Saturday, December 6, 2008

Danny and I have been incredibly busy. The house is now more or less in order. Repairs needed to get us through the winter are complete, I bought a snow blower, and the Xmas decorations are up. The only item remaining on the agenda is to buy a medicine cabinet for the bathroom and replace the rather tacky option by the previous owner (he simply hung a mirror over the hole in the bathroom wall).


Instead of Xmas presents for each other, Danny and I each got something for the house. I bought the Washer/Dryer which was installed the day before we moved in. Danny got a 47” LCD TV last weekend. I think I’m going to indulge in some couch potato-hood this winter. 


The rest of the past month has been taken up with work and Mason. He’s growing by leaps and bounds, both in physical size and behavior. Mason weighed in at 14 pounds at the veterinarian’s office on Monday. He’s very smart and is mostly housetrained, although he has had a few accidents (such as last weekend when our friend Zsolt visited and Mason wet himself with excitement). He’s also freakishly neat. I’ve noticed that he places his toys back in his cage after finishing with them – often in the same spot in the cage where they were before. Although friendly, Mason is now basically a toddler, and is in the “terrible twos” stage of behavior. For the last week, he has been rebellious and testing the limits of what he can get away with. Danny and I try to be patient and give him an activity to appease his restlessness, or put him in a restricted area for a time out.


On the work front, things are proceeding apace with our project to replace Progressive’s policy management system. Our team had a very heavy work load, so we were given a two week extension to complete our testing – which ends today. Despite the extension, not all our tests were completed, mostly due to system outages and tests which had to be listed as invalid. Management has asked us to divide into two shifts: one starting at 6am, the other at Noon. So, beginning next week, I’ll be setting the alarm for 4:30am. It actually works out well for me since Mason won’t be alone at home too long. Amusingly, I discovered a few weeks ago that I went to high school with one of the members of my team. Same school, same year. But she and I didn’t share any classes, apparently.


Danny and I have been appalled by the economic news, but I have not been especially surprised. America has been living a debt heavy lifestyle for too long, and the chickens have come home to roost. I really think that GM in particular has dug its own grave. Carrying eight brands of automobiles with that duplication of models (like the Pontiac G5, which is a rebadged Chevy Cobalt) was recipe for disaster. Troubling is GM’s apparent plan to ditch Saturn, one of their only brands to show any innovation over the past few years. I’m aware most Americans are opposed to any bailout of the Big Three. And as a Honda driver, I don’t see myself driving a Ford, GM, or Chrysler anytime soon. But we can’t afford to lose this industry, as clumsy and idiotically run as it is. I think the government should place them in receivership, and a reformer should be appointed who would have broad authority to nullify union and dealership contracts and reorganize the companies. GM should drop the Buick, GMC, and Hummer labels, and sell DaewooSaab and Saturn should be spun off into their own, independent, companies. Ford should eliminate the Mercury brand, sell Volvo and sell their stakes in Mazda and Aston Martin. Then Ford needs to learn marketing, build fewer models (one compact, one midsize, one luxury car model) and not change the model names every three years, which is confusing to consumers and annoying to dealers. (Honda and Toyota know how to market autos. Civics and Camrys have been around for decades and have a defined image). I don’t know enough about Chrysler’s situation to comment, but the PT Cruiser I had as a rental a few months ago was a total piece of crap.   

I've been following President-elect Obama's handling of the transition, and I've been very impressed.  He's picking strong leaders for the Cabinet, although I don't agree with every one of them on every issue.  Hillary Clinton at State is undoubtedly his most controversial pick so far.  But most Americans don't appreciate how incredibly popular both Clintons are world wide.  Hillary can help America restore its image as a leader rather than a bully.  I must also admit, to my surprise, that President Bush has been handling his end of the transition with a graciousness sadly lacking during the bulk of his reign.  By the way, this whole "smooth transition of power" thing is rather new.  The first president to pledge one was Harry Truman, who knew something about assuming power under difficult circumstances. 


Neither Danny nor I face an immediate threat to our jobs. Progressive is in pretty good shape (in fact, we seem to have profited from AIG’s troubles and have 337,000 more policies than a year ago), and people will always need health care – so Danny’s job is safe. Still, I have decided to reign in my furniture purchases for now, so the house will continue to have one empty bedroom and a partially furnished living room.


Time to enjoy the weekend…

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