Friday, May 29, 2009

The Ethical Journalist

My father has been in a tiny Russian town for the past few days and just got back on Skype for the first time in a while this morning. We were catching up and he said he had just finished an interview with someone from the New York Times.

Coincidentally, I had just finished an article in the New York Times by a certain reporter at the UN who makes a habit of being very unethical in his reporting. He never identifies himself, he snoops and eavesdrops, and he is what I call a garbage collector. What makes me very upset is that he made front page of the International news section today with an article I suggested to him back in October. In fact, I gave a whole statement about how climate change affects low lying island nations in second committee. Yeah, that's right, cause I used to be somebody.

There are words for people like him. This is not that kind of a blog.

I also may have mentioned in the context of ensuring people behave morally and ethically my desire to join the marines.

My father said, "Don't go from a serious discussion about relative versus absolute to absolute rubbish." When I told him I had been seriously considering it as an option for many months, he followed up with, "Seems like a particularly anti-intellectual endeavor for an intellectual young person. Unless you want to be an astronaut."

I take that to mean he does not want me to join the reserves... Thanks Dad, opinion noted.

For the record, I do want to be an astronaut. Space is cool. But I am afraid of heights. Fail.

Thanks for reading and best regards,
Alya

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Melting My Brain

Recently there have been commercials for watching TV on my computer. TV melts my brain, agreed. There is something that melts it faster. Watching green and red numbers swish back and forth rapidly on my screen on my trading platform is both mesmerizing and addicting. For sure, constantly monitoring my portfolio is melting my brain, but I counteract that process by listening to This American Life all day. What's more is that this isn't something I need to be doing. I have a very small amount invested. I have trade triggers set for when I want to sell. Truth is, I really like watching it, it's soothing, and it makes me feel like I have a job, something to do.

Days when the market is closed seem boring and time drags on. Even on days when the Dow and NASDAQ are down are better than days when no trading happens. In the recession, the one thing that has actually been getting better in the last few months are the indexes. People on Wall Street are making money despite people around the country losing their jobs.

Let's keep you all up to date on the "frequently updated website" interactive factor: my ANX stock buy a few days ago. RIGHT NOW it's at $0.14. I bought 1165 shares at $0.13. It goes between 13 and 14 cents everyday. My target sell price is between 18 and 22 cents. It cycles into this range every few weeks.

Keep in mind, even if I sell at my target price, I'll make about 60$. :) Which is just... so much money... Just think of how many boxes of macaroni and cheese can I taste test with that!

Thanks for reading and best regards,
Alya

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Letting Go of the Lobster

This past Memorial Day weekend my mother decided to have lavish lobster dinner (because the lobster was 6.99 a pound, not THAT lavish).

In order to combat sentiments of omnivore hypocrisy, I felt that it was necessary for me to kill my own meal. After boiling the water, I took my lobster out of the bag, and really struggled with putting it in the pot. I had a conversation with the lobster about it being quick and painless and him joining his long lost lobster love in lobster heaven.

After the lobster tried to claw me, only then did I feel his death was justified as "revenge." I stared into his little lobster eyes and counted to three and dunked him in head first, hopefully to his instant death.

How to cook a lobster:
1. buy lobster
2. boil big pot of water
3. put lobster in head first to minimize lobster pain
4. cook 9 minutes per pound
5. eat lobster with butter and side dishes like baked potato, corn on the cob or salad for you healthy people.

I ended up not even eating him, I ate the other lobster. I couldn't eat my lobster, because of the guilt associated with his death.

This experience has in no way hardened me enough to join the armed forces. Just to be clear I am not planning on killing anything else to prepare myself for the marines, it simply makes me think maybe I'm too wimpy.

I did however run five miles on Monday, and felt very motivated by the idea of being a reservist while doing so. In the past few week's I've been going between 3.5 and 4.5 miles and never did 5, so it was really exciting to reach that mark.

In regards to this reservist plan, other things like the Peace Corps, and my top secret "Plan A" (ooooh a blog with mystery!), are still in motion so I plan to talk to a recruiter and see what my options are, but I'm not signing up before I know the results of the other options.

We should end this with something upbeat and funny. *fake fart noise* Too juvenile?

Thanks for reading and best regards,
Alya

Monday, May 25, 2009

Concientious Objecter Reservist?

