Tuesday, September 30, 2008

janelle monae


You can bet this chick has your friendly neighborhood hipster buzzing. She's been generating her share of internet stans for a very hot minute (since '05?) but it seems she's finally getting the widespread hype that is seemingly inevitable once you hear her electric voice. I saw her recently on the cover of Paste Magazine and shes all over the internet these days. Who is Janelle MonĂ¡e? Wikipedia has her as an
alternative, soul, futuristic, and rock performer and singer who dabbled in Broadway momentarily before breaking for the music scene. She's 23 and hails from KC, Kansas. She recently dropped a video for "Many Moons" but she's been around since the Got Purp? Vol. 2 days which I only know about because of him.

The video is absolute bonkers - which is why it has everyone looking like:
Her voice is incredibly rich, the beat is wild, she's clearly on that other business (Android auctions?), and the video is full of theatrics and social commentary - precisely my cup of tea. To top it all off her style is literally one of a kind and she's
gorgeous. The video and concept is so intense and complex and beyond me that I've returned to it a shameful amount of times. I love when art does that - incites something so complicated and buried and confusing that you have to keep visiting it and reevaluating your analysis.

From the chorus and 2nd verse:
Oh make it rain, ain't a thang and the sky to fall
(The silver bullet's in your hand and the war's heating up)
And when the truth goes BANG the shouts splatter out
(Revolutionize your lives and find a way out)
And when you're growing down instead of growing up
(You gotta ooo ah ah like a panther)
Tell me are you bold enough to reach for love?

So strong for so long

All i wanna do is sing my simple song
Square or round, rich or poor
At the end of day and night all we want is more
I keep my feet on solid ground and use my wings when storms come around
I keep my feet on solid ground for freedom
You're free but in your mind, your freedom's in a bind

I'm all about doing you, no matter what the crowd thinks is legit or normal. Her other stuff gets a little...weird?...at times but its entertaining to say the least and often the result is fabulous. I first heard Janelle on the song "Call the Law" from Idlewild (you remember that movie, don't you?). She was striking and classic and it was the only song on the soundtrack that made a permanent playlist (*singing* "just grab my gun and let's go out...") - which is the standard against which all good music related to moi is measured:

vote for twitter

*update* Read Obama's remarks made earlier today to Congress from Reno here regarding the bailout.

Read why Lou Dobbs isvehemently against the bailout (great commentary): "Hooray for those who defeated bailout"

Read what CNN Money is saying about your job: "What about my job?"

Twitter has a new feature for Election2008:

WARNING: it's incredibly entertaining and overwhelming. You don't need to have joined Twitter to watch. Twitter basically filters through hundreds of updates a minute and looks for keywords that pertain to the candidates and posts them all on this live feed. Anybody can post and get on the feed. How many other people are sitting there watching is another question though.

One of the funniest posts I've seen from the feed is Palin's Facebook Page - clearly someone has too much time on their hands!

how nervous are we?

There is a huge influx of info right now about what's going on in the markets, so I won't add (much) to it, but I do want to point your attention to three cool points right now:

1. "The 3 A.M. Phone Call" from Paul Krugman in the NYT is a great, short article about the fallacies in McCain's campaign and the potential impact it could have on our economy. The article has shot up to the #1 most emailed article in the past 24 hours in light of recent events. On the topic of partisan politics there is a really cool graphic of who voted "No" yesterday @ NYTimes.com - or just click here.

2. VIX - "VIX is the ticker symbol for the Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index, a popular measure of the implied volatility of S&P 500 index options. Referred to by some as thefear index, it represents one measure of the market's expectation of volatility over the next 30 day period." - Wikipedia

Yesterday I was sitting in the UT Financial Technology and Trading Center for most of the day which was a fortunate set of circumstances as it was the single greatest day to be hanging around the best and brightest finance students in central Texas. I was able to sit in on part of an MBA class where they just turned on CNN and started watching what was going on in the markets. The prof pointed out that the traders being interviewed after the bailout failed to be passed were saying things like "yes the bailout didn't get passed but they'll go back to the drawing board and hammer something out coming up here." There was optimism that it would be passed even when it had just failed to come through to everyone's dismay. But even among the students there were mixed feelings on whether there should be a bailout at all as no one can be sure of its impact or what the logistics of the plan yet. One boy (who is inevitably looking at investment banking) took issue with the fact that the "golden parachute" might get the air let out of it and said the government shouldn't be able to control who gets paid what - leave that to the markets. I agree but isn't there something wrong when people are being paid billions of dollars? Should we at some point step in to nudge the invisible hand?

