Gameday in Athens, GA

Whooeee!!! So, I got a gig as a fan photographer at Sanford Stadium. Nothing too glamorous as I discovered last night at the Georgia game vs South Carolina. However, by the time the game was over, I found that I had become less inhibited which was presumably aided by my discovery of the fact that several of the fans were inebriated. πŸ˜€ Anyway, this job was what I needed to come out of my shell because I was required to ask total strangers if I could take photographs of them! I managed to get just barely above the bare minimum, but I hope that my pictures turned out great and that my next home game will be even more fruitful! It was quite a workout for me because first of all, walked to Sanford Stadium and pretty much walked up and down stairs the entire time I was at the stadium. And I lost my voice! I feel great today though. It was for a good cause because the Georgia Bulldawgs won and I screamed my tired lungs out! πŸ˜›

At least, I know what to do and what NOT to do this time around. For instance, I was a little shy to begin with so I was hesitant when the stadium wasn’t too crowded. That was a mistake I won’t be repeating because it becomes even harder once the stadium fills up with people! To make matters trickier for me, I was assigned to a section that had fans of the opposing team. lol. Talk about feeling like I was in the lion’s den or in enemy territory. Thankfully, I batted my baby brown eyes and sweetly asked for permission which, for the most part, was granted. πŸ™‚ Here are some videos I shot using my Nokia E71x phone about my experience! Cheers!

When the going gets tough, the tough gets going… :)

Or so the saying goes.. πŸ™‚ Since the year began, I’ve been hard at work with a new (to me) course for the Spring Semester. My job’s physically demanding and thankfully, I’ve been up to the task. I love all my bosses especially as I feel really appreciated. The students I’ve been working with also appreciate the work I put in to making the laboratory a comfortable place to be despite the circumstances. lol. Matt’s been acing his tests and exams. I couldn’t be prouder of him and how far we have grown as a unit. Not too long ago, I posted a status message on my Facebook page about how nothing beat taking a stroll in the woods with the one you love. That continues to hold true and I couldn’t be happier with my choice of a life partner. Alright, enough sappiness. πŸ™‚

In personal finance management news, our heating bill saw a $20 spike in the month of December and we continued getting heating bills in the ~ 60s for a while until last month when it finally came down to $58. However, that didn’t give me much consolation because our energy usage per day was still higher i.e. ~ $2 per day. In any case, we’re doing pretty good considering I’ve sorta given up being so strict.

With news of the American economy tanking, Matt & I have continued our habits of keeping our credit card debt as low as we can i.e. 22% of our credit limit which is just enough to let the credit card company that we are actively using the card, but low enough for them to understand that we are not in trouble & maxing out the card. Our savings are not where I’d like them to be, but that’s to be expected when unexpected expenses arise. It didn’t make it easier when our federal and state tax refunds were less than half of what we received last year. Thankfully, we have a good grasp on our finances and it didn’t really matter whether we received a tax refund or not. As a matter of fact, I’d rather keep more of my paycheck and receive a smaller tax refund because I’ll be able to put the money to better use when I have ownership of the funds right away!

In retirement account news, my Fidelity 401(k) has been tanking. My rate of return for this year is ~ -14%. Thankfully, my employer’s match takes the sting out of seeing the funds drop because the way I see it, it’s not my money that’s disappearing although it kinda is. lol. Does my weird logic make sense? I haven’t even looked at Matt’s retirement accounts lately although his accounts should do well. That’s about it for now. A ‘thicker’ post to come!

I’ve got a special job :)

Some might call it a “Dirty Job” :), but those who know me understand that I find it fascinating. I see the potential to learn and I’m just raring to go. One thing that I might have underestimated about this job is the amount of physical activity it requires. I’m almost constantly walking back and forth. In fact, I ferried a (I swear) 150 lb goat to my lab today! I was not so much as transporting the goat carcass as I was being carried by it. lol. That animal weighed a lot more than I did. Nevertheless, I’m just feeling the love from all angles. Call it the honeymoon period, but everyone has volunteered to come on down and help. I’m the only one in the actual lab. building so it does kinda get lonely and spooky because the ceiling makes all sorts of weird noises. I don’t scare easy though. πŸ˜€ Today, I got to strip the flesh off an animal (hint: the most loved of the marine mammals). It was long dead, cut up and boiled down. This is the one of the necessary steps to creating the skeletons you see on display in labs, museums, etc. Hopefully, I’ll have a hand in piecing the skeleton together. The next step is to de-grease the animal by soaking the bones in soapy water for 2 – 3 months. The bones then get bleached and painstakingly pieced together! I look forward to the process. It’s very intense, but I’m preparing myself for it mentally. I’m already getting familiar with the handbook on the dog’s anatomy. πŸ™‚

