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My Life is Officially Surreal

July 16th, 2007 at 08:32 am

Good grief, where to start...

Remember this cat?



Well, two days after my last blog post, Summer's rear-end exploded all over me when I picked her up from the floor. There was still a deep-tissue infection below the nicely healed top layer, and it just sat there and festered. There are no words to accurately describe the smell that eminated from this cat, so I won't even try. Suffice to say the stench was so bad that I immediately packed her up and took her to the emergency after hours vet clinic rather than waiting 14 hours and taking her to the normal vet.

They kept her overnight and had to do surgery to remove dead and/or infected tissue. The hospital stay and two rounds of antibiotics they gave her were $726. The three follow-up visits and extra round of antibiotics to my regular vet were $34...

So, four weeks, four vet visits, three rounds of antibiotics, and $750 later, she's healing up well.

Ancient bill rears it's ugly head
DH had visited the emergency room in early '04 after a traffic accident. He gave them the insurance information, paid the co-pay, and all was well. Right?

Wrong! The day after Summer's explosion we got a call from a collection agency. Turns out the insurance company took too long to process the claim and the hospital never got paid. For whatever reason we never heard word one about it until now, over three years later.

Because of the situation we negotiated a payment for half of the total and insisted upon a letter that this payment would have the debt marked paid in full on the credit report. Got the letter, gave them $595.

June turned into a very expensive month...

Had to testify in court
Not really a big deal, except I was asked to be a witness for my parents divorce hearing at the end of June. To make things super weird, the three of us had lunch together afterwards. What the foo...

Ran away to Asheville
So, since things in life were getting weirder and weirder, I took some extra vacation time around the 4th. Even though June was expensive, I still have vacation money saved every month, and we like to take a couple of mini-vacations throughout the year. Plus, we had concert tickets. We enjoyed the Smashing Pumpkins show, but I can say that at 29 I'm getting too old for this crap. I'm such a geezer...

Opened a store on Etsy
Since I've starting making incense again for my local customers, I had a ton of it drying and needing a good home. It takes the same amount of time to make hundreds of sticks instead of fifty, so I always make a larger batch. Things are going well so far.

The most surreal thing of all
Life was getting back to normal. I was thinking about my blog, and feeling bad because I had neglected it. Since I felt bad about it, I kept putting off posting a new entry, thinking I had to come up with something really great to make up for all the time I'd missed.

Am I the only one that's done that?

Well, I huge wakeup call on Friday.

I didn't check my email on Thursday. Don't ask why, I'm sure there was a reason but I don't remember it. When I logged in on Friday, there was an email from a reporter from ABC in my personal inbox asking for an interview. Sure... My spam-o-meter was ringing off the charts.

Then I checked the email for my hosting company. The same person had filled out the contact form there, again asking for an interview. Curiosity got the best of me, so I did some Googling.

You could have knocked me over with a feather. The guy was legit.

Even more surreal? He wanted to interview me about a post I had made here on my blog from the beginning of May 'Confessions of a Customer Service Rep'. How the heck did an reporter get to my blog in the first place?!?

So Friday afternoon I did a half hour phone interview with ABC.com about what it was like to be a customer service rep. Surreal doesn't even begin to cover it... The article is supposed to come out at some point today. When it does, I'll edit this post to include a link.

---------------------------
EDIT: Here's the link to the article on ABC.com. The reporter had me as Tina Beana throughout the whole thing, so I emailed him to get it corrected. Who would actually name their kid Tina Beana? Smile
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So, there you go. My life is surreal, and I'm one of the world's biggest blogging slackards. I promise, I'm going to try to be better about this. After all, you see what happens in life when I don't blog like I'm supposed to?

Creepy Mutant Tomatoes Week 8 and 9

June 13th, 2007 at 06:55 pm

Have no fear, the tomatoes are still here!

Actually, we're down to one, but boy is this one hearty.

Here were the two remaining tomatoes on Saturday, after 8.5 weeks. As you can see, once has a bad end (that could so be cut off and the rest of the tomato could be used).



For comparison purposes, here is the remaining 8.5 week old tomato hiding in a basket with week old tomatoes from the flea market. Can you tell which is which?



Today at 9 weeks and 1 day, the final creepy mutant tomato is still holding strong. Here he his hiding with the remaining flea market tomatoes, now 1.5 weeks old. Can you find him? Hint: he's not the one on the left!



Here he is in full glory: a tomato I've had in my posession for over 9 weeks, which makes it easily close to two and a half months old. CREEPY!!!

Confession: I am a Design Junkie

June 8th, 2007 at 07:19 am

Hello.

My name is Tina, and I am a Design Junkie. (Hi Tina)

If you don't know what I mean, then read on and it might get a little clearer.

The concept of a junkie can apply to any type of design, really. Do you collect paint chip cards, fabric and wallpaper swatches, and pages from magazines with pictures of great rooms? Then you, my friend, are an Interior Design Junkie (IDJ). If you watch shows like "Pimp My Ride" or "OverHaulin" and get hyped up when the Discovery channel runs a show on future cars, the you are an Automotive Design Junkie (ADJ).

Personally, I'm a Graphic Design Junkie (GDJ). The symptoms:

1. I belong to a website called ColorLovers where people put together color palettes and you can collect them. I have 128 on my 'favorites' list and I want to find ways to use them all. When I look at some of these palettes of color, I can instantly see a business card or website or brochure made out of them. I just need to find a client to go with it.

2. I have over 1300 fonts. This isn't enough. When I have nothing else to do I scour the web looking for more. Got any good ones? Wanna trade (like baseball cards)?

3. I have so many fonts, I use a separate program to organize them. It's called The Font Thing. I can group them together in whatever method makes sense to me, so I have a groups like 'retro', 'futuristic', 'classic', 'funny', 'typewriter', etc. I can temporarily install a font, use it, and then uninstall it to keep things like MS Word from having 1300 fonts in it's list.

4. I have willingly browsed the Flickr set on business card design inspiration.

5. When I get bored and can't find any good fonts, I do weird things like make web 2.0 badges (aka 'violators' aka those star shaped sticker lookin' thingies on websites), glassy orbs and globes, cartoon flowers and people, and logos using Open Source software like the GIMP and Inkscape. Just for fun, you know.

6. I can completely rationalize my desire to spend a couple hundred dollars on a used Wacom digitizer tablet (where you draw with a stylus instead of a mouse). After all, think of the money I'll save on co-pays and wrist braces by NOT developing carpal tunnel...

Edit: Can't believe I forgot # 7!
7. I have visited three online color picking and combining websites within the past month. Two of them are still up in one of my browser windows. Color Jack let's you combine colors and then download the palette in several different formats. Well Styled's picker gives you fewer color combination options but more palette downloading options. VisiBone's ColorLab has been around for years and is still one of the most popular pickers around. You can't download the palette, but it is the only one I've seen that will show you how one color will look like on another when used for text. Too neat...

*Sigh*

So, there you have it. My dirty little secret is out: I am a Graphic Design Junkie.

OK, enough writing. I'm gonna go drool over some pretty colors and download some more fonts!!! Big Grin

Paycheck Update

June 6th, 2007 at 05:52 pm

In case you missed the drama, I found out today that my paycheck from 5/31 bounded. Ugh...

Well, for a bit I thought I was the only one. At lunch, a co-worker called from the office and said someone else's check bounced. By the time I got back from lunch, two more met the fate for a total of four. Bear in mind, we only hand out seven paychecks, so this is over 50%.