Anyway, later I came back to the FTTC to continue working and FOX News was there preparing to do a segment on that same prof. He pointed to the VIX index as a measure of the nervousness of the markets. He said this shows that markets are shaky but its not the worst its ever been. (I live twittered about this - LOL @ my silly self)

This is the VIX index over the past year:

Notice how it has shot up in the past few days relative to the rest of the year. If I had more time I would put in markers through the year so we could get a feel for how the market has responded to earlier events. But I don't, so I won't.

Now compare that to VIX over the past 10 years:

You can see that the last time the VIX index was as high as it is now (although it's down 12% today as of 11 AM as markets rebound a bit) was during the tech bust of the late 90's and the subsequent recession of 2000-2001. In an economy that seems to be driven by fickle investors who may or (most likely) may not have all relevant information (just see what happened with United)

3. Intrade Prediction Markets - Intrade is often cited for its political prediction markets which you'll see as soon as you click on the site but it's basically a place you can go to speculate on real events.

"We've created an exchange for you to trade (speculate on) events that directly affect your life, like politics, entertainment, financial indicators, weather, current events and legal affairs - these are our trading categories. Within each category we list a set of contracts, a contract is an event that will have an unambiguous result. For example, some of our political contracts are: "Will George Bush be re-elected in 2004" or "Will John Kerry win the Democratic Nomination". Each one is an event with an unambiguous result, either George Bush will be re-elected or he won't." - from intrade.com
Below is the history of "US Recession in 2008." US Recession in 2009 looks similar. You can see how the price of a "share" has an overall decreasing trend although just the tail end of it shows a small reversal. Intrade is by no means always right or reliable but it's another piece of information to put in your toolbox.

I'm torn on the bailout and luckily I'm not one of the people who have to make a decision on it. This is one of those things where we won't get a true sense of how bad it is until we're out of it and looking at it in 20/20. The prof did mention that it might be a good time to get in the markets while everything is low - buy low sell high, right? - but that's assuming we're not on the verge of a complete collapse.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

did I stutter?

With the bailout plans finally taking precedence in the media, it's been incredibly interesting to see public figures' takes on the impending doom that looms over our heads. The jury seems to be swaying more towards the idea that McCain's noble offer to postpone tomorrow's debate until after the bailout issue is solved is really just a wack cop-out to avoid the heat in going head to head with Obama. I'm inclined to agree. Excellent post on the cop out efforts over at Post Bourgie.

As far as the progression of the bailout plans go - by those who actually have a say in the matter - I'm torn. We definitely need a reorganization in the financial markets to help prevent this greed from pervading the economy again - to the detriment of those who are largely innocent in all related matters (you Responsible Americans "who pay your mortgage on time, file your tax returns on April 15 and are reluctant to pay the excess costs on Wall Street."
(c) W. Bush). I don't have a problem with the "golden parachute" of top executives being punctured or complicated derivatives being subject to more regulation. But how much regulation? How much big government? How much will this cost?

These are questions that are largely going unanswered. The proposal for the funds by the Treasury was 3 pages long. This from a sector of the government notorious for extensive, verbose documents that hide the true meaning somewhere between the lines. Originally the proposal stated that the actions taken by Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson would not be subject to law, or rather "may not be review by any court of law or and administrative agency." Excuse me? We got into this mess by taking accountability out of the equation...so we're going to take accountability out on the other side? I don't see how the answer would be to pass a "blank check" on over to Paulson to do what he will with an estimated $700 billion. I haven't seen any calculations on how that figure was calculated and I've seen it fluctuate between $500 billion and $800 billion. Let us remember this is a government estimate and I'm willing to bet that, without some sort of accountability put into this process, that figure would increase quickly.

Bush declared last night in his prime time address (which I admittedly missed due to work): By investing taxpayer money in assets with underlying value, even if the market isn't yet sure what that value is currently, the government may make "much, if not all" of the money back when it resells the assets after the markets return to normal, Bush said.

Is it just me or does that not sound like a good business deal? Nobody, least of all George W., has dealt with this situation before, especially with these securities. "We're not sure, but you'll probably get most of your money back eventually" would get me an "F" real quick in my financial analysis courses. I understand something needs to happen but the pressure and speed with which Paulson, Bernanke, and Bush are pushing for this legislation all seems a little sketch to me. It reminds me of a clip from the Office where Dwight tells Michael he has an emergency back up plan to restore order to the office: he holds all the power. He pushes and pushes on Michael to delegate all power to him. Earlier in the episode the thought blocking that Dwight utilized by repeatedly urging agreement worked on Andy when Dwight was able to get a car from him for a super low price and then flip it immediately. Hilarity ensues. Dwight promises to relinquish power once the crisis has been resolved but Michael ultimately prevails (surprisingly). Am I alone in seeing some parallels?