Confession: In the past few months I have been thinking ever more seriously about being a reservist in the armed forces. For anyone who knows me for more than 4 years this is shocking. For people who have met me in the past year, maybe not so much.

I have become increasingly interested in a way to serve my country. Problem is of course that I never ever want to fire a weapon. Therefore it's been difficult to put together a way to serve without aggression, especially since I am more than willing to go to Iraq and Afghanistan, or any other war zone, in order to work on behalf of my country. Sadly, I'm a little too strong-willed to follow orders the way they do in the military, and I'm too liberal to fit in, and I'm too much of a peace loving person to fire a weapon, so... maybe I should contact a recruiter and see how I can parlay these things into some sort of support staff or negotiation liaison position.

Despite my numerous applications for jobs within the U.S. government system, the process takes so long, and signing up as a reservist is instantaneous, which is appealing to the spontaneous side of me. At the same time, it seems like I would be far more helpful doing something more constructive than war, seeing as how I pointblank refuse to fire a weapon.

My interest in military personnel has increased lately, I have singled them out for discussion, and only dated men in the armed services for the past six months. not by design really, but it's what appeals to me. They have the same goal as I do, they understand my desire to serve, to travel, to live life with structured adventure, and to be a part of a community that isn't religious or political (even though the military is entirely both). The identity of belonging to something greater is very appealing and very human.

Sadly, I might make this decision based on which uniform I think would look best on me (and it's not the Navy uniform...).

Let's bring it back to the real discussion though: How I wish I could enact change and bring peace and hope to people around the world. In many ways, the armed forces do that for people at home, the transition team provides services to the Iraqi people, and yes, they wage a war and cause destruction, but there is good that can be done.

After this discussion, I can think of no image more fitting than of the United States flag standing outside of the U.N. HQ in New York where I worked for the 63rd General Assembly. In a world where leaders refuse to simply sit and talk, the U.N joins people together on a daily basis for discussion. The peace building that occurs in this building is a step forward for humanity, and while it is not always as successful as we want, or as it could be, without the U.N. there would not be a place for people from around the world to come talk about issues in one room everyday. It is not a perfect system, but nothing is, and I am proud that my country is a member nation (even if sometimes our actions are... well... let's just say we vote with Sudan and North Korea a lot...)

Thanks for reading and best regards,
Alya

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Google's opinion of me = single anorexic capitalist

The ads on my blog are something of interest to me for more than one reason. It's not merely because I can make a dollar or two during the recession by helping other people make money (yes, economy, you are full of circles). I also feel that the Google ads somewhat define what the website is about. They are geared to my readership, they are representative of the website.

Before today, the only ads I saw were cheerful, successful financial advice ads. I was fine with that. I am trading stocks. I am proud of that fact. I think my trading during the recession and ability to make 15% on 1000$ in two months is capitalistic but also genius. The reinvestment of that gain into ANX was also genius.

Maybe not genius, but we'll see how it plays out. (Yay, fancy interactive blog)

Today, I open up my "frequently updated website" to find a shocking and absurd ad waiting for people to click. This ad mocks me and my macaroni and cheese taste test. This ad makes me feel fat. This ad makes me think I have a problem.

This ad is for eating disorders. One could argue that wanting to eat only Americana traditional food and taste test macaroni and cheese is akin to an eating disorder, but that is not what Google meant. Google called me fat, or worse, Google told me I should stop being so anorexic.

Maybe I shouldn't take it so seriously, but for a company to claim that they will gear their ad content to my page specifically, perhaps something less offensive is in order, like "free kittens and puppies" or ads for my favorite band. I bet Google didn't bother to find out who my favorite band was *sniff* did they?

It's ABBA. *sniff*

...It's not ABBA.

What's next? eHarmony advertisements? Noooooooooooooo! The horror!

Seriously Google, go back to the financial ads. I'm happier with you thinking I'm just a capitalist than an single anorexic capitalist.

Thanks for reading and best regards,
Alya

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Kitties, Marketing, and Economic Puzzlements

Today is the day I become the kind of person who talks about her cat on her "frequently updated website." Stanley, the cat I brought back with me from France was sick yesterday so we brought him to the veterinary hospital. The worst thing a doctor can say is, "well something is wrong but I don't know what it is!" That means two things: it could be bad, and it could cost you money.