Our office manager (who also cuts our payroll, and yes her check bounced too) spent the afternoon on the phone with the CFO in Florida and our overseeing VP in Chicago. See, my current company was bought a year ago by a company based in Chicago who uses a bank from PA and the accounting is overseen by a CFO in Florida. Confused yet?

At any rate, we're expecting new paychecks overnighted for all seven of us, so we should see them tomorrow. Their story? They're in the middle of switching bank accounts and payroll was drawn on the old one... Rolleyes

Perhaps it's just me, but that sounds too much like the "I forgot to sign the check" gambit when someone can't pay their electric bill.

At any rate, I made a call at lunch to my former boss. Yes, the one I'm doing contract work for. He's in the middle of starting a new venture (hence the contract work) and he and his new partner have already expressed interest in luring me away from my current job. My phone call was basically to let them know they could get started with the luring.

See, this company I'm at now was this guy's baby, and was in great shape when he was there. Things started to go downhill fast once it got bought last year, even more so when he left the organization in December/January.

The partner I mentioned? He's another cigar store customer we've known for about 7 years now who has been running his own successful local business since retiring at 50. I know several of his employees (also cigar store customers) and can confirm that this business hasn't once had a financial hiccup thus far. To put it in some kind of weird perspective, he drives a Lamborghini and paid cash for it...

Lessons readers may want to take from my odd-ball day:

1. It pays to keep some cash locally, not just in an online savings account.
Having cash meant I could get gas today with no worries (yeah, I'd been riding the light for a day). I could have used a credit card, but what if they check thing didn't get cleared up for a month and I couldn't pay the bill in full?

2. Apparently it's easy to meet future employers at a cigar store.
OK, not exactly. My family's cigar store is where I 'network' with a lot of people from a lot of different industries, and as a result I can quickly and easily put out feelers when it comes time to look for another job. If I get hired on with Mr. Lambo's company, that will be the third job I've gotten from that store. Not to mention the contract work it helps generate.

Networking isn't the bad word some people seem to think it is. And there's nothing smarmy or unseemly about it, it's simply being friendly and personable, listening to people and getting to know them. You might know it under another name: "fellowship". No matter what you call it, it's getting to know the folks around you, and being there for one another when needed.

Take the cigar store: we've been there for customers during marriages and divorces, births and deaths, illnesses and celebrations. We have a lunch crowd, a Friday afternoon crowd, etc. Customers come in and hang out for a couple of house, and many of them bring their computers and work (they call it the field office!). We even have potlucks once a quarter. People bring in their pets, their kids, and friends and family from out of town.

If we have a customer who has a widget for sale, chances are we'll hear of someone this week looking to buy a widget. Need a plumber, carpenter, electrician, mechanic, police officer, golf pro, realtor, computer guru, or doctor? I know one (or more) of each, and every one of them has had dinner at my house or my parents'.

You probably don't network at a cigar store, but the principle is the same no matter where you do it. Trust me, it's not a dirty word.

My Paycheck Bounced

June 6th, 2007 at 08:06 am

Yes, you read that correctly.

I deposited my paycheck of $1300+ on Thursday 5/31. My bank automatically credits deposits, so the amount was immediately available in my account. I took out my $200 allowance and the weekly $100 for groceries.

On 6/3 my monthly automated savings went through, removing another $817 from checking. Today I was notified that my paycheck was returned for non-sufficient funds and the amount was debited from my account. While I didn't have that full amount in the primary checking, I did have more than enough to cover it between my slush fund savings and (gulp!) my secondary checking account that I use for my side business...

So, here's the good news:

1. Even after temporarily loosing a paycheck I'm not broke.

2. Since I bank with a credit union, I am not faced with a returned check fee.

3. Also, the credit union representative automatically shifted my money around to cover the withdrawal before she even called me, rather than leaving me to take care of it my self.

4. I have $500 worth of courtesey pay on all three of my credit union accounts, so I have access to a total of $1500 should I actually have need of it. This is equal to one month's bills without groceries.

5. DH's bi-weekly contribution to the household account will hit today or tomorrow, so we shouldn't have to miss a beat when it comes to the bills that are automatically drafted from checking.

And the bad news?

MY EFFIN' PAYCHECK BOUNCED IN THE FIRST PLACE!!!!

OK, sorry for the caps, but since I can't scream that out loud to the higher ups here I thought I'd at least try to get it out of my system.

Seriously, I bring home 60% of the income for our household. We live and pay debt off my money and save almost all that DH contributes for short, mid, and long term savings. It's a nice system, has worked for months now, and this is so putting a cramp in my fiscal style. GAH!!!

Not to mention the fact that, while a $1300 paycheck seems like an OK chunk of change, it really ought to be NOTHING for a corporation. INSUFFICIENT FUNDS? You've got to be kidding me!!! The word I'm getting right now is that they're expecting a wire transfer today and my bank can resend the check this afternoon. There are so many things wrong with this situation that I cannot even begin to list them...

And scariest of all? I'm supposed to get my next paycheck next Friday the 15th, when there's a distinct possibility I won't yet have the funds from this paycheck. What do you think are the odds that the next check will go through?

Oh, and 80% of my bills are due from the 15th through the end of the month. La la la...

So, here's my plan:

1. I just confirmed that no bills are set to be automatically drafted before DH's paycheck hits. This is good, our next 4 upcoming bills can be paid with no issue.

2. If I have to, I can pull 3k down from the NY savings account.

3. The money for the homeowner's insurance bill is still safe and sound in NY. I will leave it there until this mess is straightened out.

4. I'm making some calls and seriously considering jumping ship. I've already had someone ask if I was ready to come work for them, and I'm about to let them know the answer is 'YES'!

Another point of view: maybe this is a sign I should just focus my energies on my slightly super-secret side business.

Message to the Powers that Be: next I would appreciate a more subtle sign! Bah....

Luv Me Some Flea Market Veggies

June 2nd, 2007 at 11:20 am

Went to the flea market for produce around 1pm. Was back at the house and unloaded before 2pm.

Spent $19.80.

Got the following:

3 purple onions
3 green bell peppers
5 avocados
4 jalapenos
6 ears of corn
2 regular pears
3 weirdo pears (I like trying new foods for cheap!)
1 bunch of cilantro
1 bunch of spinach
15 limes
4 (5?) lbs of roma tomatoes

As a result I can now make the following throughout the week just using items I have on hand:
* pico de gallo
* guacamole
* roasted corn
* regular (cold) spinach salad
* wilted spinach salad with bacon dressing (sale bacon in the freezer)
* tacos or nachos (sale ground beef in the freezer)
* glazed baby carrots (carrots on hand)
* Beef or pork stir fry (sale steak and pork roast in the freezer)
* Beef or pork shish kabobs
* Ceviche (sale tilapia in the freezer)
* Grilled tilapia with lime-dill butter
* Pork chops with poached or grilled pears

And if I go to the store and get chicken thighs, cheese, rolls, and tortillas I can make:
* bacon tomato sandwiches
* grilled Southwest chicken
* chicken salad
* quesadillas
* California wrap sandwiches (bacon, avocado, chicken, spinach, ranch dressing)
* Mexican soup (chicken broth, chunked chicken, rice, pico de gallo, and slices of avocado)
* Jamaican jerk chicken with black beans, rice, and corn bread (have all but the chicken)
* Tequila-lime chicken (um, yeah, there's tequila in the freezer too)

Not quite a menu, but it's close!

Great, now I'm hungry....

