March Recap

It’s been quite a month. A little overwhelming. A lot happening. How I Met Your Mother ended. I cried. It was bittersweet. The Ted and Robin ending made sense and it was fitting that the kids were in on it, but a little more time with the mom would have been nice. The Barney ending…perfect.

I read a couple of books…literally, maybe three. (But I don’t have the energy to actually look on Goodreads.)

The saddest thing this month…we found a new home for our cats. It’s for the best. The same afternoon they went to their new house, Tiny was wandering around meeting her new animal friends and Ellie had found a safe place at the top of a closet to hide out.

So it was a month, hopefully I’ll be a better blogger next month…

Happy April!

Connections: The Wolf of Wall Street and Young Money

Sometimes you read a book then go see a movie (or vice versa) and it all seems to connect. That happened recently with The Wolf of Wall Street and Young Money — below I give you my random thoughts on the film and the book.

Wolf of Wall Street Film PosterWhile I found The Wolf of Wall Street to be a movie full of despicable people, the acting is superb and there is a bit of a lesson: don’t do Quaaludes. But it also gives us a glimpse into the disgusting life of a (former) Wall Street guy that really liked to steal from the rich and give to himself. I feel Jordan Belfort didn’t learn any kind of lesson from his punishment other than how to stay rich by taking advantage of people legally now instead of illegally (people pay to see this guy speak). There are also some reports that claim he’s paid back only a fraction of what he took. Despite that, The Wolf of Wall Street is one glimpse into the financial sector that isn’t pretty to watch and the movie piqued my interest about the financial sector.

Young MoneySo now that I had viewed the ugly and glitzy, I discovered Young Money by Kevin Roose and decided to take a look at what it’s like 25 years later on Wall Street (and Finance/Economics happens to be what our Genre Study group is discussing in March). Belfort isn’t around, but since his “demise” there have still been plenty of shady activities on Wall Street and we all know what happened in 2008. This book is a look at the aftermath of that crisis and follows 8 newbies on Wall Street from 2010-2013.

The basics: Their lives suck, but they make great money.

I had no idea how young analysts and traders are/were recruited — 2 year contracts and then they either find a new job in the industry or move on. For those two years the banking analysts work 16 hour days (10 hours on weekends) and make a lot of fancy Excel spreadsheets (and pick up lots of skills that –apparently– will come in handy down the road while they figure out what they want to do forever). Well, that’s the simplistic explanation of what they do. The trading analysts seem to be more like what you see in movies — ringing phones, quick trades, and yelling. The book doesn’t go into great detail about what the finance industry does other than make/deal with money. Which makes sense…that’s really ALL they do.

I guess the good news is that fewer people are doing lines of coke off of a prostitute’s body these days (Jordan Belfort apparently did this). But then I got to the part about Fashion Meets Finance…and there were the douchebags. FMF is a dating mixer where the “rich” guys of Wall Street can mingle with the all the pretty models. 

“But what if Wall Street doesn’t just attract preexisting douchebags, but actively draws normal people into an inescapable vortex of douchebaggery?” (pg 110)

Reading about the experiences of these young analysts definitely shows how someone could turn into a Jordan Belfort type ass. The long hours, little recognition, tons of stress, no social life outside of work, and bosses that just keep piling on the work can definitely lead to excessive drinking, drug use, and depression.

But by the end of the book, there’s definitely a little hope that Wall Street has changed its ways. In the Notes section, Roose does touch on drug use in the financial sector and says that it could still be happening in the higher ranks because they have more free time to do the above mentioned lines of coke, but that in most cases the drug use of the younger crowd is to help them do their job (caffeine pills, Adderall) and the occasional pot use.

The book reads quickly and while I would have liked a little more explanation of some of the job titles, acronyms, and the whats-its of finance, adding all of that would have slowed it down a lot. A good introduction to what it’s like now for new recruits. I’m looking forward to skimming and viewing a few of the books and movies listed below.

