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August 28, 2007

Studying on the Beach

Study material on the beach
Last Friday, I drove to Massachusetts to spend some time with family at a party on Sunday. Leaving New York City by way of Connecticut on a Friday afternoon is insane: the traffic was bumper-to-bumper on I-95 and CT-15 (I switched highways in Norfolk to see if one was better than the other) almost all the way to I-91. By the time I got to Massachusetts, the sun was beginning to set, and the traffic became much more favorable.

The party's attendees were relatives from the Massachusetts and New Hampshire area, including New Hampshire's most famous person. We had loads of fun, as always, and I've finally been roped into getting a kilt in the tartan of our beloved Clan MacLeod. Apparently, the best place to get a kilt is Atholl Brose, a store run by an old witch in west Boston. Exciting. I don't know when I'll get the chance to wear it, except, perhaps, to The New Hampshire Highland Games, which my sister and I would like to check out soon-ish. I won't have my kilt for this year's games, though, I'm afraid.

Yesterday, still on the island and enjoying the weather, I decided to spend some time studying for the Series 7 exam on the beach. The picture above shows my studying arrangements, complete with bright yellow beach chair overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. I spent two or three hours studying there before the chair started becoming uncomfortable, and I accomplished quite a lot.

Now, I'm back at home in New Jersey, with my cats whom my parents smuggled from Houston to Boston on Saturday. The return drive wasn't as bad as last Friday's drive, but I am compelled to point out using the Cross Bronx Expressway around 5 PM is a horrible idea. That said, I still managed to shave about 90 minutes off the time it took to get to my destination in Massachusetts.

I hope all you fine readers had a wonderful weekend and were able to experience at least some of the beautiful weather that appeared across most of the country on Sunday.

August 21, 2007

Tamara Visits the Big Apple

Saoirse, freshly awake, on a pillow on my couch
Tamara and her baby kitten spent some time here this week and last, and we had a great time hanging out and doing touristy stuff in Manhattan. We didn't have a great time dealing with a little car trouble, but when that was all fixed, some fantastic Cuban food at Victor's Cafe cured all that ailed us.

Tamara's kitten, Saoirse (SAIR-sha), is possibly the most active cat I've ever met. She runs around everywhere and constantly pines for a toy to be thrown her way. She's also super cute, as you can see in the picture above.

As for Manhattan, I gave Tamara the whirlwind eight-hour tour of touristy things over the course of two days. It included, in order, Times Square and the Theater District, upscale ethnic dining, subways, the World Trade Center, Wall Street, Battery Park with views of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, the South Street Seaport and Fulton Market, Grand Central Terminal, shopping on Fifth Avenue, Central Park, and Columbus Circle. Most of that happened in the evening hours, so we didn't get to any museums, but that leaves plenty of things to do the next time she visits the city! I also wanted to get to Chelsea and poke our heads into some art galleries, but we ran out of time in the end.

The lady and her cat are safely back at home in Texas now, so I'm relaxing by trying to determine how the current sub-prime lending mess is going to affect real estate mutual funds over the next few months. It really numbs the mind.

August 12, 2007

UFOs? Seriously?

The results of the BBC UFO poll
I was just browsing the BBC Science & Nature site, when I found a poll (near the bottom of the page) about whether people think UFO sightings are hoaxes, mistaken identities, or actual alien spacecraft. When I selected "mistaken identities" and pressed the vote button, I was surprised at what I saw!

Do 53.2% of people really think the unidentified objects in the sky are alien spacecraft? Seriously?

It's possible, albeit very unlikely, that we've had visitors from outer space. I'm certain there's life out there, perhaps even intelligent life on par with our own technological advancements, but would that life visit Earth and simply make a fly-by over London or New York or Roswell? I doubt it.

Until we have much better propulsion, habitation, and sensing capabilities, we're unlikely to see much of anything truly alien, save the odd bit of organic meteor remnants that happens to impact someone's house and tear a hole through the living room.

I'm up too late to write a long article on how we might go about finding extraterrestrial intelligence, so I won't. But, really, 53.2%?

August 10, 2007

Study Weather

For studying, what more could I ask of August weather than to be in the 50s and 60s with a bit of rain and a cool breeze?

As I mentioned previously, I'm studying for the Series 7 exam, which, upon passing, provides me with a license to be a stock broker, dealer, financial adviser, and a number of other things. In my current situation, it will allow me to trade on a large margin account.

So far, I've waded through the chapters on equities, debt (bonds), and options. It's not very exciting stuff to write here on my blog, so I really haven't been posting lately.

For those of you keeping track, I've completed 38.5% of the chapters in my study material, taken 24 of 104 quizzes (I'm repeating each of the 52 section quizzes a week after I take them the first time), and I have 10 chapter exams to go. After all that, there are a handful of practice exams, ranging widely in difficulty, that I will also take. My overall average score at the moment is 94.5%, and the Series 7 exam requires a mere 70% to pass.

I have until the end of the month to do this. No problem!

It would be nice if the weather held up, though.

August 01, 2007

New York City

Here I am, living in the Big Apple.

I spent most of last week involved in some aspect of moving here, thankfully with my dad's help. He flew up and stayed for nearly a week, assisting me with packing, driving, and everything else. The time constraints ended up being so tight that there's no way I could have done it without him in the end. Hooray for my dad!

The movers, on the other hand, were absolutely awful. They were slow, rude, and almost didn't take my patio furniture from Pittsburgh. It was only after I complained to their dispatcher that they (spent 15 minutes arguing with the dispatcher and) decided to disassemble the patio table for storage in the truck and then move the chairs in the truck's cab.

When the movers arrived here, a day late, they extorted unnecessary money (about $300) from me before they would even start moving my stuff from the truck. As it was Saturday, their dispatcher was out of the office, so I had no immediate recourse. Tomorrow, I will start the complaint process with a call to the moving company and move up the regulatory chain to the Better Business Bureau and even the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Apparently, "hostage freight" is a felony, and the FMCSA has authority over that sort of thing.

Enough bad news! Today, I sort of started my new "job". The enrollment process involves a number of forms, a cashier's check, a notarized document, and a fingerprint card, which I spent an hour or two getting settled while walking swiftly up and down countless blocks of Broadway in lower Manhattan. Can you believe I had to visit five banks before I found a notary? In Manhattan's financial district!

Now that the forms are complete and on their way to the company's main office in Phoenix, I get to spend the next four weeks studying for the Series 7 exam. Exciting.

If any of you feel like visiting any time in the next four weeks, I'm sure my study materials and I will appreciate the company!