SSSSB is Starting to Take Off

June 2nd, 2007 at 06:56 am

My slightly super-secret side business is generating some interest, which is great! A lot of it is still from people I know locally, and I'm actually AOK with that. Personally, I think some of the less tech-savvy businesses in the area would prefer to deal with a web host that has a local presence, so I'm happy to stick in that niche.

Here's what I'm looking at for the month of June so far:

1. Working for my former boss
Yes, the one who paid for the lingerie site... Big Grin

Anyways, I've agreed to a 20 hour contract to research OpenSource solutions for a project he's bidding on. Also, flesh out the proposal doc with technical specifications once a possible solution is found. If there's time, throw up an example site for some screen shots. He's not really worked with OS before, only high-dollar propritary stuff like .NET and Lotus Notes, so he brought me in to take a look since the client in question doesn't have a big budget. Sometimes it pays to be a girl who can find things...

Once completed, this has the potential to generate another contract to actually create the site in question, and possibly to secure a web hosting contract with the client. But, I don't want to cout my eggs before they hatch, so I'm only including the current 20 hour contract.

2. Working for my co-worker
This gentleman is already a customer: he has a web hosting account and is quite pleased with his cost savings. YAY! He has his own slightly super secret side business, and has asked me to give him a quote on logo design, business card design, and web site design. My current estimate is 13 hours for all 3 projects.

For what it's worth, this is a perfect example of the fact that being a 'computer person' doesn't mean you can or want to do all things computer. This guy is a Lotus Notes and Domino system admin, and is quite good at what he does. He's been in the computing business for almost 20 years. With all that said, he has never gotten into web work. It's not that he couldn't do it, it's the fact that there's a pretty significant learning curve and it would therefore take him a while to get it done. It makes more sense for him to pay someone else to do it and for him to spend his time working with his clients, making money.

3. Referral from my co-worker
Yup, same guy! One of his clients is in the legal field with no website, still using an AOL email addresss. GAH! If you read The Top 7 Reasons Businesses Need a Website, you know that this is right there on the list. I mean really, who's going to deal with a legal professional with an AOL email address?

This company has been around for over a decade and is well respected in the industry, but the fact remains that it will get harder and harder for them to get new clients if they don't get online soon.

This is still in the proposal stage, so nothing is set in stone yet. It would be the situation where I would build it for the co-worker, he would pay me, and then he would turn around and mark it up a bit to sell to his client. No biggie in my opinion, as I know that he will happily bring future business to me. I'm estimating 10 hours of work for this, since I want to build it in such a fashion that either he or the client could maintain the site themselves.

4. Cambrian House
The link goes to my profile on Cambrian House, the other place I call home online. It's for people who have a nifty idea for a piece of software or a web site, and want to try to get it developed. Also for people who want to work on these types of ideas for a possible payout if things start to generate money. They have all kinds of members, not just tech heads. If you're a marketer, or designer, or just an idea person, you might want to check it out.

Anyways, I've spoken to a few members about possibly hosting their sites. Depending on the needs, I might set it up as free hosting in return for a link to me in the footer and just call it an advertising expense. Some of the others are possibly interested in setting up paid hosting accounts, since I'm offering a pretty unique pricing model by charging a per-unit price for disk space and bandwidth.

Most exciting of all is that what started out as a conversation about hosting a site for a member has turned into the possibility of me being involved in their business as a web master and as the Managing Editor. I'm excited because working in those two capacities would likely earn me a royalty share in the business (well, hopefully!), meaning I would get a cut of the profits when they start coming in. Not to mention the fees for the hosting...

Again, nothing set in stone, but still exciting.

-------------------

So, right now I've got 33 hours of work locked in, and another 10 hours of work as a good possibility. My hourly rate is cheap since I don't really have any overhead, so those work out to be $990-$1290 in billable invoices. Add to that the possibility of some passive income from the web hosting and royalty share, and things are starting to look bright indeed.

The Secret of Money Saving Sleep

May 31st, 2007 at 07:37 pm

Your parents always said you needed your rest, but did you know that not getting your Z's could actually be costing you big bucks?

That's right, folks: not getting enough sleep can hurt more than your health.

- Poor sleepers spend an average of $4200 more on medical costs.

- Insomniacs visit both doctors and hospitals twice as often as those who sleep properly.

- People with poor sleep habits are three times more likely to miss work.

- According to a US Navy study, insomniacs are promoted less often and are more likely to leave their job.

- Essential job skills like problem solving, creativity, and ability to handle stress are severly affected when you're deprived of sleep.

- Going 24 hours without sleep impairs a driver as much as a blood alcohol level of .10. Remember, in many states DWI means 'driving while impaired', not driving while intoxicated.


So, anyone care to do the math?

Take into consideration co-pays for office visits and possibly a prescription sleep aid. Perhaps even a new space-age mattress, a white noise machine, or over the counter sleep-aids.

Add in the effect of missing work and lackluster performance on the job and the resulting lack of promotion and raise

And heaven forbid a car accident while groggy, resulting in hospital bills and possibly even a DWI conviction.

Think staying up an extra hour is still worth it?

For those of you that have a hard time sleeping, try some of these ideas:

- Try meditating when you lie down to go to sleep.

- Create a sleep ritual of relaxing activities before you go to bed (i.e. a cup of tea, a hot shower, brushing your hair) that you do every night. Not only will they help you relax, but they will eventually be activities that cue your body that it's time to go to sleep.

- Tell yourself a goodnight story. Even better, try playing the scene out in your head. Chances are the story will turn into a dream in no time.

- Investigate the concept of the power nap. Some researchers think our bodies are designed for a little cat-nap sometime between 1pm and 4pm, often called the 'siesta hours'. Try taking a 15-20 minute nap sometime during those hours. Personally, I take a later lunch around 1pm anyways, so it's easy to set the alarm on my cell-phone and rest my eyes during my lunch hour.


Selected Sources:
Wise Bread
CnnMoney.com
WikiHow

Creepy Mutant Tomatoes: Week 7

May 29th, 2007 at 06:17 pm

You read it, folks: we're on week 7 of these creepy, space age tomatoes!

Two more are down, but the remaining two are looking AOK for now. Anyone want to wager how long these tomatoes will hold out?



I've decided that if they make it to week 8 (2 months!), I'm likely going to have to send the whole saga to the Bloom company.

Top 7 Reasons Businesses Need a Website

May 27th, 2007 at 07:08 pm

OK, as someone who hosts websites I realize I have a vested interest in convincing people that they do in fact need a site. I've been doing the internet thing for a while, so it comes second nature to me. But the fact remains that if you have a business you really do need a site. Not just any website like the freebies you can get some places, but one that is specific to your business (aka branded)

1. Your customers probably expect you to have one.
Simple, but true. Web sites are today what business cards used to be. Nowadays anyone can have a website, even the 9 year old daughter of one of my co-workers. With so many easy and inexpensive options available, there's no reason to leave your customers wondering "Why don't they have a site?"

2. A website with your own domain name is an easy 'branding' tool.
Even though it's not hard, having your own domain name makes your website seem more professional and established. Plus, it usually ties in to your business name or what you do, which means it's easier to remember. For instance, which of these example web site addresses strikes you as more professional? Which would be easier to remember?

TinasBusiness.freehosting.com
OR
www.TinasBusiness.com

3. The email address.
A huge reason your business needs its own domain is the email address. Even if you have nothing more than a single page website, you can still use your own email address when running your business. Think about it: which email address looks more professional and established?
tinapbeana1978@freehosting.com
tinasbusiness@freehosting.com
sales@tinasbusiness.com

4. Having a site makes it easier for your business to do business.
How much time would you have to spend on the phone explaining what you do to 100 prospective customers? At 5 minutes per call, that's 500 minutes or almost 9 hours. How much time (and money!) would it take you to drive to see 100 prospects and give them your 5 minute presentation? I'm guessing days. With a website, prospective customers can learn about you and your business 24/7 without you ever having to be involved. This frees up your time to do other things, things you get paid for.

