Wednesday, May 27, 2009

It's the economy, stupid

Since I started my new job with EDS, which is now owned by HP (you probably own a printer or something made by HP), a few things have happened of the trying-to-ride-out-the-recession variety. For me, up to and including today's addition, these crappy little concessions haven't had an adverse impact on my life or finances, but there are people I work with who are definitely feeling the pinch more than I am.

First, HP mandated a 5% cut in all employee salaries. This happened a few days after the offer we put in on our house had been accepted. Luckily, we're buying a house well within our means, and even with the 5% pay cut my salary is still a nice margin above what I was making at my previous job.

Then HP mandated an additional 10% pay cut for the month of April. That put a big, scary feeling in my stomach, but pretty quickly we found out that because of the type of contract we were on, we were exempt from this pay cut. *whew*

Around the same time as the pay cuts, HP decided that instead of keeping up the regular employer mathing program for our 401k contributions, they would STOP matching in each paycheck and start doing an analysis of their ability to match at the close of each quarter, and only then would they match, but only up to their ability. Read: in all likelyhood, no more matching of 401k contributions for the forseeable future.

This morning we received a fourth harmelss-looking e-mail that hid some bad news. HP is mandating two weeks of vacation time from December 20 through January 2. There are two regular holidays during this time, but for the rest of the days we would normally work, we are now required to use our own vacation time or take leave without pay. Suck. We can borrow from our 2010 vacation, but who wants to do that? It will be lovely, of course, to be home for two weeks, but I'm not sure yet exactly what this means. Will I have to cancel some of the days off I already have planned and move them to the end of the year? I guess we won't be taking a mini-break over our second anniversary.

In comparison to the hardships I know a lot of people are going through, these measures being taken by HP are really not bad. I have not lost my job, as have a few people I know, and my pay isn't being cut any more. My hours aren't being cut on a regular basis. But news like this still gives me a really bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. I think it's the helplessness - if they can do this, what else might happen next week or next month? And what can I do to stop it? Nothing, that's what.

I'll tell you what I'm not going to do: I'm not going to roll my SAIC 401k into HP's 401k program. I'm going to go private with it. And hopefully I can do the same thing with my HP 401k, with whatever I've built up over the past six months. Because if they're not matching my contributions anyway, what's the point of using theirs? I might as well stick with Vanguard.

I also understand that companies including mine absolutely need to take steps like these to remain competitive and avoid more drastic measures down the road. As in, of course I'd rather take a pay cut and manditory vacation now, if it means that I'll still have this job years down the road; even more so if it means we'll come out of the recession in a strong position, and then maybe I'll get a nice pay raise or a bonus or something.

I think this most recent installment feels different because of the way we were told. It just seems very inconsiderate. From the looks of the FAQ's on HP's employee site, this is something HP has done in past years, maybe every year. So my question is: if you are doing this every year, why do you wait to tell us until the start of Summer when everyone's planning their vacations and looking forward to that week at the beach? I'd much rather have it mandated from the beginning, and plan my vacation around it to begin with instead of the big disappointment and forced change of plans. Maybe former HP employees know to plan for this possibility, but we at EDS sure didn't see it coming.

When did this get so complicated? Sheesh. It's a damn good thing that I like this job a lot better than my old one. I'm beginning to see why big corporations get such a bad rap - the bigger they are, the easier it is for stuff like this to feel like you just fell through the cracks, instead of feeling like you're suffering for the good of the company. But in the end, I'm mainly thankful to have my job, and thankful for all the great benefits I do still have. Feeling upset about it now won't stop me from thoroughly enjoying my two weeks off for the holidays!!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Recurring dream

Reading Katy's post on her strange dream reminded me what I first remembered when I got in the car to go to work this morning - that I had a pretty odd dream last night too.

I've never had the same dream twice, or really even a similar one, but I do have one major element - plot device? - that has been showing up in my dreams since at least High School. When I dream, I frequently find myself driving a car in which the breaks don't work properly. The breaks always mostly work, but typically even when I have the breaks pressed the whole way to the floor, and I am pressing as hard as I can, the car will still be moving slowly, and I am unable to get it to stop. Nothing bad has ever actually happened as a result, but in these dreams I'm always very nervous or scared.

