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Category: flat

09/21/08 12:49 - 67ºF - ID#45745

The Mayflower turns 80

My building turned 80 this year and the owner and the management team in a rare gesture of camaraderie with the tenants, threw a wine and cheese party on Friday evening in the Mayflower lobby. Apparently, they invited their other building tenants as well and in a strange turn of events, more residents of the Elliot than the Mayflower turned up at the party.

I guess the Mayflower residents couldn't be bothered to come down the rickety elevators. I mean, hardly anyone comes down when there is a fire alarm. Why would they care about two pieces of cheese and cheap wines? If I were more statistically inclined, I could probably prove that the people who habitually evacuate the Mayflower in the event of a fire alarm are no different in number and identity, from the people who came down to check out the cheese. My hypothesis is that they are also the residents who are more inclined to smoke and thus welcome the chance to get out and spew columns of tobacco smoke to shroud the two hollow lions outside, regardless of what the occasion is -- fire, cheese, household feud... whatever.

So, to get back to the party, the piece de resistance was supposed to be the premiere showing of a short film - "Of Dreams and Glory", shot entirely in the lobby of the Mayflower, in January this year. It debuts at the Sundance festival in February. People interested in the making of this movie should check this out. I remember the day they shot it pretty well because they blocked the lobby and the elevators off for the whole day. As I was rushing home in the evening, I slipped on the ice and fell headlong outside the Mayflower. I couldn't even go in through the main door in the front and had to take the side door to the west-wing of the buiding, go down to the basement, cross to the east-wing and then take the elevator to my flat - all with a skinned knee and a thousand well-placed curses.

I thought they would set up a nice projection screen for the movie, but they played it on a tiny DVD player, that jammed after a while. I caught the 10 minute movie in its second showing. They ran it around 5 or 6 times before the DVD player threw up its hands.

I think it was supposed to be a suspense-noir-art movie of some sort. At one point there was a jump sequence with flicking knives and painted bizarre faces. However, I am not very sure what the entire plot was. A lady who lives on the sixth floor said that she probably might end up with nightmares for the rest of this week because of the jump sequences. I personally thought those were the only interesting bits in the movie. The movie otherwise consisted of some expanded dialogue between a painted young man (who was an apparition?) and this old man tied to a chair. The tinny sound from the DVD player resonated around the lobby and none of us could actually hear what the actors were saying. Some of us made up dialogues to go with the scenes and took turns at guessing what was going on but that didn't help our comprehension any. Oh, and I think there was some Christmas music, if that helps.

The "special effects" in the movie were an interesting take on the truth (as in, they were lies). The west-side elevator looked almost brand new. Considering the fact that 80 years have probably passed since they washed the carpets in either of the elevators, that's hardly the truth. Also, in a nifty touch-up, they faked the working of the brass-dial-floor-indicator over the elevator. I don't think even the oldest resident (who has lived here for nearly 35 years) remembers these brass dials actually working. Some of the dials don't even have needles on them.

In the course of the "party", I met and talked to the owner of the building, Myron Robbins. He seemed like a fairly nice old man till I popped the question of recycling. As readers probably know, my building firmly refuses to recycle. (What is with the places I live *and* work refusing to recycle??!!) I creep about and dump all my recycle-ables in my neighbour's (my recycling bin, that s/he stole, actually) bin on Tuesday nights. The advantage of this is that I am on first-nod basis with that bloke who wheels those bottle-filled carts on empty streets on recycling nights. We mutually nod and smile at each other every Tuesday.

So I asked Myron about the recycling and he said that he shall be working on bringing a recycling solution to Mayflower as a first priority and added that he always listens to his esteemed tenants. Really? I can't believe that NO ONE brought up recycling as an issue in all the four years that BMG has owned the Mayflower. In fact, I brought up the recycling issue three times with the current management in the past year. What happened to all those suggestions and concerns? I was told that recycling was impractical for a building the size of Mayflower (a lazy way of saying that they really didn't care). Maybe it was the wine and cheese or maybe its just a load of lies all over again, but this time if there is no move to bring recycling to Mayflower, I shall not hesitate to advertise these empty promises all over the net.

I think the real highlight of the evening for me was not the cheese or the movie but the fact that, in a moment of wine-induced remissness - no doubt, someone from the west-wing let slip that the terrace of the Mayflower was accessible to the tenants (not widely advertised because they don't want the liability of people jumping or falling off the building).

I didn't waste any more time socializing and spent the rest of the evening surveying Buffalo from the roof of the Mayflower. The view is amazing. It's somewhat similar to the view that Paul posted from the 15th floor of Buffalo General but its grander because you can see 360 degrees around the building. You can even see the city of Niagara Falls at a distance. I was so excited that I forgot to take my camera along but its very photo-worthy. Buffalo is a beautiful city and despite the no-recycling weird anti-environment resolve of Roswell and Mayflower, I am glad to be here.

