Color me green

...and call me Cupcake!

I read
this article a couple of weeks ago and have been lost in fantasies of quitting my job and doing something I could really love and lose myself in ever since. Not that I don't love litigation -- no, no, just the opposite: it's one of my many character flaws -- but cupcakes? They beat the ass off litigation, and don't even put them in the ring with records retention policy compliance, ok?

So here are some possibilities, each of which just has one little problem: how to make $100K/year doing them for a living....

  • card-making: you know I design and make my own collage-y cards and I love doing it and am always so gratified when people compliment them and remind me that similar cards sell for $5-$8 apiece at Papyrus and similar venues. I just can't figure out a way to do it such that I could more than break even, both time and money-wise. I mean, each card takes 10-15 minutes to complete, after I've figured out a prototype and been able to fashion a mini-assembly line out of the operation (conceptualizing is a little longer, but always fun, if I'm in the mood to do it!), and the materials for each probably put the cost at about $2 apiece. I haven't had the audacity to sell for more than $4 apiece, which is fine -- a 100% markup is probably significantly less than all the companies whose cards are now made by children in sweatshops in India and China, but at least the labor's honest and not exploited. I make sets of 4 cards which I sell for $15 (is that $3.75 a card? I'm so not mathy.) but would consider charging $20 for; they are French and Italian-themed but I've branched out to Japanese and have done specific themed ones for special runs using ephemera relevant to the occasion. I love making them, but can't see myself running a website or something, just because I go through these phases where I am more acutely lazy than usual and would hate to disappoint shoppers. Hmm... I did just discover Etsy, though, so maybe someday....
  • "weekday wife": obviously a working title, but basically an errand-running and home-during-the-week service where people could pay a monthly fee for a suite of services they could pick from a "menu": grocery-shopping, Target or Costco runs, making and freezing prepared meals, running errands about town, waiting for the cable guy/ delivery guy/ fumigator, and gift-shopping-to-specification. I figure since you could combine several people's errands into a day, you would only have to charge people $300-400/month -- if you got even 15 people to work for, you would be making a respectable sum ($4500-6K/month is damned good, considering a) you'd be working a lot less than 45 hours a week and b) you'd have no expenses beyond gas and auto maintenance, which you'd pay anyway to commute down the Peninsula or wherever). I do think this job depends, first, on connections, so you could get clients, at least initially, who were friends and friends of friends, and build your reputation that way; and second, on a real rebound in the economy, because it is a service (like all those old "organize your life" consultants) that depends on people having disposable income and more money than time. Still, I think it would be a cool gig.
  • free-lance paralegal: self-explanatory, working 1000 hours a year or so, charging $100/hour to firms or companies (the former would, of course, bill me out to their clients at $150-$200/hour, which is what "paralegal specialists" are showing up on bills for these days) to either be a trial paralegal or do a lot of the work firms give to baby lawyers (at billing rates beginning at $225 or so) with no experience currently. I could pick the cases I accepted, based on length of project, or location, or other factors, and not work when I didn't feel like it. The only thing this hinges on, at present, is taking a couple of courses in the newer technologies used in eDiscovery these days, but that's an eminently achievable hurdle. This is the option with the greatest financial upside potential, because the billing rate is set by the prevailing rates at litigation firms, who never hesitate to charge a lot. I'd always undercut them, I think, and would come with the expertise of 18 years' work at a big firm and a big publicly traded company, a nice balance.

Whew. Ok, back to my regularly-scheduled life....


Call me petty, go ahead

The whole recent whirl of nonsense around Paris Hilton's jail time, home confinement, and back to jail time has raised my blood pressure to near-stroke levels. I can't help but be thoroughly psyched that she's back in [what passes for] the slammer, and wish there were some way to make her serve a year, rather than the whopping 3 weeks she'll actually "do" in county lockup, more than half of which will likely be in the medical ward or solitary confinement. When she was released to her home, I was stunned, in light of the trial judge's very specific prohibition against just that very sentence for her, and I anticipated that there would be some sort of explosion, but not what its end result would be.

Here's the sad truth of the matter: Paris Hilton, for reasons entirely mysterious (and copmpletely befuddling) to me, is, in fact, a role model and style icon to thousands of girls, as are Lindsay Lohan and the rest of the blow-jobbing, ketamine-popping, cocaine-snorting lot of those marginally talented bits of fluff floating around Hollywood these days (Lohan actually being the saddest example of the crowd because she actually seems to be somewhat more than marginally talented but is quite possibly being driven to the grave by her poor choices, most of which I daresay stem from the shittier-than-shitty so-called "parenting" she's gotten from her tawdry opportunistic mother and alcoholic amoral father). Every time one of these women gets a DUI or a possession charge or a reckless driving crime knocked down to a misdemeanor and serves little or no time and gets the judicial equivalent of a shaken finger, she moves closer to death, as do any of the girls who admire or idolize her and thinks it's "cool" to follow in her footsteps. It grieves me, even while it sickens me that we have no better offerings, because the paparazzi don't make famous the athletes or brainiacs or young actresses who are home (alone) in bed at 11 o'clock of an evening, rather than out parading panty-less in and out of one club or another.