Bonus Viewing: Pair the above combo of The Wolf of Wall Street & Young Money with Blue Jasmine and you’ll get a variety of interesting looks at the many different sides of Wall Street. However, with Blue Jasmine you see the aftermath of a whole slew of bad choices

More to Read & Watch:

  • Boiler Point — This movie is also inspired by Jordan Belfort and his company.
  • Too Big to Fail by Andrew Ross Sorkin — Also adapted into a film by HBO. (I’ll probably watch the movie instead of read the book…)
  • Liar’s Poker by Michael Lewis — Semiautbiographical look at Lewis’ experiences on Wall Street in the 1980s (so just before Jordan Belfort’s days)

There are HUNDREDS of films and books about Wall Street and the financial sector, but those are the big three I picked up on while reading Kevin Roose’s book.

February Recap

LIFE

SO MUCH. My undergraduate college might go co-ed. We have started the pre-qualification process to buy a house. Other life stuff that I’m not ready to share yet. On the crafty side of things, I’ve almost made a blanket. AND I’m still trying to navigate the many options & tricks & complexities of being self-hosted. (Also, work has been really rough the last couple of weeks so I refuse to give anything relating to work its own group.)

MOVIES

I came thisclose to completing my Academy Award goal — I’m two movies shy of seeing all that I wanted. I’m still trying to decide who I want to win though…I’ll decide Sunday morning.

BOOKS

I significantly reduced my ‘Currently Reading’ shelf compared to last month.  What used to be nine books long is now down to four.

Currently Reading
I don’t feel like I read that much in February, but I guess eight books in a short month isn’t terrible. I’m abandoning more books this year. I’m just not interested in slogging through something I’m not enjoying. I rate abandoned books based on how much I read and how much I hated it… :-/ Probably not the best method.

February 2014 Snapshot

I’m making my way through the shortlist for The Tournament of Books…so far I’ve read over half of the titles and I’m working on another one right now.  Darcy & Tiny are also helping with selection and cuddling of the books. They would be great resources for the Tournament of Books team next year when they start to pick the shortlist.

Tiny Selector

 Happy March!

Thoughts about Chatham

I’ve been trying to wrap my brain around what I want to say about this Chatham news for over a week. I’m still not sure my thoughts are terribly coherent, but here it goes….

Fling on the Quad -- Chatham 2002I attended an all-women’s college. A decision I’ve never regretted despite massive student loan debt. I decided to become a librarian at my small school. I made amazing, incredible, brilliant lifelong friends. I learned that I can survive on my own in a city triple (quadruple? even bigger?) the size of my hometown (though I was protected by my campuses natural barriers to the larger city — you know, big houses and trees).

Prior to making a last minute decision to apply to Chatham (mainly for the mansions as residence halls), I’d never considered a single sex institution. I’d already applied to the University of Central Florida in Orlando and the University of New Orleans. I was pretty sure I’d be going to law school after college, but more than anything I was applying to schools because of their location.

But sometime during my senior year we read The Awakening…. I realized that I could go to a college without silly 18 year-old boys that called girls “feminazis” AND had mansions for dorms (I feel weird typing that instead of residence halls, but when I was 17 that’s what I actually said in my head).

“Why wouldn’t you want to send your daughter to an institution whose sole purpose is to insure the success of women?” she asked, looking my way. “Three percent of women graduating from high school go to women’s colleges, and yet 30 percent of congresswomen went to women’s colleges and 20 percent of the female CEOs. There’s a reason that is the case and that’s why we are still here.” — from Tom Matlock’s 2011 post, Are Women’s Colleges Outdated?

My alma mater, Chatham College, has grown it’s grad program significantly since I graduated. In fact, it isn’t just a “college” anymore. Now it’s Chatham UNIVERSITY and the women’s college I attended is (apparently) known as Chatham College for Women. The school that I graduated from doesn’t seem to exist and that feels even more true now that the option to go co-ed is on the table again.

Purple & White Forever

When I was there between 2001-2005, the school had just (relatively speaking) been “saved” from going co-ed in the 90s by some serious World Ready Women and it seemed to be on the right track. Of course, there was always the rumor of the change to a university because even then the grad programs were seriously touted.

I’m devastated that President Barazzone and the Board of Trustees are even considering this. Despite the statistic that says only 2% of high school girls would consider a single-sex institution, I think it’s a bad decision.  (And let’s not forget what they say about statistics…)

Quote

The Greater Pittsburgh area is home to approximately 40 colleges & universities. That doesn’t even include the for-profit schools. Chatham is UNIQUE. As far as I know, it’s THE ONLY all-women’s college in the area (and it has mansions for dorms!).

