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    • How Important Is The Drone Attack On The Saudi Oil Field?
      As you’d expect from the title, both more and less than it seems. The impact on oil prices is not that big a deal, despite the screaming. If they were to, say, wind up at $75/barrel for a few months, well the last time we had prices that high was… less than a year ago. […]
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Ooooo, SNAP!

Here’s a David and Goliath story that will give you some insight as to how senseless and stupid the decimation of the pharmaceutical R&D industry has been and how insensitive upper management can be. I found the link at
Derek Lowe’s In The Pipeline blog.
It’s about a medicinal chemist who worked on a project that resulted in the discovery of a block buster drug for a company that was bought out by another company. You can probably guess the rest. Yes, his site was closed down and everybody on the project was laid off. Congratulations for discovering this shareholder value enhancing drug. Please meet me in the cafeteria at 9am and then go away.

So, the chemist did go away. Many years later…

I got recently contacted by a patent litigation attorney from a giant pharma company, a company that is advertising on TV every night and whose name rhymes with “Mergers and Massacres”: They have a drug that is selling over a billion a year and now the key patent for this drug is facing a challenge from two generic competitors. Since I am on the patent (there is about dozen authors) the lawyers wanted to prepare me in case that I get subpoenaed by those generic companies challenging the patent. They offered me a free legal representation in the hearings and they proposed to pay me as a consultant (“at my usual rate”) for talking to them and for the deposition – should this subpoena happen.

The detailed history of the invention seems important in this case because the patent that sets the invention priority (and thus affects the date of the drug monopoly expiration) is being challenged on several fronts. It appears that their legal team has been having some difficulty piecing together the exact timeline of the project – who proposed/synthesized what and when (even as they have all the notebooks and employment records in their possession). Apparently no-one from the original team is employed with the company anymore: We were summarily laid off when our research site was shut down. (The chemistry director was actually forced out, under rather contentious circumstances, shortly before the site closure). Only a handful of employees was re-hired elsewhere within the company. And surprisingly, it seems that some of my ex-colleagues are not getting in touch with the patent litigation team now…

I am also not calling the lawyers as they repeatedly urged me to – instead I wrote to them and shared some of the impressions and experiences that I had while being – briefly – a part of their company – and I also reminded them of the class-action lawsuit that my ex-colleagues brought against them, when the company reneged on their severance payments after the layoffs. (The company settled out of court and apparently paid in full the promised amount, about 2 years later.)

Also, I reached out to the two generic companies involved in this litigation and informed them about this legal team approach from my former employer – and I offered to answer questions about the history of this drug discovery and I gave them the names of the few important inventors on the patent who could be perhaps more helpful than me. Then I wrote back to the legal team of the large company and I let them know that I contacted the two generic companies. I explained that I don’t want their money but maybe they could re-evaluate how they are going to treat the R&D inventors in the future. You know, in case they need them again.

I hope milkshake doesn’t mind me quoting him in his entirety. The story is just too, um, well, let’s just say that the week after I was laid off, an official email was sent around to all the staff from the bean counters who congratulated themselves at meeting and exceeding their proposed cost cutting targets for the quarter. I guess I was supposed to feel good about how my job was sacrificed to achieve that goal. The dudes who made that performance objective probably got a bonus that was roughly equivalent to my salary. Yes, yes, party on.

So, anyway, that was pretty nervy. I am in awe and bow to his surplus of balls and everlasting righteous indignation. Score one for the geeks.

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Stuff I will miss when I’m poor

It takes a lot of money to live in NJ.  I’m talking about mortgages, property taxes and food.  That right there will zap your unemployment check.  I take that back.  You can’t pay for your mortgage *and* eat on an unemployment check.  Even with a regular paycheck, it was hard to justify spending money on expensive vacations and I usually run my cars into the ground before I replace them.  Clothes were never a big issue with me because in this country, women are allowed to be skinny, plump, morbidly obese or petite, but they’re NOT allowed to be tall.  So few stores and designers accomodate my 5’9.5″ height (without making me pay a premium for a few extra inches of hem on very limited selection of super boring and unstylish clothing items) that I’ve learned to loathe clothes shopping.  You can be a size 16 and never pay a nickel more than a size 2 regardless of the extra fabric.  But ask for a dress where the waist cinches your waist and not your bust if you’re tall?  Impossible to get at any price.  How fair is that??  I guess if I were a nice size 5’4.5″  woman who looks good in anything, passing up new clothes might be a real hardship.  I might even enjoy shopping.  Since the American apparel industry has seen fit to thwart me all my life, this is not an issue for me.  But I digress.

