about to be fired – trying to subtely lay blame and guilt on the entire workforce, especially those who tried the hardest and were most loyal to the firm.  I hope that the email was generated by thoughtlessness and cluelessness but then its a sad, sad statement on the company.  No wonder we have been teetering on the brink of bankruptcy and needed to be bailed out if our CEO has so little idea who it is keeping the company running and who it is causing it to bleed cash.

I just couldn’t let it go, though.  It was so insulting and mean.  He needs to understand that real people are really hurt when he behaves this way.  It was very immature.  I kept the email professional but stern.  There is every possibility that I will be fired for it, but I think that that is unlikely.  If I am fired for it, so be it.  I’m not the one who acted unprofessionally just the one who demanded some professional courtesy.  If the lashing out was unintentional then I hope that the CEO takes the time to read the email and understand just why it is that what he said was completely out of line and that he makes adjustments.  Perhaps he is so out of touch with the company that he doesn’t know how people are being paid or not paid and who is doing work and who is not.  Neither is a good sign.  It is a lose/lose situation.  I am very unhappy.

What I don’t understand is why the CEO and the board thought that they should send out a memo to intentionally undermine and demoralize the entire corporate population on New Year’s Eve.  It is never a good thing to do but they really timed it for effect.  Only Christmas would have been worse.  I just can’t fathom what the thought process behind this attack was.

So I have been in a blue funk this evening.  I know that the anonymous attacks of a CEO whom I have never met and who has no idea who I am who is getting no bonus this year because he has performed abyssmally should not affect me but they do.  Just knowing that the person that I ultimately report to would say such things to so many people makes me upset.  I know that it is not personal although I get the feeling that it was intended to feel that way.  It hurts to know that this is a person whom I work hard to make look good to the shareholders.  Do they know that he is attempting to sabotage employee moral across the board?  Would the millions of investors in the bank appreciate knowing why employees of the bank feel so little desire to outperform other banks?  I doubt that the shareholders care.  If they did, their money would be elsewhere.  Mine is.

Anyway, so that set me up for a crappy evening.  It wasn’t until late this evening that I even realized that it is New Year’s Eve.  I started cooking Oreo’s dinner, got his meal partway along and then headed out to the grocery store and then realized, once I arrived there, that the grocery store was closed.  I drove to three grocery stores in the area and all of them were closed.  Crap.  Oreo is out of food and I was trying to make his week’s batch tonight.  Argh.

So Oreo and I came back home and I cooked him up some sirloin hamburger for his dinner.  We will get some canned food at the Toccos’ tomorrow and then hit the grocery store for supplies so that we can cook for him.  I put the pot with his half-prepped stew out on the back porch so that it would freeze quickly.  That way we can just thaw it out tomorrow evening and make his stew then.

I talked to Dominica several times today.  The Nintendo DS, the book and the keys to the mailbox are all still missing.  I tore our house in Peekskill apart as well looking for the keys, but I can’t find anyplace where they might be able to hide.  How so much stuff could go missing so thoroughly so quickly is beyond me.  I am convinced that all three things are together somewhere.  I just can’t imagine where, though.

So having at least three important items lost is both stressful and depressing to add to the top of the funk that I already feel because of the email earlier.  Then, just to round out the evening, there was the grocery stores being closed and my CPAP went into error mode again and there is every chance that it is not going to work tonight or sometime very soon.  I don’t know what to do about it and that is stressing me out too.  Our new insurance plan kicks in tomorrow and we will have to see on Friday what can be done.  I might need to buy one outright or I might have to do something more complicated.  Nothing is ever easy and not having a working CPAP is just not a possibility.

Also, because we don’t have our mailbox keys, we have no way to check our mail.  This is obviously problematic.  It is extra painful because we have not gotten our deposit returned from Eleven80 yet.  We were supposed to get the money back before December 1st and two weeks ago I called to find out what the story was and they have not gotten back to me yet.  So we are currently out a ton of money, $1,840, from that until we can find a way to get them to pay us.  More and more stress items all at once and none of which are things that I am empowered to do anything to fix which makes it so much worse.

I want to post before midnight officially strikes.  The world is not ending; it is just a crappy day that happens to be New Year’s Eve.  It happens.  Things will be fine tomorrow – after a lot of snowy driving is completed.  I am very glad that I have SGL on which to vent.  Venting in such a way that it is searchable helps to relive a lot of my anxiety about things.

On a positive note, the Chapel Hill snow crew did an amazing job today and even took the time and effort to clean out the snow from under all of our cars.  It was like no snow had ever even fallen into the parking lot!  Very impressive.

I am leaving from Frankfort first thing in the morning.  Hopefully around nine in the morning.  I am taking Oreo, picking up Dominica and Liesl and then heading back to Peekskill as quickly as we can.  The Ralstons should be arriving in Peekskill around six in the evening.

Happy New Year’s Everyone!

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1 Comment

  1. Hi Scott,

    You don’t know me, but you should forward the email to the House Committee on Financial Services (chaired by Barney Frank), and the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs (chaired by Chris Dodd).

    This is an outrage. Management completely destroyed the company with bad bets on derivatives, and the House and Senate need to see what an ingrate Pandit really is. The guy should be stripped of his pay and bonuses retroactively, and forced out of the company.

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