The Second Half

A middle-aged lady (or old, depending on perspective) sharing this and that with whomever strays into her digital property. Of course there are cats involved ;)

I renounce thee, Amazon! — January 29, 2018

I renounce thee, Amazon!

Do you have those moments when you slump into your chair and start howling something along the lines of “Ay, ay, I’m the lowest of the low, a spineless entity with the IQ of a really, really dumb fruit fly!”

C’mon, you must have hated on yourself now and then. I don’t mean for real – gosh, no, I hope you all love and treat your good selves right. But once in a while, we disappoint ourselves in some not-quite-significant ways, like doing something common sense screams at us not to. Or maybe we act in a manner that reveals we’re not the rather splendiferous characters we like to think we are. I recently had such a chair-slumping, howl-inducing moment and the trigger was Amazon.

Let me make it clear right away: I am not a fan of Amazon! Any company that seems intent on devouring the world is a villain in my book. Yeah, all right, hats off to Jeff Bezos for building an empire, but let it go already, for Pete’s sake!

Anyway, I had long resisted even browsing their site, let alone buying anything. Why would I do it? It’s a foreign company, and I’d have to pay a crapload of money to get my stuff delivered. I could get the object of my desire from a local online store, and it wouldn’t be more expensive when you factor in exchange rates and delivery costs.

So, I knew all that, common sense told me so, my aversion to Amazon told me so. And what did I do? Having listened to my friend Mona sing Amazon’s praises for quite a while, I caved in and made an account. I did the same thing with Titanic and Avatar: I’d sworn not to watch them and then they came on TV, and I was just too bloody lazy to change the channel. I quite enjoyed Avatar, truth be told, Titanic not so much, but that’s beside the point. I’m an oath breaker – an amoeba would have more willpower!

And Amazon is dangerous for me!!! You see, I have this maniacal desire to buy stationery, mostly pretty notebooks, preferably in bright colors. It’s probably a medical condition – these beauties never get used, I stack them up in a bookcase, go admire them from time to time, and that’s it. Con-di-tion, OK? No need to roll your eyes. And yep, it’s what I bought on Amazon.

Ah, the excitement!
Even Poofie got excited!
And the anti-climactic revelation…

They cost me a LOT and the delivery charge was hair-raising (I ordered via the UK site). I mean, it’s not money I can easily afford and besides, my English friend Lee said they were indeed expensive, so it’s not as if I’m looking at it from the perspective of an impoverished person.

What can I tell you? I’m not exactly displeased with my purchase. The notebooks are of excellent quality. That said, I expected five different colors, and I got a green duplicate, so four colors. Moreover, I was looking forward to a red notebook, and it turned out to be orange. Of course, I was a newbie and it didn’t occur to me to browse the comments section: I would have found out that many other people also got duplicates of one of the colors. Frankly, I doubt I would have parted with my money had I known such a risk existed.

The thing is that I must grow a spine and really steer clear of Amazon. On top of my dislike for the company in principle, it’s a hazard for people with an obsession like mine. So many notebooks, in all sizes and colors, sitting there, taunting me, reaching out to strip me of my hard-earned cash…Brrr!

So, here is my resolution: I won’t go on Amazon again until they set up shop in my country. That, however, is something I fervently hope to never see in my lifetime! Hey, I’m not calling for a boycott or something. I’m sure it’s a great option for many people otherwise Bezos wouldn’t have the money to do his imperialistic thing. But for this lady in Bulgaria, no number of devastatingly gorgeous notebooks will be temptation enough to return there. I’ve spoken!

Why not? — October 27, 2017

Why not?

It’s been a month since my last post so you could say I’ve been slacking. Am I ashamed? Erm…not really.

And you won’t really be getting an article today. I mean, it IS an article but not the type I write for my own pleasure. It wasn’t intended for this blog but what’s the harm in sharing? Might as well use it to inject some life into this place. I’ll be back tomorrow with a proper article (I think). Cheerio!



WTF, Switzerland?! — September 19, 2017

WTF, Switzerland?!

Somebody in Switzerland can shit money!!! Like, literally! So far, the unidentified individual has pushed tens of thousands of euro out of their craphole!

Don’t suppose that fooled ya, did it? No, of course not. This is what a four-year-old might be inclined to accept as fact. There’s no excuse for grown-ups unless they are partial to mind-altering substances, in which case the idea of people shitting money wouldn’t appear out of the ordinary. So, let me tell you what all this is about and what happened in the aftermath.

Bloomberg (love you, guys!) reported this week that Geneva prosecutors were investigating how wads of 500-euro bills found their way into the toilet pipes of three restaurants in the vicinity of a UBS branch. For those not particularly interested in financial matters and the institutions that rule the market, UBS is Switzerland’s biggest bank and one of the world’s top sector players: it has operations in more than 50 countries and a global workforce of close to 60,000.

It might also be appropriate to mention that UBS has been involved in a fair share of controversies, some of them resulting in criminal charges. It was one of the financial institutions that held on to Holocaust victims’ assets and claimed them as its own. In more recent years, the bank has been accused of aiding tax evasion in several countries, violating US trade embargoes, colluding with certain peers to manipulate Libor and currency benchmarks, and quite a few other transgressions.

But it’s not my intention to hate on UBS. To prove that, I’ll also tell you that it consistently gets recognized by industry bodies, especially for its wealth management services, equity research, and employment practices. On the other hand, I didn’t set out to produce an article about UBS so let’s move on.