5. Reach customers you couldn't get to before.
And I'm not just talking about people from around the country or the world. Take a minute to think about the types of people that live in your area. Are there shift workers who sleep during the day and work at night? What about a deaf population? Or perhaps your services would be of use to people who are disabled and aren't able to come o your office or location. Having a website opens your business up to a whole new world of customers right in your own back yard.

6. A business web site makes it easy to relay information at little or no cost to you.
If you don't have a site, how do you let your new or existing customers know if you're running a special? Chances are you call them or send out a flyer or post card. Either way, you're spending a relatively large amount of time, money, or both to relay this information. If you have a web site, you just post the information on your front page (or news page, or specials page) for prospects to see and send your existing clients an email.

7. You can save money on software and protect your ability to run your business.
This is probably one of the least thought about perks of having a web site for a business, but it's definitely worth mentioning. When you have a website for your business, you can install Open Source software that is intended to help you run your business from your website. Invoicing, scheduling, trouble tickets, accounting: the list goes on.

As an added bonus, you'll have the option of running these aspects of your business from any internet-capable computer, not just your own PC. This might not seem like a big deal, until your computer crashes and you can't create invoices or balance the books! By using web-based software you've installed on your own website, you could just head to the local library and continue business as usual.

Slush Fund: Third Time's the Charm

May 27th, 2007 at 06:05 pm

You ever hear that old saying that bad things come in threes?

Well, after taking cat number two to the vet this past week, I was joking with DH that I was going to hide my third and final cat in the house until June arrived.

We both had a good laugh.

Then, yesterday afternoon, DH reached up to pull off his glasses and clean them. The arm fell off right in his hands, and is designed so that it cannot be repaired. Believe me, we tried superglueing everything back together.

He's had this problem with these frames before and took them back and had them replaced. Unfortunately, the optomitrist where we got them is not open on Saturday's. Plus, there's only a 1 yr warranty on the frames that is about to run out, so getting them fixed would have only been a stop-gap.

Add this to the fact that he was due for an eye exam anyways and he HAD to have glasses because he has to drive a large delivery truck for work tomorrow (a holiday), and you get the two of us at the only place that both participated in his insurance and had an exam appointment available Saturday afternoon: the Lens Crafters one county over.

GAH!!!!

He has a big head, so we're limited in the frames that'll fit him. And since we had to have the glasses ASAP, we had to take the in-stock featherweight lenses instead of the less expensive version. Finally, he got the other frames just last year so we didn't qualify for a full frame benefit only a partial on the insurance. Grand Total: $241.18 for frames, lenses, and co-pay for the visit.

127.00 - cat one at the vet
115.75 - cat two at the vet
241.18 - DH glasses
------
483.93 - total damage to the slush fund in 2 wks

Oh my....

Seriously, me and the other cat are going to hide out somewhere and wait out the rest of the month.

Reveal: My slightly super-secret side business

May 25th, 2007 at 01:21 pm

Ooooooooh, are you excited yet?!??

If anyone read my articles last month on PFAdvice.com about starting a business with pocket change, then you probably already know what this is. Yeah, I know that means it's not exactly super-secret, ergo the addition of the word 'slightly' to the title.

But, for those of you that didn't read that article, here's what part of it said.

(I)t turns out there are several metric tons worth of photographers and web-designers in my area, and they’re all as good as me if not better. Depressing, right? Well, the one thing they have in common (other than being better than me) is that they all need a place online to host their work. In fact, lots of individuals and businesses around here need a nice, clean, reliable place to host their websites. Even I was looking for this very kind of service.

In many circles, this is known as a light bulb moment. You’ll know it when you have one.

And there you have it! I am now operating a web hosting company called DotSlice and am currently running at a profit for the quarter. I've just put the site out to the public, so please feel free to take a look and tell me what you think. My options were to either get it out there warts and all, or work on it trying to get it perfect for perpetuity.

How on earth did I wind up being a web host? Personally, I think it all boils down to money karma.

In January I decided to think of several ways I could make extra money every month. For what it's worth I'm still working on that by the way, so any good ideas are appreciated! At any rate, this is what started the money karma rolling.

In February I started working on a website to showcase some of my photographs, thinking that I could make some money on the side. I bought a domain and signed up with what seemed like a reasonable and well-established web hosting company. While the site is still up and running, I created it as a personal learning experience more than anything because it had been a while since I'd done any web programming.

It's a good thing I did, too, because in the middle March my former boss offered me a side-job creating an ecommerce site for a friend of his who already had a domina and a very unfortunate site. See the money karma at work? Ironically, the client was hosting her website at the same company where I was hosting mine.

By the end of March I had put together a proposal and both he and the client liked what I had to offer. For the new site to work, the client needed to change the plan she had with the web host. This was fine with her since she would wind up paying less money per month for more features, but the web-host was making it way more difficult than it had to be.

Long story short we agreed to jump ship and host her site somewhere else, and I started getting concerned because my site was hosted at this same place. Would I have these kinds of troubles too? More importantly, where were we going to host these sites?!?

I did something relatively rash and impetuous: I did some research, ran the numbers once, and decided to take the risk and arrange to host the sites myself. By the way, running the numbers once was the rash and impetuous part... I had the back-end working by the middle of April, and both of our sites were live.

A week later, a co-worker of mine mentioned how much he paid to host his personal sites. I just looked at him and said "Do I have a deal for you...". Between his hosting and the first client's hosting I'm running at a slight loss every month. But, when I add in what I would have to pay to host my own domains with another company, I wind up breaking even. Add in the money for designing the first client's website and business cards, and I'm running at a profit for the quarter.

Now, I've been asked to host two sites that are currently being developed by a new company. They've also asked if I'd be interested in being the Web Master (er, mistress?) and Managing Editor for both sites in return for a cut of the pie... Um, lemme think...

Let's just see if I can get everything to snowball...

Slush Fund Strikes Again!

May 25th, 2007 at 06:17 am

So, apparently 2 of my 3 cats were involved in some kind of massive turf war street fight the weekend of Mother's Day.

The boy, Samson, was gimpy on his paw so I took him to the vet Monday of last week. Sure enough, puncture wounds. A few days of forcing antibiotics down his throat and taking my life in my hands by spraying his paw with wound-wash, and all was well.

See, here he is, all regal and fit as a fiddle.



This past weekend we started to notice that Summer was getting a little swollen on her back, right by her tail joint. It looked like she'd been stung by a wasp the way it swelled a bit. But, she didn't act like it was hurting her and was moving and eating as normal, so we didn't think much of it.

Wednesday night while I was in the shower, DH yells "Tina, Summer's butt exploded!". Uh-oh...

Apparently where she was swollen was starting to abcess, and wasn't a wasp sting at all. Abcess ruptured, and there was goo oozing everywhere. At 11:30 at night, when there are no real options to get it looked at.

So, call yesterday morning and set up an appointment with the best vet clinic ever (which happens to be the one 1 mile from my house). DH takes her in, and she comes out looking like this:



Poor kitty! They sedated her to shave her rear, cleaned the abcess, stitched it up, inserted two drains, gave us more antibiotics, and added the collar as a stylish finishing touch.

Our total for the visit was $115. I LOVE MY VET!