The following is a list of techniques of undue influence - thought reform - from cultclinic.org (not one of my sites but I found it through following this article):

  • GROUP PRESSURE and "LOVE BOMBING" discourages doubts and reinforces the need to belong through the use of child - like games, singing, hugging, touching, or flattery.
  • ISOLATION\SEPARATION creates inability or lack of desire to verify information provided by the group with reality.
  • THOUGHT-STOPPING TECHNIQUES introduce recruit to meditating, chanting, and repetitious activities which, when used excessively, induce a state of high suggestibility and dependency on the group.
  • FEAR and GUILT induced by eliciting confessions to produce intimacy and to reveal fears and secrets, to create emotional vulnerability by overt and covert threats, as well as alternation of punishment and reward.
  • SLEEP DEPRIVATION encouraged under the guise of spiritual exercises, necessary training, or urgent projects.
  • INADEQUATE NUTRITION sometimes disguised as special diet to improve health or advance spirituality, or as rituals requiring fasting.
  • SENSORY OVERLOAD forces acceptance of complex new doctrine, goals, and definitions to replace old values by expecting recruit to assimilate masses of information quickly with little opportunity for critical examination.
How many of these are being used by the Fed and the Federal Branch right now? I can't vouch for the legitimacy of this list but it's interesting nonetheless. Let me make it clear that I do think we have reason to fear, the credit markets are dangerously volatile and I believe they could be close to freezing up. I'm not saying Bernanke, Paulson, or Bush are necessarily wrong in their solution or even in the way that they're going about it. I'm just hesitant for rash decisions to be pushed through, expecially if the decisions are sub par and could be developed more to better save our financial system. Everyone seems to agree those who got us into this mess should be punished - but how to determine the accountabilty? I've said before the degree to which the greed spilled is extensive and hard to measure.

Do we punish those executives who got paid ridiculously well and took on all this debt without putting it on their balance sheets? Do we punish those bankers who packaged up the debt and sold them, heralding the great returns? What about the bankers who issued all the subprime mortgages, often using shady promises and contracts to lock in people who could barely pay the introductory rate, much less the higher adjusted rate? What about those people who came in looking to buy a house beyond their means who weren't responsible enough to read the contracts and do enough financial planning to factor in their mortgage payments? It's easy to point the finger but how far to point? Will the bailout include a provision for judges to renegotiate mortgages so that a relatively large percentage of American's aren't pushed out on the street when they can't make their payments? Maybe some financial counseling would be involved? Would the bailout money go towards any of that or just towards buying up faulty debts from corporations' balance sheets (or rather off their balance sheets - and to that extent nobody knows the full extent of this crisis because everyone is playing close to the chest)?

this fantastic piece by Timothy Egan entitled "Crash" he compares the current situation to that of the Great Depression and reiterates how we got to this point:

In this century, thanks to the deregulatory demons released by former McCain adviser Phil Gramm and embraced by just enough lobbyist-greased Democrats, Wall Street was greenlighted again to act like a casino. Banks in the heartland passed on their mortgages to Wall Street, where they were sliced and diced in hundreds of largely incomprehensible ways. And while few people understand how those investment giants made money, this much is clear: it was a killing. In 2006 alone, Wall Street firms paid out $62 billion in bonuses.

With all the urgency of that famous National Lampoon magazine cover that showed a cute pooch with a gun to its head, and the line “If You Don’t Buy This Magazine, We’ll Kill This Dog,” President Bush says the biggest bailout in American history must be passed now or the world will crumble. He said a similar thing in the run-up to war.

He also points out that the details of this bailout have yet to be nailed down:

“I’m a dirt farmer,” said Senator Jon Tester, the Montana Democrat who still lives on his family homestead. “Why do we have one week to determine that $700 billion has to be appropriated or this country’s financial system goes down the pipes?”

Good question, one that Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke have yet to adequately answer. If they seemed flummoxed, perhaps it’s because they still can’t explain what will be accomplished by nearly nationalizing the banking system and giving the treasury secretary more power than a king.

Clearly there are a lot of unanswered questions. It's an interesting moment in history, to say the least, to see all these factors rear their ugly head simultaneously and with such poignant timing. I, for one, would like to see the debate go on but maybe that's just me being anxious and, in the process, being insensitive to the economy.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

dear fall

"Autumn is the eternal corrective.

It is ripeness and color and a time of maturity;
but it is also breadth, and depth, and distance.