Luckily, after giving the cat three kinds of medicine, and IV fluids, and x-rays, and blood work, and more medical attention than I've had in two years combined (I need health insurance, srsly), he seems to be doing better!

In other news, back to the macaroni and cheese taste testing: I ventured out to the big super market and intended to purchase comparable products for a true taste test. I have no idea how many varieties there were of boxed pasta with powered cheese product. Additionally, and to my great horror, I did not pick the famous Kraft variety as I thought I did, but the store-brand who's packaging is identical for (very effective) marketing purposes. Needless to say, the taste test is postponed until I acquire the "control" for the macaroni and cheese "clinical trials."

Lastly, I went to an Old Navy today and they were selling flip-flops for $1.00 in order to get people into the store. (For you economics geeks, this is known as a loss-leader, and is used to bring people into the store to purchase other things at an inflated price). There were possibly 200 people in line, at a maximum of 5 pairs of shoes per person. What was bizarre was that almost NO ONE had additional products. everyone had their five pairs of shoes, and that was it.

I tried to take a photo on my phone, but my phone is three years old and therefore... let's go with "not so good anymore"... but I hope the image ALMOST captures the feel of what was going on: 10 check out lines, 200 people, each with 5 pairs of shoes, no sales tax. And since it was 11 AM, all the good colors were gone. All that was left was black, brown and white.

Perhaps if the sale wasn't during a recession people would have ventured into the other sections of the store? Feel free to comment and help me figure it out.

Thanks for reading and best regards,
Alya

Friday, May 22, 2009

"Macaroni" and "Cheese"

Landmark event: I ate boxed macaroni and cheese for the first time today. Okay, fine, technically, it was "organic white cheese and shell pasta" BUT the cheese was in powdered form so it TOTALLY COUNTS. It tasted a lot like... a cream sauce that hadn't been cooked properly, mixed with tiny shell pasta, mixed with dreams. It was an adventure for my taste buds.

Yes, I admit, I may be an elitist snob and you may hate me already. But if you could for one second not take yourself so seriously, you could ponder that there is something distinctly American about a food whose entire concept it based on it's ability to congeal between the time you mix it with milk and you put it on your spoon.

For reasons I can't explain I have been craving a food I have never tasted for about three weeks. Macaroni and cheese. Unfortunately, my local small grocery store only had this organic stuff when I was kinda hoping for some sort of 400 calorie a serving, 2-minute, microwavable thing, where they trick you with the serving sizes. You know... you buy a box and you think it's 400 calories for the box, but the box serves four. Just like a pint of Ben and Jerry's... and contrary to logic this in no way deters you from purchasing the item one bit despite the fact that eating the entire thing will give you a massive food coma.

Mmmmm food coma...

The thing about food cravings like this is that once you fulfill them you are left wondering what brought it about. There isn't much left after you are satisfied. When you crave a material object like an article of clothing and save up until finally after long last you purchase it, at least you walk away with that item. You have something to show for the craving, for the process of craving. But sating a food craving leaves you merely less hungry for food in that moment, and more hungry for an new craving.

Furthermore, by putting off such a simple craving like boxed macaroni and cheese for what turned out to be 23 years, I find myself wanting to experience other Americana experiences that I've missed: go to a county fair, drive a car, listen to bluegrass, eat grits, corndogs, chicken fried steak, flap jacks and maybe even chitlins (probably not chitlins), ride in a hot-air balloon, paint-ball something, sing "American Pie" with other people.

Part of my craving for America must to be coming from the repressing of my American background for so long while I've lived abroad. My need to fit into other cultures has overwhelmed my true heritage. In truth, my family members, particularly my father have never defined themselves as "American" so much as "Academic" or "Citizens of the world." When people ask me where I am from, I say, "all over," because I feel connected to so many different places, cultures and countries even though I hold only a U.S. passport.

I think the only thing left to say is, there was ziti, les p√Ętes, lo mein, ravioli, gnocchi, rice noodles, pad thai, wheat pasta, Kenyan pasta, couscous, lasagna, spaghetti, penne, rice (and all it's variations), fusilli, alphabet pasta, baked shells, orzo, soba noodles, and a hundred different shapes and sizes and sauces.

