illusionofjoy: (Default)

It constantly amazes me how much I can accomplish when I don't have a job sucking up all of my time. I really don't want to go back to work ever again - not, mind you, that there is any risk of that happening any time soon. The job market sucks; I doubt I'll have the option of going back to work again unless I hone my skill saying, "you want fries with that?" The way things are, I should probably be down occupying Wall Street, save for the fact that I have an aversion to sleeping outside sans a daily shower for extended periods of time.

Also, True and Madeline would start to miss me...I think.

I finally came to a decision regarding cashing out my pension from my former employer. In the end, it came down to this: we needed the money now, not forty years down the road. So, I cashed it out and wrote a letter to Pennsylvania's Unemployment Compensation Office informing them that I did so (as required by state and federal laws).

According to the UC handbook and the website, my action should not adversely affect my compensation benefits. The pension in question was one that I had paid into and I took it all as a lump sum, not having the option to cash it out in instalments or partial payments. All of the above conditions should exempt me from finding my compensation reduced or worse, terminated.

I can't say that I trust those running the show at the UC offices, however. I wrote my letter detailing everything I could about my actions - crossing all of the Ts and dotting all of the Is as it were. I told them to call me if they needed more information. I did end up receiving a phone call from their office, but I was unable to answer it because I was driving at the time. True ended up answering my cell phone for me and she told whomever was on the other end of the line that I couldn't talk at the moment - driving and cell phone conversations don't mix.

The next day I receive a letter in the mail from UC. They want me to fill out a survey telling them the same information about my pension which I'd already outlined in the letter which I'd written to them previously. I'm irritated by this, but I figure that it is nothing more than bureaucracy inaction. However, the final section of the survey struck me as odd: at the bottom of the final page it said, "statement taken from claimant by phone" followed by the date they had called me. I put the completed survey in an envelope addressed to my local UC office along with a letter which noted that there was no possible way a statement could have been taken from me as no one had spoken to me on the phone before I'd received their survey.

I confess: I am worried about losing my unemployment compensation. By all rights, I really shouldn't but I can't say I have a great deal of confidence in those working at the UC office. If this is their twisted way of trying to encourage people to get back into the workforce, I say that it is sick and counterproductive. Stress doesn't motivate people; it leads them to an early grave. At this juncture, if my compensation is terminated, I am going to acquire an attorney. I'll fight this to the bitter end. It's not like I don't have the time - I'm unemployed.


So, what have I been doing with my time when I'm not battling bureaucracy or sighing in disappointment at the local job postings? Well, I've been busy trying to get people to pay attention to my new CD. It's awesome - seriously. Would I lie to you about such a thing? No, I wouldn't.

Alternately, True and I have been working on turning our living space into an actual home. This has involved a lot of cleaning, a bit of decorating and some furniture assembly. Let's face facts: stacking the baby's clothes on top of our dresser wasn't going to cut it forever.

In addition to juggling my home life with my music, I also decided to try my hand at producing someone else's creative endeavours. For the first time in my life, I not only recorded someone else's performance, but went outside of my expected genres and laid down a hip hop track. I'm actually confident I'll be writing more about it later as the initial studio session was quite auspicious.

Eventually I'd like to record more people; use the experience I've gained from producing my own albums all of these years and help other musicians get something polished onto a shiny disc or download. Maybe someday people will actually pay me to do it...now that would be a nice job.

illusionofjoy: (Default)

It was two months ago on this day that I spent my first full day without a job. July 15th was my final day of work at what had been seven-plus years of employment at the Federal Reserve Bank. Also with a few hundred others, I was "downsized" as the organisation consolidated operations into fewer offices.

In this time I have been trying to keep busy and maintain some sort of routine so I don't either go insane or completely degenerate into a useless complacent mass of biomatter. The obvious solution is to find a new job, however I have minimum employment requirements that must be met by any potential employer and thus far I've yet to find anything which wouldn't be a step down from being unemployed. They say the economy is improving, but I don't think they know what they are talking about.