What man can stand with autumn on a hilltop

and fail to see the span of his world and the meaning of the rolling
hills that reach to the far horizon?"
- Hal Borland

September 22 is the first day of Fall this year but already we're feeling the changes. New seasons bring new opportunities, new perspectives, and new fashion:

I'm loving these Frye Ava Button Bootie boots [left]...unfortunately four bills is a little out of my budget for fall boots at this point. Times are hard, I gotta spend like it's 2008 and the economy is reigning its frivolities in and I should be following suit....probably....? Better to put the money in savings, at a certain point when your life consists of workschoolworkdanceworkchurchwork your stunting efforts only mean so much. But wouldn't they be fabulous with some tights and a big sweater?

I'm also feeling the green gladiator "Rainmaker" heels from Melody Ehsani which are a bit more within the realm of my college-student-addicted-to-footwear-but-still-got-bills-to-pay budget. The gladiator look is hit or miss with me but my trendier friends have hopped right on that bus. I'm particular with mines - especially when it comes to my shoes - the punctuation of all of my outfits. But these gladiator style heels I can get busy with, especially if they come in time for the NYC trip approaching quickly!

On a totally unrelated topic....

Talk about dodging the question:

The 2008 Presidential campaign is like a bad episode of Punk'd. John McCain doesn't know how to use a computer. He's not a PC OR a Mac! [sidenote: interesting commentary on the new Microsoft "I'm a PC" commercials - which I adore - here from Seth Godin.] "Well, he can hire someone to do that for him." Exactly. Why would I want a man in office running my country, a country with a huge deficit in home grown engineers, mathmeticians, and scientists, leading us onwards into the 21st century when he can't even learn "how to do a Google?" A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. What you look like hiring someone to do all that "technology stuff" for you? It's 2008, bruh. Don't get me started on Palin, I'm all for women's empowerment and breaking through the glass ceiling, but I feel like you should make it on your own merit and be adequately prepared for 2nd in command. Word in the polls is she's starting to bring down McCain. This duo here...*sigh*

[^pure and insanely hot fire.]

I got severe 2nd degree burns today from a Cherry Pop-Tart. True story. I don't even keep processed foods in my house like that. I blame high fructose corn syrup. <--- if you're not checking your grocery basket for this you're tripping.

nightmare on wall street

There's a lot going on in politics, economics, and the financial realm right now. The media is doing its best to shock everyone into attention and frankly it's working. "Congressional Leaders Stunned By Warnings" led me to call my dad and inquire about his plans for retirement funds in the stock market right now. His reply? "Girl I don't even have power, you think I'm worried about the stock market right now?" I urged him to investigate asap when he's on company resources tomorrow. We learn in finance to invest what you're able to lose and ride out the bumps and bruises that the market might give you because you can't let the little things deter you from the overall upwards trend of the markets. But what if all the rules are changing? You can catch up on everything and get a breakdown of what's breaking down with this article from the WSJ: "Worst Crisis Since '30s, With No End Yet in Sight."

The U.S. financial system resembles a patient in intensive care. The body is trying to fight off a disease that is spreading, and as it does so, the body convulses, settles for a time and then convulses again. The illness seems to be overwhelming the self-healing tendencies of markets. The doctors in charge are resorting to ever-more invasive treatment, and are now experimenting with remedies that have never before been applied. Fed Chairman Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, walking into a hastily arranged meeting with congressional leaders Tuesday night to brief them on the government's unprecedented rescue of AIG, looked like exhausted surgeons delivering grim news to the family.

Fed and Treasury officials have identified the disease. It's called deleveraging, or the unwinding of debt. During the credit boom, financial institutions and American households took on too much debt. Between 2002 and 2006, household borrowing grew at an average annual rate of 11%, far outpacing overall economic growth. Borrowing by financial institutions grew by a 10% annualized rate. Now many of those borrowers can't pay back the loans, a problem that is exacerbated by the collapse in housing prices. They need to reduce their dependence on borrowed money, a painful and drawn-out process that can choke off credit and economic growth.

Ben Bernanke has got the whole system on hush mouth right now because the system is suddenly incredibly fragile and one false move could push our fickle and volatile markets over the edge. AIG, the insurance giant with a titanium rating, was all healthy a few months ago and fell straight to pieces almost literally overnight. All of the complicated financial derivative instruments that investment bankers have been inventing since 1980, to the point that not even they understand them all much less the regulators that are supposed to be keeping an eye on the bankers and policing the greed, are looking more and more culpable in this financial turmoil of ours. It would seem like a great time to get into options except the SEC suspended short selling. That's going to screw hedge funds up even more than they already are with the credit crunch going on and the fall out that is seemingly endless from subprime mortgage lending.

