NYE: Avoid the Peabody

I’ve talked about this before in my blog, but since readership has increased since last year (averaging just under 300 visits a week these days), I want to issue a word of caution to people making New Year’s Eve plans: Avoid the Peabody!

I went 2 years ago with a group, and it was absolutely ridiculous. The line at the lobby bar was five-deep all the way around, and the Peabody managers didn’t have enough sense to staff it with extra bartenders. There were additional bars set up in the back ballroom, where bands were playing – these were the “short” lines, with only about a 25-minute wait. If I remember correctly, domestic beer was 5 bucks, import beer was 6-7, and wine was 7. I bought three glasses of wine and slammed them within about five minutes, hoping that would do the trick – I did NOT want to stand in that line again! So, combined with my $30 entry fee (it’s $35 in advance, $40 at the door this year), I spent $51 at that miserable party. Never again.

I also remember the lines for the bathrooms being 10-15 minutes, and that’s for guys. No idea how long the women had to wait. That was another disincentive to buy their ridiculously expensive drinks – I didn’t want to stand in another line to recycle them.

Even the fact that there were a lot of young, hot girls there didn’t make the party worthwhile. (I’d guess that the average age of the attendees was 20; make of that what you will, since they’re not supposed to be letting in people under 21.)

Could’ve been a great party, but it was terribly, horribly managed, and I have absolutely no confidence that they’ve taken steps to improve it in the two years since. Strong recommendation to avoid, if you’re looking for something to do New Year’s Eve. If you want to pay too much for drinks at the Peabody, wait until April when the rooftop parties start back up.

Real Mexican downtown? And other downtown news

A lot of people are waiting for Rio Loco to open on Union, in the spot that used to be Buckley’s. People are excited about finally having REAL Mexican food downtown (Pancho’s, with its cardboard enchiladas, doesn’t count).

Well, I just picked up the most recent copy of the Memphis Flyer, and it looks like we don’t even have to wait for Rio Loco to open (good thing, since they seem to be on the 2-year plan for renovations). There was an ad for “Quinto Patio Authentic Mexican Cantina” at 345 Beale. They listed fajitas, taco salads, carne asada, burritos, and enchiladas as being menu items.

However, the ad also says “and New York Style Pizza” (345 Beale used to be a pizza parlor). I have to wonder if they can do both well. However, I’m going to reserve judgment, and will give it a try soon. If anybody has eaten there, shoot me an e-mail and let me know what you think of it.

Tonight I went to get my hair cut at Sliver Salon on GE Patterson. As I walked out I was very sad to see “Going Out of Business Sale” signs on the door of Parallax, the DVD rental store. I’ve never been a big movie person, but it hurts to see a small business downtown close, especially one that embodied the passion of its owners the way that place did. I wish them luck in their future ventures. Meanwhile, good opportunity to pick up some DVDs for Christmas at sale prices.

Afterward, I walked around the corner and checked out the Midtown Artists’ Market Christmas sale. Great way to start your art collection without spending an arm and a leg. Then I went to Zanzibar for their Cuban Media Noche sandwich. Two girls asked the bartender for the time, and despite having a watch on, he took his cell phone out of his pocket and checked the display. Sign of the times, I guess.

This is the last “normal” weekend for three weeks – Christmas is next weekend, and New Year’s the weekend after that. No plans thus far, other than returning to Sleep Out’s for Sunday brunch after a week’s absence.

And that’s the downtown news. See you later!

A deluxe apartment – er, condo – in the sky, and priced to the sky too

Last night there was a reception in my building for another building nearby that is being converted to condos. The units in the building will sell for $300,000-$600,000.

This reminds me of checking Yahoo’s stock price in 2000, seeing it at $250, and thinking, “I’ve got to invest in these Internet stocks! I’m buying!” Yahoo is a great company with fantastic management… ain’t no doubt about that. And one day, it will see $250 again, and higher. But that day is a while coming. (In case you’re curious… Yahoo closed at $41.75 today)

Same with this new building, and all the other new condos downtown (I see it’s the cover story of this week’s Memphis Flyer; haven’t read it yet). No doubt that these are some quality units they’re building/converting, and will be beautiful places to live. And if that’s where you want to be and you’re in for the long haul, go for it. But if you think you’re going to turn a profit in a few years on your investment, you’re out of your mind.

The condo bubble is about to burst.

Not all notebook sections are created equal

(Warning… most boring post in the history of this blog… no kidding)

I recently bought one of those Five-Star 200 page, 5-subject notebooks for a project I’m working on. You’d think that would mean 5 sections of 40 pages each. Not so.

I needed to keep track of page numbers, so I went through with a pen and numbered the pages 1 through 400, since each of the 200 sheets has 2 sides. The sections ended on pages 98, 176, 254, 336, and 400.

