Saturday, April 1, 2023

sleepy now

We returned from an epic college road trip up to the delightful greenery of Oregon, and we will be launching J to college up there for the coming year. It's a transitional program, with a couple dozen students, where they take a couple courses to learn How To College, and spend the rest of their time learning the many skills of How To Adult, like interpersonal and life skills stuff. It was amazing to watch J show up as himself, and the program staff really love him for it, and everybody all around settling in to the idea that he will live and thrive there. It was so perfect that we decided that we don't really need to be nearby while he's there, as we've always figured we would: having us available has always been the surest way for him not to need us.

But, we also know that he's capable of amazing things without us around, especially these days, and this place will help him as needed. The student:staff ratio approaches 1:1, and each student has 5 case managers in different areas, meeting with of them through the week. Sending him off on his own feels odd, but the core parenting goal is to raise a functioning adult, we are.

It's a lovely college city, and it's entirely possible J could just continue there, since the university has good programs for what interests him, and he'll have spent a year getting to know the place. Plenty of time before that decision, though.

We brought the dog, because we were driving, and Leela's been getting older (obviously) and a bit more anxious lately, and not really in a good brainspace to be separated from us for 4 days. This was the first time we traveled with her since right after we got her in 2016, and she totally nailed it. We stopped every hour or so, to switch drivers and let her have a sniff and pee on things, and as we got up to the Oregon forests, you could see her tiny, tiny inner wolf perk up at all the new sights and sounds. We stayed in a very comfy 2-bedroom at the Marriott Residence Inn, which loves dogs in addition to having full kitchens.

Happily, we'll be back.

Monday, March 13, 2023

Another One Bites The FDIC Receivership

You've probably heard about the mysterious Silicon Valley Bank disappearing into the hyper-efficient, government-backed maw of the FDIC, followed quickly by the even more mysterious Signature Bank. A decade ago, I had never heard of either one, because as a software engineer, you're probably only going to see the company's financial infrastructure if you try really hard. As it is, I'd never heard of Signature, because it was a bank for cryptocurrency nonsense, which I avoid like the plague, because it's too dazzlingly stupid I can't even get a foothold in it.

SVB had been around a long time, and you might correctly think that startups, which tend not to have things like "profits"—whatever those are—are not a terrific class of customers if you're a bank, and that's true, but not for the obvious reason that they usually disappear. Instead, the problem is that startups deposit and spend money on short timescales. SVB invested their deposits in long-term, fixed-rate assets, and then when everyone's board of directors ordered everyone to act like there was a recession, VC funding rounds dried up, and SVB's depositors started spending more of their deposits. SVB tried to get short-term liquidity to back up the deposits, depositors went to get their money out while they could, and we had a good old-fashioned bank run.

Don't be misled by venture capitalists talking about how smart they are, about "disruption" and "innovation": among themselves, they are a flock of sheep, clad in Patagonia vests.

Ultimately, since I have cleverly avoided having a job for the moment, this doesn't directly affect us. Neither SVB nor Signature were banks for human beings. I did call our finance guy about some strategy stuff, and right now we don't need to do much; but he spent the entire weekend fielding calls from his much more alarmed and high-maintenance clients. He's a friend, and has pretty well absorbed that we don't pay much attention to the stock market, because we want him to do it for us, but when things like this happen, I do call to check in.

We don't seem to be doing a 2008, which is good, as I was making my finance guy laugh thinking of the time interest rates went negative: which is to say, people were telling BNY Mellon, "I will give you $100, and I will let you keep $1 if you just guarantee I will get the other $99," which, like stagflation, is not one of those things anyone imagines to see in a lifetime.

Stay safe, healthy, and warm!

Monday, January 30, 2023

and in conclusion...

I finally acquired an attorney, from a friend's recommendation, and who is delightful. They opened the conversation with "Okay, so I've read the demand letter, and I've read the contracts...and to be honest, I'm a little confused about the letter in relation to the contracts, so maybe you can give me an overview."

Because, yes, when someone writes a settlement demand letter alleging some sort of contract fraud, but fails to mention a single line of the contract, or any other piece of evidence, that is some Hail-Mary scammy bullshit right there. The response letter is magnificent, with the attorney even finding one or two juicy tidbits I'd forgotten, like the clauses that say "we all agree we have all the information we need, and we don't all have the same information, and that's fine," or "we have our own sources of information independent of Chris, and we're happy with what we know."