My opinion? America, and subsequently the greater financial world, got too greedy. We lost our integrity in granting loans to people we knew couldn't pay them off. The accountability got lost deep in the chain of command and now the fallout is spreading like cancer. I'm a 50 year old woman making minimum wage. You give me a loan saying it's going to have 2% interest and it'll increase later...but I can pay it, I shouldn't worry about it. You take the accounts receivables that I owe you and bundle it up with a lot of other people's loans who are in the same boat that I am. You sell that bundle to a big bank who can buy it cheap because the risk is so high that we won't pay -- but people have been paying so it seems like a great deal. Lower risk for the higher return. Solid, right? Wrong.

All of a sudden my adjustable rate mortgage goes up to like 8% (I'm making up numbers as I vent, don't hold me to the figures) and my mortgage note is suddenly more than my rent+all my bills at the old place. I can't afford my house, you don't get paid, so they don't get paid, and now I'm homeless and you're claiming losses. Multiply that by $600 billion by 2012 and you see where the problem is. But all those debts that the big banks took on expecting to get paid they now have to revalue for next to nothing because nobody wants to buy debts that nobody is going to pay and if you're a bank that took on $63 billion in these questionable debts it all amounts to you basically being screwed and needing Bank of America to come save your behind. But Bank of America did it too, so did Washington Mutual, Merrill Lynch, Lehman, etc., etc. Good thing all the fundamentals of our economy are solid, right McCain? Blah.

We need new regulations. I hate to bring the 5-0 in but we need new regulations. Hedge funds don't have to report to the SEC. The financial system has gotten so intricate that people don't understand what everyone else is trading. Shorts were suspended first, are swaps next? I have no issue with suspending all of these trades that make the market more volatile by signaling to the average joe equities investor that everyone thinks these stocks are going to fall heavily by betting against them. When you buy a put option and I buy a call option we even each other out. But when everyone is betting that the stock is going down, it seems like fundamental values go out the window. I think we need more transparency in the markets and on the balance sheets and income statements. I think it's the fault of all of the bankers and traders who gave out shoddy mortgages and then manipulated billions (trillions?) of dollars to seem like they were legitimate. I don't know if a bailout will work. What is $500 billion and what are the consequences for lending, for the volatility of markets, for the capriciousness of investors, for inflation, for globalization, etc.? Is it a temporary fix like the I do believe that the invisible hand has got to kick in at some point. No lie can live forever. "This house of cards, build on deceit, will fall."
At this point we just have to see how far we'll fall and manage our risks for the future.

"Let us choose for ourselves what is right; Let us know among ourselves what is good." - Job 34:4

"There is no fear of God before their eyes. Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin." Romans 3:18-20

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Hurricane Ike

[waves crashing over the 1900 Storm monument
in Galveston hours before Ike hit land]

Meanwhile, a hotel guest who lives about two miles from here said she and her husband waded through chest deep water as they bid farewell to their home. She said she was glad that Hurricane Ike was hitting here and taking from her as the people of New Orleans have already suffered too much and couldn't take another massive storm

"Lord, I guess it is my time to hurt," she said. [source]

Hurricane Ike blew through the Gulf Coast early Saturday morning. I hail from Southwest Houston Texas and as far as I've heard everyone is still alive and kicking. My family and friends have had some property damage from wind and flooding which minimal when you consider many people lost their lives, their houses, or all of their earthly possessions. I have followed the hurricane and its fallout obsessively since Friday morning and I could probably be a meteorologist or natural disaster recovery organizer with all of my new knowledge and observations. I'm fearful about what the full extent of the damage will be - the places that have been hit the worst along the coast are so devastated that no one may ever know the degree to which structures and lives were lost. Quotes are thrown out like "four rows of houses along the coast on the Bolivar Peninsula are completely leveled to the concrete slabs." Excuse me? How are you supposed to assess the residents of an area to see who is alive and who evacuated when houses and boats are all thrown around like toys (click on that link for astonishing aerial pictures of the Houston/Galveston/Kemah areas) hundreds of yards from where they used to stand? ["Some of Ike's missing may have just washed away"] I had the pleasure of entertaining some very kind evacuees this past weekend *cough*refugees*cough* and most have now returned to Houston. My people still don't have power - in Houston or in East Texas - and the areas are ripped apart both physically and socially. Thank the heavens for a brief cool front - September heat in Houston for millions of people with no air conditioning, limited running water, and FEMA supplies that run out within hours would complicate the suffering that is already extremely widespread exponentially. I think it's so discouraging that Haiti has been literally battered by multiple hurricanes this season to the point where Haitians are living on their roofs, resigned to suffering, and very few Americans have taken notice. My family loses electricity for a week and we don't know what to do with ourselves. We are too dependent. On everything. Electronic transactions, oil, the internet, cell phones.... it can all come crashing down in an instant. We spend our lives building up our plans and our demands and our dreams -- but when the side of your house gets blown off or the roof caves in and you can't get in contact with your family, what does any of that matter?
The silver lining of the hurricane was definitely getting to experience first hand the power of Twitter and straight from the scene blogging. Some of it was from people in Galveston during the storm - which got really scary during the eye and as water crept up in their evacuation locations. On the right hand of my page you can see my Twitter status which is basically "a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing? " It seems completely pointless at first, especially when you discover very few of the people who actually care what you're doing are signed up or even willing to listen to the concept.