PS: When I moved to Buffalo, I think the first thing that people asked me was whether I could see Niagara Falls from my window. Well, I am pleased as Punch to say that I can indeed see it from my Building. (Who cares, if its just Niagara Falls, the city and not The Niagara Waterfalls. ;-))
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Category: e:strip

09/16/08 11:33 - 60ºF - ID#45704

e:Jim's very simple guide to Finance!

In a very cool conversation we had a little while back, (e:Jim) explained, using easy analogies and simplified scenarios, the current big financial crisis in the US. It made things very clear and made a lot of sense to financially-disoriented me. Thus, I think posting it might make someone's day a bit easier!

Here's (e:Jim)'s Current Finance: 101 (Made Simple)

(e:Jim) linked this news:

My Question: So a very quick question -> Is this one line summary correct? The companies that give out money as credit to people suddenly buckled and imploded. They couldn't give out money or mortgages any more because people were not paying back and now the credit-giving companies are in debt themselves and the Government has stepped in to lend them money in return for their now-worthless shares (and stakes)? And the Government will probably extract the money they lent to these credit companies from taxes. The taxes would go up and people who have good credit would end up paying the higher taxes and not get any low-interest mortgages any more just because of irresponsible people who didn't pay their credit card bills and mortgages in the first place?

(Sidenote: Yeah, I know. That's not really a one-liner. Deal with it! If you want to learn, you gotta ask!)

(e:Jim)'s Answer: Yeah, two parts. One: basically they were set up to process huge inflows and outflows of cash, and once that dried up they ran out of steam to operate. Two: AIG owned a ton of financial securities that were two steps removed from actual mortgages, and were thought to be super safe, but the whole mortgage industry shifted underneath them and so these supposedly safe things are now worthless. So, the first things means they desperately need money to operate day to day, and two means that they are no longer in a position to borrow money because what they own is worthless.

My Question: Why not let them file for bankruptcy? Would that have affected anything?

(e:Jim)'s Answer: Well, not quite bankruptcy, it seems like it was illiquidity. They do have TONS of assets. But they need money, not assets to operate. They own lots of stuff, besides mortgages.
But consider it this way: If, every day, they need to take in $10 billion because they have to pay out $10 billion, but they own $100 billion worth of stuff, you'd think they'd be fine. But, if they stumble one day and don't have money, and they can't borrow money to pay what they have to that day, all of a sudden no one trusts them. So then, the next day it becomes 10 times hard to make the cash flow correctly. So they have lots of 'things' but they need cold hard cash, not things to operate. So the US is now taking 80% of AIG's 'things', in exchange for giving it virtually unlimited loans to operate with as cash day to day. The thought is, once people trust AIG now that the US is backing them, is that everything outside AIG will go back to normal. Yesterday, someone might think 'I don't want to trust them with my money' which led AIG to say 'I can't afford to give money to this person I owe it to', but tomorrow, with the gov't involved, we'll all go back to trusting AIG and things will be fine.

My Question: Is that a good thing, per se? I mean its better that the government own things... is it not? But come to think of it, its somewhat against a capitalistic tendency. In a strange way, this is a somewhat socialist outcome to justify a capitalistic venture eg. AIG

(e:Jim)'s Answer: I don't buy it. We're basically socializing the wrong parts of our economy and doing it in panic-mode instead of well considered. The other thing to consider is punishment or the technical term is "moral hazard". If the US bails out these companies after doing really risky things, it makes other companies feel OK doing it to. You really, in a free market, want to let companies that do risky things fail completely so that they become lessons to the surviving companies. So - we're halfway socializing Wallstreet, but not really punishing the greedy bastards, and totally neglecting industries that would function much smoother if socialized (like healthcare and the like). It's going to get worse, I think. Some big banks are still out there teetering. Washington Mutual is next to go, from what I gather.

My comment: HEY!!! Does Bush or any "government" insiders own big time stakes or "former" executive posts in AIG?? Like they do in oil companies?? That would make all of this 80% lending a total-anti-socialist sneaky capitalistic personal-selfish-gain thing to do!

(e:Jim)'s Answer: Not sure ;)

My comment: As you pointed out, they are being, (and rather uncharacteristically so) rather generous to this company after all.

(e:Jim)'s Answer: They sort of have to, it's a mess. I think they should've taken 100% is my beef. But AIG is a company that helps other companies do financial stuff. If AIG fails badly, it basically kicks all the banks when they're already down on the ground having heart attacks.The penultimate cause of all this was actually the mortgage/credit deregulation that allowed anyone to buy a house for no money down, and that's been going on for 7 years or so. It's going to take another equal sort of period to set things right.

Basically, the banks found a way to take ways of making money, and repackaging them into other ways of making money, and selling those other ways to other people. So you'd sell John a mortgage, then sell Sally something that says she's buying the risk on John's mortgage, and then sell Fred the right to the risk of Sally not paying for John's defaulted mortgage in case John defaulted (seriously). And then everyone let John buy a house for nothing, and were shocked when he couldn't pay his mortgage. And once enough people at the base can't pay their mortgages it just destroys the whole chain of made-up financial stuff that's built on top of it.