I have come into some frustration regarding Pennsylvania's Department of Labor & Industry. While the current unemployment compensation I receive is adequate, I have been entertaining the idea of cashing out my pension fund in order to loosen the fiscal vice a bit and provide a greater monetary cushion in case the jobless streak lasts much longer than expected.

As with most states, Pennsylvania has laws on the books stating that certain pension payouts may affect the level of unemployment compensation one may receive. However, certain circumstances are not considered deductable. The Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation Handbook list the following regarding pension payment as not deductable: "A lump-sum pension payment, if you did not have the option of receiving monthly or periodic payments." One of the options my former employer listed regarding my pension was to take the full amount as a lump sum to do with as I pleased. If I do nothing, monthly payments from the account will begin when I reach 70 years of age.

As such, this leaves the statement in the handbook as somewhat vague. I will not have the option of receiving monthly payments for another 40 years. This leaves the statement open for interpretation: since I do not have the option of receiving monthly payments now, does this mean that taking a lump sum will not affect my unemployment compensation or does it mean that because I will eventually have the option of taking monthly payments, it will? Frankly, I am hoping for the former, but I want to be completely certain before taking any action.

Quite frankly, calling the unemployment office to get this matter clarified was a waste of time. It would have been one thing to get an answer which ran counter to what I think the handbook implies, but to get no answer whatsoever runs the gamut from frustrating to infuriating.

It took me twenty minutes on hold to speak to a representative. I asked the woman on the other end of the line the same question I posited here. She referred me back to the handbook and gave me a series of non-answers, most of which quoted the reminders I'd been listening to during my time on hold.

"If you do decide to cash out your pension, make sure you report it," I heard on the other end of the line. I imagined that the woman saying this was filing her nails while leaning back in her chair, nonchalantly glancing at her script on a computer monitor.

"I'm aware of that requirement, but what I need to do is if doing so will affect on my unemployment compensation," I replied.

"I don't get to make that judgement; you'll have to decide whether to live off of your unemployment compensation or your pension."

If my read of the handbook was correct, this shouldn't be an either/or situation. In fact, the last thing I want to do is endanger my unemployment compensation as I attempt to pad out the financial blow of job loss. However, the tone struck by the statements of the woman on the other end of the phone was almost like a nasty dare; she may as well have said, "Go ahead and cash out your pension and see what happens; I bet you won't like it."

I probably should have stayed on the phone and told the woman that if she couldn't answer my question then I wished to be transferred to someone who could. The more I think about it, the greater the desire grows to call back, endure being on hold and get myself transferred to a supervisor or someone higher up the line who can actually answer my questions. If someone gets to "make a judgement" then someone knows what will happen in this situation. Compounding my annoyance is that there is no physical unemployment office in Pittsburgh where I could speak to a representative directly and look this person in the eye.

So, two months unemployed...life is full of transitions and this is merely another one. However, there is no reason for anything to be as frustrating as it is. Given my experiences when I did have a job and my continued frustrations with so-called customer "service" centers, I'm adding "cut through bureaucracy" to my list of life missions.

illusionofjoy: (Default)

It's the economy, stupid. From the Boston Globe:

With the economy in crisis and Election Day in sight, Obama can't say enough about the Clinton epoch - the job growth, the budget surpluses, the broad prosperity - and often lauds the former president's economic stewardship as a model.

"We need to do what we did in the 1990s and create millions of new jobs and not lose them," he told 6,000 people in Abington, outside Philadelphia, last week. "We need to do what we did in the 1990s and make sure people's incomes are going up and not down. We need to do what a guy named Bill Clinton did in the 1990s and put people first again."

Well, isn't that just a little late? Better late than never, I guess. Of course, a recent sticking point with me was that Obama went on record as favouring more bailouts for financial corporations while McCain proposed buying out citizens' bad mortgages directly. Who is the Democrat and who is the Republican in this race again?

illusionofjoy: (Default)

From the Associated Press:

NEW YORK - The failure of the bailout package in Congress literally dropped jaws on Wall Street and triggered a historic selloff — including a terrifying decline of nearly 500 points in mere minutes as the vote took place, the closest thing to panic the stock market has seen in years.