Friday morning I started following trackingike, hurricaneike, chronhurricane, and a few other new Twitter accounts set up to follow the hurricane's developments. I got the updates sent to my phone so even at work and school I was able to keep up with the latest path of the hurricane, the different forecasts, and any news about city announcements. The dedicated fellows at TrackingIke were on Galveston Island and in Houston during the storm and kept tweets going out of what they were seeing, how strong the storm was, and relevant advice throughout ("DO NOT GO OUTSIDE DURING THE EYE"). Since then these accounts have become hubs for information about recovery efforts - where to go for FEMA assistance, what Mayor Bill White just said that I missed because
somebody was talking, who has power, who has gas, who can go back to their cities and who can't, etc., etc. It was incredible how informative these people were - cutting the fluff and putting their crucial messages within the space of 140 characters. That's my kind of efficiency. Anyway... I believe in the power of Twitter. TrackingIke was the first source I heard of going back into the streets of Houston, getting into Galveston, and going up towards Beaumont. Their account of going into Galveston was absolutely riveting and had me on the edge of my chair the 5 hours or so they lost cell service. You can read the archived messages on their Twitter page at trackingike.

Okay so you already know we're looking towards the future -- the time has come to rebuild. How can YOU help?

--donate money to the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund by logging on to www.redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED-CROSS, or writing a check to your local chapter. Also use your cell phone to donate $5 to the fund by texting "GIVE" to 2HELP (24357). [source]

--Visit www.redcross.org to find out where
you can volunteer. Evacuees are all over the state, I've been talking to some on the city bus in Austin who are staying in places like a gym floor (which they're so thankful for because it's clean.) and there is DEFINITELY a need for more volunteers. This blog by a Galveston reporter was giving updates on the conditions in an Austin area shelter until they kicked her out for reporting on it. There is a need wherever you are. Once Galveston and the other coastal areas are deemed safe there will be a tremendous demand for volunteers to help rebuild.

--The Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center needs
blood donations to supplement the increase in demand from patients in need.

--If you're in Austin (like me) and want to
volunteer at a shelter you have to fill out a background check, a volunteer form, and go get trained. All of the information is here and I think it was less than 24 hours before I got the results of my background check back. I know school and work and everything is crazy right now but if you can find the time keep in mind people are literally living on floors in Austin with no idea what their future holds. I asked one man what was next and he said, "Well, they said we can stay in this shelter for 14 more days. That was about 4 days ago. Then we're getting on the bus. We'll probably go to San Antonio." He didn't know what was the status of his house in Galveston and I didn't press the issue.

Capitol Area Food Bank (again, in Austin) is collecting "bottled water, granola bars, peanut butter, diapers and canned meats with pop-top lids" -- 8201 S. Congress Ave.

I know there are a million more ways to help and as more developments come to light I'm sure there will be a million more. If you donate make sure it's to your reputable charity of choice (Red Cross, etc.)- the fraud that ran rampant after Katrina was shameful. Google [your city] + volunteer + Hurrican Ike and I'm sure you'll find a'plenty.

If you're in Houston and need any info regarding what's open, who's got gas, how much that gas is, where the power company is (because they're clearly not working in your neighborhood), etc. etc. http://blogs.chron.com/weatheringike/ is an excellent resource.

For more sobering pictures of Orange, TX (one of my favorite cities!) go t0
http://tinyurl.com/orangepd and http://tinyurl.com/kogtpics.

For Houston/Galveston pics from throughout the storm: click here.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


"Noble souls, through dust and heat,
rise from disaster and defeat the stronger."
--John Bay

"As long as we think we can save ourselves by our own will power,
we will only make the evil in us stronger than ever."
--Heini Arnold

Prayers go out to those we lost on 9/11. Don't let yourself be desensitized - almost 3,000 people who are still mourned today. Prayers also to all of those traveling out of Ike's way and those staying in its path (that would be my family...).

Monday, September 8, 2008

just a'livin

Life is too short to wake up in the mornings with regrets.
So love the ones who treat you right,
forget the ones who don’t.
Remember that everything happens for a reason.
If you get a chance take it,
if it changes your life, then let it.
No one said it would be easy,

they just promised it would be worth it.