She'll have to go back on Tuesday to have the drains removed, which will probably cost another $25 for the visit. I'm happy to pay it, though, because I want to do whatever I can to make sure this vet stays in business. They offer mobile pet vacinations and very low cost spays and neuters for our area, and I think they do a great service.

At any rate, two cats to the vet within a week and a half. Once again, the slush fund comes to the rescue. Woohoo!!

More important, I think, is the fact that DH saw first hand that having extra cash available (well, in savings, whatever) made it much easier for us to weather these two small emergencies. There was a time when an extra $250 expense in a month would have put us over a barrel, and it really wasn't that long ago. I'm hoping that by seeing this situation, he'll understand the concept of an 'emergency fund' just a little bit better.

Passive Income, Perfectionism Pitfall

May 24th, 2007 at 05:15 am

First, Some Background
I'm in an odd place right now: I've got so many things rolling around in my head that I've not been able to focus on any one particular thing and feel I can do it justice. As a result, I've not been blogging as much and I've not written a single PFAdvice article in May. D'OH!

Moreover, I've been working on my slightly super-secret side business (like the alliteration?) and keep trying to get it just right before releasing it to the world. Long story short, I'm hitting a wall.

To combat this I've been doing a lot of reading online, looking for inspiration. The way I browse the web is at best bizzare and on occasion schizoid. This week I was looking for sites that I could include as part of a newsfeed on my website and I took a new-to-me track: I went to Technocrati, ranked the blogs by 'authority', and checked out the top 100.

I actually didn't find many of them interesting, which is in and of itself kind intriguing. There would be an interesting article here or there, but most of my good reading came from following links and Trackbacks within these supposedly good blogs. As an aside, this is how I found icanhascheezburger.com and The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Great time wasters!

The Meat of This Post
While wandering around unchaperoned on the web, I came across a good article at Genius Types about passive income. Not that the concept of passive income is new to me, but I thought the article did a good job of pointing out that to be successful at it requires a slightly different view of money and making it work for you. Plus, it made me remember that I really want a passive income, the sooner the better.

Then yesterday I meandered my way over to Success from the Nest and read aout how perfectionism can be just another form of procrastination. Some of you might remember that this is something I've said before , but it's one thing to have had a thought and quite another to sit down and read it in black and white.

The two articles struck cord with me, I suppose, because they are exceptionally timely in my life. I fell into this slightly super-secret side business by chance, but it does have the possibility to make a great passive income source if I can get it up and running. Good news, right?

Well, yes and no, because that's where the perfectionism rears its ugly little head. I keep second guessing myself, or trying to plan things to be just right in order to make the most of this opportunity. All I seem to wind up doing, though, is spinning my wheels and not going much of anywhere.

At any rate, the two articles made me think and apparently I think better when I write, so here I am. Guess it worked after all!

Creepy Tomatoes Week 6

May 22nd, 2007 at 08:55 pm

Yup, six weeks of crazy creepy mutant tomato fun!

Here they are



One tomato is obviously on the down and outs. There's another one in the back of the bag that's a little harder to see, but it's funky by the stem.

So, after 6 weeks, only two of the tomatoes are bad. The other four are still technically quite usable. So, I'm tossing the two that are funky and I'll be keeping the rest in the bag for the sake of this, um, experiment.

Funny with Language Warning

May 22nd, 2007 at 08:04 am

If foul language bothers you, you might want to stop reading now.

If foul language can sometimes make you laugh, by all means continue!



I've been on the internet a long time, going on half my life now. Geez, how sad is that... Anyways, one thing that has always been consistent are trolls. Usenet, Delphi, chat rooms, forums, MySpace, Digg, and beyond: none of them have ever been immune to trolls.

Well, earlier today I happened upon a useful classification tool for trolls based on the posts they make. I found it on http://www.venganza.org, home of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Regardless of your views of the CoFSM, I hope you find this tool useful.

* * * * *

Here’s Jingles’ masterpiece: the patented Fuckwit Finder.

**********

1.Capitalized handle
2.Overuse of capslock
3.Alternating upper/lower case
4.Incorrect grammar
5.Incorrect spelling
6.Threats of burning in hell, divine vengeance, etc
7.Lowbrow insults
8.Lowbrow insults of our god
9.Accusations of homosexuality
10.Threats of rape, physical violence, oars, etc

One point per positive answer.

Scoring

As for scoring, well, its a fairly loose guide. If borderline, class as appropriate. Otherwise;

0-2: A Wit; Intelligent, reasonable, polite and respectable. High likelihood of a reasoned belief system, and serves as a credit to the human race.

2-4: A Wit in a Fit; While they may normally be a decent poster, they are either irritated, excited, or otherwise unfocused, allowing slightly more than the occasional slip to occur.

4-6: A Nitwit; Likely seeking attention, may not necessarily mean to irritate, but is not aware of proper forum etiquette, and so comes across badly. With patient councilling, and the occasional application of a large blunt object, subject may be cured.

6-7: Dimwit; Not overly violent or aggressive, but is nevertheless a troll, an inbred hillbilly, or an above average-intelligence fundamentalist. They are on the absolue edge of redeemability. With extreme electroshock, elocation & deportment lessons, and substantial severe blunt-force trauma, could be upgraded to a nitwit.

7-8: A Twit; Annoying, loud, cannot use even simple words… what we have here is the Twit. Beyond redemption, these sorry excuses for humanity can be found primarily in years 7-9 of primary/secondary education, and behind the pulpit in Pentecostal churches. Avoid if possible. If unavoidable, bring a big stick. Thankfully, due to short attention spans, these specimens will generally depart after a single post.

8-9: The Shit; Sets out from the off to be an absolute monkey scrotum. Unable to take a hint, this is the sort of poster who will haunt a thread for as long as their attention span holds. While not a long term poster, they can clog a thread for up to an hour in severe cases. If encountered virtually, non-engagement is advised. If encountered physically, use a shotgun.

9-9.5: Mimic; what we have here is the stereotype troll. At first glance, will appear a complete fuckwit, however, closer inspection will reveal telltale hints that this is actually an educated poster (Nitwit or better) imitating the lower-order troll lifeform. Should they get annoying, utilising their real name will likely end the display.

10: The granddaddy of them all, the complet and utter Fuckwit; Few and far between, these few are talked about with hushed voices. Going down in forum legend, their names will be forever uttered as a byword for all things troll. Easily capable of devouring a website for weeks on end, any challenge makes them stronger, any attention makes them bolder. Be warned, for their sign is L337, their marker is spam. If encountered in multiple numbers, can murder a thread beyond salvage. This is the anti-Cheesus. Run while you still can.

***********

Pumpkins Tickets

May 22nd, 2007 at 05:16 am

Came home from work last night and DH mentioned that the radio station was giving away tickets to a Smashing Pumpkins show in Asheville. Neither one of us have ever seen them, and being GenX wanabes from the 90s the Pumpkins are one of those bands that throws me into the "Way Back Machine".

Since the station was giving them away, DH had figured the show had already sold out. But, we checked online, and turns out tickets hadn't even gone on sale yet. They were up at 7pm last night.

Apparently it's not just 1 show, either: it's 9 shows over the course of 2 weeks at the Orange Peel. This is more a listening room type venue, only holds 900 people. We've been there before to see Edwin McCain and enjoyed it.

The other odd thing: this is the Pumpkins only east coast stop on their tour. 9 shows, 900 tickets per show, so only 8100 available for the entire east coast. Odds started looking not so good.