Hapless Stock Guys know this, of course, since they provided the contract and drove the whole process, soup to nuts; they screwed up and blew a hole in their balance sheet, and the ROI of having an attorney spend an hour sending me a threatening letter is so huge it doesn't make sense not to try, even knowing I'm the kind of person who quoted the contract back to them from memory, without prep.

It doesn't mean they're not assholes, though.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

for fuck's sake.

As a country, we have apparently lost our goddamn minds, where California alone has managed 3 mass shootings in the last couple days. Two of them just yesterday: I just heard about Oakland, but yesterday I saw several cop cars, going extremely fast, on different highways, all headed towards Half Moon Bay.

It's hard to escape the conclusion that it's getting worse.

A couple friends were suddenly able to move to Ontario a little while ago, sooner than planned, so their 4-year old "doesn't grow up thinking little kids getting murdered at school is just a thing that happens sometimes." Most of Canada, of course, means leaving behind a lot of things that make living here really nice, especially during a respiratory pandemic: world-class medical resources, a fairly solid vaccination rate, and with minimal adjustments, like a gazebo and a propane heater, you can enjoyably be outside even in the cold months.

(There's the not inconsiderable downside of the now-annual wildfire smoke. Everything is trade-offs.)

Hopefully our education consultant has some suggestions about a transition year for J, who is now 18, ending the power of Angry Biodad to interfere or slow-roll or any of the other fuckery that emerged out of his miserable narcissism. (One particularly salty school psychologist dubbed him "Mr. Happy.") We've long dreamt of moving to the Pacific Northwest, but wherever the kid goes, we'll be nearby.

This fucking country.

Thursday, January 5, 2023

only keep going.

This was the second Christmas without Tim, coming up fast on two years since he departed. When he died, I hadn't seen him in several years, though we'd talked to catch up a bit right after Christmas, and it's both irrational and undeniably real to be so affected by the calendar. It's annoying, is what it is. I think about Tim all the time, in all kinds of contexts, and not for a moment does his suicide leave my awareness. Why should I feel the pressure building in my thoughts as December counts away? (My therapist has a technical term for a conditioned response to a single event, but I didn't take notes.)

It builds, then Christmas releases some of it, then some more building, and finally the first week of the New Year has passed, and it's back to the regular slog. I'll need a job at some point, I guess.

The Hapless Stock Guys, who flubbed everything by overpricing my shares, are now threatening to sue me because I knew about a pre-IPO stock split and didn't tell them. I didn't know, as it happens, and there are emails to that effect at the time, and if I'd known, it's likely that telling them would have violated my NDA. Plus, I am the descendant of many lawyers, and so I knew the contract has many gems like this one:

5.3. Purchaser and Seller represent to each other that on the date hereof and as of the Transfer Date:

(i) they are entering into this Agreement voluntarily and they are not under any form of duress; 

(ii) they have had the opportunity to review the form of this Agreement with their legal and tax counsel and/or other advisors prior to executing it and are fully satisfied that its terms are fair and that it effects, and at all times hereunder will effect, a fair exchange of value; 

(iii) they are familiar with, or have been advised by their respective counsel of, applicable securities laws regarding the Forward Transaction, and are responsible for ensuring that their entry into the Forward Transaction is in compliance with such laws; 

(iv) they are not relying on any express or implied legal or investment advice or information from the other with respect to the prospects or value of the Company or the Shares or any other aspect of the Forward Transaction; 

(v) they acknowledge and accept that the other party to the Forward Transaction may have material, non-public information about the Company that they do not have and which has not been disclosed; 

(vi) they hereby irrevocably waive any right to, and agree to refrain from pursuing against the other party to the Forward Transaction or against any other party, any and all actions, suits, litigations, arbitrations, proceedings, investigations, claims or liabilities of whatever nature (including but not limited to under SEC Rule 10b-5 or similar laws) that relate to the other party’s potential possession of material, non-public information about the Company; and 

(vii) other than as explicitly stated herein, they have not relied upon any other representation or warranty of the other, or any third party.

So they would first have to convince a judge that something merits nullifying extraordinarily explicit and broad clauses like these, just to get a hearing, then convince a judge or jury that I knew a variety of insider things that I didn't (like the stock split), or that I'd sold some stock earlier at N/2 the price they paid me, and thus I knew it was only worth N/2. (The stock I'd sold earlier was waaaay below N/2.) At the end, if somehow they get to a trial (they won't), they'll end up arguing that a techie middle manager, with indifferent financial skills, somehow conned two guys who make some phone calls and activate investment groups with millions of dollars, and who signed the contract that they themselves provided, which makes all of it ridiculous, and then they'll have to pay my legal fees and expenses.