I also flat out cannot understand why New York and California's Alcoholic Beverages Commissions aren't sending enforcement officers out to these clubs, where alcohol is so clearly being served to minors, with disastrous results. What I also want to see is the next person who files a civil suit against one of the DUI beauties add the establishment(s) where s/he drank to the complaint, along with the members of the entourage who are over 21. When it starts hitting their wallets, maybe they'll come around. I just hope it's before the next innocent bystander is killed (cf, Lane Garrison's manslaughter conviction -- or was it a plea? -- whatev).


B'leeeeee dat!

I was perusing the online edition of the NYT the other day, as I like to do, when I came across two articles, a new one and an old one, wherein a columnist gives life and quasi-financial advice to graduating seniors (collegiate ones, that is; I think in the NYT world h.s. seniors go to college not out to work, n'est-ce pas?). The permalink is here, but it got me thinking about the sorry state my finances were in, even ten short years ago, and the appalling condition they were in in 1989. Flashbacks, night sweats, remembered terror, yikes.

Although I was lucky enough to have college paid for, parents who were generous, and pretty g.d. remunerative summer jobs ($10 an hour and more, back in the days when the minimum wage was $3.15, not bad at all, thanks IRSA and DoL!), I nevertheless managed to leave school with no less than $5,000 debt, all of my own making: a loan for the second semester of senior year (taken so I could bank the check my dad wrote, I thought it would be better to move to SF with a nest egg rather than empty coffers) and "credit card" debt because I didn't understand that American Express doesn't work. that. way. Let's not go into all the gory details but suffice it to say that I didn't have a home PHONE for about a year and a half b/c I couldn't pay my damned phone bills. In all fairness, I should disclose that at the time, I was bringing home $1165 a month. My rent was $575-625, my car insurance was about $100/mo., my parking tickets were about $300/mo. (yes, it's true, having a car in SF without a garage is the height of stupidity, but it takes some people longer to learn that than others, ok? Don't judge me!), my FastPass, utilities and food were about $150/mo., and my student loan was $65/mo. It doesn't take a math whiz to see that I could not, in fact, support myself living alone in SF as I was determined to do. So I borrowed from Peter to pay Paul, as the saying goes, juggling one utility and another, etc. etc. Long story short: endured years of nasty phonecalls from collections agencies and credit card companies, saw student loan go into collections (paid it off in 1998), got car towed and sold at auction for excess parking tickets, and was sued by former friend for his possessions in car at time of tow (getting that small claims was without a doubt my lowest day ever, knock wood -- sorry, Geoff).

When we were buying our first house in '04, my terror that my credit was going to get us denied and would lead to an ugly divorce kept me up nights for weeks on end.

My point? I wish I'd read articles like Damon Darlin's back in the day; hell, I wish there had been articles like Mr. Darlin's back in the day. The happy ending is that I did learn my lesson, and don't live beyond my means, ever, no matter the temptation. I funded my 401(k) starting back in '94, as soon as I could afford to, and I'll never succumb to fiscal irresponsibility again. Hell, I get paranoid when we carry a credit card balance more than 2 weeks, never mind 2 years or more, like the bad old days.

I just wish every 22-year old (or 18-year-old, for the Daily News readers in the audience -- ha!) could have a blinding flash of clarity that putting off instant gratification really will pay off in the long run. No more debt!!


National Socialists, anyone?

Am I the only one who immediately saw the swastika in this appalling logo?!

Good God, what were they thinking?!?! Egad. Let's hope the outcry means this will be just the rough draft.


Thanks, LA Daddy!

Went up to Mulholland Drive last night (getting thoroughly lost and excessively well-acquainted with Burbank on the way, but that's a whole 'nother Oprah, as the song says) and had a fun time meeting some of the blogateers whose work I've read, enjoyed and admired. Kudos to Tim for putting the whole shindig together at his friend the screenwriter's house in the hills (SO FAB!) and to Karen for playing co-hostess while gestating. I enjoyed meeting and laughing with Leah and her charming husband, and talking with this woman whose name I am mortified to admit I didn't catch but who was very amusing, as well as SueBob, (who kindly greeted me when I arrived at 3500 ft, after climbing the driveway), Debra , 8cm and Stefanie, the Mama of Baby on Bored, as well as others' whose clever blog spots I've already forgotten -- hey, it was a long drive home after 11 p.m. and I'm just lucky I made it home without nodding off on the 405!!