Anywho, I was diligently registering at TicketMaster.com while DH checked the hotel we like in Asheville. It's cheap but right in the middle of downtown. At the stroke of 7 I pounced and clicked for our 2 tickets (the limit per order was 2) and still had to wait 3 minutes for the ticket availability.

Waited, and waited... Anticipation was killing me... Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand...

We're IN!!! And the best part: the tickets are only $20 each plus handling fee!

DH promptly registered the room we wanted for $68, so the entire trip is going to cost us jst over $100 since gas in his company truck is paid for. We're going to the July 2rd show (Monday night) and coming back the 3rd (Tuesday) and will have the 4th off for Independance Day. A concert, a trip, and a 5 day weekend to boot!! WOO and HOO!!!

As soon as we were done ordering we went downtown for a Thai Chicken pizza we've been craving. At 7:30 we heard the bartender complaining that tickets were already sold out....

Too lucky, I tell you.

And even better is knowing that there's already money in the li'l vacation fund to cover the trip. Just have to move the cash from NY to my checking account to pay the tickets off the credit card, and withdraw cash to pay for the hotel room.

What Counts As Saving

May 21st, 2007 at 05:29 am

Really more of a philosophical musing than anything else, but feel free to respond!

I ask because I don't feel I'm saving enough. Then again, do you ever feel that you are?

On the surface it looks like my household ain't doin' that bad. I send almost 20% of our net off to the online bank every month. Sounds good, yes?

However, some of that I don't REALLY consider savings. How so? Well, that lump includes the monthly contribution I make to my irregular bills, like water, property taxes, and homeowner's insurance. Granted, I save the money up for a year (or quarter, in the case of water) and then spend it, so I guess it would qualify as short-term savings. But it doesn't 'feel' like savings, it feels like a bill. Probably because it is.

I feel somewhat stuck between a rock and a hard spot, as the saying goes. See, DH responds well when he wants to spend relatively big cash and I tell him that the money in the bank is allotted to X, Y, or Z. For instance, he understands that the homeowner's insurance and property taxes have to be paid no matter what because if we don't we loose our house, so that money is easy to see as sacred. But when money is sitting there without a purpose other than "in case we need it", he seems to see it as fair game.

So, perhaps I just need to mull over and find some more categories that are easy to see as sacred Big Grin

For those that are wondering, here are the categories that account has so far:

Property Taxes: house
Property Taxes: car
Homeowner's Insurance
Water Bill
Tina's Retirement (no 401k, so saving $ until I can open a Roth)
Christmas Fund
Gift Fund
Medical Fund
Car Maintenance Fund
Vacation Fund
Misc. Household Fund

Homeowner's Bill Arrived And I Don't Care

May 20th, 2007 at 05:36 pm

*evil grin*

OK, lemme re-phrase that: the homeowner's insurance bill came in and it's so not even a big deal.

Number one: the bill isn't due until 7/7/07 (which is neat, but I digress). I never knew they sent these types of bills out so far in advance!

Number two: I've been putting money aside for it every month so the bill will be ready to send out at the beginning of June, one month ahead of schedule and marked off my to-do list.

Although, I'll probably just send it in at the end of June so I can earn just a li'l more interest on that money Big Grin

Today's Time Waster

May 17th, 2007 at 06:37 am

For anyone with some time to kill

OR

For anyone who severly needs a laugh

http://icanhascheezburger.com/

Temptation, thy name is Canon!

May 16th, 2007 at 07:59 pm

BAH!!!

So I was checking out digital cameras on eBay thanks to DH sending me a link. There I was, minding my own business, when I saw it.

The Canon EOS 1Ds Mark II 16.7 Megapixel SLR. For under six hundred bucks!

OK, let me put this into perspective.

1) 16 Megapixel is professional grade
2) This camera came out in early 2005 with a price tag of TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS!
3) Current list price for this camera is still SEVEN THOUSAND DOLLARS!

GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!

So, why am I blogging about it rather than buying it? Well, it's just the body, no lens, no card. I'd have to shell out another 500 to be able to even take a picture with it. Not really an issue, as it is still a killer deal.

And, while I have about a grand in my personal challenge account, only $560 of it is money I saved from change and one dollar bills. The rest are profits from my side business which I intend to funnel back into the business. And before you even ask: yes, I could SO use this camera to take pictures for said side business and thereby justify the expense!

The biggest hurdle: it's on friggin' EBAY!!!... In 4 short hours, the price has now doubled and the camera is at $1300. I HATE EBAY!!!

*sniff*

Ok, well, I guess I can stop being tempted now that the price has gone up so much. I could certainly still afford the camera, but I'd have to wait a month or two to be able to buy the other bits to be able to actually use the camera. What's the fun in waiting 2 months to be able to use the camera?!?

"We Can't Make It Here Anymore"

May 16th, 2007 at 06:26 am

Don't know if I've specifically mentioned this or not, but I mostly listen to WNCW on the radio, a public radio station from western NC. It's the most unique station I've found, playing a mix of blues, folk, bluegrass, rock, country, and whatever else strikes their fancy. I've heard Dolly Parton, Frank Zappa, and Ben Folds in the same afternoon before.

And if that's not enough to get you to check 'em out, consider this: they play Grateful Dead every weekday afternoon at 4:20. HAAAAAAAhahahahhahaaaaaaaaaaa!!!

You can listen to them online even if you're not in the area, that's where the link above goes.

Anywho, I bring this up because I heard a song on WNCW today that I wanted to share. Don't ask me why today, as I've heard this song several times before. It's by James McMurtry, who is faily indescribable. Imagine someone whose lyrics are social commentary like Dylan but sounds gravely like the guy who sang "Convoy". Oh, and he looks like a cross between Weird Al and Zappa...

"We Can't Make it Here"

Vietnam Vet with a cardboard sign
Sitting there by the left turn line
Flag on the wheelchair flapping in the breeze
One leg missing, both hands free
No one's paying much mind to him
The V.A. budget's stretched so thin
And there's more comin' home from the Mideast war
We can't make it here anymore

That big ol' building was the textile mill
It fed our kids and it paid our bills
But they turned us out and they closed the doors
We can't make it here anymore

See all those pallets piled up on the loading dock
They're just gonna set there till they rot
'Cause there's nothing to ship, nothing to pack
Just busted concrete and rusted tracks
Empty storefronts around the square
There's a needle in the gutter and glass everywhere
You don't come down here 'less you're looking to score
We can't make it here anymore

The bar's still open but man it's slow
The tip jar's light and the register's low
The bartender don't have much to say
The regular crowd gets thinner each day

Some have maxed out all their credit cards
Some are working two jobs and living in cars
Minimum wage won't pay for a roof, won't pay for a drink
If you gotta have proof just try it yourself Mr. CEO
See how far 5.15 an hour will go
Take a part time job at one of your stores
Bet you can't make it here anymore

High school girl with a bourgeois dream
Just like the pictures in the magazine
She found on the floor of the laundromat
A woman with kids can forget all that
If she comes up pregnant what'll she do
Forget the career, forget about school
Can she live on faith? live on hope?
High on Jesus or hooked on dope
When it's way too late to just say no
You can't make it here anymore

Now I'm stocking shirts in the Wal-Mart store
Just like the ones we made before
'Cept this one came from Singapore
I guess we can't make it here anymore

Should I hate a people for the shade of their skin
Or the shape of their eyes or the shape I'm in
Should I hate 'em for having our jobs today
No I hate the men sent the jobs away
I can see them all now, they haunt my dreams
All lily white and squeaky clean
They've never known want, they'll never know need
Their sh@# don't stink and their kids won't bleed
Their kids won't bleed in the da$% little war
And we can't make it here anymore

Will work for food
Will die for oil
Will kill for power and to us the spoils
The billionaires get to pay less tax
The working poor get to fall through the cracks
Let 'em eat jellybeans let 'em eat cake
Let 'em eat sh$%, whatever it takes
They can join the Air Force, or join the Corps
If they can't make it here anymore

And that's how it is
That's what we got
If the president wants to admit it or not
You can read it in the paper
Read it on the wall
Hear it on the wind
If you're listening at all
Get out of that limo
Look us in the eye
Call us on the cell phone
Tell us all why

In Dayton, Ohio
Or Portland, Maine
Or a cotton gin out on the great high plains
That's done closed down along with the school
And the hospital and the swimming pool
Dust devils dance in the noonday heat
There's rats in the alley
And trash in the street
Gang graffiti on a boxcar door
We can't make it here anymore

Music and lyrics © 2004 by James McMurtry

Freebie Thank-You-er Strikes Again!