The Dow Jones industrial average lost 777 points Monday, its biggest single-day fall ever, easily beating the 684 points it lost on the first day of trading after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

As uncertainty gripped investors, the credit markets, which provide the day-to-day lending that powers business in the United States, froze up even further.

At the New York Stock Exchange, traders watched with faces tense and mouths agape as TV screens showed the House vote rejecting the Bush administration's $700 billion plan to buy up bad debt and shore up the financial industry.

I did a quick recap of the causes leading up to the Stockmarket crash of 1929, which was the lynchpin for the Great Depression in the United States. Among the main causes were the following: lack of regulation of the financial industry, predatory and risky lending and borrowing, a lack of faith in the American economy, and natural disasters such as a hurricane hitting Miami in 1927 and the Midwestern dustbowl crises straining economic resources. Does any of this sound familiar to anyone? It's time to read the writing on the wall.

illusionofjoy: (Default)

I was recently alerted that the PayPal link to purchase tickets for the Illusion of Joy show at the Shadow Lounge on the 20th is not working. I am currently looking into this in the hopes of having it resolved as soon as possible. If you are having any problems, please contact me about it.

illusionofjoy: (Hillary Clinton 2008)

I just donated ten dollars each to Hillary Clinton's and Barack Obama's respective campaigns. If you've been reading my recent posts (and why would you - they're so compelling), you are aware that both candidates are offering donors a chance to meet with them one on one; in Obama's case it is over dinner, and in Clinton's case it would be at an Elton John concert in New York City after the show. I'm a sucker for a chance at one on one time with Democratic candidates (I have no desire to hobnob with republicans), so I split with my hard-earned cash for both of them. Of course, we all know that I'm voting for Hillary Clinton in the Pennsylvania primary, and as I'm often too honest for my own good, what follows is what I wrote to the Obama camp when I made my donation:

This is indeed an exciting time to be a member of the Democratic Party. Unlike our opponents who offer little to improve the lives of the average American citizen, the Democrats have been blessed with an overabundance of highly qualified people setting forth to do right by this nation. Regardless of who the nominee ultimately is, I will be proud to vote Democratic come November 4th. Still, it is my hope that both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton will come together after primary season ends and all the votes have been tabulated in order to form a unified and mighty Democratic ticket. Both candidates have very similar policy initiatives yet appeal to different groups of people. The best way to bring these distinct groups together is for both candidates to unite on one ticket (it is irrelevant as to whom gets the top spot); this unity would be a Democratic juggernaut which could not be defeated by the real enemy in this race: John McCain.

Above all it is imperative that Democratic leadership be returned to the White House. I feel I must confess, despite making this (as well as a previous) donation to the Obama campaign, I will be voting for Hillary Clinton in the Pennsylvania primary. However, as I stated previously, the Democrats have been blessed with an overabundance of highly qualified people setting forth to do right by this nation. I greatly admire Barack Obama and his work and simply can not pass up an opportunity to have dinner with someone who may be the next President of the United States. Should Barack Obama become the Democratic nominee for President, I will have no reservation in voting for him; the real enemy here is John McCain.

Overall, this is an exciting and wonderful time to be a Democrat - which come November will be the party I have been registered to for a decade. More so, it is an exciting time to be an American; few are the times that so much history could be made in so little time. I implore Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton to unite on one ticket and do great things for this nation together.

P.S.: If you are looking for restaurants in the Pittsburgh area, I highly recommend Atria's on Beverly Road in Mt. Lebanon, PA. They have private dining rooms, excellent food and a very friendly and professional staff. Friends and family members have gone there several times for special events and have never been disappointed.