And for one time only there was the one and only, the infamous, the boxed and packaged and prepared, the American:

Macaroni and Cheese.

Thanks for reading and best regards,
Alya

P.S. Not only did I fall into a food coma after eating my "macaroni" and "cheese" meal, I also weigh two pounds more today. Despite these facts, I feel as though I need to do it right: I need a real macaroni and cheese taste test.

Be the Chipmunk

Last night in my ritual excursion to local chatrooms looking to find Connecticut folk who may have jobs in their offices, I stumbled upon a singular human being. I rapidly became involved in a serendipitous hour long debate (part of which involved how maple candy tasted much like a combination of maple syrup and the "aww" sound you make when you see a very cute baby). After a discussion of the exact placement of the chipmunk in the ecological life- cycle (somewhere between nuts and leaves, and everything else), I discovered that I have altogether let down my defenses and not even asked his name, age, location, or any of my usual screening questions.

After admitting to being won over instantly by his charm, wit and charisma, we fell into a conversation about his time overseas. We compared stories of living in predominantly Muslim societies and how it shaped our views on religion. We also discussed the hardships of returning home after such an experience. We spoke about how he looks at Muslim Americans after serving three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. How he knows they think differently than the people in the places he was fighting, but has trouble shaking the immediate gut reaction. Which leads me to my FIRST This American Life shout-out!!!! woo! Episode 359: Life After Death about how after returning from Iraq a man joins a Muslim Student's Association at his college, first story.

While I in NO WAY want to say my own comparatively paltry six combined months in Kenya and month in Morocco is even near his three tours in the Middle East, I do hope this helped me, at least on some low level, connect with him. As most of you know, I have the utmost respect for men and women who serve in the armed forces, and despite my personal sentiments about how the war was started (yes I protested. Whatever free speech, check that constitution before you criticize.), now that we're there, my opinion is the following: "Supporting the troops" means giving them EVERY SINGLE ADVANTAGE and protection, and getting them out of harm's way as soon as possible by taking economically and politically rational and reasonable steps for stabilization.

We clear? You're allowed to disagree. But you'd be wrong. And it's my blog. (burn)

I truly wish I had his full permission to talk about this more than vaguely, because it was a fascinating conversation, especially to someone who has always found the connection between the U.S. armed services and religion fascinating while we claim to have a separation of church and state. His assertion that religion and the belief in a god was strengthening the resolve of both sides in this war was far more pivotal to the debate than perhaps he realized. He spoke eloquently about such a dark subject. Without knowing it he brought me to tears, not because I was upset or anything he said was sad or scary but because I felt so... it felt wrong that such a beautiful person should be forced to go through such a horrible travesty as war. Especially a war that is being ignored and forgotten at home.

And if he finds this, which I'm sure he might, I want him to know that for the brief time that our world's collided, we had passionate, moving, and intellectual exchanges, and he touched my reality and shifted my perceptions. And I'm thankful for that.

Thanks for reading and best regards,
Alya

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Forced Donating = Stealing/ Fancy Interactive Blog

My mother told me I had to donate clothes and shoes today. I am under the assumption that she is doing this to make her feel better about her spending money during the recession and also because she feels like she has too much stuff, but refuses to clean out her own closet. She has four closets filled with clothes she will never wear again, and yet I have to donate?

Does that make sense to anyone? Didn't think so.

It's not that I'm not happy to give away clothes that I won't be wearing, but I want to do it on my own terms. I dislike micromanagement overseen by hypocrites. Let me quickly move away from this issue before I pop a blood vessel, cause being unemployed means I don't have health insurance. (hint hint President Obama *_^)

In other news, I've been trading with TDAmeritrade, which can be a fickle broker and lags on my orders considerably, considering that it's all presumably AUTOMATED.

Yesterday I put in an order for a stock, Adventrx Pharmaceuticals (Ticker: ANX). For about two hours that day the stock was at my buy in price and the order didn't go through. I called customer service twice and they said the equivalent of, "your order is too small for us to care and you're at the back of the line." Well... They definitely said the second part, and it felt like the first part too. Needless to say, it was an adventure in navigating bureaucracy. I also found it amusing that everyone's name was particularly bland American. I spoke to "Matthew" and "Branden" and "Elizabeth." Would I feel less comfortable talking to an ethnic sounding name? Go ponder. They were in "Ft Worth." Yep... Ft Worth, India.