The more I’ve heard though about how the campus is now versus when I was last there nine years ago, the more I realize (again and again) that Chatham is no longer the school I attended. It seems to have completely forgotten about it’s undergraduate program and that thought brings me to tears. I had professors that knew me even though I never took a class with them. I had a team of people to help me through my second semester (after a truly dismal first semester). My tutorial project senior year was mind-boggling and so hard, but it ended up being absolutely worth it.

According to the research, “women’s college respondents reported making more progress in every measure tested,” including “understanding themselves and others,” “general education,” “ability to analyze quantitative problems,” and “desire to contribute to the welfare of the community.” — from Wellesley ‘Sleepwalker’ Uproar: Have Women’s Colleges Outlived Their Purpose?

I just hope that all of the opinions against going co-ed are heard and not dismissed. There are solid arguments on both sides — I was speaking to a co-worker that was appalled by the idea of single-sex colleges even existing still (weird, right?) — though it doesn’t mean I want to hear the side that disagrees with me. After taking a week and reading Reflections from the President one more time, I’m less angry and just sad that she’s turning her back on something she “saved” twenty years ago. Sure she brings up excellent points, but she’s always had a way with words. Just do a search of some of the excellent words she’s shared about how wonderful all-women’s colleges are in the past.

Way back in 1991:

Barazzone pointed to research showing that graduates of women’s colleges are more than twice as likely as graduates of coeducational colleges to receive doctoral degrees.

They are also more likely to go on to positions of distinction in private industry and government, she said.

Asked if women’s colleges reflected an unreal world because they excluded men, Barazzone replied: “I don’t know that living in a man’s world is particularly real, either. It’s important to prepare yourself to live in a balanced world.”

(About that student loan debt I mentioned earlier…it would be interesting to see what would happen if a private college significantly lowered it’s cost. Would the lower price tag attract more students? I’m sure it would bring in a few more than the current average of $30,000 per year. But I could be wrong, I got a C in Economics AND I have student loan debt — clearly I am bad with $$$.)

I don’t know what will happen next. I don’t know what the board and EB will decide. I just hope that one day there’s still a school out there somewhere to provide a place for a girl to learn where she isn’t called a feminazi.

More:

Mars in Books

Space Rocks.

Astronauts. Shine Shine Shine. Gravity. The Martian. Commander Hadfield. Mars Rovers. Red Rising. Marissa Meyer. Mars One. Konapun. (These are all the things that somehow connect in my mind to lead to this blog post.)

Space is a happening place. It’s got all of those stars and planets and asteroids and stuff. Mars is especially cool. After all, it is the most habitable planet after Earth (according to Mars One & maybe others).

Within the next couple of weeks, there are two new, buzzy books coming out starring the red planet, so see…it IS really cool because there are new books. These two books are SO different, but it’s interesting to see how Mars plays a role in both. (Jesse and I still talk about both of these books though we liked and didn’t like different things about each.)

  • Mars in BooksRed Rising by Pierce Brown is mythology meets Hunger Games meets Ender’s Game. Fascinating mix that took a little while for me to get into. By the end I was totally hooked and now am really looking forward to the next.
  • The Martian by Andy Weir is more plausible (though I would like to see what an astronaut has to say about it because maybe it isn’t.) than Red Rising, though I doubt NASA will have manned-missions to Mars within my lifetime, it would be REALLY cool if we did (and some say it’s feasible). Despite all the Science (yes…calls for a capital ‘S’) in this book it’s incredibly readable and (surprisingly) a page-turner.

Add Gravity (the movie — which is fantastic/amazing/beautiful) to the mix plus the next book in the Lunar Chronicles (out this week!) AND having read Chris Hadfield’s autobiography (have you been to his website lately?) – you can see why I’ve been a little fascinated by space of late. (Also…Carl Sagan’s Cosmos is coming back with Neil deGrasse Tyson in March — SPACE FTW!)

Since reading Commander Hadfield’s autobiography, I’ve asked the one question a lot (I even asked it above): What would/does a real astronaut think? (There are a lot of astronaut opinions about Gravity…I’m hoping there are some about The Martian once it hits shelves.)

With all of that out in the world, now I will share with you many links:

"Good friends, good books and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life." – Mark Twain