The bank had to be mentioned because the first discarded bills turned up in a bathroom close to a UBS vault full of safe deposit boxes. Within a few days, banknotes had made their way into the toilet pipes of those restaurants, the result being thousands of francs blown on plumbing repairs. Switzerland has no law against destroying banknotes but Geneva prosecutors believe the incident merits an investigation. UBS has yet to issue an official statement on the matter.

It figures that melted cheese (fondue) would be Switzerland’s most famous dish.

All right now, we know Switzerland is a rich country but come on!!! This was one of the first things to cross my mind when I read that piece of news. Then I got to thinking this is one frigging weirdo of a country. Cuckoo clocks, mountains, cows, cheese, fondue, chocolate, bank secrecy laws, neutrality during World War 2 – that more or less exhausts my knowledge about Switzerland.

Then the usual happened. You see, when I read something and it intrigues me for whatever reason, I want to find out more. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not always in pursuit of quality information – sometimes I just want to be entertained. I was leaning towards levity on the day I read Bloomberg’s article so I set out to unearth weird things about Switzerland.

Do you have any idea how many things are against the law in this country after 10 pm? I mean routine, run-of-the-mill things, not some outlandish activities. Check this out: flushing the toilet, taking a shower, washing your car, slamming a car door, or peeing standing up. Apparently, the first two are encoded in laws that allow interpretation. Come Sunday, don’t you dare hang your laundry out to dry, wash your car (yourself, that is; going to a car wash is perfectly legal), mow your lawn, or dump bottles and cans in public recycling bins. And forget about reciting poetry while you ski down a mountain slope!

You wouldn’t believe the passion Switzerland has for animal rights! In case you are considering a guinea pig, a mouse or a ferret as pets, you’ll have to get at least two or you’ll be guilty of animal abuse because these are social species. On the other hand, the country doesn’t seem to care all that much about cats, which definitely gets my goat!

No guinea pig is lonely in Switzerland (unless its owner is a law-breaker)

Most of its weird laws are intended to keep Switzerland clean and safe. That it is and then some! It may be the only country in the world where heads of state and government members use public transport and do so without any bodyguards in tow. Mind you, this is a country where men have to keep their rifles after their compulsory military service. So, lots of firearms around but no itchy trigger fingers.

What else made me go “WTF”? Switzerland allows discrimination on the basis of gender, age, or nationality, as well as assisted suicide. It also has no problem with illegal downloads but sharing the content is a no-no (huh?). You can go nude or start a campfire in public without fear of legal repercussions. And if you happen to be a wealthy foreigner, you can haggle with the authorities to get a flat tax rate.

So, dear readers, I now have a wealth of more or less useless information about this interesting country. Allow me to take a minute to thank Bloomberg and Reuters, whose daily newsletters keep me amply supplied with all sorts of information. Some of them carry serious stories, like world, business, and financial news. Some deal with plain goofy stuff. But you know what? They keep my curiosity alive and very often provide me with writing material. Granted, this article may not have much of a worth but I enjoyed the research and the actual writing. And I think I now want to visit Switzerland one day and cavort in the mountains among the cows, munching on a chunk of cheese and reciting poetry. Since I won’t be skiing, I don’t expect to run afoul of the law.

P.S. Remember how the Internet went ga-ga recently over the “[insert country] Second” campaign? With Trump stomping his feet and screeching it will be “America First,” a swarm of countries began jostling for the second position. The Netherlands produced the first video, setting the tone and style for the rest. Not all of them are good, but Switzerland’s is, without any doubt in my mind, one of the top three. In case you’ve let this hilarity slip unnoticed, grab a spare set of undies and then check out how the country sought to win over POTUS.

The last article — July 21, 2017

The last article

Today is a day of special significance for me. It marks the end of a business relationship that I was extremely lucky to build. I’m sad, of course, but happy at the same time to have known Randy and worked for him.

Why devote an article to a job, of all things? If you are a freelancer, you will know how important your first client is. Much of your perception about freelance work will be shaped by that person. OK, maybe not for long, but it will definitely leave a mark.

I couldn’t have been luckier for Randy is an amazing person. The man is a financial expert. That in itself is impressive enough, but only a fraction of the whole picture. He is also an accomplished poet, with several books to his name. He knows Japanese and, if I’m not mistaken, Chinese as well. He is engaged in all sorts of projects and it never ceases to amaze me how he finds the time and energy for them.

I can’t really tell you more about Randy because, frankly, I don’t know him all that well. You could say I don’t know him at all. I just have some random facts and my impressions from our work interaction. He’s also a very private person so I’d better shut up.

But there are things I can tell you without fear of crossing any boundaries. Last November, I decided I’d had enough of my corporate job and would pursue a freelancing career. This is the point where I should thank my friend Mona, who had already embraced the self-employed lifestyle. She was working for Randy, who was then in need of writers for his website. Mona recommended me, I got a job offer and my life took a different course. About bloody time, I’d say!

It’s not my intention to bore you with details of my work. I merely wanted to pay a tribute of sorts to Randy. People pass through our life and most fade into oblivion. Others remain firmly planted in our memory. I’m certain I will always remember the first client I got as a freelancer.

It gives me pleasure to think that I exited the stage in style (or so I believe). I chose carefully the subject of my last article and put extra effort into it. I’m sharing it with you now to celebrate a great business partnership, a wonderful client, old successes, new beginnings and whatever else you think appropriate in this case. A word of caution: this is not exactly light reading and targets a specific audience. Still, it’s not snooze-inducing stuff and may actually hold your attention. Enjoy!


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