That means the sections contained 49, 39, 39, 41, and 32 sheets. I never would’ve guessed it. They all looked equal to me when I bought the notebook.

So for those of you taking classes in the spring, beware… not all notebook sections are created equal.

Internet dumbasses: You can tell by their typing

One of the web applications I’ve built at work requires end users, who are generally salespeople at appliance stores, to go in and register and set up accounts for themselves on our websites. Most of the people are able to register without problem, and log in and start using the application. But, as always, there are those who have trouble – there are people who don’t register properly because they fly through the screens too fast and don’t follow directions, and there are other people who just aren’t that computer-literate. They get frustrated and call for help, and I have to go into the database and find out what happened. Having done this for a while now, I’m beginning to notice some trends.

There are people who type EVERYTHING IN ALL CAPS. They type their name in as BOB SMITH, for example, and their address as 100 SOMEWHERE LANE, MEMPHIS, TN, 38103. They type in their e-mail address as MYEMAIL@MYISP.COM. These people make up about 30% of all registered users, but they make up about 60% of all people who have trouble with registration. This subgroup is also the most likely to leave their e-mail address field blank because they don’t have an e-mail address.

Then there are people who never use caps. They type their name in as bob smith, and their address as 100 somewhere lane, memphis, tn 38103. They type their e-mail addresses in all lowercase, but that’s not unusual because most e-mail addresses are in all lowercase. Looking at the database, I see that this group makes up about 10% of registered users, but they account for 30% of all registration problems. They’re the most likely to have typos in their address, their e-mail, sometimes even their name.

And finally, there are people who use proper case when registering. They type their name in as Bob Smith, and their address as 100 Somewhere Lane, Memphis, TN 38103. Their e-mail address is usually typed in lowercase, but as I noted before, that’s a common convention. Approximately 60% of all registered users typed their info in proper case. These users account for at most 10% of the registration problems.

Who’s gonna screw up? You can tell by the typing…most of the time.


About a year ago, I got a notice in the mail that I had been selected to receive a complimentary subscription to Stuff magazine. Stuff is one of those men’s magazines filled with pictures of half-naked women who I’m supposed to think are hot, articles about extreme sports that I’m supposed to think are cool, and features about gadgets that I’m supposed to want to buy.

So about a month later, the first issue arrived. I found that on average, it look me less than 5 minutes to flip through each issue and toss it in the trash can.

Recently, my “complimentary” subscription ran out. And they sent me a bill – now that I’ve had a year of their great magazine, wouldn’t I like to renew at full price? The bill ended up sitting next to the last three issues in the trash (geez, maybe I should take the trash out more often, huh).

You know what magazine I’d much rather subscribe to than Stuff? Cosmopolitan. No kidding. When I was a regular at the Blue Monkey, the bartender usually had the latest issue behind the bar and I’d read it as I drank my Sunday champagne. Once I got over the whole “I hope no one I know sees me reading a women’s magazine” thing, I began to realize that Cosmo really did offer some valuable insights into how women think. Seems like it would make more sense to read a magazine that gives me an idea how women’s minds work, so I can relate to them better in the real world, rather than look at pictures of scantily-clothed women I’ll never meet.

Any suggestions? Other than Cosmo, are there any magazines out there that will help me better understand women? I refuse to buy anything published by Oprah or Martha Stewart, but I’m open to other suggestions.

Retirement, and the problem with following the herd

One of my biggest pet peeves – perhaps my biggest of all – is people who blindly accept what society dictates they “should” do without ever stopping to ask if it’s truly in their best interest. And one area where people seem especially inclined to behave like sheep is retirement planning.

Recently I became eligible for my company’s 401(k) plan and had to attend a meeting to learn about the options. Some of the other people in the room were saying, “I wonder if I’ll have enough money at age 65 when I retire.”

Hear the societally-programmed belief there? “Age 65 is when I’m SUPPOSED to retire.”

Says who?

Maybe accepting 65 as a retirement age made sense when you could actually depend on Social Security to cover your bills, but those days are gone. Or if you had a company pension that begins paying off at 65. But these days, few companies offer pensions; they offer 401(k)s, 403(b)s, or other defined-contribution plans.

So, when are you supposed to retire? The way I see it, when two conditions are met:

1) When the desire not to work anymore is greater than the desire to keep working. And this rarely happens at 65. Some people love what they do and would like to keep doing it until the day they die, or until the day they find something even better. Some people have no need to keep working once their kids are through college.