Classes will begin soon and so will the madness. I’ve got to be ready. My departmental manager returns tomorrow and I’m ecstatic. There were certain things that were not handled as promptly as they would have been had she been here. I shall make a beeline for her office ASAP and get my issues sorted out (hopefully). Speaking of issues, apparently, because I experienced a relatively short period of un-employment at my (former) now-employer, my name was still on file with the health insurance folk so I don’t need to do any more sign-ups regarding that. However, I will not be able to get myself off the “defined benefits” retirement plan because I’m technically not a “new employee” because I had less than 2 weeks between my old job and the new job. *shakes head* No fair!! I was so excited and looking forward to managing stocks and funds, and what not. lol. Who knows? At the very least, by their same logic, I am fully expecting that their 9% match for the time I spent in the old job will be there. I will have to call them tomorrow to verify this. It will only be fair and if it is not, I may have to exercise whatever persuasive powers I have or root around in the rule books to find a way to leave this “defined contribution” plan because I’m really not happy about their 10-years-before-you-are-vested rule.

Which leads me to the topic of finances, my favorite whipping boy. πŸ™‚ So, this month, despite nearly turning out to be a bad month as I got laid off from my first job, turned out to be really good for our finances because I got over 2 weeks of annual leave pay which covered the period from when I was actually laid off to when I got my new job. Essentially, I didn’t lose any pay despite losing a job. I didn’t do anything stupid with the extra money. Actually, let me amend that. πŸ™‚ I did invest in some summer dresses, jeans and shoes which turned out to be roughly under $80 total. I have invested in some applications for my Palm Treo i.e. the King James’ Version on the bible (PocketLight KJV) for my smart phone and a Mobile Coach for tracking exercise, food, etc. I also send some large snowflakes to our emergency fund and our credit card. I totally anticipate clearing out the credit card before the year ends and reaching our emergency fund account goal. I have also taken the step (finally) of creating my Roth IRA account at one of the big 3 (Fidelity, Vanguard and T Rowe Price). I will have to commit to sending $200 to this Roth each month in order to escape the high amount needed to open a Roth IRA ($2,500). I’ve got to run. Have a great week, all!

Mea culpa

Finally, I can breathe. I’m currently at the lab, but I’m unofficially working over so I don’t think the bosses will be too upset about grabbing some internet time that’s not on the company dime this time. Work’s been going okay. We’re in a sort of lull and I’m sure things will soon turn crazy. I’m prepping myself to develop 4 hands. I love it. πŸ™‚ I know I keep giving mixed messages, but as with all things, you love ’em sometimes and you can’t bear it sometimes. What’s new? I’m getting much better on the bike. I obviously need to get my biking attire soon because I’m injuring myself in places that would be protected better if I had things like a pair of padded bike shorts, a pair of biking gloves, etc. All told, I’m loving this new experience and I cannot wait to get out and earn my stripes. πŸ™‚ M says I”m great at powering up hills. Sadly, it’s usually a short burst of energy that lasts me for a short uphill climb. I clearly need to work on my endurance. Anyhow, he’s a great and patient teacher. πŸ™‚ He’s trading his old bike for a better mountain bike so I’m excited for him and because we can both do rides. He’s been without his for a week now.

Next, I just remembered that (duh) I am enrolled in a retirement plan courtesy of my employer (as is M). However, it would be worth investigating what happens to those funds should I (or we) switch employers. M’s rate of return on his investments is 6% (I just read his statement). I don’t know if that’s due to me upping his contribution rate (shhh, don’t tell M that!). I need to do a lot of reading on this financial stuff so I can make sense of his portfolio. In any case, now is the time for me to go ahead and open up that Roth IRA I’ve been blathering about. First, I do want to talk with an adviser and I would greatly prefer doing my business with one of the big 3 (Vanguard, Fidelity or T. Rowe Price). It’s like a game of Russian Roulette although minus the part where you die. If you are playing the stock market, don’t let temporary losses get you down. Think long-term. I shouldn’t be talking because I haven’t had much experience, but I aim to learn all I can and use this blog as my sounding board. My plan on the other hand is really weird. It’s one of these teacher retirement system programs and I can’t mess with them as far as I can tell. The sanctioned option by my employer is a 403(b) or 457 plan with either TIAA-CREF, Fidelity or AIG Retirement. Right now, looking at their websites, information overload-itis is occuring. So, I really would like to talk to a real live person and a company that comes to mind for that is Edward Jones. Hell, there’s a branch that’s less than 1 mile from my apartment so that is a really attractive option. Anyhow, that’s about it. I’ve gotta run.