May 15th, 2007 at 09:34 am

GAH!!!!!

Search: New Posts
Showing results 1 to 25 of 107

For the love of all that is holy, PLEASE don't wait for weeks and then come and say "thanks!" for EACH and EVERY freebie that was posted over the past month.

PLEASE!!! I beg of you, don't do it!!!

Creepy Tomatoes Week 5

May 14th, 2007 at 08:56 pm

Yup, I'm still watching those creepy mutant tomatoes! Here's a photo of them after week 5.



You'll note that a few of the tomatoes are getting just a touch mushy right around the stem area. Nothing amazing, and definitely not rotten by any stretch of the imagination.

After taking this picture, I packed them back up into their bag, sealed it back up, and placed them back on the shelf. We'll check on them next week. At this rate, I'm pretty confident that they'll still be relatively un-rotten.

All Hail the Slush Fund!

May 14th, 2007 at 09:21 am

Others might be more familiar with the concept of a mini-EF, but I choose to call it a slush fund. It's a couple hundred bucks I keep in my local savings account. If there's a minor emergency, it's there. If there's something I need to buy but the actual money for it is in online savings (like car maintenence or medical expenses), I can use the slush fund to cover me until the money arrives from New York.

All in all, a tiny little saftey net.

Well, Saturday one of my kitties came in the house limping. He plays like a big bad @$$ but doesn't like to fight other animals, and there are multiple toms in the area who could have beat him up. As the weekend went on he was putting less and less weight on it and meowing at me pitifully to make it all better with a can of sardines. I tried to get a good look at it, but nearly lost a limb in the process. Apparently he's only a bad @$$ when it comes to people...

So, this morning I took Samson to the vet. First, BIG KUDOS to the vet clinic near my house. Apparently they don't take walk-ins anymore, but were happy to fit me in since this morning's first appointment had canceled. Granted, Samsom meowing from the depths of the cat carrier like he was about to die surely helped get us through the hoops. No worries, though, he was only meowing like that because he was actually in the cat carrier, not because of the wound. Next time I'll carry him to the vet in a gift bag: for some reason, he really digs that and doesn't get nearly as freaked out.

Anyways, after an exam and a shave job, we could see the punture wounds on the front and back of Samson's paw. Since he wasn't running a fever or anything, we're working off the assumption that it's a war wound, rather than a snake bite.

They gave me lots of advice, antibiotic drops, wound wash, and a bag full of gauze. My total? Fifty five dollars. Did I mention I love my vet clinic? So, even though the total isn't that big, the Slush Fund comes to the rescue and does what it does best: pay for life's little unknowns.

All Hail the Slush Fund!

Now, Samson is at the house nursing his injured pride while my other two cats laugh at his shaved foot. I got the first round of antibiotics in him, which was no easy feat: the stuff smells like fake bananas and can't be hidden in anything. BAH!

Washing the wound didn't turn out too well. We'll take another crack at it tonight: it'll involve me, DH, and a pair of welding gloves.

Why I Buy Organic or Local Food

May 7th, 2007 at 07:41 pm

Just a quick story about why I buy organic tomatoes.

I have been stupid busy lately. That's right, it's not that I've forgotten that I have a blog for 2 months, there's actually been a reason for my hiatus.

With that said, I've not been cooking all that much. No real worries.

Well, tonight I made spaghetti. I reached under my chopping block for an onion, and came across this:



OK, a bag of tomatoes in good shape, no big deal right? Wrong!!! This next picture will show you WHY:



See that, highlighted in yellow? I bought these tomatoes A MONTH AGO!!!! I'm sorry, but it's just not natural for tomatoes from a month ago to be in usable shape!!!! What kind of freaky mutant tomatoes are these?!?!?!???

While it might be inconvenient and a waste of money for me to have tomatoes go bad because because I forgot to use them, I HATE TO THINK what is in these tomatoes to keep them usable after sitting on a shelf for a month.

So there you go. If possible, I'll keep buying my produce from the organic store or the flea market where I can see for my self that they are in fact capable of going bad. Because these tomatoes are just plain scary.

Blurbies, Baldy, and Money Karma

May 7th, 2007 at 07:25 pm

Just not in that order...

I'm Bald!
OK, well, not really. But, DH surprised me with a gift certificate w/ the hairdresser for our anniversay. I hadn't been in 2 years (since the day after we were married, actually), and the hair guy finally believed me when I said I didn't care what he did with it. My only rules are 1) Either long enough I can pull it all back or short enough it's off my neck 2) I don't 'do' my hair, it needs to be socially acceptable without blowdrying, straightening, curling, etc.

75 minutes later, I left 20 inches and about 3 pounds lighter. Of the 20 inches, 16 was cut off in one fell swoop to be donated to Locks of Love. Everyone seems to like it, and I'm just happy it's short enough that it's off my neck for the summer. The kicker? My hair grows almost an inch a month (ACK!), so it won't last long...

Money Karma
Recent money karma includes a free night in a 4 star hotel in Atlanta last weekend. How? I finally had enough rewards points with the Sheraton from my trip to Argentina and last year's anniversary trip.

Money karma struck again this past Friday, with free tickets to the Elton John concert. DH's boss gave them to him, and while the seats were in the nosebleed section, they were in direct line with the stage. Great show for $10 in parking and $8 (allowance money) for a bratwurst and soda for me.

And the final intallment of money karma: our microwave bit the big one. Absolutely kaput. Just the sort of thing our little emergency slush fund is for! So, Sunday saw us in the appliance store purchasing the biggest model they have (on sale and with a $10 mail in rebate too!). We bought this one b/c it's the one DH picked out. It only took him 4 hours to say it was too big and too loud and he wanted to take it back for the smaller version. You know, the one I liked that happened to cost $30 less and still had the same rebate...

No worries, except the folks at the appliance store acted like they've NEVER given a cash refund. It took 3 people... In the end, though, we walked out with our new microwave, our extra $31.50 after tax, and our $10 rebate form.

And how does this fit into money karma? The price we paid for the first microwave was within FIVE DOLLARS of what we would have paid for the night in the hotel in Atlanta. See? Money Karam, it does exist.

Blurbies
* My office is still open, so I still have a job for now. Woohoo!!!

* I am almost fininshed formatting the book for a friend that I mentioned ages ago. There've been so many delays, we've been working on this for almost a year. I just want to have it done!

* I finished the lingerie website and got paid for it!!! BIG WOOHOO!!!

* I discovered something TRULY CREEPY (wait, is it supposed to be bizarrely creepy BA?) in my kitchen today. It deserves an entry of it's own and that one is coming up next.