Meanwhile, [livejournal.com profile] joi_division and I visited her brother and sister-in-law today. I had snagged a couple of "Hillary for President" yard signs to give to them when a pickup truck coming up the street we were crossing honked at us a couple of times. The driver stopped and asked if we had a sign we could spare. Since we had two, I gave him one. He thanked us and said, "Hillary all the way," before driving off.

illusionofjoy: (Hillary Clinton 2008)

Yesterday I posted that Barack Obama's campaign is offering donors the chance to have dinner with the man himself. In said post I expressed disappointment that Hillary Clinton's campaign wasn't doing the same thing again. However, one thing is for certain about Hillary Clinton: she will not be outdone if she can help it.

For a while now, there have been emails from the Clinton camp about an Elton John concert in New York city that he was throwing in order to raise money for her campaign. The initial email was a simple solicitation for donations which would count as the purchase price of a ticket. A subsequent email from daughter Chelsea Clinton stated that anyone who signed up to volunteer for the campaign prior to April 2nd would be entered into a drawing for a chance to attend the concert. I already qualify for that, obviously. Finally, the following was posted on Facebook for those who have their profiles linked to Hillary Clinton as a supporter:

We're sending two supporters, along with their guests, to New York with VIP tickets for this very special, one-night-only concert on April 9, and it could be you. We will have a chance to talk just you and I -- and you will get to meet Elton John at the party we're throwing afterwards. It's going to be a great night.

Your support is so important to my campaign right now. As we ramp up our campaign in Pennsylvania, I need your help to make sure we have the resources we need to win. If you enter, you and I might see each other in New York on April 9. Make a contribution today.

Egads! Chances to meet both of the potential Democratic presidential candidates face to face? Take my money - please! Meanwhile, what do the republicans have to offer...?

"Vote for us or the terrorists win!"

Right...I'll take a pass and stick with the political party where all the fun people hang out.

illusionofjoy: (Default)

Ever since I left the tattered remains of my college career behind and moved into my own rental unit, I began receiving credit card offers, generally at the rate of one per month. I'd toss these out, as school alone had left me in enough debt and desperation. Fast-forward to the present and my school loans are paid off, except that someone doesn't seem to realise this, leading to an assault on my paycheque which began last year. It's a funny world we live in where somehow it is okay to harass a person continuously over the phone for money that they do not have any record of owing, but when said person tries to fight back, it is perfectly acceptable to stonewall them. Rest assured, I intend to continue sending nastygrams to the address provided by my HR department.

But I digress...back on topic to the credit card offers: I recently decided to actually take one of these companies up on their offer. "What's this," you may be asking, "have you suffered a wire-hangar lobotomy, my boy?" Maybe...

A situation has arisen where I actually need a credit card, otherwise the thought would have never crossed my mind, much less the action my hands. I have a trip planned for the not-so-distant future and I fear that [livejournal.com profile] joi_division's car would not survive the distance I intend on driving. Therefore, it is necessary to rent a car, and therein lies the rub. In order to rent a car, one must possess a credit card (but it's okay to put one's life on the line renting a U-Haul truck with just a debit card, as an aside). So, with my hand forced, the strange configurations of Greyhound not being optimal for the journey, I have set forth to procure myself a tool of potential financial Armageddon.

In actuality, I tried taking total control of my credit destiny for myself, applying for a card which had no monthly fees, a good rate, etc. I was promptly rejected due to the artificial black mark on my credit report (capitalist pigs). So, I've reluctantly decided to pursue one of the many mailed-in offers I've received where I've apparently been "pre-screened" and "pre-approved" (translation: "we've found a sucker"). At the moment, I'm waiting to find out if "pre-approval" actually translates into final approval, at which point I plan on taming this beast of plastic with payments in full each time I make a charge on it. In other words, I intend to be the type of customer credit card companies hate: one that they can't make any interest payment money off of because the charges are constantly paid off.

Now, the funny part...you have been waiting for the funny part, right? Yeah, so have I. It seems that ever since I accepted the offer for the one credit card, the offers for others have been pouring in with more frequency. Perhaps this isn't actually the case and I simply haven't noticed them before, but just this week I've already received two - and it's only Tuesday! It just goes to show that, no matter how dark and disgusting one's credit report may be, corporate America is always willing to try and put their filthy paws onto whatever finances you may have remaining.

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Seth Warren

May 2017

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