That sort of interrupted my week of moping about or being reflective. I've never gotten a legal nastygram before! It's really unpleasant.

One more day until Tim's yahrzeit. The new year can start on Monday.

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Gaudete, gaudete!

One thing that Tim brought into our lives was the musician George Winston, who he saw in Maine at some point, and in particular Winston's solo piano albums.

(His other interest is slack-key Hawaiian songs, which don't speak to me at all, but made for an interesting show when I saw him play at the Troy City Music Hall. I was with the talented concert pianist I was dating at the time, and his technique has some obvious quirks that drove her nuts, which I of course exploited to needle her. ANYWAY.)

The album December probably has original compositions on it, I dunno, but my favorite track has always been the souped-up (instrumental) arrangement of "The Holly and the Ivy." I don't actually know the song from anywhere else, but in looking for a good video of it (check out this one!) I came upon the old Latin carol "Gaudete." As you'd expect, the King's Singers do a tight traditional madrigal thing.

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BUT. You can also hear it done by Steeleye Span, one of the stalwarts of the English folk revival! Their approach is much more of a "humans without conservatory training" vibe, just having at it with their daytime accents.

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It doesn't exactly feel secular, what with the "Christus est natus / Ex Maria virgine" refrain, but despite the Latin—which is not rocket science, as Latin goes—their performance is definitely vernacular. The dude in front is wearing a white t-shirt and seems to have mixed feelings about this song interrupting his glass of wine (which he continues holding). It's entirely likely they can make themselves sound like a regular choir, but that territory has been amply covered for centuries. Regardless, clearly Maddy Pryor has found an application of her voice that she's content with.

Steeleye Span is also my favorite version of "The Boar's Head Carol":

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We used to go to the huge Boar's Head Festival at the Neo-Gothic church where I went to nursery school, and it was amazing. If you grabbed some artists and said "Build me a medieval Christmas festival inside a church" you would get that sort of profusion of acrobats, jugglers, minstrels, people on stilts, acrobats on stilts, pageant, and music. Steeleye Span's "rehearse a lot and then get a couple drinks in before the show" approach really honors the material.

"The Boar's Head Carol" also connects with the text of Carl Orff's Carmina Burana, of a similar vintage. It wasn't until an adulthood blessed with Wikipedia that I looked them up and learned that mixed-language texts are called "macaronic." Knowing this has had no apparent impact on my life, except that I know it, and learning is my most fundamental joy.

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

now with 18 strings!

I bought a guitar! Well, two. Taylor Guitars is having a holiday sale with a steep discount on their very well-done small guitars, the GS Minis, and I kind of wanted one anyway, so I allowed myself to be seduced. The GS Mini is a delightful "sounds good, fun to play, throw in the car, won't be heartbroken if it's stolen" instrument. The bigger guitar, an 814ce, is thoroughly delightful, and wildly different from my old one. I've never had more than one acoustic guitar at once, and now I have three, which is a real treat. I'll try to make some recordings, though I tried today and wasn't satisfied. (I mostly resent the intrusion of electricity into my hobbies, and I'm a perfectionist about my music, so recording is annoying and I don't get better at it.)

My guitar since 2003 has been a very faithful and anonymous 1970s Japanese copy of the classic Martin D-28, a shape Martin invented in 1916 and named after a battleship. Like many pre-amplification instruments, it's designed to stand up to loudmouths like violins or horns, and even in the modern age of microphones, the Dreadnought sound is what you hear in just about every bluegrass, country, and old-time tune, and a whole lot of folk and rock. Gibson, a venerable company with a very different vibe and level of design and quality control, also makes Dreadnoughts, which don't sound like Martin's.

I have a lot of affection for my pseudo-Martin, and we've spent a long time together, but the more I play the Taylor, the closer I get to moving the pseudo-Martin to its next home. That may mean just gifting it on to some kid with no money, because being that it's not actually a Martin, it's worth a fraction as much as  a Martin, no matter how good it is. It's what used guitar ads call a "player's instrument," which I guess is opposed to "collectible": if you only care about making music, sink a little money into this thing which will not appreciate over time, but will help you make music.

And, hey, if the not-Martin and my earlier Yamaha electric both leave the house, there's space for a 12-string, and a short-scale bass...