Oh, I’m going to be an aunt twice over. lol. My sister and my sister-in-law are expecting. This is awesome. πŸ˜€

Good times

This goes out to M: keep your head up, old man. πŸ™‚ M’kay? Here’s to me also: keep swimming. Things are settling nicely in the apartment. I keep saying house, but it feels inappropriate because it’s not our ‘house’ Still, I am comfortable enough to call it my home. We had some scares i.e. we thought we’d messed up our mail forwarding, but everything’s fine. UPS knows this address and that’s all that matters. πŸ˜€ I can sneak out of the house to get to work in the mornings without waking M up. My commute is now a blessed 15mins long. I can’t even calculate how much we’re saving on gas. Not to talk about how we are now away from a lot of fast food establishments which has cut down on our eating out by a lot. I’m getting a little bit more comfortable at work. Jane and stress don’t go well together. For a long while, I’ve been laboring under this not-very-accurate impression that I must have screwed something up so I literally start getting wound up about work. I know that I am not perfect, but when I constantly subject myself to this pressure of always somehow knowing (or thinking I know) that I’ve somehow messed something up? That’s not healthy. So from today, I’ll do the best job I can today and have a good night’s rest. After a good chat several days ago with my immediate supervisor, we instituted several changes for the better. I can actually attest to the fact that I think I am more alert because I have cut out (for the most part) what used to be my major distraction … the computer. πŸ™‚ So to further help me in that regard, I’ve started doing the necessities before I go into work. Now that have cable DSL (for $19.99 a month which is way less than what we were paying at PC’s place), I can fire up the computer, go brush and have it ready to go. Thus, getting my internet fix before I go to work has definitely helped.

After much grief by M (not really. lol), he finally dragged me out, kicking and screaming, to breathe outside for a change and not inside. Guess what? I’m now hooked. Contrary to how I seem to look in my facebook pictures, I have not worked out in ages (unless standing all day and really doing a lot of pacing counts). However, I apparently am doing really well for someone who’s been very sedentary despite my bad habits. I believe M said something about my VO2 max being responsible for being able to run at a good pace in spite of my being very stationary. So, I’m comfortably aching right now, but I love it. I have no sense of direction so I didn’t run today. Maybe I’ll be able to start doing morning runs on the weekends and evening runs with M on his days off. He got me the banging-est pair of running shorts and a sports bra which I actually wore!! Yes, gun-shy Jane actually showed her midriff and didn’t feel a thang! πŸ˜€ I’d better enjoy the toned-ness while it lasts. I will have to put on some more meat on my bones for several projects that M has in mind. Left to him, he thinks I should start doing little races (5Ks, 10Ks, etc). I think I’d enjoy them and I know he can actually train me for those types of things. He’s been a competitive racer so I definitely trust his advice.

On the savings and debt reduction front, let me just say things have stagnated and even taken a step back? lol. For the better … mostly … I hope. πŸ™‚ I needed a new external hard drive that had more bells than my plain old SeaGate 250GB USB hard drive. So I bought a 500GB SeaGate FreeAgent Pro 500GB for ~ $109. This was after a $20 promotion and guess what happened the next day? There was a $25 off promotion. I hate getting ripped like this, but it’s still a good deal considering that I had actually purchased the 250GB drive for ~$94 several moons back. So this is not bad at all. It connects to my PC via FireWire right now, but it has a USB module option as well as an eSATA interface. It looks pretty fancy and the biggest thing for me? More space to store my crap. Well, I’ve got to run. Take care and TGIF!!

Where do I begin?

I’d say things are going pretty well. Lemme see, we’ve moved semi-seamlessly into our neat apartment. After 10 days of gnawing on my nails, we’re finally receiving mail at our new address. My in-laws have been absolutely phenomenal about hunting down sweet deals on little items for the apartment that made it possible for us to make the transition without breaking the bank. It’s been really a blessing and today we got our cable TV guys to set up our cable DSL connection. You see, in this new apartment, we get basic cable for free and that means we didn’t have to go the get-a-phone-line-in-order-to-get-internet route. At the rate we have it, it’s way cheaper than we had it at PC’s place. In the 11 days we’ve spent here, we haven’t turned our heater on or the air on. This is really a testament to the fact that our energy usage is lower than normal and thus our pain at having had such high bills at PC’s place. We’ve got a washer and dryer courtesy of the apartment complex which is rather tiny (i.e. 2 loads equal 1 load at PC’s place), but I’ve decided to do 2 loads separately and dry them once in order to make the most out of whenever we use the dryer. It takes me less than 3 minutes to get to the bus stop and the dumpster is less than 1 minute away (ahem, M has no excuse for delaying trash-takeout day). lol. So, we’re pretty happy with our choice. Even happier than we aren’t going to be locked in i.e. a 6-month lease versus a 12-month lease. Even happier because I suspect I might be falling in love with this new place. Now, I just need to tear myself away from the TV because I am reminded why I dreaded having cable TV in the first place. I start watching things like Top Chef and COPS and … you get the idea. πŸ™‚ And I feel absolutely no shame that I got back into the grind of things even after almost a year of not having a cable TV subscription!