Last night the car was a minivan, and I was taking care of someone else's baby, but this baby could talk and reason like a regular person. So as I'm putting the baby in the car seat in the back of the car, I realize that the car is drifting forward slowly. I close the door and get in the car myself, but someone else is driving, and since neither of us can get the car to stop despite braking hard and even turning off the car, I direct her to pull into another parking space that's on a steep incline. It works, and the car stops, but when I go back to make sure the baby's all strapped in correctly, I find that it has moved itself to the other seat in the car, and it is laughing at me because it tricked me! This whole time the baby has also been talking to me, but I have no idea what it was saying, just that it felt a little weird and I was exasperated that an otherwise cute baby was ruining my afternoon by acting like a sarcastic adult. The car eventually started drifting backwards out of the new parking spot, but I must have woken up before I figured out how to fix that problem.

I feel like Katy's dream fits pretty well with some of the stresses she talks about on her blog, Bonnie Hunt aside; but I really haven't ever thought of a compelling explanation for this car-that-won't-quite-stop-even-though-I'm-breaking-as-hard-as-I-can theme. I don't think dreams are ever predictive, unless it's of something we already know subconsciously, and generally I think my dreams are completely random amalgamations of my subconscious's mental diarrhea during REM sleep - often including elements of my recent experiences or stresses, but just a meaningless garble that has no potential to tell me anything about myself in my waking life. However, this one recurring element is hard to ignore after almost ten years, so I'd be interested to hear anyone's ideas.

I know I'm having this dream on the brink of probably the biggest stress-inducing event of my life so far, purchasing a house. But I've been stressed about that for weeks now, and there's still a few days to go, so why last night? Plus, I'm pretty sure I've had this dream plenty of times when I wasn't stressed about anything...but now that I think about it, that would be a good thing to start keeping track of - what else has been going on in my life when I get these dreams? I'll start writing it down, starting with this one.

Friday, May 22, 2009

www.craft-day.com

Back again with more domain purchasing mania:

Try out www.craft-day.com!

In other news, tonight is my bowling birthday party at The Coliseum. It will be just like the ones you used to go to when you were eight, minus bumpers and plus alcohol. But we're still having pizza and cake, so really, just about the same.

Tomorrow morning you can find me from 9:30-11:30 with my lovely sister Hannah volunteering on the VanGo Bus at Artsfest on Front Street in Harrisburg. Should be a good time, come out and see us! Hannah has even promised to buy me a Birthday Gyro, my fav.

After Artsfest, Paul and I are headed down to York to help out his mom and sister (and others from their Relay for Life team perhaps?) at their booth for the Chili Cookoff at the baseball statium where the York Revolution plays. I will be bringing a water bottle in case I get anything too spicy!

Saturday evening Paul wants to go see Terminator, so hopefully I'll find some girlfriends, or else stay home and do some much-needed packing.

Sunday afternoon is picnic with my family.

I have no idea what I'm doing on my actual birthday on Monday. We'll see.

Then thank goodness I only have to work 3 days while waiting for THE BIG DAY, May 29, when the house will finally be ours!! Then starts another 3-day weekend filled with before pictures of the entire house, and of course lots and lots of wallpaper peeling. Haven't decided yet whether we'll take the carpet up at the same time, or wait until we're done painting the next weekend. So much to think about! I am already so nervous and excited that I might explode before next Friday.

Come help peel wallpaper, or just stop by to see the house, any time you want!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

peacelovemath.com!

In order to test out how it works, I just paid $10 through Google Blogger to register peacelovemath.com for a year! Much kudos and thanks go out to Jordan, my...cousin-in-law? He is a very awesome person who set up my cousin's site, and she is married to Jordan's brother, so I think that makes him my cousin-in-law. Anyway.

It takes about 48 hours to percolate through the abstract inner workings of the internet, so it might not work yet, but eventually it will just direct you back here. But still, so cool!! I have laid claim to my own domain name, and it was so cheap and easy!

This is all practice for my main goal, which is to claim a domain for Craft Day. craftday.com is currently owned by someone who isn't using it for anything (type it into your browser and it takes you to GoDaddy.com), but I'm still waiting on a reply to the e-mail I sent to her (the current owner). If that doesn't work out, then I will go with something like craftdaypa.com, which is available. Any other suggestions are very welcome!

From what I'm reading, it sounds like Google would even let me set up an online store on the domain if I eventually wanted to, which would be so awesome. But at first, if I can get a little business of the ground, all I want is e-mail (which I already have, but which also comes with the domain - I could be mer@craftdaypa.com!), and a blog setting to upload info and pictures. Which I also already have, but it will be way cooler and feel more official if I can direct people to craftdaypa.com, no need to remember the blogger part of the domain.

Woo hoo! Thanks, Jordan!!
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