My Comment: Wow. That's crazy! So people knew what they were getting themselves into - Or Sally and Fred knew that they were indirectly dependent on some stranger John? Was this explicitly understood?

(e:Jim)'s Answer: Yes, the banker says. "Hey Sally, mortgages are pretty safe! we could always just reposses the house! So, if you want to make $100 a week, why don't you say you'll pay for these mortgages should everything go south? I mean, that's never going to happen!" and so Sally signs up, thinking it's a good way to make money.

Only in this case, it's not someone named Sally - these sorts of things were sold to companies and pensions, not any particular person. And they weren't sold in individual mortgages, but instead, thousands of mortgages would be packed up together, and the risk on the whole lot of mortgages sold. If you put your money in a bank, you could get 3% interest, but if you put your money in escrow (essentially, sort of) to guarantee these mortgages, you could make 6%, BUT if things go wrong you lose your deposit. (making up numbers a bit here to illustrate) Sort of like that.

In my post ((e:Jim,45689)) that's what I was talking about: 'derivatives', basicallly they're things you can buy or sell based on things that can be bought and sold. So, instead of buying gold today, I can buy the right to buy gold 6 months from today at a specific price. Or, various layers and combinations of contracts. It gets really crazy.

This kind of financial stuff can be very useful and essential - don't get me wrong. It's when you put up like 8 layers of add'l stuff on top of it that it gets dicey. So, being able to buy a contract to buy gold in the future? Perfectly useful. Some of the other stuff is just operating on faith and in herds.

My comment: Humanity has all these pithy sayings and proverbs but the minute a situation or question gets twisted around a bit, we walk right in and make the same mistakes over and over and build castles all over the clouds and count chickens before they hatch all the time

(One more sidenote: Oh and I forgot to say this but thought about this later: Talk about chasing all the birds in the bushes and ignoring the ones in hand.)

Moral of the conversation No.1: It's always better to hang out at (e:strip) and chat than hang out at other websites or not hang out at all.

Moral of the conversation No.2: (e:Jim) always has **the scoop** on things. If things are not making sense, he is **the go-to-bloke**!

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Category: dance

09/07/08 03:27 - 62ºF - ID#45601

Now, you can dance like a scientologist!

Anatomically and pop-textually dissected for greater comprehension:

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Permalink: Now_you_can_dance_like_a_scientologist_.html
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Location: Buffalo, NY

Category: goals

09/03/08 06:29 - 80ºF - ID#45551

Couldn't heft five gallons of water!!

I am on a chain-tea-addiction. To concentrate on my thesis, I find it essential to constantly chug some sort of tea or the other. I guess I could kick the habit if I wanted to but I love tea so much, it is somewhat difficult. So now that you have an idea about the extent and scope of my tea-addiction, here's what happened.

Today morning, I drank up the last dregs of my second cuppa. To go on with the paper I was reviewing, I simply HAD TO get another cup and went to the water cooler for a refill of hot water. It was empty. As an official addict, desperation overtook annoyance and I carried a five-gallon tank of water from the storage room to the cooler. But I couldn't heft it on to the cooler! A lady I know from another division came strolling by and, in one fluid motion, hefted the five-gallon tank on to the cooler base, around four feet off the ground. I got my tea. But I am so annoyed that I let a five-gallon tank defeat me.

In my first year of school, I couldn't lift huge 15 kg watermelons. I got over this watermelon-lifting deficiency in my second year by hefting and eating an obscene number of watermelons. You might question my decision to eat all the watermelons I hefted but in my defence, I have to point out that you can't aimlessly heft watermelons all day around stores. They might kick you out or call the police, if you don't also buy them. Once you buy them, you cannot, in good conscience, let the watermelons rot, can you? Anyway the upshot of the whole thing is that the watermelon plan worked out. I don't blink an eye before grabbing even the most monstrous of watermelons nowadays.

I think the success of the watermelon plan indicates that I should perhaps start a water tank hefting plan and heft as many 5-gallon tanks as I possibly can. I reckon that my department gets through around 15 gallons (3 tanks) everyday. Just as the last drops of water are swirling down the tank and some desperate tea addict is making a sortie into the tank storage room, I need to be at hand to try out my hefting prowess and grab all the goodness of the five-gallon action at the right time.

Simple as this may sound I also foresee several logistic issues associated with the five-gallon plan. How will I know when a tank finishes? How will I make sure that I am right there to get the tank hefting practice and prevent people from doing it themselves? I know for sure that the lady who did it today will just as easily do it tomorrow. There would be no stopping her types. But I am willing to compromise and target the weak ones. If evolution worked in Galapagos island, I am sure it has a fair shot at success in Carlton Hall.

One of the options that might just solve the "how will I know" and the "right time" hurdles would be to scrawl my phone number right under the "for department use only" tag on the wall behind the cooler. I suppose the weak targets would also need an additional threatening note packed with dire consequences if they didn't call the number and attempted to replace the tank themselves.

Yeah, I think I have the five-gallon tank situation under control now. Thanks for listening. :)
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