Today, after another THREE hours of the stock being at my buy in price my order went through: 1165 shares for 13 cents each. Yay! For those of you who don't have a calculator on you that's $151.45.

You can all have fun watching this stock too, and seeing if I made a good call or a bad call. (And now this blog is INTERACTIVE! ooooooo fancy)

Thanks for reading and best regards,
Alya

Russian phone calls


I heard a noise this morning that drew me out of my sleep. I couldn't quite place it. It was as if someone was trying to contact me...

My father called from Russia and as a result I woke up to every phone in the house making this annoying ringing sound. I was under the assumption they didn't do that until about 9:30 or so.

Of course, no one ever calls me on the house phone so I never pick it up. I assume if you are calling between 9:30 am (when phones turn on) and 4:30 pm you are a telemarketer, and if you call after that, you're looking for my mother or a donation. No one calls me on the house phone, I have a cell phone, and no one I know even knows my home phone number.

But if you call at half past six in the morning, you have a problem. So I get out of bed, go downstairs and get the phone (yeah, it's THAT loud). I am so tired and out of it my entire conversation with my father, while my mom is on the phone, basically was the following:

me: Hello? Who is this and why am I awake?
mom: You don't have to be awake. (burn)
me: But I am. What are you selling. I don't want any.
dad: It's your father.
mom: Where are you standing?
me: ...what...
mom: Where are you standing?
me: Up.
mom: In the house? Where in the house?
me: At the top of the stairs to my part of the house.
dad: How did you get a phone?
me: I went downstairs
mom: Okay well it's just dad so go back to bed.
me: I thought you were a time-zone confused telemarketer.
dad: I'm not.
me: Good.
mom: I don't remember putting a phone up there.
me: Bye dad.
Click.

No...seriously? Is this my family?

Is it just me or does it seem like from this conversation alone, not only have I been relegated to the top floor of the house, but they also have attempted to cut me off from humanity? They both seemed SHOCKED at my ability to acquire a telephonic device at 6:30 in the morning.

And thing of it is, I'm really just thinking about this, and dwelling on it like a high school kid, because I don't want to think about how Adam Lambert was robbed of his idol crown last night. I've said it on Facebook, and I'll say it again: His not winning Idol is a blessing because now he can shape is own career and he won't have to sing "no boundaries", which is a HORRIBLE song. Plus, whoever that kid who won was... will be forgotten in no time.

Yeah, this might end up being that kind of blog. But you were hoping for that, weren't you. You're so cynical, Dearest Reader.

Thanks for reading and best regards,
Alya

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Devastating Spam

When I was 14 I created a Yahoo account. I therefore have a yahoo email address. As a result, whenever I am on messenger, all the emails that I receive pop up in the corner of my screen with a little *ding*.

I never give this email address out and so usually they are spam. No, they are ALWAYS spam. I will be chatting away and then suddenly a little *ding* noise will sound and at the bottom of my screen with show "New email alert!, From: Suzy Q, Subject: Come make sexy time with me!" or something offering "Free pills FOREVER!" or "Want to Make 41 MILLION DOLLARS in Two Days?" to which I say, "um... yes please! Wait... you almost had me Nigerian scammers."

The reason why today's emailing scam was so heartbreaking is because lately, I've been networking in Connecticut regional chatrooms with my yahoo email address. I know... lame. Whatever, it could work.


Today I get this email, the most dastardly email ever. "New email alert!, From: Michael Vincent, Subject: ALYSON, I found you a new job."

I get immediately excited and rush to my inbox because I think that even though I don't know a "Michael Vincent" I must have networked with him in some chatroom at some point. No surprise, it is yet another scam to do those survey things online where you pay like 40$ to learn how to do surveys that end up not paying you any money. Does anyone ever wonder who originally came up with that idea? Think about how many times you have been asked to do a survey for free over the phone. Do you really think people are gonna pay you $75 for 15 minutes for your opinion? It's not a medical study. Come on people.