And there are people like me who enjoy their work, but believe we were born to play, not to work, and would retire tomorrow except for condition number 2:

2) When you have enough money to maintain whatever lifestyle you want to have in retirement. The 401(k) video we had to watch at work said people typically need 60-70% of their current income to retire comfortably. I don’t believe that at all. I don’t want to cut back when I retire! I think most people want to maintain the same lifestyle in retirement as they did when they were working. Maybe even a better lifestyle, because now you have more time to travel, enjoy life, spoil the grandchildren, whatever!

There are plenty of people who retire, get incredibly bored, and die after only a few years. Why? Condition 1 was not met. Their life would have been much more fulfilling had they continued to work. But they bought into the myth that they were “supposed” to be happy in retirement at 65, and found out it was just a myth.

Then there are people who retire at 65 and wonder why they can’t make ends meet. It’s because condition 2 was not met. They weren’t in good enough financial shape to retire, but because they did what they were “supposed” to they assumed everything would be okay. And now they’re finding out that things don’t work that way.

I’ve also met people who are 45-50 who have jobs they go to every day, and they’re generally pretty miserable, and they complain about how much they hate working, despite the fact that they have enough money to live on for the rest of their lives. So why don’t they retire? Because it isn’t in their reality that they can do that. They too have bought into the myth. There’s an artificial barrier in their minds saying they can’t stop working, even though their investment statements indicate they can.

“But…” you may ask. “401(k)s, IRAs, and other tax-advantaged accounts can’t be drawn on until age 59 1/2. So you CAN’T retire before then.” Yes you can. The only thing is, if you draw on them before 59 1/2, you have to pay taxes and penalties. So the reality is not “I CAN’T retire before 59 1/2,” it’s “Do I have enough money to cover not only my retirement but also taxes and penalties until then?”

People would be so much better off if they asked, “What are the options?” when it comes to making life decisions, rather than asking, “What is everyone else doing?” or saying, “I can’t.” But so few people do. Financial and retirement decisions are just one area where this is the case.

Hiatus (not from blogging)

I’ve decided to take a one-week hiatus, starting tomorrow, from much of my usual routine: brunch at Sleep Out’s on Sunday, trivia at the Flying Saucer on Tuesday, etc. Part of it is that I have some personal business I want to take care of. Part of it is that by not going out, I’ll save up some Christmas money.

And part of it is that I want to experience what it’s like to not have a routine. I want to experience waking up at 10:00 on Sunday morning and not thinking, “I HAVE to get up and get to brunch,” and rolling over and going back to sleep and at some point later getting up and exploring what else there is to do on Sunday.

I want to experience coming home from work on Tuesday and not thinking, “I HAVE to get ready to go out to trivia night,” and enjoying having an extra weekday night to do whatever I want to do.

Many people are comforted by routines. I hate them. And I feel like my life is becoming more routine than I want it to. So I’m going to shake things up a bit.

I’ll likely be back at brunch and trivia night the week after, or at most the week after that.

And there is one place you can definitely count on finding me on Sunday. Tonight I took a walk after work, and as I walked past downtown Huey’s I saw this coming Sunday’s musical lineup on the board. From 8 to 12: The Dempseys. I’ll definitely be there for that!

My hiatus will not extend to blogging, so you can still count on new material from me in the coming week.

Tube Top 101

It’s time to write a post about one of my favorite topics… tube tops.

Last week one of my blog’s regular readers decided that she’d be adventurous and wear a tube top in public for the first time. Now, it so happened that last week she had a date, and a girls’ night out.

Quiz: If you had both of those activities planned for the same week, would you wear the tube top on the

A) date
B) girls’ night out

If you said B), congratulations, you think like a woman. But it’s the wrong answer, so you failed the quiz.

If any of my readers work at women’s clothing stores, here’s an idea: Orientation classes for tube top purchasers. This would also be a way to generate additional sales. Once you’ve explained that tube tops are an example of dressing for men, not women, you can then sell them an additional $150 top (of the non-tube variety) to wear on girls’ night. And maybe you can tack on another $150 for one of those godawful sequin purses that women think are in style this year. Not a bad idea, huh?

(Wednesday morning update) Have just been informed that the girls got a free round of drinks sent to their table at their girls’ night out. The tube top wearer credits her outfit, and she’s absolutely correct.

Wedding gift: problem solved

Today I was opening my mail. There was a wedding invitation from friends of mine who are getting married in Israel in May, and then having a reception here in June. I thought to myself, what am I going to get them for a wedding gift? I’m not particularly wedding-minded myself so I’m always terrible at picking out wedding-related gifts.

And as I was thinking about it, I picked up the rest of my mail. An ad fell out. “Give the gift of great food!” it said. It was an ad for Sonic gift cards. Problem solved! That sounds like a great wedding gift. Sometimes the universe has a way of giving you what you’re looking for.

Only trouble is, they read this blog so it won’t be a surprise. Oh well, life isn’t perfect.