So, while I have some money stashed away to keep me from involuntary anorexia, cuts will be made in the next month.  Politicians should keep this in mind when they put unemployment on the backburner or don’t give solving it their best effort. And I don’t mean just for fricking construction workers.  All I ever hear about is how some damn construction worker is going to get a job building a transcontinental automobile transportation thingy.  We’re not all construction workers, guys. In fact, we’re not all GUYS. Hello?!, Can we say gender discrimination in proposed jobs programs?  This Lesser Depression is hitting the sciences pretty hard, despite what the BLS is telling you (They’re about 5 years behind on their job category projections in the sciences).  You really can have a college degree and experience in a hard science and not be able to find a job.  And remember, I was one of those middle class people who was paying more in taxes last year than the yearly income required to keep a family of four above the poverty level.  Alabama might want to think about that before they let Jeff Sessions go on an idiot rant about the deficit.

To be cut:

1.) Dish Network– It’s ridiculously expensive given the fact that I only watch the premium channels.  Dish doesn’t offer a Premium only package, ala cart purchases are still not on the horizon and, frankly, I’m getting disgusted with having to subsidize the forty channels of ESPN and sports that I never watch, along with QVC, Lifetime, Oxygen and a lot of reality TV crap.  I never watch network or cable news anymore.  DeGrassi we can watch on Hulu.  I have an Apple TV and a subscription to Netflix.  I’ve called Dish about rejiggering the lineup but all they suggest is taking away the things I actually like to watch while leaving me with the stuff I consider garbage.  Besides, they announced recently that they are going for a more upscale clientele, which I no longer am. So bye-bye Dish.

2.) Dune perfume.  I ran out of my last bottle some time during the summer.  Worn it for years.  It’s my signature fragrance.  Perfume is bloody expensive but I love it.  I will continue to finagle teensy little samples of new perfumes from the Bloomingdales perfume counter.

3.) Clinque, MAC, Chanel makeup.  I shall have to make due with Revlon and tread carefully to avoid aggravating my sensitive skin.

4.) Haircuts.  There’s only one salon in my area that does it right.  They charge a small fortune.  I already go to them only once a year and get maintenance haircuts from a local salon I like less.  Oh, well.  Never had a pedicure.  Have had manicures twice in my life.  Won’t be missed.  But the hair thing might be a problem if I have to do interviews.

5.) Stopping by Wegman’s on a Sunday afternoon.  I used to love to do this.  I’d wander the aisles and sample the searing station and the cheeses, check out the fresh fish and seasonal produce.  An hour later, I’d have something incredibly delicious for dinner with a nice bottle of wine.  Not anymore.

6.) Eating out.  Anywhere.  Clearly, this has got to stop.

7.) Movies.  If it’s not on Netflix or iTunes, we will wait until it is.

8.) Pottery Barn, West Elm, Bed, Bath and Beyond, {insert furniture or home goods store here}.  If it can’t be found on Craigslist, in the free stuff category, we will pass.

9.) Home Depot, Lowes, {insert home improvement store here}.  I finished my kitchen so most of my home’s most expensive features have been replaced or finished in the past five years.  Yeah, I think crown molding would look nice on the soffit.  Too bad for me.  The bathrooms are the only rooms that still need some TLC.  Now that I know how to replace faucets and rewire appliances, I can do most of this stuff inexpensively.  Will consult craigslist for necessary items.

10.) Audible, iTunes, the iPad Apps store, Amazon.  These are dangerous habits.  You think, “Oh, it’s only 5 Beatles songs”, or “That looks like an interesting book and I could have it on my iPad in 15 seconds!”.  Before you know it, you’ve blown through half an unemployment check with stupid money sucking novels.  So, that’s out.  Will consult my bookshelf and the Gutenberg project.