You know what my favorite part of this ad was? It wasn't the claim that I could "Ear $150,000+ from your place" filling out surveys online. It was the claim that one of ONLY TWO listed benefits of this job was the ability to "spend more time with your family." Yeah... They clearly haven't met my family. I want a job so I can move as far away as possible from my family. The other benefit kind of made no sense, "start making more immediately." I assume they meant money, but at the same time, this also assumes I already have a job. Even the subject of the email already assumes I HAVE a job, "ALYSON, I found you a new job."

What was even more quality about this email was that after "start making money from home" there was an asterisk, as if there was a special term or condition that needed to be explained, but no asterisk anywhere in the rest of the five line email to explain what those terms or conditions were.

Alas, despite my 3 minutes of hope, because that is how long it takes to log into Yahoo email, I am still unemployed.

What an adventure that was.

Thanks for reading and best regards,
Alya

The most useful advice ever!


I have here, in this blog post the most useful advice you may ever receive.

Now, I could just tell you, but that's not as much fun for me. You could also think you're gonna scroll to the bottom, but that's not fun for me either. SO somewhere in this message about totally random events is a sentence that you should live by. A piece of advice so helpful, you will never need any other piece of advice. Is it "don't ever invest in the stock market" ? No. But I wish I had heard that before I entered into this whole debacle. For the first whole week I traded I dreamed about puts and calls and moving red and green numbers. It was horrifying. I would wake up more stressed than I went to bed.

The problem with trading online is that it is one of the few things you can do where you aren't reliant on another human being to support you. You don't need someone else to cut you a check, you are self-employed in a sense. The problem is that it's so risky and most people have NO IDEA WHAT THEY ARE DOING. Lucky for me majoring in economics and living abroad for a large portion of my life has acquainted me with the global market. I have some knowledge of the intricacies of foreign exchanges, the complexities of commodities and manufacturing and the ways in which better performance in dry bulk stock can be an indicator that China is on the rise. But honestly, NEVER move back in with your parents, it is the worst mistake you can ever make in your life.

You like how I did that, huh. Doesn't it just kill you that you kind of could just skipped to the end anyway?

Thanks for reading and best regards,
Alya

P.S. I decided that this post would be more fancy if I added a picture. The photo of the financial district was taken from my old bedroom in Jersey City.

How I got here

You know what this needs? I need to grab your attention with something snazzy and upbeat...

**FREE PUPPIES AND KITTENS!**

Did that work? Okay, back to business. As my first post I suppose you need some background.

I am a 23 year old woman. My name is Alya. I have a masters degree. I have traveled all over the world. Blah. Blah. Blah. Due to the recession I have not been able to find a job for five months. Despite the fact that I have sent my resume out to over 300 companies, colleagues, and job listings I get the same messages back. Either I am under-qualified for management positions, overqualified for entry level, or the position is no longer being offered because of the recession, but I would have been on the short list. (insert swearing here). Let's get to something less depressing.

As a result of these events, I have been forced to move into my old bedroom in my parent's house (pathetic, I know... ). We fight every day and my mother doesn't seem to understand that I send out another 3-10 resumes each day just to get the same three responses three months later. Therefore, she complains about me spending money on things like food... and then complains that I am not willing to splurge on shoes... more on that ridiculousness later.

In the meantime, I have taken $1000 and bought stocks. I've made about 15% over the course of two months. I'm not bad at trading, and I should consider a job in this. But the banking and finance jobs are the hardest hit sectors, and since many experienced people were laid off in those sectors, I can't very well break into it now.

Additionally, I also have started running, because that takes up about an hour of my free time every day, and at least then I'm outside. It's an activity that I can do that doesn't cost me any money. I'm trying to find lots of those to compile a list of "free recession activities." Once I've done that, I'll sell the book of free activities for $19.99! Genius! Um... if anyone else does something similar to this I have proof now that I came up with the idea first. Consider yourself foiled!

In order to be effective and set out the purpose of this blog-thing I should write some goals here. I plan to make this blog not only a record of my experience and a tool to advise others how not to proceed, but also to amuse people (mostly myself). I will record any lessons I learn about trading, job hunting, living at home, and dealing with parents who don't see you as an adult, probably some recipes I invent and things about cooking, and anything else I feel is relevant. I also promise not to take myself too seriously, and not to take you all too seriously either.

Thanks for reading and best regards,
Alya