Now I’ve got a lot of catching up to do because I haven’t had updated the barrage of programs I’ve got installed on my computer. This promises to be fun as long as I don’t have any weird compatibility issues. I’ll leave you with this lovely picture of M and I that I edited using GIMP. Now, I absolutely think that GIMP 2.4 is more friendly than Photoshop 7 which is what I have access to. I couldn’t believe it, but I believe I will start getting more familiar with it. Enjoy!

Just some thoughts

I’m sure you remember (or not) that I had a brief impromptu meeting with my boss. Well, it was very interesting. I am reticent about 80% of the time and that makes me be perceived as "still waters". Actually, his words were he "doesn’t have any idea what my plans are" and it was in a good way i.e. he didn’t think I was aimless, but that he didn’t know what was going on in my head. Lots of things. Today, I heard RS tell me that I didn’t want to be a techie forever. Amen to that! It is not financially possible to do what I’m doing at my current pay scale. However, he said that I was "doing it right i.e. talking less and doing more". That made me glad that I want to be felt and not just heard. I want people’s first words about me to be that I’m a hard and honest worker. Now, I understand that I will have to (and I do want to) receive additional education. Right now, what I ideally want is some experience and I mean, varied experience. I’ve been doing the research on several programs and a lot of them are sadly not in my current state of domicile! Now, you understand my seeming reluctance to do "anything" just yet. On the good side of things, I work at a school and obviously, it would be a seeming no-brainer to transition from worker bee to student. I’m blessed to have the kind of bosses (a husband and wife team) that I do because I know that despite misunderstandings, they will work with me whatever route I choose, just as long as I pull my weight. My 6-month anniversary for my place of work is coming up and I’m excited because I will be eligible for a tuition assistance program should I choose to take any classes or pick up a course of study. Now, I’m obviously limited as to what I can actually do because I will be juggling school and work, but it’s a nice thought to have.

In other news, thanks to our refund, we’ve been able to accomplish several things. Firstly, we took care of some pressing business. Next, M fixed up his car and his trunk now actually is secure! lol. He got his other car out of hibernation and with a new battery and a replaced fuse, it works like a charm!! He says he gets better mileage on this other car so sometime soon, we should be riding around in this other car and give "Old Faithful" a rest. πŸ™‚ Also, we gave our SunTrust credit card debt a hefty dose of relief. πŸ™‚ to the tune of almost $600. Let me take that back. We actually put $300 towards the credit card, but then when I logged into the website to see my balance, it was thisclose to a certain figure that I decided to go ahead and pay a certain figure to see it reach a certain balance. More for symbolic reasons. So that made it almost $600 put towards the credit card in just this month of February. I’ll be done paying for that sucker before summer rolls around and boy! will it feel good to not dedicate money towards credit card bills!

I am still socking money away in my ING savings account. I am still trying to convince M that saving is a good idea. πŸ™‚ Just  kidding. He obviously knows that already. He just really doesn’t like dealing with online banking. Additionally, I’m frustrated with ING’s slowness in taking funds from my checking account! I mean, how long does it really take? With my SunTrust credit card payments, I’ve been learning to fine-tune how I time my payments so that it gets withdrawn or posted to my account right away i.e. in a day or two. Thus far, I think if I make payments before the end of the month, it gets posted asap. Anyhoo, no sweat. I’m learning the fine art of juggling my payments and knowing when to hold off on any spending so that all pending charges are through and then, resuming the madness. J/k. I meant being the responsible saver that I am. πŸ™‚ 

Finally, I’ve got a fun weekend planned. Take a guess, people. Actually, don’t. I’ll be working. I don’t mind. It’s for a good cause. I got some bad news about a protein I’m working on which I "purified" and that we sent in for sequencing. For the lab’s sake and my sake/sanity, I hope to high heavens that the ball wasn’t dropped in my court. I am quite positive that I did things right, but like one of the bosses always says, it’s the simple things. My fingers and toes are crossed.