Confessions of a Customer Service Rep

May 3rd, 2007 at 07:20 am

As many of you know, I used to work for a major telephone company: first as a Customer Service Agent and then as a trainer. I've decided it's time to share a little about how phone customer service works. While these are based on experiences from only one major corporate player, I'm pretty confident that they apply to almost any phone-in customer service.

1. Reps might sound scripted, and sometimes it's because they are. There is verbiage a rep is required to use for legal reasons in some situations, and there's no 'conversational' way to to cover some of the finer legal-ese.

2. Agents are required to apologize. More importantly, they usually can't just say "sorry" or "I'm sorry" because it can be interpreted as unprofessional or sarcastic. Therefore, you'll hear the ubiquitous "I apologize".

3. You will not speak to a supervisor or manager when you ask for one. Trust me: you don't want to, since actual managers and supervisors don't handle customer accounts and likely wouldn't know what to do with one if they had to. Managers and sups handle HR issues, not accounts, and if you actually do get one on the phone all they will do is talk to you and then give the account information to one of their reps to have them handle the situation.

4. If you've asked to speak w/ a manager or supervisor and get transfered, you are likely speaking to what is known as "Second Level Support". It's OK, 2nd level support usually has more access and leeway to handle an account, not to mention a higher credit limit.

5. The amount of time you will wait when an agent asks you to hold will vary based on which level of support you're speaking with. First level support can usually place a customer on hold a minute or two; 2nd and third level for 3-5 minutes (per hold!).

6. Reps are goaled for how long they are on the phone with you, and like hold-time this also varies based on which deparment you're speaking with. It also varies based on which options you chose in the automated menu. Typical call goals range from 180 seconds (3 minutes) to 640 seconds (almost 11 minutes). Choosing the wrong option at the automated menu in order to get a rep faster penalizes the rep.

7. If you are invited to mail or fax your request to customer research, 9 times out of 10 you're being sent into a black hole.

8. Cursing and yelling don't help the cause. In fact, if you're speaking with a rep who doesn't intend to stay on the job, you could wind up with a truly messed up account.

9. Not every company assigns "rep IDs", "operator numbers", or "extensions". The only 'number' that got associated between me and your account was my SSN, and there's no way I'm giving you that. I could give you the extension of the phone unit I was using on this call, but that's not tied to me in any way. If it'll make you feel better, though, that's the 'extension' you get.

10. Reps are leery of giving out their info over the phone, too. We were required to give first name, last name, and location when I was first on the phones. I received a death threat from someone about 20 minutes into a call after he'd requested that information. No big deal, except he only lived an hour and a half away.

11. Absolutely everything is computerized. There is no magic button the rep can push to turn on your phone, cell phone, cable, power, water, etc.

12. Reps are required to give you a timeframe when they do something. It might be a stupid timeframe, but Legal says they have to. So, when a rep says you'll see a credit in 1-3 invoices, it's because they have to.

13. Not every call is monitored for quality purposes, the system is random. With that said, if you're a rep: know the quality deparment can almost certainly focus on just one person at a time if they see a need. I know we did.

Shopping Spree at Goodwill

April 27th, 2007 at 07:54 am

Well, close enough to a spree.

See, it's close to the end of the month and I still had $60 of my allowance left burning a hole in my pocket. Add to that the fact that DH and I are going to Atlanta this weekend, and I had the urge to do a wee bit of shopping.

Not just any old shopping, though. I hit the Goodwill warehouse that's three miles from my house. This is where the stuff from all our regional Goodwills winds up after it doesn't sell for a few weeks.

You walk in and grab rolling bin lined with a huge plastic bag (basically looks like a big blue trash can). The place is filled with row after row of tables piled high with clothes in no particular order. The only way to find anything is to dig, and the piles are easily shoulder deep (or more!).

There's no dressing room, so having a good eye or a tape measure is a must. You put your items in the bin as you wind through the tables and other customers. When you're done, you take your bin to the checkout stand where they roll it onto a scale and charge you for your items by the pound. Here, everything is sold at 99 cents per pound.

I got there last night at 7:30 and was out at 8 when they started to close the checkout lines. Only half an hour to dig! I walked out with a pair of pants from the Limited, a pair of Dockers ladies shorts, and ten shirts from various name-brand designers.

My cost? $4.95!!!!!

Since you can't try anything on there, I headed home to see how I actually did. The pants are great but the shorts are just a tad snug. Out of ten shirts, five are wonderful finds and 3 are just OK. The other 2 might wind up being a loss, who knows.

Even so, with 1 pair of great pants and 5 good to go shirts, I still come out at less than a buck an item.

I LOVE MY GOODWILL!!!

I Buy Produce at the Flea Market

April 22nd, 2007 at 09:24 am

Yup, you read correctly: I like to buy produce at the flea market.

Perhaps some background info would help... I live in an area with a booming Latino population. In our area, a lot of immigrants are small business owners, and the business of choice for many Latinos here is produce distribution. My best guess is they have a network of friends and family who own farms in the Southeast region and they gather and sell it, but I'm not really sure.

At any rate, there is a rather huge flea market in our town that is very centrally located to one of our main Latino communities. It caters to the regular flea market crowd, of course, so there are still rows upon rows of people selling all kinds of stuff. But, in the back quarter of the market, near the parking lot, it's like stepping into a street market from Central America. I love it!

There are hats, crafts, music, and food vendors among other things. In my trip yesterday I counted 4 produce vendors on the one row I visited, although I'm sure there are others in the areas I didn't visit.

So, you're probably asking: WHY bother going to the flea market to buy produce? Isn't it easier to just go to the store?

Sure, it's easier. It's not nearly as fun, though. As an added bonus the flea market produce is significantly cheaper. Most importantly, though, their produce is BETTER than just about anything I've found in any grocery store. Better, cheaper, and more fun? I'm so in!

As an aside, the other nice thing about the flea market produce is the variety. The rest of this entry is about pretty standard fair produce, but had I wanted to I could have could have bought mangoes, papayas, agave cactus leaves, mini-bananas, and a bunch of other things I've never really had before.

I went yesterday because my father was hosting a pot luck at his cigar store, and I wanted to bring pico de gallo, guacamole, and black beans. FYI, I bought the black beans at Publix in a can so they're not covered in the rest of the entry Big Grin

So, here's my haul from the flea market yesterday.



This includes 10 limes, 6 lbs of tomatoes, 5 avocadoes, 5 jalepenos, 2 poblano peppers, 2 onions, and a bunch of cilantro. My total was $18.

To give you an idea of what this would have cost in the grocery store I frequent:

10 limes @ 3 for a buck on sale = $3.33
6 lbs of tomatoes @ $1.99/lb on sale = $11.94
5 avocadoes @ $0.99/ea on sale = $4.95
5 jalepenos @ $1.99/lb on sale = $0.50
2 poblano peppers @ $2.99/lb on sale = $1.50
2 onions @ $0.99/lb on sale = $1.24
1 bunch cilantro @ $0.99/ea on sale = $0.99

That adds up to $24.45 + $0.74 in sales tax. Plus I would have to find all the items on sale, not to mention that the prices above are the best ones from two separate grocery stores, not just one.

And the best part? The flea market has produce in whatever stage of ripeness you want. Since this was all going to be eaten the day of purchase, I was able to get 6 lbs of perfectly ripe (and YUMMY) tomatoes, 5 avocadoes that slid out of their skin, and cilantro that looked like it might have been picked that morning.

The funniest part? There was less dirt in the cilantro from the flea market than in the stuff I buy from a regular store!!


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