For those tuned into my real life: Got my big full time offer today. *exhales* The Lord is good to me, and so I thank the Lord. I appreciate all of y'alls love and support and all that jazz. If I take it I'd be based out of Houston but it would involve quite a bit of travel. I'll still interview with other firms and all that just to get the experience but the pressure is officially off (or as much as it could be...).

Therefore the anthem of the week shall be:

S_w_a_g_g_e_r Like Us - M_I_A feat every male rapper on the top 100

"Looking from the surface it may seem that I got reason to be nervous... then observe my work and see that my adversity was worth it"-- Clifford Joseph Harris Jr.


Saturday, September 6, 2008

Culture Tour Report: Summer 08

My good friend over @ Justinification started the idea of "The Culture Tour" earlier this summer with the description:
"As I said, everything is a part of a culture. Food. Music. Church. Arts. Entertainment. Work. Politics. Everything. I intend to have a well-rounded tour of new experiences for me this summer while I have time and my money is fresh. If you have suggestions for this summer, post them.

Also, If you're in town, let me know, cause nothing is worse than not having people to experience the culture with. Seriously."
Of course I immediately cosigned and began my own summer of culture quest. The highlights are broken up by city below in case you ever find yourself in one of these cities and have the opportunity to hit up one of my spots:

  • The Westin San Diego - placed here for an internship conference. GREAT food (if you don't know about salmon in eggs at the omlette bar you haven't lived...), beautiful accomodations, and the most comfortable bed I've never dared to dream of. Right in the center of downtown we were able to walk to all of our conference activities and then go out in the Gaslamp District after.
  • Go Games - My company hired Go Games to come in and host a huge scavenger hunt that had us running all over San Diego. Each team was given a Palm Pilot that gave us clues on where our next destination was and a digital camera to take pictures of our antics. In theory it was a good idea and in practice it was even better. There were actors all over the city waiting to give us hints and we really had to unite as a team and get over formalities real quick if we wanted to win (which we didn't and I'm still salty about that!). I'm sure it costs an arm and a leg to bring it out to your company but all 200+ interns from across America sure appreciated it!
  • Also visited: Historic Chula Vista where my grandmother lived in the '40s and met my grandfather, the greatest "Dirty Dancing"-esque, underground salsa club ever where we danced salsa, merengue, and bachata -- but so underground I can't find the name of it anywhere, the San Diego Wild Animal Park that had a herd of giraffes (you already know I lost my complete mind), + various touristy sites and a gang of diverse clubs in the Gaslamp District (which you must hit up if you're in the area).