11.) The Apple Store.  That place is like catnip for geeks.  It’s hard to pass it by and not bop in for *something*.  I like gadgets.  I am a gadget queen.  The BFF and I are very competitive gadget people.  My toys have to be neater and faster and more innovative than his.  The kid really does need a new computer so I might scrape together funds to get her a Macbook Air (before you PC people jump down my throat about cheaper PCs, save your breath.  I never liked PCs, don’t like Windows and don’t like the idea of troubleshooting and shelling out money for new anti-virus packages when I get infected. Been there, done that.  I’m sticking with apple.  And if the sucker has a problem, I can take it to the apple store to be seen by a genius where I will be able to sniff the gadgets.  I have to draw a line in the sand.  I will be poor but you can’t make me use a PC)

12.) Starbucks Verona roast coffee beans.  I shall make due with Columbian from the grocery store.

13.) Ikea.  Very addicting, especially the bottom floor.  There are so many cool little things that I never knew I needed until those diabolical Swedish merchandizing geniuses place it in an attractive setting where I can’t help but see it.  The Ikea designers seem so innocent with their sing-song voices and “Ha-dor!” bye-byes and non-judgmental, friendly, socialism-lite, sunny optimism but they are really just evil capitalists in disguise pushing clever furniture crack. Warning: Lack and Malm are gateway series.  Before you know it, you’ll be mainlining Isala and Hemnes and hanging out at Ikea Hack sites (I only tried it once) and you’ll need an intervention.  Still, if I have the extra money, I will go out of my way to get an almondy torte because the kid really likes them and even poor people need treats once in awhile.

14.) Gas.  It costs a lot.  We will be saving it for excursions where we can do a lot of errand running at one time and run a “travelling salesman” calculation to optimize every mile.

15.) Electricity and Gas.  I will become fanatic about shutting off every light and appliance that doesn’t need to be on.  I will be using solar battery lamps when it gets dark.  We will learn to live with lots of sweaters and cosy footwear.   The cockatiel will get a special blanky for his cage.  The programmable thermostat will be strictly monitored.  Violators will be prosecuted.

16.) Christmas.  It will be a very scaled back buying season.  Imagine the March sisters in Little Women.  Might go for a Charlie Brown tree instead of the 8 ft Douglas fir.  Or scour craigslist for an artificial tree if half of NJ hasn’t beaten me to it.

17.) The liquor store.  No more wine for dinner.  No more spur of the moment purchases of the latest boutique brewery seasonal batch.

18.) NJ Transit train to NYC.  At $28/person round trip and no discount for off-peak hours anymore, the kid and I would be spending $56 to take a slow train ride on the Raritan Valley Line, which doesn’t come frequently, with a transfer at Newark to NYC.  I could just park in Newark and take the PATH.  That’s the way I’ve been doing it in the last couple of years.  But the return trip on the PATH goes through Hoboken and then back to Newark.  It’s the most stupid, half assed system. In other words, NY and NJ have not really found an affordable, efficient option for daytrippers to the City.  Or they have found options but they refuse to go ahead with plans to implement them due to ideological reasons.  I love mass transit but not enough to spend $56.  So, the City is out.  That would also mean there’s no reason to maintain my Metropolitan Museum of Art family membership, where the kid took 7 weeks of drawing lessons for a bahgain, or the MOMA membership.  Broadway is completely out of the question.  Seats for a play are outrageous and even when I could afford them, I ended up sitting on the sides in the balcony.  I don’t think I’ve ever had a decent seat in the orchestra at a Broadway play.  At $300-400 a seat, I just figure those are for the rich, even middle class people need not apply.  Poor people can forget it.  Ditto with ballets and operas at Lincoln Center.  Loved it when I could afford to go, even in the nosebleed sections.  Must live without it now.  There are some nice local theatres, especially in Princeton.  So, we’ll go on very special occasions.

That’s just off the top of my head.  I will pinch every penny until my fingers bleed.  The piano teacher is a bit of a dilema.  The kid enjoys her lessons and even piano teachers need to eat.  We will see how it goes.  If the COBRA subsidy is reinstated, I *might* be able to fit in a lesson or two a month.  Even that will be stretching it.

It all adds up.  Multiply this by millions of people all across the country.  No money going to the IRS, no money going to merchants, no money to splurge a bit.  Just no money- period.

Thank you Republicans and President Obama.

One other thing: Number One child is auditioning this week for something special.  Keep your fingers crossed.  I will update with more specific information if she makes it.