I'm happy to report that I can now say with confidence Dallas is nothing like Houston. I'll spare you my usual spiel but if you want a great city in Texas head on down to the great H and save yourself some trouble. Most of the females are shameless and the guys get an all around "W" for wack. However, the ladies I kicked it with while going out and my fellow interns were fantastic people and all around I'd say Dallas is a tolerable place to live....especially if you're living in a fresh apartment in Irving with a waterfall by the pool. Mmmhmmm.
  • Play Date Dallas - Rent out a throwed downtown club, throw down 40 some odd board games down, and get a very fly DJ: genius. My new "grown and sexy" clique from the D-town area hit up this seemingly revolutionary event and we had a blast. We spent the night playing Battle of the Sexes, Uno, and Wii Bowling. I think cover was $10. We met some cool people and acted out but be warned: the average age of attendees was no where near mine...which made it more fun? I know they hold Play Dates in Houston and Atlanta and there are rumors of one in Austin coming up.
  • Sambuca - I actually hit this place up twice this summer. It's by far my favorite restaurant in Dallas and I know there's one in Houston too. Definitely expensive by any measure but it's such a classy place with luxe decorations and phenomenal live music every night and some really good (not greatest ever but really good) food.
  • Galaxy Drive-In Theatre - right outside of Dallas when you're coming up I-45. I'd never been to a drive-in before and it was really fun. The sound is great because it comes in through your stereo and everyone is out there laying on their hoods and trunks with the sound up so it's like ultimate surround sound. Two movies for two people for a total of $12. Granted one of those movies was Death Race, but still a good deal - and fyi Tropic Thunder is a good summer movie.
  • Also visited: Mustangs of Irving, thegreatestnailshopofalltime, and various downtown clubs. Nothing exciting. :-|
The Great Houston, Texas
I worked @ a client in Houston for most of the summer and got to hang with all my friends and family a lot more than I thought going into the internship. Much love to everyone who hit up downtown, the Village, the Gallo, and all the random get togethers - what good is a corporate card when you have no one to enjoy it with?! I saw a lot more of downtown and midtown and saw a side of Houston I haven't seen before. There's so much history and so much effort that goes into keeping the city looking nice. Thank-you Parks and Recreation Department.
  • The Melting Pot - X2. I LOVE this place. "Holly where do we go for your roll off dinner?" "The Melting Pot? Is that too expensive for a big group?" "No...don't worry about that, but that place is always a production." "Perfect." This is fondue done right. I love every course (cheese, meat, and chocolate!!) and literally every bite is scrumptious. It never gets old and the service at the Houston location is outstanding. If you ever want ideas on where to take me for a good meal....
  • The 4th Annual Radio One Family Funday in the Park - Originally I thought this was just a big gospel concert and since I'm always so geeked up about other concerts, why not one with the latest and greatest in gospel music? We showed up just in time for Jason Champion with "Always" and I would've been salty had I missed that. Then Hot Stylez... :-[... with "Lookin' Boy" ( I could've sworn that song was a joke...) followed by BLESS MY SOUL JAZMINE SULLIVAN WHO WAS SO ON FIRE YOU WOULDN'T EVEN BELIEVE IT. Nobody near me knew her stuff yet but best believe I was screaming through "Bust Your Windows" like it was going out of style. I had no idea she was going to be there, I guess all the radio people thought announcing "Midnight Star" and "Teena Marie" (no hating here about them - it got me to come out) would bring more people out to the show. Regardless, the girl can sing and the older women around me and I thoroughly enjoyed the set. James Fortune and FIYA almost had me screaming hysterically they were so powerful as was Marvin Sapp. It's inspiring to see a huge crowd with hundreds of people out there in the Houston summer heat praising God. James Fortune at one point said "don't be afraid to praise, there's somebody out there who doesn't know God who is watching you to see how you praise." That's all I needed to hear to get up and stop acting like I was too cute to praise. When you're going on right before 3 6 Mafia and Eric Benet you know you got a diverse crowd in the house that day. The concert was hot - literally - and we ended up leaving after some 5 hours because I was literally about to have a heat stroke and lemonade cost $6. A great show all around and for $12 including parking I will definitely be hitting up the 5th annual Funday.
  • I went to an Astros vs. Giants game at Minute Maid Park. I haven't been to a MLB game in I don't know how long but it was great and super inexpensive. That night they won 12-4 and Berkman got a Grand Slam. It made for a very exciting game experience which will probably translate into a shorter amount of time before I go back.
  • Other highlights: Traitor with Don Cheedle is a must see, Pineapple Express...not so much but still had me guffawing in the theater at an inappropriate loudness. There's a laser tag/putt putt/batting cage spot near Clear Lake that you should hit up if you haven't done any of the three in a while. I murdered at all of them, clearly.
I don't have much to report on Detroit. My company flew me out there for work and I didn't do much in the way of sightseeing. It was referred to as "the armpit of America" and compared to "New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina - minus the comeback effort." Ouch. It seemed tolerable enough when I was there but then again I don't have to live in Michigan. It sort of reminded me of Beaumont as far as the landscape and industry set up. I was told that, if I did go downtown, and if the police put on their lights I didn't have to stop because car jackings are so bad they'll just get my license and send a ticket in the mail. So I didn't go downtown. I did cross 8 Mile though.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

the thought process...

"No matter what you're going through, remember God is using you.
For the battle is not yours. It's the Lord's."
(c) Yolanda Adams

"Now as an Outkast I was born, wasn't warned of the harm
That would come to meet me like Met Life, but yet life
Done sent me through a lot of up's and down like it ain't nothing'
Like elevators but I ain't the one that's pushin' the buttons
I got off at the thirteenth floor, when they told me that it wasn't one
They said it skipped from 12 to 14
Still smoking, still drinking, no I'm sittin' on the Lincoln
4 A.M. thinkin' that in reality the world is like a ball full of playas
We trapped off in this maze with walls made of layers
And only prayers is the tightest game that you can have
The devil's takin' a swing that might explain the broken glass
But my crystal ball see the pistol fall to the wayside
Nobody would die in cops and robbers when we used to play right"
--- the ever so prodigious Three Stacks in Goodie Mob's "Thought Process"

Somewhat related: my new internship (which is just lovely thus far) has me working downtown...on the 13th floor. Funny thing is I didn't even realize what a crazy coincidence that was because it seemed like a given: of course I work on the 13th floor. I really feel like if I tried hard enough I would be able to bend spoons with my mind.

“Do not try to bend the spoon; that’s impossible. Instead only try to realize the truth: There is no spoon. Then you’ll see, that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself.”

- "The Matrix"